I am at the 2015 WSIS Forum in Geneva this week where the latest statistics were released confirming the digital revolution. In addition, I followed up on the earlier IT World interview with Houlin Zhao.

“These new figures not only show the rapid technological progress made to date, but also help us identify those being left behind in the fast-evolving digital economy, as well as the areas where ICT investment is needed most,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao at the press conference to launch the report.

Houlin also reiterated his resolve to work with ICT executives aligned with his interview with IT World where he offered the opportunity to have a bigger chance to network in different countries or even different regions.

This is relevant for IT executives as ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technologies (ICT), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 700 private sector entities and academic institutions.

From the private sector, John Davies, vice-president of Intel, is a prime example. At WSIS, I had a good discussion with him where he outlined many innovative projects. John is leading the World Ahead program and is instrumental in providing support for expanding internet availability, accessibility and education to the world’s 7 billion population. John noted, in my prior chat with him,  “Intel World Ahead focuses on 4 pillars — affordable devices, affordable/available connectivity, training and content. These 4 are required for all vertical areas (Education, Healthcare, Government services, reaching lower income citizens and for rural). At any point in time we are engaged in perhaps 200 Digital Divide programs globally. Our flagship is education where we enable (reference design) purpose built PC’s and tablets for k12 students, have ICT trained over 12 million teachers with “Intel Teach”, work with telcos and governments on connecting schools and work with publishers to enable electronic content, analytics and assessment.” John has a diagram which illustrates how internet access can be expanded and particularly with shared access in smaller communities.

Interestingly at the press conference in response to my questions, Houlin revealed Google is an ITU member which raised eyebrows since there can be differences in policy positions. A positive step forward.

To provide context to their report, this week using insights from this session, I reflected upon how the internet and mobile has radically improved my experience. In my travels through the EU, I used Airbnb, the largest room service without actual rooms, Uber a transportation service without vehicles, Alibaba the largest online market without inventory, Facebook the largest media without the need to generate content, my 5.5 inch smartphone for news / internet / messaging / communications / mapping / fitness without using a traditional computer. Imagine your world in 2005, a very different experience where you booked hotels, used taxis, went to physical retailers, read paper publications, carried a rather large computer and a phone was used for voice. If someone would have told me I would text more than use voice I would smile at them. This is underscored by the just released 2015 internet trends report from Mary Meeker of KPCB.

With context set, let’s discuss further the ITU report.

New figures released by ITU demonstrate 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, up from 738 million in 2000. Globally, 3.2 billion people are using the Internet, of which two billion live in developing countries. This supports the mobile and cloud first strategies of enterprise executives. There are market expansion opportunities globally in emerging and developing countries.  This highlights integration of enterprise needs with consumer tastes is required as evidenced in the BYOD movement now fully expressed in businesses.

The news release provides added details:

The last 15 years, internet penetration has increased almost seven-fold from 6.5 to 43 per cent of the global population with the proportion of households with Internet access at 46 per cent in 2015.

How does this impact the enterprise and your business models? There is a new sharing economy made possible by readily available and growing digital access where anyone can start a business. Think Airbnb to the hotel industry, Uber to transportation, Facebook to media, Lending Club to banking, WeChat / Whatsapp / Skype to telecoms, smartphones / tablets to PCs, Bitcoin to currency,  SpaceX to space travel, Google cars to autos, robots to labour and manufacturing, deep learning to everything and more. What lies around the corner and are you ready? In addition the internet expands innovation beyond products and services to products, services, process, organization model, business model (eg. the areas in the business model canvas), social mediated and machine learning.

As noted in the book “Second Machine Age”  by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, the first machine age had rising productivity related to increasing employment and income. In our current digital times, the second machine age, has productivity existing separately from jobs/income where a few employees can offer products/services for unlimited customers, at little cost.

Taking a prescriptive approach, how can executives create innovation and succeed for the second machine age and new digital sharing economy? Delivering professionalism e-skills and developer education specifically focused on the second machine age is key, addressed by the MIT professors plus at WSIS in Geneva. From WSIS, there are several solutions with IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) founded by UNESCO in 1960, sector member of ITU and a contributing partner at WSIS. IFIP represents the national societies of more than 50 countries. One IFIP member with 3.4 million global reach, the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) has their innovation-based digital library (1.5 million users and researchers from government, industry, academia), courses, webcasts, videos, books, podcasts, conferences and publications. Vint Cerf talks about the ACM and its goals in this IT World interview. In Canada, there is CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) offering programs including a free ethics exam. Internationally, there is the IFIP IP3 (International Professional Practice Partnership) leading the development of the global IT profession by providing a platform that will help shape and implement relevant policies to foster professionalism in IT worldwide. The IFIP IP3 Global Industry Council has their GIC 2020 Skills report to be released at the IFIP 2015 World Computer Congress (WCC) that executives can use for planning. Targeted for release at the WCC is the FEAPO (Federation of EA Professional Organizations) Guide to Careers in Enterprise Architecture adding to their Common Perspectives in Enterprise Architecture released in 2013. Brenda Aynsley, president of the ACS (Australian Computer Society) and chair of IFIP IP3 issued a strong message at UN/ITU WSIS for moving forward. In my chat with Brenda at WSIS, she spotlighted that executives need to look at the Cyber Security Index.

In addition, there are these added stats directly quoted from the news release. Think about the implications and the impending digital quake where more than 80% of businesses can fail or jobs lost if you treat everything as the same and do not change your business model.

3G mobile-broadband coverage rapidly extending

Mobile broadband is the most dynamic market segment, with mobile-broadband penetration globally reaching 47 per cent in 2015, a value that increased 12-fold since 2007. In 2015, 69 per cent of the global population will be covered by 3G mobile broadband, up from 45 per cent in 2011.

There is also a rapid extension of 3G mobile broadband into rural areas, and ITU estimates that 29 per cent of the 3.4 billion people worldwide living in rural areas will be covered by 3G mobile broadband by the end of 2015. Among the four billion people living in urban areas, 89 per cent will have access to 3G mobile broadband.

Fixed-broadband uptake growing at a slower pace

Fixed-broadband uptake is growing at a slower pace with a seven per cent annual increase over the past three years. While the prices of fixed-broadband services dropped sharply between 2008 and 2011 in developing countries, they have been stagnating since then and even increased slightly in LDCs.

Broadband now affordable in many countries

The figures indicate that broadband is now affordable in 111 countries, with the cost of a basic (fixed or mobile) broadband plan corresponding to less than five per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, thus meeting the target set by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.  The global average cost of a basic fixed-broadband plan, as measured in PPP$ (or purchasing power parity $), is 1.7 times higher than the average cost of a comparable mobile-broadband plan.

Read the full report here.

Watch latest WSIS videos here.

The latest ITU statistics are available at


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