Imagining the Internet Project

  Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2008 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Predictions Survey. Participants were encouraged to provide a written elaboration to explain their answers; they did not always do so, but those who did provided richly detailed, fascinating predictive material. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.  



Scenario One:
The Evolution of Mobile
Internet Communications


Prediction: The mobile phone is the primary connection tool for most people in the world. In 2020, while "one laptop per child" and other initiatives to bring networked digital communications to everyone are successful on many levels, the mobile phone—now with significant computing power—is the primary Internet connection and the only one for a majority of the people across the world, providing information in a portable, well-connected form at a relatively low price. Telephony is offered under a set of universal standards and protocols accepted by most operators internationally, making for reasonably effortless movement from one part of the world to another. At this point, the "bottom" three-quarters of the world's population account for at least 50% of all people with Internet access—up from 30% in 2005.


Compiled reactions from the 1,196 respondents:
81% Mostly agreed
19% Mostly disagreed
*% Did not respond

Expert respondents' reactions (N=578):
77% Mostly agreed
22% Mostly disagreed
*% Did not respond

Overview of Respondents' Reactions
A significant majority agreed with the proposed future. The consensus is that mobile devices will continue to grow in impact because people need to be connected, wherever they are; cost-effectiveness and access are motivating factors; the devices of the future will have significant computing power; there is fear that limits set by governments and/or corporations seeking control might impede positive benefits—expected "effortless" connectivity is dependent on their willingness to serve the public good.

Below are select responses from survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. This is not the full extent of responses. To see more, read the report PDF, and to read reactions from participants who took credit for their answers, please click here.

This question confuses connection with inclusion and thus appears somewhat political. Most people will use their mobile phones ("personal communicators" might be a better term) for access, but that says nothing about their economic status. In general, access by mobile phone will remain the vehicle of choice for upper-income users, while most others will rely on PCs and thin clients. Larger devices have the advantage of more usable user interfaces, so that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The screens on phones just aren't going to be big enough.

With increased interconnectivity via mobile telephony, national and regional bodies come under increasing scrutiny and pressure to regulate both access and fraud. Popular and industrial calls for a global coordination of design opens wider the fissures between their respective allies, the UN NGO communities and the states. Education turns its focus toward producing language and cultural interpreters attached to every field of study.

It stands to reason that given the lack of infrastructure in the less-developed countries, devices which operate in free-standing mode will bypass the more traditional equipment.

Something related to today's mobile telephone will indeed be a common access device, but it will be as different from today's PDAs as the Apple iPhone is from a standard GSM Phone.  Calling such a "telephone" very much trivializes the difference.

While I could expect the mobile phone to be "primary" in the amount of use for Internet, I expect the desktop to largely still "feel" primary. The mobile phone access would be used for mundane tasks like getting directions, facts, news, etc. The desktop would be used for entertainment and work.

This sounds reasonable. The cost of production is heading down and with Asia's huge populations catching up with the west, this seems like it will happen.

For many people without the resource to purchase a computer and Internet connectivity a mobile phone may be a service of choice as it meets the fundamental requirement of voice communication and text messaging (SMS/e-mail). Most phones are likely to have cameras so visual communications will also be possible. The usability of mobile phones for Web access is still poor and needs significant improvement, and display technology improvements are crucial for access to more than the most basic of Web content. However if display issues are overcome there may be a significant proportion of the population accessing the Internet through mobile phones.

New research about Internet connectivity in growing countries like India and China, especially, are showing that people are using their cell phone as their main connection to the Internet and many do not use or have a laptop, signifying the growing importance of cell phones as their main online connection.

Laptops per child will not be an interesting issue. Everyone will have some mobility device, including children.

I doubt the 50%, but agree that cell phones will be the most common tool for Internet connection based on my knowledge of existing cell phone use and infrastructures worldwide.

I agree that the dominant device will be hand held but I think that the emphasis will be away from "telephony" per se and more towards interoperable pocket devices that serve multiple purposes.

Personal mobile computing will drive the technologies, which will drive the use. People want support in communicating, and to do it when they want, how they want and when they want.

China and India will adopt the Web en masse. The nature of the Web will change, it will cease to be dominated by the US.

I think that by 2020 mobile phones will be one (ubiquitous) pathway to the net, but far from the only one.

I agree about mobile, but wonder whether "phone"  is really the word? And with wireless comms being embedded in more objects, the connectivity is likely to be through multiple routes.  Of course with most connections from poorer countries, the type of communication is also going to change.

Small portable "tablets" will be the primary interface such as the Apple iTouch. These devices will support mobile telephony and WiFi but it will be a minor niche application as opposed to mobile phones where the primary application is voice.  The primary communication will be using tools like MySpace, Facebook etc

Because of OLPC, almost all adults and children will have access to serious computing power in 2020. Mobile phones will be the dominant form of Internet access in some places for some time, until computing is ubiquitous.

Screen size will always be too small for effective corporate activities

Just consider the iPhone and how it has started to change things in just 6 months...13 years from now one marvels to imagine what such devices will be capable of.

But the phone may no longer be recognizable as descended from the invention by A. Bell.

I mostly agree with this prediction, however, the price point of computers is still too high for many residents of developing nations. Also, there is an issue of the killer application? What would that be?

Within another 15 years, it will be another mechanism (with imbedded telephony), but not a mobile phone as we know it today.

The premise may be flawed, due to the fact that the mobile "Internet" as currently offered by most major wireless carriers is a highly crippled, closed system that is not the Internet that most users are familiar with.

While mobile connectivity is becoming more and more popular—I'm not convinced that mobile devices will become the primary connection tool for most people in the world to do their primary computing. I'd suggest that most computing will still be done in a stationary environment (for example at work or at home) and not while people "are on the go." Sure mobile phones will be used for telephony purposes and simple Web browsing (checking e-mails, stock prices, etc.), but to suggest that mobile devices will be used for more involved computing (word processing, spreadsheet work, presentations, etc.) I think is not practical. There are two kinds of "connectivity" work—work while stationary and work "on the go"—mobile devices will be for work "on the go."

Cell phones are diverse, it is so, but their use in developing nations is quite unlike that in the developed world. The phones are also not well suited to the task. Low cost computing clients is a functionally more appealing way to go.

While this is probable for 2020, I am less convinced that this will be the case in 2040 when some new tool just being imagined now will become more entrenched as the communications tool of choice.

I think Google will be a contributor to the universal standards and protocols mentioned. Open-source software is continuously evolving and becoming much more accessible.

Phones will be at the center of complex and heated debates about using them as ID. Locational devices. These phones will also be more autonomous, helping (with rules) manage the flow of message to and from the device.

As a percentage of population I would agree. For the wealthier nations I would still see multiple platforms—phone, computer, TV, STB, Car, etc. Also, age plays a factor, as the population ages in advanced countries,  smaller screens are hard to read and see, even for the technically literate.

It will certainly be a communications device, but it will not be something we would recognize as a phone.

The cell phone is too small of a display for the large amounts of information pushed across networks. With WiFi, WiMax, and other wireless (not cellular) protocols maturing, other devices (small laptops, etc.) will overtake cell phones as Internet communications devices.

All electronic devices are converging.We now have Mobile Internet devices with 5" screens that are A/V capable.

I think it will be a more robust "mobile phone" more like today's BlackBerries.

Telephony will never hit universal standards, in 12 years, in my opinion. We don't even have cell service in Vermont. What is the incentive to put it other places?

I agree with the last sentence, and agree that some people will have access only through their phone, but unless phones are going to get bigger, they will not be a primary Internet connection. Even the screen on Apple's iPhone is too small for regular Internet use.

Corporate interests will likely slow this process considerably.

I disagree that mobile “phones” will be the primary connection tool. A mobile “device” may be, but I completely disagree with all of the assumptions about telephony. Wired or unwired, I see no reason why telephone service would be the focus of all network activities.

I think the balance of use will be more equal: the mobile phone won't be primary connection tool for most people, but will be used MUCH more frequently than it is now. I think people will access Web services from both about equally.

I don't agree that there will be universal standards, and I don't agree that phones with Internet access will be available at a "relatively low price." I think the monthly fees will remain beyond the budgets of low-income families. I think using a telephone in different regions will always be an expensive/exclusive good.

By 2020 there will be some new technology that combines mobility, communication and content. The mobile phone will be transformed in some way.

I live rurally and have a very hard time with cell coverage. I don't think cell phone technology will improve enough in rural areas for this to be true.

The primary Internet connection will be handheld WiFi devices like iPod touch, which will all have microphones. Skype will be on all the phones and VoIP will have almost completely replaced cell phones.

While mobile phones may indeed become ubiquitous if they are to become the primary means of connection, we must shrink considerably people's attention spans to the itty-bitty amount of content that can be displayed on a mobile phone screen.

Even the idea of Internet Connection 13 years from now will change. Web browsing will still be done on computers. Geolocation, etc. will be done on cell phones, and perhaps there will be more of those than computers.

I agree with all except the part about "universal standards and protocols," I think that might be too much to hope for.

Connecting by phone could be useful for finding simple answers or checking e-mail, but the screens simple aren't large enough for reading large amounts of text or viewing pictures easily, and the tiny keyboards are hard to use.

The cell phone will be way out of date! But a phone device could be in it I suppose.

Camera, instead of a mobile phone.

Thirteen years out is unknowable—inconceivable. See Ray Kurzweil.

Yes. Cost, size, location.

Mobile phones are too small to be useful for most Internet activity.

I don't agree that most people will have access, but the mobile phone will increase amongst developing nations and low-income North Americans because it is cheaper.

Screens are too small to spend large amounts of time on the Internet.

Without significant advances in small screen interaction technologies, interaction will remain on smaller and less expensive laptops with mobile wireless. With VoIP these may even replace mobile phones for businesspeople.

Small screens will keep people doing most of their work on larger platforms. Cell phones will remain key for quick communication. Many laborers will still be relatively technologically illiterate as it is not necessary for their daily life.

Whereas I believe mobile phones will be widely used for Internet connection, I don't believe it will become the PRIMARY Internet connection given its size of screen and easiness of inputting.

It's portable and at the point of need. It will be cheap.

A computer requires literacy, which is not the case for a mobile phone. Illiteracy is one of the big issues in poorer countries.

The overall direction of communication technology development is towards mobility—the implementation and expansion of WiMAX and later technologies will change the way we communicate, allowing us to switch seamlessly between cellular and VoIP communication. An extension of this is the centrality of the cell phone, particularly in developing countries.

While I agree, to reach the "bottom" three-quarters of the world's population, Internet access and applicable charges will require standardization and lower costs to reach this group.

The mobile phone will be an all in one device utilizing the next generation of what is currently Web 2.0 technology. Web content will stream to the phone through high-speed wireless networks. The phone will have significant storage capacity for music and video.

I think that the world will be better connected through cell phone technology, but does that make a better world?

Phones are just too small for full view Internet surfing.

I think that 50% is a too-high number. Also, I personally find the tiny phone screen too difficult to use as a primary Internet information source effectively.

Individuals will store their medical records on them and be able to use them for financial transactions. Phones will also have anti-theft and anti-loss devices because they will be so vital for communication.

"Wired" computing will be much like the portable computer—something we'll look back at with disbelief. Mobile devices in much of the world are already the primary connection to the Internet—and too much of the business infrastructure. Can only get bigger.

For short communications and limited data, this is probably just fine. There will be, however, a segment of people who will need greater display capacities because of the volume of data or analysis they use. The mobile phone probably won't work for this segment (and this segment could be a very influential group because of their expertise in knowledge management or because of their overall financial impact).
I don't think we'll have universal standards for telephony.

The technology will continue to become more affordable. All will need Internet access in order to conduct business and purchase necessities. Internet technology will keep us connected at all times. International travel will be commonplace.

The beauty of the Internet is not only the ease with which people can obtain practical, basic information (e.g., directions, restaurant menus, train schedules), but also the breadth of data and information they can access in the interest of pursuing knowledge. A cell phone will likely not have the capacity or the screen size to make the research piece practical by 2020.

The mobile scene and OLPC/UMPC are present hardware developments, which have been integrated by 2010. This is a projection by looking through the rear window (Marshall McLuhan).

These statement appear more as goals than reality. If they were reality, the reality would be evident among general knowledge of the fact, or evident in Internet communications.

I think mobile phones will need to remain small and this makes them practically impossible to use for extensive or complex work. The display is too small and the keyboards are awkward. I believe IM will become universal and so people will be communicating much more but will still need to rely on less portable equipment for their work and finance related transactions.

Adoption of universal standards won't happen this quickly, if ever.

Depends on your definition of a "mobile phone." By 2020 we should have a single device that combines functions.  Whether people view this device as a "phone" i.e. use it primarily for voice or whether they see it as more of an e-mail/PDA that also has voice capability is unclear. In any event, one's portable device will be the major connection tool.

Not requiring elaborate building-to-building infrastructure will be the only way to dramatically increase access.

Not just mobile phones, mobile devices. I am tired of having a mobile phone, a BlackBerry and an iPod. The iPhone is a step in the right direction but there needs to be a lot more development.

This depends upon more miniaturization of laptop-like features, reasonably sized keyboards or touch pads, and the non-proprietary cooperation of those developers who currently now operate without regard for open source standards.

It is difficult to see such an increase in slightly over 10 years. It requires a significant investment in 3rd world countries in communication infrastructure and a increase in personal income to pay the costs of its use.

Personal experience in the wired world indicates to me that the mobile phone will be the connection tool of the future. I recently saw a funny video spoof on all the things a mobile phone COULD do—indicating that people are going to expect more from this device.

Too many hurdles to overcome—I don't see how cell phones will ever be ubiquitous.

While I agree that the mobile phone will be the primary connection tool for most people in the world, I do not believe they will be using it to access the Internet. The mobile phone will primary act as a phone...although a lot of people will also use it for texting. E-mail and Web surfing will happen via BlackBerries or laptops, not the mobile phone.

I think indeed that the number of mobile phones users will increase faster than that of cheap laptop computers. However, the mobile phone will still mostly be used for voice and text messages (SMS and e-mail). For Web applications (information seeking, buying, etc), I do believe computers will still prevail.

Might sound silly, but phones are too small and a screen on a laptop is easier to read. I think that desktops will go away and laptops will be improved (portability and ease of use/access) and this will be the primary connection tool.

This means that cell phone companies will need to be regulated to stop charging by data size.

The phone of 2020 will have much more functionality than today especially in interfacing with the Internet.

Small screens are a cumbersome option as the primary mode of using the Internet. Even as Web sites design expressly for handhelds, there is still so much data to squeeze into a small format. Condensing it with an effective information architecture creates a deeper Web site with more clicks to get to the intended target.  In short, the small format slows the speed of the Internet.

Given the prevalence of mobile phones in most of the world, I suspect we'll be well on our way to realizing such a scenario by 2020, although phones may need to be a bit larger to accommodate the eyesight of the aging population

In 2008 business is too focused on squeezing computer technology into phone-sized products—e.g. the BlackBerry. The focus should be on expanding phone technology to computer-like power with mobile ease of use.  For example, SMS can be equal to e-mail in communication quality—and phones need the capability to make SMS easy to tap out. Additionally, any phone call or SMS may come from multiple sources—phone to phone, SMS, e-mail, VOIP—and it would be great if all phones could answer with same versatility. Most important here as driver is price—still too expensive to use phone systems for Web access—need to have more accessible costs.

Our human need to connect will increase as technology erodes our personal contact. Since, mobile phones will be more available than laptops, I can see this being the device of choice offering the optimum connection.

This is more or less inevitable. 

Technology is moving fast, which makes this scenario believable.

The "mobile phone" of 2020 will have evolved so much by then that it will have only a passing resemblance to the device we call a phone today.

One question is whether the mobile phone will represent an individual, in which case verification/authentication for secure transactions will occur at the device level, or whether mobile phones may still represent groups (family/villages/etc.), in which case, secure transactions will still need to be verified repeatedly.

Mobile phones will almost always be cheaper than laptops. Today you can get Internet access on a $70 mobile phone, where OLPC for example costs $150.

While the proliferation of cellular technology in the industrialized nations is undeniable there is no evidence that the technology will be extended into non-industrialized areas of the world any time soon. Ultimately business has to perceive such a move as beneficial to a company or industry—that is unlikely to happen by the year 2020.

There's been such an extraordinary explosion of Internet technology use over the last 15 years that this scenario seems very realistic for 2020. Also, digital communications via mobile phone was jumped by its rapid adoption in lower income countries.

Mobile phones as a tool for Internet access makes sense. They are by far the cheapest access tool. People can buy them for phone access then also use them for the Internet.

I think more powerful processors will lead to more powerful desktop and laptop computers, which will remain the communications center of choice, since people will still spend most of their time working at a desk. Mobile phones will become more powerful, but won't replace desktop or laptop computers.

While I mostly agree, I do think that using mobile phones to access the Internet has significant limitations that may prevent users from experiencing as robustly as those accessing it in other ways

I've been amazed, when I travel internationally, at the extent to which people use mobile phones almost seamlessly in their lives.

Many people throughout the world do not have access to any telephones. I believe this scenario to be true in nations with average to above average wealth. Rural areas will also have sparse coverage.

While I think that the emergence of wireless technology will accelerate in the coming years, I doubt that we will become *completely* disconnected from a standard PC and Internet connection. Despite all of the hype around functionality being added to phones, the fact remains that the screen is tiny and the sound tinny, making for a less than optimal user experience.

I think the percent of the bottom three-quarters who have Internet access might be higher than 50% by 2020.

Growth in telephone coverage, increase in computing power in small devices, and the shrinking of the phone equipment seem to almost guarantee that the mobile phone will be the universal communications tool for all occasions.

While mobile technology is 10 years behind, it will catch up. The increasing number of smart phones is evident of the growing market for "one stop shopping" with the phone. The only problem to agreeing in full I see is if all features will be affordable to all.
We are seeing cell phones push across all facets of the world’s population, especially in what has been typically termed as third-world countries.

Cell phones are currently loaded with software that enables it to do many of the things lower end computers do. Cell phones are much easier to carry and power and have a much longer battery life than laptops, which make it desirable for people with limited electricity availability. If the current trend continues, I forsee cell phones being the primary tool for people around the world.

The ease of cell phone use and the integration of diverse applications on the cell phone make it an increasing popular technology.

It is evident by the assimilation of younger people to mobile phones, whereas older people have had to change habits not yet developed by younger people.

Perhaps this scenario would be more realistic if the term "handheld device" were substituted for "phone." By 2020, the concept of a device that is identified primarily with one application (i.e., telephony) will be laughable. While voice communications will certainly be part-and-parcel of such devices, we will not single out that application in terms of our naming devices. Nevertheless, the basic premise of this scenario—that a small, integrated device will serve as the primary link to our networks—is likely true.

The mobile phone will be a primary vehicle for some types of Web access, primarily e-mail, information, location, etc.  But entertainment will largely remain computer based, simply because of the larger screens and higher computing power.  Entertainment will continue to grow in the mobile market, but will remain a small percentage of overall content accessed from mobile devices.

Devices such as the iPhone will have become commonplace, for e-mail, Internet and IM.

The use of cell phones for Internet has expanded greatly and that seems to be where the consumers are pushing for more.

Mobile phones are able to precede wire-based infrastructure and can provide connections to the most remote locations.

Competing mobile phone standards will continue to act as a barrier to universal service everywhere in the world. Internet access is less interesting to people than the ability to communicate with their family and friends over the phone.

And it will even be more important in the future.

I agree w/general scenario concept, "what if?" but think that while lots of little interactions with the Internet will go to cells, more comprehensive info and entertainment will not. Doubt universal standards, even by 2020.

Convergence continues toward some device that will capture all communication. It well could be the mobile phone or some approximation.

Our mobile phones will be used for telephony as well as shopping—credit card swipe ability.

The current popularity of the iPhone demonstrates the direction we may be heading. Cell phones have proliferated massively and the have become very powerful. Unfortunately, man hasn't figured how to balance between being in constant contact AND having a personal life.

I still can't figure out how it will be possible to use only the mobile Internet; the displays are going huger in the home computer, and the Internet technology is following this trend. The mobile Internet will grow and grow, but only for certain contents, while the online communication will still be in charge of big displays that will substitute our actual TV sets. Regarding the digital divide, here in Italy we have political issues that delayed it, from the monopoly to the lack of will of politicians to narrow the divide.

The US will probably lag behind the rest of the world. In Japan, this is already happening.

While this scenario sounds likely at first glance, unless ways are developed to increase the size of the visual component of the mobile phone (which is a possibility—could incorporate ability to project to a larger size than the device itself), I don't think the mobile phone will be the only connection for those who use digital communications in their work—which by then everyone will do.

The advances in both hardware and software for mobile phones will enhance greater usage across all services more importantly the advance of battery technology will enable this fact

The "bottom" three-quarters of the world's population will not be able to afford any access at all.

The only thing I don't agree with is the bit about "well-connected form at a relatively low price." I think that the Telco's will corner the market and eliminate the current Web neutrality and that the "bottom" three quarters will find illegal or alternative ways of accessing these services. So yes, I mostly agree that the future is mobile but I don't think it'll fit within a utopian bell curve where access and quality are consistent.

It seems that the affordability of cell phones can make this possible.

The term "phone" will be seen as a quaint anachronism. Pocket-sized computing devices with communication technology built in will become as indispensable as wristwatches were to previous generations. Even basic devices will have better bandwidth than we experience today thanks in part to more readily available communications access and to technologies such as mesh networking.

It will be interesting to see the impact of mobile communications on the capacity of authoritarian regimes to restrict expression on the Internet.

This assumes the "mobile phone" will be an entirely different beast by then.

The current GSM and 3G phones already cause health problems. Data connections are even riskier than voice connections.

Creating Internet access through mobile phones will afford more people the opportunity to connect, learn and contribute, including bill-paying services.

Mobile phone will be mobile Internet—however that Internet evolves beyond what we know it as—it goes into a social interface, a global community of storytellers.

Mobile phones are not to surf on. Internet capable phones have been available in Japan and Korea for years, but other Internet capable devices are still preferred.

Aside from issues of interface, there don't seem to be any barriers. And interface issues will be resolved over time. I wonder how about the impact of the market structure in telephony will affect these developments, vs. the Internet where the infrastructure was no t 'owned' and the system not segmented by multi-nationals' ownership.

Yes, but the mobile phone won't much resemble the mobile phone of today. Voice will be one of many services offered by the portable communications devices we will carry, and we won't call them mobile phones or any kind of phone by then.

It will be a mobile world in 2020, by social trends or by political or environmental disruptions. A small, light-weight phone will be the overwhelming choice for a society that wants to be in touch and informed while on the move.

The expanding markets of India and China will contribute greatly to an increase from 30% in 2007.

It is a problem of paradigm. You have positioned "the mobile phone" as THE THING that everything else is glommed onto. I suspect the opposite is true. Telephony is an application that can be reduced down to some pretty simply software. Instead of the mobile telephone being the foundation upon which everything else is added, I suspect some type of small or mobile computing platform—like the iTouch or iPhone—will become the foundation, and telephony will just be one application added to it. The telephone application, even in the mobile environment, will be liberated from the device and become a download for whatever small computer people want to use it on.

The mobile phone is being over-used in many situations for non-essential use by consumers, particularly in countries of economic affluence.

Small, relatively cheap, agree upon standards for interoperability—it works. Will we design services that accommodate the limitations inherent in the lower end of the technology scale though?

Telephony still requires access to a cash economy, and there are no incentives to keep prices low.

In developing countries, mobile Internet access by phone is, and most likely, will continue to be very expansive. Most people will have access at cybercafes and other similar locations.

I'm not convinced the mobile telephony infrastructure will be able to offer enough bandwidth to garner eye-catching Net use in other parts of the world. I believe the rich media aspect is THE "killer app" part of the Internet, and there are too many barriers to that with a mobile/smart phone.

In the business environment—just as computers have not replaced paper, I can't quite see phones replacing the laptop—or some sort of portable computing device. The need to be able to easily view spreadsheets, reports, images, etc. at a reasonable size will be a hurdle for the phone manufacturers.

Until the Baby Boomers are gone, this "small" technology will not replace the laptop and PC in accessing the Internet.

I wonder only on two counts, first:  will the poorer three-quarters of world's people account for one half of all people with Internet access? That might be a bit optimistic. Second, will international boundaries fall to let everyone communicate between countries without undue expense or difficulty? I hope so.

Most individuals with whom I come in contact use laptops or desktops to connect to the Internet. Laptops due to the widespread availability of wireless connections seem to be coming even more popular.

I agree mobile phones will be the main way many people connect to others. I don't see how their small screens can convey the rich information that's available online, though. It's still very cumbersome to read on a cell phone screen, for instance.

The developing world is leading the way here. In Africa and Japan it is the dominant networked device.

3G or equivalent access will leapfrog wired technologies.

Though I believe the mobile phone will be used for all information sought here and now, like how to information, or looking up local time sensitive information. Mobile phones will become our primary device we use to interact with all our other technologies, but a base-camp computer will be used for most interaction and networking.

Pricing and access are important for reducing the digital divides. Mobile phone access tends to be of lower quality and, especially in developing countries, shared. To really tackle the digital divide it is vital that people have personalised and privatised access and that they have the skills to work with these technologies in ways that will benefit them directly. The way the market is currently set up and the way in which it is linked to education is still below standard in most countries.

It depends what you call a "mobile phone." I’d say portable devices will be the leading form of Internet access, but not the vertically aligned handheld devices with tiny screens we have today. Talking on them will be a minor, secondary function.

The summary does not address the quality of information and the fact the users are bombarded with advertisements. The mobile phone may be the primary connection tool, but for certain usages only.

The telephone allows many functions for seamless communication and I believe this will continue to grow. People want information quickly and briefly wherever they are.

Small multifunctional devices will be used to connect people with greater frequency than larger PC's/laptops—especially as hardware capabilities expand inversely proportional to size.

The various telephony companies have built huge bases of support and profit without compatibility. If there is an impetus for cooperation and a single standard in the future it will most likely be in Europe and Asia as opposed to North America.

It is hard to believe that people will be able to read small screens as currently in use on phones. Phone power/speed is helpful but eyesight and screen size will present challenges hard to overcome with technology.

I agree that for the bottom three-quarters, the mobile phone will be the primary and only (regular) access to the Internet. The "top" one-quarter will continue to use desktop/laptop and TV monitor connection as their primary connection for business, research and entertainment purposes because of image size and quality.

I am doubtful that the bottom three-quarters of the world's population will make as much progress as estimated...or having "access" may not equate with "able."

Many people would use the Internet primarily for communication only.

First OLPC and similar initiatives are not going to be so successful. Second the mobile devices that will be used in 2020 will be quite different from the mobile phone as we know them. Third seamless roaming may continue to be a serious headache. Fourth cost will continue to remain above purchase power of the majority of people.

Using mobile phone technology in this way makes the Internet more accessible and useful than the current "hotspot" networking scheme. The new Amazon.com Kindle technology is an early, flawed, yet promising example of how ubiquitous and inexpensive access to information trumps flashy device design. It won't happen, especially in poorer regions, unless we ensure adequate competition among multiple carriers.

The two caveats I would make to this is the fact that wireless telephony could fall prey to the same concerns that afflict wireline telephone and Internet—big companies with power to control the rate and possibly the direction of technological innovation and government's who may impose regulatory constraints on a cautionary-principle basis and the lack of literacy need to use these smart phone in developing countries.

Mobile phones will only become more pervasive as they become cheaper. In addition, technological devices are continually getting smaller, and technology companies seem intent on integrating as many applications as possible regardless of the size of the device.
Simply, it is easier to install mobile telephony in an area than wired.

With the rapid integration and use of mobile communications since the beginning of the 21st century, especially among young people, it is difficult not to see this scenario play out fully by 2020.

The blending of the mobile phone and the portable computer will likely be the more ubiquitous device.

Not everyone with a mobile phone has access to the Internet. In order to have Internet services you have to pay a premium in the US. However, I realize in some countries the Internet is free to mobile phone users.

The research shows that many low-income individuals already have high access to mobile phones. As data packages and Internet service on these phones become ubiquitous, as well as more affordable than computers, it is likely that a great number of people will have Internet access via a mobile phone.

Developing countries are leading by example and showing how mobile technologies connect people around the world and across all class and education levels.

I think the affordability, portability, and ease of use will only improve and continue to increase the utility of mobile phones.

Although mobile phones will continue to expand their features, their small size limits the number functions a customer can use effectively, much less see effectively. It's more likely we will see something in between, like an extremely compact and portable notebook computer/communication device.

We'll be using smart devices that are phone-sized—yes—but the devices themselves will be more a portable laptop than what we now know as a phone, and satellite broadband access will be the way we connect—both to our telephone accounts, Internet, etc.  So...not at all a telephone in the sense we think of it today.

I think the rest of the world except the US will be on this model.  I think that the US telephone industry will have a hard time with universal standards and protocols. Also concerned about the user-interface to the phone for Internet use.

I think we'll have a significant rethinking of what "the mobile phone" is. If a mobile phone is able to do everything a laptop is, do we stop calling it a mobile phone? Somewhere between the MacAir and the iPhone and new foldable screen technology is the opportunity for a new kind of phone...that might spread quickly.

When traveling in Kenya I was surprised at the use and cost of mobile phones. Internet use through mobiles would be easy to uptake through Africa and areas with poor physical infrastructure but strong wireless/mobile systems.

I think the boundaries between mobile phones and PCs will collapse as computing power migrates to the Web and innovators develop more ultra-portable devices, which combine the cheapness and portability of phones with the fuller functionality of the Web—allowing access to a fuller roster of Web-based applications than is currently or conceivably possible on a phone-sized device

We're already seeing the computing and networking potential of cell phones in Japan and Europe. With the increasing capability and decreasing cost of flash memory, it would be unrealistic to not expect the further development of the "smart phone," but most likely not in the form we're currently used to seeing it in.

The phones need to be light but not so small that aging hand can't use or see the features on them.

I don't think we'll think of them as phones—I barely consider the iPhone one.  I don't think we'll get universal standards and protocols by 2020, either.

Yes the are small relatively cheap and the learning curve for a phone is not as steep as for a computer

Unfortunately, I think human nature will dominate digital resources the same way they dominate natural resources—we will keep the best stuff for the HAVES, and try to keep the HAVE NOTS from getting cheap access. Even if the above scenario were to take place—lots of cell phones available for cheap prices—it would still be difficult to access the Web as we currently view it.

I already see it. People use their phones to use e-mail and search google, and it seemed to be the most reliable source of Internet connection my friend in Argentina had in 2007.
Cell phones are becoming ubiquitous, inexpensive, and more and more a source for information.

As war, poverty, and greed continue to pervade some of the underdeveloped countries, the primary pre-occupation of people there will be survival and basic human needs.

Cellphone will only be used for the basic voice communication

Mobile phone vs. computers: it's all about cost.

Interoperability will be the norm.

Much of this will depend on the openness of mobile networks, which in fact appears better in developing countries than established areas. It may be due to the fact that they are not willing to deal with the complexity of walled-gardens compared to its cost. Another critical factor will be display technologies such as roll-up display, HUD, micro projection, etc., small displays cannot depict a lot of information nor easy to understand. A way to provide a large display (without going as far as eye implants or goggles) while still maintaining a small form factor would be a key. Voice navigation and text to voice have shown limitations so far.

Given the speed of technology development, I predict that those carrying any portable wireless device, today will have largely upgraded to what is, in essence, a fully powered, computer.

Not many people purchase data packages for phones.

Continued efforts by NGO's and technology advances will continue to lower costs, making mobile comms more accessible. Wifi will dominate.

Between, talk text and e-mail, it feels like it already is.

1) Technology is going more and more mobile. 2) In most countries, the phone networks being developed are wireless rather than wired. 3) Most people in countries other than the US do not have PCs, so they are connecting via cell phones/smartphones.

As the developing world is "wired" with wireless, they will get advanced phone functions more readily and will adapt them into their lives.

By 2020, the mobile phone will have become the primary "lifeline" for most of the world's population—and the recent growth in mobile adoption in the third world indicates that cheap handsets and reliable mobile service can bring first-class access to information and communications tools to populations that were previously inaccessible.

The mobile phone will be the ultimate "one-to-one" personal communication, entertainment, and information tool.

I still prefer a computer to browse Websites (I like a screen I can see and a keyboard) but for e-mail, Mobile phones will be the medium. When the monthly fees decrease, I will use a PDA or related device to access/send e-mails.

Interconnection rights between carriers in the US have been fought over for the past decade. I see little to make me believe domestic carriers, let alone international carriers, will solve that problem in another 13 years. 

The mobile phone is the primary connection tool for most people in the world, and in 2020 the rate of convergence indicates that mobile phones will be compact laptops (similar to an iPhone) so they will retain their prevalence over time

The spread of facilities like telecenters and Internet cafes will make access easier.

It's hard to imagine that major corporations will assist the bottom to gain access to the Internet. Someone along the will need to foot the bill.

This is already occurring. More teenagers in China view the Chinese language version of "American Idol"—"Super Girls"—on a mobile device than on either TV or CPUs. The real question will be what governments will do to limit the access to search criteria, etc.

Laptops are heavy, easy to break, expensive, hard to charge, and require too many peripheral devices to be practical. The only advantage they have is that I can see and manipulate my spreadsheets and other applications because of the size of the screen, but that can be overcome with technology, such as the ability to expand a screen, as you can with the new iPod and iPhone. The first entity to provide something universally accessible to most everyone will be followed by the rest.

The mobile phone will, even in 2020, be a more-limited information tool than a laptop or desktop, or whatever replaces those. Screen size will be a big limiter of the amount and type of information that can be disseminated through a smaller platform. As well, the nature of humans to use the mobile platform for on the go needs, rather than thoughtful work, will likely mean that while "access" will move to a predominantly mobile platform, true, longer than 30-second "usage" will still be the domain of less-mobile platforms.

This is the part I am less sure about: "Telephony is offered under a set of universal standards and protocols accepted by most operators internationally, making for reasonably effortless movement from one part of the world to another."  Getting the telecoms to agree on a common standard will be the biggest hurdle. Nice to think that market forces would drive this.

Mobile is not my area of known expertise, but I'm not sure I agree, mainly because consumers in the US have not shown interest in using one device for many uses. Many people may use phones to connect, but I don't believe it will be their primary connection in the US. International and income-based variations may emerge, however—again, not my expertise.

As long as prices keeping coming down, inflation remains somewhat stable, and the world's economies continue to open, the "taste" of mobility and connectivity will grow.

Innovative pricing models will contribute to access.

While the mobile will be prevalent, the infrastructure in some countries will make this scenario hard to achieve.

Focusing on a particular device in not quite the way to go. I think there will be a revolution in hardware and we may not be able to understand the device and the protocols that will arise to support persistent and fast information exchange between individuals

With the technology, education, and economic explosion in China and India, this prediction is likely to be low.

The cell phone is cheaper than the average computer and while computers are coming down in price, so are cell phones. Cell phones are way more portable and provide enough connection.

Mobile phones are widely used in poor and middle-income countries now. They do not demand constant electricity, which is not available to many.

Phones will be more universal because they are a leapfrog technology—and because they do not require the power and infrastructure that other Internet connections require.

The mobile telephone will be the primary source of Internet connection but I am not convinced there will be universal standards and protocols. This has not happened in either existing land-line telephony, video formats, software packages...nor even in basic electricity supplies. There are too many vested interests in maintaining competition between rival networks and their capabilities, with some more interesting in lucrative markets and less so in the developing world where the investment would not be deemed worthwhile.

The mobile phone will never be the primary Internet connection for most people, need working space, printing, readability. Might be for decent second e-mail portal. But telephony standards will never be that seamless.

The marketplace for telephone service is impeded by regulatory, corporate, and technical barriers. It is unlikely that phones will become available to low-income populations worldwide.

Mobile phone technology is superior in that it works from satellites and does not require people to be in a "wireless hub" location.

Universal standards are almost sure to emerge, since there is such a strong economic incentive for telecommunications providers to offer seamless service across geographic boundaries. I am less sanguine about how far the technology will penetrate into the poorer economic classes worldwide. To me, the 50% estimate seems too rosy.

Imagine that mobile products represent the completely converged device that provides access to the broad content of the Internet, but also becomes a content source (individual's data).