Around three-quarters of the world's population now have access to a mobile phone, sparking the creation of an emerging 'app economy', according to a new report by the World Bank.
The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion now, says the World Bank, of which nearly 5 billion are in developing countries. Last year alone, mobile users worldwide downloaded more than 30 billion apps.
The report explores the consequences for development of this emerging 'app economy', especially in agriculture, health, financial services and government, and how it is changing approaches to entrepreneurship and employment in the developing world.
The report emphasises the role of governments in enabling mobile application development and highlights how mobile innovation labs - shared spaces for training developers and incubating start-ups - can help bring new apps to market.
Valerie D'Costa, program manager of infoDev, the World Bank's technology entrepreneurship and innovation arm, says: "Most businesses based around mobile app technology are at an early stage of development, but may hold enormous employment and economic potential, similar to that of the software industry in the 1980s and 1990s. Supporting the networking and incubation of entrepreneurs is essential to ensure that such potential is tapped."