Every year, Mary Meeker — former Morgan Stanley analyst and current Kleiner Perkins investor — issues a presentation about the state of the internet that is considered by analysts to be one of the most accurate and well-researched portraits of web activity in the world. Meeker’s findings for 2014 reveal some promising figures for those in the mobile industry — particularly in Africa and Asia, and reveal other facts that are of concern for privacy advocates.
VISUAL CONTEXT: MOBILE MESSAGING GROWTH
One of the most important takeaways from the report is the continued rise in mobile activity, despite claims that some markets have been saturated. The distinction lies in the usage of smartphones versus other types of mobile phones such as feature phones. The report details that — while mobile phone usage is rising — the global smartphone market is nowhere near saturated. Only 30% of the world’s 5.2 billion mobile users have smartphones, and mobile data traffic is up 81% year-over-year with video consumption occupying 22% of mobile activity. The explosion of mobile messaging applications is a prime example of this growth in mobile data usage: Over 1 billion users have begun to use mobile messaging services in fewer than 5 years.
Obviously, these figures bode well for those leading the pack in the global mobile scene, but other figures present an interesting conundrum. Overall internet usage growth has slowed 10%, but general tablet and mobile phone use to gain access to the internet and data is still on the rise. Mobile usage in 2014 as a percentage of overall internet usage experienced double-digit growth around the world. The low marks were Europe, South America, and North America, while the high marks were Africa (38% versus 23% in 2013) and Asia (37% versus 18% in 2013).
The report also highlights the current cyber security risks: Over 95% of vulnerable systems placed on the internet are compromised within 15 minutes, that 95% of all networks are compromised in some way, and that the rise in mobile usage is directly correlated to the rise in the number of security risks. The fact that mobile data usage is only set to increase, but is a direct factor in cyber security compromise is an important point for the future of cyber risk prevention. Specifically, Meeker’s presentation notes that with increased numbers of data and transparency come more potential for understanding how to solve problems, but that they also contribute to the complexity of communication. Transparency will continue to be an issue for those concerned with personal privacy, especially as more amounts of data become available. While big data has the potential to be used to notice patterns and simplify communication, the structures that are in place now to harness and analyze that data will likely just create new challenges to individual rights. Big data holds the promise for pattern-driven problem solving — a notion to which data mining tools and analytics are catching up.