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“Internet access is the fourth utility” — actually, I think ‘mobile’ is

Matt Warman over in today’s Telegraph has published a piece about internet access being required as a priority for the UK’s most deprived areas. I couldn’t agree more. We’re moving into a stage where, in this country anyway, not having internet connectivity can be a real problem — not least for applying for jobs, for example. The days of physically posting your CV to a company are long gone.

The “fourth utility” is, I presume, after water, gas and electricity? I haven’t actually come across the term before so I’ve done my best.

Although I think it’s fine to argue that “internet” is a utility, I think the method of access is increasingly more important. Simply blanketing a whole deprived area in WiFi doesn’t do much. You need a £300 (minimum?) laptop or desktop with which to use it.

No. I think “mobile” is the fourth utility. Through mobile you can of course access internet, but what’s arguably far more important is the ability to connect with other people.

Give me telephone (and SMS) connectivity first. Then give me internet. I need the ability to actually speak to folk first.

I suppose in Western societies “mobile” takes a back seat because it’s so… assumed. Anyone can have a phone nowadays in the UK. You can pick them up for under a tenner now. Even the most deprived can walk out of Carphone Warehouse having spent £14.95 and be connected. That £14.95 comprises £4.95 for the actual (Samsung E2121B) phone and then a tenner’s worth of top-up.

That Samsung also has a mobile web browser. Don’t expect miracles but it’ll handle email, Google and the BBC.

Perhaps, though after sitting and considering this for a little while, it’s not ‘mobile’ or ‘desktop’ internet that’s particularly important per se. It’s the connectivity, right? The fourth utility is communications connectivity.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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