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ITU Internet Report 2006: (Chapter Two)

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chapter two:

Digital technologies are fast becoming indispensable. A growing array of devices and technologies are on offer today, making users much more mobile. These range from slimmer and faster laptops, to MP3 players with video capabilities and mobile phones with high-speed internet access. While it took around 21 years to reach the first billion mobile users, the second billion signed up in just the three years. By contrast, it took some 125 years to reach the first billion fixed-line users.

The evolution from second to third generation mobile networks is arguably just as important as the jump from analogue to digital, which began more than a decade ago and is proceeding much more rapidly. Broadband networks and media convergence are generating new avenues for distributing digital entertainment. User devices are now multi-functional and increasingly personalized. In the future, advances in connected computing will make it possible for millions of things to have the ability to compute and communicate. The process of digital transformation, driven by technological innovation, is only just beginning.

In both fixed line and cellular markets, the transition to higher capacity networks is accompanied by a shift to IP-based networks. As a consequence, voice over IP (VoIP) usage is on the rise (e.g. through services like Skype or Vonage) but so too is the possibility of watching moving images over IP networks: IPTV technologies introduce an interactive dimension to television, giving viewers more control over what they watch, and when. New technologies such as digital video broadcasting and digital multimedia broadcasting let viewers watch streamed content on mobile devices anytime, anywhere. Entertainment appears to be entering a whole new era. 

At the same time, digital technology is having a significant impact on the nature of social interaction. Mobile phones have already changed the way people communicate, arrange meetings and multitask. The internet stimulates new kinds of networking for both real and virtual identities. Online, users are encouraged to seek out strangers with similar interests and this form of networking has given rise to some of the internet’s most active networking websites, such as MySpace and FaceBook. Add to this the possibility of videosharing and you have the overnight success of YouTube which provides 100 million video downloads each day and has attracted the attention of one of the internet’s largest players—Google. Multiplayer online gaming is also on the rise, creating yet another venue for digital interaction. Many users regularly engage in role-playing games, leading alternative “second lives” in cyberspace.

Innovation in digital content is rapidly expanding to other aspects of daily living. Digital homes, with sensor-enabled blinds, online security systems, customized entertainment systems, and intelligent appliances are being developed. With contactless payment systems (e.g. through technologies like RFID), seamless digital transactions are possible online and via mobile devices. Moreover, content can be delivered depending on the preferences and/ or location of a user. Such context-aware services are becoming a priority for service providers in a world in which keeping abreast of constantly mutating user lifestyles has become indispensable.

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other chapters' summaries
chapter 1: going digital
chapter 3:
chapter 4:
chapter 5: living the digital world
statistical highlights


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Updated : 2011-04-04