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I attended the MyBroadband 2001 conference today at Vodaworld.

There were some incredible data that came out of this.  Some of the more impressive numbers:

There are currently 4 billion connected devices in the world.  This will reach 15 billion by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020.  Staggering

Vodacom has spoken about a minority of people that have figured out how to abuse the Blackberry Internet Service.  The record for abuse is someone who downloaded 342 gigs of data in a month through the service (not bad for R59).

In two years Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys predicts that every phone sold will be a smartphone.

In 2010 the amount of internet traffic recorded was greater than all data since the beginning of the internet.  An impressive 245 exabytes, or 245 billion gigabytes.

But hands down the best presentation of the day was by Lars Reichelt, the former CEO of Cell-C.  He painted a picture for the future of connectivity or what I like to call the Communication Revolution. And it is truly remarkable.  By 2020 it will be almost impossible to function without being connected.  Quoting from Intel, the vision of the future is if something consumes electricity it will compute and if it computes it will be connected to the internet.  Thus being connected is as important as electricity. But from a South African perspective we must face some hard facts.

We cannot ignore the 40% of our population who do not live in urban centres.  Those in the countryside cannot be left to wallow with no electricity and thirsting in the digital wilderness.  With connectivity comes a world of education we could scarcely imagine.  Lars quite rightly trumpets the point that education is the key to any kind of future success for South Africa.

One point in particular that struck a cord with me is the possibility of placing powerful technology in the hands of our kids.  Tablet computers were all theory until the end of 2009 when the iPad arrived and changed everything.  Amazon launched the Kindle Fire, a $199 tablet.  India have now produced a $60 tablet that runs on Android.  A functional tablet.  At $60, or R500, you can put the power of Android in the hands of a student.  Imagine the possibilities for education with all texts required pre-loaded in addition to a world of video and other educational tools freely available in a connected world.  It would radically change the future of our country.  Nothing else can have that much impact for just R500 a head.

For just 1.5% of our defense budget (defending a country with no actual enemies) we could accomplish the technological quantum leap in our education of having a tablet in the hands of all 12 million children in our country.

Yes, of course I realise this is simplistic and a lot more money would have to be spent in distribution, training and infrastructure.  But the point IS simplistic.  This is not an unrealistic Utopian dream.  It is a tantalisingly reachable goal.

And certainly one I would like to be involved in.

When I tweeted this concept I got a bit of flack so I’d love to have your thoughts.  Let me know in the comments.