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The Smartphone will Dominate Internet Access by 2020

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A survey of internet leaders, activists and analysts shows they expect major tech advances as the phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice recognition improves, artificial and virtual reality become more embedded in everyday life, and the architecture of the internet itself improves.

They disagree though about whether this will lead to more social tolerance, more forgiving human relations, or better home lives.

Among the quantitative results from the report:

  • Some 77% said the mobile computing device (the smartphone) with more significant computing power will be 2020's primary global Internet-connection platform.
  • 64% favored the idea that 2020 user interfaces will offer advanced touch, talk and typing options and some added a fourth "T" - think.
  • Nearly four out of five respondents (78%) said the original Internet architecture will not be completely replaced by a next-generation 'net by 2020.
  • Three out of five respondents (60%) disagreed with the idea that legislatures, courts, the technology industry, and media companies will exercise effective intellectual property control by 2020.
  • A majority - 56% - agreed that in 2020 "few lines (will) divide professional from personal time, and that's OK."
  • 56% said while Web 2.0 is bringing some people closer, social tolerance will not be heightened by our new connections
  • 45% agreed and 44% disagreed with the notion that the greater transparency of people and institutions afforded by the Internet will heighten individual integrity and forgiveness.
  • More than half (55%) agreed that many lives will be touched in 2020 by virtual worlds, mirror worlds, and augmented reality, while 45% disagreed or did not answer the question.

"The internet is now used by 1.6 billion people, with another billion expected to be added soon," said the report's principal author Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center and associate professor of communications at Elon University. "These experts' answers reflect continuing concern over the tension between security and privacy issues. They emphasize the importance of enhanced and enlightened cooperation between the leaders involved in decisions about internet architecture and policy."

Responding to an invitation to participate in an online survey, 578 leading internet activists, builders and commentators submitted their ideas about the impacts networked technologies may have on world societies by 2020, with an additional 618 stakeholders also participating, for a total of about 1,196 participants sharing their views.

The report is built around respondents' responses to scenarios stretching to the year 2020.

"A strong undercurrent of anxiety runs through these experts' answers: They are quite sure the internet and cell phones will continue to advance at an amazing clip, but they are not at all sure people will make the same kind of progress as they embrace better, faster, cheaper gadgets," said Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "The picture they paint of the future is that technology will give people the power to be stronger actors in the political and economic world, but that won't necessarily make it a kinder, gentler world."

The full report (pdf file, 138 pages) can be downloaded from the Elon University website.

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Tags: augmented reality  virtual reality  intel  smartphone  privacy  personal  pew