Ubiquitous connectivity

We'll increasingly have the option to be online all the time, from almost all locations using a variety of highly personalised mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, e-readers, hand-held gaming devices & laptops  - that opportunity has been termed ‘Ubiquitous connectivity’.

As such, Western European mobile internet adoption is forecast to grow from 13% in 2008 to more than 39% by 2014 [1]. Indeed, research from Q1/2010 suggests that up to 23% of mobile phone users indicated they’d used mobile data services [2]. It’s also expected that our existing mobile networks will be upgraded to offer greater capacity & data transfer speeds (see access to the internet) and this will continue to revolutionise our current experience of the mobile internet. 

While not all of us will abandon using our standard PCs  - for some groups - their "always on, always on you" mobile option will emerge as the primary device through which they'll access the internet in the future and this is underpinned by changes in the types of devices we're using to connect.

'Smartphones' (like the Apple iPhone or those using the Google Android operating system) offer higher levels of computing power and their owners more frequently use the mobile internet and purchase both more data and downloadable applications or 'apps'. Estimates suggest that smartphones will account for 23% of all new handsets sold by 2013 [3] with almost 1-in-4 people already indicating that they used a smartphone (Q1 / 2010) [4].

In addition, the emergence of tablet devices such as the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab introduce newer forms of interaction – dubbed the ''Goldilocks device''- as it’s not too big and not too small and is easy and versatile enough to be used for both work & personal use. Forecasts expect significant consumer adoption of tablets [5].

Lastly, the services available to us to use are also evolving. The increasing availability of practical online tools, entertainment options and location-based services is helping drive the 'attractiveness' of owning a customisable mobile device and fostering daily usage of the mobile internet for both business and pleasure.

What are the implications?

  • More public services available online and an expectation that services will be accessible at all times via a variety of different devices driven increasingly by a sense of the users choice.
  • Mobile connectivity will supplement and - in some cases - eventually replace media consumption via 'fixed' personal computers and laptops.
  • The multi-media capabilities of smartphones & tablets will amplify the level of user adoption and participation in online communities.
  • Users can 'feel' a more personal connection to their mobile device  and it's increasingly being seen as "the bridge for digital to real-life in real-time". 
  • New social and cultural behaviours are emerging such as tele-cocooning, personal communication networks and flash-mobs.
  • We'll access and consume more data. 'Non-Speech activities' will drive our desire to access and consume a wider variety of streamed, data products.
  • Smartphone technology allows more accurate location-based information to become available and a range of real-time, contextual services could emerge.
  • The working practises of 'frontline' or remote workers could change as more services are distributed solely via the mobile platform, for example, using tablets in health care services.
  • Micro-payment services and the emergence of 'contactless' commerce may change not only how people shop, but also lend or donate money, for example Starbucks introduced mobile payment options to 7,500 of its US outlets in January 2010 [6].
  • We may see an increasing number of people whose only internet access is via mobile broadband options (estimated to be around 6% of households in Q1/2010) [7].

Moving forward

Where previously you may have made efforts to understand how just the adoption of the mobile phone could effect your organisation, you now need to consider how both that 'mobility' combined with a growing range of different devices all capable of internet access may further affect it.

You may want to consider:

  • Is the mobile internet considered as a specific part of your ICT or online strategy?
  • What new types of opportunity could the mobile internet offer your organisation?
  • What tasks or services would best be matched to a mobile internet format?
  • Try to find out what kind of mobile devices your users have - what services, applications or types of interaction they like and dislike?
  • Will your current web-based services work in a mobile format? Would they need to be changed or adapted?
  • If you're developing or updating your website, think about how you should use mobile options in its design.
  • Can you support your users preferences and help 'personalise' your mobile services for them?
  • Not got a smartphone or used 'Apps'? Not played with an iPad? Ask around your organisation and find someone to demonstrate it to you.

This driver was written for NCVO Third Sector Foresight by Guy Yeomans.

Want to know more?

Using Mobile Phones in Fundraising Campaigns

Published by: Mobile Active, a virtual community run Green Media Toolshed and The Nonprofit Technology Network

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? This report identifies various strategies for using mobile technology in nonprofit organisations and assesses their effectiveness. It does this through reviewing specific cases and with reference to other reports and papers.

How useful is this? This may be useful to give an overview of current applications of mobile technology. It also gives a useful listing of relevant references for further reading in each chapter. The report draws examples from international examples so not all will be relevant to the domestic UK voluntary organisation.

Other comments: The report is also available on the website here

Cutting the wires: Mobile IT and the transformation of local services and governance

Published by: New Local Government Network

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? This report aims to draw on a “wide evidence-base to discuss possibilities and challenges to local government”. A particular emphasis is on the “mobilisation” of the worker in local services, giving ready communication and technology away from the office.

How useful is this? This gives a good overview and analysis of the possibilities of mobile technology. It is more relevant to organisations working with local government but does have wider application.

Other comments: Only a limited part of the report is available free of charge. The full report costs £9.

Technology Convergence

Published by: Fresh Business Thinking, a company describing itself as an “online business resource for entrepreneurs”.

Date: 2009

Format: Web

What is it? This article gives an overview of convergent technology.

How useful is this? This does not relate the technology specifically to voluntary sector issues but gives a good overview of current developments. As such, it is a useful starting point for appraising the current state of the technology.

The Future of the Internet III

Published by: Pew Internet and American Life Project

Date: December 2008

Format: Web and PDF

What is it?  A renowned 'periodic' assessment / exploration on the future of the internet in which respondents were asked to assess predictions about technology and its roles in the year 2020.

How useful is this? Although a US publication this is one of the most comprehensive pieces of publicly available foresight work on the future of the internet. Of interest in this edition is their judgement on mobile connectivity and the role of the mobile phone, namely, "the mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet."

What shape will the wireless web take?

Published by: McKinsey Quarterly, the online business journal of McKinsey and Company. The journal offers practical ideas as well as discussions around management concepts.

Date: 2009

Format: Web

What is it? This article examines what it identifies as the next stage in the evolution of the web.

How useful is this? Registration is needed to read this article, but this is free. The article examines 6 questions in the context of the future of wireless connectivity:

1. Will the mobile Web become a substitute for wired access?

2. Will mobile match the performance of fixed access?

3. Where will people go for the best content and web applications?

4. Which software interface will organise and manage the wireless web?

5. Which mobile web are we talking about?

6. What will the pricing model be?

So, focused on this issue but very useful if you are interested in this topic.

Other comments: The report is also available on the website here

Communications Market Report 2010

Published by: Ofcom

Date: August 2010

Format: PDF

What is it? Ofcoms extensive annual reference source covering the UK communications sectors, aimed at industry, policy makers, analysts and consumers.

The report contains data and analysis on broadcast television and radio, broadband and fixed/mobile telephony. It also offers insights into how people are using the internet and converged devices to access audio-visual and audio content.

How useful is this? It’s a great ‘snapshot’ of what the UK population’s communication & media consumption habits are. It’s backed by detailed research and offers useful insight.


  1. Western European Mobile Forecast, 2009 To 2014 - Forrester, 2009 [back]
  2. Communications Market Report 2010 (p10) - Ofcom [back]
  3. Next Generation Smartphones Strategic Oppurtunities and Markets 2010-2015 - Juniper Research, 2010 [back]
  4. Communications Market Report 2010 (p19) - Ofcom [back]
  5. Apple iPad Sales: Why Tablets Are Even Bigger Than We Thought - Forrester Blog, 2010 [back]
  6. Starbucks Pushes Mobile Payments Into the Mainstream - Gigaom, 2011 [back]
  7. Communications Market Report 2010 (p11) - Ofcom [back]
Last updated at 11:58 Thu 24/Feb/11.

Recent comments


There is a bit more to it than this! Please see my book The 24 Hour Society. It is ten years old now and so a bit out of date but I think it is still relevant.

Natalie's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Thanks for your response Leon, do you have a link to your book you could post? I’m sure some of the other members would be interested as we haven’t finished the further reading section of this driver yet.

However, I would just like to add that all these drivers are intended as a quick overview of what’s going on as a starting point for further discussion. We have deliberately tried to keep them as short and concise as possible, this is also because they are in web format. The implications for every organisation will be different so the drivers are intended to provoke organisations into thinking about what these trends mean for them. The audience on our network vary widely with different levels of knowledge about the external environment so some of these drivers may be totally new to them.

NCVO Third Sector Foresight

Caroline's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Twitter offers some great opportunities for VCOs. Have a look at Louise’s post if you’re interested in finding out more.

I am currently undertaking a strategic exercise with ACNorth Staffs and the current element in the exercise is competitive forces.Obtaining financial data from Charity Commission (mainly financial) I find that mainly AC’s appear to have a correlation between income/population up to a certain figure and then hit a barrier for further growth. The problem then seems to need add on services to maintain this optimum income level against population. In order to examine the theory further, I need to have info from AC financial performances. Do you have a central database of this source?

John Pye (pyejohne@goglemail.com)

Incidently, your work on Drivers is superb

It does seem that there are organisations who do not fully use the web and that it doesn't always need to be used. With the nature of work each organization should really be carrying out unique audits that aids the web usage as another form of marketing.

I often think that the word communication is blurred with information. The web should only really be used as a marketing tool. Then the real work can come from acually meeting people. The nature of meeting people will never change. How people use the web is also another issue.

Pritesh makes a good point. The ideal balance between online and offline interaction with your users/supporters/members of course depends on who they are, what you want to do with them, and what you want them to do for you.

Campaigning is one area where there is hot debate about how to translate online clicks into people at a demonstration, or vice versa, and whether this is even important. Click here to see the discussion elsewhere on this site.

Fundraising is another field where the so-called ‘digital divide’ might increasingly matter to you. The web can make it easy for people to find you, but there’s a lot of competition for their attention online, and it’s also easy for them to click away from you. And if you find that you are interacting with completely different groups of people online and offline, will one medium prove better than the other for turning interested passers-by into committed donors? For more on the future of individual giving click here. For the future of IT and fundraising click here.

As for stimulating debate, The New Economics Foundation are an interesting case study of an organisation that uses its website to impart information, but still runs lots of face to face events – now including the quarterly Fink Club. In a spoof of Brad Pitt’s Fight Club in the film of the same name, rules include: “If it’s your first time at Fink Club, you have to Fink”. Fun, sparky, face to face debate – but promoted online!

Join the discussion!

How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

Log in or join for free to comment.