Steve Jobs To Democratise The Middle East


Can broadband be a purveyor of prosperity and democracy? Well, if Alain Dutheil, CEO of ST-Ericsson and COO of STMicroelectronics is right, and he usually is, then the answer is: Yes.

Dutheil produced a piece of World Bank research at IEF 2009 which says that every ten per cent increase in broadband penetration delivers a 1.2% increase in a country’s GDP.


He then went on to praise broadband’s contribution to the workings of democracy in that it delivers: “More responsive governments which we need, especially in Europe.”


If you look at broadband penetration across the world, then there is clearly a relationship between high penetration and high GDP.


North America is top with 73.9%, then Oceania/Australia with 60% and Europe with 50%.


And, on the whole, these places are reasonably responsive to their populations’ wishes.


And if you look at the broadband penetration in Latin America and the Caribbean with 30%, and at the Middle East with 23.7%, at Asia with 18.5%, and at Africa with 6.7%, you appreciate that the governments of these places are pretty unresponsive to their citizens’ wishes.


On the other hand the Middle East is stinking rich yet has lousy broadband penetration (below the world average of 24.7%) and particularly lousy responsiveness (somewhere around zero) to its citizens’ wishes.


Now the method of accessing broadband is changing quickly with people moving from fixed links to mobile.


Next year mobile broadband subscribers will overtake fixed line broadband suppliers and, by 2014, two thirds of broadband subscribers will be mobile users.


And the world’s greatest terminal for accessing mobile broadband is the iPhone.


So Steve Jobs may succeed in bringing democracy to the Middle East where George W Bush and the might of the US military failed.



  1. Yes, Rory S, but on the principle that you give a man a fish and he eats that day, whereas teach a man to fish and he eats forever, broadband will give emerging countries the education, knowledge and access to markets to never have to worry about access to food again

  2. Another thing to remember about third world countries – especially those that require bread more than broadband – is that any cabling, shitty or not, tends to be copper with a high scrap value.
    Cables already laid are under siege by locals who don’t own a phone, never mind a PC requiring broadband, who view all that copper as a means to feeding their families.
    Is their ‘income’ part of the world bank GDP calculations?
    Wireless is the only viable route in these regions, but bread needs to come first.

  3. Well Cheese they say benevolent despotism is the most efficient form of government but it puts a strain on human nature with all power corrupting etc etc and even benevolent despots can turn malevolent or can be succeeded bby malevolent despots.
    So, failing a benevolent despot, then, if the object of government is Bentham’s ‘greatest happiness of the greatest number’ then it would seem that the involvement of as many people as possible in the process of government is a good way to try and achieve it.And that’s the democratic system. It’s the least bad answer.
    P.S. Clearly food is a more important priority than broadband, and clearly feeding people has a better effect on GDP growth than broadband access, but that wasn’t the subject of the World Bank study.

  4. David, a couple of remarks.
    Firstly, does the world bank research co-relating broadband growth to GDP growth apply to all (kinds of) countries? Aren’t there countries that need bread more than they need broadband? Yes, there is fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, but there is still a big gap between applying affordable, mature technology (ex. wireless broadband) and generating relevant value. It is possible, it is needed, but it is still a long shot.
    Secondly, a bit more fundamental remark – Why do most westerners believe / insist on democracy as being the panacea? I understand that there is no other successful governance model in the western world, but there are examples in the east where growth or public happiness have been delivered by non-democratic models. That does not takeaway from the need to have more broadband, but allow me to unlink growth and prosperity from a western governance model that is far more difficult to spread around the world than broadband is 🙂

  5. Well Mike you and Alain know much more than me about this, but I would venture a small comment that perhaps you are Western world-centric. i.e I’m sure what you say is true for the developed world, but in the developing world, where cable hasn’t been laid and the wires are shitty, wireless will be the most obvious way to get a broadband connection. And these developing countries have a lot more potential subscribers than the developed world.

  6. David, I think you are distorting the market here with your 4 3G dongles and umpteen Wi-fi subscriptions 🙂
    Although these do sort of make Alain’s comment valid, the vast majority of broadband data will be delivered over wire or fibre for at least the coming decade. The recent rollout of FTTK VDSL services by AT&T and FTTH services by BT combined with applications which require bandwidths and latencies no currently deliverable radio system can provide.
    Somebody in the city of London recently pointed out that every mS of delay potentially costs them millions whilst no serious WoW gamer would allow even the additional delay of a home Wi-Fi link to affect their performance.
    I thus believe every user will have a fixed and several mobile subscriptions making the statement sort of correct but by far the largest percentage of actual data will be delivered over fixed broadband links to the office and/or home.

  7. Scott, Alain Dutheil, CEO of ST-Ericsson, said that at IEF2009 in Geneva earlier this month

  8. Thanks for the post. I like it.
    Can you help me find a claim you made in the article. I need a source for this quote:
    “Next year mobile broadband subscribers will overtake fixed line broadband suppliers and, by 2014, two thirds of broadband subscribers will be mobile users.”
    Thanks so much. I’d like to use this quote in a presentation.
    Great work.
    Scott Abel

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