Cellphone to be main web tool

2008-12-15 21:20

Washington - Cellphones will be the primary tool to connect to the internet in the year 2020 and voice-recognition and touch-screen interfaces will be much more prevalent, according to a new survey on the future of technology.

Artificial and virtual reality will also have become more embedded in everyday life, according to the survey of hundreds of internet leaders, activists and analysts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The experts were asked in an online survey conducted with Elon University in North Carolina to predict advances and the role of technology in 2020.

They agreed that advances in cellphone technology would be among the most significant developments in the years to come.

"The mobile phone - now with significant computing power - is the primary internet connection and the only one for a majority of the people across the world, providing information in a portable, well-connected form at a relatively low price," said the Pew survey, Future of the Internet III.

Seventy-seven percent of 578 experts surveyed said they "mostly agree" with the statement while 22% said they "mostly disagree" and 1% did not respond.

Asked whether "talk and touch are common technology interfaces in 2020", 64% said they mostly agree, 21% said they mostly disagree and 15% did not respond.

Fifty-five percent of the experts said they mostly agree with the statement that in 2020, "many lives are touched by the use of augmented reality or spent interacting in artificial spaces".

Thirty percent said they mostly disagree while 15% did not respond.


The experts did not think copyright protection would make major advances on the free-wheeling internet in the years to come.

Asked whether "content control through copyright-protection technology dominates" in 2020, 31% said they mostly agree while 60% said they mostly disagree and 9% did not respond.

Asked whether "social tolerance has advanced significantly due in great part to the internet", 32% said they mostly agree, 56% said they mostly disagree and 13% did not respond.


"A strong undercurrent of anxiety runs through these experts' answers," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

"They are quite sure the internet and cellphones 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.

"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."

Pew said that 578 leading internet activists, builders and commentators participated in the online survey, conducted from December 2007 to March 2008, and an additional 618 people also shared their views.

Full results of the survey can be found at