Imagine a world where 99.975% of the population is illiterate.
illiterate: unable to read or write.
If you’re a cellphone subscriber, unfortunately, this is the world you live in.
If you can read or write code, you’re among the 0.025% lucky few software literate.
If you can’t, you’re part of the 99.975% who are being left out.
software illiterate: unable to read or write software code.
This is a tragedy, and it’s getting worse year over year.
But you can do something about it, so continue reading.
According to numbers recently published by Apple, there are 248,000 registered iOS developers in the U.S. While official numbers have yet to be released, it is safe to assume that the total number of iOS developers worldwide is 2 to 3 times what it is in the U.S. alone. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that it is around 750,000.
According to CNET, there are about 500,000 iPhone apps on Apple’s App Store (700,000 when iPad apps are added in), 600,000 Android apps on Google Play, and 100,000 on the Windows Phone marketplace, leading to a total of 1.4M apps. And if we add apps for smaller platforms like BlackBerry and Symbian, we reach a grand total of about 1.5 million apps. Taking into consideration the fact that the number of developers is roughly equal to the number of apps, as is the case in the iOS ecosystem (750,000 developers for 700,000 apps), we can safely assume that there are about 1.5 million mobile developers today.
At first glance, 1.5 million developers might seem a lot, but it’s actually tiny when compared to the number of mobile subscriptions. According to the International Telecommunication Union, there were 6 billion mobile subscriptions at the end of 2011, and about 1 billion of them were for smartphones (Source: mobiThinking). Today, only 0.15% of all smartphone users could develop a mobile application. And that number drops down to 0.025% if you include all mobile subscriptions. In the mobile world we live in, the Software Illiteracy Rate is 99.975%.
And things are actually getting worse. A lot worse.
According to the Computer Industry Almanac, there were 1.6 billion PCs in use around the world in 2011. And if we believe the rather conservative estimates computed by DZone, there might be as many as 43 million developers in the world. This translates to a 2.687% Software Literacy Rate in the PC world, which is 107.5 times higher than the Software Literacy Rate in the mobile world. In other words, when transitioning from the PC era to the mobile era, our Software Literacy Rate actually dropped by two orders of magnitude.
“Houston, we have a problem.”
Granted, the community of mobile developers is growing rapidly. According to World of Apple, there were only 125,000 registered iPhone developers worldwide back in 2009. If the total number today is around 750,000 as assumed above, this suggests a yearly growth rate of about 82%. But even if we manage to sustain that rate for a while, it will take close to 8 years to get back to the 2.687% Software Literacy Rate that we enjoy in the PC world today. And 97.3% illiteracy is nothing to be proud of…
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm believed that “literacy is democracy’s basic ingredient.” As“software is eating the world” (Cf. Marc Andreessen), our very democracy is threatened by a rapidly dropping Software Illiteracy Rate. While improvements to our education system would certainly be a step in the right direction, they will be slow and incremental only. For more dramatic change, we need to rethink the way software applications are developed, and create tools for the 99.975%. This is what STOIC is all about, and we need your help to make it happen.
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