News & Views - Savantor

Surveys and guesstimates

Monday, 31 October 2011

According to the UN the 31st of October is the day the World population hits 7 billion.  How do they know that?  Clearly it’s a guess but how much of a guess is it?  Given that most western civilisations only have a census every 10 years and large parts of Africa and India have even less frequent data then the whole thing adds up to guesses based on guesses based on how reliably data is collected at source.  Apparently even in rich countries 3 people in every 100 don’t get counted either accidentally or deliberately.  So if we can’t predict how many people there will be in the future – and some analysts believe the 7 billion figure won’t be reached until 2019 – how can we predict what they will be doing?

Despite these anomalies we all seem to love a good survey.  The latest one on the current flavour of the month, spending on mobiles, suggests that British consumers are set to spend £19.3 billion a year using their mobile phones and tablets in the coming decade, compared with the £1.3 billion which is spent today.  The study, carried out by Barclays Corporate, estimates food and groceries will continue to be the most popular ‘on the go’ mobile purchase. While British consumers currently spend £300 million a year for such goods using mobile devices, the amount is set to increase 15 times to top £5 billion by 2021.

These predictions may turn out to be accurate but given that economists can’t predict whether we will fall back into recession during the next 12 months they may be a little optimistic.  There is also the issue of who is asked the questions in surveys such as this which is likely to be the mobile centric 18 – 35 group.  Given that the further we go into this century the more likely we are to see falling birth rates and an ageing population perhaps it’s the more affluent and less mobile infatuated 40+ group who will be the most influential in deciding whether mobile payments will take over the world.

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