It is no secret we live in a very flat world (figuratively speaking). We are connected through technology to all parts of the world, and the wealth of information available online is almost unfathomable.

While you ponder that thought, allow yourself to consider these statistics:

Global population:

That is a staggering 350 percent increase in just 117 years. Maybe more amazing is that estimates for the global population at the turn of the next century could be more than 11 billion.

Number of people globally connected to the internet:

According to History.com, the "first workable prototype of the Internet came in the late 1960s with the creation of ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network," and the online world as we know it today really did not take on its form until 1990, when Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist, invented the World Wide Web.

Number of people globally with smart phones:

While we had mobile devices (personal digital assistants, or PDAs) that connected to the internet in the early 1990's, the first smart devices, as we know them today (iPhone), were introduced in 2007.

Let these statistics set in and percolate for just a second.

In just 10 years time, we have more people connected to the internet via a hand held computing device than existed on earth in 1900.

Now for a more sobering thought.

The US is not first when it comes to smartphone ownership. Here are the top five countries, in terms of number of smartphone owners:

  1. China, 717,310,000
  2. India, 300,124,000
  3. United States, 226,289,000
  4. Brazil, 79,578,000
  5. Russia, 78,364,000

And, when it comes to smartphone penetration, the US is not even in the top five.

  1. United Arab Emirates, 80.6 percent
  2. Sweden, 72.2 percent
  3. Switzerland, 71.7 percent
  4. South Korea, 71.5 percent
  5. Taiwan, 70.4 percent
  6. Canada, 69.8 percent
  7. United States, 69.3 percent

Why is this important? Consider what while we approach education, and specifically college, as a right of passage for our citizens, the reality is that if you have a device and access to the internet, you can learn almost everything online -- regardless of where you live.

Just visit YouTube and search anything from "how to tie a bow tie" to "history of the Ottoman Empire." More than likely, you will find enough information to give you a good start.

Looking for a specific skill? Massive open online courses (MOOCs) provide mostly free specialized courses along with user forums with students, professors and teaching assistants.

Free online coding academies teach you how to code for free, and countless educational websites, like Udemy.com or SkillShare.com, provide professional instruction for a modest price or monthly subscription.

And we haven't even scratched the surface of well known and accredited online university programs.

The point is that the smartphone has and continues to close the skill gap between the US and the rest of the world. No longer are our jobs and professions safe, especially when ambitious and enthusiastic youth from around the world can learn -- and master -- the same skills we are earning from an internet cafe.

Am I inflating the issue? Perhaps, but do you want to wait around to see if I'm wrong, especially when the solution is right in the palm of your hand.

So here is a challenge to you: One day every week, resist the urge to indulge in a Game of Thrones marathon and decide on a topic about which you have always been curious, then check out Skillshare or Udemy or any number of educational services, most of which offer introductory trials for their service.

For certain, you won't find this a waste of your time, and even if your vocation may not be at risk, at least you will be putting your smart phone to good use.

What do you think? Share your thoughts and feedback with others in the comments below.

Published on: Aug 31, 2017
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