Mobile Phone Penetration: Google Motion Chart Data Visualisation

I’ve entered the ITU data on mobile phone penetration for all countries from 1998-2008 into a Google Docs spreadsheet, and then added the Motion Chart visualiser (the same engine made famous by Hans Rosling and TED, though they use the Gapminder Trendalyzer version).

Unfortunately, WordPress scripting rules mean I can’t post the active chart here. To access the spreadsheet data and Google Motion chart, you need to go to:

Screenshots below give an indicator of how you can visualise the data. The chart offers three main means to visualise (bubble, bar chart, and line graph) via tabs at the top right. You can change the axes and element colouring/size, and highlight individual countries. For bubble and bar, the main point of the chart is that you can click play (bottom left) and show how things change over time. (Note playback speed variation control, and also the ability to drag over and zoom in on parts of the chart.)

Not sure it adds a lot of analytic value but it’s engaging, helps give a sense of some overall trends, and identifies some interesting outliers. (Some older PCs and low-bandwidth connections will struggle to display.) I’ll repeat for other ITU data in later posts (e.g. broadband data visualisation here). You can find similar visualisation for mobile, Internet and a host of other development data at: (though currently up to 2007 only, no obvious access to underlying data, and the mobile data display doesn’t seem to work properly).  And, finally, on a separate blog entry you can find a set of rough converters to change mobile phone subscription data to data on ownership, access, use and non-use.


8 thoughts on “Mobile Phone Penetration: Google Motion Chart Data Visualisation

  1. Dear Richard,

    Great and so useful work! I’m really enjoying!

    I’m a journalist and PhD researcher om mobile phone use for citizen journalism in low-income countries.

    Do you know some relevant works (besides Voices of Africa, Ushahidi, Knight Fellowship Programs, etc)?

    I really would like to maintain contact with you.

    Best regards,


  2. Some more data visualisations on mobile, provided via Prabhas Pokharel and Katrin Verclas (who is quoted here):

    First one is a scatterplot. You can select different datasets to graph vs. each other. Mostly we put that up to see SMS vs. voice costs, graphed with size being population, or mobile phone coverage growth, or mobile phone coverage.

    The second one is just a graph of SMS, Voice, etc. To have one metric for voice costs, we took the average and minimum voice costs in each country, and you can graph that if you want.

    The third one is a comparison that includes a metric calls SMS/Voice, with a couple of outliers removed so the graph is actually interesting. Basically we took SMS costs, and divided by voice costs. High numbers mean SMS is expensive compared to voice, or voice is cheap compared to SMS.

    The fourth is the same as #3, but put on a scatterplot.

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