More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets, U.N. Study Shows

Out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones. Only 4.5 billion have access to working toilets

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On the eve of World Water Day last week, the U.N. offered a sobering statistic: according to its recent study, more people on earth have access to cell phones than toilets.

Out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones. Far fewer — only 4.5 billion people — have access to working toilets. Of the 2.5 billion who don’t have proper sanitation, 1.1 billion defecate in the open, according to the study.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said in a statement that this is a global crisis that people “don’t like to talk about.” He said the U.N. is trying to cut in half the number of people without access to clean toilets by 2015 and eliminate by 2025 the practice of open defecation, which is linked to many diseases.

(MORE: Are Toilets a Feminist Issue?)

According to Yahoo, India alone is responsible for 60% of the global population lacking access to basic sanitation. About half of its 1.2 billion residents are mobile subscribers, but only 366 million people (about one-third of its population) have access to toilets, noted a 2010 U.N. report.

Last August, Bill Gates launched the “Reinvent the Toilet” campaign to reduce the number of children who die as a result of sanitation problems. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2011 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offered $42 million to researchers, asking them to build the toilet of tomorrow — one that is safe, hygienic, uses little water and is easy to install.

MORE: Gates Foundation: Funding the Toilets of the Future

26 comments
altarian4.6
altarian4.6

Dang!  And more than once, I've dropped my phone right into the chick sales!  I must be one of the kingfish!

walkersplanet
walkersplanet

Really have to wonder why India is spending God knows how much money sending up a Mars explorer when there are so many in their country who don't  have access to a toilet.

darthpoppins
darthpoppins

This raises the question of why so many people drop their cell phones in their toilets.

amy_odonnell
amy_odonnell

We have to be careful about the difference between mobile connections and individual mobile subscribers. The GSMA did some research which revealed that while active mobile subscriptions were close to 6.8 billion end 2012, many people own more than one SIM card so the total number of unique mobile subscribers globally was approximately 3.2 billion so penetration in terms of individuals really stands at only 45 per cent. http://www.gsma.com/newsroom/gsma-announces-new-global-research-that-highlights-significant-growth-opportunity-for-the-mobile-industry/

Linda Raftree also wrote a great post about this subject reminding us to consider more than simple access but how equitably distributed access to communications technology is, especially the impact of women's phone ownership (let alone barriers of literacy and technical literacy). She argues existence of open and available platforms does not mean they are accessible  http://lindaraftree.com/2012/10/04/mobile-phones-toilets-and-libraries-beyond-access/


mrot978
mrot978

Yea because it only makes sense for a family of four to have ten toilets in their home. lol

lucibitai
lucibitai

When nature calls, have your phone ready!

djbtech
djbtech

There are more cell phones than chocolate labs.

marancata5
marancata5

Toilets are usually shared by two or more humans while cell phones are mostly personal phones, used by one human only in many cases. So it is possible that we have more cell phones than toilets. Did we need a study for this?

bobmiller00
bobmiller00

What a stupid article. Why don't you just put toilet app on iPhones? Problem solved.

There s also more cell phones than blue panties and brown work boots.

cocobinay
cocobinay

The sad truth is that if you give 42 millions to two people, one a businessman and the other, a social entrepreneur, the odds are the businessman will be able to double his portion selling crap, while the social entrepreneur will lose half of it trying to convince everyone on the merits of his good ideas. "Blackberry or Trypanosomias?" "Oh, gee, that's a tough one" you will hear!! And if you think the West is immune from  this"Misplaced priorities Syndrome" then you will need to tell me what planet you are from, so I can fly there with you!! 

IrishinToronto
IrishinToronto

that explains all the crap that keeps being sent to me...

ruraynor
ruraynor

A safe, hygienic, no-water-needed toilet already exists. Composting toilets have been around for a while and when they're properly built and maintained they barely smell.

awesome114
awesome114

Looks like Gates threw $42 Million down the toilet once again. Giving grants to people who already have money doesn't do anything Mr Gates. Give it to inventors who really do the work.

fjawodfc
fjawodfc

Who's to say there's anything unsanitary about not having a toilet?  Animals have been pooping on the ground for millions of years.

bb90
bb90

At least these people don't need to worry about dropping their phone in a toilet!

1sttradesmart
1sttradesmart

Give them a shovel and corncob like I had to use when living in SE Missouri 50 years ago.

beamer
beamer

If you have a family of 5 that have cell phones, your house probably has only 1 or 2 toilets, so I don't always have access to the toilet when the teenage daughters are in there taking pictures of themselves and texting.

DavidLevinsn
DavidLevinsn

Memo to the wireless toilet research project...I don't care about the mess, keep trying.

ReadingComprehension
ReadingComprehension

@marancata5 This article is saying that more PEOPLE have ACCESS to cell phones than working toilets. It is not a study that found out there are more cell phones than toilets in the world. Big difference.

bobmiller00
bobmiller00

@marancata Obama paid 77 million for this survey.

marancata5
marancata5

@bb90 Now if only they can drop their droppings into a toilet....