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DHL Global Connectedness Index
Global phone call routes by volume.

This map of international phone calls explains globalization

By Tim Fernholz

The map above shows the volume of phone calls between countries around the world, and it’s one way of measuring information flows around the world—it’s part of an index of global connectedness developed by business researchers and sponsored by shipper DHL.

The index finds that globalization began deepening once again last year after reaching a post-crisis plateau in 2012—but it’s far from the deeply connected world sold by globalization advocates.

The phone-calls metric shows how a global diaspora of workers is changing the patterns of global interaction. Of the 10 largest international call routes, seven come from the US—7.7% of global calls are from the US to Mexico, and 3.2% are from the US to India. The researchers say this reflects migrant workers calling their home countries, noting that big non-US routes include Hong Kong to China and the UK to India.

It helps that international phone rates have been dropping, especially in the US and Europe.

Here’s another way to look at the same information:

DHL Global Connectedness Index
Operator, I’m dialing out.

On a more macro level, 41% of all global calls are from advanced economies to emerging markets, compared to just 9% going the reverse direction—but it used to be that most phone calls were between wealthy countries. In fact, telephone calls are one of the fastest growing interactions sourced from emerging markets (print publications are the other), while the fastest growing share of interactions toward emerging markets are portfolio equity and merchandise.

One way to interpret this finding is that wealthy countries are sending more money and goods to emerging markets, then calling to check up on them.

But, while the average international call travelled more than 4,000 km in 2012, and the average person’s yearly international call time was 152 minutes, (nearly doubled from 88 minutes in 2005), that’s still just 2.5 hours of international conversation per year. Less than 5% of all phone calls are international.

That number gets at the study’s conclusion: For all our deepening connection across the earth, this isn’t exactly the flat world we’ve been promised.

Tim Fernholz
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