Mobile phones for development and profit: a win-win scenario
Overseas Development Institute, 2009
The number of mobile subscribers globally is estimated to have reached four billion in 2008 (ITU, 2008), with mobile penetration reaching 61%. Around 58% of subscribers are in developing countries, and subscriber growth in Africa â€“ more than 50% per year â€“ is the highest in the world.
Studies have shown that this rapid increase in mobile penetration has contributed significantly to economic growth. Fuss, Meschi and Waverman (2005) looked at 92 countries, both developed and developing, to estimate the impact of mobile phones on economic growth for the period 1980 to 2003. They found that a 10% difference in mobile penetration levels over the entire sample period implies a 0.6% difference in growth rates between otherwise identical developing nations. The effect of mobiles was twice as large in developing countries as in developed ones (Waverman, 2005).
Mobile phones have brought three kinds of benefits (id21, 2007).
First, incremental benefits, improving what people already do â€“ offering them faster and cheaper communication, often substituting for costly and risky journeys. Fishermen in India, for example, can earn more money and waste less fish by phoning coastal markets to see which market has a shortage of supply.
Second, transformational benefits that offer something new. Innovative applications, such as m-banking and m-commerce, are bringing banking services to millions for the first time, and enabling people to use mobile phones to pay for goods and services.
Third, production benefits that result from the creation of new livelihoods, not only through professional telecommunications jobs but also through activities like re-selling air-time or phone cards. Since the liberalisation of Nigeriaâ€™s telecommunications sector in 2000, the industry has become a key source of new jobs in the economy, employing about 5,500 professionals, and responsible, indirectly, for another 450,000 jobs.