Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Mobiles for the Poor

December 1st, 2005 · No Comments

The International Development Magazine writes: “Access to mobile phones is rocketing, along with its impact on poverty.”

In rich countries, mobile phones can seem something of a mixed blessing particularly if you are stuck on a train next to a teenager with a Crazy Frog ring-tone. But in poor countries, mobile phones have no obvious downside and have already delivered remarkable benefits, in terms both of economic growth and personal empowerment. They may even enable poor countries to leapfrog over some of the traditional stages of the development process.

Some of the biggest benefits are going to the worlds very poorest people, who cannot even afford to buy their own phone handset….The anecdotal evidence from developing countries makes it obvious why the mobile phone has been such an economic boon. At its simplest, a mobile phone can allow a farmer or a fisherman to find out what that days prices are in various markets, so that he can take his goods to the market offering the best price. Already, there is evidence that the growth in mobile telephony is reducing the variations in prices between markets in poorer countries. Small businesses can more efficiently shop around for supplies. A handyman living in a village can advertise in the big town nearby for work, and travel only when he is informed by phone that there is a job available. In Nairobi, a text messaging service has been set up to alert the unemployed to job opportunities. Anything that minimizes wasted journeys is extremely valuable, more so in poorer countries with their often underdeveloped transport infrastructure (especially roads) than in rich ones.

Tags: Emerging Markets

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