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The magic of mobile phones?

November 23, 2009

via The Knowledge Network [with thanks to Katrien Pype for the tip-off]

Are mobile phones the modern equivalent of Jack’s magic beans, bringing health, wealth and happiness wherever they are scattered? Recent studies might make you think so. According to a 2005 paper by economist Leonard Waverman and colleagues at the London Business School, each 10 per cent increase in mobile phone ownership in developing countries produces an additional 0.6 per cent of growth in gross domestic product per person. Similarly encouraging figures featured in a more recent Harvard case study on Indian fishermen, which showed how the fishermen increased their profits by around 8 per cent by using mobile phones to call coastal markets from their boats.

These and other studies suggest that mobiles can revolutionise the way subsistence farmers and nomadic tribesmen trade crops and livestock. It’s fabulous PR for mobile-phone companies, which see developing countries as offering millions of new subscribers. But how realistic is the idea that mobile phones are an absolute good for the developing world?

Read more…

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