Mobile Phones Vital In Global Development

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 07, 2008

Mobile phones help to decrease the gap between rich and poor nations, and spur economic development, says a UN Report.

In its annual Information Economy Report, UNCTAD, the UN Conference on Trade and Development says that mobile phone subscribers have tripled in developing countries over the last five years, and now make up 58 percent of mobile subscribers worldwide.

"In Africa, where the increase in terms of the number of mobile phone subscribers and penetration has been greatest, this technology can improve the economic life of the population as a whole," the report said.

But while UNCTAD said the revolution in information and communication technology was spreading to the developing world, more had to be done to make sure poorer countries benefited from the opportunities in growth and development.

Africa has seen the greatest rise in mobile use subscriptions have quadrupled since 2001, and last year they hit 200 million - an average of more than 20 cell phones for every 100 people.

"Mobile telephony has practically replaced fixed lines in many countries," Susan Teltscher, Unctad's chief of IT policy and analysis says. "It has an importance beyond the educated, richer, skilled part of the population, and provides an entry level into digital literacy."

The developing world is also catching up in terms of Internet access. In 2002 says UNCTAD, Internet availability was ten times higher in developing nations while in 2006, it was only six times higher.

The Guardian notes that,

"..developing countries not only benefit from IT access itself, but also from the spread of knowledge which follows. Surveys show technology can drive innovation and help to create finance structures to encourage business start-ups. While the data to quantify IT's impact on growth is limited, the report said that in Thailand, a 10% rise in the proportion of employees using computers generated 3.5% higher labour productivity.

[However] except for countries such as Korea and Singapore, the developing world remains far behind in the adoption of computers. In 2006, for example, internet penetration in developed economies was six times higher - though the ratio has improved; in 2002 penetration was 10 times higher.

The BBC also qualifies the economic advances mobile telephony provides by noting that

"...despite the improvements mobiles and greater computer use were bringing in their wake, the report warned that a big gulf remained between rich and poor.

Developed countries still had many more net users and since 2002 had the gap in terms of broadband users had widened.

To make the most of the transformative potential of the net, mobiles and other technologies the UN report recommended that countries update cyber laws, intellectual property regulations, upgrade infrastructure and invest in training."

The entire report can be downloaded here.



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