Research on Economic and Social Impact of Mobile Communications: GSMA Development Fund

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Aug 25, 2008

In our exploration this week of the social impact of mobiles phones on livelihoods, the GSMA Development Fund has aggregated key research studies from the last few years on the social and economic impact of mobile telephony in developing countries.

We are very pleased that key practitioners and researchers from the field cited in the report will be leading sessions at MobileActive08 such as Jonathan Donner, Microsoft and Jesse Moore, GSMA Development Fund.

There is a growing body of impact studies that indicate the substantial effect that mobile telephony has on the lives and livelihoods of poor people.  The GSMA Development Fund compendium (attached for easy download) lists 20 studies conducted between 2005 and early 2008, and cites other, related reseaech in a well-done overview.   

A few examples: 

  • Several studies cite improvement in social links, particularly back to people’s home villages (Frost & Sullivan 2006; Goodman 2005; Samuel et al 2005; Sinha 2005). 
  • Mobile phones create “social capital,” or social empowerment, for those with cell phones (Goodman 2005; Kwaku Kyem, Kweku LeMaire 2006; Sinha 2005). This was particularly noted in the case of the “phone ladies” of Grameen Phone in Bangladesh, who achieved not only a new source of income by renting out their mobile phones, but who gained new status within their villages as a result (Aminuzzaman, Baldersheim, Jamil 2003).
  • Cost and time savings because of the ability to use the mobile in emergencies, as well as access doctors for information and help without needing to travel long distances to do so (Frost & Sullivan 2006; Souter et al 2005). 
  • The use of cell phones to check prices across several markets led to reduced price discrepanciesfor various commodities, as well as less product loss a result of improved  demand information. 
  • The famous study by Jensen showed that fishermen’s profits in a village in India increased by 8% while consumer prices went down by 4%, directly driving a 20 rupee/person/month consumer surplus, the equivalent of a 2% increase in per-capita GDP from this one market alone (Abraham 2007; Jensen 2007).
  • In Niger, the evidence showed that cell phones reduce grain price dispersion across  markets by a minimum of 6.4% and reduce intra-annual price variation by 10% (Aker 2008). 
  • Users also cited the assistance mobile phones gave them in finding employment,whether in terms of finding out about job opportunities without having to travel long distances, or being available and accessible via mobile phone should prospective employers or customers need to reach them (Frost & Sullivan 2006; Samuel et al 2005).  


gsma_development_fund_top_20.pdf2.73 MB

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