Mobile Communications As Economic Development
Here's a great article from The Economist on Mobile Services in Developing Nations. Mobile services are reaching 50% of the human population (3.3 billion subscribers) in the 3rd quarter, thanks to recent growth of services in China and India. This is the fastest deployment of technology the world has ever known.
A 10% increase in developing country's penetration of mobile services increases GDP (total value of the country's goods and services produced) by 1%.
Innovative micro-payment services are a big part of the equation. I was first introduced to the idea of micro-finance at the 2000 Forbes Conference that I attended in Paris France. There the idea of community loans for micro-amounts were presented. Women in rural and classically dirt poor villages took loans of say $50 to buy a sheep which produced milk and wool which was made into clothing and baby sheep that were sold to pay off the loan. The lending committee of village women backed up the loan and agreed to be jointly and severally liable for paying it back, so you were in debt to your neighbors and not to some faceless corporation.
In terms of mobile services, village phone ladies rent their mobile phones so you can make calls. Remember, that outside the USA and Canada, caller pays for the call, so leaving messages for mom to call back are welcome and typically part of the neighborhood service. Service providers also allow for buddies to pay you in minutes too, so you don't have to have a credit record to be able to build up minutes in your account.
Furthermore, prepaid services are most appropriate since millions of users don't have a credit history.
Cheap phones are a big thing too – the Economist expects prices to fall to $10/unit in a few years.
The sinister threat to the whole story is TAXATION. Some governments see taxing mobile services as a great way to collect revenues since the mobile company's accounting services do all the work and just send in checks to the government. The bad news is that too high a tax suppresses economic development and retards the market growth. No kidding!
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