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Mobile Phones and Economic Development in Africa

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  • Jenny Aker and Isaac M. Mbiti

Abstract

We examine the growth of mobile phone technology over the past decade and consider its potential impacts upon quality of life in low-income countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. We first provide an overview of the patterns and determinants of mobile phone coverage in sub-Saharan Africa before describing the characteristics of primary and secondary mobile phone adopters on the continent. We then discuss the channels through which mobile phone technology can impact development outcomes, both as a positive externality of the communication sector and as part of mobile phone-based development projects, and analyze existing evidence. While current research suggests that mobile phone coverage and adoption have had positive impacts on agricultural and labor market efficiency and welfare in certain countries, empirical evidence is still somewhat limited. In addition, mobile phone technology cannot serve as the “silver bullet” for development in sub-Saharan Africa. Careful impact evaluations of mobile phone development projects are required to better understand their impacts upon economic and social outcomes, and mobile phone technology must work in partnership with other public good provision and investment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Global Development in its series Working Papers with number 211.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:211

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Related research

Keywords: growth; economic development; poverty; income distribution; mobile phones; technology; sub-Saharan Africa;

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  1. Buys, Piet & Dasgupta, Susmita & Thomas, Tim & Wheeler, David, 2008. "Determinants of a digital divide in Sub-Saharan Africa : a spatial econometric analysis of cell phone coverage," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4516, The World Bank.
  2. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
  3. Jennifer F. Reinganum, 1978. "A Simple Model of Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Discussion Papers 335, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Udry, 2005. "Learning about a new technology: pineapple in Ghana," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  5. Benjamin A. Olken, 2006. "Do Television and Radio Destroy Social Capital? Evidence from Indonesian Villages," Working Papers id:642, eSocialSciences.
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  7. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
  8. World Bank, 2009. "World Development Indicators 2009," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4367, July.
  9. Robert Jensen & Emily Oster, 2009. "The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women's Status in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1057-1094, August.
  10. Mark Rosenzweig & Andrew D. Foster, . "Learning by Doing and Learning from Others: Human Capital and Technical Change in Agriculture," Home Pages _068, University of Pennsylvania.
  11. Jenny C. Aker, 2010. "Information from Markets Near and Far: Mobile Phones and Agricultural Markets in Niger," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 46-59, July.
  12. Emily Oster & Rebecca Thornton, 2009. "Determinants of Technology Adoption: Private Value and Peer Effects in Menstrual Cup Take-Up," NBER Working Papers 14828, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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