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Does Migration Support Technology Diffusion in Developing Countries?

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  • Hübler, Michael

Abstract

The spread of mobile phones in developing countries is a technological success story. Mobile phones’ independence of landline telecommunication networks qualifies them for information exchange even in remote rural areas. Whereas technology spillovers via international trade and foreign direct investment have been widely explored by the literature, international migration and rural–urban migration have hardly been explored as vehicles for technology diffusion. Motivated by the current extent of national and international migration, this paper addresses this lacuna. It draws upon data from rural households in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and uses households’ mobile phone ownership as an indicator for rural technology diffusion. Migration is modeled via an endogenous treatment regression approach. In a number of robustness checks, the variables, the sample, and the estimation technique are varied. The results provide empirical evidence for rural technology diffusion. In the survey areas, poverty-driven rural–urban migration and related technology diffusion play a more important role than technology spillovers via international migration. The results show that total emigration as well as immigration can support technology diffusion, i.e., the dispersion of mobile phones, beyond monetary remittances. When controlling for education and household age (in a squared fashion) in the main regressions and in several robustness checks, emigration as well as immigration, however, exhibit a negative effect on households’ mobile phone ownership (“technology drain” or “technology impair” effect). For development policy, the results suggest investments in education and the creation of financial opportunities to support rural technology diffusion.

Suggested Citation

  • Hübler, Michael, 2016. "Does Migration Support Technology Diffusion in Developing Countries?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 148-162.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:83:y:2016:i:c:p:148-162
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.01.024
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