Navigation Links
Africa cell phone boom beneficial -- but schools, roads, power, water remain critical needs
Date:8/9/2010

The fast-growing use of cell phones in Africa where many people lack the basic human necessities has made headlines worldwide the past few years. The surprising boom has led to widespread speculation that cell phones could potentially transform the impoverished continent.

But new research by economists Isaac M. Mbiti and Jenny C. Aker has found that cell phones while a useful and powerful tool for many people in Africa cannot drive economic development on their own.

Mbiti, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Aker, at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., say that while there is evidence of positive micro-economic impacts, so far there's limited evidence that mobile phones have led to macro-economic improvements in African countries.

No magic bullet

Cell phones only can do so much, say the researchers. Many Africans still struggle in poverty and continue to lack reliable electricity, clean drinking water, education or access to roads.

"It's really great for a farmer to find out the price of beans in the market," says Mbiti, who has seen the impact of the cell phone boom firsthand while conducting research in his native Kenya. "But if a farmer can't get the beans to market because there is no road, the information doesn't really help. Cell phones can't replace things you need from development, like roads and running water."

Mbiti and Aker will publish their findings in the article "Mobile Phones and Economic Development in Africa" in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Global Development, an independent nonprofit policy research organization, has published a working version of the paper online. For links to additional information and the working paper see www.smuresearch.com.

Needed: Infrastructure, policies, research

To really have an impact, say Mbiti and Aker, the cell phone boom requires complementary access to public infrastructure and an adequate regulatory framework.

For example, a fast-growing mobile phone company in Nigeria struggled to maintain electricity to the 3,600 base stations that communicate its cellular signals, the researchers say. Ultimately the company kept the mobile towers operational by deploying its own generators which burned 450 liters of diesel a second.

In sub-Saharan Africa, say the researchers, only 29 percent of roads are paved, and barely 25 percent of people have access to electricity. While it's helpful and efficient for a manufacturer to take customer orders via mobile phone, a company's production is limited by the lack of a reliable power source and access to markets.

"Also needed are appropriate policies and regulations that can promote the development of innovative mobile phone-based applications such as mobile banking services that have the potential to positively impact the economic livelihood of Africans," Mbiti says.

The researchers also cite areas where more research is needed, such as the number of direct and indirect jobs created by the cell phone industry; whether mobile phones actually drive increases in gross domestic product; accurate mobile phone penetration rates; and whether cell phones are driving consumer surpluses due to increased market competition.

While there are some limited assessments of the impact by economists in Niger, Uganda and rural South Africa, for example more research by economists is needed, say Mbiti and Aker. They hope their study will spur economists to delve deeper into the long-term impact.

Boom improves daily life

Despite the extreme poverty of many Africans, mobile phone coverage has jumped from 10 percent of the population in 1999 to 60 percent in 2008, say Mbiti and Aker. Mobile phone subscriptions have skyrocketed from 16 million in 2000 to 376 million in 2008, they say.

As a result, cell phones have had some dramatic effects, particularly in rural Africa, say the researchers: farmers can compare market prices for the grain they grow; fisherman are able to sell their catch every day and reduce spoilage and waste by locating customers; health workers remind AIDS patients to take their daily medicine; day laborers find job opportunities; Africans have an affordable way to easily and quickly transfer money; health clinics can collect, measure, monitor and share health data; families share news of natural disasters, conflicts and epidemics; people learn to read and write to send text messages; election campaigns are monitored to prevent cheating; and new jobs are being created, such as small shops that sell, repair and charge cell-phone handsets, as well as sell pre-paid phone credits.

Cell phones too costly for many Africans But extreme poverty means cell phones remain out of reach for many Africans, say the researchers.

In some countries, for example, as few as 2 percent of the population can get access to a cell phone, say Mbiti and Aker.

In Niger the cost of a one-minute call can run 38 cents a minute 40 percent of a household's daily income. The cheapest mobile phone available costs the equivalent of enough millet to feed a family of five for five days. About 300 million Africans live on less than $1 a day, and 120 million live on less than 50 cents a day, the researchers say.


'/>"/>

Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. One-third of antimalarial medicines sampled in 3 African nations found to be substandard
2. Most maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could be avoided
3. Orange Healthcare Joins the mHealth Alliance to Develop Mobile Health Solutions in West Africa
4. African-Americans attitudes about lung cancer may hinder prevention
5. Malaria research must be based in Africa
6. Hope Phones, IntraHealth and FrontlineSMS:Medic Collaborate on Phone Donation Campaign to Support Health Workers in Africa
7. Step Up to Speak Up Events Use Spoken Word and African-American Greek Tradition of Stepping to Raise Awareness for Organ and Tissue Donation
8. New Report Says African-Americans and Hispanics More Likely to Have Alzheimers Disease And Dementia Than Whites
9. New Report says African-Americans Two Times More Likely to Have Alzheimers Disease and Dementia Than Whites
10. High School Student's College Prerequisite: Save Five Thousand Lives in Africa. Teen Supports Nothing But Nets in Malaria Fight
11. Free Shipping On Hand and Body Lotions Made with African Shea Butter
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:12/8/2016)... ... 08, 2016 , ... Russ DiGilio , founder and ... #QuackGivesBack campaign which supported local breast cancer organizations during National Breast Cancer Awareness ... Back initiative, and we’re very pleased with the participation in every franchisee’s ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... , ... December 08, 2016 , ... CURE Media Group, ... and advocacy groups, has aligned with Upstage Lung Cancer in efforts to combat lung ... announcement, Michael J. Hennessy, Jr said, “CURE Media Group is honored to team up ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... Fla (PRWEB) , ... December 08, 2016 , ... ... smarter modes of access for customers and employees that are both engaging and ... 7 with Service Smart Technology, the software company revealed today its plans to ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... ... 08, 2016 , ... STAT courier is pleased to announce that due to ... they are expanding their presence in Dallas. One of the most exciting parts for ... jobs to the Dallas and Forth Worth market. STAT takes pride in treating their ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... ... December 08, 2016 , ... Vida Health, the ... Series B led by Canvas Ventures . Other investors include Nokia Growth Partners ... mobile platform to serve more consumers who are managing chronic conditions or ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:12/9/2016)... 9, 2016 Research and Markets has announced ... report to their offering. ... The global travel vaccines market to grow at a ... covers the present scenario and the growth prospects of the global ... report considers the revenue generated from the sales of various vaccines ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... , Dec. 8, 2016 Australia Ophthalmic Lasers ... report, "Australia Ophthalmic Lasers Market Outlook to 2022", provides ... The report provides value, in millions of US dollars, ... segements - Excimer Lasers, Femtosecond Lasers and YAG Lasers. ... shares data for each of these market segements, and ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... KEY FINDINGS The global medical ... Various reasons for growth of the medical lifting sling ... chronic diseases, high recovery cost of injuries and government ... lifting sling refers to an assistive device that helps ... connect to the lift and hold the patient. It ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: