Jenny Aker On Mobile Phones And Economic Development In Africa

Staff Writer | CDDRL News | November 9, 2009

Jenny Aker an Assistant Professor in the Economics Department and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, provided an overview of the welfare impacts of mobile technologies and how current research is testing our assumptions about the benefits of mobile phones for individuals in developing countries.

Mobile phones are used by some of the poorest people in the world; even at the country ranked 160 in the UN's Human Development Index, levels of adoption of mobile phones are at 50%. There are few systematic studies looking at why people adopt mobile technology, but those that exist suggest there are correlations with higher income levels, trading professions and an urban location. Mobile phone coverage across Africa is now extensive. Research shows that roll out by mobile phone companies is determined by factors including the size of population, the costs associated with terrain, quality of road access and the operating environment (whether there exists a competitive liberalized market).