Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mobile Phones Are A Powerful Tool in Rural Development - World Bank

A new report from the World Bank Group finds that access to affordable, high quality internet and mobile phone services enables development across all levels of the economy and society. The report found that for every 10 percentage-point increase in high speed Internet connections there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage points. It also identifies the mobile platform as the single most powerful way to reach and deliver public and private services to hundreds of millions of people in remote and rural areas across the developing world.

"Internet users in developing countries increased tenfold from 2000 to 2007, and there are now over four billion mobile phone subscribers in developing countries," says Mohsen Khalil, World Bank Group Director for Global Information and Communication Technologies. "These technologies offer tremendous opportunities. Governments can work with the private sector to accelerate rollout of broadband networks, and to extend access to low-income consumers."

Broadband also provides the basis for local IT services industries, which create youth employment, increase productivity and exports, and promote social inclusion. Developing countries should seize this largely untapped opportunity, with less than 15 percent of the potential global market for IT services industries currently being exploited. In 2007, this market represented nearly US$500 billion.

"Governments should proactively encourage the development of local IT services industries through policies and incentives directed at entrepreneurs and the private sector, and through investments in skills and infrastructure," says World Bank Economist Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang, editor of the report.

The report also contains new empirical evidence from Brazil, Ghana, India and other countries demonstrating that modern, technology-enabled governments can become more efficient, transparent and responsive. A survey of over 30 countries shows that successful e-government requires organizational and behavioral changes that must be driven by high-level political commitment and effective coordination.

"Access to broadband completes the information foundation for a modern economy and should be a priority in national development plans." says Katherine Sierra, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development. "Governments can play a key role in expanding broadband access by policies and incentives that encourage competition and private investment."

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