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Mobile Phones

Is mobile technology over-hyped?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

At an event at the New America Foundation in DC  and in a recent article in Slate, Sascha Meinrath and Jamie Zimmerman argue that mobile technology in general and mobile money in particular have been overhyped as game-changing tools for the poor.

They claim that mobile technology “creates a greater economic divide” and that Kenya’s M-PESA mobile money system is “leaving a substantial portion of the nation’s poor in even more dire straits.”

Tavneet Suri and Billy Jack and separately Kevin Donovan have already beaten me to the counterpunch with cogent rebuttals. Here’s my own two cents:

Collecting survey data via mobile phone in Southern Sudan

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

We’re in the middle of an unusual data collection exercise, which we’ve called the Southern Sudan Experimental Phone Survey (SSEPS). To get a sense of how the survey works, see this photo essay. The work has been conducted in part with funds from the Poverty and Social Impact Analysis Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

In November, in conjunction with the Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation, we delivered mobile phones to 1000 households in the 10 state capitals of Southern Sudan. Each month starting last December, Sudanese interviewers from a call center in Nairobi have phoned respondents on those phones to collect information on their economic situation, security, outlook, and other topics.

Kenya’s telecom revolution and the impact of mobile money

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Our third “Kenya Economic Update” – Kenya at the Tipping Point? – notes Kenya’s strong economic recovery in 2010 reaching 4.9 percent of GDP. For 2011, we forecast growth of 5.3 percent.  The special Focus on the ICT Revolution and mobile money captures the economic momentum which is now spreading across Africa. Kenya now has 21 million phone subscribers, the vast majority connected by cell phones.

More cell phones than toilets

Shanta Devarajan's picture

An article in yesterday’s New York Times observes that, with the number of mobile subscriptions exceeding five billion, more people today have access to a cell phone than to a clean toilet.  Leaving aside the relative value of these two appliances, the surge in cell phones in Africa—some 94 percent of urban Africans are near a GSM signal—is transforming the continent.  Farmers in Niger use cell phones to find out which market is giving the best price; people in Kenya pay their bills and send money home using M-Pesa.