Tag Archives: Economic Development

Visa and MasterCard Boosting Services In Developing Economies Via Mobile Banking

Our class on Tuesday focused primarily on various effects of and issues with usage of mobile phones in the daily lives of some in developing nations. While we talked more about the basic effects of having a mobile phone on economic development, mobile phone access can influence connections to financial information and services. This past week, Forbes came out with an article about two major companies in the financial services sector and their plans involving growing developing economies. MasterCard and Visa see the growing mobile phone usage in developing nations around the world as an opportunity to increase their reach in such economies. While full financial services will not be available, the usage of mobile banking and mobile payment technology certainly has the potential to create great financial opportunities for people in those developing nations- whether they already have access to traditional financial services or not. These changes could lead to even greater economic development than already projected for many of the developing economies.


The Mobile Phone Gender Gap and Economic Development

Across a variety of indicators, a gender gap exists in favor of men. Mobile phone usage/ownership is no exception. In the developing world, men are 21% more likely to own a cell phone than women. This translates to roughly 300 million women.

As we spent a good deal of this week discussing the many benefits of mobile phone technology, one might note that these 300 million women lack access to these benefits, including improved communication, better economic opportunities, and increased access to information. Of women that do own cell phones, a large proportion (around 50%) use them to search for employment.

The mobile phone, as other technologies, is a tool for economic development. And, as we have learned throughout our IDEV classes, empowering women is an essential tool for economic development. It then comes as no surprise that Wayan Vota posits that women + mobile phones + mservices = economic development.

In this article, Mr. Vota considers the best way to translate female cell phone usage into genuine economic and social development. The solution: mservices. It has been found that women often do not have cell phones because they do not perceive a need for them. However, through improved mservices, women will likely more likely adopt this technology. The most important of these are mBanking, which would help women save money and improve their financial independence; mEmployment, which would help connect women with employment opportunities; mHealth, to help provide care to themselves and their families; and mAgriculture, because women make up most of locally consumed production. Access to services such as these might help lead to female empowerment and a good deal of economic growth and development. 


Modernization vs Globalization

When I was doing this weeks reading, one statement made by Erwin Alampay in his paper “Beyond access to ICTs: Measuring capabilities in the information society” really caught my eye.

“The idea of the ‘information society’ can be linked to the ideas of modernization and globalization. The ideology of modernization explains how societal development must go through a series of stages, with each phase having a different technological base of production. In an information society that base would be information technology. Furthermore, in the process of increased globalization, economies of the world have become more integrated whereby information technology plays a major role in it.  As such, in both perspectives, information technologies play a part in development: with modernization, it can be seen as a potential means to close the gap among nations; with globalization, it is viewed as an important component for nations to participate in the economic process.”

These ideas are not new to me, since they are at the foundation of what this class is all about. However, this is the first time I had thought of ICT as having two different roles.

If I were to expand on these different views, I would say that modernization is the evolution and development of technology in a society, while globalization involves the spread of technology and its growing use/importance in global relations. When we examine ICT in developing countries, the modernization of technology comes before the globalization. Countries at higher levels of development have more advanced technology but as the process of modernization continues, new innovations in technology fuel the process of globalization. In my view, modernization is a process that has already been in action since the industrial age. As manufacturing technology developed, so did transportation, communication, and other innovations that laid the groundwork for the advanced technologies we have today. Globalization, on the other hand, is a new process that is transforming these technologies into important tools used in the economic process. Globalization has opened up national markets to international trade and created a new global economy. With the future of technology seeming bright, a focus on increasing modernization in developing countries will lead them to an even more globalized economy.

After the Millennium Development Goals: partnering with business to increase access to technology.

This week we read about the Millennium Development Goals. We have done a better job of meeting some goals than others, but with the end of the Millennium Development Goals now just one year away, the question becomes what’s next?

Richard Heeks alludes to some problems with ICT4D within the MDGs:

Boss: “OK chaps, we need to apply ICTs in development. Where shall we put the computers?”

Underling no.1: “Well, sir, how about in some high-tech firms in the city that could use them to create jobs and improve exports?”

Boss: “You idiot, that’s not what poverty alleviation and social development are all about. Get out of my sight.”

Underling no.2: “I know, sir, how about putting them in a small village where there’s no electricity, most people are illiterate, and everyone is really poor.”

Boss: “Brilliant suggestion; here’s $100,000; go and do it.”

Though his example may be a bit exaggerated, it’s not too far from the truth of what has happened in some areas. Technology has developed rapidly and no longer fits into the mold of the MDGs. When was ask ourselves ‘what’s next,’ the answer has to include a more sensible technological development strategy that keeps in mind the ever-changing nature of technology.

The Guardian ran an article last week asking the very question about what will come next after the MDGs. It argued that business will have to have an important role in future development.

“The expansion of mobile and internet networks into new territories, for example, could not have taken place so quickly without the private sector,” it argued.

The article is correct. Business is a crucial player in getting affordable technology access to those who need it. It must continue to do that.  The development field must also recognize that market-based solutions are some of the most successful solutions to developmental problems and it must work with businesses and the ventures of social entrepreneurs. Heeks’ example is an important one as well. Sometimes it is more beneficial to provide resources to businesses who, on the surface, don’t seem like they need help so that they can continue to innovate and create jobs for those who need help the most.

United Villages: “Drive-By Wi-Fi” for Consumer Goods

As an American-born college student who has grown up in the age of instant gratification, I’m used to clicking a few buttons to obtain the information or products I desire. Just a few clicks connect any company’s products to my hands at home; and likewise I am connected to the customer base of that company. But for a rural Indian villager of my same age, and a growing Indian supply chain company, that instant connection appears more difficult to foster.

Chicago-born Indian entrepreneur Amir Alexander Hasson recognized this disconnect between rural village-dwellers and limited supply chain companies, and in 2004, he founded United Villages – India’s first network of consumer goods using wireless and transportation infrastructure. United Villages offers voicemail, text messages, email, Web search, and e-shops to people living in rural areas, especially kiosk owners, through “drive-by Wi-Fi” technology (Mobile Access Points or MAPs) installed on existing buses and motorcycles. Whenever a MAP-installed vehicle is in range of a mobile device or Internet connection, it provides access for Wi-Fi enabled kiosks along the road. In addition, United Village sales people regularly visit rural villages via such motorbikes and take kiosk-owners product orders. This way, the network of growing Indian companies is brought to rural customers via wireless Internet infrastructure and personalized customer service, without villagers ever having to leave their doorsteps.

Locals in the Indian village of Kalapathar wait to use the internet and, inset, the bus that makes it all possible.

Initially, I was skeptical of the 4D aspect of United Villages. It had seemed to me that Hasson had found a way to profit from the digital divide because after all, United Villages is for-profit model. However, as I read deeper into the meaning of the digital divide, I grew a greater appreciation for this technology’s connectivity – its capacity to bring products, services, and information to people typically excluded from the global marketplace. Wireless Internet also allows rural Indians to browse locally relevant websites. The potential side effects of United Villages are that these products, though they aid Indians in big cities, may not be relevant to the needs of rural villagers, perhaps exploiting their vulnerable finances with wasteful consumerism, and adding to environmental pollutants over time.

But that is up to the choice of consumer. I see United Villages as aiding in the advancement of global economic liberalism in the developing world, which provides rural consumers with the means to make informed product choices and with practice, instant connections around the world.


CKWs to Help Fight Information Poverty

After reading Abraham’s research article “Mobile Phones and Economic Development: Evidence From the Fishing Industry in India” and our classes discussion on how ICTs can impact developing economies, I became really interested in other ways mobiles can help foster development. Throughout my research I stumbled across the Grameen Foundation, who has recently partook in the Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) initiative. This program “helps poor, rural farmers in Uganda by providing them with up-to-date, accurate information” through the use of smart phones (Grameen Foundation).

Community Knowledge Workers are local Ugandan natives who are equipped with smart phones in order to give ‘fellow farmers vital information on treating their diseased crops and sick animals, the best crops to plant and when to plant them based on weather forecast, and market prices at different locations (Grameen Foundation).” Much like the Farm Radio International initiative, CKW hopes to increase farming efficiency and productivity in order to advance Uganda’s developing economy.

In addition to financing these Workers, the Grameen Foundation is introducing the Ready Set, a solar panel that can charge up to ten phones per day or provide the village with up to ten hours of light. By adapting to such infrastructural drawbacks and recruiting native Ugandans, it seems that the CKW program will prove to be a sustainable development project. The video below highlights Grameen’s project and shows how the CKWs can help rural farmers fight ‘information poverty.’

The World Bank and its efforts towards the reduction of gender inequality in ICTs

One of the Millennium Development Goals, “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Womenby 2015, with levels of education and health, has during the past decade improved with the combined efforts of the United Nations and the World Bank. According to the World Banks’s page focused on gender inequality, “two- thirds of all countries have now reached gender parity in primary education, while in over one- third, girls significantly outnumber boys in secondary education” (World Bank).  One severe difference that the World Bank works to diminish and promote equality is for the issue regarding ICTs. The World Bank created an ICT Toolkit in which the World Bank in collaboration with other non-governmental organizations such as the OECD, gathered resources and “briefly answered some of the broad questions about the relationships among gender equality, ICTs, and development” (World Bank).  By the past discussions debated in class and the past readings we have spoken about it is well known that ICTs are reshaping the nature of life and are changing the way we approach sustainable development.

With human rights being one of the main concerns of the United Nations and in order to empower women, it is important that men and women have the same access to the use of ICTs as well as the same opportunities to master them. In October of 2006, The World Bank’s Gender and Development Group released a report with the briefing notes from the conference focusing on ICTs and Gender. In this report “ICT and Gender Inequality”, the World Bank claims “equitable access to information and communication technologies can be an importing tool for empowering women”. However they discuss that women’s participation in the fields of science and technology is usually opposed. Because of these cultural attitudes in which women are “often financially dependent on men or do not have control over economic resources, and when the allocation of resources for education and training often favors boys and men” makes all accessibility to ICTs and jobs using technology particularly limited.

In hopes of reducing this digital divide amongst men and women, the World Bank has created several ICT projects throughout the world. By teaching women the proper education to utilize technologies and giving them the right opportunities, according to the World Bank, countries can further expand their economic development.  The World Bank lends nearly 1 billion dollars a year to a variety of e- governments and hopes to improve the access for women and shrink the gender inequality within the next decade. In their report they provided the general public with specific “gender- responsive intervention examples”. One example is located in rural villages in Uganda, where “women use cell phones to operate business that provide communication services to their communities”. The World Bank collaborated with The Grameen Foundation along with MTN Uganda by not only providing women with jobs as phone operators but also providing access to these technologies.

The World Banks toolkit comes with a layout plan on how to start your own project and how to monitor the gender gap. With this toolkit the World Banks hopes to diminish this gender inequality in ICTs throughout the world as well as improve education with the use of Information Communication Technologies.