Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Mobile telephones and development

The Independent, the national newspaper that I read daily, had an article yesterday in which Clare Rudebeck explained how the spread of ICT (and especially mobile phones) is improving the quality of life for many people in the Third World.

If you have travelled in a developing country in the last few years, and especially if you have moved from the comfort zone of a hotel, you will have seen vendors of mobile phones and SIM cards. Looking more closely, you may have seen booths where the owner of a phone rents out his phone to members of the public. The article discusses this phenomenon, and quotes Richard Heeks, Professor of Development Informatics at the University of Manchester (UK). Following that lead, I found several items in a newsletter. Operational Research contributes to these, with models of the uncertain future. But had you been forecasting development of telecommunications in sub-Saharan Africa 20 years ago, would you have believed that there would be no need for an infrastructure of fixed telephone lines? I doubt it!

1 comment:

Jon said...

I think that is an interesting one - when would you have made the call to say "Landlines are going to be bypassed and the country will go straight to Mobile"?

I was in Kenya from 1997 to 2003. Landlines throughout that time were unreliable and the preserve of the middle class. They probably still are. Mobiles arrived in about 2001, and mushroomed in popularity very quickly - they became a 'must have' item for many people. Interestingly, beer and tobacco firms viewed them as competition for disposable spend.

So, maybe 9 years ago you could have guessed that Kenya's mobile network would replace the landline network. It would be even earlier for Uganda, which had a poorer landline infrastructure and was therefore 'riper' to the SA firms looking for targets!)