A telecom research released today by Vodafone says mobile internet access has potential to boost income and socioeconomic opportunities in developing markets.
Women place greater emphasis on the importance of smartphones in connecting them to their family and the world beyond. Over two-thirds of business women experienced an increase in income due to a smartphone. Even with education and income levels, women use their smartphone for fewer tasks and less frequently. Education is a driver of smartphone ownership and use, whereas income is not.
In Ghana, the availability of mobile technology enhances business survival and sustainability through access to new ideas, information and tools. Smartphones increased opportunities and 7 out of 10 micro-entrepreneurs would face difficulties continuing their business without a smartphone.
Smartphones and small farmers in India, where the impact of information and mobile access on yields can lead to a 50 percent increase in a small farmer’s revenue. A 1 percent increase in yields leads to a 0.6 – 1.3 percent reduction in poverty, having a greater impact than prices alone.
The Vodafone report said education affects how people use their devices and the value they derive from mobile internet access. Mobile internet access is pivotal in reducing information asymmetries and equalising access to wider social networks and opportunities, but digital literacy is important in ensuring that potential is realised.
Developing locally-produced information and apps increases the future usefulness of mobile internet access, but represents a challenge because of the high costs of creating ‘hyperlocal’ apps – including those offering detailed agricultural information.
Investment is needed to provide access to reliable, high-quality broadband networks as well as 2G networks for voice and SMS. Incentives will need to reflect increasingly competing and collaborative infrastructure solutions, and issues of quality and security are becoming more significant.
The report said access to spectrum in sufficient quantities at market-determined prices is critical to continued investment in mobile broadband networks.
Consumer trust can be promoted by introducing flexible, light-touch consumer protection measures that are fit for the digital age, said Vodafone.
“Access to communications services and networks plays a vital role in enabling individuals and businesses to tap into opportunities. Mobile is important for people in marginal groups with low incomes or status, especially in emerging markets,” said Howard Williams, professor Emeritus at the University of Strathclyde.