Authored by independent experts, “Towards a more equal world: the mobile internet revolution” looks at how the shift to smartphones and data services in emerging markets represent a turning point.
The specific opportunities of mobile internet access for disadvantaged groups are identified and policy steps governments can take to address inequalities are recommended.
Drawing on three in-depth studies in three developing countries – Ghana, Kenya and India – the report examines different facets of the challenge.
In Ghana, consistent with other findings in the report, businesses in urban communities are doing more with their smartphone and its resources than their rural-based counterparts.
Micro-entrepreneurs surveyed use their smartphones in critical business operations, such as improving the use of customer records for production planning and marketing campaigns.
Seven out of 10 micro-entrepreneurs who use mobile services to find market prices in their sector, keep mobile records of customers, and use customer records for campaigns are in urban communities.
Micro-entrepreneurs with lower levels of education are also less likely to access new revenue activities and may also fail to experience the related benefits.
In Kenya: Where women face barriers to educational, entrepreneurial and social activities. It was found that 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. However, even with equivalent education and income levels, women use their smartphone for fewer tasks and less frequently. Education is a central driver of smartphone ownership and use, whereas income is not.
In India, the impact of information and mobile access on yields can lead to a 50% increase in a small farmer’s revenue where the correct inputs are used and better knowledge is applied.
A 1% increase in yields leads to a 0.6 – 1.3% reduction in poverty, having a greater impact than prices alone.
Commenting on the report, Diane Coyle, Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester, said: “In the years since the start of the global financial crisis, inequality has come to the forefront of the policy agenda. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals demonstrate the commitment of governments to addressing inequality.
For emerging market economies, growth and poverty reduction are still vital challenges, but there is also a need to ensure the benefits of growth are shared widely.”