By Beecher Tuttle
Widespread access to mobile communications is a well-known signifier of economic and social prosperity in the developing world. In fact, a recent study by the World Bank found that every 10 percent increase in mobile penetration correlates to a 1 percent increase in a developing country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Research experts from Bell Labs and the World Economic Forum’s Telecommunications Industry Global Agenda Council recently conducted a series of studies that show how certain strategies can boost the impact that mobile communication services can have on a nation's GDP, by up to 36 percent.
The model – born from studies in Bangladesh, Kenya and Venezuela – identifies three key mobility issues that can have the greatest impact on economic and social growth.
In order to achieve the maximum benefits provided by widespread mobility, countries need to invest in energy-efficient networks that provide affordable access for rural communities. In addition, these networks must be able to handle the growing traffic demands of urban areas.
Examples of recent innovations that can help address cost and environmental factors include smart network management systems, improved energy management algorithms and various smart grid initiatives. Long-term evolution networks are also known to be energy-efficient and cost-effective.
Another key way to enhance economic and social growth is by scaling relevant applications, according to the study. The deployment of apps that are applicable to a specific environment can accelerate the adoption rates of mobile technologies. This, in turn, will lead to a boost in GDP and in the Human Development Index, a measure of quality of life based on life expectancy, education and standard of living.
The study cites examples of a banking app in Kenya that allows users to make transactions from their mobile phones and an education app that helps Africans fight counterfeit medications.
The final piece to accelerating the impact of mobility is to lower the cost barriers of mobile products and services. To achieve the greatest impact, the total cost of mobile communication should be less than 5 percent of total household budgets, the researchers found. The responsibility of ensuring affordability falls on the shoulders of governments, device manufacturers, content providers and operators. Increased competition can lend a hand as well.
A white paper, Putting Broadband in the Palm of People’s Hands, details the complete results of the study.
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