Maximizing Mobiles Benefits (3-3)
This report from the World Bank finds that mobile applications not only empower individuals but have important cascade effects stimulating growth, entrepreneurship, and productivity throughout the economy as a whole. Mobile communications promise to do more than just give the developing world a voice. By unlocking the genie in the phone, they empower people to make their own choices and decisions.
Get a phone, get a job, start a Business
The global mobile industry is today a major source of employment opportunities, on both the supply and demand side. Employment opportunities in the mobile industry can be categorized as direct jobs, indirect jobs, and jobs on the demand side. The contribution of the mobile communication sector to employment and entrepreneurship to date is difficult to assess, however, because the seemingly simple mobile phone can generate—and occasionally eliminate— employment opportunities by creating efficiencies and lowering transaction and information costs.
The recent rapid innovation in the mobile sector has generated significant disruptive technological change and uncertainty. This turmoil is also lowering barriers to entry, however, and generating fresh opportunities for small and young firms and entrepreneurs to displace legacy systems, innovate, and grow.
Chapter 5 showcases some of the mechanisms by which the mobile sector supports entrepreneurship and job creation. Some share similarities with traditional donor initiatives, but many are novel ideas, for which the “proof of concept” has been demonstrated only recently or has yet to be demonstrated. This chapter considers the use of specialized business incubators or mobile labs (mLabs) for supporting entrepreneurial activity in the mobile industry, as well as new opportunities that are offered in areas such as the virtual economy (trading goods and services that exist only online) or mobile microwork (work carried out remotely on a mobile device, on micro-tasks, such as tagging images).
It also provides suggestions on how to support entrepreneurship and job creation in the mobile industry. In an industry evolving as quickly as the mobile sector is today, it is vital to tailor support to local circumstances and to evaluate impact regularly.
Using phones to bring governments and citizens closer
In the public sphere, mobiles now serve as vehicles for improved service delivery and greater transparency and accountability. Today, governments are beginning to embrace the potential for mobile phones to put public services literally into the pocket of each citizen, create interactive services, and promote accountable and transparent governance.
Chapter 6 identifies a range of uses for mobiles in government (mGovernment) that supplement existing public services, expand their user base, and generate spinoff services. The revolutionary aspect to mGovernment lies in making government available, anytime and anywhere, to anyone. The chapter also provides a range of examples of
mGovernment from around the world as well as a range of best practices and recommendations. It demonstrates how countries can play a constructive role in enhancing sustainability and enabling scale, while maximizing the impact of mGovernment programs.
An important conclusion is that bottom-up ad hoc approaches to mGovernment may endanger economies of scale. Top-down coordinated approaches may be preferable, since they can cut costs in designing, deploying, and operating apps; consolidate demand for communication services across government, thereby eliminating duplication; and include focused actions to build capacity and skills.
Emerging best practices suggest that any government considering the opportunities inherent in mGovernment should focus on enabling technological transformation and building the institutional capacity needed to respond to citizens’ demands. Governments looking to adopt mobile tools to become responsive, accountable, and transparent should bear in mind that this process will prove successful and truly transform the government-citizen relationship only when governments take into account both elements—“mobile” and “government.”
Onward and upward to mobile broadband
Distinction between supply-side policies (which seek to promote the expansion of wireless broadband networks) and demand-side policies (which seek to boost adoption of wireless broadband services) in the mobile broadband ecosystem.
Supply-side policies seek to address bottlenecks and market failures that constrain network expansion and provide incentives for broader wireless broadband coverage. The chapter reviews the following supply-side policy recommendations:
- Boosting the availability of quality spectrum to deploy cost-effective wireless broadband networks
- Eliminating technological or service restrictions on spectrum
-Focusing on expanding network coverage rather than on profiting from spectrum auctions
- Requiring transparency in traffic management and safeguarding competition
- Limiting spectrum hoarding, which could distort competitive conditions in the market
- Fostering the development of national backbone broadband networks
- Encouraging infrastructure and spectrum sharing
Demand-side policies aim at boosting growth in the adoption of wireless broadband services by addressing barriers to adoption and fostering the development of innovative broadband services and applications pulling users’ demand toward mobile broadband. The chapter reviews the following demand-side policy recommendations:
- Improving the availability and affordability of broadband- enabled devices
- Boosting the affordability of broadband services
- Fostering the development of broadband services and applications
The chapter concludes that appropriate policy action requires addressing both the supply- and demand-sides of the mobile broadband ecosystem. Policy-makers must evaluate local market conditions before applying specific policies addressing bottlenecks or market failures. The most common breakdowns on the supply side are lack of available spectrum and inadequate backbone networks; on the demand side, the main constraints are lack of affordable mobile devices and broadband services, as well as limited local applications and content. Ultimately, policy-makers must determine which policies to adopt, and how to implement them, based on domestic circumstances and the likely effectiveness of the policy for broadband diffusion in the context of each country.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org, 10/08/2012