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Some policy groups believe that using mobile phones as an economic development tool may be a viable idea

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When cell phones were first introduced on the mass market, they were considered a luxury item. At first, it was captains of industry and their ilk that responded to the call of constant communication, and later it was concerned parents, hip teenagers, and just about everyone else. In recent years, a number of policy experts have expressed optimism about the role that mobile phones can play in the developing world. This week, The Economist released a special report on mobile phones in emerging markets, and other media outlets, including the New York Times popular "Freakanomics" weblog, have commented on this work. One of the first practical uses of mobile phones as an economic development tool emerged in places like Uganda and Bangladesh. Five years ago, a number of women were set up as "village phone" operators. Essentially, they were selling phone calls to other persons in their village. In some cases, ancillary businesses started up around these tiny call centers. Today, the hope is that farmers can use the phones to get updates on crop conditions and relevant weather matters, and others can use the phones to transfer monies to needy relatives, and so on.

The first link will take readers to the series of special reports on mobile phones from this past week's Economist. Here they will also find an interview with Tom Standage (who composed the reports), along with a videographic illustrating the benefits of mobile phones in the developing world. The second link leads to a video of a panel discussion from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The panel members include Amartya Sen, Michael Spence, Yochai Benkler, and Clotilde Fonseca. In their discussion they touch on the "explosion of mobile phone use in the developing world", among other topics. The third link will take users to a paper written by Gautam Ivatury and Mark Pickens of the Consulting Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) on the ways in which mobile phones can be used for financial services and microfinance. Moving along, the fourth link leads to the Developing Telecoms' page on the "Development Agenda". Here visitors can read news items related to this subject, and also look through their white papers. The fifth link leads to a video clip about the "phone ladies" in Bangladesh, courtesy of the International Telecommunications Union. Finally, the last link leads to a fascinating report on the history of the development of the cellular telephone from the Center for Science, Technology, and Economic Development.
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Alternate Title A special report on telecoms in emerging markets: Mobile marvels
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Scout Publication
Date of Scout Publication 2009-10-02
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