Aparna Ray, writing at Global Voices, provides an excellent set of references on the economic benefits of acquiring a mobile phone. Most of the articles she points to appear in the mainstream press and most provide stories and anecdotes about economic benefits, so they are much more readable than the dry economics papers I typically reference, e.g. here, here, here or here.
While Aparna and I have both focused on the economic benefits of acquiring a mobile phone, it's interesting to note that economic benefits come second in the minds of those at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP), when they think about getting a phone. This classic study by LIRNEasia shows:
- At the BOP, convenience, in terms of anytime accessibility, is the biggest driver in the purchase of both fixed and mobile phones.
- BOP users make an average of one call per day, mostly local, mostly 2-3 minutes long, mostly to stay in touch with family and friends.
Reading the text in detail, the idea comes across that phones provide a sense of safety, i.e. it's easier to find family members in an emergency, as well as comfort and connection. Indeed, in all the studies, economic benefits are real but are secondary to why people want to acquire mobile phones.