Mobile phones help lift poor out of poverty – UN study

* Mobile penetration in LDCs jumps to 25 per 100

* But nearly half of rural population without signal

GENEVA, Oct 14 (BestGrowthStock) – Mobile phones — spreading faster
than any other information technology — can improve the
livelihoods of the poorest people in developing countries, a
United Nations report released on Thursday said.

But governments must design responsive policies to ensure
that the benefits reach the broadest number in the most
effective way, the United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development said in its Information Economy Report.

Mobile phone subscriptions will reach five billion this year
— almost one per person on the planet, UNCTAD Secretary-General
Supachai Panitchpakdi told a news conference on the report.

Penetration in developed countries is over 100 percent, with
many people having more than one phone or subscription.

In developing countries, the subscription rate is now 58 per
100 people, and rising rapidly, with the rate in the poorest
Least Developed Countries (LDCs) up at 25 from only 2 per 100 a
few years ago, UNCTAD figures show.

The potential of mobile phones in developing countries has
been highlighted by the efforts of Russia’s Vimpelcom (VIP.N: ) to
tie up with the telecoms assets of Egypt’s Orascom (ORTE.CA: ),
which include Algerian operator Djezzy that Algiers wants to
nationalise. [ID:nLDE69A10T]

UNCTAD said the economic benefits of mobile phones, whose
use in LDCs far outstrips technologies such as the Internet or
fixed-line phones, go well beyond access to information.

Mobiles have spawned a wealth of micro-enterprises, offering
work to people with little education and few resources. Examples
are selling airtime on the streets and refurbishing handsets.

The key to successful use of mobile is affordability, the
report argues, a lesson not learnt by many African states.
“India has shown us the way in making it as cheap as possible so
everyone can gain access to this kind of equipment,” Supachai
said.

Governments need to monitor how poor people are using mobile
phones and design policies to build on that. And they must
ensure that poor people can use their phones — at the end of
2008 almost half the rural population in LDCs were not covered
by mobile signals.
(For full UNCTAD report go to http://link.reuters.com/zad87p )
(Reporting by Jonathan Lynn)

Mobile phones help lift poor out of poverty – UN study