Rob Katz

Roundup: Mobile Phones for Development, SME Outsourcing and More

Things are generally slower in August, as many folks take vacation and less gets done by those who are at the office. (For a refreshing and innovative take on this phenomenon, you might consider Seth Godin’s advice to work like your hair is on fire while the competition sleeps.)

For the rest of us, this means there’s less content than normal floating around the base of the pyramid blogosphere. Despite this, here’s a quick roundup of worthy reports and posts:The GSM Association commissioned a report summarizing the findings of 20 top research papers. It might sound like a glorified literature review, but it’s worth your time. This is really the first report to put together, in one place, research on the economic and social impact of mobile phones in developing countries. Jack Ewing of BusinessWeek gives the quick analysis, while Dave Tait at the Emerging Futures Lab provides a handy link to download the 36-page PDF file. From Ewing’s blog post:

Now there is (sic) data to back up the anecdotal evidence. The GSM Association, the mobile phone industry group, has just issued a report that summarizes 20 of the most important studies on the topic.

Some of the key conclusions:

?Farmers and fisherman earn more from their produce when they use mobile phones to get information on where demand is highest. At the same time, consumer prices go down because less produce goes to waste for lack of buyers. Use of cell phones by grain traders probably helped ease the impact of a food crisis in Niger in 2005.

?Tradespeople and small business owners are better able to find employment and boost their incomes, because they can communicate with their customers.

?People spend less time and money on travel. They can also summon help in emergencies.

?Mobile phones help strengthen social bonds. City dwellers can stay in better touch with relatives in the home village, and also transfer money using mobile banking.

At JustMeans’ All Things Reconsidered blog, Leila Chirayath – principal of Samasource and recent interviewee – describes the opportunities for SME outsourcing in Africa.

Ryan Hahn, the new (and evidently quite energetic) PSD Blogger, points to some interesting data about the ways microfinance loans are used. As far as choice is concerned, it seems that folks at the base of the pyramid would choose investing in human capital over investing in enterprises. Implications for our work (especially mine at Acumen)? You bet.

Happy browsing…and if your hair’s on fire, good luck this week.