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Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile



Around three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants now have access to a mobile phone. A new report by the World Bank and infoDev - its technology entrepreneurship and innovation program - .the mobile communications story is moving to a new level, which is not so much about the phone but how it is used. The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion now, of which nearly 5 billion are in developing countries. Ownership of multiple subscriptions is becoming increasingly common.

Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, analyzes the growth and evolution of mobile telephony, and the rise of data-based services, including apps, delivered to handheld devices. The report is the third in the World Bank’s series on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development,

According to the report, more than 30 billion mobile applications, or “apps,” were downloaded in 2011 – software that extends the capabilities of phones, for instance to become mobile wallets, navigational aids or price comparison tools. This trend is benefiting developing countries where people are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods and enhance their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms.


" The mobile revolution is right at the start of its growth curve: mobile devices are becoming cheaper and more powerful while networks are doubling in bandwidth roughly every 18 months and expanding into rural areas. "

Tim Kelly

Lead ICT Policy Specialist

This report analyzes the growth and evolution of applications for mobile phones, focusing on their use in agriculture, health and financial services, as well as their impact on employment and government. It also explores the consequences for development of the emerging “app economy”, summarizing current thinking and seeking to inform the debate on the use of mobile phones for development. It’s no longer about the phone itself, but about how it is used, and the content and applications that mobile phones open.

The study benefited from research funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, the Korea Trust Fund for ICT4D, and UKaid.



Browse the report:

Executive Summary

·         This report analyzes the growth and evolution of applications for mobile phones, focusing on their use in agriculture, health and financial services, as well as their impact on employment and government. It also explores the consequences for development of the emerging “app economy”, summarizing current thinking and seeking to inform the debate on the use of mobile phones for development. It’s no longer about the phone itself, but about how it is used, and the content and applications that mobile phones open. Read More (pdf) »

Chapter 1: Overview

·         The report’s opening chapter provides an overview of the broad trends shaping and redefining our understanding of the word “mobile.” Developing countries are increasingly well placed to exploit the benefits of mobile communications, with levels of access rising around the world. The chapter explores how the bond between mobile operators and users is loosening, as computer and internet companies invade the mobile space. Read More (pdf) »

Chapter 2: Mobilizing the Agricultural Value Chain

  • Increasingly, specialized mobile services are providing localized information about price, weather and climate, pest control, cultivation practices, and agricultural extension services. Chapter 2 examines the emerging uses of mobile services in agriculture, as well as remote and satellite technologies that are assisting in food traceability, sensory detection, and status updates from the field. Read More (pdf) »

Chapter 3: mHealth

  • Chapter 3 examines some of the key principles and characteristics of mobile Health (mHealth), and how mobiles are helping transform and enhance the delivery of primary and secondary healthcare services. It reviews on-the-ground implementations of medical healthcare apps to draw key conclusions as to how mHealth can best be implemented to serve the needs of people, as well as identifying the major barriers to be overcome. Read More (pdf) »

Chapter 4: Mobile Money for Financial Inclusion

·         Chapter 4 looks at the use of mobile money as a general platform and critical infrastructure underpinning other economic sectors. It shows the benefits and potential impact of mobile money, especially for promoting financial inclusion. It provides an overview of the key factors driving the growth of mobile money services, the barriers and obstacles hindering their deployment, and emerging issues that the industry will face over the coming years. Read More (pdf) »

Chapter 5: Mobile Entrepreneurship and Employment

·         This chapter explores the enormous potential of mobiles for employment, not solely in terms of job creation, but also their ability to facilitate entrepreneurship – especially in populations otherwise disconnected from the economy, encourage development of transferable technical and business skills, match jobs with workers and create opportunities for microwork. Read More (pdf) »

Chapter 6: Making Government Mobile

·         Governments are beginning to embrace the potential for mobile technology 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 mobile technology in government that supplement public services, expand their user base, and generate spinoff services. Read More (pdf) »

Chapter 7: Policies for Mobile Broadband

·         The final chapter distinguishes between supply-side policies (which seek to promote the expansion of wireless broadband networks) and demand-side policies (which seek to boost take-up of wireless broadband services) in the mobile broadband ecosystem. The chapter provides policy recommendations for expanding mobile broadband infrastructure that would address the key bottlenecks of both supply and demand sides of mobile broadband. Read More (pdf) »

Part II: Key Trends in the Development of the Mobile Sector

·         Part II of the report brings together a range of mobile indicators for over 150 economies. It also reviews the main trends shaping the sector, while a new analytical tool is also introduced for tracking the progress of economies at different levels of economic development in widening access, improving supply and stimulating demand for mobile services. Read More (pdf) »






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