We've driven this point home: mobile phones are a crucial tool for leapfrog development. We're not alone in making this argument, but now a fairly notable source has taken up the banner -- The Economist. Although we're not always fond of the magazine's positions (and Alex is generally even less impressed with the periodical than I am), they do sometimes get it right in a big way. They're also a useful link to mainstream policymakers -- if The Economist is talking about it, it must be worth taking seriously.
The article, "Calling an end to poverty," covers examples we've brought up numerous times here, from mobile phones as economic tools for rural citizens to the GSM association's drive to produce a phone that's both affordable in the developing world and has useful capabilities. This bit of the article sums it up nicely:
Mobile phones have become indispensable in the rich world. But they are even more useful in the developing world, where the availability of other forms of communication—roads, postal systems or fixed-line phones—is often limited. Phones let fishermen and farmers check prices in different markets before selling produce, make it easier for people to find work, allow quick and easy transfers of funds and boost entrepreneurship. Phones can be shared by a village. Pre-paid calling plans reduce the need for a bank account or credit check. A recent study by London Business School found that, in a typical developing country, a rise of ten mobile phones per 100 people boosts GDP growth by 0.6 percentage points. Mobile phones are, in short, a classic example of technology that helps people help themselves.
The Economist has covered this topic before as well: “The real digital divide”