Smart Phones and Economic Development

This page is written by Sam Garrett, Ben Goldsmith, Vivian Nguyen, Hee Su Roh, and Eunmo Yang

Since their emergence, cellular phones have become rapidly accessible to all economic classes. Once exclusively a toy for the rich, cell phones are now utilized by over half of the worlds population. Currently, a similar trend is arising among smart phonesa class of mobile devices equipped with Internet access and GPS location technology. Previously only available in the developed world, smart phones have begun to spread to emerging economies. By 2015, it is estimated that 31% of all African mobile phone subscriptions will include Internet.

So why does this matter? Compared with their simpler predecessors, smart phones are more powerful tools for economic development. Enabling access to information, banking, and insurance services, smart phones dramatically increase market efficiency in developing regions. In addition, smart phones provide communication to lower income markets, allowing global corporations to greatly expand their consumer bases and move their products into previously untapped territories. More importantly, smart phones provide access to medical information, and in the future, could potentially allow for the cheap, quick diagnoses of the worlds most deadly diseases. However, the greatest promise of smart phones is that they provide all of these benefits at a fraction of the cost of a computer. Furthermore, they lack the need for a sophisticated and expensive IT infrastructure that requires frequent maintenance.

Smart phones have the ability to revolutionize the economic market, especially in the growing economies of the developing world. With their convenience, affordability, and promises of communication and information, the possibilities for smart phones in all economies are endless.