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Towards a more equal world : the mobile internet revolution
Access to mobile internet presents revolutionary opportunities for addressing issues of inequality. Vodafone has commissioned independent experts to explore the ways in which smartphones could reduce inequalities for women, micro entrepreneurs and small farmers.
The report highlights the benefits of smartphones for disadvantaged groups and recommends the policy steps that governments can take to tackle inequality.
- how can increased access to and use of smartphones begin to reduce some of the structural barriers driving inequality?
- how can policymakers continue to incentivise investment in mobile networks and services knowing that such investment could help address issues of inequality?
Improving farmers' lives in India
Our 2011 connected farming in India report showed that 12 different types of mobile services could boost farmer’s agricultural income in 26 markets by 11%.
Since then, we have seen how some of the exciting potential of mobile agriculture solutions has been realised. Our 2015 Connected Farming in India report looks at the potential for six mobile agricultural services to positively impact farmer's livelihoods in India, when rolled out at scale.
These services could improve the lives of nearly 70 million Indian farmers by 2020, generating over $9bn in additional annual income for farmers. This is equivalent to an average annual income increase of $128 for 60% of farmers in India.
Empowering and supporting women
Our Connected Women report from 2014 explored the impact of increasing women's mobile phone ownership and how mobile services provided by Vodafone and the Vodafone Foundation are enabling women to access new opportunities and improve their lives and livelihoods.
Research suggested that increasing women's access to mobile and scaling up the five services explored in the report could have positive annual economic benefits, worth $28.9 billion across Vodafone's markets, by 2020.
We estimated that the five services we modelled could benefit 8.7 million women by 2020. The opportunities we explored were:
- Education: mobile literacy for adult learning
- Health: using mobile payments to cover travel costs to receive maternal healthcare
- Safety: an alert system for women at high risk of domestic violence
- Work: a mobile inventory management system for rural female retailers
- Loneliness: new services to connect elderly people to their family, friends and carers
Improving working lives and livelihoods in emerging markets
Our Connected Worker research from 2013 explored opportunities to deliver commercial benefits to businesses and improve working lives and livelihoods by connecting workers and organisations in emerging markets, using mobile technology.
We found that across 12 markets, new mobile solutions could increase workers’ livelihoods by US$7.7 billion by 2020, while enabling a further US$30.6 billion in benefits to organisations through improved productivity.
Improving farmers' productivity
Our Connected Agriculture research, published in 2011 with Accenture, found that mobile technology could boost farmers’ productivity enough to increase agricultural income by US$138 billion by 2020 across our markets, primarily in India, Africa and the Middle East.
By raising farmers’ productivity, these services can help to transform society not only by increasing food supplies but by improving livelihoods in rural communities.
Contributing to low carbon societies
Our Carbon Connections report, published in 2009, quantified the potential of mobile technology to reduce emissions. Produced with global consultancy Accenture, this detailed analysis quantifies the potential emissions reductions that could be achieved by realising 13 opportunities to apply mobile telecommunications in five key areas.
The report concluded that wireless services, especially using machine-to-machine connections, could save 113 million tonnes of CO2 a year in the EU by 2020, cutting energy costs by an estimated €43 billion across industry sectors.
Making broadband accessible for all
Our research on making broadband accessible for all, published in 2011, focused on mobile internet and broadband use in the developing world. It found there is great potential for mobile internet to leapfrog fixed-line broadband in emerging markets where mobile data usage is increasing rapidly but fixed line is often stagnant.
Access to broadband creates opportunities for better quality of life, improved productivity and economic growth. But realising this potential will depend both on growing demand for internet access and on the provision of incentives for the creation of broadband networks which can extend access.
The impact of mobile phones in India
Our study of the socio-economic impact of mobile in India, published in 2008/09, found that GDP in Indian states with higher teledensity (mobile penetration) can be expected to grow faster than in states with lower teledensity, at a rate of approximately 1.2% per 10% of teledensity. The research, conducted by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, suggests that a threshold teledensity rate of at least 25% must be achieved before the full impact of mobiles on economic growth is experienced.
The study also highlights that while access to telecommunications can facilitate development, it will not in itself alleviate poverty. Complementary skills and other infrastructure, such as agricultural techniques and tools, and better roads and storage, are also vitally important. When combined with these, mobile telephony can help improve labour productivity, a key element of poverty reduction.
Economic empowerment through mobile
We assessed the socio-economic impacts of specific products and services in emerging markets. This included looking at the evolving role of mobiles in micro-payments, the transmission of relatively small sums of money and the provision of some basic banking services in countries where few people have any access to the security and convenience of a bank.
The impact of mobile phones in Africa
Our first set of studies on the socio-economic impact of mobile focused on Africa, where mobile use had grown rapidly.
The research, published in 2005, documented the boost to economic growth from greater mobile penetration and found that, even in remote rural communities, there were fewer barriers to the use of mobiles than might have been expected.
Mobile technology can play a vital role in bridging the digital divide, particularly in rural areas where there is limited access to other forms of communication such as roads, postal systems or fixed-line phones.