The ability to buy small amounts of prepaid calling time had enabled the very poor in many countries to gain access to mobile phones. In Latin America, however, high taxes on communication services impedes some of that access, with a typical broadband plan costing 66% more than in the average developed country. In Asia, meanwhile, a low-cost business model has driven high mobile use.

Across the developing world, potential emergencies consistently rank high on surveys as the main reason for buying a phone. Many developing countries lack the standard emergency services found in developed countries. In the absence of such a service, people call a family member or a friend for help in a crisis.

For businesses, saving time and money on transportation has emerged as the greatest economic benefit of mobile phone ownership. Meanwhile, “mobile money” has gained in popularity, suiting the needs of the poor better than conventional banking.

Laurent Elder: The Information Lives of the Poor | Ottawa Citizen, introducing the new book he has co-authored with Alison Gillwald, Rohan Samarajiva and Hernan Galperin.
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