In his Ted Talk in 2005, Grameenphone co-founder Iqbal Quadir, argued that the power of mobile connectivity can help fight poverty. Years in advance of today’s technological development, and diversified mobile services, Iqbal’s words are more relevant now than they were then.
As part of the talk, Iqbal discussed a graph by ITU* that he discovered before setting up the company. It indicated that the impact of telecommunications investment in poorer countries significantly improved it’s GNP per capita. These findings motivated him to start up the largest telecommunications company in Bangladesh, which brought in over 102 billion BDT in revenue in 2014, equating to over 1,161 billion EUR, and connects 50 million people over 99% of the country.
The statistics that greatly influenced both the course of Iqbal’s life and that of millions of Bangladeshi’s, are further confirmed in recent studies by ITU. Results from a survey in 2013 show that in developing markets, a 10% expansion in mobile penetration increases productivity in the long run by 4.2 percentage points, whilst a 10% rise in 3G penetration increases GDP per capita growth by 0.15 percentage points.
Yet, the potential impact of mobile connectivity cannot be entirely understood through it’s impact on GDP and GNP alone. In September of this year, the UN General Assembly met to discuss the 17 Sustainable Development Goals looking onwards from 2015, those that included ‘No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Gender Equality and Industry, Infrastructure and Innovation’.
Amongst the many speakers at the event of whom were Presidents and Finance Ministers from the world of mobile money, the general underlying topic maintained that digital and financial inclusion as a product of mobile services was a key to meeting more than several of these SDGs, including the elimination of poverty.
“Shifting to digital payments via mobile phones or pre-paid cards could also help finance the attainment of SDGs through lower transaction costs, greater transparency, and increased efficiencies.”
In the mid 90s around the time of his research, Iqbal concluded that “Connectivity leads to dependability, which leads to specialisation, and then to productivity.” A theme that has flowed throughout the years since, manifesting itself in the increasing rate of GDP in developing countries as a result of mobile presence, and more recently in high end strategies for attaining global sustainability goals over the years to come.
* International Telecommunications Union
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Image by mahmud.rassel