Disruptive Technologies in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Mobile Telecommunications Services

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Grzybowski, Lukasz
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Access to mobile Internet can dramatically improve standard of living in developing countries by saving wasted trips, providing information about prices or serving as a conduit to banking, health care and other services. There are different ways through which mobile services can benefit people and economies in developing countries. First, mobile services can improve the functioning of markets by improving access to information and thus increasing transparency. Second, better communication can improve management of supplies and improve the efficiency of firms. Third, mobile phones may facilitate services which are in general not available to low income households, such as mobile phonebased financial, agricultural, health, and educational services. Fourth, communications apps used on mobile phones, such as Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and others not only cut the expenses on telecommunications services of low-income households, but they may also facilitate the co-ordination and cooperation of communities without access to other means of communications. To date, there is only scarce research on how people in developing countries use mobile phones and Internet to access different mobile services and consequently how this impacts their well-being and the functioning of different markets. This is largely due to the shortage of individual-level data on the use of mobile services in these countries. In this report we contribute to filling this research gap by conducting a detailed study on the availability and access to mobile Internet services, use of different mobile services and their impact on economic outcomes such as adoption of financial services and labour market participation.