Maximizing mobile applications can spur development – World Bank

Around three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants now have access to a mobile phone, said a report released by the World Bank(WB) and infoDev, its technology entrepreneurship and innovation programme.

The report said the number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown from 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion of which nearly 5 billion are in developing countries.

It said ownership of multiple subscriptions are becoming increasingly common, suggesting that their number would soon exceed that of the human population.

According to the report titled: “Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile,” more than 30 billion mobile applications, were downloaded in 2011 saying this is the software that extends the capabilities of phones to become mobile wallets, navigational aids or price comparison tools.

It said in developing countries, citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods to enhance their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms.

“Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development – from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes,” said Rachael Kyle, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development.

“The challenge now is to enable people, businesses, and governments in developing countries to develop their own locally-relevant mobile applications so they can take full advantage of these opportunities.”

Tim Kelly, Lead ICT Policy Specialist of WB, said major mobile apps translated into maps, mobile wallets and e-readers and that in Kenya for instance, over 20 million people are connected to mobile apps with the Ampeso Financial Service topping the list for remittances, savings and in the insurance business.

He said the WB was establishing five mobile innovation laboratories in Kenya, South Africa, Armenia, Vietnam and Pakistan with funding from Finland to develop locally relevant apps saying “this is the best contribution and engagement in the field of mobile apps revolution.”

This new report, the third in the World Bank’s series on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development, analyses the growth and evolution of mobile telephony, and the rise of data-based services, including apps, delivered to handheld devices.

The report explores the consequences for development of the emerging “app economy”, especially in agriculture, health, financial services and government, and how it is changing approaches to entrepreneurship and employment. GNA

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