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Information, Technology, and Innovation: Resources for Growth in a Connected World by John M. Jordan

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CHAPTER 12

Mobility

By looking at the ways that mobile phones and data devices are transforming developing economies, a contrast with more familiar patterns can emerge. While convenience, social needs, and an extension of desktop computing patterns can be observed in the United States and other locales in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in Kenya, the devices, payment processes, and application portfolio can differ significantly. In what is being termed “frugal innovation” or “reverse innovation,” the developing countries are pioneering new uses and mental frameworks, showing more mature markets the way forward on critical axes such as disaster responsiveness.

Bottom Up

It's easy to look at the worldwide adoption of the mobile phone in quantitative terms and be amazed. The speed with which literally billions of the world's poorest people have gained access to or even possession of mobile telephony and then data services is staggering. In the late 1990s, it was commonplace to say “half the world has never made a phone call.” That might have been true in 1985, but by 2000, it was nonsense. Even so, United Nations' Secretary General Kofi Annan said so. So did Al Gore, HP chief executive Carly Fiorina, and AOL founder Steve Case.

As Clay Shirky pointed out in a terrific essay from 2002, however, such assertions ignored truly explosive growth, first in land lines then in cellular: “[H]alf again as many land lines were run in the last 6 years of the ...

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