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The rapid adoption of mobile phones in some of the poorest countries in the world has far exceeded expectations (Aker and Mbiti, 2010) Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information involves technology. This essay will identify and discuss, inexhaustively, the socio-economic impacts of telecommunication in rural areas of developing countries with Overa’s 2016 paper as the baseline. According to Overa(2006), telecommunications has accrued a lot of benefits to rural areas of developing countries with some areas of Ghana as case study. It has economically saved trade costs increased trade security, reduced wastages (especially for agricultural produce) and socially it has built better relationships and enhanced trust individually and trade wise, improved trade networks, improved the quality of life in rural areas, increased trust in social institutions like commercial banks.
In Overa’s paper, the economic impact of telecommunication in saving trade cost, influencing purchase decisions as well as reduction of trade loss in terms of agricultural produce was examined closely. Shui and Lee, 2008 have also reiterated in their paper that telecommunications infrastructure investment is one of the factors affecting the economic growth of a country. Other more recent works on the economic impact of telecommunication in developing countries posits that telecommunication has reduced the rate of rural to urban migration by providing employment opportunities such as airtime sellers and public phone battery recharging centers. Through mobile phones, small scale businesses such as the Call Center Operators (CCO’s)- where an individual provides telephone services for the community has emerged. Some service providers have already provided added incentives to this type of business such that they can make some profit. It also allows micro and small scale enterprises (MSES) operators in rural areas to have more reliable and accessible information (Baro and Enduo 2013).
Also, the potential for using mobile phones as a tool for economic development has not gone unnoticed by African governments, donors, mobile phone companies, and nongovernmental organizations. An emerging trend is the development of mobile phone-based services and products that go beyond basic voice calls and text messaging (Aker and Mbiti, 2010). Socially, telecommunications has helped build and sustain already existing relationships, particularly the mobile phone has be lauded for sustaining “strong links (family and friends) and weak links with others outside the community, including business men” as mentioned by Goodman, 2005 in Baro and Enduo, 2013, p 251. Jamais(2006, p 14) in Baro and Endu(2013) points out that, “the villager…may not need a phone …to live her day-to-day life, but if it allows contacts with her son in a city hundreds of miles away, that phone…will be something she will treasure. ” This instance also shows that telecommunication bridges the gap between the urban and rural world daily. In Mali, residents of Timbuktu can call relatives living in the capital city of Bamako or relatives in France. In Ghana, farmers in Tamale are able to send a text message to learn corn and tomato prices in Accra, over 400 kilometers away. In Niger, day laborers are able to call acquaintances in Benin to find out about job opportunities without making the US$40 trip (Aker and Mbiti, 2010). The impacts of telecommunications may vary amongst rural areas in developing nations mostly depending on the economic structure, institutional system as well as rate of saturation through investment of telecommunications companies (liberalization).
However, after looking at a cross section of papers about different developing nations and the impact of telecommunication on them, I have discovered that most rural societies of these developing nations are very similar. Overa’s paper does no critically examine the negative impacts of telecommunication, however the author calls on the government to make policies to favor telecommunications because as at the time of his writing, networks were not fully saturated (due largely to bureaucratic process, governmental as well as political factors) and they were still costly. But since 2006, more recent study show that the price of handsets (mobile phones) has also fallen and new solar-powered phones have recently been introduced into the market. The challenge is now to ensure complementary access to public goods and the development of appropriate policies to evaluate and propagate the benefits of mobile phones throughout the continent as well as to develop and enhance other factors like business, education in order to make the best use of telecommunications system (Shui and Lee 2008, Aker and Mbiti 2010).
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