The World Bank and infoDev have released a report on the major opportunities mobile communications offer to advance human and economic development.
The report, titled “Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile,” is the third in the World Bank’s series on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development.
It says the number of mobile subscribers worldwide has gone up to 6 billion, and is on track to exceed the human population on the planet. A total of 30 billion mobile applications or apps were downloaded in 2011.
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.
World Bank VP for sustainable development Rachel Kyte says mobile can be used for everything from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes.
“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,” says Kyte.
The report emphasizes the role of governments in enabling mobile application development. It also highlights how mobile innovation labs – shared spaces for training developers and incubating start-ups – can help bring new apps to market.
For instance, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently gave Ogden, Utah a $1 million grant for launching a mobile applications lab that will create 750 jobs and attract $4.6 million in private investment, and possibly kick-start an information technology cluster.
infoDev, in collaboration with the Government of Finland and Nokia, has established five regional mobile innovation labs (mLabs) in Armenia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, and Vietnam.
“Most businesses based around mobile app technology are at an early stage of development, but may hold enormous employment and economic potential, similar to that of the software industry in the 1980s and 1990s. Supporting the networking and incubation of entrepreneurs is essential to ensure that such potential is tapped,” said Valerie D’Costa, Program Manager of infoDev.
Read the full Maximizing Mobile report at Worldbank.org.