Mobile phones can help in poverty reduction: UN study

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Information Economy Report, better access to information and better chances to communicate through information and communication technologies (ICTs) to poor people can help them to raise their incomes significantly.

"Policies matter in ensuring that improved access to ICTs leads to poverty reduction...Governments have a key role to play in devising policies that respond effectively to the specific needs of the beneficiaries - needs that differ among enterprises, between rural and urban areas, and between countries," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

Poor people often lack information that is vital for the work they do. This information can include current market prices, weather reports, and new opportunities for earning income, it said.

The report gave an example of southern India where fishermen´s profits have increased by eight per cent, thanks to better market coordination.

In some developing countries, mobile phones now allow people without bank accounts to make person-to-person payments, money transfers and pre-paid purchases. This allows for lower transaction costs, and easier, cheaper, and safer money transfers to remote locations, it said.

According to the report, the penetration rate of mobile phones is increasing very rapidly, even in the world's least developed countries, as the technology involved is now simple and affordable enough to be purchased and used by the poor.

Penetration in some of the least developed countries has surged from 2 to 25 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the last few years.

The UNCTAD report highlighted that micro-enterprises in low-income countries are rapidly adopting mobile phones as key tools for advancing their commercial activities.

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