The Indian Economy Blog

January 22, 2006

Mobile Networking

Filed under: Business — Edward @ 3:16 pm

Reuben has been covering this topic (and here), so this hardly comes as ‘breaking news’:

Mobile ownership surged in December — with a record 4.5 million new users — after carriers targeted India’s poorer citizens with the launch of services that guarantee a number for life for just over $20….”Marketing campaigns are getting more aggressive,” said Prashant Singhal, head of telecoms practice at Ernst & Young in Bangalore, India’s technology hub. “We’ll see about 6 million new additions a month in 2006. The mobile base should double in 2006 to 130 or 140 million.” India is widely seen as the last big market for mobile phone growth. Less than 40 percent of the country’s total area is covered by mobile networks, and fewer than eight in every 100 Indians use mobiles, compared with China’s 30 percent.

So things are moving, and pretty quickly. This dynamic simply wasn’t available, to say China in 1995. What mobile phones are, in one sense, is an ideas-propagation machine. When India is finally ‘wired’, in the mobile-phone-sense at least, it will suddenly become smaller. The distance between each and every individual will be less. Apart from anything else the diffusion of new ideas and new technologies will be more rapid. Take, at the risk of becoming a one issue bore, a subject I know something about: fertility. One of the key questions in fertility theory is the ideational process through which women form the idea of ‘ideal family size’: ie how many children they actually want. Well in this context, wider use of mobile phones will accelerate the fertility transition, as news and fashions and values spread much more quickly than before. In March 2002 the UN organised an experts group meeting on the topic of Completing the Fertility Transition. In a very interesting paper Maria E. Cosio-Zavala examines the role of shifting gender ideals and female empowerment in the rapid rates of fertility decline which were evidenced in some countries during the 1990s. Access to information about what is happening elsewhere is normally mentioned as a core-component, with the arrival of mass media, and images of a ‘woman’s life elsewhere’ being seen as being crucial. Knowledge (and information) is power. More mobiles mean more information, and quicker information. Draw your own conclusions.

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