A Shortcut to Development: How Technologies Can Help the Developing and Underdeveloped Countries to Overcome Development Gaps
By admin February 24, 2016

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Last week, Ringing Bells, an Indian manufacturer based in Uttar Pradesh state, announced its newest model of smartphone –Freedom 251- for less than $4. More interestingly, Ringing Bells has claimed that it has received no subsidies from the government. This is, of course, a trend in the Indian smartphone market; International Data Corporation’s 2015 report measured the Indian smartphone market to be growing at a rate of 28.8%, increasing to 103.6 million smartphones and 900 million mobile connections. These figures position India as one of the fastest-growing markets in the region. This is good news for those experts who argue that more connectivity would lead to faster economic development and opportunities for the poor in India and other parts of the world. However, there are limitations to such concepts as ‘leapfrogging’ or ‘shortcuts’ to development.


In 2013, Tel-Aviv based wireless company, Ceragon, secured a multi-million-dollar deal to upgrade India’s third-largest mobile provider Idea Cellular. In one of his interviews, Anil Tandan, the CTO of Idea Cellular, pointed to the overwhelming demands of data in India. Moreover, Yoel Knoll, VP of corporate marketing at Ceragon added that India’s usage of 4G for its various needs from voice to broadband access with dongles had consumed most of available frequencies: “they are running out of frequencies for almost a billion people.” The surge in mobile broadband adoption has been estimated to increase the number of connections to 400 million by the end of 2017. Since these connections share a common data pool in access network, any possible inability to catch up with these demands could mean slower connections with inferior quality. A lack of sufficient fixed-line communication infrastructure, which can provide a peer-to-peer connection without sharing the data pool or network access, deprives the underdeveloped countries of a data backbone that can support the fixed data demands of medium-sized and large businesses.


If the economic development model is formulated around the maximalist linear standard model, which requires small, medium and large profitable businesses to provide jobs, stable sources of income and consumer market as the backbone of sustainable development, then ‘leapfrogging’ or ‘shortcuts’ are a temporary and not a viable solution. For instance, in case of India, several World Bank reports argue that the presence of solid foundation of intermediate technology determines whether the latest technologies become widely diffused. In other words, computers, broadband links, fourth industrial revolution in agriculture or any other proposed ‘shortcuts’ will not significantly jumpstart the long-term economic development without reliable energy supply, and other necessary facilities which belong to the previous generations of industrialization. On the other hand, if the technology is geared towards solving small but solvable problems (minimalist goals), then there is hope that a third way can be found. For example, in late 2014, a pilot program titled “Dr. One” began to deliver birth control, condoms and other medical supplies to rural areas of Ghana through the use of drones. This program targeted women in the most remote, hard-to-reach villages where a flood can shut down the roads for days and can disrupt the medical supply chain. Minimalist projects which are limited in scope and which can have great impact can be built around sustainable models with measurable impacts and clear evaluations. These models may be the middle-ground and a sober way to go to help developing countries to deal with their issues.


For more information:

Contraception Drones Are The Future Of Women’s Health In Rural Africa

Indian company launches smartphone for less than $4

India’s ‘leapfrogging’ mobile development, an opportunity for Israeli companies

The limits of leapfrogging

How India can benefit by leapfrogging into Fourth Industrial Revolution


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