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Mobile phone reception coverage map of Tanzania.

How Much Would It Cost to Extend Mobile Coverage to Everyone in Tanzania?

Less than 45 percent of the area of Tanzania is covered by any form of cell phone reception. Telecom providers target high-population areas first, so the percentage of the population covered by the cell phone signal is 83 percent. But the problem is that the remaining 17 percent of the population, or 9.2 million people, is spread over 55 percent of the country—meaning the density of potential users is low. Especially because rural populations tend to be poorer than city dwellers, the revenue generated per cell tower may be too low to justify rollout.

phone tower

Mobile Money: An Opportunity for Development and Governance in Rural Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is now ranked by the World Bank as a lower-middle-income country, largely due to mining-related income. Yet, stepping into remote villages in the South Fly District of Western Province, along the southern border with Australia, one is viscerally confronted with the lack of national expenditure or international finances in the region. Whether understood as corruption, rent-seeking, leakage, profit margins, or the high personnel costs of expatriate aid programs, surprisingly little PNG government, international aid, or global mining investment actually reaches these villages

On-Grid or Off-Grid Electricity? African Consumers Say…We Want Both

In the push for electricity access in the developing world, many policymakers are trying to figure out where on-grid or off-grid solutions make the most sense. My new paper asks 39,000 consumers in 12 African countries about their energy use and demand. The big takeaway: African consumers don’t view grid versus off-grid as a binary question.

Six Months out from Demonetization: Is Digital Finance in India’s Future?

Today, June 30, marks six months from the day Indians had to change their old 500 and 1000 rupee notes following the “demonetization shock” announced by the government. The turmoil in the economy has since calmed to a large extent. In the past six months, the government also launched a concerted effort to wean Indians away from cash as the preferred method of payment for transactions.

How Can Digital Payments Strengthen State Capacity? Four Areas with High Potential

These recent developments in identification, combined with rising mobile phone ownership, broadening Internet access, and innovative payment delivery mechanisms, can be harnessed to transform the way states implement poverty-reduction programs and improve the lives of their citizens. Digital payments promise faster, more transparent, and lower-cost delivery for existing cash-based government transfers, and can also transform the way governments deliver subsidies. In a new background paper, Dan Radcliffe reviews the evidence on the gains from digital payments and pinpoints four ways in which they can improve development outcomes.

Taxing Kenya’s M-Pesa Picks the Pockets of the Poor

Kenya has instituted a new tax that affects users of M-Pesa -- a widely popular phone-based money transfer service used by more than half of Kenya’s adult population. The new 10 percent excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services applies to mobile phone providers, banks, and other money transfer agencies. Operated by Safaricom, the largest mobile network operator in Kenya, M-Pesa accounts for the largest share of users of money transfer services. Users of M-Pesa products will therefore bear most of the impact of the tax.

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