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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.

Why Have Mobile Phones Succeeded Where Other Technologies Have Not?

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a panel for a conference on Information and Communications Technology and Development.  The debate on my panel was a lively one, and came down to one issue:  Can information technology (by itself) lead to development?  Obviously there has been a lot of buzz about this topic -- Jeffrey Sachs has called the mobile phone the “single most transformative technology” for de

C U L8ter? Using Mobile Phones as a Literacy Tool in Niger

This is a joint posting with Kristy Bohling.

I recently received a text message from my friend Karim in Niger, asking “Keski ce passe?” (What’s happening?). Those of you who know French might notice his text is an abbreviation of the much longer expression for “Qu’est-ce qui se passe”, which is formal and proper but a bit long when you only have 140 characters. Such abbreviations in French, English and other languages have caused teachers and parents alike to blame texting for corrupting our language and “degrading [the] spelling of [our] youth.” Existing studies in the UK and elsewhere have debunked these claims, and, the National Adult Literacy Database called on people to celebrate International Literacy Day by “reading or writing, tweeting or texting.” In fact, mobile phones and texting might be a new tool in the arsenal against illiteracy: our new research in Niger suggests that mobile phones could promote literacy and numeracy skills in sub-Saharan Africa.

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