Impact of Mobile Phone Coverage Expansion on Market Participation: Panel Data Evidence from Uganda
With the coverage of cellular networks expanding rapidly across the developing world, researchers are investigating how the access to information that mobile phones make possible can be leveraged to help alleviate poverty.
An early piece of research in this area is a 2009 study published in World Development, “The Impact of Mobile Phone Coverage Expansion on Market Participation: Panel Data Evidence from Uganda.” The study, from National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies in Japan, builds on the insights of similar studies in places such as Ghana, Bangladesh and India. The researcher analyzed a sample of 856 households from 94 Ugandan communities in 2003 and 2005, a period during which the penetration of mobile networks rose from 42% to 92%. Given this difference in access, the authors seek to determine the effects on banana and maize farmers’ trading patterns and their subsequent income levels.
The study’s findings include:
- No clear causal impact between a household’s mobile phone ownership and increased banana sales of that household.
- However, access to mobile phone networks in remote areas was found to have a “significant impact” on banana sales of those communities, suggesting that “even those households which do not possess mobile phones benefit from the network.” This finding further implies that “the farther away the farmer is located from the district center, the larger the impact of mobile phone coverage on market participation.”
- Neither mobile phone ownership nor network access was found to have an impact on market participation of maize farmers.
The author concludes that the results “suggest that the expansion of mobile phone coverage in Uganda encourages the market participation of farmers who are located in remote areas and produce perishable crops.” However, access to mobile phones does not necessarily eliminate information asymmetries between farmers and traders, nor does it ensure that farmers have alternate markets for their goods — two key variables in increasing rural farmers’ income through market access.
A 2011 study using a sample of 196 heads of households in Uganda also found that access to mobile phones, and the increased access to information they provide, has a positive impact on economic development of individual households.
Tags: Africa, telecommunications, mobile tech
Read the issue-related Tech Crunch article titled "How the Future of Mobile Lies in the Developing World."
- What key insights from the news article and the study in this lesson should reporters be aware of as they cover these issues?
- What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?