Drawing from a wide range of recent literature, this paper identifies five main stories that come together at many points in the literature: universal access, economic and social services, openness, human development, and innovation. It is worth underlining that this article is mostly about mobile phone access and use, as this is the dominant story of the last decade for people in the bottom or base of the pyramid. This is not to deny the importance of broadband, Internet connection, or computers and devices with computing power much greater than that of mobiles. Initiatives in telecenter development and “one laptop per child,” for example, are important in bringing more complex services to poor people, and have had mixed success and reviews. Unlike mobile phone penetration, these technologies have been driven more by public and nongovernmental organizations than by market supply and demand. What is clear is the importance of increasing mobile phone access and mobile-based services prior to the proliferation of broadband in the BoP, no matter which forms that eventually takes.

Randy Spence
Matthew L. Smith
© Information Technologies & International Development, 2010