Mobile broadband adoption: what's the right policy?

Mobile broadband adoption: what's the right policy?

Regulatory approaches can spur improvements, but education and wealth loom large in the adoption equation.

The 2012 edition of the World Bank’s Information and Communications for Development report urges countries to promote mobile broadband’s expansion to improve the state of agriculture, health, financial services, employment and government in the developing world. The main goal of this research by David Yates and Jeff Gulati of Bentley University is to identify public policy alternatives, regulatory measures and governing practices that can increase the adoption of mobile broadband in developing countries, which have largely adopted a "mobile first" strategy for online services. The research also shows that different models are needed to understand mobile broadband diffusion in both developed and developing nations.

Understanding the Impact of Policy, Regulation and Governance on Mobile Broadband Diffusion in the Developing World (David Yates and Jeff Gulati, March 2013)

Yates and Gulati extend previous findings that connect bridging information and communication divides with political structure and institutional governance in developing nations. On the flip side, national wealth matters a great deal in developing countries, but greater competition in the telecommunications sector, higher financial investment in ICTs, and telecommunications regulatory governance also significantly increase mobile broadband diffusion.In sum, the report states that public policy initiatives, democratic institutions and effective regulatory governance matter and can mitigate, to some extent, the advantages enjoyed by most developed countries. 

While the authors present strong evidence that national policy, regulation and governance are important, they also show that resources in terms of wealth (in developing countries) and education (in developed countries) matter more for leveraging the benefits of mobile technologies for digital inclusion. The report also shows the limits that policy initiatives and related factors have in bridging the mobile broadband divide, at least in the short-term. Finally, the research shows that it’s important for policymakers to be aware and to understand that the path to widespread adoption of mobile broadband requires different strategies depending on a nation’s level of economic, political and institutional development.