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The mobile phone contributes to economic growth in Latin America
The book entitled Comunicacin mvil y desarrollo econmico y social en Amrica Latina, co-managed by sociologist and director of the UOC Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) Manuel Castells, IN3 researcher Mireia Fernndez-Ardvol and lecturer at the University of San Andrs, Argentina Hernan Galperin, was presented at the end of September. Held at the Media-TIC building in Barcelona, the event publicised the main results of this study conducted by the UOC in collaboration with a network of South American universities and supported and funded by the Telefnica Foundation.

The result of a research project led by the IN3 Mobile Communication, Economy and Society programme, the scientific publication analyses the impact of mobile telephony on the social and economic development of Latin America in the last decade. The research includes various study perspectives, from the analysis of all the macroeconomic data to a series of case studies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.

Principal results

  • By the end of 2010, the penetration rates of mobile technology in the vast majority of countries in Latin America exceeded 75% (measured in terms of lines per every 100 inhabitants), which in theory brings mobile telephony up to levels of universalisation. More detailed analysis of this adoption process, however, reveals that there are still significant disparities in access to mobile telephony in the hinterlands of countries, which are explained by long-term inequalities in income distribution and the historical lack of infrastructure in rural areas. However, the trend shows the progressive reduction of these gaps.
  • The research confirmed that communication in Latin America is organised around the mobile phone as it is the alternative to services that have never become of mass use in the region. In this setting of near-universalisation of mobile technology, the relevant question is no longer whether access to a mobile phone exists or not, but how it is used and what it is used for, under what conditions and with what effects on living conditions and the opportunities for social improvement of the population.
  • At an aggregate level, the study confirms that mobile telephony has a positive contribution to economic growth. In addition, this contribution is greater in the less developed economies and is therefore greater in Latin America than in the OECD. Apart from this, it is not possible to state that the dissemination of mobile telephony has a significant impact on the reduction of inequality levels in income distribution throughout Latin America, a region that is characterised as being the most unequal in the world. Finally, it is observed that the dissemination of mobile technology has a significant impact on the decrease in absolute poverty levels.
  • Besides this, case studies reveal that the mobile phone has become a highly valuable communication tool that allows millions of Latin Americans to face the many challenges of their everyday environment better, including employment instability, lack of public safety and communications between members of migrant families. It has also become a vehicle of expression of individual identity while enabling network, social and economic relationships to be maintained more easily.
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