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Portable development

Is there anything, anything, now going on in what used to be called, either with delicate euphemism or with a sneer, the “developing world”, but which now really is the developing world, that is more encouraging than the rapid spread throughout said world of portable telephones?

I have just done a piece for the ASI blog about this process in Africa, linking to this New York Times article. And the Private Sector Development blog (whom I have just added to my personal blogroll here), in addition to supplying the same link today, have also linked to of a recent Economist piece on the same subject. Pablo Halkyard also links to this Wall Street Journal piece.

It is not all good news. It never is. Governments all over the place are now demanding extortionate connection taxes, to the point where the tax bill is starting seriously to outweigh what would have been the regular cost. Sounds like those cheap European air tickets that I sometimes buy on the internet for peanuts, where the government then charges me peanuts times four. Nevertheless, even there the news is partly good, because at least some governments are learning that if they cut connection taxes down to something more in line with the extreme cheapness of the service itself, people are more ready to pay such taxes. That is because illegal phones are more likely to go wrong and harder to get mended if they do go wrong. Is the unwillingness of people to pay big taxes good news or is their willingness to pay small taxes bad news? You decide.

The portable phone quote that made me smile the most this morning was this, from the Economist piece:

(Oh, and the “digital divide” vanishes, too.)

I especially like the brackets.

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