Alleviating Poverty: Mobile Communications, Microfinance and Small Business Development Around the World
Source: Brookings Institution
Poverty is one of the most pressing problems around the world. According to statistics from the World Bank, nearly one-quarter of the global population lives at or below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.[i] With so many people struggling for basic subsistence, it is hard for those affected to get out of poverty, gain access to capital, or develop small firms or businesses that help them build a better life.
Yet with the growth of mobile technology, there are new opportunities for individuals and small businesses to lift themselves up. People can use handheld devices to make monetary transfers, arrange for microfinance loans, establish small enterprises, and improve their economic circumstances. This helps them alleviate poverty and create a better situation for themselves and their families.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said that wireless communication is a breakthrough technology that helps to solve the worst problems associated with health care, poverty, and educational access. "Now in every village where I go, someone’s got a cell phone, somebody can make an emergency call, someone can find out the price on the market, someone can start a business empowered by the fact that they can reach a customer or a supplier, someone can drive a taxi or a truck for that reason as well. Everything is changing," said Sachs.[ii]
In this Mobile Economy Project report, Darrell West looks at the growth of handheld devices and investigates the barriers to doing business in the developing world. In particular, West explores how mobile devices enable individual entrepreneurship and small business development. Despite the presence of barriers such as corruption, lack of transparency and capital, and poor infrastructure in many parts of the developing world, there are successful ventures enabled by mobile technology.
The report details some of the cases which illustrate emerging possibilities for alleviating poverty in different countries including:
- The growth of mobile devices
- Mobile money transfer services
- Mobile tools for small businesses
- Microfinance applications
Recent analysis indicates cell phone distracted driving crashes vastly under-reported
Source: National Safety Council
Today, the National Safety Council released findings from a recent analysis of national statistics on fatal motor vehicle crashes, in a report entitled, “Crashes Involving Cell Phones: Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data,” funded in part by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. The report reviewed 180 fatal crashes from 2009 to 2011, where evidence indicated driver cell phone use. Of these fatal crashes, in 2011 only 52% were coded in the national data as involving cell phone use.
Even when drivers admitted cell phone use during a fatal crash, the Council’s analysis found that in about one-half of these cases, the crash was not coded in Federal data (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System). In addition, there are an unknown number of cases in which cell phone use involvement in crashes is impossible to determine. One example would be a driver reading an email or text message on a phone who dies in a crash without any witnesses.
The report also brings up large differences in cell phone distraction fatal crashes reported by states. For instance, in 2011, Tennessee reported 93 fatal crashes that involved cell phone use, but New York, a state with a much larger population, reported only one. Texas reported 40, but its neighboring state Louisiana reported none.
Voice-To-Text Apps Offer No Driving Safety Benefit; As With Manual Texting, Reaction Times Double
Source: Texas Transportation Institute
Texting drivers may believe they’re being more careful when they use the voice-to-text method, but new research findings suggest that those applications offer no real safety advantage over manual texting.
The study was sponsored by the Southwest Region University Transportation Center and conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). SWUTC is a part of the University Transportation Centers Program, which is a federally-funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
The study is the first of its kind, as it is based on the performance of 43 research participants driving an actual vehicle on a closed course. Other research efforts have evaluated manual versus voice-activated tasks using devices installed in a vehicle, but the TTI analysis is the first to compare voice-to-text and manual texting on a handheld device in an actual driving environment.
Drivers first navigated the course without any use of cell phones. Each driver then traveled the course three more times performing a series of texting exercises – once using each of two voice-to-text applications (Siri® for the iPhone and Vlingo® for Android), and once texting manually. Researchers then measured the time it took each driver to complete the tasks, and also noted how long it took for the drivers to respond to a light which came on at random intervals during the exercises.
Major findings from the study included:
- Driver response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used. In each case, drivers took about twice as long to react as they did when they weren’t texting. With slower reaction times, drivers are less able to take action in response to sudden roadway hazards, such as a swerving vehicle or a pedestrian in the street.
- The amount of time that drivers spent looking at the roadway ahead was significantly less when they were texting, no matter which texting method was used.
- For most tasks, manual texting required slightly less time than the voice-to-text method, but driver performance was roughly the same with both.
- Drivers felt less safe when they were texting, but felt safer when using a voice-to-text application than when texting manually, even though driving performance suffered equally with both methods.
New GAO Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Spectrum Management: Preliminary Findings on Federal Relocation Costs and Auction Revenues, by Mark L. Goldstein, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Senate Committee on Armed Services. GAO-13-563T, April 24.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654117.pdf
2. Space Acquisitions: DOD Is Overcoming Long-Standing Problems, but Faces Challenges to Ensuring Its Investments Are Optimized, by Cristina T. Chaplain, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Senate Committee on Armed Services. GAO-13-508T, April 24.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654138.pdf
Source: Federal Trade Commission
Identity theft is once more the top complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission, which has released its 2012 annual report of complaints. 2012 marks the first year in which the FTC received more than 2 million complaints overall, and 369,132, or 18 percent, were related to identity theft. Of those, more than 43 percent related to tax- or wage-related fraud.
The report gives national data, as well as a state-by-state accounting of top complaint categories and a listing of the metropolitan areas that generated the most complaints. This includes the top 50 metropolitan areas for both fraud complaints and identity theft complaints.
The remainder of complaint categories making up the top 10 are:
Debt collection 199,721 10 percent
Banks and Lenders 132,340 6 percent
Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales 115,184 6 percent
Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries 98,479 5 percent
Impostor Scams 82,896 4 percent
Internet Services 81,438 4 percent
Auto-Related Complaints 78,062 4 percent
Telephone and Mobile Services 76,783 4 percent
Credit Cards 51,550 3 percent
How the Mobile Consumer Connects Around the Globe
Mobile phones have reached a critical mass around the world, serving as constant companions for consumers regardless of demographics or geography. But how we engage with mobile devices and content varies depending on who and where you are. We took a closer look at these differences in a new report, The Mobile Consumer: A Global Snapshot, and found that while mobile usage is becoming increasingly ubiquitous around the world, usage differs significantly by market and demographic groups.
The report examines mobile consumer behavior, device preference and usage in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.
Device preference is evolving, as smartphone penetration continues to grow in most markets, especially in developed markets with widespread 3G/4G access. In the U.S. and South Korea, for example, smartphone owners now make up the majority of mobile consumers. And in many markets this increased penetration is being led by a new generation of young adults eager to embrace smartphone technology. Comparatively, in growing economies like India and Turkey, a growing group of mobile phone users prefer feature phones over other device options (80% and 61%, respectively).
Source: Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission today proposed action to improve the reliability and resiliency of America’s 9-1-1 communications networks, especially during disasters, by ensuring that service providers implement vital best practices in network design, maintenance, and operation. The Commission also proposed amending its rules to clarify how service providers can more effectively and uniformly notify 9-1-1 call centers of communications outages and cooperate to restore service as quickly as possible.
In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted today, the Commission moved forward to implement four key recommendations for strengthening 9-1-1 service made by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. The Bureau’s recommendations, contained in a January 2013 report, resulted from an in-depth inquiry into the widespread 9-1-1service failures that occurred after a derecho storm hit portions of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic in June 2012. A significant number of 9-1-1 systems and services were partially or completely down for several days after the derecho – from isolated breakdowns in Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and Indiana to systemic failures in northern Virginia and West Virginia. In all, 77 9-1-1 call centers serving more than 3.6 million people in these six states lost some degree of connectivity, including vital information on the location of 9-1-1 calls.
Seventeen 9-1-1 call centers, mostly in northern Virginia and West Virginia, lost service completely, leaving more than 2 million residents unable to reach emergency services for varying periods of time. Unlike hurricanes and superstorms, which are generally well-forecast, derechos are more like earthquakes, tornados, and man-made events for which there is little-to-no advance notice and opportunity to prepare.
As a result, the derecho put a portion of the Nation’s communications infrastructure to an unexpected test, revealing significant vulnerabilities in the design and maintenance of 9-1-1 networks. The Bureau found that most of the failures would have been avoided if the network providers that route calls to 9-1-1 call centers had fully implemented industry best practices and available industry guidance.
Hat tip: PW
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Road traffic crashes are a global public health problem, contributing to an estimated 1.3 million deaths annually (1). Known risk factors for road traffic crashes and related injuries and deaths include speed, alcohol, nonuse of restraints, and nonuse of helmets. More recently, driver distraction has become an emerging concern (2). To assess the prevalence of mobile device use while driving in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States, CDC analyzed data from the 2011 EuroPNStyles and HealthStyles surveys. Prevalence estimates for self-reported talking on a cell phone while driving and reading or sending text or e-mail messages while driving were calculated. This report describes the results of that analysis, which indicated that, among drivers ages 18–64 years, the prevalence of talking on a cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days ranged from 21% in the UK to 69% in the United States, and the prevalence of drivers who had read or sent text or e-mail messages while driving at least once in the past 30 days ranged from 15% in Spain to 31% in Portugal and the United States. Lessons learned from successful road safety efforts aimed at reducing other risky driving behaviors, such as seat belt nonuse and alcohol-impaired driving, could be helpful to the United States and other countries in addressing this issue (2,3). Strategies such as legislation combined with high-visibility enforcement and public education campaigns deserve further research to determine their effectiveness in reducing mobile device use while driving. Additionally, the role of emerging vehicle and mobile communication technologies in reducing distracted driving–related crashes should be explored.
The pervasive use of cell phones impacts many people–both cell phone users and bystanders exposed to conversations. This study examined the effects of overhearing a one-sided (cell phone) conversation versus a two-sided conversation on attention and memory. In our realistic design, participants were led to believe they were participating in a study examining the relationship between anagrams and reading comprehension. While the participant was completing an anagram task, the researcher left the room and participants overheard a scripted conversation, either two confederates talking with each other or one confederate talking on a cell phone. Upon the researcher’s return, the participant took a recognition memory task with words from the conversation, and completed a questionnaire measuring the distracting nature of the conversation. Participants who overheard the one-sided conversation rated the conversation as significantly higher in distractibility than those who overheard the two-sided conversation. Also, participants in the one-sided condition scored higher on the recognition task. In particular they were more confident and accurate in their responses to words from the conversation than participants in the two-sided condition. However, participants’ scores on the anagram task were not significantly different between conditions. As in real world situations, individual participants could pay varying amounts of attention to the conversation since they were not explicitly instructed to ignore it. Even though the conversation was irrelevant to the anagram task and contained less words and noise, one-sided conversations still impacted participants’ self-reported distractibility and memory, thus showing people are more attentive to cell phone conversations than two-sided conversations. Cell phone conversations may be a common source of distraction causing negative consequences in workplace environments and other public places.
FTC Staff Report Examines Growing Use of Mobile Payments
Source: Federal Trade Commission
As part of its efforts to ensure that consumers are protected in the growing mobile marketplace, the Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report today highlighting key issues facing consumers and companies as they adopt mobile payment services. The report, titled “Paper, Plastic… or Mobile? An FTC Workshop on Mobile Payments,” is based on a workshop held by the Commission in 2012 to examine these issues.
The mobile payments arena is growing quickly, and the report notes that mobile payment cover of FTC mobile payments reportsystems can provide innovative and convenient options for consumers. But the report also notes three major areas of potential concern for consumers.
First, the report encourages companies to develop clear policies on how consumers can resolve disputes arising from a fraudulent mobile payment or an unauthorized charge.
Consumers fund mobile purchases using a variety of sources, from credit cards to prepaid debit cards to charges placed on their mobile phone bills. Under current regulations, each of these funding methods has a different process for consumers to dispute unauthorized charges, with varying levels of consumer protection. This creates a potentially confusing landscape for consumers trying to decide which mobile payment system to use and how to fund these payments, the report notes.
The report also highlights the growing problem of mobile “cramming,” which occurs when third parties place unauthorized charges onto consumers’ mobile phone bills. The Commission discussed this issue in its previous comment to the Federal Communications Commission, and the FTC staff has announced a mobile cramming roundtable to be held in May.
Second, the report encourages industry-wide adoption of strong measures to ensure security throughout the mobile payment process. The report addresses ways sensitive financial information can be kept secure during the mobile payment process, such as through end-to-end encryption. The possibilities for encryption listed in the report cover everything from the authentication of data during the transaction to the secure storage of information on a mobile device.
Third, the report highlights the need for companies in the mobile payment sphere to practice “privacy by design,” incorporating strong privacy practices, consumer choice, and transparency into their products from the outset. Doing so, the report notes, increases the likelihood of consumer trust in the mobile payment process.
Source: Brookings Institution
In this paper released in conjunction with a Mobile Economy Project panel discussion, Darrell West argues the importance of invention to mobile communications and demonstrates that the mobile industry is one of our most vibrant drivers of economic development.
• Examples of key inventors: West seeks to understand how to sustain invention and draws lessons for encouraging the critical innovation needed for future development.
• How different countries handle invention: In comparing and contrasting other countries as well as the United States, West adds perspective and paints a global invention landscape.
• Ways to facilitate invention: A number of factors affect the quantity and quality of invention (including but not limited to research and development, the quality of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, the nature of immigration, and the patent system. West emphasizes how we should maintain a culture of invention to encourage future prosperity.
Source: Mobile Media & Communication
The emerging era of mobile communication transcends the traditional privileging of text and voice to draw upon sensations of augmented reality, especially in terms of the visual domain. Thus one will be able to have new views of the local environment (mobile visual services). In terms of the former, the sense of sight is increasingly being brought to bear on the nexus of physical environment and digital information, yielding literally novel and unprecedented views. This article assesses examples of these services and the way they inter-mix previously separate domains, but also create new layers of monitoring of self and others. In particular, it notes conflicts at the levels of public policy and individual privacy and autonomy.
Hat tip: Journalist’s Resource
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
Judicial Survivors’ Annuities System Costs for 2008 to 2010
GAO-13-236, Feb 22, 2013
Further Consideration of Options to Improve Receiver Performance Needed
GAO-13-265, Feb 22, 2013
VETERANS’ HEALTH CARE
Improvements Needed to Ensure That Budget Estimates Are Reliable and That Spending for Facility Maintenance Is Consistent with Priorities
GAO-13-220, Feb 22, 2013
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Funds’ 2012 and 2011 Financial Statements
GAO-13-291, Feb 21, 2013
Sustained and Coordinated Efforts Could Facilitate Data Sharing While Protecting Privacy
GAO-13-106, Feb 8, 2013
FCC Broadband Summit 2013
Source: Federal Communications Commission
The Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Services, with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), held a Summit on February 7, 2013 to identify and discuss best practices learned from broadband adoption programs and academic studies/surveys, and how implementation of these best practices can close the broadband adoption gap among Americans – particularly low-income households, racial and ethnic minorities, seniors, rural residents, residents of Tribal lands and people with disabilities. The agenda listing committed and invited panelists for the Summit is below. In addition, the Summit included a keynote speech by Assistant Secretary of Communications and Information and Administrator of NTIA, Department of Commerce, Lawrence E. Strickling.
Includes archived webcast, presentations and related materials.
Source: National Telecommunications & Information Administration
Nearly two years ago, NTIA launched the National Broadband Map, and today we are updating it, as we have every six months since its inception. The map provides the first-ever detailed datasets of broadband availability across the country, and it would not be possible without a unique partnership between the federal government, states, and the voluntary participation of many broadband providers.
With funding from NTIA, made available by the Recovery Act, each state undertook a massive effort to locate broadband availability by census block, essentially dividing the country into more than 11 million distinct areas. A census block is the smallest unit of geography for which population or other data are available, and on average has a population of about 28 people. With these data, we can now see change at a granular and national level every six months.
The results of the latest data collection, current as of June 30, 2012, are now online. The Map offers many ways to use the data. Try comparing different regions of the country or viewing data for a single provider. Many national statistics are also available in the reports. Here you will see that 98 percent of Americans now have access to wired or wireless broadband at advertised download speeds of at least 3 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 768 kbps. However, only 93 percent of Americans have access to these basic broadband speeds through wired services. Today, 81 percent of the country has access to wireless speeds of at least 6 Mbps, leaving us only 17 percentage points away from reaching the President’s goal of ensuring that 98 percent of Americans have access to 4G services.
CRS — The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent federal agency with its five members appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to ensure that the American people have available—at reasonable cost and without discrimination—rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services, whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.
Although the FCC has restructured over the past few years to better reflect the industry, it is still required to adhere to the statutory requirements of its governing legislation, the Communications Act of 1934. The 1934 Act requires the FCC to regulate the various industry sectors differently. Some policymakers have been critical of the FCC and the manner in which it regulates various sectors of the telecommunications industry—telephone, cable television, radio and television broadcasting, and some aspects of the Internet. These policymakers, including some in Congress, have long called for varying degrees and types of reform to the FCC. Most proposals fall into two categories: (1) procedural changes made within the FCC or through congressional action that would affect the agency’s operations or (2) substantive policy changes requiring congressional action that would affect how the agency regulates different services and industry sectors. Nine bills have been introduced during the 112th Congress that would change the operation of the FCC. For FY2013, the FCC requested a budget of $346,782,000. The FY2012 enacted appropriation was $339,844,000. FY2013 appropriations bills from the Senate and the House have not yet been passed. H.J.Res. 117, which was passed by the House on September 13, 2012, would provide a framework for a six-month Continuing Resolution that began on October 1, 2013.
The FCC’s budget is derived from regulatory fees collected by the agency rather than through a direct appropriation. The fees, often referred to as “Section (9) fees,” are collected from license holders and certain other entities (e.g., cable television systems) and deposited into an FCC account. The law gives the FCC authority to review the regulatory fees and to adjust the fees to reflect changes in its appropriation from year to year. It may also add, delete, or reclassify services under certain circumstances.
There are currently nine bills under consideration in the House and Senate that would affect the operations of the FCC: H.R. 1009, H.R. 2102, H.R. 2289, H.R. 3309, H.R. 3310, S. 611, S. 1780, S. 1784, and S. 1817. These are discussed in more detail in the body of the report.
From stats and scores to game footage, sports are a big player in mobile content. According to Nielsen’s 2012 Year in Sports report, nearly 60 percent of smartphone and tablet owners accessed sports content on their device at least once a day between January to September 2012. Twelve percent of smartphone owners and 10 percent of tablet owners did so more than three times a day.
While sports content comes in many shapes and forms, sports fans typically pay most attention to the latest scores and stats. Among owners of multiple connected devices, smartphones and laptops were the preferred device for checking sports scores (16%, respectively), followed by Internet-enabled TV sets (12%) and tablets (9%).
Hat tip: PW