This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (copyright 2015--it will be out soon), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Mobile Phones Outnumber Toilets in Developing Countries
President Obama has just completed a trip to India, one purpose of which was to shore up opportunities for US businesses to expand in a way that would benefit US workers. Organizations doing business in India are most apt to interact with the well-educated, English-speaking middle and upper classes, but it is important to remember that there is a huge underclass in India--an enormous (and still rapidly growing) segment of the population that lives on only a few dollars a day. As in much of the developing world, their scope in life is enhanced a bit by the now ubiquitous mobile phone, and ahead of the President's visit to India, it was reported that there are more cell phones in India than there are toilets. Data from UN-Habitat suggest that this is probably true in every developing country. Communication is an important part of modern life, but people also need public health and education (both of which require huge investments in infrastructure) if their lives are to materially improve. Mobile phones get around some of the infrastructure requirements of land lines, just as bottled or other packaged water gets clean drinking water into the hands of people without a huge water piping project. But that should not lull us into believing that all infrastructure problems are readily solved in this way.