Mobile phone usage and human development index. (Source: ITU and UN)

The widespread adoption of mobile networks and phones in developing countries pose tremendous opportunities for empowering people via Web technologies. In some countries with a low human development index and low fixed Internet connectivity, the rate of mobile phone use is relatively high.

Many stories have demonstrated the ability for information technologies to improve people lives and increase their incomes through simple services. In fact, a recent study of the London Business School demonstrated the impact of mobile phones and associated services on productivity and social development, showing that 10 more mobile phones per 100 people increase the GDP of a Developing Country by 0.6 percent.

Mobile penetration in all countries, and Internet usage in selected countries (Sources: The Africa Report, Internet World Stats, 2008)

From a technological point of view, most of the projects have involved SMS and, in some cases, voice technology. Today, SMS applications are the most common mechanism used in the developing world for electronic services.

Web technologies can provide significantly more powerful capabilities for people, even on simple mobile phones. Voice and numeric keypad interfaces to the Web through simple mobile phones can give people with very low reading skills an ability to find and access services. Phones capable of supporting simple Web browers and applications are becoming more widely available at reasonable prices. The Web Foundation will work to help local developers and designers create a greater number of services that will work on mobile devices as well as laptop and desktop computers.