On average, a 10% increase in mobile broadband adoption causes an initial 0.8 percent increase in GDP. The economic effect gradually decreases over time. Based on our econometric results this implies that for the country with median average growth of mobile broadband penetration, the economic effect has disappeared six years after introduction.
Is mobile broadband important for economic development?
Throughout history, new technology has always been an important driver of productivity and economic development. In case of mobile broadband networks, the technology has spread rapidly, with connections increasing from approximately 27,000 in 2001 to 5.5 billion in 2018, according to GSMA.
There are those who have questioned that this expansion has contributed to global economic development, and instead suggested that the causal relationship may be the opposite.
Strong economic growth has made it easier for both the public and private sectors to invest in mobile broadband since 2001. However, that does not negate the likelihood that global economic development has been spurred by widespread and continuously growing access to mobile broadband. Therefore, this study investigates the possible connection between mobile broadband and economic growth using two different approaches.
How to measure the economic impact from mobile broadband
The model applied in this paper is based on the framework of the production function. The production function framework relates output to labor, capital, intermediate inputs, and total factor productivity (TFP). In this paper, output is measured as GDP.
The study is based on data for 135 countries (90 countries once controlling for capital labor and human capital) for the period 2002–2014. The data has been collected from various sources such as the Penn World Tables, the Conference Board and GSMA Wireless Intelligence Database.
Association shown between mobile broadband and GDP
The initial results show that there is an association between the mobile broadband variable and GDP in logarithmic form. The results are significant at the five percent level and remain robust when it includes variables measuring capital, human capital, labor, and the years since mobile broadband was introduced.
The association remains significant when the regression is estimated based on first differences, which is an additional method to control for country-specific effects. By introducing longer differences, the change in mobile broadband penetration is shown to also be associated with larger changes in log GDP. This indicates that there is also a lagged effect from mobile broadband penetration.
The basic regression model determines a correlation rather than a causal effect of mobile broadband introduction and penetration on GDP. In addition, this paper addresses the simultaneity by using an instrumental variable approach.