One of the most astounding findings I recently came across is the study of the effects of mobile phones on the Kerala fishing market in India. The research by Robert Jensen is best summarized by the figure below which shows how mobile phones led to the stabilization of fish prices in different markets.
From the figure, it is seen that the fish prices are very volatile in the three regions, but stabilize almost as if by magic when mobile phones are introduced in the region. It seems that access to information leads to the damping of the price curve and the consistency that follows is just incredible.
Responding to Demand and Supply
Jensen offers various explanations for the impact of communication on the market. It is argued that fishermen had access to price information and thus were in a better position to know where to sell. This helps them to respond to the demand and thus normalize supply in different markets.
The same could be said about buyers who had information on where the prices are low and would flock there, leading to increased demand, hence prices. Overall, the availability of information leads to a natural form of price control as market forces are able to respond more accurately.
This is one study that shows how access to information continues to impact the world in ways that many people would not have imagined. Buyers are able to get the best value for their money, while fishermen can expect more consistent prices. The social impact of this may not be easy to quantify but I can imagine the benefit of being able to plan effectively and budget.
While the information age may have peaked, there are still opportunities that are yet to be unlocked especially in marginalized societies and communities. There are still places where people have not enjoyed the full benefits of access to information, due to skill levels or lack of resources.
It is hard to imagine what will be the real impact when this happens. Imagine a scenario where all children have equal access to education, where all people have equal access to skills necessary to thrive and produce optimally, and where farmers have access to the best available agronomic information. We could solve a number of problems that we are facing in Africa today.
Let’s make it happen.