Growing up in Madras, India, in the 1980s, I saw firsthand the impact of the digital revolution on one of the world’s largest and most populous nations. Overnight, it seemed, India’s middle class grew by every measure.
To me, the power of mobile communications to change the lives of people and radically transform an economy isn’t something imaginary or theoretical. It’s very real. I saw it happen, with my own eyes.
I realize that mobile was just one of many inputs driving the rise of the middle class in India.1 But in my childhood memories, mobile technology and money are inextricably linked.
In developing markets, mobile is a major driver of economic growth. In many parts of India, China, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, mobile devices now deliver services that in the past required huge investments in physical infrastructure. In many instances, mobile lets a country skip over the infrastructure challenge, and move directly to providing the essential services required by a rising consumer class.
I have also seen what failed economies look like, and frankly, they aren’t a pretty sight. As a young Citibank executive, I had the opportunity to cover several of the emerging economies, including some of the post-war development effort (from a financial sector perspective) in Afghanistan. Through implementing financial structures together with the World Bank and the United Nations, banks like Citi ...