What can a phone do for a country? India at the turn of the century had 22 phone lines and 2 mobile phones per 1000 people. US has 444 cell phones per 1000 people.
Bad situation huh? Hmm.. well. A telephone goes a long way in India!! As this little story from Sam Pitroda says in one of his articles in HBR.
Several years earlier, C-DOT had run a test in Karnataka state with
hugely encouraging results. In one town of 5,000 people with almost no
previous telephone service, business activity rose many times
following installation of an automatic digital exchange for 100 lines.
Suddenly, it was possible for a truck owner to chase his drivers, line
up goods and labor by telephone, and monitor the movement of his
vehicles. Local farmers could call nearby cities and get real prices
for their produce. Artisans could speak to customers, machine
operators could arrange for service and repairs, shopkeepers could
order goods — all by phone and in real time. In the six months after
the introduction of service, total bank deposits in the town rose by
an impressive 80%.
There were also social benefits. The townspeople could call doctors
and ambulances, order pumps and textbooks, call newspapers, speak to
politicians, share experiences with colleagues, and organize community
ceremonies and functions. One villager told me that when his father
died seven years earlier, he’d had to send 20 messengers on trains and
buses to inform relatives in nearby villages. More recently when his
mother followed, the villager went to the local tea shop and phoned
all 20 villages — instant, certain, and far less expensive.