New and advanced technologies provide emerging markets with the opportunity to accelerate economic and sustainable development in the areas of communication, banking, mobile-commerce, money transfer, energy, technology, farming and much more.

Leapfrogging is a concept of sustainable or accelerated development for emerging markets.

Leapfrogging allows them to skip inferior, less efficient, more expensive technologies and move directly to more advanced ones. It also enables more trade and entrepreneurship amongst its populations. The implications for economic development, poverty reduction and advancement are profound.

In many emerging markets today, we see numerous examples of leapfrogging:

Communication

  • Mobile phones have a higher penetration than landlines and are used for banking, payments, money transfer, Internet, social media, etc.
  • In some cases, broadband has higher penetration than roads.

Banking

  • Mobile banking has higher penetration than brick and mortar banks. The unbanked in emerging markets are leapfrogging banking by having their wages directly deposited on their smartphone or on prepaid credit cards. Innovations like M-PESA and M-Shwari in Kenya have revolutionized the way developing countries do banking. Today, Groups like the Better than Cash Alliance are helping developing countries move to electronic payments.

Commerce

  • Setting aside traditional, direct sales from teams of saleswomen going from door to door, Internet retailers have been making rapid strides in both India’s retail markets – urban and rural, reaching millions of new people with only limited levels of capital investment.
  • Rwanda’s Mergims allows those living outside Rwanda to pay directly for electricity, airtime and other products for family members and friends in the country. It also allows vendors to set up a Mergims page to sell products online and receive payment in local currency through a local bank.

Energy

  • The use of ethanol fuel in Brazil, where ethanol produced from sugarcane for transportation replaces gasoline, provides evidence that leapfrogging is a possible alternative to business-as-usual development.
  • In the city of Rizhao in China, households in the central districts use solar water heaters and most of the lighting and traffic signals are powered with photovoltaic solar power.
  • Kenya has built solar power plants that supply 50% of the country’s electricity needs.
  • Google has invested in a 96 mega watt solar plant in South Africa.
  • Micro-entrepreneurship programs and microfranchises are having a huge impact on the rural poor. Solar lighting is replacing kerosene and new businesses such as solar-powered irrigation, Internet access, solar powering of cell phones and more are energizing the economies of many developing countries.

Technology

  • Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok is an all-digital hospital, with one giant database containing everything from patients’ billing to medical history to digital images of their X-rays instead of film.
  • Hyderabad India has the World’s Greenest Building, the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre.

Digital Identity

  • As smartphones come into greater use and paper documents, as proof of identity, become obsolete, developing countries will be at the forefront of the digital identity movement.

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