Although mobile phones have diffused rapidly even in remote parts of the world with otherwise poor infrastructure, digital divides persist. This study provides large-scale evidence that the expansion of mobile phones is associated with lower gender inequalities, higher contraceptive use, and lower maternal and child mortality, with bigger payoffs among the poorest countries and disadvantaged groups. Micro-level analyses further show that the ownership of mobile phones has narrowed the information gap about reproductive and sexual health, and empowered women to make independent decisions. Boosting mobile-phone access and coverage and overcoming digital divides within and among the poorest countries has immense implications for sustainable development. Findings from this study speak to scholars and policymakers interested in the effect of technology on sustainable development goals. Forthcoming: PNAS
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