This device WILL change the world

No, no, no, not THAT one!

I meant the one below:

It's going to be a long while before very many poor people have iPads, but there is already one TV for every 4 people in the world.  I remember being in a remote village in Ghana with 30 people crowded around a TV set, so 1 in 4 implies a VERY big reach for TV already. In the words of one my favorite development economists,  Charles Kenny in Foreign Policy:

In our collective enthusiasm for whiz-bang new social-networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, the implications of this next television age -- from lower birthrates among poor women to decreased corruption to higher school enrollment rates -- have largely gone overlooked despite their much more sweeping impact. And it's not earnest educational programming that's reshaping the world on all those TV sets. The programs that so many dismiss as junk -- from song-and-dance shows to Desperate Housewives -- are being eagerly consumed by poor people everywhere who are just now getting access to television for the first time. That's a powerful force for spreading glitz and drama -- but also social change.

Social change from soap operas? Kenny is referring to the research of U. Chicago Professor Emily Oster joint with Robert Jensen, which found in a rigorous study that the introduction of cable TV in rural India was associated with decreased acceptability of domestic violence, decreased preference for sons over daughters, and increased school enrollment for young children. Cable TV in India features mainly game shows and soap operas.

Similarly Eliana La Ferrara and co-authors found that soap operas reduced fertility in Brazil, a trend often associated with increased power for women.  The soap operas portrayed much smaller families than what actually exists in Brazil. The research suggested the soap operas were pretty important, because parents were naming their children after the  main characters on the telenovela in the year of birth.

More seriously, TV can spread health messages like hand-washing (which shot up in Ghana after a TV campaign).

Sorry, I have to go, it's time to watch Law & Order.