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Mobile Technology and the Developing World


It's become increasingly apparent lately that there are exciting things afoot involving technology and social entrepreneurship. As technological devices continue to get smaller and more cost-efficient, they are opening up a great deal of opportunity for improving quality of life in the developing world. This is especially evident in the mobile phone sector.

Mobile phone technology can be used to enhance lives in many ways, beyond simple communication. For example:

Agriculture - Farmers can get messages about crop prices and general information via SMS, arming them with more information and increasing their ability to compete in a market economy.

Healthcare - In rural Ghana, people are using mobile phones to better administer health care to pregnant women. Also, a recent New York Times article described a $10 cell phone attachment that could turn the phone into a microscope. This could revolutionize how labwork is done as well as how disease is detected and treated.

Financial - Money transfer via mobile phone is not utilized heavily here in the U.S., but is quite popular in African countries. The ability to have financial capital flowing freely can open up great possibilities. Imagine financing a loan, receiving disbursements, making payments, and receiving updates all electronically via your phone.

There has been recent blogging lately about cell phone maker Nokia, who has lost market share to Apple and the iPhone, but also provides a product that can be used by people in the Bottom of the Pyramid (people who live on less than $1 a day). Nokia's expansion in this sector of the developing world presents a great growth opportunity for them, while providing a valuable service to their customers.

Additional Readings:

Acumen Fund - "Dialing for Development", David Lehr
NY Times - "In Rural Africa, a Fertile Market for Mobile Phones", Sarah Arnquist


I want to add to the above list: GPS navigation, full internet access (and you can do a lot through internet), camera and of course a great amount of office work can now be done on suitable phones.

That is very true, James. Thanks!