FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mobile Phones Fight Poverty

Here in the affluent West, we have come to take cell phones for granted, as pretty much everyone who wants one can now afford one. Yet they've changed our lives tremendously. But if they're a change agent here, mobile phones are truly revolutionary in the developing world.

Telecoms such as Grameen Phone in Bangladesh have developed creative strategies for providing mobile phone access to some of the world's poorest people, such as selling people SIM cards and renting out handsets. And because mobile phone networks are easier to build than landline networks, phone access is being made available to remote regions that never had phone service before.

For the first time, farmers, fishermen and other producers of goods in developing countries are able to obtain real-time market information, and more effectively negotiate prices. Travelling workers can advertise their cell phone numbers and be reached quickly when work is available. Purchases via phone and text messaging eliminate the need to carry large amounts of cash, which can be readily stolen. Telemedicine by mobile phone has also demonstrated benefits, especially in remote regions.

Research is showing a direct connection between phone access and wealth building. One study by the London Business School found that for every 10 mobile phones per 100 people, an area's GDP rises by 0.6%. Says Grameen Phone founder Muhammad Yunus, "When you get a mobile phone it is almost like having a card to get out of poverty in a couple of years."

Source: Developments, Smart Mobs