Cell phones continue to be one of the most important tools for connecting the developing world to exciting new opportunities.
Bannking, education, health care and farming get a boost from cell phone use
By: Zack Larmand, Staff Writer
About 4 billion people use their pay as you go cell phone plans, or the latest smartphone, to access a world of knowledge and information through the Internet. That’s four times the number of those who use personal computers to do the same thing. Two-thirds of these avid cell-phone users are from developing nations. According to the World Bank, African subscription numbers are growing rapidly.
The mobile phone is proving to be an incredible tool that meets a lot of demands.
Mobile phones are proving to be essential to the development of many African nations. Because these nations often lack infrastructure like landlines and internet work-stations, mobile phones act as a replacement for things other nations take for granted.
The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta uses Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim as an example. Ibrahim’s company, Celtel, brought cell phones to Africa. Auletta states how invaluable mobile phones have proven to be in Liberia, a country with no landline service. These phones clearly provide opportunities in areas that need it most.
The World Bank equates the mobile banking, or “m-banking”, phenomenon to the multitudes of people who use mobile devices. The recent ability to use cell-phones for online banking has proven to be as successful as it is useful. The World Bank predicted that cell phone use among educational institutions in developing countries will be met with the same success.
Strong health care, education, and agriculture systems are crucial to a developing nation’s progress.
The Scientific Animations without Borders initiative is proving how cell phones can be used in education. A University of Illinois team is developing a two-minute animation video viewable on mobile phones. The project, called the “Sustainable Development Virtual Knowledge Interface”, targets low-literate and low-income learners and gives them access to basic concepts and relevant information.
Following the same lines as “m-banking” – and “m-education” – is the initiative of “m-health”, which is already making its mark in Africa. Africa’s Aid MDNet, or Mobile Doctor’s Network, is comprised of 2200 doctors from Ghana and all of Liberia’s 143 doctors. Using this, physicians can text and call each other for free.
Kenya has found another use for cell phones with an app called M-Farm. Developed by three students from Nairobi’s Strathmore University, the app helps combat climate-driven price fluctuations in agriculture. Kenyan farmer William Muriuki uses his phone to identify areas with high demand for specific produce. He texts the word “price” , “cabbage”, and the place “Embu”, then immediately receives the reply: “Cabbage Ext Bag 126Kg selling at Ksh400 in Embu as of 2011-04-01.” By substituting different locations and products, Muriuki can identify optimal markets for his produce.
Strong banking, health care, education, and agriculture are crucial to a developing nation’s progress. The mobile phone is proving to be an incredible tool that meets a lot of the demands of these systems.
As technology progresses and human networks continue to grow, cell phones will continue to be one of the most important tools for connecting the developing world to exciting new opportunities.
By: Zack Larmand, Staff Writer
Business News with BITE.
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