Innovative Uses of Mobile Technology in the Developing World
While the US and Europe has experienced an evolution of computing power and communications from landlines, through to modems attached to thoroughly unportable desktop computers, laptops and finally sophisticated mobile devices in phone and tablet form, the developing world has jumped all the previous steps and embraced the benefits of mobile technology without experimenting with fixed computers.
Mobile phones can be charged at solar powered charge points even though there’s little universal power grid coverage, they are resilient, portable and highly useful, not just for communication. It’s easy to see why they have achieved such a high level of coverage. Here are just a few of the ways mobile tech is revolutionising the third world.
Running on an SMS platform, M-Pesa is a mobile payment system that currently handles payments equalling 35% of Kenya’s GDP. Payment platforms like this are springing up across Africa, and allowing a more sophisticated level of business and economic transaction than in an economy where transferring money is tied to bricks and mortar financial institutions.
Mobiles themselves are also items of value and in some cases, mobile credit can act as a de facto currency. Services offering international mobile recharge are a useful way for friends and relatives to transfer money home to their loved ones if they have moved, across the country or across the world.
Mobile phones have proved to have disproportionate value in the fight to raise levels of health across Africa, in a broad variety of ways. SMS messages are used to simply remind people to take necessary medications for AIDs and HIV regularly, and some studies have found that almost 50% of people won’t regularly use a mosquito net if they aren’t reminded. Automated reminders like this are a very efficient use of the technology, as they help people to see the most return from the resources invested in them.
On this theme, mobile phones offer an injection of computing power that help with the distribution of vaccines and medicines. Mobile apps have been developed to help monitor the supply of vaccines which can make sure communities are not caught without the necessary resources in an emergency.
There have also been very successful health campaigns to distribute information about safe pregnancy and childbirth via SMS messaging. Again, this uses the technology to help people get the most out of the resources they have.