A mobile phone is a gateway and often the only means of knowledge, entertainment, and communication for people in emerging markets. For example, mobile phone users in Kenya increased from 18,000 in 2000 to over 18 million by 2010. In all developing countries, mobile phone users have risen to 4 billion unique users.
Mobile phone Transformative Technology has Impacted The Developing World.
While each has had a massive impact in the developing world, mobile phone technology is arguably the single most transformative technology in developing nations.
In many ways, mobile phone technology in the developing world is more advanced than in developed countries. For example, smartphones replace or add to banking infrastructure, markets, and medical outlets while removing government control over information.
The mobile phone has impacted each person’s life in such a fundamental way that it has affected the status quo and uplifted their life experience.
It has impacted the following seven areas and has arguably had the most critical influence on the lives of people in developing nations.
- Emergency Response
- Information has been democratized
- Politics and Human Rights
- Remote Learning made possible.
- Social networking
Smartphones Have Impacted Banking
Probably the most commonly held example of how smartphones have impacted the developing world is in the democratization and ease of access to banking services.
Most mobile banking services have three principal uses: storing value (currency), converting cash into and out of stored value, and transferring stored value between accounts.
Some of the characteristics of developing countries include
- A lack of regular infrastructure characterizes most rural communities, and the mobile phone has replaced traditional bank branch networks.
- Lower literacy levels.
- Low per capita income and often extreme poverty.
- Lack of employment opportunities.
- High mobility where citizens travel to other countries to earn revenue.
Mobile phone banking systems have developed faster in these groups than in developed nations. The banking services, such as “M-PESA,” are available to “unbanked” people, and include the following services.
- Transfer cash from country to country.
- Directly send money from and to Mobile phones with there being no need to have a supporting bank account.
- The phone is used as the authorizing device to withdraw cash.
- Mobile phones enable cash to be deposited at and withdrawn in retail shopping outlets instead of in traditional banking networks.
Money transfers are the most common usage of mobile banking across countries. Remittances sent to family members dominate the transactions.
In Kenya, approximately 70% of all employment is in the informal sector.
Banking by mobile has enabled traders on the side of the road to start a business, move cash around, pay for supplies and receive payment for goods.
In 2010 Kenya, it was estimated that $1 billion was transacted by Mobile phones every month of that year. It is estimated that without Mobile phones, the GDP in Kenya would have been halved.
Mobile Phone Technology has Changed Communication
The most apparent benefit of mobile phone technology is the improvement in communication.
With low literacy rates and large segments of the community earning an income as migrant laborers, often in another country, communication was a real challenge.
When rural people wanted to communicate long distances, it involved traveling to a larger center and finding a working public access service. However, mobile phones have eased the limitations of family members communicating across borders, particularly with digital communication apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram.
While owning a mobile phone may not be affordable for each community member, there are many schemes where community phones have been installed.
In Bangladesh, the company Grameenphone people in villages] purchase a phone and then rent it out to neighbors, friends, or other clients to make calls.
It has been formalized into a product called “Village Phone,” where Grameenphone formally lends the operator +-$200.00 to purchase the phone and equips them with the required knowledge to monetize the service.
This product has increased mobile phone access from one in 500 people in 205 to one in three people during the decade starting in 2010. This project has now been extended to the following countries.
- Democratic Republic of Congo
Mobile Phones Have Changed Emergency Response
Mobile phones have enabled people in rural situations to access emergency response services like their city-based counterparts.
It has impacted communities in the following ways.
- Speed of response.
- Access to knowledge-based assistance.
- Coordination of disaster recovery efforts.
Speed Of Response
It is self-evident, as the victims can get messages to the emergency services immediately and have a measured response available as soon as possible.
Access To Knowledge Based Assistance
Many rural communities only have access to local nurse or clinic facilities.
Mobile phones allow contact with specialist medical doctors, access online diagnostic services, and even, in certain cases, undertake operations with the specialist guiding the local doctor.
Coordination Of Disaster Recovery Efforts
Mobile phones were actively used to support disaster recovery efforts in Haiti.
The earthquake destroyed the conventional communications infrastructure. As a result, organizations such as the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Alert Net humanitarian news set up the first-ever Emergency Information Service (EIS).
The EIS service opened access to free SMS and voice services, enabling injured Haitians to be directed to the most appropriate medical hospital to treat patients.
In other instances, trapped victims could use SMS services to call for help.
A Non-Governmental Organization, Refugees United, has created a mobile telephone service that allows refugees to record their details on a central database for two purposes.
- It allows family members to trace surviving relatives.
- It allows resources to be sent in a more focused way.
Information Has Been Democratized
Mobile phones and the broader internet have revolutionized access to information. It has profoundly changed the lives of people living in the developing world.
Not only has this changed the paradigm regarding access to previously narrowly available information, but it has made information available in real-time, changing how communities trade their goods and commodities. Examples of this are.
- Fishermen in Senegal use mobile phones to obtain real-time information on fish market stocks long before they reach the market.
- In South Africa, farmers from Limpopo use mobile phones to deal directly with their clients within a specific area.
- Cattle farmers in East Africa can check livestock prices in Khartoum, Nairobi, or Port Saeed. They can then choose which market to transport cattle for the best price.
- Mobile technology is now used in the Gambia to track medication stock levels in rural villages.
Mobile technology has made access to paradigm-shifting technologies. These include solar power, drought relief mapping, drone deliveries, and many more that have changed the power relationships between suppliers and customers.
Smartphones Have Changed Politics And Human Rights
As Andrea Tesei of the London School of economics discussed, smartphones have arguably been the single most significant enablers of regime change in the developing world.
The Arab Spring in Egypt started a cascade of regime changes throughout the developing nations.
Unable to control information over mobile phone networks has meant that authoritarian regimes have lost the ability to manage the message, and propaganda efforts have been seriously compromised.
During Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government has been forced to prevent access to Western social media sites; however, smartphones have still provided the population access to alternative news sources.
Remote Learning Made Possible
Companies have capitalized on the popularity of social networking in Africa. They have launched education initiatives such as “MoMath,” a mathematics teaching tool that targets users of instant messaging platforms.
This service has access to more than 10 million active users in South Africa alone.
In the longer term, this opens up the potential to change the appalling education systems in many developing countries by giving access to the best teachers with the best resources.
Making social networking available to people who were previously isolated and out of communication with family members who lived further away has opened up new vistas in how people think and view the world around them.
Access to social media has made people aware of issues being felt in far-off parts of the world and, in many cases, has changed people’s worldviews.
What Other Inventions Have Impacted The World
Throughout the ages, technological, medical, and social advances have changed the face of society. Arguably, some of the most profound of these are the following.
- The ability to start and keep fires alight
- The wheel
- Fresh running water and chlorination of stored water
- Running sewerage systems
- The internal combustion engine and the vehicles they power
- The ability to send electronic messages around the world
- The electric light bulb
- Canned foods
- The general anesthetic
- Heavier than air flying machines
- Nuclear power
- Placing satellites in orbit
- The Internet
These and other inventions have had a transformative effect on the world. They have changed the paradigm so fundamentally that the normal order of events has changed.
London Business School has estimated that mobile phones have boosted Gross Domestic Product growth by 0.6 percent between 1996 and 2003. This highlights that mobile phone technology is the single most transformative technology in the history of the developing world.
Mobile phones have transformed the human way of life by bringing people closer and increasing accessibility. Moreover, Mobile phones have changed how communities access money, communicate and obtain information. In addition, access to a mobile telephone empowers someone to influence politics, have a voice in human rights, access remote learning, and connect with people through social networking.
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