In this short attention span world, it’s an extraordinary story that commands one’s S.A.S. for eight full pages. This is that extraordinary story. It’s an investment, faithful reader, for which yr (justifiably) humble svt hopes you’ll take the plunge.
We last tackled the relationship between technology and the developing world some time ago in a post worth re-savoring (well, I did!).
Nokia, the world’s leading cellphone manufacturer, intends to stay that way, and a fascinating strategy toward that end is illumined by the NYTimes Magazine this week.
Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?
By SARA CORBETT | Published: April 13, 2008
… Jan Chipchase and his user-research colleagues at Nokia can rattle off example upon example of the cellphone’s ability to increase people’s productivity and well-being, mostly because of the simple fact that they can be reached. There’s the live-in housekeeper in China who was more or less an indentured servant until she got a cellphone so that new customers could call and book her services. Or the porter who spent his days hanging around outside of department stores and construction sites hoping to be hired to carry other people’s loads but now, with a cellphone, can go only where the jobs are. Having a call-back number, Chipchase likes to say, is having a fixed identity point, which, inside of populations that are constantly on the move — displaced by war, floods, drought or faltering economies — can be immensely valuable both as a means of keeping in touch with home communities and as a business tool. Over several years, his research team has spoken to rickshaw drivers, prostitutes, shopkeepers, day laborers and farmers, and all of them say more or less the same thing: their income gets a big boost when they have access to a cellphone.
Access. Not necessarily ownership. Just proximity to a cellphone positively changes a person’s economic prospects.
Whether it’s the woman selling individual calls in a village kiosk in India or Bangladesh (and the business behind that microfinance initiative now does a $billion per year in sales), or the fisherman who determines the optimum purchaser of today’s catch while approaching the harbor, the cellphone, by making connections that far outdistance those previously available by foot or oxcart, is transforming the entire globe, not just the Blackberry-Bluetooth obsessed developed portion.
Read on, please, and be inspired.
[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]
One of the barriers to wider adoption of cellphones is battery charging, as noted in our previous post. Nokia and others are fully aware of the issue, and are experimenting with some ingenious solutions.
As we have frequently noted, technology is not just for the rich any more. Initiatives that are idealistic, such as One Laptop Per Child, or relentlessly commercial, as are Nokia’s, all seek to pull free that part of the world’s population that is trapped in poverty. The wonderful part: now it is occurring at the speed of electrons.
It’s it for now. Thanks,
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