In a week when Samsung released record quarterly sales data and continues to jostle for position with Apple at the top of the smartphone manufacturer tree, it is important to highlight how mobile technological developments help people in the developing world. Innovation in mobile, for many of us, means the latest smartphone but for people in the developing world a simple feature phone can be a game changer from an educational perspective as well as a tool for empowerment and economic progress.
Although a recent report from IDC highlighted the fact that global smartphone shipments have overtaken those of feature phones for the first time, the feature phone remains the dominant device in the developing world. In Africa specifically, there are just 15 million feature phones for the continent’s 500 million phones. Feature phones still remain the lifeblood for many people in the developing world.
The Mobile and ICT Sector is bringing development in all sectors in Africa, whether that be agriculture, healthcare or education, and is also revolutionising the business world. Allafrica.com recently quoted Felchesmi Mramba, manager of Tanzania’s electricity provider TANESCO, as saying that technology has simplified things from paying the bill to meter readings – which can all be handled via mobile phone and the internet.
“Even now as I am here in Germany, I can purchase electricity for my home. This is a real revolution on the technological side”
African developers have also made it through to the semi-finals of the annual Ericsson Application Awards. TeamKenya developed an application that enables electorates to find out about and interact with political aspirants in their area, and to learn about laws and keep track of electoral events. Team Nimdee (Ghana) developed an application that allows merchants in Africa to access bigger markets on the continent and global market, whilst enabling them to reach their customers on the same platform.
Despite these success stories, the mobile industry does however still face many challenges, with recent coverage from the Guardian highlighting the fact that Samsung had admitted that its phones may contain tin from an area mined by children in Indonesia. There are clearly issues over Samsung’s supply chain and it is important for the world’s best-selling smartphone manufacturer to investigate how are they are supporting an industry that depends on child labour. Issues also remain over access to phones and all the potential benefits they can bring. Much of this blog has focused on the likes of Kenya being a real trailblazer but there are of course countries, like Malawi, lagging behind in terms of access to mobiles. It is important to ensure that people aren’t left behind, and governments in the developing world should facilitate access as much as possible
- NFC – could the Developing World lead the way? (mobileinthedevelopingworld.wordpress.com)
- The extraordinary success of Kenya’s M-Pesa (mobileinthedevelopingworld.wordpress.com)