.
Few technologies have proliferated as quickly and as pervasively as mobile phones. Since 2000, the number of mobile users has nearly quintupled, with 4.61 billion people now using mobile phones worldwide. A recent Cisco Visual Networking Index study predicts that by 2020, this number will rise to 5.4 billion mobile users, representing 70 percent of the world’s population. The growth of the mobile phone is a global phenomenon, with basic mobile technology penetrating even the most rural and disadvantaged corners of the world. In much of the developing world, roughly two-thirds of the population own mobile phones. In Ghana for example, mobile phone penetration has increased from eight percent in 2002, to nearly 85 percent today, with similar growth in mobile penetration across sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. In the developing world, even in areas without electricity or running water, mobile phones are becoming ubiquitous, no longer a luxury but a necessity. In 2020, when 5.4 billion people own mobile phones, only 5.3 billion will have electricity and just 3.5 billion will have running water, according to Cisco’s Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast. While smart phone ownership continues to rise in emerging economies, the vast majority of people living in low income and rural areas rely on basic mobile phones to deliver voice, SMS and asynchronous connections. These simple mobile phones provide access to immense amounts of information, with simple voice and text connections revolutionizing financial, health, agricultural and educational services and opportunities. The connectivity constraints of the basic mobile phone have fueled enormous creativity and innovation within the talk and text world, providing unique solutions to accessing and engaging some of the most isolated communities in the world. Transforming Agriculture Mobile technology has been especially transformative for the agriculture sector, with mobile phone programs increasing yields, preventing crop failure, and driving sustainable farming. By serving as platforms for sharing market prices, weather changes, livestock and crop care information, and even micro-insurance schemes, mobile phones are allowing farmers to make better decisions about their farms and tap into higher earning potentials. In Kenya, the company iCow provides information to thousands of Kenya’s smallholder dairy farmers. Dubbed the “virtual mobile midwife for cows,” the service enables farmers to keep track of their cows’ gestational calendars and information about breeding their herd. Farmers access iCow, developed specifically for feature phones, by calling a toll-based number and inputting personalized information about their livestock. Once registered, farmers receive tailored text and voice message instructions about the breeding and production patterns of their livestock, feed types and schedules, local veterinary information, and real-time market prices of cattle. Elsewhere in the country, the Grameen Foundation e-Warehouse provides a mobile enabled system to help smallholder maize farmers reach their highest earning potential. Through text message notifications, the program helps farmers properly store their crops, link to financial institutions to attain partial advances against the value of their stored crops, and then connect with markets for final sale when prices rise after harvests. The e-Warehouse’s farmers often live outside the boundaries of formal government agricultural extension services, and have little or no access to information about swings in national market prices. Revolutionizing Disaster Management Mobile communications are both additive – as they are in the agriculture sector – and transformative, as they have been in disaster management, entirely reinventing the way we alert and inform the public when disaster strikes. Mobile phones have proven to be useful tools before, during, and after crises. In Mongolia, a country prone to natural disasters, the United Nations Development Programme initiated an Early Warning System (EWS) through mass text messaging. Prior to the EWS program, warnings of disasters were disseminated at the provincial level, but failed to reach the hundreds of thousands of nomadic Mongolian herders spread across the vast country. The EWS text system sends a series of location-specific messages alerting communities of hazards, and encouraging recipients to pass on the message to others. Last year, the program warned communities of multiple forest fires, snowstorms, and dust storms, preventing numerous casualties and allowing communities to prevent serious damage to their homes and livelihoods. Post-disaster uses for mobile phones have been equally beneficial, with mobile communications serving innovative uses in refugee camps, linking displaced persons back with their families. The NGO Refugees United teamed up with mobile companies to create a Family Reconnection Platform, a database accessible via simple, low-end mobile phones using SMS services. Mobile operators from Refugees United send text messages to people living in refugee camps and disaster prone areas, encouraging them to register for the service with toll-free lines and SMS. The organization then compiles a database of information available in refugee camps throughout the region. The Platform, used both in the Middle East and East Africa, has helped hundreds of thousands of families reconnect. Setting a New Course for the Future of Health Of the array of sectors utilizing basic mobile communications in the developing world, the health sector is arguably the most transformed by the mobile revolution. Mobile communications can assist with disease surveillance, immunization schedules, antenatal information, and even drug stock monitoring. Prior to mHealth innovations, collecting medical data and disseminating public health information in rural and hard to reach communities was nearly impossible. But with the mobile phone, keeping up to date medical data – and informing communities of health updates in real time – is now the norm. In poor subsectors of Jakarta for example, UNICEF has begun to pilot RapidPro, a program that collects health information by sending and receiving bulk SMS messages. Data collected from the texts are analyzed in databases and used to assess and understand the reasons for poor attendance rates for vaccinations, thus better informing health workers on where to target their public health efforts. mHealth has also proved useful in tackling a major issue in the developing world: counterfeit drugs. In Ghana, a young tech innovator has led a crackdown on counterfeit pharmaceuticals through his mobile communications company mPedigree. The company puts unique scratch card codes on medicine packages, which buyers then send via SMS to a designated number to determine if the drug is genuine or not. The company was developed in response to huge supplies of counterfeit medicine entering the country. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 30 percent of drugs supplied to the developing world are fake, and that nearly 2,000 people a day die worldwide from using fake pills and pharmaceuticals. As of last year, mPedigree labels appeared on over 500 million medicine packages, with the system being adopted as a national standard in several African countries. In the past decade, organizations have harnessed the powers of the basic mobile phone to transform and enhance development work in the most remote corners of the world. Mobile phone penetration is growing rapidly, and opening the doors of previously isolated communities to information, alert systems, financial opportunities, and health benefits. Mobile phones are much more than mere communication tools; they are drivers of change and prosperity.   About the author: Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Burberry Group PLC and an Advisory Board Member of Diplomatic Courier.

About
Fumbi Chima
:
Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Adidas and a Member of the Advisory Board of Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

How Mobile Phones Lead Development in the Most Remote Corners of the World

Two young men holding mobile phones outdoors
October 4, 2016

Few technologies have proliferated as quickly and as pervasively as mobile phones. Since 2000, the number of mobile users has nearly quintupled, with 4.61 billion people now using mobile phones worldwide. A recent Cisco Visual Networking Index study predicts that by 2020, this number will rise to 5.4 billion mobile users, representing 70 percent of the world’s population. The growth of the mobile phone is a global phenomenon, with basic mobile technology penetrating even the most rural and disadvantaged corners of the world. In much of the developing world, roughly two-thirds of the population own mobile phones. In Ghana for example, mobile phone penetration has increased from eight percent in 2002, to nearly 85 percent today, with similar growth in mobile penetration across sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. In the developing world, even in areas without electricity or running water, mobile phones are becoming ubiquitous, no longer a luxury but a necessity. In 2020, when 5.4 billion people own mobile phones, only 5.3 billion will have electricity and just 3.5 billion will have running water, according to Cisco’s Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast. While smart phone ownership continues to rise in emerging economies, the vast majority of people living in low income and rural areas rely on basic mobile phones to deliver voice, SMS and asynchronous connections. These simple mobile phones provide access to immense amounts of information, with simple voice and text connections revolutionizing financial, health, agricultural and educational services and opportunities. The connectivity constraints of the basic mobile phone have fueled enormous creativity and innovation within the talk and text world, providing unique solutions to accessing and engaging some of the most isolated communities in the world. Transforming Agriculture Mobile technology has been especially transformative for the agriculture sector, with mobile phone programs increasing yields, preventing crop failure, and driving sustainable farming. By serving as platforms for sharing market prices, weather changes, livestock and crop care information, and even micro-insurance schemes, mobile phones are allowing farmers to make better decisions about their farms and tap into higher earning potentials. In Kenya, the company iCow provides information to thousands of Kenya’s smallholder dairy farmers. Dubbed the “virtual mobile midwife for cows,” the service enables farmers to keep track of their cows’ gestational calendars and information about breeding their herd. Farmers access iCow, developed specifically for feature phones, by calling a toll-based number and inputting personalized information about their livestock. Once registered, farmers receive tailored text and voice message instructions about the breeding and production patterns of their livestock, feed types and schedules, local veterinary information, and real-time market prices of cattle. Elsewhere in the country, the Grameen Foundation e-Warehouse provides a mobile enabled system to help smallholder maize farmers reach their highest earning potential. Through text message notifications, the program helps farmers properly store their crops, link to financial institutions to attain partial advances against the value of their stored crops, and then connect with markets for final sale when prices rise after harvests. The e-Warehouse’s farmers often live outside the boundaries of formal government agricultural extension services, and have little or no access to information about swings in national market prices. Revolutionizing Disaster Management Mobile communications are both additive – as they are in the agriculture sector – and transformative, as they have been in disaster management, entirely reinventing the way we alert and inform the public when disaster strikes. Mobile phones have proven to be useful tools before, during, and after crises. In Mongolia, a country prone to natural disasters, the United Nations Development Programme initiated an Early Warning System (EWS) through mass text messaging. Prior to the EWS program, warnings of disasters were disseminated at the provincial level, but failed to reach the hundreds of thousands of nomadic Mongolian herders spread across the vast country. The EWS text system sends a series of location-specific messages alerting communities of hazards, and encouraging recipients to pass on the message to others. Last year, the program warned communities of multiple forest fires, snowstorms, and dust storms, preventing numerous casualties and allowing communities to prevent serious damage to their homes and livelihoods. Post-disaster uses for mobile phones have been equally beneficial, with mobile communications serving innovative uses in refugee camps, linking displaced persons back with their families. The NGO Refugees United teamed up with mobile companies to create a Family Reconnection Platform, a database accessible via simple, low-end mobile phones using SMS services. Mobile operators from Refugees United send text messages to people living in refugee camps and disaster prone areas, encouraging them to register for the service with toll-free lines and SMS. The organization then compiles a database of information available in refugee camps throughout the region. The Platform, used both in the Middle East and East Africa, has helped hundreds of thousands of families reconnect. Setting a New Course for the Future of Health Of the array of sectors utilizing basic mobile communications in the developing world, the health sector is arguably the most transformed by the mobile revolution. Mobile communications can assist with disease surveillance, immunization schedules, antenatal information, and even drug stock monitoring. Prior to mHealth innovations, collecting medical data and disseminating public health information in rural and hard to reach communities was nearly impossible. But with the mobile phone, keeping up to date medical data – and informing communities of health updates in real time – is now the norm. In poor subsectors of Jakarta for example, UNICEF has begun to pilot RapidPro, a program that collects health information by sending and receiving bulk SMS messages. Data collected from the texts are analyzed in databases and used to assess and understand the reasons for poor attendance rates for vaccinations, thus better informing health workers on where to target their public health efforts. mHealth has also proved useful in tackling a major issue in the developing world: counterfeit drugs. In Ghana, a young tech innovator has led a crackdown on counterfeit pharmaceuticals through his mobile communications company mPedigree. The company puts unique scratch card codes on medicine packages, which buyers then send via SMS to a designated number to determine if the drug is genuine or not. The company was developed in response to huge supplies of counterfeit medicine entering the country. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 30 percent of drugs supplied to the developing world are fake, and that nearly 2,000 people a day die worldwide from using fake pills and pharmaceuticals. As of last year, mPedigree labels appeared on over 500 million medicine packages, with the system being adopted as a national standard in several African countries. In the past decade, organizations have harnessed the powers of the basic mobile phone to transform and enhance development work in the most remote corners of the world. Mobile phone penetration is growing rapidly, and opening the doors of previously isolated communities to information, alert systems, financial opportunities, and health benefits. Mobile phones are much more than mere communication tools; they are drivers of change and prosperity.   About the author: Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Burberry Group PLC and an Advisory Board Member of Diplomatic Courier.

About
Fumbi Chima
:
Fumbi Chima is the Chief Information Officer of Adidas and a Member of the Advisory Board of Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.