Cellphones Bring Information And Power To World's Poor

from the dialing-in dept

There have been a lot of stories about cellphones in the developing world, and how rapidly they've been adopted, even among the poor. The Washington Post has a fascinating look at how trade workers in India, use cellphones to improve their business. Fishermen, for example, use cellphones to coordinate their boats and get real-time pricing information. This allows them to take their fish to the market where the highest prices are being offered, which offers a direct financial benefit. Farmers also benefit from better pricing information, but have also found a good business use for cameraphones. With them, they are able to take pictures of diseased crops and send them to specialists who can diagnose and recommend a course of action. Again, the cellphone offers a tangible benefit to the business. One professor quoted in the article sums up the significance of cellphones very well, "One element of poverty is the lack of information. The cellphone gives poor people as much information as the middleman." That's much more compelling than the detached argument put forth by some western intellectuals who decry the advance of new technology on moral grounds.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    first post, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 11:22am

    cell phones suck

    poor people are ok

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 11:37am

    I can see it now...

    ::A fisherman calls the local market for today's prices::

    "I'm sorry you cannot complete the call you have dialed."

    There lives are hard enough but someone wants to add even more insult to injury by giving them (more than likely) unreliable cell phones?

    I I know just make sure they don't get American cell phone service and they'll be okay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Mousky, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 12:12pm

    Re: I can see it now...

    And they don't get American-style cell phone service - they get reliable service with excellent coverage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    fromIndia, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 1:03pm


    One of the conscious decisions that was made by Indias cell phone service providers is that the incoming phone calls are completely free. A lot of street vendors have cell phone and people call them and they deliver grocery, produce to the callers' houses. It is amazing how the system works. SMS is popular as it is a means of asynchronous communication. The voice mail never took off in India.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Tashi, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 1:07pm

    The whole cell phone culture at least in the parts of SE Asia that I've seen is much more viable for personal and business reasons for consumers, even poor consumers than the U.S. market is by a long shot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    From the Philippines, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 1:23pm

    waiting for a jeepney in Quezon City

    I was in the Philippines pondering using my cell phone and I asked a woman feverishly text messaging with an apparently bionic thumb, how much was it to send a text message. The conversation went something like this:

    Me: How much is it to send a text message?
    Her: Text message is free.
    Me: FREE?! In the US I have to pay 10 cents to send and receive a text. So 20 cents apiece from both parties. (no monthly plan)
    Her: Oh! Here we only have to pay for our loads.

    The biggest difference seems to be:
    In the USA - Pay little to nothing for a phone. Sign a two year contract and pay outrageous monthly fees or outrageous fees outside of paying monthly for extra features. Listen to cell phone companies brag about their connection quality and lack of dropped calls that in reality, suck. Two blocks from my house I can't even get a signal.

    In Asia:
    Pay a substantial amount for the phone up front. Services are relatively cheap to free. Quality of service is reflected in where it is used, which is sometimes in remote, isolated areas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Sum Dum Guy, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 1:42pm

    On the upside-

    They will have the same customer service we outsource to...... :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Tashi, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 1:46pm



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Yo ho ho..., Oct 16th, 2006 @ 2:44pm

    of course...

    ... it would help if they were edible. hungry? unemployed? malnourished and undereducated? --- here have a McCellphone!

    This is corporate capitalism at its finest!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    km4, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 2:52pm

    Joe good post. Cel phones are egalitarian and information is can be empowering especially if you are being hosed by unscrupulous middlemen who are hucksters ( like most of them are ) !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 3:32pm

    ...put forth by some western intellectuals...

    Hrm... same smart people who think G.W.B. (and friends) are doing a great job? "Western intellectuals" is rapidly becoming an oxymoron in many aspects.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 3:33pm

    Re: I can see it now...

    Sucks to be you. Never had a problem and I travel cross-country plenty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    PleX, Oct 16th, 2006 @ 6:30pm


    Hell this is obvious, more ppl who can be smuggled from N. Korea to China w00t

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    A. Kootstra, Oct 17th, 2006 @ 12:48am

    Pace of Life

    Though the cell/mobile phone will certainly offer the middle class business man in the developing world an additional edge to compete with, the social/cultural impact of this change should not be underestimated. For example: many villages are simply not big enough, or too remote for a phone company to install land line to. These villages often do have cell/mobile phone reception. This will allow, perhaps in time, to receive internet wirelessly but also to be reached by family in a different remote village. In case of family emergency this could save lives and or give people additional options.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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