How Mobile Phones Can Change the World

Happy holidays and happy new year to all! It's time to change the world :)

Since they were developed over 40 years ago, mobile phones have become somewhat of a phenomenon, with more and more emphasis going into design, innovation and creativity. In fact, mobile phones have got so big that it is expected that they will outnumber human beings in 2014.

But apart from using phones to text, call and update your Facebook status, mobile phone devices are being developed in such a way to help improve the lives of thousands of people across the globe.
Here we take a look at how modern technology is being used by charities, health bodies and governments to reduce poverty and improve living conditions for people who need it most.

Vodafone and GSK
At the end of last year Vodafone announced that it was to develop a partnership with GSK and the charity Save the Children in order to improve the healthcare of children in Africa.

The partnership might sound like an unusual one; a children’s charity, a mobile phone operator and a healthcare company don’t usually mix, but this project was aimed at creating an innovative way to solve health issues in developing countries with the direct use of mobile phones.

It might also surprise you to learn that despite Africa being notorious for its high levels of poverty, over half of its inhabitants own a mobile phone of some sort. Experts have therefore concluded that this could be the best way to increase vaccination rates in children across the continent. The scheme will send a simple text message to parents in order to inform them about the availability of vaccines in their vicinity, as well as giving them an easy option of booking future appointments with healthcare professionals.

Although the results of the programme have not yet been revealed, if successful, the scheme, which was initiated in Mozambique, will be spread across the whole of Africa. The aim is for the number of children who receive a vaccination for a preventable condition double from 5% to 10% within the trial year.

Mobile phones and women
Using technology to improve the vaccination rate in Mozambique isn’t the first example of using mobile phones to improve health and living conditions within developing countries, either.

For instance, in Tanzania, a project has been launched to help improve the education and care of new mothers and their babies. The scheme is supported by the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, and aims to give expectant and new mothers vital information about pregnancy, labour and post natal care via a simple text messaging service.

Mobile Technology Programme- the Cherie Blair Foundation
There are also programmes run by several charities which aim to narrow the gender gap in developing countries through the use of mobile phones.

The Cherie Blair Foundation has discovered that women in Africa are 23% less likely to own a mobile phone in Africa, 24% in the Middle East and 37% in South Asia. The charity has therefore founded the Mobile Technology Programme which aims to support women all over the world who want to get into the formerly masculine world of business.

Various case studies show that given the correct technology and training, female entrepreneurs have been able to set up and expand their own businesses via direct access to mobile banking, suppliers and customers.

As a result, obtaining a mobile phone has reportedly helped 83% of women to increase their income, empowering thousands of women all over the globe.

Healthcare in the UK
And it’s not just in African countries where mobile phones are becoming vital in improving living and health conditions; in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) has developed a scheme whereby it sends a text message to patients in order to confirm appointments and test results.

This text messaging service also gives users advice and information about all health issues, including smoking, obesity and travel vaccinations.

The future for mobile phone programmes?
The above are just a handful of examples of how mobile phone technology can change the way that people live their lives, and I expect that the handheld devices which we all take for granted will only go on to be used more and more within social and political spheres in developing countries.

Many mobile phone manufacturers have latched onto the business potential of these emerging markets, launching cheap handsets such as the Huawei Ideos smartphone which is available for just $80. That said, feature phones are more widely used in developing countries, with handsets such as the Nokia 100- which has a lengthy battery life- being highly popular.

However, some critics have accused mobile manufacturers of exploiting people in these emerging markets, claiming that even these cheap handsets are unattainable for those who live on less than $2 a day.

So while programmes aimed to improve social conditions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East appear to have some success, is it really a long-term solution to help the poorest of people in these regions? At what point will keeping up with the latest technological innovations become less of an opportunity and more of a pressure on precious financial resources?

Written by Charlotte Kertrestel from Mobilephones.com.
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