Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The power of wireless

Masaai warriors play games on their cell phones. In the absence of reliable infrastructure, cellphones have become the lifeline for the poor and remote of the developing world. (photo courtesy: Mark Kelley)

One of the many areas that the Global Development team is looking to build a Global Development X PRIZE in is the wireless space.


Because it seems like the place to be. In the absence of any proper infrastructure, and desperate for connectivity, the poor hold onto the wireless network as a lifeline. Developing countries have seen phenomenal growth in this field, beyond anything that the United States or any other developed country has ever seen. And the poor are pushing their phones to make up for the lack of infrastructure in every other field.
Masaai Tribesmen play games on their cell phones. In the absence of any reliable infrastruct

Granted it can't clean water or store your money or give you blood, but a cell phone can certainly narrow the gap and get those services to you. All kinds of informal working systems have come up around the world to fill in exactly these needs. In India, blood banks use SMS codes to communicate urgent blood requests between recipients and donors, thereby reducing transportation and refrigeration costs. Blood is donated on the spot. There is always a perfect match, and the blood is fresh. Across Africa, Ushahidi uses cellphone SMS's to alert and warn users about conflict hotspots, so that no civilian innocently walks into an area of harm. This was an idea that sprouted out of the Kenyan riots when so many innocent people were suddenly caught in the violence and killed. And in Egypt, a set of viral videos for women's rights and free speech built for viewing on cell phones have become the rage amongst the youth. And across the world, mobile banking (or m-banking) is giving millions of people without access to banking and financial services to use their phones to save and transfer money.

Here's the best blog I've come across with regards to wireless resources in the global development sphere: MobileActive.

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