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Could Mobile Phones End Global Poverty?

One of the greatest challenges facing developing nations in Africa is connectivity, connectivity to reliable sources of electricity, infrastructure and the world around them. But on the other hand, there are more people in Africa with cell phones than there are with toilets in their homes. And this fact, say some creative individuals, is the key to tackling poverty in Africa.

In 2009, the Grameen Foundation, an organization working to connect the world’s poor with vital knowledge resources, launched a program called the Community Knowledge Worker initiative. The initiative was designed to create a bridge between rural farmers and agricultural experts via a mobile phone connection. Oftentimes, these experts were other members of the local community who shared their knowledge with their peers.

Access to a mobile phone grants a rural farmer access to information resources beyond what they could find without. Not only can local farmers share tips and tricks, but even the most rural farmer can quickly Google pest treatments or look up the current market value of their crops.

Other people are utilizing programs like Mobile Midwife, a mobile-based program that helps connect midwives and patients. The program allows midwives to track appointments, access patient records and even schedule voicemail messages to be send out to patients each week.

Zoona, a social enterprise mobile banking company in Zambia, specializes in managing transactions for Africans without a bank account. In a country where roughly 85 percent of the population has never entered a bank, companies like Zoona stimulate greater money flow in a community by encouraging individuals to carry out transactions and by encouraging savings investments.

However, the boons of the smartphone revolution aren’t just material or economic. With more and more Africans utilizing smartphones, social networking sites are gaining ground quickly, connecting people from all across the continent. The growth in social media activity has been so rapid that social media giant Facebook has recently announced plans to open a headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mobile phones open up a world of possibilities, even in the most rural and impoverished areas. Access to vast amounts of information, secure banking and social connectedness are changing the face of Africa and are giving poor nations a strong platform for growth.

– Gina Lehner

Sources: The Huffington Post, Grameen Foundation, AFK Insider
Photo: Flickr