mobile apps in developing countries
In the last 10 years alone, the number of mobile phone users has grown to four billion, with 37 percent of that growth occurring in developing economies. With internet availability expected to reach even the least developed nations in the next couple of years, a rapidly growing market for mobile apps in developing countries will likely expand even more.

Why is This the Trend?

In areas of Asia and Africa, one can buy a smartphone for the equivalent of $30. Simply put, mobile technology is the most convenient and cheapest technology option available for developing countries.

This convenience is one reason why the biggest market growth is seen in three main regions:

  1. Latin America, where smartphone adoption has seen double-digit growth and mobile banking gives financial access to those who might not ordinarily have it.
  2. South Asia, where in places like Vietnam, the number of Internet users has grown from four million to 45 million in just the last 10 years.
  3. The Middle East and North Africa, where, in Egypt alone, downloads of tool and messaging apps rose 60 percent in a year.

What Are the Uses for Mobile Apps in Developing Countries?

Whether it is to increase food production, access health information, launch a startup or improve education, a new reliance on mobile apps in developing countries transforms the way nations grow. While access to education is not a given in developing countries, the concept and means of education are shifting.

Four of the five top countries for educational app downloads are India, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. A large reason for this is that 50 percent of South Asians and 33 percent of Africans who finish school still cannot read, and 60 percent of six- to 14-year-olds in India cannot read at a second-grade level.

Mobile Apps are Facilitating Needed Change

For farmers who seek to increase food production, change is especially welcome. For practical purposes, apps like iCow allow livestock farmers in Kenya to track gestational periods for their animals, find veterinarians and monitor best practices. An app called Esoko disseminates information to farmers about market prices, weather forecasts and advisory services. Yet another popular app, WeFarm, offers a peer-to-peer platform for farmers to share information among themselves, with or without Internet access.

Beyond the fields and the classroom, popular mobile apps in developing countries range from banking apps like M-PESA, which allows for the transfer of funds over text message, to Voto Mobile, voice-based services in local languages. These programs have been rolled out in countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and India.

In India, as with much of the developing world, access to good healthcare is also a concern. With over 60 million people in the country with type two diabetes and 36 million living with Hepatitis B, its people look to take advantage of the over 100,000 healthcare apps that already exist.

Never has technology been so accessible, yet never has the need for technology been so dire. With the myriad issues that arise because of extreme poverty, mobile technology gives rise to a new hope for developing nations.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr

As technology continues to become more accessible in poverty-stricken countries, one app hopes to improve the cost and accuracy of malaria detection. Recently developed by the London-based startup xRapid, the application is the world’s first commercially available mobile health solution that provides an automatic diagnosis of malaria. However, identifying malaria requires more than just an iPhone and the app.

In addition to the iPhone and free app, a special iPhone case with an attachable eyepiece and a microscope are also required to begin detecting malaria in blood samples. The user simply attaches the eyepiece onto the iPhone case and inserts it into the microscope’s eye tube, where it runs the test. A clinical laboratory report is then produced detailing the data collected during the examination.

Currently, there are three different methods used to diagnose malaria, each attempting to be the fastest, most accurate and cost-effective technique available. However, each process pales in comparison to xRapid in one aspect or another.

Rapid diagnostic testing (RDT), which detects specific malaria antigens in human blood, is significantly less accurate than xRapid, while polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is considerably slower and more technical and expensive to utilize.

Microscopy testing often referred to as the “gold standard” for laboratory malaria detection, is just as accurate as xRapid, but is much slower at conducting tests. This method requires an average of 30 minutes per assessment while xRapid can conduct an examination in under two minutes.

The availability and potential of this new, convenient technique and advanced technology for diagnosing malaria is vastly important as 3.2 billion people — 43 percent of the world’s population — continue to live in areas at risk of malaria transmission.

XRapid has already begun dispersing its product to impoverished countries such as Benin, where malaria is the cause of nine percent of total deaths. Additionally, in the near future, xRapid, with the assistance of Digicape, will expand the product to countries in Southern Africa that crucially need it, and presently rely on microscopy and RDT for malaria detection.

Recently, xRapid announced it is working on adapting the product to detect and diagnose tuberculosis, an equally life-threatening disease commonly found in poverty-stricken countries.

The malaria mortality rate has dropped 60 percent since 2000, and with the assistance of this mobile health solution, the numbers could continue to drop. Although the complexity and harshness of these lethal diseases cannot truly be grasped, the solution to them may be in the palm of our hands.

Jordan J. Phelan

Photo: Flickr