Impacts of Cell Phones
Since its invention in 1973, the presence of the cell phone has become practically unavoidable worldwide. As of 2019, there were approximately 4.68 billion mobile phone users globally. Although many worry about the adverse effects of the overuse of the device, one cannot overstate the positive impacts of cell phones, especially in the developing world. From mobile banking to health care, the cell phone has left an incredible footprint on the world despite its relatively short existence. Here are the top five impacts of cell phones in the developing world.

Top 5 Impacts of Cell Phones in the Developing World

  1. Mobile Banking: For many people living in the remote regions of third world countries, traditional brick and mortar banks are often out of reach. Mobile banking, however, is helping initiate financial inclusion. By connecting major banks to online banking networks, individuals can now easily transfer money with even just a flip phone. For instance, M-Pesa, a Kenyan mobile phone-based financial service, operates through the usage of banking SIM cards that allow the user to transfer monetary assets via SMS. This way, a flip phone would be all one would need to start with this service. As of 2016, an average of 19 million Kenyans sent the equivalent of $15 million on a daily basis. Through such services the number of people with financial accounts in Kenya has jumped from 21 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2014.
  2. Education: One can increasingly find the cell phone utilized for education in the schools of many developing countries. The utilization of mobile apps has transformed teaching in such places. For example, in parts of Africa, the EDC (Education Development Center) is currently experimenting with sending podcasts of interactive instructional materials to students. Furthermore, cell phones have increased literacy rates. The landmark 2014 UNESCO study, “Reading in the mobile era,” surveyed over 4,000 individuals in regions with low literacy rates and where people are unlikely to text. The study showed that many people have resorted to reading stories and books on their mobile devices. Additionally, a third of the study participants read stories to their children via their devices.
  3. Disaster Relief: Today mobile devices are a unique communication tool for disaster relief in developing countries. For example, in August 2017, Ncell, a Nepalese-based mobile operator, was able to provide warnings to vulnerable populations prior to the deadly floods and landslides. On the other hand, after the disastrous 2017 Hurricane Maria incidence in Puerto Rico, AT&T deployed Flying COWs (Cell on Wings). These Flying COWs were cell sites connected to wings that provided cell service to disaster-stricken areas temporarily and allowed residents to gain contact with loved ones and relief organizations.
  4. Governance: In countries and regions with low population densities, it has traditionally been exceedingly difficult for governments to reach out to the individuals residing there. However, mobile technology has simplified seemingly impossible tasks such as long-distance polling and voter registration. In 2018, the local government of Quezon City, Philippines even initiated a mobile app that serves as an online database of the city’s ordinances.
  5. Health Care: The impact of cell phones in the developing world has also stretched to the area of health care. Currently, mPedigree, a Ghanian nonprofit, is using cell phones to authenticate drugs to safeguard consumers against counterfeit and substandard products. The World Health Organization estimates that over 10 percent of global medications are fake so this new technology should be able to save countless lives on a daily basis.

Mobile devices are popular in remote areas to cheaply or freely offer daily texts and voicemails about common medical conditions. For example, in Mozambique, Absolute Return for Kids, a British nonprofit, is fighting HIV/AIDS by using mobile messaging to remind enrolled patients to take their medications as well as about appointment dates.

Conclusively, the range of the various impacts of cell phones globally in developing countries has been both deep and wide. The device has proven itself to be both an efficient yet inexpensive solution to many day-to-day problems. It is not too optimistic to say that in the near future even more creative uses for cell phones will surface.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

education development center
In the fight against global poverty, it is important to acknowledge some of the more successful combatants. The Education Development Center (EDC) is one of these. As a global nonprofit, it recognizes the correlation between the lack of education and increased global poverty and helps give those marginalized in the world — either due to poverty or war — the chance of leading a better life by means of education. As their website states, over 100 million children do not attend school, and it is this statistic that the EDC is fighting to combat and reduce.

With offices based in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Waltham, Mass., the Education Development Center commands a global staff of 1,350 members. It has over a $190 million budget and over 250 programs spread throughout 30 different countries and across all 50 U.S. states.

Through grants from both private foundations and federal agencies, the EDC creates and implements projects to improve educational and economic prospects of those worldwide. According to the EDC, these projects have ranged from “seed projects to large-scale national and international initiatives.”

Notable donors to the EDC include: the Ford Motor Company, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Education, UNESCO and the World Health Organization. Recently, the EDC has received three grants from the U.S. Department of Education, one for $3.5 million and two for almost $400,000 each, all meant for education development projects within the U.S.

Founded in 1958, the EDC’s first project was to design a new physics curriculum for American high school classrooms. This was partially a reaction to the Soviet Union’s new space program as well as a response to a perceived discrepancy between Soviet Union and American science educations.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this project became highly successful, and the new curriculum was incorporated into roughly half of American high schools by the early 1960s.

Following the implementation of this first project in the United States, EDC soon began to establish a more global reach. In 1961 and 1966 it began work on advancing mathematics and science programs in Africa. These projects would eventually end up creating, as stated on EDC’s website, “the continent’s first indigenous education research and development organization, Science Education Programme for Africa.”

However, one of its most effective and interesting international projects is the Radio Education or Interactive Radio Instruction.

This radio program that began in 1985 (and still exists today) was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It uses radios to educate large swaths of people, including adults and children from over 30 developing countries, that would otherwise be unable to receive a basic education, either because of war or poverty.

This dedication to improving the world and combating poverty through education has been sustained throughout the organization’s entire existence. As a result of projects from 1997-2007, for instance, student enrollment in Guinea has doubled.

More recently, the international work of the EDC has focused on reducing youth unemployment in both Rwanda and Macedonia. More vocational training centers, concentrated on teaching technical and interpersonal skills, are being created for these youths.

As 2015 draws near, so does the end of the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals signed in 2000 by 191 countries designed to drastically reduce global poverty. As the international community debates and draws up the next set of goals to target poverty, the EDC will be remembered and depended on for the continued positive change it has enacted since 1958.

– Albert Cavallaro 

Sources: EDC 1, EDC 2, EDC 3, EDC 4, EDC 5, IRIN
Photo: Sasaki