Cell phones may help “save” Africa
By Rhett Butler, mongabay.com
July 11, 2005 [Corrected July 18, 2005]
For all the talk about “making poverty history” through aid and debt relief at the G8 meeting in Scotland and among aging rock stars at Live8 concerts, perhaps the best tool for poverty alleviation on the continent is the mobile phone. Yes, that ubiquitous handheld device has done wonders for the poor around the world.
Cell Phones For The People
Mobile companies may make the most money by going downscale
When it comes to sexy mobile phones, the stars of the moment are multimedia wonders such as the new RAZR V3x handset from Motorola Inc. (MOT ) and Nokia Corp.’s (NOK ) top-of-the-line N-90 camera phone with Carl Zeiss optics. Yet for all the attention they grab, these pricey gizmos are a sliver of the 800 million unit-per-year mobile-phone business. Increasingly, the real action is at the unglamorous end of the scale, among bare-bones Nokia and Motorola models priced under $50. Sales of such phones, which often handle just voice and text messaging, could grow 100% annually for the next five years.
Technological advances have allowed hundreds of small Chinese companies, some with as few as 10 employees, to churn out what are known here as shanzhai, or black market, cellphones, often for as little as $20 apiece.
Phi Beta Iota: Now imagine a global program that recycled every cell phone from the one billion rich; that set standards for unlocking all cell phones, and that ultimately got the cost of putting a used cell phone or a new low-cost cell phone into the hands of each of the five billion poor to just under $6.00.