Mobile Phones and Development: Mobile Telephony Changes the Lives of Millions of People

Mr. Cooper’s phone was a not very handy object, weighing two kilos and equipped with a battery of barely 20 minutes of autonomy. The lightweight, inexpensive, versatile 3G (3G) models we know today enable communication in multiple ways (voice, fax, or email), as well as access to information and entertainment. It is, in fact, more and more computers that are held in the palm of his hand.
Considered at a time as a rich toy rather unhelpful, the mobile phone occupies an increasingly essential place in our daily life. Wireless technology is also used in many developing countries, At the beginning of June, Nokia launched a range of products designed specifically for users with limited access to electricity, including a two- SIM model that can be exchanged without turning off the phone? something Which meets the needs of many users.
Another model is equipped with a battery with a battery life of six weeks and can be recharged using a bike dynamo. These innovations have given the WIPO Magazine the opportunity to consider some of the ingenious uses of mobile phones to connect those that could not be used until now, Improving the lives of individuals, particularly in remote rural areas of the developing world. Innovative applications for mobile technologies


Mobile phones take the place of fixed lines in many developing countries. They contribute to economic growth because they favor the growth of enterprises by allowing them to have access to a greater number of markets. They also represent a more reliable means of communication for communities in remote or underserved areas than road networks or postal systems.

Thanks to the evolution of technologies, these phones not only make voice calls, but also use an extraordinary number of ingenious applications. In developing countries, they facilitate access to trade information, health surveillance, remittances and literacy. The variety and creativity of mobile phone uses are endless. In Senegal, fishermen use it to learn about stocks and fish market prices, in order to know to which port they should head to sell their cargo at the best price.
They also use them to transmit or receive distress signals, so that the safety of local fishing fleets is increased. In South Africa, farmers in the province of Limpopo negotiate directly with their customers in a given region by mobile phone to avoid transporting perishable goods over long distances to a market where they would suffer considerable losses ‘ This has resulted in a reduction in their monthly income from $ 700 to $ 4,000.1 2005 study by London Business School’s Leonard Waverman found that each addition of 10 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants in a developing country resulted in a 0.6% increase in GDP growth2 of the country between 1996 and 2003.
Ease of access to financial services can play a key role in stimulating local economic activity and reducing poverty. Large numbers of people living in remote rural areas do not have a bank account or access to conventional banking services. Mobile telephony is proving to be a particularly advantageous way of dealing with these problems while reducing the operating costs of financial institutions. ‘The mobile phone represents for the inhabitants of the emerging markets a portal of knowledge, entertainment and communication, and often the only one. It has become indispensable in the life and business of the people who use it. ‘
Nokia The bank at your fingertips Kenya has pioneered mobile banking with the M-PESA money transfer system (‘M’ for mobile and ‘pesa’ for ‘money’ in Swahili), launched in February 2007 by Safaricom and Vodafone. ‘The M-PESA mobile money transfer service is an example of Kenya’s leading role in the development of mobile technology and its uses,’ said Michael Joseph, Executive Director Of Safaricom.
This innovative system allows customers to transfer money from one cell phone to another rather than through a bank. The service is aimed at mobile phone users who do not have a bank account either because they do not have enough money to open a bank account or because they do not have access to a bank . M-PESA is proud to have 9.48 million subscribers, more than 17 million mobile subscribers, the world’s first mobile money transfer service and the most successful mobile phone service in the world. 000 agencies and 290 bill payment partners.
The system, which has been widely diversified over its three-year existence, currently offers payment of salaries and bills, the ability to withdraw money from ATMs and international money transfers. It is sufficient for M-PESA users to register with an authorized agent by means of their Safaricom mobile number and an identity card. The M-PESA application is then installed on a SIM card usable in a telephone of any brand and gives access to the following services: Deposit with a local agent an amount in cash which is then credited to the subscriber’s account; Text messages sent to other mobile phone users (even if they are not subscribers to Safaricom);
Cashing in a local agent amounts transferred by text message; Purchase of Safaricom airtime for the subscriber himself or for other subscribers. Only Safaricom subscribers can send money through the M-PESA service, but anyone with a phone capable of receiving text messages can receive it through this method, even if it is not Holder of a bank account. Payments and withdrawals can be made through an M-PESA agency, usually a Safaricom dealer, a service station, a supermarket or a local shop.
Building community capacity In 2008 the Irish aid agency CONCERN Worldwide faced the difficult task of urgently providing food aid to vulnerable communities in the distant Kerio Valley in Kenya. Having heard about the M-PESA service, CONCERN quickly realized that the latter could greatly facilitate his intervention.
The organization contacted Safaricom to ask him to develop a special service for money transfers in emergency situations, which he was the first to use. For CONCERN, this experience has clearly demonstrated that ‘mobile telephony is an exceptional technology that provides the means to effectively deliver assistance to vulnerable populations in the most dangerous and remote areas.’
This mechanism allowed for better risk management, but also significantly reduced costs -16% less for M-PESA than for the conventional method ‘ and entailed a whole series of additional benefits. Together with mobile phones, SIM cards and chargers, members of the affected communities were given the opportunity to communicate in a way they had never had before and transformed them from passive receivers to active participants To a process. CONCERN’s experience thus shows that mobile phones can play a decisive role as a means of implementing innovative solutions to enhance the effects of development aid and the capacities of communities.
The considerable growth of mobile telephony in African countries enables governments, non-profit organizations and businesses to develop new solutions that respond to community needs and stimulate their development at the local level.
Contribution to aid efforts in Haiti Mobile phones have made an essential contribution to disaster relief efforts after the earthquake that devastated Haiti on 12 January 2010. They have indeed been one of the technologies ‘ including online mapping tools , GPS and social networks ‘ used by members of the public to complement traditional communication services to support relief efforts by facilitating the flow of crucial information and raising funds that Haitians urgently need.
According to an article by the Huffington Post , personal donations made by mobile phone account for a growing share of total contributions. In the United States alone, more than US $ 32 million Were donated by text messaging to the American Red Cross for its relief efforts in Haiti. The ‘Red Alert’ campaign of mobile operator Vodafone has raised more than ‘ 5.2 million (US $ 8 million) in aid for earthquake victims of Haiti.
Free medication verification Mobile telephony is also an effective means of protecting consumers against the scourge of counterfeit medicines. Although it is difficult to give exact figures, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 10% of the medicines sold in the world are forged, and that in developing countries the proportion of medicines Counterfeit or of doubtful quality is 25%.
In addition to the deaths they cause every day, these products have the effect of increasing resistance to pathogens and thus even more demanding the already limited resources of public health systems. In response to this alarming situation and the growing concerns of pharmaceutical manufacturers and the public, Ghana’s non-profit organization mPedigree has developed a free service that allows customers to quickly check By means of their cell phone the authenticity of the drugs they are about to buy. The mPedigree platform offers a service that is ‘economically accessible, easy to carry out and requires no special knowledge’, which is increasingly of interest to public authorities in African countries, faced with the proliferation of counterfeit medicines.
The West African Health Organization (WAHO) announced in June the adoption of the mPedigree Technology Platform as a regional standard for counterfeit medicines. Pharmaceutical manufacturers have also begun negotiations with mPedigree to implement the platform in their operations in Africa. The mPedigree service is particularly useful as a means of raising awareness of the problem of counterfeiting in the region. For Bright Simmons, president of the mPedigree Network, the system provides a mechanism for ‘linking public and private sector public health and intellectual property rights concerns and for business Position as suppliers of quality products, respecting intellectual property ‘. Launched first in Ghana in 2008, the mPedigree system connects GSM mobile networks to a central registry (currently managed by Hewlett-Packard), which stores drug information from participating manufacturers. The principle on which the platform is based and the principle of ‘authentication of medicines from one end of the supply chain to the consumer’.
The manufacturer assigns to each package containing one of its medicines a distinctive code which the consumer sends by text message to a free number at the time of purchase to obtain almost instantaneously confirmation of the authenticity of the product. Only properly identified medications can be checked this way, and each code expires as soon as it has been used, The unique alphanumeric code printed on each package is hidden under a tape that the consumer must scratch before sending it.
The toll-free number used for the transmission of text messages to the mPedigree application is leased from the telephony operators and the costs are borne by the manufacturers, who benefit from reduced rates. Where holographic technology has failed and where the costs of radiofrequency identification and tracing (RFID) systems are out of reach for many developing countries, the mPedigree system is an effective solution. As Mr. Simmons says, it’s a platform ‘just as safe as RFID technology, but at one-tenth of the price.’
A means of empowering consumers Simmons stresses the importance of this initiative by explaining that ‘for the first time in the written history of commerce, those for whom pharmaceutical safety matters ‘ patients and consumers ‘ are brought directly to The heart of the anti-counterfeiting struggle, thanks to the transformation effect of mobile telephony in the developing world ‘. He believes that this system ‘repairs a very old market injustice’ by giving those who pay for a product a way to verify that they are receiving what they have paid for ‘ a drug that can save them life. This represents ‘a radically different way of seeing ‘ the rights of consumers’.
Advances in mobile telephony and lower prices have enabled millions of people to enter the information age and have access to many advances that have a beneficial impact on quality of life. For Cooper, who invented it, ‘mobile telephony is meant to improve the lives of people’. In his opinion, ‘the cell phone will one day be implanted behind your ear, under the skin, with a powerful computer that will, in fact, be your slave.’ As mobile operators push the boundaries of innovation to reach an increasing number of users, new and innovative applications will emerge that will continue to transform the lives of millions of people.
Huge commercial potential; Social benefits The rapid pace of adoption of mobile phones in the developing world ‘ an estimated 1.5 million consumers subscribing each day ‘ represents an opportunity for operators to increase their Market and their profits and an opportunity to contribute to the benefit of local companies. The value of the global mobile phone market will be US $ 211.9 billion in 2011 (an increase of 103.1% since 2006), for an estimated 1.804 billion units ( An increase of 125.5% compared to 2006)3 .
Manufacturers have realized that to take advantage of this enormous potential, they must develop inexpensive devices and applications that meet the needs and circumstances of emerging market consumers. Their telephones must notably have the following characteristics:
  • Replacing words with symbols to enable use in low-literacy communities;
  • Large autonomy and flashlight for regions without electricity or experiencing frequent breakdowns;
  • Rubberized sides to improve grip in particularly wet regions;
  • Dust ‘ protected keypads;
  • Radios with loudspeaker for group listening;
  • Several directories on the same phone;
  • Cost and call counters to facilitate use by multiple users and avoid overtaking;
  • Support for local languages;
  • Useful applications for micro-entrepreneurs, eg calculators, alarms, calendars.