Mobile phones. They’re finally here

Hands up who owns a mobile phone? Thought so. And you probably own more than one. Maybe your Gran has one tucked away in her handbag too. My point? Well in the UK we take the attention seeking things for granted – while in places like Africa they’re only just making themselves known.

But catching on they are, and they’re being used for more than just ringing a love interest at 4 in the morning. By using the text service from Foodnet (a service that works out the real price food is being sold for in local markets) Ugandan farmers can command the best rates for their crops: foodnet.cgiar.org
A level playing field is where Foodnet are coming from. And good for them too.

The BBC website tells all: news.bbc.co.uk

Banks don’t get off lightly either.

Visiting one is second nature to us and there’s always one wherever your eyes land. Paying too is just a matter of grabbing for the plastic. Yep we’ve got it simple in our neck of the woods. But for people in developing countries, the script is different. And they definitely don’t have the bank of mum and dad to fall back on.

That’s why Safaricom, who are partially owned by Vodafone, set-up M-Pesa. In a nutshell someone fires money into their mobile phone account through a Safaricom agent. After picking a transfer money option on their phone, a text message then makes its way to the lucky beneficiary. After receiving the text, this person can then swagger off to another Safaricom agent to grab the cash. Nice work Safaricom.

It’s ideal for those in cities who send money back to families in rural areas. The sort of places where zebra and giraffes roam the land, not bank managers.

Guardian have their say on M-Pesa here: guardian.co.uk

Closer to home and…phone batteries. Whereas we can plug our phones into the wall when that annoying beep sounds, in rural Africa it’s not an option. You usually have to take a hike to your mate’s who charges it with a petrol powered car battery. But one thing Africa has over us is shed-loads of sunshine. And we all know sun = solar power, which takes care of the matter. The only one losing out is the car battery man. I’m sure his skills are transferable though.

If you want to help bring mobile phone technology to new places you could become:

  • business analyst looking at ways to make the business reach new people, and offer new service
  • materials scientist helping to find materials which will allow mobile phones to be manufactured more cheaply
  • software developer putting together software to give customers the services they want on their phones

To build the infrastructure needed for mobile phones around the world you could become:

  • telecommunications technician installing and repairing, designing and testing new telecommunication systems
  • civil engineer finding buildings and places to build mobile phone masts and mobile phone infrastructure
  • quantity surveyor managing the use of materials in the building of the mobile phone infrastructure, and ensuring that costs are kept to a minimum
  • An electrical engineer finding ways to supply power to the mobile phone masts if grid electricity is not easily available

To develop sustainable sources of power you could become:

  • An electronics engineer developing smaller and more robust phones which use less power
  • An energy engineer devising new sustainable sources of power
  • An economic development officer helping to develop projects in small areas, creating networks of businesses and distributing information about available helpful technology