The use of mobile technology continues to rise in many countries, but its ability to be adopted in poorer countries is impeded due to economic problems. According to the U.N.-based Broadband Commission For Digital Development’s State of Broadband Report 2013, mobile broadband is growing faster than any technology in human history, but over 90% of people in the world’s 49 least developed countries remain disconnected from the Internet.
But mobile technology is unquestionably a boon to developing countries through its ability to provide information and to make personal lives and businesses function more efficiently through two-way communication. In a recent speech at a roundtable event in New York, economist and director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute Jeffrey Sachs noted that mobile phones have been a gift for development, reducing human isolation in developing countries and offering citizens in those countries better access to medical care.
For countries with more isolated rural communities, mobile technology is a particularly useful tool. Mobile technology helps to combat poverty by creating improvements in education, employment, healthcare and agriculture.
Mobile technology also permits citizens and governments to communicate more effectively with each other in the event of weather-related hazardous situations or public health emergencies. Consequently, structural damage and human fatalities can be avoided or at least minimized.
In a recent blog post, “In South Sudan, mobile data flows despite rain,” Kerry Bruce notes that mobile technology can be used to send real-time mapped data or to export data at a relatively low cost of about $100 per smartphone. The low cost of smartphones enables this technology to be adapted more easily in countries with limited economic resources.
Bruce, who is the Global Director for Results and Measurement for D.C.’s Pact, an international trade and development organization, observes that citizens’ access to justice and court-case monitoring in South Sudan legal systems is another potential use of mobile technology. Pact’s South Sudan team plans to utilize mobile phone technology to improve the assistance Pact provides and to create more effective outreach programs.
Similarly, the use of tablet computers is growing in both the business world and the educational world, especially in emerging countries. Tablet computers enable business employees and field workers to record data and remain in contact with head offices more easily. Communities have benefitted from the donation of tablet computers, which have allowed teachers to more easily instruct their students through an e-learning system.
Overall, it appears likely that more and more developing countries will adopt mobile technology as it becomes more affordable. Although training would be necessary for end users unaccustomed to mobile devices, the advantages provided by mobile computing are well worth the effort.