In the Paper: Mobile Phones Transforming the Developing World

In today's Washington Post, I'll highly recommend Cecilia Kang's review of the ways mobile phones are beginning to transform the developing world.  Snippits:

The Grameen Foundation, a Washington-based group known for helping women with the smallest of business loans, has two dozen people in a technology lab here developing mobile Internet applications to help spread its microfinance model. It's warning farmers in Uganda about banana crop rot through text messages and collecting data on spreadsheet applications on smartphones.

And the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has dedicated $12 million to help village farmers in Tanzania, Cameroon and Rwanda save money through electronic mobile phone deposits. It has launched a $10 million contest in Haiti to fund the best mobile banking ideas to channel earthquake relief to people who would otherwise stand in long lines at overwhelmed bank branches to collect cash. (Melinda Gates is on The Washington Post Co. board of directors.)


A bank branch transaction costs $2.50 in the Philippines but if done on a mobile phone can be reduced to 50 cents or lower, according to CGAP. The cost to set up a village shop as a bank agent is relatively low, the group said, and studies in Africa show that mobile banking agents at village shops are generating more cellphone banking transactions than Western Union on the continent.

Mobile phones have also spurred new programs in health, agricultural and educational development.

In the past two months, Grameen has registered 500 expectant parents in the Kassena-Nankana area of Ghana, near the border with Burkina Faso, to receive free, regular phone calls and text messages guiding them through pregnancy. At week seven in the pregnancy, a parent receives a text reminder to take a malaria vaccination. At week 37, the parent is told that contrary to myth, eating fruit such as mango and proteins such as eggs is nutritious and won't harm the fetus.

Read the whole thing here.


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