Today is blog action day so I decided to blog about how digital has in some ways helped relieve poverty. When I refer to digital I’m referencing mobile digital. The two words ‘poverty’ and ‘digital’ are worlds apart and hardly ever used together – they’re certainly not synonymous with each other.
As a South African, who immigrated to the UK ten years ago, I know that in 1998 (when there was poverty in many communities) virtually no one had mobile devices. A mobile phone was a luxury. I recently went to South Africa on holiday where to my surprise I found real evidence of advanced mobile infrastructure
I read with interest (and surprise) how countries buried in poverty are using mobile phones en mass. In many other parts of Africa where poverty exists the take up of the digital mobile is driven by marketing and not through community efforts. The digital boundaries are breaking down – commercially and physically. This is helping communities directly (access to help) and indirectly (job creation). Mobile phones are now ubiquitous in many impoverished communities.
Mobiles come in so many forms – from cheap to very expensive. Ultimately, no matter how technical/expensive your mobile device is the content that is accessed is hugely valuable – whether it’s SMS, web pages or the telephone.
Real life examples
An example of mobile systems helping poor communities include the M-Pesa system.
It’s a system of phone-to-phone payments useful to people who don’t have a bank account or nearby bank – i.e. most people in rural Africa.
The information carried on the new networks spans public health, medical care, education, banking, commerce and entertainment, in addition to communications among family and friends.