5 Billion Cell Phones and Poverty

A report out last Thursday from the United Nations as reported by Fast Company looks at the mobile subscription rate word wide. I haven’t read the whole article but some of the quotes that Fast Company have are pretty interesting. There are about 25 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people in the least developed countries (LDCs), according to theInformation Economy Report 2010. That’s up from just 2 per 100 a few years ago. From 2% to 25% in a year…..is it just me or is that some rapid growth? But not all is rosy. The report warns that the opportunities are “unevenly distributed and not always sustainable.” Yes…but with growth rates like that and no sigh of it stopping I think this will even out. When I was in Laos I witnessed this first hand. In some of the rural areas we hiked through whole villiges would chip in to by a cell phone. It was their connection to the villages round them and into the city to find work and a market for their goods. I’ve been saying this for awhile now. The future is in mobile phones. The more I travel the world and see just how connected we are via cell phones the more I’m convinced this will be the true 1:1 device. Now what are we doing in our schools to help those fortunate enough to have a cell phone now prepare to work in a world where potentially everyone is...

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What I learned from Laos

Yawn……stretch…..nothing like a week off relaxing to get the creative juices flowing. Spring Break is now over and we’re in the home stretch here in Bangkok with 7 weeks of school to go before summer vacation starts. Over Spring Break, my wife and I spent four days in beautiful Luang Prabang, Laos (pictures can be found here). While in Laos, I learned a couple things that I’d like to share with you. 1. How to keep your cell phone dry during Songkran Songkran is New Year’s in South East Asia and it typically calls for country wide water fights. No better way to celebrate New Years in 100+ degree heat than to have a huge water fight. Nobody is safe, and your cell phone is definitely not safe if kept in your pocket. But while riding a bike or motorcycle if you keep your phone high you’ll keep it dry. While riding in a Tuk Tuk, I kept my iPhone in a plastic bag…worked great! 2. Cell Phone technology is the future of wireless So here I am in arguably one of the poorest countries in South East Asia and at the morning market, I happen upon this shop selling cell phones. The cheapest one sells for $22.45 and the most expensive one for $35.44. The phones had the following features: Calls SMS MMS Camera Radio (both AM and FM) Weather Cell service plans are very cheap as well. I didn’t actually price out complete plans but a SIM card to get you started with basic calls and sms sells for $5. In many of my presentations, I talk about the future is truly in the palm of our hands. According to the International Telecommunication Union, there are 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide and we are on pace to pass 5 billion this year. There are just about 7 billion people on the plant. Or in other words just over 70% of the world’s population has a cell phone. Now these phones are not iPhones, but if I was a betting man I’d say within 5 years we’d see phones at this same price that have internet capability. What happens when farmers in Laos have access to information without going to the city for internet access? Just ask Kenyan farmer Zack Matere what the cell phone and Internet access means to him. I’m sorry to break the news...

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