From the Nokia 1100 to the iPhone 3G

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Giulio Quaggiotto pointed me to this article by Ken Banks on Mobile Phones and the Digitial Divide, which takes a somewhat sobering look at the limits of mobile technology in the developing world. Here's the money quote:

In the West, when we talk of mobiles helping close the digital divide, many people make a huge assumption about the technologies available to users in developing countries. We look at the mobile through rose-tinted glasses from the top of our ivory towers, through a Western prism or the lens of a 3G iPhone.

The reality is that one of the most common phones found in the developing world is the Nokia 1100. It's sturdy and serviceable, but provides little beyond voice and SMS services. According to Banks, handset manufacturers see further opportunity at the bottom of the pyramid, but it doesn't involve anything like internet browsers or cameras. For that, a little help is needed. Citing an IFC project with Celtel in Africa, Banks proposes "diverting international development funding toward providing a subsidized, fully Internet-ready handset for developing markets." If that happens, I'm going to get totally left in the dust - all I've got is a Samsung A437!


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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