Tag Archives: mobile phones

Inequality?

20 Jun
My last blog post makes access to online and the availability of social media sound as if we’re all on an equal footing, we’re all involved in this big global discussion. But perhaps that’s not quite the case.
 
I was inspired by a tweet from Guardian Development today. They were also live tweeting from Africa Gathering in London today. They tweeted
 
“We must act to ensure digital access & literacy doesn’t become a new source of inequality @claremelamed#aglondon
 
Are mobile phones considered a luxury? Or a practical tool? Or can they be both? In the UK they are widely regarded as a tool I suppose. But this does not strip the iPhone of it’s allure.
 
Whilst I was in Ethiopia last year, I noticed that many people who owned a mobile phone, had more than one. My host mother had three. Why, was unbeknown to me. But she enjoyed having three mobile phones. Three more than some people that she knew I suspect. Is this inequality?
 
What about the huge regional disparities between the frequency of mobile connections?
 
Or do these inequalities just mean nothing in the grand scheme of things? The M-Ubuntu Project has brought mobile phones into the classroom in two South African schools.
 
Whilst in Kenya I hope to meet the thinkers behind M-Farm They have created a system which uses SMS to allow farmers to access accurate market prices whilst selling their crops. Mobile phones for good? ICT4D? I hope to find out.
 
I wonder whether mobile phones may be a complication and a solution to the problem of inequality. Or maybe this is just progress and development and continuity towards the future.
 

Why agriculture?

17 Apr

linkTV: Meeting Food Needs – Solutions from Africa

70% of the population of Sub-Sahran Africa are employed in agriculture. 80% of Uganda’s population of 31 million are involved in agriculture and as you can see from this list, agriculture in Ethiopia provides a whole host of valuable exports. The Gates Foundation has lots of similar facts and figures, all of which emphasise how important agirculture is to the economies of many developing countries, in particular African countries.

In accordance with an African Union programme, many African governments are investing more money into strengthening agriculture. But there is still work to be done.

There’s the problem of waste shown in linkTV’s video above. There’s also the plight of the ‘Middleman’ who take a share of the money that would otherwise go to the food producers. There are cultural aspects too. In Ethiopia I saw farmers driving huge herds of skinny cows along the road. I was told that these farmers see the size of their herd as more valuable than the productivity of the individual cow. Even though a smaller herd of better nourished, productive cows would really be far more cost efficient.

These are some of the reasons why agriculture is being targeted by the mobile market. As Danielle Nierenberg says huge numbers of farmers have access to mobile phones. If information can be distributed via them and farmers can connect to each other using them it could have global implications.

MobileActive.org: Mobile phones in rural development and agriculture