Cell Phones: More Wireless Than I Thought
Many developing countries have adopted an unlikely form of technology, which many take for granted. Where it was once expensive to run a power-grid, let alone a phone line people now are able to communicate without wires with the use of cell phones. These areas have skipped many technological steps and have taken a giant leap in order to be able to communicate and do business like the rest of the world does. It’s hard to imagine how integral the ability to communicate is to daily life. Sure it makes the world a smaller place, but sometimes that’s needed in order to survive in an ever expanding technological world.
Lara Farrar describes in a CNN article how a cell phone has transformed a Ghanaian man’s small taxi business. He is able to get calls to be picked up at any time from any anywhere. He is able to be on-call at all hours, and thus never losing on a business opportunity. Families can stay in touch easier from long distance, and farmers can keep track of market prices a town over in order to keep from losing on potential profit. It’s hard to dispute that the wide acceptance of a cheap, mobile, wireless, device could be a bad thing. It won’t transform a developing country into a modern high-tech society over night, and it is of course no substitute for good education and good health care systems. But it helps.
One of the challenges that faced cell phone adoption in developing countries was the requirement for electricity in order to charge phones. Many of these places have scarce and non-dependable energy resource, and thus driving the cost of owning a cell phone up. Samsung has recently started selling a reasonably priced solar charging phone called the Solar Guru. It has all of desired basic features of a modern cell phone including an FM radio, MP3 ring tones, games, and a torch light (a useful feature I had on an old phone that I am saddened does not appear on a lot of newer phones). This phone costs about $60 and can run for 5-10 minutes of talk time with just one hour of sunlight. It’s incredible how something that comes in no scarcity in many developing farming communities can be used to bring vital communication to places where once people had to travel to neighboring towns just to charge a cell phone.
Samsung is one of the few who attempts to bring cell phones to new markets where there is seldom a competitor. Its simply good business. Out of this there are sure to be competitors who will be able to offer more at a cheaper cost. Many of us in the US complain of cell service providers taking advantage of the consumer. This is the only downside that I can see with the potential boom in cell phones in poor developing countries. I fear that the cut-throat competition that thrives in cell service providers may attempt to get the best of economically week societies. What would be a preventative solution? Many have already adopted a pay as you go type plan in these places. Maybe if the trend continues in this direction, consumers will be safe from the communications giants that wring many modern consumers into contracts that exploit.