Mobile Phones – Impact in Africa

Tonight there was an excellent piece by BBC Newsnight on the impact of mobile phones in Africa generally, and Kenya specifically. See the 18 minute video here. (Or a short text article with alternate video link here.)

It’s also a vivid picture of life in Kenya generally, quite removed from a lot of the more cliched media pictures. It made me feel like going back there.

This reinforces the message of stories like Ringing the Changes in Nigeria and plenty of other evidence that mobiles are having a major impact on life.

As I said about this before: The kind of revolution that actually works.

This entry was posted in international development, internet, life, microfinance, poverty, society, video. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mobile Phones – Impact in Africa

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I wish they’d do some posts on how people actually use the phones- it’s so different to how we use them. A la Living for Disco’s perpetual complaints.

  2. torchwolf says:

    I had a quick look at Living for Disco’s blog, but I couldn’t see anything about phones. Though I didn’t have time to do a thorough search just now.

    There’s probably a place you can comment on the BBC Newsnight site, and I’d certainly be interested to hear a lot more about what you meant.

    Without knowing what these perpetual complaints actually are, my reaction is this: Life is full of people with perpetual complaints, that’s just the way people are. Often they’re so busy complaining abou what isn’t perfect they’re missing the bigger picture.

    Like people in London have a lot of complaints about the overcrowded public transport. Which misses the fact that it’s pretty darn amazing how so many people can move so quickly, so reliably and so safely around this enormous city.

    As far I can tell the basic point in the BBC film is very valid, and very well worth making to a broad audience. i.e…

    There is enormously fast mobile phone uptake in Africa, and it makes a big difference to the quality of people’s lives. Probably far more than it does for people here.

    And that success is even more striking in comparison to so much else that works so badly.

  3. david says:

    I concur that the mobile phone has had a huge impact on the lives of many in both the developed and developing world. For the promptness with which communication can be made, the impacts and benefits are obvious no matter what part of the globe you are on. In the development sector, however, i would have to say that this is mostly hype in my opinion with the exception of big orgs like the Grameen Bank and their own mobile service. Like many savings and credit programmes i have seen across south asia, the savings generated is more often than not not actually spent on improving livelihoods per se–nor invested in education, etc.–a lion’s share seems to end up going to festivals, weddings (often perpetuating discriminating dowry systems) alchohol and cigarettes. For a burgeoning middle class in south asia there is a confusion of want and need–a bewildering array of packages for mobiles having young people forking out quite a bit on ringtones and other eye and ear candy for mobile phones. They also disturb meetings and i find that people with mobiles are a lot more keen on taking their calls than they are on listening to their colleagues…. It is a business after all, and a big one at that…

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