In Time magazine (1 Oct 2012), President Clinton in a piece called “Phones Mean Freedom” makes the case for global optimism:
Forget what you may have heard about a digital divide or worries that the world is splintering into “info haves” and “info have-nots.” The fact is, technology fosters equality, and it’s often the relatively cheap and mundane devices that do the most good. A 2010 UN study, for example, found that cell phones are one of the most effective advancements in history to lift people out of poverty.
Clinton describes how in Haiti, one of the poorest places on the planet, phones have revolutioniszed the average person’s access to financial opportunity. And then comments on events in Africa:
Only 4 percent of households in Africa have Internet access, but more than 50 percent have cell phones. Because counterfeit medications are a huge problem in sub-Saharan Africa, a CGI (Clinton Global Initiative) member created a company called Sproxil, which lets people in Africa use cell phones to text a code on any medication they have to see if it’s counterfeit. Ericsson-with the UN, big investment firm Delta Partners and an NGO called Refugees United–is helping families that have become separated because of conflict reunite using cell phones.
The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) is collecting used cell phone for use by African. They are currently being sent to Madagascar so farmers can connect with family members, can gather information about food markets, and can communicate with each other about the problem of regional cattle theivery. The used cell phones are being collected by Hank Pellissier, IEET African Futures Director, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please participate if you have access to used cell phones.
Technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil famously said: “A kid in Africa has access to more information than the president of the United States did 15 years ago.” But the kid needs at least a cell phone, and preferably a smart phone.