In the last few years Africa has had a large demand for mobile phones. The demand comes primarily from rural and low income areas- many benefits to having a mobile phone have been found in these parts of Africa. Such benefits include:
- A sense of well being
- Improved income (people can easily arrange cash transfers from their mobile phones)
- Reduced risk (easily accessible way to call for assistance)
This kind of technology offers opportunities for delivering services that are tailored to the needs of the poor.
- A pilot project in Nairobi’s slums run by The Open Knowledge Network uses SMS push and pull services to reach out to the population regarding news about health (primarily HIV/AIDS), jobs and community news.
Prior to cell phone usage in Africa, real time disease surveillance and monitoring data was hard to track. In order to track the spread and prevalence of disease, medical doctors had to rely on sentinel sites and modeling estimates. This was frustrating for many doctors because their biggest obstacle was not being able to evaluate something they could not measure in real time. If they couldn’t measure it, then there was not much that could be done.
Mobile phones in Africa are changing this. According to the MIT Technology Review, for the first time medical doctors are seeing good quality data that gives them information about who is dying from what and where disease clusters are occurring. This has given global and national health strategies a huge potential to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people. This kind of data has the potential not only to inform health care workers what’s going on in real time, but it is also possible to predict future global health trends.
Simple measures have proven to be highly effective, such as mobile phones have made it possible for parents to easily register the birth of their child which has allowed government to plan interventions more accurately such as vaccination schedules.
Health care workers have the ability to access healthcare records, schedule appointments using their phones and can issue automated text reminders to parents about appointments and the location of vaccine clinics.
Cell phone subscription in some parts of Africa has vastly increased since the year 2000. In Nigeria cell usage increased roughly 87% from the year 2000 to 2013.
Mobile phones have helped displaced persons connect with their family members and loved ones. Refugees United, an NGO, has united with mobile phone companies to create a database where people have the opportunity to fill in their information and search for lost family members or people they have lost contact with. It’s a free service that allows you to connect and communicate via a mobile application.
In our reading, Here Comes Everybody — “The most obvious one is make joining easy, in order to make the promise seem within reach. … Other strategies include creating personal value for the individual users, allowing the social value to manifest only later”. I think this is true for people in Africa, mobile phones have been easily accessible and people are taking advantage of that for their own well being.