Mobile Information-Sharing Creates Opportunity in the Developing WorldBy John-Paul Kwasie April 18, 2011
As in the developed world, mobile expansion in the developing world enables users to access information about the market, make better business decisions, and distribute resources more intelligently. In developing countries, this type of information could be absolutely essential to solving the economic challenges that plague them—not to mention, presenting new solutions and opportunities.
- Mobile devices can be used to more efficiently coordinate market activity and communication, to the benefit of both local businesses and customers. By using mobile connectivity to share supply information and availability in the developing world, local businesses can reduce cost and waste expenditure, and ensure the maximization of profit. Beyond fostering stronger local business, this can lower the prices of goods and services purchased by people in the developing world too. “Access to [mobile] communications boosts incomes and makes local economies far more efficient,” explains Businessweek. “A group of poor fishermen in the Indian state of Kerala increased their profits by an average of 8% after they began using mobile phones to find out which coastal marketplaces were offering the best prices for sardines. Yet consumer prices for fish dropped 4% because the fishermen no longer had to throw away the catch they couldn’t sell when they sailed into a port after all the buyers had left.”
- Individuals can receive valuable “airtime compensation” by sharing information via mobile devices. A recent InfoDev study, Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy, explains that crowdsourcing and microwork, instances of companies paying workers to complete unskilled tasks via the Web, could provide users with direct payment in exchange for Web-enabled phone usage. While some companies utilize it for market research about emerging markets and mass data entry, paid crowdsourcing can be used to yield valuable information for locals as well. For instance, NextDrop uses paid crowdsourcing to circulate clean water information directly from water utility companies to local residents, paying participants $.20USD in exchange for providing notifications and updates of clean water availability with others.
- Access to mobile promotes knowledge-sharing that can benefit the developing world. The development of Web-enabled technology and infrastructure invites more participants to share ideas and communicate information; the shared efforts of many citizens are often more effective in aggregate than what government or private agencies working alone could achieve. For example, Ushahidi (a Knight News Challenge winner) is an open-source platform originally developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008, providing invaluable information to relief workers. Ushahidi employs mobile crowdsourcing as a crisis management tool; users communicate first-hand reports of violence and natural disasters via their mobile devices (SMS, Twitter, email and the Web).
This information can be pivotal in preventing further violence in war-torn countries, serving as democratic checks for political leaders, and pinpointing the areas that are in need of immediate relief following catastrophe.
Increased mobile connectivity offers the exchange of information that, at times, can supersede immediate economic value. As mobile devices become increasingly popular in the developing world, they bring not only the opportunity to increase the efficiency of local economies and the quality of life for citizens, but they also bring new avenues for participating in the overarching mobile economy.
Header image courtesy of whiteafrican’s Flickr, (cc) some rights reserved.