Courtland Walker

Whose Technology Is it?

recellularThe global cell phone market recently passed 2.5 billion connections, having grown by 500 million in 12 months. A quarter of this growth is attributable to India and China. In the latter country 5 million new connections are added every month.

As a result of this staggering growth rate, of the 2.5 billion users worldwide, the majority (59%) now lives in developing countries. This is the first time in history that a telecommunications technology has more users in developing countries than in the developed world.

As mobile technology has been appropriated by the developing world, its applications have evolved to serve the needs of its new users. Many of these applications are unfamiliar to users in the developed world.

Beyond a simple telephone call or text message to a friend or family member, BOP applications of mobile telephony span the spectrum of daily life: farmers and fishermen check market prices; entrepreneurs offer their phones as a community payphones or use them to make their offices mobile; handsets are used as e-wallets allowing customers to transfer cash to merchants or remittances to family members; restaurant owners advertise via text messages; concerned citizens monitor elections and report results; would be travelers check weather forecasts; and the unfaithful even uses text messages as means to coordinate an illicit rendezvous.

To catalyze further growth in mobile applications at the BOP, MIT has launched the Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobiles, as part of the Program for Developmental Entrepreneurship within the MIT Design Laboratory. EPROM includes a mobile phone programming educational curriculum and an SMS bootcamp in partnership with the University of Nairobi.