How The Mobile Phone Is Changing Africa


Piers Fawkes, PSFK
Piers Fawkes, PSFK on January 9, 2007. @piers_fawkes

Paul Mason has filmed one of the most interesting, educational and important short-documentaries you will see this week, if not this month. The film, which he produced for the BBC, looks at how the mobile phone is revolutionizing Africa. He says in the film:

“Everywhere I go I see the phone as a cause of progress, creating economic development and social change.”

In the film he looks at how:

  • Phones help keep transport in the cities moving because mini-bus drivers can call when they break down
  • Passengers of the mini-buses will be able to pay by phone for their journey in 2007
  • Phones can be used as bank accounts
  • Farmers can text to check the market price of their products when they sell to a middle man
  • The phone creates opportunities for people outside the nepotistic political systems to start a business with the phone as their office
  • Youth are voting for their favorite DJs on MTV Africa via text
  • Village elders can check on their herds and children
  • Wives can check on cheating husbands!

Phone networks cover 80% of Kenyans and half the men in a small tribal village carried phones. The film suggests that the mobile phone is going to have a bigger impact than the railways as the the nature of mobile phones and phone towers will allow African nations to leapfrog a century of underdeveloped physical infrastructure!

<See Paul’s film and read his report at the BBC

TOPICS: Electronics & Gadgets
Piers Fawkes, PSFK

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Piers Fawkes is the founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK, a daily news site that provides a go-to source for new ideas and inspiration. He also is president of PSFK Labs.