They Can Hear You Now – an article by Los Angeles Times telling very interesting stories of how cellphones are moving the developing world into the global village. Here are snapshots of the article:
“Iquitos and nearby riverside hamlets are among the more remote outposts in South America’s expanding mobile phone system, part of a global network that is beginning to penetrate even the poorest and most undeveloped corners of the world.
For millions of people living in countries where getting a fixed phone line remains a bureaucratic impossibility, the cellphone revolution has allowed them to leapfrog from archaic forms of communication straight into the digital era — and that is changing the fabric of their daily lives.
In East Africa, the mobile phone has brought a first, tantalizing taste of modernity to people who live on less than $10 a day. In China, the world’s biggest market for cellphones, they are embraced by rich and poor alike, a tiny pocket computer with which to surf the Internet, play video games or even do banking.”
“The number of cellphones in Latin America has tripled since 1999, and one in five people now owns one. In Peru, as in many other countries in the region, there are more cellphones than fixed phone lines.
Today, the world’s fastest-growing cellphone markets are in places like Iquitos in rural South America and in sub-Saharan Africa, despite widespread poverty.”
“As in Rwanda, people elsewhere across Africa are coming to appreciate and rely upon the magic of the cellphone — communicating with a distant friend while under a baobab tree in Mali, for example, or on the Kenyan savanna. In Senegal, farmers use them in their annual, age-old battle against plagues of locusts, calling each other and the authorities to keep track of the progress of insect “hopper bands.”
In Somalia, men in loincloths flash their cellphones as they guide camels to port. Masai warriors in Tanzania pull phones from their red shuka robes to call gem brokers when they find glimmering purple-blue tanzanite, a rare gemstone found only in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro.”
“The cellphone is spreading, thanks to “prepaid” service plans, which can lower the cost to a few dollars a month.
In Lima, Peru’s capital, vendors sell prepaid phone time the same way they sell peanuts: by standing between lines of cars waiting for the light to turn green. You hand over the equivalent of a few dollars and get a coded card, which you use to “charge up” your phone with time credit.
In Peru, these consumers far outnumber “postpaid” users, who get a bill for their calls each month.”