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How the developing world is using cellphone technology to change lives

March 24, 2012

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Tim Alamenciak

Toronto Star
March, 2012

In Nigeria, a young girl can ask questions about sex discretely through SMS and get accurate information.

After the earthquake in Haiti, survivors in remote towns could receive money for food straight to their cellphone.

In Senegal, election monitors sent updates on polling stations through their mobile phones, revising an online map in real time with details about late openings or worse.

Projects like Learning about Living in Nigeria, MercyCorps in Haiti and Senevote2012 in Senegal are just a few examples of how the rapid spread of mobile technology has changed life in the global south....



In Haiti, where 85 per cent of the population has a cellphone but only half has a bank account, MercyCorps deployed a new way to stimulate the economy after the earthquake: mobile payments. MercyCorps has dispensed more than $1 million (U.S.) to 6,000 people in rural Haiti — all using their cellphones.

“We pretty early on recognized that mobile was a great tool for (reaching more people) and also a direct channel into the communities where we work,” said Cameron Peake of MercyCorps.

Peake’s team is now working on a mobile savings system in the Philippines.

“The financial services area is really a promising and strong area to see financial sustainability,” said Peake.