Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?
April 12th, 2008

An article this weekend in the New York Times Magazine about global cellphone penetration focuses on the search to understand what individual people across the world look for in a mobile phone to meet their current and potential uses. It tracks Nokia’s Jan Chipchase through a lot of issues and places:

This sort of on-the-ground intelligence-gathering is central to what’s known as human-centered design, a business-world niche that has become especially important to ultracompetitive high-tech companies trying to figure out how to write software, design laptops or build cellphones that people find useful and unintimidating and will thus spend money on. Several companies, including Intel, Motorola and Microsoft, employ trained anthropologists to study potential customers, while Nokia’s researchers, including Chipchase, more often have degrees in design. Rather than sending someone like Chipchase to Vietnam or India as an emissary for the company — loaded with products and pitch lines, as a marketer might be — the idea is to reverse it, to have Chipchase, a patently good listener, act as an emissary for people like the barber or the shoe-shop owner’s wife, enlightening the company through written reports and PowerPoint presentations on how they live and what they’re likely to need from a cellphone, allowing that to inform its design.

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Comments
1 - Henry Lahore

No, the Cell phone can NOT Help End Global Poverty.
The poor cannot afford cell phone service. Even if new handsets were free most of the poor could not afford cell phone service.
- A major change is needed to drastically reduce the cost of wireless phone service. I have designed a ‘message phone’ system which needs 10,000 fewer phone towers to provide service to a region. Only three message phone towers would be needed to cover all of India.
- I designed a ‘message phone’ to provide service at less than a fraction of a cent per minute, and thus be affordable by 2 billion people.
- I have applied for a patent and wish to donate the design to a company which can use it to help end poverty by providing communications for less than 1 cent per minute.
- The message phone is also extremely rugged, will last for at least 10 years, can be used by people who are illiterate or blind or who speak any of thousands of languages, can be shared by many people, and will be able to download and play 100+ hours of podcasts from the internet.
Henry Lahore

Have submitted the “Message Phone” to the Google Improve the World project Oct 2008
My webpage is http://www.skyaid.org/MessagePhone.html
Google webpage is http://www.project10tothe100.com

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