For millions of people living in poor or developing economies, home computers are a rare luxury and internet cafes can be difficult to access. For most, their mobile device is not just a phone but rather their only access to the internet. As a result, smartphones have become a lifeline connecting people in remote areas to essential services. Mobile technologies in the developing world are changing the way people learn, receive healthcare, and conduct business. Following are three ways smartphones are giving them new opportunities they never had before.
Education Everywhere with Mobile Technology
Poverty and location have long kept students out of classrooms. In fact, Statista reported that the illiteracy rate among those aged 15 and older was as high as 34.7percent in Sub-Saharan-Africa in 2019. Southeast Asia was slightly better at 27.1percent. Mobile technology, however, has the capacity to change that by connecting students to teachers and resources from around the world. For example, some of the most popular education apps helping students in developing countries include:
- WorldReader, a non-profit organization committed to improving literacy in underserved communities by providing children with access to a library of hundreds of books and engaging reading activities.
- JabRef, a free online application that allows users in developing countries to access academic journal articles.
- Ed2go, an online learning platform that allows students in developing countries to earn college credits from accredited universities and colleges around the world.
According to the Journal of African Economies, programs like these that include teacher training, lesson plans, learning materials and language instruction deliver sizable gains in literacy in countries across Africa. Access to a mobile device makes this learning possible.
Helping Hand in Healthcare with Mobile Technologies
One of the most popular ways that mobile devices are being used to improve wellness in developing countries is by providing access to healthcare information and services. For example, telemedicine apps make it easy for people in remote areas to connect with a doctor or medical provider that they otherwise would not have access to. This allows patients to receive medical attention much faster so that they can get a diagnosis and treatment before it becomes serious.
Healthcare workers in the field can access health records, schedule appointments with patients, and send reminder texts to parents about vaccine availability at clinics. Illnesses and cause of death data can be better tracked through reporting via smartphones and provides real-time disease monitoring which in turn better informs national health organizations.
Firmer Financial Footing with Mobile Technologies
The rise of mobile banking has had a massive impact in reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for those who otherwise do not have access to financial services. Meaning "money" in Swahili, M-Pesa was Africa’s first mobile payments service and provides more than 51 million African customers with financial services such as sending and receiving money through SMS text messages, bill payment, short term loans, and even salary payments.
Shifting financial transactions from cash to mobile apps has also led to a reduction in street robberies and cash bribes – making communities safer and less vulnerable to corruption.
Apps like M-Pesa have helped women especially. An MIT study found that mobile banking has allowed women to start their own businesses, increase their savings and spend money more efficiently. In all, this mobile technology has alleviated poverty, improved economies, and opened up opportunities for more people to thrive.
The Secondary Mobile Device Market
Mobile devices usher in a better quality of life for people in developing countries by providing access to education, healthcare, and financial services. However, purchasing a brand-new smartphone can be cost-prohibitive to many. The secondary market for mobile devices provides a more affordable way for people to buy a smartphone. Devices that get turned in through Trade-in and Upgrade programs are the major inventory contributors to the secondary market. By giving mobile devices a second life, Assurant and their partners give people in developing markets access to more affordable, high-quality, wireless technology.