• Written by Niamh Griffin, w&m

Are mobile phones better than aid?

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN, Zambia.Helping people to use technology can combat poverty more effectively than centralised aid programmes according to a leading development entrepreneur.

Speaking in Dublin, the founder of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and of Bangladeshi mobile phone operator Grameenphone, Prof Iqbal Quadir said technology should play a central role in development.

“Western technologies can empower individuals … Externally empowered governments may not care about their people,” he said, referring to aid programmes.

“But economically empowered people create a system of checks and balances, people are more aware and governments are more sensitive to their needs.”

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Media 2.0: The dividing line between open and closed societies has been 'ripped up'

Web 2.0 logos. Image: Flickr/Ludwig Gatzke.Did social media drive the arab spring protests or was it more important as a tool for driving international media coverage. Kyrgyzstan's "Analog Revolution" was ignored, wrote Foreign Policy blogger Evgeny Morozov.

Social media does not only divide opinions, it also has the potential to alter divisions in and between societies, a conference on digital media and democracy heard in Dublin on Wednesday.

Political blogger Mick Fealty said one of the democratic functions of an online news outlet is to ‘explore stories slowly, stories without a grand narrative … the real advantage of blogging is that it has brought socialism to life.”

Focusing on the events of the Arab Spring, he said an Irish audience should remember this was driven by “a small group of the wealthy elite” who used the Internet to spread their message.

  • Written by Emeka Johnkingsley

Developing countries have key stake in renewable energy - IPCC scientist

Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Combined Cycle Thermo-Solar Power Plant, Morocco. Photo: Dana Smillie / World Bank.EN | 中文

[ABUJA] Renewable energy could meet almost 80 per cent of the world's energy supply by 2050, and the developing world is home to more than 50 per cent of the capacity for renewable electricity, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Renewable technologies could provide power to more than two billion people in developing countries and reduce the incidence of pollution-related health problems, said the 'Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation'.

But this will only happen if policymakers create "enabling policies" for technology transfer; raising awareness of renewable technologies through communication and education, and financing their deployment.

  • Written by Dann Okoth

Africa poised for solar lighting boom

Lighting Africa aims not just to light households but also to save people money and reduce the health risks associated with kerosene lamps, such as that pictured. Photo: Flickr/moonlight on celluloid, Kenya.[NAIROBI] As many as 120 million households in Africa will be living off-grid by 2015, creating one of the world's largest markets for portable solar lighting in the next five years, according to a report.

'Solar Lighting for the Base of the Pyramid — Overview of an Emerging Market' was published by Lighting Africa, a joint International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank initiative that is developing continent-wide programmes for solar lighting.

The report projects an up to 65 per cent growth rate in sales of portable solar lights, comparable to the recent explosion in mobile phone sales on the continent. Currently, only 0.5 per cent of some 140 million African people living without regular or reliable access to electricity have such lights.

  • Written by Panos

Mobile phone penetration in poorest countries reaches 25%

A woman near the market talks into her mobile phone, Zambia. 'The impact that mobile phones have on the developing world is as revolutionary as roads, railways and ports, increasing social cohesion and releasing the entrepreneurial spirit that stimulates trade and creates jobs,' says Professor Leonard Waverman of London Business School. Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN, 2007.A new United Nations report has revealed that mobile phone penetration in the poorest Least Developed Countries (LDCs) reached 25 per cent in 2009. The figure is a significant increase compared to 2003, when the number of mobile phone subscriptions in LDCs was of only two per 100 inhabitants. The Information Economy Report 2010 was released on Thursday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. In developing countries overall the penetration rate is now at 58 per cent. The report also found that mobile phones can help lift people out of poverty by offering them a wide range of income-generating opportunities, such as selling airtime on the streets and refurbishing handsets.

Source: Panos




  • Written by Kafil Yamin

Tweaking technology for the bottom four billion

Wind turbines could power motors used for milling, pumping and weaving. Photo: Flickr/aJ GAZMEN GucciBeaR.

With a bit of imagination, technologies can be made cheap enough for the poor, but investors needed, finds Kafil Yamin

[JAKARTA] Texting is great if you are literate. But for those who cannot read and write it is a useless feature of a piece of technology — the mobile phone — that is otherwise beautifully pro-poor.

Romdoul Kim, who works for the nongovernmental organisation Innovative Support To Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters [InSTEDD] in Cambodia, would muse on this problem as she witnessed its consequences: the poor could not benefit from the flow of information that could otherwise have been passing between health workers and patients in her area.

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