News, views and commentary from the telecoms sector across emerging markets and developing countries worldwide

Thursday, 21 May 2009

More ways to get mobile phones into the hands of health care workers and micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of doing my (very) little bit to promote the HopePhones initiative organised by the good people at FrontlineSMS:Medic. This is about collecting unwanted handsets and putting them into the hands of community health workers in developing countries. I noted that free postage and collection centres are currently only available to US residents, and asked non-US readers to get in touch if they knew of similar schemes closer to home. One of these has come to my attention, via the comments page on the excellent blog maintained by Ken Banks.

It seems that residents of New Zealand are able to take part in a somewhat similar scheme, thanks to Enable Community, a not-for-profit organisation also working to provide access to affordable communications services in the developing world. They do this through the collection and re-use of mobile phones in partnership with Vodafone New Zealand, community groups, churches and businesses and with micro-enterprise organizations in developing countries which are supported by Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency building a global network of churches to help eradicate poverty.

If you have any doubts about how mobile phones can enable poor people in developing countries to become more independent and more active in productive economic activity, I'd encourage you to visit the Enbale Community website's 'impact' section, which features some powerful stories from Indonesia and the Phillipines.

If you don't know of any initiatives similar to HopePhones or Enable Community in your country, perhaps you can investigate whether something similar could be set up. If you work for an operator, it could be a powerful part of your firm's commitment to corpotate social responsibility...

I say this because, although US residents seem to form the single largest group of readers of this blog, according to the visit statistics, visits from New Zealand are very rare indeed... so it would be good to learn what other readers could do in terms of this kind of activity.

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