Smart Phones for the Masses

Posted September 22, 2008

This morning I listened to a presentation about how mobile phones are a significant catalyst for economic and political change in the developing world. The case is compelling: mobile phones are productivity tools that allow people to more efficiently buy and sell goods, share important news, and coordinate activities across greater distances. Political change precipitates from this process, because mass communication and economic empowerment give disenfranchised people a voice in the political process.

That's the first wave of technology driven change that most people in the world will experience. It's happening right now, and it's changing the lives of millions.

Which gets me thinking -- in ten years it could cost under $10 to build a mobile device equivalent to the iPhone, thanks to Moore's Law. With an open source operating system (like Google's Android), and an open hardware platform (like the Neo FreeRunner), a remarkable new level of capability and opportunity will be available to the people and communities who can only afford bare bones mobile phones today.

What happens when a village gets e-mail? What happens when an individual can pre-buy and pre-sell their goods in a much larger market? When complex personal and business interactions can be documented and time shifted? When microloans, expert advice, and education is just a tap away, and literacy becomes a critical part of every day life?

I suspect the answers are good. Economic empowerment. Social enlightenment. Political reform.

I think mobile phones are the fastest and most obvious way for these tools to get to the people who need them most. I'm interested in connecting with people who are similarly inclined. Who should I talk with?

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