Mobile Phones and Community Empowerment

Image from Alamy via the Economist.

Both the NY Times and the Economist reported last month that mobile phones are aiding development in fascinating new ways. Just to name a few: The Grameen Foundation's phone app helps rural Ugandan farmers track crop diseases before they spread, sending digital photos and GPS coordinates to scientists in Kampala. India's Nokia Life Tools app give instant farming advice, weather data, and crop prices. And Africans can now text for money transfers, to turn on water wells, and get soccer scores.

Mobile phones also empower communities: citizens are reporting on human-rights violations, coordinating aid projects, and getting the scoop on local politicians. Just this year Indian voters used phones to call up data on their candidates. And Kenyans' mobiles aided them in crisis management by texting to NGOs during post-election violence in 2008.

What's the significance of this for VV? In certain communities, people proficient with their mobile devices are becoming town information specialists, using cheap applications to pull up data on local agriculture and prices, or to google neighbors' questions. They're advising school kids on the endless information now accessible to them. Could CVU producers become "community knowledge workers," using their technical know-how to get information to their communities not only through video, but via mobiles as well?

How else could CVU producers incorporate such rapidfire response tools into their work? Could VV set up an application that allowed community members to message CVUs during a crisis that needed video coverage? The potential seems there.

Posted by Morgan Currie, VV Volunteer.

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