Mobile devices: tools to end poverty

When we were working on designing Global Sisters Report, we had several conversations about how people access information in 2014. Surprisingly many of our conversations revolved around the reality that more and more people around the world are connected to one another through mobile devices – increasingly more so than through computers or traditional telephones.

The smart phone and the tablet, often perceived to be luxuries, have become overwhelmingly practical and cost-effective tools for communication and accessing information. Because of these conversations, I have paid more attention to articles and commentary on the importance of mobile devices in the fight against poverty. 

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) does an excellent job of utilizing social media to report on aid around the world, and yesterday morning they shared an interesting link via Twitter about how cellular phones are helping in feeding the hungry, providing disaster relief and fighting against disease. Claiming that mobile devices do more than just connect people, CNS says that the devices “provide instant access to relevant and often crucial information to those who need it most.” CRS is investing money in mobile technology projects around the world to further take advantage of how these devices can help people.

The World Bank is also an advocate for using mobile devices in working to relieve poverty. A blog written in June 2013 by Randeep Sudan, World Bank’s sector manager for communications and technologies, claims that of the 6 billion mobile phones in the world, 5 billion are in developing countries.

I find this number astounding but also intriguing. This technology can be used to communicate, educate and collect data. It seems that embracing mobile devices can help aid organizations and religious communities to better serve those in need.

In his blog, Sudan threw out the astounding statistic that, “In the island of Palau, a 512 Kbps connection to the Internet costs $650 per month. In contrast, a 2Gbps connection can cost as little as $51 a month in Japan.” Sudan believes that as long as access to mobile phones remains affordable, the use of them has the potential to change the structure of poverty.

[Colleen Dunne is development director for De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning, Montana, and a former NCR Bertelsen intern in editorial and marketing.]