There are now more than 3.5 billion mobile phones in use around the world. In the past five years, their use and distribution has exploded across the global South, including in once hard-to-reach places in Africa. In fact, Africa is the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market. Over the past five years the continent’s mobile phone usage has increased at an annual rate of 65 percent – twice the rate of Asia.
The world’s poor are creative users of mobile phones, adapting these powerful tools to help with business, saving and spending money, and communicating with the outside world. As powerful as mobile phones are, they need electricity to stay functioning. And it is the struggle to find a steady supply of electricity that vexes many in the South.
There are wind-up mobile phone chargers, solar powered chargers (http://tinyurl.com/bg3wac), and mobile phone chargers you wave about. But most of these devices are, to someone who is poor and living in the South, expensive and hard to find. So what to do when it is not possible to buy a solar powered mobile phone charger?
Necessity is the mother of much invention. And one inventing mother is Mrs. Muyonjo, a housewife in a remote village of Ivukula in Iganga district, Eastern Uganda. She used to ride her bicycle for 20 miles in order to get to the nearest small town with an electricity charger for her mobile phone battery.
If that wasn’t a struggle enough, she was one day deceived by a vendor running a village battery charger.
“I will never give my telephone to the village battery chargers again,” she told the Women of Uganda Network (www.wougnet.org). “I gave them my new phone for charging, and they changed my battery and instead returned to me an old battery whose battery life can only last for one day.”
Ripped off by the vendor and unable to find the money or time to charge the battery daily, she decided to find an alternative charging solution.
“I looked at what was readily available to me and came up with my own charger. I devised this method to enable me to charge my battery every day. It works perfectly.”
A simple solution that shows there is no need to be a prisoner of technology, just its adaptor.
By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions
Published: February 2009
Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.
Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s
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