Telecommunication in Africa


Cellphones are a part of our lives whether we want them to be or not. People are heavily reliant on their phones and even in developing countries, people have access to mobile phones. In recent years, the popularity of mobile phones have surpassed the land-line version of telecommunication as cellphones do not require complicated in-house wiring.

Certain companies like Nokia and BlackBerry have specifically targeted developing countries as viable markets for low tier phones. BlackBerry has had a lot of success with its recent BlackBerry 9720 in South America and BlackBerry Z3 in the Indonesian market. Nokia has had a lot of success in African countries.

In Tanzania, the leading mobile phone operator is Mobitel, who own 60% of the market shares in Tanzania; they have provided mobile services into areas where telecommunication through land line were not feasible. They've increased their mobile geography coverage to allow for more users to take advantage of their pre-paid systems. These mobile companies target the developing countries by offering low cost air-times and cheap handhelds that can be seen as affordable by low income families.

Image from here

These cheap phones are often made with disposable batteries, There is some concern over the proper disposal of batteries. In developed countries we have the infrastructure in place to properly dispose of mobile devices but in that of a developing country, where does one get rid of their mobile devices? It is normal in Tanzania for one to just throw away their mobile device battery; whether that be dumping it in a location without thought or digging a hole and burning trash.

Many places in Africa are now demanding more technological developments with the surge of access to mobile phones and internet. This can allow for a larger exchange of information in remote areas for education, health, economic development and training. In Tanzania alone, it is predicted that 75% of the population will have access to a mobile device by 2015. There have been studies conducted saying the use of mobile devices have helped support literacy in places like Tanzania. The primary use of mobile phone in Tanzania are for business purposes. Women entrepreneurs would use their cellphones for book keeping and calculators; supply chain management and contact book. A lot of the exchange of goods is done orally, but with the introduction of cellphones it puts a strain on the level of trust that use to be the norm during oral promises.

Cell phones are also changing things up in terms of agriculture in Africa. People now have access to market prices, micro-insurance, farming applications, and instant weather information. All these factors aiding in optimizing crops and livestock.

Overall, the rise of mobile technology in Africa is being welcomed by the majority.

Why is this important?

As more technology becomes available for people in the developing world, it is interesting to see how they interact and use it. It is interesting to see how it impacts their day to day lives and the shift in culture as information becomes more accessible to all.

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