Mobile Phone Usage Failures in Developing Countries


The massive uptake of mobile phones has crossed gaps and formed bridges in many objectives and goals in developing countries. Aside from bridging communication barriers between nations, mobile industry has also provided people a great range of services and information, aided by the spur growth of mobile accessories that enhances phone’s features and capabilities. Mobile phones have also been a good medium in revolutionized information and recording in human disasters.

However, despite being a good tool, a lot of organizations and human rights advocates fail to realize the implications of using mobile phones to good use on development initiatives. In a review of the practice in most developing countries, most humanitarian workers either unconsciously undermine or are not fully aware of mobile phone’s capabilities. As much as the revolution of mobile phones has been able to take down communication barriers among individual trends and cultures, it has not been used much in beneficial causes. In fact, in a survey conducted by The Peterson Group, distributor of mobile phones and laptop peripherals in Taiwan, respondents were asked on the top five benefits of mobile industry. Only 2 out of a hundred random respondents thought of including its benefits during natural calamities.

When a tsunami hit Sumatra, Indonesia last 2004, help and assistance were only received after a day or two as people were too absorbed to capturing the huge waves splashing the seaside than to report to authorities. The government of Jakarta has already expressed grave disappointment on how the citizens have handled the situation in the face of great calamity. Most experts are also concerned of the worsening phenomenon as adaption to mobile technology grows deeper.

Different government entities also support the use of mobile phones on health advocacies despite its’ own warnings of the danger of overexposure in its usage. For instance, the government of Ghana has opened text line at the times when counterfeit medicines are causing high mortality rate in Africa. One free text to confirm the bar code of a particular drug can determine whether it is legit. Despite all the attention and money being poured into mobile health, it is this area in particular in which serious privacy concerns arise. In Ghana’s case, drug counterfeiting continues to increase while the government’s effort is set aside.

More critical thought about mobile phones and their rights’ implications is urgently needed; the risk that development initiatives unknowingly create legacy systems to aid impermissible surveillance or other rights-limiting regimes is significant.