Social Innovation Via Mobile Phone

One of the great social innovation success stories of recent years has involved using mobile phone technology to empower development. As mobile phones became more widespread and popular among people in developing countries, it has been easier for different development and humanitarian organizations to tap into and reach out to a greater number of these people.

SEND Farmers Aug 2009 (9) [Photo by IICD] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A great example of the use of mobile technology is in the area of micro-lending. Micro-financing institutions in developing countries had been facing difficulty in providing loans and business training to small entrepreneurs in rural and remote areas. Due to the higher costs involved in reaching out to these people, they had to charge higher interest rates on the loans they gave out. Mobile technology has changed this equation, enabling easier communications and therefore a greater ability to scale lending operations and expand social impact.

Mobile Phone Innovation in the Developing

Now there is a vibrant and growing market for mobile phone technologies and businesses that serve the developing world. An example of one of these companies is Frogtek, which develops business applications for micro-retailers in developing markets. Business owners who lack technology are almost completely in the dark when it comes to running their businesses, and the applications developed by Frogtek are designed to help manage things like accounting and inventory.

voice of the nation [Photo by Dipanker Dutta] (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The mobile phone also serves a platform for delivering a “micro MBA” for business owners, complete with tutorials and videos, accounting applications and other ways for business owners to stay on top of their businesses. The possibilities that have emerged with smart phones far outreach any benefits that have been brought by traditional cell phones. With smartphone technology the information gap can be bridged between the developed world and the developing world, with the possibility for transformational change.