Mobile telephony, more than a revolution


May 10, 2010 – As a group of men gathered around, there emerged a story of a person who paid for commercial sex worker’s services using mobile phone payment services.

Ironically, he used the same service to pay his daughter’s school fees and dispatch salaries to his upcountry labourers. This story gives evidence of the mobile phone revolution. Since their advent, mobile phones have transformed the way we love, play and work.

Mobile phones have become popular due to their increasing presence. In Kenya, the number of phones per 100 people (called teledensity) is estimated to reach 100 by 2013. This implies that almost everyone, including rural folks, will have a phone. This is highly driven by the emergence of affordable handsets.

The ability of phones to offer functionalities beyond calling and texting has made the gadget a ‘must-have’ rather than ‘nice-to-have’. It still remains a mystery how a small device can perform services like document management, access internet, air real-time news and make telephone calls at the same time. No wonder one writer observed ‘future is in your palms’.

During the rush hours, it common to see commuters glued to their phones, perhaps to deaden the pains of traffic jams. Big percentages are accessing the social networking site, Facebook. Reports indicate that out of 400 millionwoman_on_phone_956227996.jpg users of Facebook, 60 million access the site via their mobile phones.

Ardent followers of European soccer leagues now have an option of watching matches on a smart phone. Through a service dubbed ‘Dstv mobile’, an initiative of a mobile phone service provider and pay TV company, subscribers get up to 10 channels of soccer matches. This is a timed move given that the World Cup soccer bonanza is coming to Africa for the first time. Viewers will be able follow all the matches from their palms.

Information has become our livelihood. A mobile service company has launched a service that allows subscribers to request for information. The information includes cooking classes, entertainment events, stock market reports etc. This service helps one live his life without trying.

The mobile phone has also facilitated something called citizen journalism. Almost all radio and TV media houses have call-in live sessions through which viewers and listeners can give their views. Media houses also conducting polls on contemporary issues using phone short code services.

In Uganda, Health Ministry sends scheduled SMS to HIV and tuberculosis patients reminding them to take their medication. They also have a service disseminated via mobile phones called Clinic Finder. This helps rural dwellers find the closest clinic available to them.

However, mobile phone technology is a double-edged sword. In the recent times, conmen have picked on the device to plot fraudulent schemes. Others are sad stories of the woman who was charged in court for sending abusing messages to an acquaintance.

The mobile phone technology also seems to influence the political sphere. During the post election violence, witnesses reported incidents using SMS on the popular website, Ushahidi. Recently, the government issued a warning against use of mobile phone to send hate message as the country gears towards a referendum on constitution.

Technology and their effects in our lifestyles seem to change everyday. Whether this is for better or worse is debatable. The fact remains, the world is different form what it used to be a decade or two ago.


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