Expert Views | Laura Turkington

 
“The mobile phone is the single most transforming technology for development”
 
Along with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, we, at Vodafone recognise the vital role mobile plays in development worldwide. We are committed to empowering people in emerging markets to create new opportunities and improve livelihoods.
 
There are currently over five mobile subscribers worldwide with more people having access to a mobile phone than clean water or the electrical grid. Furthermore, it is estimated that by 2012, 1.7 billion people will have a mobile phones but no bank account. Understandably, the potential of this device is huge. Mobility solutions can increase productivity and efficiencies in a multitude of ways and reach the global masses. The mBillionth award serves to celebrate just that, by highlighting and honouring the efforts of many leading organisations which have used technology to create new opportunities and experiences for mobile users across Asia.
 
As a member of the jury, I was part of a privileged team tasked with evaluating these best-in-practice examples of mobile innovations. The shortlisted entries did not disappoint, with some categories proving to be extremely competitive. In particular, finance, health and education demonstrated some extraordinary examples of how mobile technology is being deployed to enhance the delivery of services to the population, rendering the impossible now possible.
 
Many of these new mobiles services are transforming lives and carry a distinct social benefit. The Vodafone ‘Mobiles for Good’ awards aims to identify these innovative mobile practices within the NGO sector and help enhance their outreach. For the winning NGOs, funding is provided to enhance their efforts, accelerate scale and create new capabilities.
 
Along with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, we at Vodafone recognize the vital role mobile plays in development worldwide. We are committed to empowering people in emerging markets to create new opportunities and improve livelihoods. One example of the power of mobile to further economic and social progress on a wide scale is M-PESA, a mobile payment service, with 30 million users and available in 7 countries. M-PESA offers a unique reach to remote areas and has brought a new financial freedom to many. For example, in Tanzania, medical patients use it to pay for treatment and travel and in Kenya farmers use the service to obtain micro-insurance.
 
In the words of Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Economics, Columbia University, The mobile phone is the single most transformative technology for development’. This is not without challenge, as we look to identify those services which are affordable, sustainable and respond to a discerned need in today’s world. The mBIllionth awards are most definitely a step in the right direction in achieving that goal.
 
Laura Turkington is country director – India Vodafone Foundation