At the risk of overstating the role that mobile phones will play in reaching the BoP, a great post on NextBillion.net talks about how cell phones have reached the level that Malcolm Gladwell would label a “social epidemic.”
It is notable that Eric Schmidt, chairman of the board and enlightened CEO of Google has said that the trend “will end with 5 billion out of the 6 billion with cell phones,” a figure that reaches well into the Base of the Pyramid.
While the article may seem to place cell phones on a pedestal and almost describe them as the missing link for development, one point the article does make well is the notion that unlike in developed economies where some blame mobile technologies for the fragmentation and depersonalization of society, in the developing world they actually enable people to become more secure and interdependent.
While iphones and hotmail might be touted as the epitome of the “idea economy” of the developed world, they also represent a departure from the “developmental” mode of making people more secure by making societies independent. Instead, as we can observe in our everyday lives, the cell phone and everything that one can do with it represents a way of making people more secure by facilitating their growing interdependence. In this way, cell phones are a tool of social system creation and community cohesion rather than social system destruction, which is too often attributable to development efforts.
The article culminates in the notion that in fact access to such mobile technologies allows the stakeholders in the development process to actually become involved in its direction.
Cell phones are largely doing for the BoP what the Bank of Italy (now Bank of America) did by democratizing financial institutions. As people become more connected to each other, they become stakeholders in each other’s world. Connectivity leads primarily to communication.
Filed under: BoP, CSR, Finance/Credit, Social Entrepreneurship, Technology | Tagged: Bank of America, BoP, bottom of the pyramid, cell phones, democratization, Gladwell, Google, idea economy, interdependence, Mobile Phones, NextBillion.net, security |