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The last thing you think of when considering a third world country is high-tech products, yet you might be surprised at just how much technology has spread throughout these countries. Despite the fact that many developing countries still struggle with providing safe water and consistent electricity, they have a surprising number of cell phones and other technology.
Internet Is Taking Over the World
According to the International Telecommunications Union, one third of the global population is online. In 2006, developing countries made up just 44% of global Internet users, but in 2011, a full 62% of global Internet users are located in developing countries. China makes up 37% of the world’s online population, and India accounts for another 10%.
In 2011, there were double the number of mobile broadband subscriptions as there were fixed broadband subscriptions. That’s a 45% growth rate over the previous year. At the same time, the number of households in developing countries that own a computer is also increasing and is now at a solid 25%, up from 20% in 2010.
Despite the fact that more developing countries are now able to access the Internet, the quantity still varies drastically depending on the area. For example, in 2011, Europe saw nearly 90,000 bits of bandwidth available per user, whereas Africans had just 2,000 bits available per user. The difference can mean that some content online is simply not easily accessible to those in developing countries, particularly videos and other media that may take up considerable bandwidth to load.
Mobile Phones Hit 87% Saturation
While Internet access has become more and more common in many developing countries, it’s mobile phones that have really taken off. Global saturation is at 87%, but within developing countries, it is already up to 79%, meaning that the majority of those living in developing countries own a cell phone.
How Technology is Changing Countries
The majority of those who own cell phones in developing countries are mobile-only, reports MobiThinking, which means they rarely or never access the Internet via other means such as a laptop, desktop or tablet. Their sole means of access is via mobile networking. This has allowed a large number of people to become connected online when they would otherwise not have any access to the Internet.
In many developing countries, mobile phones aren’t just for calling a friend or checking your email. The phones may be simpler than many of the smartphones offered in more developed countries, but as The Economist reported in 2011, it’s the services offered that make mobiles so invaluable around the globe.
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The ability to make payments via your mobile phone may not seem like a huge breakthrough for most people, but to those in developing areas of the world, it’s a godsend. Over 40 countries offer the ability to send money via text message, something that has made it easier for many to pay salaries, donate money and disperse payments.
Access to Important Information
Nokia, for example, provides a service called Ovi Life Tools to its users in countries like India, China and Nigeria. The service allows users to upload their own information on markets and weather and shares everything from sports to weather, making it an invaluable resource for anyone in the countries where the service is available.
In some countries, mobile phones allow farmers and other vendors to check market prices, allowing them to choose the best place to sell their products in order to make the best profit possible. While this may seem simple enough, it can change lives and ensures that farmers don’t transport their goods across long distances and at great expense only to find that the prices being offered aren’t worth their time.
Other areas are experimenting with making it possible for rural store owners to place orders via text or online so that they can save time and money on long trips into the nearest cities.
For those with access to basic Internet, via mobile phone or otherwise, job searching instantly becomes easier, particularly in areas where there is an established online classified ad center, like Babajobs.com in India.
The Economist also reports that in Bangladesh, mobile users can call in for English lessons that cost around two cents for three minutes of learning. Quizzes are also included and no Internet is required, as the listener can simply dial in to learn. This is just one way that those in developing countries can improve their education and knowledge. With just a basic knowledge of English, many more people can find higher paying work, which changes the entire future of their family.
Those in first world countries tend to take technology for granted, with tablets, laptops and wireless Internet available nearly everywhere. However, in a country that is still developing, even a simple mobile phone could change lives and improve the future of the entire country merely by providing access to information and education that would not otherwise be possible.