Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mobile phones in Haiti

Telecoms Sans Frontiers was one of the first crisis aid groups to reach Haiti. They work to restore telecommunications. Hat tip to Marginal Revolution for linking to this story.

Mr. PAUL MARGIE (Representative, Telecom Without Borders): They would go and they carried a satphone with them. And again and again, the people wanted access to that satellite phone even more than the clothes or the food that they were bringing. And so they changed and they said, let's make an organization that focuses on the communication.

The traditional argument against transhumanist solutions to speed uneven development is that those people need clean water, nutritious food and economic development, and only no-life tech nerds could suggest that geek toys like mobile phones matter. However, communication is very basic human need and also important to those who live for a few dollars a day. The quoted story about how the founders of Telecoms Sans Frotiers discovered the need for their organization illustrates that.

In Hyderabad, we had local mobile phone SIMs (they worked more reliably and were much cheaper). They were prepaid SIMs. We loaded time by visiting a phone shop. The shops also logged the bought balance to written books (no idea why), and there you could see how people had bought talk time a few euros at a time. Mobile phone operators have strong incentives to run their profitable business also in countries where average incomes are extremely low. For this reason, mobile phone service is available in many areas where no foreign aid group has ever visited.

The top 4 roadside ad categories I remember where construction cement, apartments, IT courses and mobile phone operators.

Mobile phones are as close to transhumanist technology as we have today - the only reason we are not amazed by telepathic ability to talk with anyone anytime is that we have lived with the technology for 15 years, and we had fixed lines before that. Privacy is the only reason they don't implement clairvoyance, where you input a GPS coordinate and see an image stream from the closest observation camera.

People in the developing world also grow from genetic blueprints, so transhumanist solutions are going to play new roles in the future.


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