Here at LIKECHARITY we see on a daily basis all the good mobile technology has done for charity fundraising, but the reach of mobile far surpasses the charity sector. Throughout Africa mobile is being embraced by the masses, being used to increase commerce, improve healthcare, tackle unemployment and even spark social debate.
Researchers predict that by the end of next year there will be over 635 million mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa.
By 2019 it is predicted that internet use via mobile will increase 20 times in the region. Africans prefer to access the internet via their mobile as landline connections are unreliable and often non-existent in more rural areas.
The sub-Saharan division of tech giant Ericsson released their research report this week detailing these figures. Fredrik Jejdling, head of Ericsson in the sub-Saharan region noted that "We have seen the trend emerging over a few years but in the past 12 months the digital traffic has increased over 100%, forcing us to revise our existing predictions."
The rapid growth within the last year is attributed to the new availability of cost-effective smartphones from as low as £30.
Jejdling noted how the movement toward mobile internet is being embraced by African people as a whole, from business people to the youth, from every walk of life, "Mobile commerce can offer endless opportunities for entrepreneurs and we've found that farmers are fans of mobile wallets – as well as teenagers wanting to watch music videos on their smartphone".
Of course the growth of technology on the African continent holds much more potential for the African youth than the ability to send out a tweet.
IT Jobs Battle Unemployment
This week The Rockafeller Foundation released details of a $100 million initiative to bring young Africans into the IT sector. Digital Jobs Africa will provide IT training for young people with the aim of connecting 250,000 of them with jobs in the growing African IT sector. The initiative was launched in May 2013 in a bid to combat youth unemployment in Africa.
Mobile is being used as a force for change in Africa by natives as well as development organisations. Text messages are currently banned in the Central African Republic as attempts to incite a general strike were promoted via SMS.
A mass text message was sent to mobile subscribers calling for a strike in protest of the ongoing sectarian violence between Muslim and Christian divisions in the Central African Republic. To avoid future large scale communications calling for civil disobedience the prime minister requested all SMS services be suspended in order to maintain order.
While the popularity of mobile on the African continent aids the work of charitable organisations, mobile is being embraced by the African people themselves and harnessed to implement change where it is needed most. Almost every prominent social issue affecting African people is being addressed through the use of mobile technology, from employment and political issues, to healthcare and commercial advancements. The rapid growth in mobile subscriptions over the last year proves that African nations are willing to trust in and adapt to the presence of mobile in everyday life, cementing the role of mobile technology in African development in the coming decades.