Letter from the Editors
Bansal, Varun, Bradbury, Alexandra, Harvard International Review
Across the developing world, mobile technology is being used in novel ways. Its evolution reminds, us that innovation is not just the incremental improvement of technology, but the advancement of our ability to meet global needs. Few would turn to the developing world to learn from its abilities in technology and innovation; this issue aims to change this mindset.
Our discussion is opened by Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, who provides us with an overview of the versatile applications of phones in everything from activism to health to agriculture. As he shows, mobiles phones have advanced the bounds of human capabilities, enabling development in faster, more effective ways.
This concept is further examined by Matt Berg, director of ICT for the Millennium Villages Project. His insightful piece explains how mobile phones are being used to provide instant electronic information that allows for immediate evidence-based action to solve community problems. With this new technology, governments can implement accurate plans more quickly to address issues such as access to roads and transportation, damaged electrical or water facilities, and proximity to health centers.
But innovation, especially in the developing world, continues to face substantial challenges as well. Iqbal Quadir, founder of Grameenphone Limited, highlights the counterproductive role governments can play by imposing restrictions to mobile commerce. Though he estimates that a quarter of a trillion US dollars have been spent on mobile phones in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, he identifies government intervention in the commercial sector as a core problem of stagnating economies. His piece forces us to recognize that behind the promise of technological empowerment is the shadow of political obstacles, introducing the question of whether the international world should involve itself in challenging these barriers. …