Extending Cell Technology in Africa–Saving Lives

One of the advantages of cell technology is its capability to improve quality of life in places where landline technology doesn’t exist. Digital technology makes it possible to leapfrog over the more cumbersome landline infrastructure.

The technology has great value in locales that are off-the-grid. Bishop Joao Machado of Mozambique tells the story of massive flooding in his country a few years ago. Many people in the pathway of the floodwaters lost their lives for lack of a warning system. The bishop says community radio stations and simple handcrank radios could have saved many lives.

Cellphone technology has advanced in Africa with similar benefit. Jonathan Marks at Critical Distance weblog reports on the value of extending cell coverage on Lake Victoria.

Marks says the new service will make it possible for 200,000 fishermen to have the opportunity to use cellphones if they get into trouble on the lake. Marks says 5,000 deaths a year occur now.

Besides this obvious advantage, Marks says the new technology with bring economic and social development to lakeside villages that are not well-served right now.

He makes an interesting proposal. Couple cellphone technology with FM radio and it would be possible to provide fishing families with market information as well as weather warnings. Add to this the capability of cellphones for SMS text messaging and the technology becomes both life-enhancing and life-saving.

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