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I recently received a text message from my friend Karim in Niger, asking “Keski ce passe?” (What’s happening?). Those of you who know French might notice his text is an abbreviation of the much longer expression for “Qu’est-ce qui se passe”, which is formal and proper but a bit long when you only have 140 characters. Such abbreviations in French, English and other languages have caused teachers and parents alike to blame texting for corrupting our language and “degrading [the] spelling of [our] youth.” Existing studies in the UK and elsewhere have debunked these claims, and, the National Adult Literacy Database called on people to celebrate International Literacy Day by “reading or writing, tweeting or texting.” In fact, mobile phones and texting might be a new tool in the arsenal against illiteracy: our new research in Niger suggests that mobile phones could promote literacy and numeracy skills in sub-Saharan Africa.
Jenny Aker, Christopher Ksoll and Travis J. Lybbert
The results of a randomized evaluation of a mobile phone education program (Project ABC) in Niger suggest that simple and relatively cheap information and communication technology can serve as an effective and sustainable learning tool for rural populations.
Over 60 percent of Africans have access to a cell phone, a simple technology that many believe will fundamentally change the dynamics of agricultural markets, banking, and government service delivery. In a new paper, Jenny Aker and Isaac Mbiti separate the hype from the reality.
This post concludes my report on my trip to Kenya to see M-PESA, the mobile phone--based money transfer service. Here's the full set.
Iqbal Quadir may be the original visionary of mobile phones for the masses in developing countries. In this 100-second clip from his TED talk, he tells how the vision came to him in the early 1990s:
Quadir was seized with the idea of bringing mobile phones to the poor of Bangladesh. In time, he partnered with the Grameen Bank to form GrameenPhone. And the rest is history, in Bangladesh and beyond.