This week marks the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Over the past twenty years, internet technology has grown exponentially. In fact, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) predicts that by 2015, 50 percent of the world will have access to the internet.
Today, internet technology not only incorporates desktop or laptop computers, but mobile networks as well. Driving mobile technology is the fact that, of the seven billion people in the world, approximately six billion are cell phone subscribers. In Latin America alone, the World Bank recently announced that the region has surpassed 100 percent mobile phone penetration, meaning there are currently 107 mobile phones for every 100 people.
In recent years, mobile technology has grown to what we now know as “smart phones,” a mobile device that integrates various social media platforms, email, and applications. Unfortunately, smart phones are not quite as prevalent in developing countries as in the developed world. However, if history tells us anything, it is that smart phones will soon become the dominant mobile technology around the world.
So what does the growth of internet and mobile technologies mean for global health and gender equality?
In fact, USAID recently announced its initiative to use both traditional and social media platforms to advance gender equality. Partnering with the Ford Foundation, Show of Force, and Games for Change, the Half the Sky Movement Media and Technology Engagement Initiative aims to “create behavior change toward gender issues in India and Kenya through an integrated media campaign.”
Already, Games for Change has produced the mobile game “Nine Minutes,” which aims to educate women and girls about the importance of safe pregnancy practices for both the mother-to-be and her growing fetus. Created for phones commonly found in India and East Africa, a 2012 study demonstrated positive shifts in knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions in individuals after playing the mobile game.
Additionally, mHealth Alliance, a UN Foundation organization, works across multiple sectors and advocates for the use of mobile phone technologies to improve global health. The mHealth Alliance also serves as a community in which mHealth providers can “share tools, knowledge, experience and lessons learned.”
Over the past five years, the African continent has experienced a growth in mobile phone subscriptions at a rate of twenty percent each year. In Malawi specifically, mobile phones have proven themselves to be a lifesaving technology. Doreen Namasala, a community health worker in Malawi, receives approximately 15 to 18 calls per day at Chipatala Cha Pa Foni, or the “health center by phone.” As a result of the technologically advanced health center, women no longer are forced to walk miles to the nearest clinic. Instead, this toll-free health hotline provides women in Malawi with an increased access to maternal healthcare through mobile phone technology.
Judging from the continued growth of internet and mobile technologies, the future of international development belongs to positive Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
For more information, please see the links below:
Twitter at #ICT4D
Decode Global, an organization developing mobile games for social change.
Mobile Games: Reaching the Hardest to Reach, Half the Sky Movement