Have you seen a Bodafone?

by Anjali Gupta

Bodafone in Uganda

Image courtesy of kiwanja.net

Ken Banks devotes himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world, and has spent the last 15 years working on projects in Africa.

In his essay, Mobiles in Africa: A Travellers Perspective, Ken Banks describes the entrepreneurial spirit thriving in Africa around the mobile industry,

“..Mobile phones are attached to bikes (two and three wheelers), and even boats, and taken to where the business is. In Uganda these bikes, known locally as boda boda’s, are hooked up with spare batteries and desktop mobile devices to create what are affectionately known as Bodafones”.

Another entrepreneur in Africa – a village phone operator, ties a wire to the mobile phone, to allow her customers to walk around with the phone and have a private conversation, a rare treat given the number of children in these villages. Ken describes her move as an “an attempt to break the mould – and gain a little competitive advantage”

Whenever I explore the world through the eyes of such individuals, I’m reminded of the world beyond my city, my country, and my people. And I am always forced to rethink the impact of the problems that I have chosen to solve.

Moving on, far away from Africa, on the other end of the spectrum, is the problem faced by women in selecting the right shade of makeup while shopping cosmetics that must perfectly match their skin color. HP Labs is offering a mobile solution for this problem.

Finally, as I consume these two diverse pieces of information on the same day, I can only conclude,

It does not matter where we start along the spectrum of problems in a certain domain; what matters is if we’re willing to broaden our vision and make meaningful contributions along the entire spectrum.