During the past decade mobile phones have spread like wildfire around the world. Mobile coverage has penetrated some of the world’s most remote places – extending far beyond paved roads to villages that lack regular access to electricity. The technology has allowed farmers, merchants, migrant workers, mothers, and countless of other millions in the far corners of the planet to enjoy the benefits of connectivity.
People everywhere use their phones to keep in touch with friends and family. But in remote, marginalized and underdeveloped communities, basic mobile phones are essential tools used by farmers to get tips on cultivation and check prices at local markets, by health workers to provide life-saving outreach, by civil society organizations to promote democracy and political transparency, by citizens to report local happenings, by relief agencies to respond to disasters and the list goes on.
Between 2010 and 2011, I worked as a communication consultant for FrontlineSMS, an open-source SMS platform that enables large groups of people to gather and share information of any kind, anywhere there is a mobile signal. When FrontlineSMS founder Ken Banks was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer we developed MOBILE MESSAGE, a series of short dispatches exploring the impact of mobile proliferation globally.
Published on the National Geographic Blog, I helped to curate the initial handful of posts in the series including thought-provoking essays on mobile innovation and design, narrative accounts of projects using FrontlineSMS, and Q&As with practitioners in the field.