Cell Phones in Developing Countries

As somebody who is often annoyed with the role cell phones have taken on in our lives, I have been surprised a couple times recently when reading about the role of cell phones in developing countries. A recent NYTimes article about Nokias involvement with „emerging markets“ makes me feel especially ambivalent about it.

Without much profit so far, Nokia seems to be pursuing especially farmers and small entrepreneurs, offering them low-cost subscription services about market prices, weather forecasts and other information apparently very valuable to them:

Dattarey Bhonge, a 27-year-old onion farmer in Barshi, an Indian village 230 miles east of Mumbai, said he learned through Life Tools that he could earn more by selling his onions at a market in nearby Solapur. The additional profit allowed him to buy new farm equipment.

“I don’t have to go anywhere to find the prices,” he said in a video provided by Nokia. “The prices are reliable. I was cheated by my agent. Now he can’t cheat me.”

So Nokia is building a loyal consumer base, while at the same time delivering some sort of development aid.

Two-thirds of the globe’s 4.6 billion mobile phone users live in emerging markets, where Nokia is the market leader with a 34 percent share, according to Strategy Analytics. By selling valuable price data at a relatively low cost, Nokia is blending commercial and humanitarian goals to attract the next generation of upwardly mobile phone users.

“For Nokia, Ovi Life Tools creates tremendous brand loyalty,” said Wally Swain, a mobile analyst with the Yankee Group in Bogotá, Colombia. “Farmers and their families will not want to lose this capability. No other handset manufacturer pursues anything like this.”

A clear win-win situation? It does sound like a great thing, with just a little weird feeling. But maybe we have to consider this as a true example of the market working: Nokia is improving the world by pursuing its own interests?

Datum: Mittwoch, 3. November 2010 11:51
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