by Karen Coppock
The Haitian earthquake has provided an entirely new perspective on the power of mobile phones. First was the discovery that serious fundraising can be done via the mobile phone. As of February 2010, $35 million dollars were raised for Haiti - in $5 and $10 increments.
The next discovery was that mobile phones could be used as survey and data collection tools. NPR reported that volunteer statisticians collected economic data (such as jobs and houses lost in the earthquake) via calls to mobile phones. Volunteers from Statistics Without Borders were surprised at how "chatty" the Haitians were and were literally shocked when survey participants returned their call. They noted that using cell phones to conduct surveys could be useful across developing countries. Many organizations around the world are already using mobile phones to collect data, but generally by visiting individuals and inputting data and not by placing phone calls to their mobile phones.
No one familiar with developing countries will be surprised with these finding - the fact mobile phones and mServices are an extremely powerful tool in developing countries. What is news is that more and more industries within the developed world are beginning to realize and exploit this - for the benefit of the citizens of these nations.