I bought my first mobile phone in 1995 (a Nokia 2140). At the time my friends thought I was “yuppie” and there was a bit of a social stigma attached (to be fair, I was a bit of an idiot about it) but, within a couple of years mobiles were starting to become universally accepted…
Fast forward almost two decades and, a couple of weeks ago, I was at an event where Telefonica O2’s vice president of research and development, Mike Short, mentioned that there are now 6 billion mobile devices in our world and that’s still growing at a phenominal rate. The telcos count this based on subscriptions (which includes feature phones, smartphones, tablets, mobile payment systems, and more) but have you ever thought about the uses that old mobile handsets can be put to?
I have a Nokia 6021 that I keep as a spare handset (it’s pretty dumb, but makes calls, has Bluetooth, battery lasts a while, and it’s almost indestructable) but most of my other handsets have been sold or recycled over the years.
O2’s recycling scheme supports their Think Big programme but I’d like to think there’s a fair chance that old handsets can find a use in the developing world too. Because mobile commerce is not just about smartphones – the Mobile Internet and NFC – but, in parts of the world where bandwith is more scarce, there are many examples of mobile projects using SMS, or even a missed call:
- In Kenya, the M-Pesa mobile payment system is phenominally successful – it’s now the most popular mobile cash app in Africa – and, according to Marketwatch, across sub-Saharan Africa, every 10% rise in mobile device sales equates to an almost 1% rise in gross domestic product. The same article goes on to state that in many developing countries more people have mobile phones than have bank accounts.
- GigaOm reported recently on a “missed call” being used to control farm irrigation control systems in India (a country where there are more mobile phones than toilets)
- And there are healthcare impacts too – SMS systems can be used to streamline healthcare provision in remote areas of the world (and there are other mHealth examples too).
So maybe it’s time to dig out that old mobile that’s gathering dust somewhere and send it for recycling? Even if there is limited financial reward for you, it might still have a life elsewhere, or, at the very least the components can be recycled for environmental purposes.