GrameenPhone

In the hands of people

August 13, 2009: 7:30 AM ET

How hand-held computers – also known as cell phones – are changing the world.

By Professor Iqbal Z. Quadir, director of the MIT Legatum Center and founder of Grameenphone

Quadir: phones will relieve poverty. Photo courtesy of MIT Legatum Center.

Quadir: Cell phones will relieve poverty. Photo courtesy of MIT Legatum Center.

Last month marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, an extraordinary event for all of us to celebrate. Forty years later, there is another extraordinary phenomenon to celebrate – billions of people around the world, including those in the poorest countries, now have computers in their hands that are thousands of times more powerful than the computers that guided the lunar mission.

Over half of the people in poor countries, including more than one quarter of people over the age of 14 in Afghanistan, use these hand-held computers. In many of the places where the devices have proliferated there are still inadequate roads, poor schools, ill-equipped hospitals, unreliable electricity, and no potable water.

But recently, these computers—also known as cell phones—have been helping local people to tackle these challenges. More

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