RE: Solving World Problems: Hunger --> cell phones

From: Reason (
Date: Mon Jan 28 2002 - 21:09:38 MST

> More seriously the problem of hunger is not really due to lack of food
> production but rather lack of distribution and buying power among the
> poor. Even a cornucopia tree won't help if local warlords tax you 100%
> at gunpoint. So the first step towards a solution to hunger may be less
> spreading modified tree seeds (I think that is part of the *second*
> step), but rather to spread satelite phones to make people able to
> communicate with each other outside local ruler's control.

The existing GSM infrastructure is already doing this for regions in Asia.
Carriers are far less accountable to governments than they might be at this
time. Google for "Estrada AND SMS" for example to see what inexpensive
computers (=phase2+ cell phones @ $20 each) with simple short message
point-to-point communications can do to a society.

You're finding that the people are being given a voice in countries such as
the Philippines, Indonesia, etc; their cell phones are allowing them to
publish and reach other people affordably where before they had no viable
and cost-effective way of doing so. Look at the mytext service from Smart
Comm in the Phillipines for example; it's a reimplementation of a
distributed bulletin board system for use by mobile phones via text message.

[If you want to use an internet cafe in these countries, be prepared to
stand in line for three hours behind a horde of counterstrike players. And
pay outrageous sums of money].

I think that the list's resident Singapore resident can probably speak to
the effects that cellphones have had on his citystate. I've spoken with some
of the companies based there (such as Edgematrix) in the process of my work,
and it's as much a high-tech hub and center of exciting social possibilities
as Northern California.


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