The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about mobile communications in the U.S. is that it’s mostly for teenagers and gadget gurus. Yet for many around the world it’s the way to access the Web and do business. Globally, mobile subscriptions are about to surpass 3.4 billion — and most of these users are in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Mobile presents a lifeline to many in these areas. Imagine rural populations banking without a single branch in sight. Imagine youth groups having a national debate through a mobile social network. Imagine those who suffer from lack of information getting health alerts, news alerts, trade alerts on their cells. Sellers meet farmers, doctors meet patients, crisis news move populations to safer places through mobile phones.
Projects similar to these are looking for sponsors, partners and developers on Vodafone’s open community Web site Betavine. NGOs and communities go on the site to pose challenges they would like to overcome using technology. Developers collaborate to offer solutions and come up with new applications. The community members pose questions and educate themselves through shared resources. They also get the chance to apply for grants by participating in challenges. Betavine is not restricted to Vodafone technologies and platforms. It’s open source R&D in the truest sense. Indeed, some of the best ideas to solve big problems come from stiff competition.
You can read more about social entrepreneurs finding mobile solutions on SocialEdge.org.