Innovation and creativity have played a very important role to the development of technology. The two have mostly had a very close link with human life. Creativity has been serving as a very significant survival skill beginning from the time human beings came in to existence. It has helped human beings to move beyond what worked in the past in each and every undertaking, and discovering fresh approaches. More recently, there have been significant changes in the global economy, which make it completely vital for any country to make its technological competitiveness to be sharper, and this is a direct product of the nation’s innovative ability. At the present day, there is representation of the scenario by the phenomena such as the improved occurrence of innovations, making techno-economic life cycles shorter, swift creation and commercialization of the upcoming technologies, transnationals globalization, “strategic alliancing of large firms, intensive R&D programs, difficulty in accessing critical technologies, large multi-country R&D projects, large countries being threatened by newly industrialized countries and such others, in each of which overriding influence has been that of innovation” (Bhat, n.d, p.1). In essence, innovation and creativity have enabled human beings to come up with solutions to the problems that arise or to deal with the necessities facing them. Over time, there has been advancement in technology and this has come up as a result of making appropriate efforts to be creative and innovative.
t the present, one of the most important innovations that have been made is the invention and development of the mobile phone. Long time before human beings came to know mobile phones, they communicated using smoke. Few years later, the bird was invented as being a communication messenger (Catung.com, 2011). Taking the case in China, there was invention of paper and ink which enabled people to write messages and pass them to others. In the current times, people are familiar with the mobile phone. They are making use of it as being a medium of communication. This device is supported by the internet network. Through the use of the internet network, one is able to communicate with other people across the world (Catung.com, 2011). The focus of this paper is to look at the mobile phone as being one of the most important innovations that has been made in the human history.
The Global Picture of the Mobile Phone
The mobile phones are currently the dominant technology which the youths define themselves with. The kind of phone one carries and the way the phone is customized says a lot about who one is (The Economist, 2008). The mobile phone is currently not just a “must have’” device in the developed countries. In the established market, the uptake has approached a “saturation point” and as per 2004, there were about 51 million users in the United Kingdom (Banks & Burge, 2004). As on one hand the demand for these phones tends to be “unquenchable”, on the other hand, it is after all just a technology. At all times, there will be more pressing needs. However, it is a technology which has the prospect to bring in a positive impact in the human lives (Aurigi, 2006).
The innovation rate in the mobile phone industry is quite unique and this is in regard to the handset innovation as well as the range of services that are offered. In the course of the past few years, the mobile phone has turned out to the main information communication device “spurred on by the earlier introduction of text messaging and the more recent mobile internet services (Wireless Application Protocol, WAP)” (Banks & Burge, 2004, p.9). During the initial years of its invention, there was over-hyping of WAP and its promotion was poor to doubtful public and this resulted in disappointing the public.
However, in the more recent times, as pointed out by Banks & Burge (2004), “the introduction on some phones of color screens, polyphonic sounds, build-in cameras, and innovative operating systems enabled WAP-related services to come of age, and servcies such as Vodafone live are a testament to how far things have come” (Banks & Burge, 2004, p.9).
Having innovation racing ahead in the developed countries, there is a threat of the developing nations being left behind, technologically. The suitably titled “digital divide” “was already an issue, with emphasis on access to telephones, computers and the internet” (Banks & Burge, 2004, p.10). For a number of reasons, the mobile phones have been in a position to “leapfrog” some obstacles, and following this, they have gotten themselves at the front position of the “digital divide” debate (Banks & Burge, 2004).
Individuals in some of the poor nations in the world are now accessible to the mobile phones. Banks & Burge (2004) points out that “addressing their specific needs, and supporting and encouraging the use of mobile technology as a force for positive social and environmental change presents the industry with unique challenges and opportunities” (Banks & Burge, 2004,p.10).
Developed world perspective
The mobile phone has turned out to be an integral part of the people’s daily life. In a large number of countries, over a half the population has mobile phones and in some of the developing countries, these phones are mostly the only means of telecommunication of the people (Vodafone, 2005). Other than the questions that have not yet been answered that relate to health, the positive utilization of the mobile phones rests greatly in our hands, those of the government, when it comes to the safety regulations as well as the environmental issues, it rests in the hands of operators who can take the necessary measures to make sure there is smooth integration of the technology in to the society in regard to equipment design as well as aesthetics, and through measures that assist in the training of people in the mobile phone etiquette; in employers’ hands who can make necessary efforts to make sure that the employees that have the corporate mobiles are not abused; and eventually, in the hands of the users, who are supposed to develop a higher level of knowledge and work in order to make sure that their use of the mobile phones does not impact them in a negative way; impacting their lives as well as those people around them (International Telecommunications Union, 2004).
It is of very great significance to have recognition that the mobile phone innovations in the United Kingdom “in support of developmental, environmental and conservation needs could easily be adapted in the rest of the world” (Banks & Burge, 2004, p.10). In Europe, projects have been set up, that make use of mobile phone technology in order to support the environmental activities as well as socio-economic development. These encompass passing over data to the doctors in order to make it possible to have remote diagnosis and offer patient support and farmers being in a position to engage in the updating of livestock databases through GPRS on the mobile handset among other initiatives. By getting knowledge from these initiatives, there can be transferring of knowledge countries and be adapted in line with the specific needs and context and skills to the developing.
Such kind of learning as well as innovation calls for the need to have resources and much commitment. The “Vodafone Group Foundation” has offered both of them, giving out a grant to FFI to engage in research project development in to the way “mobile technology can support international conservation and sustainable development efforts” (Banks & Burge, 2004, p.11).
It is a good indication that there are some mobile operators in Europe who have engaged in the publishing of the ‘Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibilities policies. This, with no doubt, is a good business practice and it as well serves to open up the opportunity for organizations like FFI to engage in the piloting and developing of applications for the conservation projects. Moreover, the CESR statements as well as activities of corporations are supposed to be monitored on a continual basis and there should be evaluation of their impact and improvement of their effectiveness. The big challenge will be to implement the newly developed policies.
Developing World Perspective
The unquenchable appetite for mobile phones of the African people has made Africa to be actually a profitable market for the “high-tech gadgets” which were introduced just less than twenty years ago. Since then, “the sales figures have masked a larger social story: how the proliferation of cell phones is changing Africans’ relationships with one another’ (Klonner & Nolen, 2008, p15).
The expansion of the mobile phone industry in such a country as Cameroon is being choked by costly mobile phone handsets, with a motorbike being less costly than a mobile phone. “Cameroonians are keen to be part of the world by using cellular telephones…cell phone manufacturers and network operators themselves are best placed to change this dire situation, but they seem unaware or uninterested in solving the problem” (Banks & Burge, 2004, p.5).
In a different way from other high-tech gadgets, the mobile phones are getting an easily accessible market in the developing nations. In these nations, there is a quite high demand, even if this industry is relatively a new one; the service providers in the industry seem to be highly profitable, especially operationally. Having some operators being in a position of making a profit within a few months of being in operation, there has recently been a scramble or partners and licenses (Banks & Burge, 2004).
Basing on history, the main reason why there has been a low uptake of a large number of ICTs in the developing nations lies in the cost of the equipment and also in the absence of the supporting infrastructure. In addition, the logistical problem, the great distances involved and lack of money and political will, have implied that expanding fixed line networks has moved at a very slow pace, and in some cases, it has not even been there. However, on the other hand, in considering the mobile phone technology, the implementation of this can be carried out without running the cables over long distances, and in most cases, the solar energy is always there as an alternative source of energy. Basing on such factors, together with the high demand, the opening up of the market (telecommunications), the readiness of the network operators to engage in the expansion of the coming up markets and relative easiness of implementing the network have caused the mobile phone to be the preferred communication method among people in the developing nations (Donner, 2008). Certainly, mobile phone technology uptake in particular cases has been overwhelming. Taking the case in Swaziland, the number of those people using the mobile phone overtook that of the fixed line subscribers in a period of within just two years (Banks & Burge, 2004).
The mobile phone servces like SMS have been seen to be popular among people in such places as the Philippines and in Bangladesh, by using the mobile phones, some villages have been connected to a modern communication network. Among the development practitioners, there are those who have been surprised following the idea that they initially thought that the mobile phone was a luxury good that could only be used by people in the developed countries and thus was not suitable for those who are in the developing nations.
Considering the case in Africa, the demand by people for connectivity has been extraordinary. According to Banks & Burge (2004), “the boom in mobile phone usage has largely been facilitated by the availability of cheap-pay-as-you-go SIM cards and recycled handsets, which has allowed even the poorest members of society to make and receive calls” (Banks & Burge, 2004,p.12). The mobile phones as well as other wireless technologies have turned out to be the preferred communication medium options (International Telecommunication Union, 2003). The impact has also even been felt in the rural areas. It has been pointed out that the farmers in the rural areas are making use of the mobile phones to make sure they get the best prices for their farm produce, the small scale entrepreneurs are making use of the mobile to contact their customers and grandparents are able to communicate with their grandchildren as well as their children who are hundreds of kilometers away using the mobile phones (International Telecommunication Union, 2003).
The positive impact of mobile phones can be felt when carrying out a comparison of what used to happen in the past and what is happening now. For instance, at the present, a farmer who may have maize and wants to sell can be able to communicate with the buyer using the mobile phone before delivering the goods to him. He can be able to confirm the price and the quantity that can be demanded. However, in the past, the farmer could just transport his commodities to the market without even being sure of getting the buyer who could buy at a favorable price.
It is clear that there has been a high level of eagerness to have mobile phones by people in a large number of the developing nations, just in the same way there has been enthusiasm among those people who are in the developed countries, although for different reasons. In the African case, the use of mobile phone is partially attributed to their traditional culture. Taking the case in Nigeria, the average mobile phone, on a weekly basis, is used for two hundred minutes but in the United Kingdom, it is one hundred and twenty minutes (Banks & Burge, 2004). But such higher usage may as well be attributed to such other factors as the absence of the landline facilities and emails, large family sizes as well as social networks. Whereas oral communication may be well-liked by people, the high illiteracy levels in some poor nations may cancel out people’s ability to use mobile phones for other functions like reading SMSs.
In spite of all these, the mobile phone networks may not, at all time be cheap or flexible like other technologies. In some particular cases, like in Cameroon, the costs of the new mobile phone handsets can really prove to be a big obstacle. In addition, the mobile coverage can sometimes not be uniform. The mobile phone operators may start by concentrating their coverage in the large cities and gradually expand to the interior or rural areas while the markets mature. In the actual sense, though, a large number of Africans are using mobile phones to make calls. There is widening of the mobile phone coverage and the number of handsets is increasing and turning out to be available to the markets in the developing nations.
Mobile Phone Coverage in Africa
In the year 1999, the mobile phone coverage in Africa was 10 percent of the continent’s population and basically in the Northern Africa and South Africa (Aker & Mbiti, 2010). By the year 2008, the percentage had risen to about 60 of the total population consisting of 477 million people having mobile phone coverage and the total area having 11.2 KM2 with mobile phone service. It is projected that by the year 2012, “most villages in Africa will have coverage, with only a handful of countries – Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia, Mali and Somalia – relatively unconnected” (Aker & Mbiti, 2010, p.4).
Large disparities have existed in the “geographic rollout” in this coverage “prompting concerns over an intra-African digital divide’ (International Telecommunications Union, 2008, p.5). By the year 1999, as mentioned earlier, a larger number of the African nations did not have mobile coverage and they were only such countries as Senegal, Morocco and Egypt in the North that were covered and also South Africa. By the year 2008, the coverage had increased substantially to about 65 percent of the African total population. At that point the percentage coverage in the northern region was 93 and 60 percent in the sub-Saharan Africa. In overall terms, the growth of the mobile phone coverage has been at the lowest point in such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Central and West African countries.
Whereas the telecommunication industry in the developed world consisting of the European countries, the U.S and Canada carried out investment in the landlines before shifting to investing in the mobile phone networks, “the mobile phone has effectively leapfrogged the landline in Africa” (Aker & Mbiti, 2010, p.4). Landlines are found to be more expensive because they involve installation of wires on every road in order to reach various places and households. But on the other hand, the mobile phone coverage in African nations is basically offered through a network of special base stations that can offer service within a radius of about 10 kilometers.
Factors That Determine the Spread of Mobile Phone Coverage
The expansion of the mobile phone coverage in Africa has given an indication of a powerful positive correlation with the population density. However, other factors also count. Buys, Dasgupta, Thomas, & Wheeler (2009), found out that the probability of having a mobile phone tower in a certain area is strongly and positively correlated to possible demand factors and such factors include the per capita income, the population density and also the mobile phone industry competitiveness in the nation. These researchers found out this by using the “spatially disaggregated dataset” of the mobile phone coverage as well as the geographic characteristics. These researchers also found out that “factors associated with higher costs – namely, higher elevation, steeper slopes, and distance from a main road and major urban centers – are negatively associated with mobile phone coverage” (Buys, Dasgupta, Thomas, & Wheeler, 2009, p.17). Basing on empirical evidence, it is suggested that these factors, in part, give an explanation of the rollout of mobile phone service in the countries as well, but rely on topographical features of a certain nation.
Adopting Mobile phones
In Africa, the mobile phone subscriptions have gone up to 376 million as per the year 2008 from 16 million in the year 2000. However, there is a possibility for these figures to have been overestimated and this is for the reason that people may possess several handsets or may have several SIM cards. On the other hand, the figure may have been underestimated because sharing of mobile phones is a practice that is widespread in Africa.
The rise in the number of the mobile phone subscribers is something that is quite amazing, putting it in to consideration that the poverty prevalence is very high in Africa. In Africa, it is estimated that about three hundred million people are characterized as being poor and survive on less than a dollar per day and among these people, one hundred million are categorized as being ultra-poor and they survive on less than a half a dollar per day (IFPRI, 2007). Considering the price of the cheapest mobile phone in Kenya, this costs almost a half of the average monthly pay and in Nigeria, the cheapest phone costs 12.5 kilograms of millet, “enough to feed a household of five for five days” (Aker & Mbiti, 2010, p.6).
Innovation has greatly contributed to the advancement of technology. By people being creative and innovative they have been able to come up with solutions to various problems facing them. A large number of innovations have been made in the human history. There has been the invention of motor vehicles which, through people’s innovative power, has been developed over time. At some point, an airplane was invention, and there was invention of the computer just but to name a few. All these innovations have been intended to make the human life better. The invention of the mobile phone is considered to be one of the most important inventions that have been done in human history during our days. The mobile phone has played a very big role of bringing people closer to each other even if they might be thousands of kilometers apart. This technology is a unique one and, unlike most of the other new technologies, one does not need to be literate for him or her to use it. Apart from using the mobile phone for talking directly with other people, this device enables one to access other services such as text messaging, and accessing internet servcies, listening to music, taking photographs among other functions.
In the developed countries, the mobile phone is used for even more advanced functions. For instance, in the U.K, the mobile phone innovations is used in support of developmental, environmental and conservation needs and this is expected to be taken up even in the developing world. In the European countries, there has been setting up of projects which utilize mobile phone technology in order to support the environmental activities as well as socio-economic development. These encompass passing over data to the doctors in order to make it possible to have remote diagnosis and offer patient support. More so, farmers are in a position to engage in the updating of livestock databases through GPRS on the mobile handset among other initiatives. By getting knowledge from these initiatives, there can be transferring of knowledge and skills to the developing countries and be adapted in line with the specific needs and context.
After realizing the importance of mobile phones, it is very surprising that poor countries have adopted this device at a very rapid rate. Despite the fact that the developing countries such as those that are in the Africa continent are poor and most of the people in the sub-Saharan Africa live on less than a dollar or even less than a half a dollar per day, this has not prevented them from buying the mobile phones and using them. It has also been realized that the spread of landlines in the developing countries went at a slower pace as compared to the spread of mobile phones. This is because the landlines involve installing posts along the roads to reach various parts of the country making it costly and time consuming. But considering mobile phones, their coverage in the developing countries is fundamentally offered through a network of special base stations that can offer service within a radius of approximately 10 kilometers.
To sum up, the innovation of a mobile phone and the development of new features on this device as time has been going by is seen to be a very important innovation of our time. It has contributed to the improvement of human life is all aspects; physically, socially, and economically among other aspects.
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