Cell Phones Can Be Saviors for World's Poor: UN
Report shows gadgets can lead to better livelihoods
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Oct 18, 2010 2:18 PM CDT
In this Monday, Sept. 13, 2010 photo, cattle drink water at a borehole in Dertu, Kenya. A cellular telephone tower is seen at background center.   (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
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(Newser) – For the financially comfortable, cell phones may make life a little easier—but for those in less-developed countries, the gadgets can be the difference between a life of poverty one of relative comfort, a UN report finds. “Mobiles have spawned a wealth of micro-enterprises, offering work to people with little education and few resources,” the report notes. And subscriptions are soaring in the world’s least-developed countries, Fast Company reports.

Today, there are some 25 phones per 100 people in such countries, compared to just five per 100 in 2005. They allow fishermen and farmers to connect with markets to inquire about pricing and inventory needs, letting them target their products, waste less, and make more. Meanwhile, new industries have sprung up, such as handset refurbishing. But the report emphasizes that opportunities are "unevenly distributed and not always sustainable,” and notes that while cells are affordable in some countries, they're still too expensive for the very poor in others.