... The advent of the mobile society may have brought convenience and a cultural sea change to the U.S. and Europe, but in the poorest regions of the world, affordable mobile phone access has caused a quantum leap in services -- like calling for medical help, sending a quick letter to loved ones or starting a savings account -- that Americans and Europeans have taken for granted for generations, analysts say.
"The cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development," said Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of the 2005 book "The End of Poverty."
"Poverty is almost equated with isolation in many places of the world. Poverty results from the lack of access to markets, to emergency health services, access to education, the ability to take advantage of government services and so on," Sachs said. "What the mobile phone -- and more generally IT technology -- is ending is that kind of isolation in all its different varieties."
Moreover, the profusion of payment services via cell phones puts places like Kenya and Uganda in the vanguard of mobile financial services. "You can walk in the middle of rural village in Rwanda and use a mobile phone to pay at a recharging station to recharge LED lights," says Amanda Gardiner, acting program manager of Business Call to Action, a New York-based non-profit organization that is helping to bring more mobile phones to Africa's rural poor.
"I'm always flabbergasted I don't walk into Home Depot and see these services here, just swipe your cell phone and go," Gardiner said. "In some ways, they're really leaping ahead of us and going right to the future."