For the first time since the world got its first mobile device, a Motorola device back in 1973, the total number of mobile connections has exceeded the global population of humans. What are the five ways your mobile has contributed to sustainability?
The news, as claimed in a report by BankmyCell, a comparison and commerce site for mobile handsets, will certainly leave most people with mixed feelings. After all, while becoming ubiquitous, the mobile revolution had had its share of damage, be it unsightly towers across the landscape, the possible effects (yet unproven) of cell phone radiation, the definite effect of tower radiation on fauna, especially small birds, and more. However, mobiles have definitely redeemed themselves in many ways too, and in balance, that probably explains their inexorable march to become an essential need for most humans, as the numbers show. In fact, with over 8 billion mobile connections, on a global population of 7.6 billion, with over 5 billion unique connections according to the report, there is very strong case to explore just what else mobiles could do to help the world fight its many challenges now, including on sustainability. We highlight 5 ways in which mobiles are actually helping.
Disaster response. By now, no-one is unfamiliar with the havoc the rains have caused this year in Kerala, and that includes people who refuse to watch or read the news. The simple answer to that is mobiles, which ensured that snippets, videos, appeals and more about the disaster, even as it unfolded reached everyone, be it through the news, social media or messenger services. Mobiles have been of immense support in bringing home the reality of the suffering and scale of the disaster. One could even argue that Kerala, a relatively more affluent state as compared to say, Bihar, has benefited from high mobile and smartphone penetration, by getting the benefit of sharing the details in stark detail faster, to a wider audience than ever. States like Bihar and others too have annual floods, though not quite at this scale in terms of deviation from the norm, yet, you will struggle to remember the last time you saw any video or appeal from help for those regions. Kerala, on the other hand, has rustled up anything between Rs 120 to Rs 300 crore of ‘crowdsourced’ support, with much more to come hopefully, as the rebuilding efforts start soon.
Less of paper and more of everything else: You might have sent the well shared meme, on how the mobile, over a period of time, effectively cleared your desk of so many tasks and gadgets for each, as it does more and more. From the desktop calendar to the alarm clock, to the planner, the portable music system, to post-its, snail mail, doing away with cash payments and online cash transfers, its an exhaustive list. And possibly the biggest redeemer for the phone’s own carbon footprint, which involves the mining of some very rare and difficult to process metals from sensitive ecozones.
Power to the people: Yes, perhaps, the mobile, like no other device in history, has empowered people. From the power to share and seek information, to the power to provide actual details of work done or not done as it might be, mobiles have been a boon for the time strapped, the weak, and the activist. The ever improving cameras have made everyone a reporter if needed and made monitoring government interaction that much more meaningful.
Delivery of critical services: Whether it is healthcare services, or training videos on pretty much anything under the sun, the mobile is a handy part of any sustainability experts toolkit today. Be it decease response during epidemics to disperse correct information, or getting wider feedback, mobiles have been a boon.
An aware sector: With the mobile doing so much, it was bound to lead to some negative effects if left unchecked, and mobile addiction is a serious issue today. However, other than this issue, the industry overall has worked hard to try and make it a greener pursuit. Key issues that have been tackled has been a move to more modular and standardised designs, which means interchangeable batteries, chargers, and a whole universe of mobile accessories. Of course, the world’s most valuable and profitable publicly listed firm is a primarily mobile firm, Apple, it can do a lot more in this regards, by looking for some level of hardware compatibility with Android devices. But with the attention of the world literally on their devices and possible effects, this is a sector that can be expected to do everything it can to be more sustainable, unlike a lot of other categories that, despite being an essential need, or probably because fit, have simply not done enough to change. Be it cement, metals, or shipping.
So there you have it, a few reasons to think your mobile is not all bad, and capable of much good if only you would use it right:)