Cellphone Users can now aid Education in Africa, Spending only Their Unused Wireless Plan Minutes

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New program allows mobile phone users to help build Multimedia education center in rural Kenya, by donating unused airtime. Contributors spend NO money, and don't have to do anything except send a text message to 254713562434.

You can already do just about anything else on your mobile phone. Now you may be able to donate to a new Multimedia computer classroom in Western Kenya, without spending any money.

The project is a joint venture of Friends Beyond Borders, the World Mind Network, and the Sambaza Group, which is a Kenya-based NGO dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest of the poor in the country's hinterlands.

The program came about after its founders read an article by Sara Corbett in the New York Times Magazine on April 13, which described how cellphones are revolutionizing the Third World. In places like rural Africa, where no banks, landlines, or credit institutions exist, airtime on cellphones has in many cases become a form of legal tender, often more valuable to locals than the national currency.

So why not allow urban dwellers in other countries to donate some of their unused airtime to African NGOs and non-profit agencies who could benefit from it? In countries like Japan and the U.S., billions of minutes of unused airtime disappear every month, without benefiting anyone.

Now, in the first project of its type anywhere in the world, people can call 254713562434 in Kenya and give their unused airtime to a fund which supports ICT4Tomorrow, a Sambaza Group project which builds multimedia computer education centers in Western Kenya. These provide communities with their first access to information technology, hosting classes, training workshops, and intercultural exchange programs designed by leading academics and professionals throughout the world.

The program is still facing some hurdles. In many countries, an additional SIM card is required which would allow users to contact Kenya. Many carriers don't have the connectivity required to send minutes to other systems, and other carriers don't allow subscribers to donate airtime to phones in other countries. There are many regulatory problems to overcome before this can be available in all nations.

But it's a start. Why SHOULDN'T anyone be able to help Third World villagers through their wireless phone? 'It takes only seconds, costs nothing, and makes you feel better than playing Halo 3


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John Toomey

Javier Gordon Ogembo
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