May 8, 2012

By: Charlotte Baughen

Here at Reset we always closely follow new innovations that help reduce the digital divide. Recently, we found out about Mobile-XL, free mobile technology that helps make internet more accessible by creating a web browser for older cell phones that run Java.

The revolutionary feature of Mobile-XL is that it runs entirely through SMS. This means that information can be accessed without having a smart phone or computer.

Creative Reuse Of Old Technology

Guy Kamgaing, the CEO of Mobile-XL, thought of his SMS Internet technology when he saw the effects of the digital divide in Africa. In Africa, Kamgaing saw people waiting in line to use computers at Internet cafes. However, this is not just a problem in Africa. The digital divide impacts us here in San Francisco, where 34% of Latinos report having no home computers.

More and more studies show that Internet access is becoming more a necessity than a luxury now, from giving people a way to find jobs to helping students participate in class.

The Mobile-XL app seeks to help users of older phones look for jobs, do homework or send and receive their email by sending that information via text. For example, to check the Giants score, the user would click through the sports section and find the team. When they click for the score, the information will be transmitted to the phone in an SMS message. Therefore, the only cost involved in getting information is the sending and receiving of a text message, substantially cheaper than data charges in most parts of the world.

Internet That Is Local

Pilot projects have been tested in Cameroon and Ghana with the available information finely tuned to suit local needs such as local job listings. As we seek to close the digital divide in San Francisco, a project like this may be the way to bring people one step closer to getting the wealth of information that the Internet now provides while also connecting them more to their own city.

You can sign the petition to help bridge the digital divide here.