When I asked the women I met in rural Bangladesh how many owned phones, most did. But when I probed on what they used them for, the answer was calling and photos. They did not read or write text messages, or use the internet. It was an important reminder for me that literacy is still a real barrier for fully unleashing the potential of mobile phones as a tool for development and empowerment. But the accessibility, connectivity and possibilities contained within every mobile phone in that village in Bangladesh inspired me that not only will mobile phones increasingly be used for business, health, farming, climate change, social movements, and far more in a globalized world, people’s zeal to unleash the power of their own phones may become a key driver for increased global literacy.
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