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Design Roundtable: How Can Cell Phones Improve the World?

With more details about the Palm Pre and some rumors about Apple’s 2009 iPhone event on Tuesday, it seemed a good time to gather our design experts together and ponder some issues about our love affair with mobile. Today’s question: How can cell phones be used to improve the world?

This week, with more details about the Palm Pre and some rumors about Apple’s 2009 iPhone event on Monday, it seemed a good time to gather our design experts together and ponder some issues about our love affair with mobile. Today’s question: How can cell phones be used to improve the world?

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Ravi Sawhney, Chairman, RKS: Cell phones are an enabling technology that can serve creative minds who see it as an avenue to improve the world. It’s a means for communicating–voting, banking, commerce–and facilitating a wide spectrum of needs and aspirations of consumers. By eliminating the need for installing landlines, cellphones are an immediate solution for consumers in developing countries.

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Mark Dziersk, VP Design, Brandimage: Interconnectivity, of course. As far as impact, cell phones (telephony) allows everyone, including third world nations to bypass industrialization entirely and traffic in knowledge capital. That has already changed things dramatically.

Robert Fabricant, VP Creative, frog design: I spend a great deal of time working with social impact initiatives in health, agriculture and conservation, and in almost every case the key point of leverage is mobile technologies. And what most designers don’t realize or want to realize is the degree to which the most basic platforms like SMS, USSD and voicemail can support rich services that create social value way beyond what we experience in the U.S. market. Services that are far more profound than Urban Spoon. We are blinded by the iPhone and the Blackberry into thinking that these sophisticated gadgets are necessary to build rich applications. Just look at what Unicef is doing with rapidSMS and rapidAndroid to transform health-care delivery and respond to global emergencies like famine, disease and warfare.

Ken Carbone, CarboneSmolan: Maybe some cell phone etiquette is the first step to improving the world. For example, let’s block cell phone use until all passengers are off a plane! As I was landing in L.A. last night, a woman behind me was placing an order for take out! Turkey and swiss on rye, extra mustard. Absurd.

Related:
Design Roundtable: How Have Cell Phones Changed Our Behavior?

Have you seen any examples of cell phones being used for good? Let us know in the comments (as soon as you’re finished calling in that lunch order).

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About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato

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