In Iringa, a rural district in Tanzania solely dependent on farming, Yolanda Ngunda knows first-hand the hardships widows face. For 10 long years, after her husband passed away, male relatives constantly threatened to destroy her house and take possession of the adjoining farmland, her only source of income. However, widows like Yolanda have begun using their mobile phones to empower themselves in disputes over their property rights. Lacking proper documents, these women would have lost their plots of land and homes to the men in their extended families.
An application on their mobile devices now allows this vulnerable population to distinguish the borders of their property and obtain other information needed to acquire deeds in their own names. This use of modern technology has resulted in a 10% increase in land owned by women such as Yolanda. After securing a land title using the app, she is confident that she will be able to provide for her children and live without fear. LotusFlare is facilitating the process of documenting these land rights by making mobile internet more accessible and affordable through the digitization of mobile operators worldwide.
The mobile internet has transformed the lives of Tanzanians. They rely on their phones to transfer money, access the internet, get information, take photos and videos as well as to communicate through SMS and voice calling. Being connected has had a positive impact on various aspects of life in their country. People can now resolve work-related issues by using the advice they receive through text messages and instructional videos on their mobile phones. For example, despite the limited number of health care providers in rural areas, patients are now able to access medical help online, enabling more people to receive the care they need. This increased availability of information also helps in providing the population with basic education. Farmers are able to obtain current data vital to maximizing their yields – weather forecasts, the latest disease-resistant seeds, methods of weed control, and government subsidies. A plentiful harvest naturally decreases the number of people at risk for food insecurity, which is currently 15% of the population. By making internet more available, LotusFlare improves productivity and education in Tanzania, thereby boosting its economy.
Nonetheless, affordability of basic internet services is still an issue in Tanzania. Although the country has experienced rapid economic growth, millions of people still live in rural areas where poverty rates are very high – 68% of people here live on less than $1.25 a day. But like the rest of the world, even this farming community needs to be able to access the internet. Unfortunately, the price residents pay for this necessity is relatively exorbitant. On average, people in rural Tanzania spend one-fifth of their monthly income on connectivity. Due to the higher cost of service as well as poor coverage in rural locations, mobile phone penetration in areas outside urban centers is less than 10%. With the help of LotusFlare, more Tanzanians are able to enjoy the many benefits of mobile connectivity, regardless of their location and economic status.