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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Vodafone

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

'Mobile communications and pervasive computing technologies, together with social contracts that were never possible before, are already beginning to change the way people meet, mate, work, war, buy, sell, govern and create.'*

This comment by futurologist Howard Rheingold is widely echoed. But while any observer can see and feel the changes that mobiles have on our lives, actually measuring the impact is altogether more difficult. There is considerable research under way and Vodafone has embarked on a far-reaching study to help find answers.

Meanwhile, there are clear indicators of the potential impacts of mobile phones on society. Their popularity and success is based firmly on the obvious benefits to most people, businesses and our economies. The challenge is to ensure that the benefits are spread as widely as possible while minimising negative impacts. Here we look in more detail at the social impacts of mobiles, and how they help to bring greater efficiencies for business and add value to the economy.

There are also social, health and environmental concerns about mobile telephones, which are covered in detail in the rest of our CSR Report. These range from worries about radiation from handsets and masts, and waste created by frequent model changes, to limiting access to adult material and the dangers of using handsets while driving.

Gaining a better understanding

'Early signs are that the impact of mobile telephony on society will be profound. Understanding the consequences is fundamental if mobile service providers are to take their responsibilities seriously,' says Professor Diane Coyle, chairperson of Vodafone’s socio-economic impact advisory panel.

Vodafone has started a programme of research into the socio-economic impact of the mobile, covering the developed and developing world. An advisory panel of experts, chaired by Professor Coyle, will scrutinise the programme. The first meeting was held in February 2004 and the aim is to complete some of the initial projects before the end of the year.

Proposed studies include: examining the socio-economic effects of mobiles in Africa; the use of mobiles in improving patient care and productivity in healthcare services; and how mobile telephony affects developing countries in attracting foreign direct investment.