SIM cards supporting startups
But mobile technology isn’t just empowering for those that travel; it can literally lift up entire communities.
One of my passion projects in the past few years has been Empowerment Tourism, a concept where you support local communities by developing skill sets, and in the slums of Delhi, a few old devices and a sim card did just that.
The first time I met this women empowerment group, they were sipping Chai and laughing infectiously in a small room. Delicate clutch bags and table runners were being crafted on vintage sewing machines, and it troubled me their talents weren’t being rewarded as they should.
A year later I returned to that slum to see my friend Sonu. Sat on a pile of rubble, tethered to my mobile hotspot, I built a website for these ladies to retail their wares to the world. No more middle man, no more huge commissions being taken from them. I published a platform while intrigued children asked about coding and stabbed at my screen with a biro.
We taught those entrepreneurial ladies how to photograph their new products with a mobile phone and update the images online. How to take the payments in PayPal, and answer order emails. It wasn’t the latest phone, but it was a device that could power their business, independent of someone else’s interference in the process.
Phones are good, and you’ll never convince me otherwise.
Data and devices make a digital nomad
And now, with data and this dear digital device, I can run my business from anywhere.
I feel so lucky to be of a generation that grew up with cassettes but learnt about computer technology at school. To remember my dad’s old mobile phone which was the size of my forearm, and the slow, painful, yet exciting sound of dialup.
To appreciate just how life-changing 4G and a never-ending collection of lessons on a palm-sized device can be.
Of course, it’s crucial to switch off and disconnect from time to time. But it’s also important to remember technology is a friend, not a foe, if used right it can better our lives rather than burden them. It can allow us to be anywhere in the world, yet feel we are with our loved ones.
For the conversations in Chinese taxis that were powered entirely by translation apps, to the god awful task of balancing receipts in 18 currencies for my accountant, I’m grateful for all that mobiles can do.
For the freedom they can allow us.
Indeed my phone has allowed me not just to chase a dream, but to live one.
‘Ever think of looking up from that thing?’ chuckled the silhouetted character as we caught eyes. I laughed back, hit send, and made a throwaway comment about the splendour of mother nature.
That email instantly went from a train in rural New Zealand to an office in London, the contract confirmation for my first ever presenting job for Lonely Planet, and as it happened, Three Mobile. An email that would genuinely change my life, and in my mind, marked the end of my self taught, and self syllabled ‘three-year travel degree’.
It was at that moment I felt I had graduated. My mobile phone had allowed me to self teach a whole new career.
To the gentlemen across the carriage, I was a fool missing out on the unforgettable views of Aaotorea. But to me, I was answering my morning emails in one of the worlds best ‘offices’ possible.
And that is the real power we have in our pockets these days. The world is truly in our hands.
Or rather, our mobile phones.
This article is a paid partnership with Three, my mobile phone supplier in the UK as part of their Phones Are Good Campaign. Three believe that phones have been getting too hard a time recently. Far from bringing the end to humanity, they think they bring people together. As I’ve said above, phones help us plan our social life, find love, build relations, run businesses and make memories. They also keep us connected on the go, including 71 destinations worldwide with Three’s Go Roam proposition. As part of the paid article, Three asked me to share my personal experiences on why phones are good. As always, all words, stories and random thoughts above are very much my own – and were of course written on a mobile phone, in a top-bunk hostel bed 😉