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From Drawers in the US, to Frontline Health Workers in Africa: Unlocking the Value in Used Smartphones

Posted by Biju Nair on Jul 25, 2017 9:36:36 AM
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Africa Smartphone Health IndustryWhen you think of a used smartphone, you probably picture a mobile collecting dust in the back of a drawer. Something that is only brought back to life to tide you over when your current device is broken or lost, or as a hand-me-down to a friend or relative in need. But used smartphones shouldn’t just be destined for the drawer.

According to Deloitte, a staggering 120 million smartphones were said to be traded globally in 2016, each one being worth around $140 on average. And while millions of devices are being traded, not all are being recycled.

Research shows that in the US alone, 70% of devices could be recycled - but only 14-17% are. Which means the rest are either sitting in drawers or being cast into landfill. Many of the leading smartphones can still be worth up to US $200 after 18 months’ use, with this in mind, used smartphones should be destined for much more.

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Thankfully there’s a market that has actively looked to resolve this issue and provide a sustainable solution to a growing problem. Mobile operators, retailers and device manufacturers are working with partners including HYLA Mobile to collect millions of used devices each year.

Extracting the value in used smartphones not only offers lucrative financial rewards to consumers and operators, it can also lower barriers to broadband adoption in emerging markets, including Africa.  

Driving Digital Inclusion In Africa

The current global used smartphone market comprises of OEMs, telecoms operators, digital service providers, retailers and insurers. All are looking for ways to shake off the dust on used smartphones to extract the high financial value that resides in them.

Facebook is a great example of one of these stakeholders. It collects high quality used devices tucked away in the US and redistributes them through its Facebook Smart Restart program.

the benefits of recycling mobile devices

Working with HYLA Mobile, Facebook is bringing a new lease of life to unwanted devices and helping to connect the world’s 4 billion unconnected. The Smart Restart program allows consumers to sell or donate their old smartphones to be reused and cost effectively re-distributed across Africa, and other under-connected areas of the world. HYLA Mobile is responsible for collecting and sustainably refurbishing these devices as part of the program.

You might be thinking: why not offer subscribers a low-cost device that’s at least brand new? But Facebook is keen that most subscribers looking to become connected for the first time receive the best possible experience. And this is being threatened by so called low cost smartphones being introduced that struggle to handle rapidly changing climatic conditions. Used iconic smartphones such as the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy provide more reliable and functional solutions.

Facebook is actively putting these types of refurbished used devices into the hands of doctors and health workers to address medical emergencies in parts of Africa. It is also equipping victims of food crises and natural disasters with used smartphones so they can connect to resources, information and their families.

Powering mHealth Initiatives in Africa

Facebook has also teamed up with Medic Mobile. By equipping frontline health workers with used smartphones, pre-loaded with the Medic Mobile app, they are providing life-changing mhealth services to remote African communities. These devices have all been collected through the Facebook Smart Restart program and then donated to more than 100 community health workers using Medic Mobile in Isiolo County, Kenya.  

Supported by Christian Aid Kenya and the Kenyan Ministry of Health, these health workers will use the smartphones to register pregnant women, receive automated antenatal care visit reminders, report danger signs, and track deliveries. They will also register newborn children and receive immunization reminders to ensure that children are receiving necessary and lifesaving vaccinations. All the data collected by these local health workers will then be integrated directly into Ministry of Health reporting tools.

The global used smartphone market is increasingly growing purely because it’s a win-win solution for all stakeholders involved. Customers get to trade in their old devices for the latest one out on the market, while mobile operators can recover deferred revenues from these devices.

The socio-economic benefits to remote parts of Africa, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Medic Mobile, as well as other partners in the ecosystem, are perhaps the most startling, certainly the most life-changing. What perhaps is most exciting however, is that the potential for used smartphones is only starting to be realized and the benefits felt by these African communities. The wider possibilities, tied to better digital inclusion, are endless.

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Topics: Device Processing and Liquidation, Device Trade-in Solutions

About This Blog

The HYLA Mobile blog is a place for thoughtful dialogue that will ultimately change the perception of “used” phones around the world. Visit the HYLA website to learn more.

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