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Cell phones can create hope or cause conflict

May 28, 2009

Your cell phone keeps you more connected than you think – and not always in a good way. Recently, the Enough Project and You Tube teamed up to launch their “Come Clean 4 Congo” video campaign to raise awareness on how your small electronics purchase could be fueling one of the deadliest wars in the Congo. The current death toll reaches 5.6 million (with 2,000 more dying per day) and 70% of the world’s rape is reported from the Congo.  In order to fund their armies, the three warring militias take control of the lucrative mines and extract bribes from transporters, local and international buyers, and border control.

According to the Enough Project’s report “Can You Hear Congo Now?” The four principal conflict minerals are:

•Tin (produced from cassiterite)—used inside your cell phone and all electronic products as a
solder on circuit boards.
• Tantalum (produced from “coltan”, 80% of the world’s supply is located in the Congo)—used to store electricity in capacitors in iPods, digital cameras,
and cell phones.
• Tungsten —used to make your cell phone or Blackberry vibrate.
• Gold—used in jewelry and as a component in electronics.

The Enough Project and YouTube’s call for filmmakers to produce a short, 1-minute documentary on how cell phone purchases are linked to the war in Congo is the first step is raising awareness on this issue. Most people have no idea where their cell phone materials come from and there is no legislation currently in place to reveal the origin of these supply chains.

Even though most of us already own a cell phone that was more than likely produced with some of these conflict minerals, there is hope. As soon as conflict-free phones are introduced to the market, we can switch to one of those, and then we can donate our old phone to Hope Phones. Hope Phones is an organization that works in collaboration with, the Hewlett Foundation, and FrontlineSMS: Medic, to provide phones to health care workers in developing countries. For every cell phone donated, the money from trading in the old phone goes towards purchasing new phones for health care providers. By giving remote communities a cell phone, they can stay in closer contact with their doctors, receive better care, and cut down on the response time when a medical emergency arises. A $10 cell phone will give 50 families access to emergency health care. Cell phones, like everything, can produce both bad and good, but as long as we’re aware of both sides of the conversation, we can make it work things work the right way.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. cheap chick permalink
    May 30, 2009 4:26 pm

    I dumped my AT&T phone and got out of my cellphone contract when the company changed its terms. (Did you know that if they do that, it voids the contract? They don’t tell you that, but I saw it on the Consumerist site and it worked! No termination fee too. Haha.)

    Anyway, I got a prepaid Net10 phone and everything is 10 cents a minute… even International calls which is great since my son is traveling right now.

    But the best thing about this is that there aren’t any bills and I know what my costs are because I pay upfront for my calls. It’s great!

  2. Chris Chan permalink
    July 25, 2009 9:06 pm

    I have a Tracfone and have been using it alot this summer. It’s a great way to keep in touch with your kids. Calls and texts are less expensive on a TracFone than on other phones and with no contract, there’s no surprises!

  3. August 19, 2009 12:09 pm

    Conflict Cell Phones, yes its problem. One that hopefully recylcing will lend some relif overall. It amazes me how many people actually throw their old cell phones away. Its a shame that most don’t understand what it took to make that phone in resources or lives, which amount to the same thing to the industry. There are plenty of recycling programs out there, call2recycle is what we tend to lean on in our business.

    Problems like these will only be solved through awareness and education.

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