The Context

Solidarcomm addresses the social and environmental issues associated with society’s over-consumption of mobile telephones.

In 2013, 54 mobile phones were sold every second across the world, amounting to 1.7 billion phones throughout the year.
Around 7 billion phones are currently in circulation. (Source UIT 2013)

Mobile phones are increasingly taking on a more significant role in society, particularly since the arrival of smartphones. The multiple uses for mobile telephones have diversified, and range from looking up information on the internet, to finding and listening to music, to uploading and taking photos, storing electronic tickets and documents, to even making payments.

In Switzerland

In 2011, 93% of Swiss households posses at least one mobile phone, and the majority of households (55%) own more than one mobile telephone. (source OFS/EBM)

In 2012, over 3 million phones were sold in Switzerland. It is estimated that a person in Switzerland will change his or her phone an average of every two years. (Statistics, Swico)

Consequently, over 8 million unused mobile phones lie abandoned in people’s drawers across Switzerland. And yet the national mobile phone recycling rate, at 18%, is far superior to the worldwide recycling rate of 3%.

In the South

Mobile phones are not considered a luxury in developing countries. Indeed, mobile telephony is increasingly widespread across these countries. Mobile phone users do not need extensive written instructions or knowledge to use these devices, unlike the Internet, and vell phones do not require heavy infrastructure to be put in place. Mobile phones are used the global South in particular, where fixed telecommunications lines are often absent and costly to install. In these countries, mobile telephones have revolutionised many people’s lives. In Africa, 75% of all telephone communications are carried out through mobile telephone networks.

In towns and cities, informal sector artisans and vendors who move about with their work are able to communicate easily with clients and providers. Using pre-paid phone cards, they can adapt their mobile phone usage in accordance with their fluctuating financial situation.
In the countryside, mobile phones are vitally important for habitants if they need to ask for help in the event of unprecedented accidents, illnesses, bushfires or if access roads have been obstructed by subsidence. Additionally, people use mobile telephones in order to alert others about pests and locust swarms and to discuss agricultural produce prices.

Most inhabitants in the South are unable to purchase brand-new high-quality phones. Phones are not available on the pay-monthly instalment plans that are widely available in Europe.
Due to limited financial means, these people are often left with no choice but to buy counterfeit phones. Cheap but poor quality, these phones normally last for only around six months.

Solidarcomm therefore offers an alternative to this situation, by making it possible for people with limited spending power to buy secondhand phones that are both affordable and good quality.