In class on Tuesday, we discussed the challenges people in developing areas face when it comes to cell phone use. One of the things we discussed was the difficulty of charging the phones. When people have many different types of cell phones with many different types of chargers, finding replacement chargers for misplaced or broken chargers becomes difficult and expensive. As one person in class said, few people can simply go on Amazon and have a new charger sent to their houses.
When we were discussing this in class, I thought of the European Union’s plan to make a universal phone charger mandatory for all cell phones. When I looked up the specifics of the plan to refresh my memory, I found an Agence France Presse article from Thursday discussed the European Parliament approving draft legislation for the plan. The plan now goes to the European Commission for approval.
The article describes the legislation: “If adopted in its current form, the legislation would include all “radio” products, meaning any piece of equipment which receives or emits radio waves with the purpose of communication, including mobile phones, GPS systems, tablets and wireless car door openers.”
A universal charger policy such as this one could be beneficial for developing countries. It would provide easier solutions to one of the most common problems with cell phones: keeping them charged. Having the same type of charger for all devices will mean that someone nearby will always have a charger to borrow. It will also reduce costs of chargers because different manufacturers would be making the same device. Charging centers would also be more easily used because only one type of charger would be necessary. People would be able to spend less time and money worrying about how to charge their phones and more time using them to the fullest potential.
There are, however, some potential drawbacks to a universal charger policy as well. One of the major drawbacks could be that the policy would disincentivize tech companies from innovating. Perhaps a new technology comes along that charges a phone in half the time. One company would not be able to capitalize on that development because it would either be prohibited from introducing the charger, or the entire industry would have to go along with it; perhaps creating a free rider problem.