Joshua Nesbit's Mobiles in Malawi (now Jopsa) is a very cool bottom-up health development project: using a copy of FrontlineSMS and a bunch of cheap cell phones, it allows community health workers in Africa to network with patients and each other, producing more efficient checkups, patient-tracking, and emergency response. Nesbit says in six months, a hospital using this system saved 1,200 hours of staff time, as well as $3,000 in motorbike fuel.
Jopsa has now launched a side-project called Hope Phones, allowing people in developed countries to contribute, both ecologically and financially. The program takes in discarded phones, recycles them, and uses the cash from the recycling to buy multiple appropriate (read: cheaper, more durable, and longer-lasting) phones for health clinics. They even pay for the postage. It's a fantastic win-win situation, as Trackerblog writes: the recycled phones not only reduce the number going into a landfill, but they reduce the industry's dependence on "conflict minerals" like coltan and tin.
Americans and other developed nations throw away a massive number of cell phones every year. Recycling helps--but Hope Phones, I think, is even better. Something to keep in mind the next time I upgrade.
Update: Jopsa has a post about the progress made by the program since its launch a week ago.