Perspectives on poverty

258846_8244-sm I bet this isn’t an image you’d naturally associate in your mind with the word “poverty.” It wasn’t the first thing I thought of.

Yet according to a survey carried out last year, 20 percent of kids in the UK think not owning a mobile phone is a sign of being poor. The same number regard having a mobile phone as just as important as having a book to read at home.

44 percent of those kids also think that not being able to afford to go on a school trip is a sign of poverty. Two out of five think not having the correct school uniform makes you poor.

Such views add sharp perspective to traditional thinking about major social issues like poverty and how society – people: you and me – address those issues.

How do we define poverty? This is from the Wikipedia definition:

Poverty (also called penury) is deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens.

If that’s a generally-accepted definition, then how those British children view poverty isn’t far off (it would likely fit in the “deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life” part, or perhaps “enjoy the respect of fellow citizens”).

Maslow_hierarchy_of_needs Another way of putting the word poverty into perspective is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as represented by this diagram. (How many times have I seen this in PowerPoint presentations, including many I’ve done?)

How you regard something like poverty really depends on your own perspective of meaning. That will influence what action you may or may not take including donating money or contributing in some other way to address it.

Which makes me think of those kids and their views about mobile phones and poverty.

The device – the mobile phone – which has so much social meaning to those kids presents a great opportunity to make it easy for that device to be the conduit for contributing to an issue like poverty.

SMS, for instance – a tool that has massive use in the UK especially by younger generations. (A pity, though, that using SMS for charity donations in the UK has too many financial hurdles in place.)

And when I say “contributing,” I don’t necessarily mean money. Making a contribution can mean many different things including communicating about an issue to raise awareness of it.

A little like the perspectives in this blog post, I guess.

What’s your perspective?

This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 – Poverty

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Ronna Porter

    Great post, Neville.

    I love my husband’s perspective on this – there is always someone worse off than you. I actually beleive that we need this to be the case to be satisfied in any way with the things that make us rich, or the lack of things that make us poor.’s Blog Action Day post – The Vicious Cycle of Poverty (Or Why Jessie Won’t Go to College) – also touched me very personally, and reminded me of the sacrifices that were made to give me better life opportunities through education than my parents had.

    I was lucky enough to spend my first two working years at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, mainly with the Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour, where I saw the worst and best of riches and povery. It really is all relative … and to me mobile phones just don’t come into it.

  2. neville

    Thanks Ronna. I read Copyblogger’s post too – powerful. I have seen a lot of posts by bloggers supporting Blog Action Day, many of them talking about poverty from personal experiences.

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