Mobile Phones Fighting Poverty

October 2011 (CNN) -- When renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs visited rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005, he saw impoverished communities with poor drinking water, feast-and-famine crop cycles and rampant malaria infections. What he didn't see was mobile phones.

"Now mobile phone ownership is perhaps 30% of households and cell phone coverage is widespread," said Sachs, director of the United Nations Millennium Villages Project, which focuses on improving 14 rural villages across 10 African countries as a model for wider prosperity in the region.