Archives for the category: Mobile phone projects - Developing World

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August 5, 2013

Nearly 70% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 9.05.25 AM.png Global access to mobile technology is growing at a rate that outpaces even access to basic services like elelctrictiy, sanitation and banking. In fact, nearly 70% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone, even if they don’t personally own one. [via The Rockefeller Foundation]

quotemarksright.jpgThe affordability of mobile phones, combined with open source data and apps, has the potential to transform the landscape of international development. While the speed at which mobile technology is advancing is exciting and invigorating, there are still several challenges to harnessing and scaling the opportunities presented by mobile technology.

To further explore opportunities and barriers to investment and partnership to scale mobile-enabled technology, the Rockefeller Foundation has supported the work of Mobile for Development Intelligence, an open data research portal for the developing world mobile industry.

The report, Scaling Mobile for Development: Harness the Opportunity, analyzes market and user data to provide a fuller picture of activities in the mobile sector and present recommendations on how to accelerate economic, social and environmental impact with mobile solutions.quotesmarksleft.jpg

emily | 8:56 AM | permalink

August 2, 2013

Reconnecting the Disconnected: A Story of Technology, Refugees and Finding Lost Family

refunited_eastleigh_edit1_004.jpg In this installment of Digital Diversity, brothers David and Christopher Mikkelsen tell the story of how their organisation, Refugees United, was born, using mobile technology and the world’s largest database to help reconnect separated refugee families.

quotemarksright.jpgWe built the organisation into what it is today – a technology non-profit which helps thousands of refugees in their quest to find missing loved ones."

It grew from a deeply personal experience with a young Afghan man named Mansour who we met in 2005. Not only did he lose his past to the Taliban, but also all contact with his parents and five siblings during their escape.

... In partnership with Ericsson, a provider of telecommunications equipment and services, we built an innovative mobile platform that allows refugees to take the search for missing loved ones into their own hands.

Refugees United’s systems provide access to a simple SMS that can be a lifeline connecting a disconnected person with the rest of the world, and with their missing family. Millions of pieces of data – such as tribes and clans, places last seen and personal traits – are securely analysed and paired to create matches for more than 190,000 refugees who are already registered in our database.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 4:08 PM | permalink

July 23, 2013

This African Smart Card Helps Catch Disease Outbreaks

The 2010 introduction of the SmartCare system — developed by Zambia's Ministry of Health and the U.S. Center for Disease Control — helps to catch disease outbreaks before they spread too widely. Mashable reports.

quotemarksright.jpgInstead of holding patients accountable for paper "exercise books" documenting their medical histories, the details of individuals' diagnoses and treatments can now be stored on a smart card they hold in their wallets, as well as locally at their health clinic and in the larger SmartCare network.

"The SmartCare card came in because we had a challenge," healthcare manager Ignicious Bulongo says. "Patients would go home and didn't care what happened to their exercise books."

The advantages of the digital system expand beyond its portability: Computerizing the communities' medical records helps Bulongo and other clinicians like him to catch disease outbreaks and medical trends earlier than ever before.

"If there's any outbreak, we'll catch it. The system will show if we see six cases of the measles within one day in people coming from the same area," Bulongo says, noting a recent bilharzia outbreak the clinic found with the help of the electronic system.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 10:54 PM | permalink

July 19, 2013

SMS and Facebook Help Farmers Reduce Pollution in Resen

Favorite Ken Banks for National Geographic on how text messages and Facebook have helped raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides and informed farmers on how to adopt more environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices

quotemarksright.jpg... To make the system sustainable, we knew we needed to find an inexpensive solution,” said UNDP’s Dimitrija Sekovski. “And that’s what we came up with – an innovative way of notifying farmers that cost less than $1,000 to develop: text messages and updates on a Facebook page.”

Walking between the apple trees in his orchard, Mr. Petkovski pulls up the messages on his mobile phone. “Here’s the SMS we received about the codling moth on Friday:

Apple trees in the area of the village of Rajca have been infected by the codling moth. The apple trees should be treated in the next 10 days. For more info, visit the Facebook page or call the Association of Farmers.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 9:04 AM | permalink

Ugandans to Check for IDs Via SMS

Uganda-National-Identity-Card2.png The internal affairs ministry of Uganda has introduced an SMS platform for Ugandans seeking to know the status of their national identity cards. All Africa reports.

quotemarksright.jpg"To check for the status of their IDs, nationals are required to type the word 'Uganda', leave a space, type the registration number from the Electoral Commission and then send to 8888," said.

According to the ministry, which is in charge of the ongoing national IDs distribution, the move is aimed at easing the distribution of the national identification cards.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:59 AM | permalink

July 18, 2013

India's great revolutionary: the mobile phone

images.jpeg In India, an explosion in mobile phone usage has seen former 'untouchables' form successful political parties, and is playing a critical role in the liberation of women. Political Scientist Robin Jeffrey on NBC says the ubiquity of mobile computing has also changed local banking, and reinvigorated the music industry.

quotemarksright.jpgIn India, the autonomy brought by the cheap mobile phone can blow up long-standing social relationships.

.. The key element of the mobile phone, emphasised by the scholar Manuel Castells: it’s not the mobility, it’s the autonomy. Every owner of a basic 2G mobile has the potential to be a broadcaster and a global networker.

... Cheap mobile phones have made it possible for poor people to politically organise. A striking example occurred in the vast northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in 2007. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had been created in the 1980s to work for the benefit of 'untouchables', who constituted more than 20 per cent of UP’s population. Though ‘untouchability’ has been illegal in India since 1950, vicious prejudice remains, and Dalits (as ‘ex-untouchables’ are now known) are poor, rural and often illiterate.

To everyone’s surprise, the BSP won a majority in its own right in the 2007 elections. How? The party was based on true-believing workers who for the first time had the ability through their mobile phones to link constantly with each other, with party strategists and with influential voters. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 2:43 PM | permalink

July 12, 2013

Kenyans Will Soon Be Able To Send Bitcoin By Phone

"M-Pesa is a wildly popular mobile payment system in Kenya, which allows citizens of a country with a poor banking infrastructure to easily transfer money to each other using ubiquitous dumbphones. Currently the system only works in the local currency, but there are plans afoot to allow users to transfer Bitcoin — which would help Kenyans working abroad send money back home without paying high international bank transfer fees."

[The Economist via slashdot]

emily | 2:04 PM | permalink

July 8, 2013

Cellphones helping Afghanistan improve world's worst infant mortality rates

AfghanWomenCellPhones.jpeg World Vision recently conducted a pilot project in Afghanistan where parents are sent text messages in their local language throughout a pregnancy and during the first year of their baby's life. The Star reports.

quotemarksright.jpg World Vision says the pilot was successful and that 22 per cent more women delivered babies at health facilities and 20 per cent more women received prenatal care. Afghanistan's infant mortality rate is the worst in the world, according to U.N. statsquotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 10:46 PM | permalink

July 4, 2013

Cassava on eBay? M-Farm SMS helps Kenya's farmers get better prices


Smallholder farmers stymied by lack of information can see realtime market prices for their produce thanks to M-Farm, and now they want to sell to Tesco, too. The Guardian reports.

M-Farm enables farmers to inquire current market prices of different crops from different regions and/or specific markets, aggregate their needs/orders and connect them with farm input suppliers and enables themfarmers to sell collectively and connect them with a ready market.

quotemarksright.jpgThe Guardian explains that farmers selling snowpeas through M-Farm are now getting 90 Kenyan shillings (about 68p) a kilo, double what they were getting previously. About 5,000 farmers are using M-Farm as a middleman. The advantage for farmers is that they can count on a reliable buyer.

"We are having to turn down farmers who want to join our service because we can't find enough buyers," said Abass. "Spreading ourselves too thinly would be really risky for us."

This is why M-Farm is seeking to forge relationships with UK supermarkets. Supermarkets have a reputation for driving down the prices of their UK suppliers, but Abass says they could help smallholder farmers in Kenya.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 11:38 AM | permalink

June 29, 2013

Monks object to mobile phone deal

Monks and others in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar demanded to know why a lucrative license for a new national mobile phone network had gone to a company from a Muslim nation. TimesLeader reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe former military-run nation decided to loosen its grip on the industry and award licenses to build and operate mobile networks.

Norway's Telenor was one of the two winners announced Thursday as well as Ooredoo of Qatar who's majority shareholder is the Qatari government.

Social networking sites were alight with criticism, with comments flooding the Facebook pages of government officials who posted the official announcement.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 3:29 PM | permalink

June 28, 2013

Africa levies taxes on mobile money transfers.

Kenya levied a tax on mobile-money transfer systems at the turn of the year. That was largely aimed at soaking up some of the profits generated by M-PESA, a simple phone-based service operated by Safaricom that acts as a bank account and debit card for millions of Kenyans. Uganda followed suit this month, extending excise duty to all mobile-related activities; and Tanzania is expected to copy them.

[via The Economist]

emily | 8:46 AM | permalink

Mobile phone revolution begins in Burma

Burma has granted licences to Norway's Telenor and Qatar's Ooredoo to set up the country's first foreign-owned mobile phone networks. The Independent reports.

quotemarksright.jpg Fewer than six million of the country's 60 million people have mobile phones. The government is trying to push the rate to 80 per cent by 2016.

... The original network was intended for only a tiny number of subscribers. Up until a few years ago, the cost of SIM cards could reach $2,000.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:15 AM | permalink

June 26, 2013

Aid Workers Turn to Text Messaging to Improve Food Aid Delivery to Refugees in the Western Sahara

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 10.02.18 PM.png Communication between beneficiaries and food aid providers in the Western Sahara refugee camps in Algeria suffers as the number of food distribution points increases. [via favorite Ken Banks for National Geographic]

By using what was already in place - a mobile phone in each household - independent researcher Rosa Akbari capitalized on existing flows of information as they worked without technology and used FrontlineSMS to ease the communication within the camps.

Read more.

emily | 9:59 PM | permalink

Uganda: Public to Monitor Budget By SMS

According to AllAfrica, the finance ministry of Uganda will set up mobile phone alerts for the public, civil society and the media to monitor public expenditure in the next financial year to improve accountability.

quotemarksright.jpgSocial media and a dedicated website will also be used to monitor budget expenditure alongside an integrated payroll and pension system which automatically matches public sector recruitment to wages and salaries eliminating wastage on ghost workers.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 4:19 PM | permalink

June 24, 2013

M-Farm, up-to-date market information links farmers and marketplaces

Farmers are plagued with problems affecting their productivity and livelihood--middlemen only offering meager prices for their produce, cereal boards delaying with payments, and expensive farm inputs.

M-Farm gives these farmers a voice by connecting them with each other in a virtual space. With M-Farm,they not get affordable farm inputs but also are able to sell collectively.

Since many farmers do not have access to internet, M-Farm has adopted an SMS-based solution where they send a simple text to 20255 (Safaricom Users) depending on what they are looking for.

Article in Wired

Related articles on cell phones and farming in Africa:

emily | 8:32 AM | permalink

June 12, 2013

Rwanda strikes 4G internet deal with South Korean telecoms firm

Rwanda's government has announced plans to provide high-speed 4G internet to almost its entire population within three years after striking a deal with South Korea's biggest telecoms provider.

[via The Guardian]

emily | 12:31 PM | permalink

How Mobile Phones Can Improve Health Care

Obstetric fistula, an abdominal injury that occurs in unattended childbirth and causes incontinence, is among the most intractable challenges of extreme poverty. Bloomberg reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIn Tanzania, a pilot program that relies on mobile-phone communication hasbrought fistula sufferers in remote areas to a central hospital for reparative surgery.

In 2009, hospital staff members, with support from the United Nations Population Fund, decided to find the patients. They assembled a countrywide network of volunteers and armed them with mobile phones and basic training to identify potential patients.

Candidates were then diagnosed over the phone; those who appeared to be suffering from obstetric fistula were sent money for bus fare ($30 on average) through a mobile-phone money-transfer service, in care of the volunteer. Volunteers, in turn, received small incentive payments (about $3.50 a referral). This strategy has more than tripled the hospital's fistula operations, from 150 in 2009 to 500 last year.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:23 AM | permalink

June 6, 2013

STD advice by SMS in Uganda spurred infidelity instead

Google Inc. and the Grameen Foundation set out to improve awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and reduce risky behavior in rural Uganda through text messaging. Instead, the program spurred infidelity. Newsday reports.

quotemarksright.jpgParticipants in the project texted questions on sexual health topics to a service set up by Google, Grameen and the local mobile-phone provider. Using its search technology, Google worked with Grameen to develop a way to pick up key words in the texts and reply with templated answers. Infidelity jumped to 27 percent from 12 percent of those involved in the project, one of the findings of a soon-to-be published Google-funded study by Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-profit organization.

The unexpected result exposes kinks in the growing field of mobile health, which is bringing together technology companies, wireless carriers, drugmakers and non-profit organizations to explore applications ranging from diagnostics to disease tracking. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 5:04 PM | permalink

May 31, 2013

Kenyans Find the Unintended Consequences of Mobile Money

0523_safaricom_630x420.jpg In Western Kenya, “Sambaza” is both a marketing slogan and means for despair. It means “to spread.” Bloomberg Businessweek reports via @ranck.

quotemarksright.jpgVodafone-owned Safaricom, the dominant mobile provider in Kenya, uses it as a brand name for a service that allows customers to transfer airtime to each other. According to a new study (pdf) funded by the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMFTI), the word has also come to refer to the way money in a mobile account slips away, drip by drip, as friends and family ask for favors.

People who work in economic development use the term “unbanked” to describe the roughly one in three people in the world who don’t have a formal bank account. They represent 60 percent of adults in developing countries and 77 percent of adults making less than $2 a day.

According to a paper published in March that looked at text and call data in three African countries to figure out what drives adoption of mobile money, the authors discovered a gap between rich and poor. First, you’re more likely to use mobile money if you’re more likely to make calls and send texts. That is, you’re more likely to use mobile money if you’re spending money already anyway. Second, people with more contacts who have mobile money accounts are more likely to have accounts themselves. This is true in each country, regardless of how developed the mobile money market is.

So data show that, even within poorer countries, the poor lag the rich in mobile money adoption. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:55 PM | permalink

May 29, 2013

A Tiny Cell-Phone Transmitter Takes Root in Rural Africa

zambia_low_power_x299.jpg Worldwide, at least a billion people don’t have access to cellular communications because they lack electricity to run traditional transmitters and receivers. A new low-power cellular base station being rolled out in Zambia could bring connectivity to some of those people. MIT Technology Review reports.

quotemarksright.jpgWeighing just five kilograms and consuming just 50 watts, the gadget provides connectivity to 1,000 people and is “the lowest-power consumption outdoor base station in the world,” says Vanu Bose, CEO of Vanu, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that built it.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 5:44 PM | permalink

April 26, 2013

How Cell Phones Are Helping Fight Malaria

ZambiaWomen_blog_main_horizontal.jpg Community health workers receive new cell phones as incentives to continue their malaria rapid reporting. PBS reports.

quotemarksright.jpgWith the use of mobile technology, health workers with Akros Research have been able to double the number of clinics and patients they visit per day - when previously they traveled upwards of 100 miles to reach community health volunteers in southern Zambia's heavily impacted areas.

... Several key interventions have been implemented since 2000, including distributing long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying and antimalarial medicines to curb the disease. The introduction of rapid reporting systems, using mobile phones to provide real-time data and the detection of high-infection areas, has health workers and volunteers excited about ending malaria deaths for good.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Photo by Imani Cheers/PBS NewsHour

emily | 3:05 AM | permalink

April 4, 2013

Medicine by Text Message: Learning From the Developing World

Health communication systems designed for rural, developing countries -- where hospitals are often understaffed and transportation is inadequate -- are being adapted to improve care in U.S. cities. The Atlantic reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIn the last decade, community health efforts have been made more effective by a simple insight: that time, money, and sometimes even lives can be saved through texting. At St. Gabriel's Hospital in Malawi, for example, 75 community health workers were trained to use text messages to communicate patient information, appointment reminders, and other health-related notifications to patients. Through this mobile health, or mHealth, initiative, the hospital saved approximately 2,048 hours of worker time and $3,000 in fuel, while doubling the capacity of the tuberculosis treatment program.

The case for this growing field in the developing world provokes some controversy, however. Tina Rosenberg, writing in The New York Times, argued recently that the field is in flux. "Roughly a decade after the start of mHealth ... these expectations are far from being met," she writes. "The delivery system is there. But we don't yet know what to deliver.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:57 PM | permalink

March 14, 2013

Viral Phone Game Helps Illiterate Pakistanis Find Job Listings

A viral phone game in Pakistan trains people to use their keypad—and gives them the skills they need to hunt for a job. MIT Technology Review reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe global spread of mobile phones has brought new opportunities to many poor people around the world, but an estimated 800 million have trouble with text entry or automated voice systems because they are illiterate or only partly literate. And training programs are difficult to get going at sufficient scale.

In Pakistan, researchers are using a silly voice game to motivate hundreds of thousands of people to master an automated voice system—and then move on to scroll job listings this way, too.

The effort, led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Pakistan’s Lahore University of Management Sciences, started last May, when just five people in service jobs at Lahore University were given a phone number to get started playing the game. As of this week, the game has more than 156,000 users involving nearly 600,000 calls, including 27,000 inquiries to a job service, all of it sustained by viral spreading alone.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 11:39 PM | permalink

Mobile money adoption in rural India could lag

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 3.40.41 PM.png In India, awareness levels, implementation and use of mobile money is at its early stages. While accepted in urban cities and metros, rural India is still an untapped market due to technological constraints. ZDNet reports.

quotemarksright.jpgFor years within India, mobile phones have being used for banking purposes, such as account balances and real-time transaction details.

Now, we are talking about using a mobile phone as an alternative to making traditional transactions, such as swiping cards at the cash register or till, with the goal of eventually replacing both credit and debit cards by swiping your mobile phone.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 4:37 PM | permalink

March 13, 2013

Africa: Mobile Phone Microscope Detects Worm Infections

Children suffering from intestinal worms can now be diagnosed using a mobile phone microscope that is significantly cheaper than conventional methods, which are prohibitively expensive for many communities. All Africa reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe microscope costs around US$15 and runs off the phone's battery, whereas a conventional light microscope costs US$200 and requires electricity in most countries.

To build the microscope, scientists transformed an iPhone 4S mobile phone into a microscope by temporarily mounting a 3-millimetre ball lens to the camera, using double-sided tape to hold it firmly. A US$8 ball lens was positioned in a small hole punctured in the middle of the double-sided tape.

They then placed the mobile phone microscope on top of the slide, which was illuminated from below by a small flashlight. Images were viewed on the mobile phone screen, and magnification of up to 60 times was enabled using the digital zoom function.

Scientists from Canada, Switzerland, Tanzania and United States, used the microscope to evaluate stool samples from almost 200 children in Pemba, Tanzania, alongside conventional light microscope to measure the efficacy of different intestinal worm treatments.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 11:53 AM | permalink

Mobile Money: A Technology Game-Changer for Tackling Global Poverty?

Mobile money, the ability to bank using cell phones -- is a game-changer in global development. This video chronicles M-Pesa, a mobile money product made by Safaricom, and its unparalleled success with mobile banking in Kenya.

[The Brookings Institution via @jranck]

emily | 9:34 AM | permalink

March 11, 2013

Pink phones project for Cambodian women (in pictures)

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 9.17.05 AM.png

Oxfam's pink phones project gives mobile phones to women in Cambodia's rural communities so they can access vital farming information, such as crop prices and weather, to help improve their livelihoods. View slideshow.

[via The Guardian]

emily | 10:14 AM | permalink

March 10, 2013

How Kenya's High-Tech Voting Nearly Lost The Election

It was supposed to be the most modern election in African history. Biometric identification kits with electronic thumb pads, registration rolls on laptops at every polling station, and an SMS-relayed, real-time transmission of the results to the National Tallying Center in Nairobi. npr reports.

quotemarksright.jpgAmbitious? Of course. Only 23 percent of the country has access to electricity.

... Among Kenya's wired middle class, the going wisdom was that politics was stuck in the past — hopelessly mired in tribalism and corruption — but that technology would breathe fairness and transparency into the process.

And then came Election Day and the triumph of Murphy's Law.

-- First the laptops ran out of battery power. Organizers had failed to consider that African school buildings, where many of the polling stations were situated, don't have electric outlets.

-- Then the biometric identification kits started to crash. Poll workers didn't have the PIN numbers and passwords they needed to restart the software. Paper ballots were rolled out and voter lines slowed to a crawl, forcing some voters to wait seven to nine hours in the hot sun to cast their ballots.

Voting concluded on Monday, but the tech hiccups did not. A bizarre computer bug multiplied the number of disqualified ballots by a factor of eight, leaving Kenyans livid and demoralized for several days in the belief that more than a quarter-million votes had been summarily tossed out in the incredibly tight race. The SMS-relay system overloaded, too, forcing election officials to airlift poll workers to Nairobi by helicopter to hand deliver the results.

The breakdown of the system delayed the announcement of a winner, creating more anxiety with each passing day in a country that experienced massive post-election violence in 2007.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 12:58 PM | permalink

Send a text message to charge your cellphone

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 8.25.28 AM.png

An estimated 500 to 650 million cellphone users are off-grid. London-based company Buffalo Grid and its portable charging station is hoping to step into the gap.New Scientist reports.

quotemarksright.jpgSolar-powered cellphone charging station activated by text message could provide a big help to Africa. Juliet Nandutu in Uganda is offering the service to her village. "I charge 18 phones a day, sometimes 20," she says.

How many phones she charges depends on the local electricity supply. When it's there, people can charge their phones at home, but that's not very often. "It's not so reliable," she says. "It's on and off."

Each text message allows a phone to be charged for 1.5 hours. A fully charged Buffalo Grid unit can last for three days, has up to 10 charging points and charges 30 to 50 phones a day.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Image from Buffalo Grid trials page.

emily | 9:18 AM | permalink

February 18, 2013

Vodafone offers portable mobile-phonechargers to Tanzania’s 'off-grid’ users

kiwanja_uganda_shops_3.jpeg According to The Telegraph, Vodafone is launching Ready Set chargers this month across Tanzania, which can be powered by a bicycle dynamo or a solar panel.

quotemarksright.jpgTens of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa have mobile phone handsets, but are effectively barred from using them because they have nowhere handy to charge them.

Around 600m mobile phone users living “off-grid” spend $10bn a year travelling to somewhere so they can charge them, or powering their handsets with car batteries. quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Above image from

emily | 11:09 AM | permalink

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