Democratic Participation

February Events Round Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jan 31, 2011

February is here and it's a big month for mobile technology and social development events! Read on for a roundup of what's happening this month, and please feel free to add your own events in the comments.

7-11 February, Social Media Week (worldwide) Nokia is sponsoring Social Media Week, a worldwide series of events that focuses on technology and social media. While not all the events are mobile-related, check out the website for details about events in New York City, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, Toronto, Sao Paulo, London, Hong Kong and Istanbul.

10 February, Open UN - Engagement in the Age of Real-Time (New York City) Global Pulse is participating in Social Media Week, hosting a series of panels and presentations. This event focuses on using innovative technology during crises, creating open governments, and using technology to gather and disseminate real-time information.

Reports from Sudan: Sudan Radio Service's Use of Mobile

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jan 31, 2011

From January 9th to January 15th, Southern Sudan held a referendum to decide if the region should become independent from North. Although results have not yet officially been announced, estimates indicate that the referendum will pass with an overwhelming number of pro-independence votes. During this time, keeping citizens informed of new developments is crucial, and one of the best ways to reach large numbers of people is through the radio. The Sudan Radio Service, which has been operating since 2006, recently began incorporating mobile technology into its work to both monitor the reach of its broadcasts and to solicit reader feedback.

Reports from Sudan: Sudan Radio Service's Use of Mobile data sheet 4370 Views
Countries: Sudan

Towards a Design Model for Women’s Empowerment in the Developing World

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 28, 2011
Towards a Design Model for Women’s Empowerment in the Developing World data sheet 2034 Views
Shroff, Geeta and Matthew Ka
Publication Date: 
Jan 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof argues that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.” In this paper, we present a design model for empowering low income women in the developing world, in ways that cut across individual application areas. Specifically, this model characterizes a possible trajectory for NGOs and women to engage with each other and among themselves – potentially augmented by technology – to help women escape from poverty.

The fieldwork components in this study took place over 15 weeks in three phases, with a total of 47 NGO staff members and 35 socio-economically challenged women in rural and urban India. Interviews and co-design sessions with seven proof-of-concept prototypes showed that women appeared to belong to five distinct stages of “growth” in striving towards independence. We report the technology design lessons from our co-design sessions to illustrate how user readiness, relationship building at the community and family levels, and integration with state, national and international level programs, should be taken into account in the broader context of intervention design.

The Mobile Minute: Explaining 4G Coverage, M-banking in India, and Knowing Your Mobile Rights

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jan 27, 2011

The Mobile Minute is back to bring you the latest in mobile and development news! Today we have coverage on what 4G really means, the rise of videos on mobile devices, Vodafone's launch of m-banking services in India, a breakdown of what sort of data and research is missing in a lot of conversations about the impact of mobile devices in the developing world, and why you should password protect and encrypt your smart phone.

  • NPR has an interview with Engadget's Chris Ziegler, who explains why some 3G technologies are being marketed as 4G and how these new networks differ from traditional 3G. He also covers the benefits of market competition, hindrances to fast wireless broadband access, and why 2011 will be the year of the smartphone in the U.S..
  • The growth of video viewing on mobile devices (Poynter reports that "more than 200 million YouTube videos are viewed on mobile devices each day") has led to a huge jump in the mobile advertising market as advertisers try to reach out to new viewer, resulting in expectations of a $1 billion mobile advertising market for 2011.

Technology for Transparency

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 26, 2011
Technology for Transparency data sheet 2204 Views
Sasaki, David, Renata Avila, Sopheap Chak, Jakub Górnicki, Rebekah Heacock, Victor Kaonga, Sylwia Presley, Manuella Maia Ribeiro, Namita Singh, Carrie Yang
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The World Wide Web and the movement for transparency and accountability in government have grown up together over the past two decades, though often in parallel, and with little research evaluating the role and potential of online technologies to bring about greater transparency, accountability and civic engagement. This report is the culmination of four months of research examining the objectives, challenges, successes and effects of online technology projects that aim to promote transparency, political accountability and civic engagement in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, China and Central & Eastern Europe.

A team of eight regional researchers documented a total of 37 case studies of relevant technology projects. Though this report contains only executive summaries of each case study, full interviews including audio podcasts and related documents, are available on our website.1 In addition to the in-depth case studies, we have also documented over 30 project listings, which provide basic descriptive information and context about related projects. This report is structured in three sections.

The introduction examines the differing aspects between traditional watchdog journalism and online media that rely on raw data sources, often directly from government websites. The introduction also aims to contextualize the benefits of transparency, accountability and civic engagement from a grassroots, networked perspective.

The second section of the report consists of regional overviews authored by each of our eight researchers. These overviews document the history of the good governance movement in each region, the role of technology in promoting transparency and accountability, and summaries of the case studies they documented. The concluding section groups case studies thematically in order draw out trends, conclusions and recommendations that apply across a number of projects.

Putting Community into Mobile Data Collection: SurveySwipe and the State of the Union

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Jan 25, 2011

Mobile panels. Software as a service. The United States State of the Union adress by the American president. These are things not typically viewed as “sexy,” but the team behind SurveySwipe is trying to change that.

SurveySwipe is a mobile application that allows a user to take simple surveys or participate in live pulse polling. The app is from IdeaScale, a company that provides services for online and mobile crowdsourcing endeavors -- they work with groups from small non-profits to government agencies to large companies and brands.

The company has been doing Software as a Service (SaaS)-based marketing since 2003, or as Rob Hoehn of IdeaScale said, since “before it was cool.” SurveySwipe is a foray into qualitative data analysis and feeback; for our audience, it is also an example of a creative, two-fold approach to mobile data collection.

Putting Community into Mobile Data Collection: SurveySwipe and the State of the Union data sheet 3632 Views
Global Regions:
Countries: United States

How to Choose an SMS Vendor: A 30-Point Vendor Selection Checklist

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 18, 2011
How to Choose an SMS Vendor: A 30-Point Vendor Selection Checklist data sheet 2205 Views
Soghaier, Marwan & Jared Reitzin
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The use of email by marketers to target audiences has been in serious use for the past 8 years. Equally as long, has been the use of SMS (short message service) or “texting” as generation Y so affectionately adopted that term. SMS has been in use in all parts for the world as a marketing, commerce and communication medium from everything to purchasing sodas from a vending machine to get stock tips and sports scores. Wide spread adoption in the North American market only started to pick up in the past  three years as businesses started realized the SMS was both a simple means to reach the minds and hearts of “handy” users while providing a cost effective means to manage brand equity, marketing communications and build a loyal customer following. With almost every type of business using SMS to grab customers or audiences, few know how to integrate SMS as part of a concerted marketing or CRM strategy to grow their business and generate ROI (Return On Investment). This document will touch on the key criteria for selecting an SMS vendor when looking for expertise to help your enterprise make better decisions on reaching and building an audience.

(Note: While targeting a commercial audience, some good tips for NGOs and nonprofits here as well)

Stories from the Field: Mobile Phone Usage and its Impact on People’s Lives in East Africa

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 13, 2011
Stories from the Field: Mobile Phone Usage and its Impact on People’s Lives in East Africa data sheet 1810 Views
Tomitsch, M., F. Sturm, M. Konzett, A. Bolin, I. Wagner, and T. Grechenig
Publication Date: 
Dec 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

In this paper we present results from contextual interviews and observations, which we conducted in Tanzania over a period of six weeks. In our interviews we focused on use cases and benefits that the mobile phone introduced in these areas. Specifically we were interested in the impact of mobile ICTs on social networks in general and communication with friends and family in particular. The goal of the study was to identify potential areas where ICTs could improve people's lives. Based on an analysis of the results from this study we created personas, which describe archetype mobile phone users and their respective needs and goals. The paper concludes with a number of directions for further research in this area.

Mobile Divides: Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Mobile Phone Use in Rwanda

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 12, 2011
Mobile Divides: Gender, Socioeconomic Status, and Mobile Phone Use in Rwanda data sheet 2212 Views
Blumenstock, Joshua, and Nathan Eagle
Publication Date: 
Dec 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

We combine data from a field survey with transaction log data from a mobile phone operator to provide new insight into daily patterns of mobile phone use in Rwanda. The analysis is divided into three parts. First, we present a statistical comparison of the general Rwandan population to the population of mobile phone owners in Rwanda. We find that phone owners are considerably wealthier, better educated, and more predominantly male than the general population. Second, we analyze patterns of phone use and access, based on self-reported survey data. We note statistically significant differences by gender; for instance, women are more likely to use shared phones than men. Third, we perform a quantitative analysis of calling patterns and social network structure using mobile operator billing logs. By these measures, the differences between men and women are more modest, but we observe vast differences in utilization between the relatively rich and the relatively poor. Taken together, the evidence in this paper suggests that phones are disproportionately owned and used by the privileged strata of Rwandan society.

The Mobile Minute: Hacking GSM Calls, California Rules Against Mobile Privacy, and More

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jan 11, 2011

It's a new year, and the Mobile Minute is back to bring you the latest. We've got coverage on doctors using mobile money for bus fares for fistula patient, Britain's minister of civil society questioning Apple's no-donation apps policy, the BBC's coverage on how hackers can eavesdrop on GSM calls, the California Supreme Court's ruling that police can search the cell phones of arrested people without a warrant, and CGAP's look at current, non-mobile money transfer systems in Haiti.

Happy New Year from!

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 01, 2011

As we welcome 2011, we wish the growing community a happy, just, free, and mobile New Year!  We thank you deeply for all of your support and enthusiasm in 2010 and look forward to working with you in the coming year.  You are amazing, and together we will do great things - mobile, and all. Happy New Year to you and yours!

December Events Roundup

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 07, 2010

There are plenty of events happening this December to keep you up to date on all your mobile needs. Developer looking for a project? Researcher wanting to meet others in your field? No problem, there are plenty of mobile events for everyone! Event:

9 December, Tech Salon: Mobiles + Art + Activism (New York City, U.S.A.) For our last tech salon of the year, we'll be hosting an event that brings together art, mobiles and activism. Featuring artists and activists who use mobile phones in innovative and creative ways, our December tech salon will have installations and discussions with the artists (and, as always, food, wine, and great conversations). Sign up here!

Mobile Data Collection: A Special Round-Up

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 06, 2010

If you're interested in using mobiles and ICTs for data collection, the sheer number of tools and projects can be overwhelming. With so much out there, the need to highlight good projects and consolidate practical information is clear. Here is a handy reference guide to all the data collection information we've accumulated on

The Ultimate Resource Guide

We recently created the Ultimate Resource Guide, an easy-to-use spreadsheet that breaks down our data collection content into clear categories:

  • Web content: A compilation of blog posts, case studies, and regular posts that focuses on data collection.
  • Peer Reviewed Research: A collection of journal articles, research papers, and literature reviews related to mobile data collection.
  • Reports and Evaluations: A matrix of 20+ case studies, broken down by issue, area of practice, target country, and type of evaluation.
  • How-Tos: Instructions for setting up many of the most popular data collection tools, such as ODK, RapidSMS, and EpiCollect.
  • Inventory: An inventory of current data collection projects around the world, compiled through user submissions and MobileActive's research. Thanks to all who contributed!

Comparison Matrix

We developed a comparison matrix assessing ten different mobile data collection tools against a core set of metrics, both technical (platforms, data type collected, required operating systems, security, etc...) and non-technical (such as cost, language, and support). If you want to implement a data collection project, the comparison matrix can help you to determine which tool is best for your project.


There is a great deal of academic and analytic research on mobile data collection. For example, check out these two practical pieces that examine how mobiles and ICTs are used in the field:

  • Our slidecast that examines the effectiveness of PDA-based questionnaires vs. paper questionnaires for collecting health data in Fiji.
  • A literature review that provides an overview of the components, approaches, and techniques used to build mobile phone-accessible, SMS applications for data collection and service delivery.

For more reading, we have dozens of white papers and research articles in the data collection section of our mDirectory.

December Tech Salon in New York: Mobiles + Art + Activism

Posted by anoushrima on Nov 20, 2010

Have you ever texted a fish? Or graffitied a wall with your mobile?

Thanks to the ever-present mobile devices and connectivity, artists and activists are experimenting with how we interact with each other, organize ourselves, and our surroundings. 

We've written about interactive texts messages in activism before, and are very excited to devote our December Tech Salon to how artists and activists use mobile phones for expression.

RSVP here to join us on Thursday December 9th for "Mobiles + Art + Activism": an evening of conversation with artists, and live demos & exhibits of mobile art projects exploring public spaces, calls to action, crowd engagement and participation.

Projects & artists to be showcased include:

The Mobile Minute: 4G Networks in Africa, Mobile Marketing in Europe, and Rigged Bandwidth Auctions in India

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 18, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute brings you news about the six organizations that won social networking grants from infoDev, the way mobile advertising is used in Europe, the launch of 4G networks in Africa, accusations of rigging in India's bandwidth auctions, and a CGAP series that de-hypes mobile banking with actual data.

  • InfoDev announced the winners of its social networking grants for organizations working in Africa and Asia. The winners were Akirachix (Kenya), MoMo Kampala (Uganda), COSTECH (Tanzania), Mobile Monday (Mozambique), CRC Topica (Vietnam), and Young Innovations Pvt. Ltd. (Nepal). The winners received $35,000 U.S. as part of the Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy program.

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


November Events Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 03, 2010

Get ready for a month of mobile events with something for everyone! Interested in how ICTs can be used to help civil society organizations, or help manage crises? Or do you want to develop and monetize apps? This month, we've got you covered:

2 November, Global Pulse Tech Salon (New York City, USA): Interested in learning about how ICTs can be used during crises? The Global Pulse Tech Salon is hosting a gathering to focus on crisis management through data collection, citizen engagement, and the use of communications technologies.

2-4 November, Planet of the Apps (London, UK): This app-focused event is mainly for corporate brands and operators, with panels and presentations on building and marketing engaging apps.

The Mobile Minute: Polling Station Locator, Mobile Security Holes, and Nokia Expands its Rural Programs

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 02, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute brings you the latest mobile news. Mobile Commons helps people find voting stations in the U.S. via SMS, Nokia pushes for rural users, NPR's mobile services win them an Online Journalism Award, and seven out of ten people store sensitive data on their mobile phones – without security measures.

  • Today is election day in the United States, so if you want to find out where your nearest polling station is, check out the Mobile Polling Place Locator by Mobile Commons. Text WHERE (for English instructions) or DONDE (for Spanish instructions) to 30644. You'll be prompted to enter your home address, and then be directed to your local polling center.
  • The New York Times reported on Nokia's Ovi Life Tools program, which uses basic text messages to transmit market and agricultural data to rural mobile owners. The program has already been successful in India, and now Nokia is gearing up to launch a similar program in Nigeria. 
  • The BBC reported on a study from security firm Juniper Networks that found bad news for users worried about mobile security: "In its research covering 6,000 participants spread over 16 countries, Juniper found that 61% of all reported smartphone infections were spyware, capable of monitoring communication from the device. A further 17% were text message Trojans that charge fees to a device's account holder." 

[Mobile Minute Disclaimer: The Mobile Minute is a quick round-up of interesting stories that have come across our RSS and Twitter feeds to keep you informed of the rapid pace of innovation. Read them and enjoy them, but know that we have not deeply investigated these news items. For more in-depth information about the ever-growing field of mobile tech for social change, check out our blog posts, white papers and research, how-tos, and case studies.

Image courtesy Flickr user QiFei

The Mobile Minute: Mobile Banking Ban Looms in Somalia, U.S. Teen Texting Habits Increase, and Mobile Web Use Grows Worldwide

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 22, 2010

In today's Mobile Minute: The UN released a report on mobile penetration around the world and how mobiles can be used to fight poverty, Business Insider charted U.S. texting habits by age group, an Islamist group in Somalia banned mobile money transfers, Zimbabwe's first mobile money program prepares to launch, and the research group Akamai released data on the growth of the mobile web around the world. 

Mobile Phones and Development: An Analysis of IDRC-Supported Projects

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Oct 12, 2010
Mobile Phones and Development: An Analysis of IDRC-Supported Projects data sheet 3842 Views
Ahmed T. Rashid and Laurent Elder
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

In the context of the rapid growth of mobile phone penetration in developing countries, mobile telephony is currently considered to be particularly important for development. Yet, until recently, very little systematic evidence was available that shed light on the developmental impacts of mobile telecommunication. The Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) program of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, has played a critical role in filling some of the research gaps through its partnerships with several key actors in this area.

The objective of this paper is to evaluate the case of mobile phones as a tool in solving development problems drawing from the evidence of IDRC supported projects. IDRC has supported around 20 projects that cut across several themes such as livelihoods, poverty reduction, health, education, the environment and disasters. The projects will be analyzed by theme in order to provide a thematic overview as well as a comparative analysis of the development role of mobile phones. In exploring the evidence from completed projects as well as the foci of new projects, the paper summarizes and critically assesses the key findings and suggests possible avenues for future research.

The Mobile Minute: The Winner of Apps4Africa, Skype on Android, UAE Cancels BlackBerry Ban

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 11, 2010

The Mobile Minute is back with the latest mobile news. Apps4Africa announces its winner, Microsoft prepares to launch its mobile operating system, the United Arab Emirates doesn't go through with its proposed BlackBerry ban, political campaigns try to grow mobile campaign lists, and although Skype is now available on a greater number of Android phones, its not without its downsides.

October Events Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 07, 2010

October is here, and so are plenty of events to keep your M4D calender full! Let us know in the comments or via email if you have an event you'd like to have included here.

7 October, Tech@State: mWomen (Washington, D.C., U.S.) Tech@State's latest event focuses on women and mobiles. Topics at the conference will cover the digital gender divide, mobile opportunities and benefits for women, and how to increase mobile access for women around the world. 

9-10 October, The Media Consortium: Independent Media Hackathon (Chicago, U.S.) This event brings together programmers and journalists for a two-day coding marathon. The event is designed "to develop apps within the frame of “News + Fun + Community," that creatively integrate delivery of news/commentary with game mechanics (including gaming, fun, interaction, calls to action)."

SMS and Democratic Governance in the Phillipines

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Oct 06, 2010
SMS and Democratic Governance in the Phillipines data sheet 3176 Views
Emmanuel C. Lallana
Publication Type: 

This paper examines the use of mobile phones, particularly the short messaging system or SMS, in promoting democratic governance - organizing institutional frameworks to achieve democratic ideals. The objective of this paper is to document how mobile phones is being used to promote popular participation in Philippine politics.

The paper looks into the various SMS-based services that enhance citizen participation. Specifically, SMS services that provides the following were examined: 1) Provision of Public Information; 2) Delivery of Public Service; 3) Amplifying Voice; 4) Vigilantism. 5) Elections and 6) Mass Action and 7) Developing Political Accounts.

Previous studies of SMS in government show that over half of Philippine government agencies use SMS-based services. Most of these national government agencies use SMS as a mechanism for providing information and receiving feedback. In a few instances SMS is used to enhance the delivery of public services.

The notable examples of SMS-based services that provide information are the Department of Agriculture’s Presyo and Panahon Text and the Department of Trade and Industry’s TextDTI. The PAYBIR is an SMS-based service that allows citizens to pay taxes through their cell phones. The Office of the President’s TXTGMA and the office of Marikina Mayor’s TXTMCF elicit complaints, comments and suggestions from constituents. These two are examples of SMS-based services that amplify the citizens’ voice. On the other hand, the DILG’s Patrol 117 is an example of a government service that promotes citizen participation in crime prevention.

The role of SMS in elections as well as its role in mobilizing political action is also discussed. Examples of how text messaging was used as the medium for organizing rallies, spreading information, and stating political positions were given. The discussion on how SMS help develop political account or interpretation of current events was considered through an analysis of political jokes spread through SMS.

While the focus of the paper was on how SMS is being deployed to promote citizen participation, it was noted that SMS is also used in anti or counter-democratic projects.

In sum, this paper documents the role played by SMS in the overall effort at creating an effective set of rules for managing voluntary political exchanges in the Philippines. is Five Years Old! Time for a Community Hurrah!

Posted by anoushrima on Sep 23, 2010

In late September 2005, a group of 40 innovators and activists who were exploring the socially beneficial applications for mobile phones as more than just a personal communication device, convened in Toronto for a 3-day meeting. 

From that meeting, was born. 

Today, five years later, is a growing international digital community of 20,000 highly skilled practitioners, technologists, campaigners and strategists like you.

In 2005 there were just over 1.5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. Today, we have already cleared the 5 billion mark. And thanks to the visionary work of the people in this community, the idea of leveraging mobile technology to improve people’s lives, is at top of mind. 

Mobile (In)Security Redux: Comparing the Tools

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Sep 20, 2010

We have been very keen on exposing the security issues related to mobile communications for activists in insecure environments. To that end we have, to date, produced a number of how-to guides that evaluate some of the tools available.

A little while ago, we added a matrix of available tools that compares existing applications for secure communications more systematically. So, here is the line-up of mobile security resources on MobileActive for easy reference:

We will continue to pay close attention to this space as there are not enough tools and resources yet for activists and journalists to communicate securely via mobile. If you are aware of other projects or resources, please add a comment!

Photo courtesy: rafeblandford via flickr