Disaster & Humanitarian Relief

Advanced Mobile Communications for Emergency Management and Crisis Response

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 07, 2009
Advanced Mobile Communications for Emergency Management and Crisis Response data sheet 1525 Views
Bowman, Michael
Publication Date: 
Jan 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Reliable communications can be a matter of life-and-death during an emergency or crisis.
First responder communication system interoperability, coverage, and flexibility are among
the most critical issues evident from events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11
2001, the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, and Hurricane Katrina.
Murray State University and research partners are addressing these issues under grants from
the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Cooperating with government officials and first
responders, the team has prototyped, demonstrated, and operated robust yet affordable
mobile communications systems particularly well suited for field operation in rural
environments and small communities. Work has progressed beyond demonstrations to
deployments with first responders for actual emergencies, and initial sales of the systems.
The developed system is called the Man-portable and Interoperable, Tactical-Operations-
Center (MITOC). MITOC is a suite of mobile communications gear that upon arrival at an
emergency is quickly transfigured into a robust communications infrastructure including
satellite communications, wireless LANs, Internet access, radio interoperability, VoIP, and
other services essential for organizing and executing crisis response.
Work is currently focused on: the integration of rapidly expandable coverage using mesh
network technology that stretches the MITOC wireless bubble right to the site of an
emergency; advanced services and applications; and integration into other emergency
response systems. This paper describes requirements for mobile communications for
emergency management; the current capability of MITOC; initial manufacturing and sales of
the current system; and future research directions.

A study of emergency response work: patterns of mobile phone interaction

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 07, 2009
A study of emergency response work: patterns of mobile phone interaction data sheet 1469 Views
Landgren, Jonas; Nulden,Urban
Publication Date: 
May 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper presents descriptive accounts of time-critical organizing in the domain of emergency response. Patterns of mobile phone interaction in such work is analyzed showing how the dyadic exchange of mobile phone numbers between the actors plays an important role in the social interactions in the organizing and sensemaking of the emergency. Enacted sensemaking is used as an analytical framework. Implications for design of emergency response information technology are outlined and discussed.

Selecting Computing Devices to Support Mobile Collaboration

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 07, 2009
Selecting Computing Devices to Support Mobile Collaboration data sheet 2875 Views
Guerrero, Luis; Ochoa, Sergio; Pino, José; Collazos, César
Publication Date: 
May 2006
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Collaboration supported by mobile devices has brought advantages for users and also challenges for software developers and mobile computing devices manufacturers. Every kind of device used to support mobile collaboration has strengths and weaknesses depending on the work context where it is used. The idea is to use a specific device when advantages are most relevant and disadvantages do not affect team work. This paper proposes an evaluation framework that helps developers to identify the type of device that can be used to support mobile collaboration in specific work contexts. In addition, three mobile collaborative applications are analyzed using the evaluation framework. The results of the analysis are then compared with the empirically observed suitability.

Remittances during crises: implications for humanitarian response

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 07, 2009
Remittances during crises: implications for humanitarian response data sheet 1902 Views
Savage, Kevin; Harvey, Paul
Publication Date: 
May 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This HPG Briefing Paper reports on a study into
the role that remittances play in crises. This
work explored how affected people use
remittance income to survive and recover from
crises, the effect that crises can have on
remittance flows and the way that humanitarian
responses consider the role of remittances. The
study was based on a review of relevant
literature, as well as detailed case studies in
Haiti, Pakistan, Somaliland, Sudan, Indonesia
and Sri Lanka. The study concludes that, while
remittances should not be seen as a panacea or
substitute for humanitarian action, there is clear
potential for humanitarian actors to do more to
explore the complementarities between
emergency relief and people’s own efforts to
support friends and family in times of crisis.

The Role of Mobiles in Disasters and Emergencies

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 07, 2009
The Role of Mobiles in Disasters and Emergencies data sheet 3040 Views
Coyle, Diana; Childs, Mary Beth
Publication Date: 
Jan 2006
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

A spate of natural disasters and other emergencies during 2003-2005 has prompted new interest
in how technology can help enhance our security. This report assesses the impact that the widespread
availability of mobile phones has had on the recovery from specific disasters and atrocities, such as the
Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the summer floods in central Europe, and terrorist attacks
in Istanbul and London.

Towards a Distributed Crisis Response Communication System

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 06, 2009
Towards a Distributed Crisis Response Communication System data sheet 1337 Views
Bradler, Dirk; Schiller, Benjamin; Aitenbichler, Erwin; Liebau, Nicolas
Publication Date: 
May 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Reliable communication systems are one of the key success factors for a successful first response mission.
Current crisis response communication systems suffer from damaged or destroyed infrastructure or are just
overstressed in the case of a large scale disaster. We provide an outline for a distributed communication
approach, which fulfills the requirements of first responders. It is based on a layered network topology and
current technology used in research projects or already established products. In addition, we propose a testing
framework for the evaluation of a crisis response communication system

Technology for Early Disease Detection and Rapid Disaster Response: InSTEDD

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jun 22, 2009
Technology for Early Disease Detection and Rapid Disaster Response: InSTEDD data sheet 1382 Views
Kass-Hout, Taha; Marcus, Mary-Jane
Publication Date: 
Feb 2008
Publication Type: 

This presentation provides an overview of the InSTEDD Global Platform for Early Disease Detection, Reponse, and Evaluation. The summary includes reviews the proportion of infections detected and proposes addressing these challenges by adopting a social network and cognitive model approach. The approach facilitates: Early identification of potential health threats and verification, assessment, and investigation of threats in order to recommend measures (public health and other) to control them. The presentation describes the indicator and event-based hybrid surveillance approach and gives two examples of collaborative testing in the field.

Mobile giving gets cheaper in the U.K.

Posted by CorinneRamey on Jun 22, 2009

Where Ideas Navigate, or WIN, a technology service provider in the U.K., has said they will waive SMS fees for charities that use their services.

Hannah Jordan writes in Third Sector:

A company that provides charity text donation services is believed to be the first to waive its commission on donations to third sector organisations. Win handles ‘short code transactions', or texts to numbers of about five digits, between charities and donors. It usually receives between five and 10 pence per standard £1.50 text donation, but has said this week that it will waive the fee for charities and other not-for-profit organisations using its services. About 30 per cent of every text donation made to sector organisations in the UK is taken in charges by third-party service providers and mobile networks.

Mobile Services Evolution 2008-2018

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jun 20, 2009
Mobile Services Evolution 2008-2018 data sheet 2268 Views
Sharma, Chetan
Publication Date: 
Jun 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper takes a look at the potential evolution of mobile technology and services over the next ten years and discusses an mServices framework for building and deploying diverse mobile services. The paper also looks at the challenges of such an endeavor and the steps needed to achieve the vision.

The report suggests how mobile devices will be used for much more than voice communications in the coming years in mHealth, mGovernance, mEnterprise, and mPublic Safety. Supporting the projections are: a mapping of mobile penetration, mobile ecosystem dynamics and deployment and adoption of mobile technology in the developing world. The report summarizes the building blocks of a mobile services platform and concludes with an emphasis on public-private partnership and the innovative business models that will accompany these changes.

CrisisCamp Ignite Session hosted by the World Bank - Friday, June 12 7pm

Posted by Heather Blanchard on Jun 11, 2009

You are invited to CrisisCamp Ignite Session at the World Bank!

CrisisCamp DC is part of a global movement who is bringing together volunteers, academia, non-profits, companies and government officials to share best practices and lessons learned to advocate for further use of technology and telecommunications to assist citizens and communities during crisis. 

Open Mobile Consortium Launches With Open Source Mobile Tools

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 26, 2009

We are proud and happy that six months of hard work have paid off - the Open Mobile Consortium has launched officially today.  Conceived at MobileActive08 in South Africa, the OMC is featuring a suite of fully open source mobile applications focused on health and humanitarian work.  The OMC is an unprecedented collaboration amongst nine high-profile organizations to develop an interopable set of platforms of high-quality open source mobile tools for humanitarian and civil society work.   

Here is our press release:

New York, NY – May 26, 2009 – The Open Mobile Consortium today launched its global development community to help organizations working towards social good to better collaborate and share mobile phone-based technologies.  The OMC’s open source software tools help organizations to better serve the health, humanitarian and development needs of the “bottom billion,” the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens of the world.

Mobile Tech 4 Social Change Camp Wiki is Live -- Roll Your Own!

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 22, 2009

With the proliferation of interest in Mobile Tech 4 Social Change Camps around the world, we have now put up a wiki to keep track of and provide resources for this growing movement of M4Change Camps.  The wiki includes a detaied FAQ on how you can run your own Mobile Tech 4 Social Change camp (because this small team here is, well, very small!).  Spread the love and roll a camp in your town!

Mobile Tech 4 Social Change Camps are local events for people passionate about using mobile technology for social impact and to make the world a better place.

Each event includes interactive discussions, hands-on-demos, collaborative scheming about ways to use, develop, and deploy mobile technologies in health, advocacy, economic development, environment, human rights, citizen media, to name a few areas.  

Mobile Tech 4 Social Change and Halifax

Posted by on May 09, 2009

I attended Mobile Tech 4 Social Change in New York back in February. It was a bit of a trek from Halifax, Nova Scotia but Jacob Colker (co-founder of The Extraordinaries) convinced me it was good opportunity to meet like-minded people interested in using mobile technologies for social good. Jacob was right, I was absolutely blown away by the incredible people devoting their lives to helping make the world a better place. I was so inspired by the event, I decided to organize the same event in Halifax.

Open Source Mobile Tools 4 Development - Why They Are Important

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 09, 2009

I am a member of the Working Group of the Open Mobile Consortium, a now publicly launching collaboration among organizations around the world focused on developing open source mobile solutions for social impact and change.

There have been many myths surrounding open source software and little conversation in this field why open source software is important and successful, especially in the context of developing countries and in the field of mobiles for development. I'd like to debunk some of these myths and clarify why the Open Mobile Consortium is focused on open source mobile solutions that build on, and talk to one another. I also invite comments for anything that I have missed or differing point of views.

Firstly, No Dogma

We are all in the Long Tail of Mobile for Social Impact

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 07, 2009

Ken Banks has a theory: The long tail theory of mobile applications for social development.  It goes something like this, paraphrasing him from his incendiary blog post:

Mobiles are the most rapidly adopted technology in history. But if mobiles truly are as revolutionary and empowering, then don't we have a moral duty in the ICT for Development (ICT4D) community to see that they fulfill that potential?

Banks says that indeed, we do have that moral duty, and I agree with him wholeheartedly there. 

The Betavine Social Exchange: A Marketplace for Mobile Apps for Social Change Needs Your Input

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 04, 2009

Imagine you are an NGO (a non-governmental organization) in a developing country, working on a critical development issue -- say, developing an educational infrastructure for women and girls. You know that mobile technology can help you in this regard and you have a project in mind that you want to try out, involving the use of SMS content and mobile information services for rural teachers.  You think that there are tools and content out there for your particular needs - but you may have no idea how to access relevant expertise, mobile tools, or content. 

Enter Vodafone, one of the largest mobile telecommunications network companies in the world, operating in 25 countries with partner networks in another 42 countries.

The Open Data Kit - Another Mobile Data Collection App (UPDATE)

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Apr 29, 2009

UPDATE: In an email conversation with Yaw, he pointed out a few additional noteworthy things about the Open Data Kit.  

Here is how our client is different:

As researchers we want to push the boundaries of what organizations
can do today to collect their rich data. We want users to own, visualize and share this data without the difficulties of setting up and maintaining servers. We want the tools to be easy to deploy, easy to use, open source and freely available. It is only now that technology (hardware, software and infrastructure) which matches our above ideals have become available.

ODK is more than open source, it is open standards, easy to work with and available today. We use xforms standard for input and output. Organizations can start with low end java phones and run Javarosa. When they are ready to collect data on a more powerful platform, they can move up to the ODK Collect on android phones and all their forms will still work. Results can be sent to any compatible xforms server (in fact, RapidsSMS support is coming soon).

For developers, the code base is easy to use. For example, if you wanted to add barcode reading or submission to Openmrs servers over wifi, it will take very few lines of code. We already have local African developers working on similar functionality.

We've piloted the application and are scaling rapidly. We started with
twenty devices in Uganda which were used to collect over 1000 geotagged forms with images. Our upcoming deployment will be a couple of hundred devices collecting millions of forms.

ODK also has a ton of features and we adding more each day. Touchscreen UI with swipe navigation and progress bar, xforms compatible gps and photo support, question grouping, repeats and constraints, answer defaults and constraints, logic and branching in forms, and much more is coming. We put the roadmap at http://code.google.com/p/open-data-kit/wiki/RoadMap

We think we've pushed the state of data collection a bit forward. Certainly, ODK Collect is not for every organization who wants to do data collection, but for our partners who are using it now, it is providing a lot of value.

Open Data Kit (ODK) is a suite of tools aimed at resource-poor organizations to collect, transform and report their data. Developed by Yaw Anokwa and Carl Hartung from the University of Washington, ODK Collect enables mobile data collection on the Android platform.  ODK is one of a growing number of mobile data caollection apps, many of which are reviewed here and here on MobileActive.  This video gives an overview of the Open Data Kit.  You can download the source code here

Check out RapidSMS on Android as well, and Nokia Data Gathering here

Mobile Tech 4 Social Change London, May 23

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Apr 23, 2009

We are hosting another Mobile Tech 4 Social Change camp, this time in London on May 23rd. The event is hosted by MobileActive.org and Vodafone.

Mobile Tech 4 Social Change camps are participant-driven, interactive, and highly productive events of people who are working with mobile technology for social impact.

Mobile Tech 4 Social Change includes interactive discussions, hands-on-demos, and collaborations about ways to use, deploy, develop and promote mobile technology in health, advocacy, economic development, environment, human rights, citizen media, to name a few areas.  Participants for Mobile Tech 4 Social Change barcamps include nonprofits, mobile app developers, researchers, donors, intermediary organizations, and mobile operators.

Slow Blogging -- We are Relaunching!

Posted by admin on Apr 21, 2009

We are excited to announce that we are completely overhauling the MobileActive.org website, and as a result of thehard work happening behind the scenes, we are slow to blog this month.  But no worries -the wait will be worth it! 

This relaunch, after a great two-year run, will feature lots of new content and information.  For example, you will see:

Cash Aid via Mobile Payment in Kenya - An Evaluation

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 30, 2009

In early 2008 violence errupted in Kenya after the most recent elections there the previous December.  Post-election tribal warfare resulted in the death of 1,200 people, internally displaced 400,000 to 600,000 people, and destroyed more than 41,000 properties.  The economic cost of the crisis has been estimated at more than KSh 100 billion (approx US $ 1.5 billion), with more than half a milion jobs lost. The World Bank noted that over 2 million Kenyans may have been driven into poverty as a result of the violence.  Food security also declined with farmers unable to cultivate and harvest their farms in early 2008.  

63 Million Bednets to be Distributed with Rapid SMS

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 15, 2009

This post was written by Marcia Stepanek of Cause Global where it was orginally published.  Marcia graciously allowed up to repost it here.  

So, Why is Data Collection on a Mobile Something We Talk About A Lot?

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 11, 2009

We've been talking recently quite a lot about the many mobile apps available for data collection.  We reviewed them, we featured them, we write about them. Some of you may be wondering why in the world there is such a relative plethora of tools for surveying and data gathering out there and why we keep writing about them.  In short, gathering field data (and being able to analyze them in close-to-real time) allows organizations to respond quickly and accurately to need by constituents to then be able to deliver critical social services.

Here is a very short video, demonstrating Nokia's Data Gathering application, used by Amazonas' State Health Department in Brazil to monitor and treat outbreaks of dengue fever.  The video is not specific to Nokia's tool -- the same benefits apply to any of the mobile tools we have reviewed.  What the video does show nicely, though, is why mobile data collection matters greatly to the health and well-being of people around the world. 

And if you are not convinced, take a look at this very short video about another tool, Episurveyor. It'll give you a glimpse why these tools are so critical.

Mobile Apps for Data Collection Update: FrontlineSMS Forms and Nokia Data Gathering

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 10, 2009

We recently compared the many mobile apps out there for using mobile phones for data collection and surveying - one of the promising areas in which social researchers and NGOs are using mobiles.

Here is an updated version of our overview that includes the newly-released FrontlineSMS forms client, and Nokia Data Gathering, a mobile data collection tool designed for social researchers and NGOs. Here is the summary:


The FrontlineSMS forms client was released last week. It adds basic data collection functionality to the SMS messaging tool. The forms client is a Java application, with all data transfer done via SMS.  The workflow for FrontlineSMS forms is as follows:

International Women's Day: Women in Mobile and Mobile for Women

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 09, 2009

Today is International Women's Day and we are celebrating by featuring innovative women in the MobileActive.org community who are making a difference by using mobiles for social impact. Many of these social innovators are indeed focusing their work on improving the lives of women - their health, incomes, and social and political well-being.  We salute you all! 

Melissa Loudon is a research officer at the Centre for Spatial Data Management at the University of Capetown in South Africa. She is also a talented mobile developer who used to work at Cell-Life, and she has written extensively for us, testing applications. Her most recent review of mobile tools for social development focused on data collection using a mobile phones.