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 3840 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.

Learning Communities Enabled by Mobile Tech: Case Study of School-Based, In-Service Secondary Teacher Training Rural Bangladesh

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Oct 01, 2010
Learning Communities Enabled by Mobile Tech: Case Study of School-Based, In-Service Secondary Teacher Training Rural Bangladesh data sheet 2162 Views
Sarah Lucas Pouezevara and Rubina Khan
Publication Date: 
Dec 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Adapted from Executive Summary: With the aim of providing developing member countries (DMCs) with better guidance to use information and communication technology (ICT) effectively in education, the Asian
Development Bank (ADB) funded a 21-month regional technical assistance (RETA) in Bangladesh, Nepal, Mongolia, and Samoa. The RETA researched approaches to using ICT in education in ways that succeed in improving teaching and learning and also are sustainable given the region’s development challenges.

The study in Bangladesh, part of the e-Teacher Training component, complements the existing ADB-funded Teaching Quality Improvement in Secondary Education Project (TQI-SEP;2005–2011), which has as one of its objectives, to provide in-service professional development to all serving teachers working in secondary schools recognized by the Ministry of Education (MoE) at least once during the project period. 

The study equipped two subject trainers, a training coordinator, and a cluster of 10 schools with “smartphones”2 (with video, speakerphone, and three-way calling capabilities), for use by 20 Bangla and math teachers in 10 schools of the Barisal region in southern Bangladesh. The existing training curriculum was revised from a 2-week, face-to-face workshop to a 6-week distance-mode training based on printed materials and practical application of training content with peers. The phones were intended primarily to enhance communication, motivation, and multimedia delivery.

The objective of the study was to develop a case study on the use of mobile connectivity in support of distance education and to determine whether:

• it is an effective mode for teacher training and improvement in classroom practice
• it is a suitable mode to reach rural and remote teachers, including women and disadvantaged groups
• it presents other benefits in terms of education administration (including student assessment and costs) and pedagogy.

The study also sought to determine the costs of this model, and the features of the smartphones that would be most useful as a support to distance learning.

Mobile Phone Use by Young Adults in India: A Case Study

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Sep 28, 2010
Mobile Phone Use by Young Adults in India: A Case Study data sheet 4908 Views
Priyanka Matanhelia
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 

This study explored the use of mobile phones among young adults in India. The study used the theoretical frameworks of uses and gratifications approach from media studies, socialcognitive domain theory from human development literature and social construction of technology (SCOT) from Science and Technology studies. The main objective of the study was to examine the use of mobile phones to fulfill communication, media and age-related needs by young people in India and to investigate regional and gender differences.

The study was conducted in two phases using a mixed-methods approach. In the first phase, in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 college-going young adults (18 – 24 years) in Mumbai and Kanpur in December 2007 and January 2008. In the second phase, a survey was conducted with 400 college-going young adults (18 – 24 years) in Mumbai and Kanpur.

The qualitative analysis of the data showed that young people in both the cities used cell phones for a variety of communication, news and entertainment needs. Additionally, they considered cell phones as personal items and used them to store private content, maintain privacy and have private conversations. Further, the analysis showed that they used cell phones to negotiate independence from parents and to maintain friendships and create friendships with members of opposite sex.

The quantitative analysis of the data revealed that young people in the two cities used cell phones differently due to the differences in their lifestyles and socio-cultural factors. Additionally, the study found there were only a few gender differences in the use of cell phones by young people, mainly in the use of cell phones for entertainment purposes, negotiation of independence from parents and in forming friendships with members of opposite sex. Finally, the study concluded that young people in India mainly use cell phones for private communication and needs.

Press One For English: BBC Janala Offers English Language Courses Over Mobiles

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 10, 2010

BBC Janala is part of a multi-platform effort to bring English language education to millions of Bangladeshi people. It is part of the BBC World Service Trust’s “English in Action” program, dedicated to teaching English to 25 million people in Bangladesh. Using mobile phones, BBC Janala offers audio English lessons and quizzes to callers – and in a short amount of time has seen rapid pickup across the country. 

Press One For English: BBC Janala Offers English Language Courses Over Mobiles data sheet 15805 Views
Countries: Bangladesh

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Uses of the Cell Phone for Education in the Philippines and Mongolia

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 23, 2010
Uses of the Cell Phone for Education in the Philippines and Mongolia data sheet 3008 Views
Librero, F., Ramos, A., Ranga, A. I., Triñona, J. & Lambert, D.
Publication Date: 
Aug 2007
Publication Type: 
Journal article

The cell phone, now the most widely used medium in Asia, has major educational implications. Most users, however, do not realize the cell phone's potential for education, nor even for the communication functions for which it was originally designed. Most educators still see the computer and the cell phone as unrelated devices, and the tiny cell phone more as a personal accessory, especially for young people.

With falling prices and increasing functionality, however, it is virtually certain that not too far in the future all of the world's students will have a cell phone. This is sufficient reason and motivation for educators to explore the possibility of making the cell phone an important tool in the educational systems of developed and developing countries.

This article describes the experience of two major projects that are studying the potential of cell phone and short message service (SMS) techniques for formal and nonformal education in the Philippines and Mongolia. The studies have yielded positive reactions from students and trainees about the potential of these techniques, and are suggesting design and logistical principles for use in educational cell phone implementation.

Nokia Data Gathering

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 09, 2010
Nokia Data Gathering data sheet 5955 Views
Organization that developed the Tool: 
Main Contact: 
Sanna Eskelinen
Problem or Need: 

Mobile phones are great data collection tools because they are highly portable devices with the ability to connect to a network for transferring data. When they include GPS devices and cameras, they are also a way to provide digital data in the form of pictures and location of data collection that can be a helpful addition to the data.

Nokia Data Gathering addresses the need of a simple-to-use data gathering platform that is integrated with server side software. The handset client can run on Nokia E61, E61i, E63, E71 and E72 handsets. Nokia Data Gathering code was recently changed to an open source license.



Main Contact Email : 
Brief Description: 

Nokia Data Gathering provides two pieces of software:

  • Server-side software that lets users create surveys that can be sent to the mobile phones.
  • Mobile phone software that can download the exact surveys, allow data collectors to fill them out, and send back to the server where the surveys were created. The survey responses can include camera and GPS data when available.
  • Servier-side software to analyze the data that comes back in from mobile phones, and GUIs (graphical user interfaces) to manage devices, survey creation, as well as data analysis.
Tool Category: 
App resides and runs on a mobile phone
App resides and runs on a server
Key Features : 

The survey creator offers:

  • The editor panel in the server enables the creation of questionnaires. The editor enables the following types of question responses: numeric, date, multiple choice (choose one or more), exclusive choice (choose only one), image and free text.
  • Creating trigger questions is supported as well. For example, if a respondent is asked whether they own a car, a positive response may trigger further questions asking them what type of car, whether it is insured and so on. A negative reply will skip these questions to save time. When a questionnaire has been finalized, it can be sent to the field personnel (read more from the Mobile Phone module section).

The handset application offers:

  • Use of data network for transmission. The data network can range from GPRS to Wi-Fi, and collected data is stored on a memory card in the phone before transfer. Memory card data can also be transferred by uploading the data from a PC or even by mailing the memory card itself.
  • The Mobile Phone Module runs Java Micro Edition (Java ME), which means it can be ported to any mobile phone that runs Java. However, the software is optimized for the Nokia E61, E63, E71, and E72 phones.
  • When available, the application incorporates GPS data. The camera can also be utilized when a survey field response-type is an Image.

Other features include:

  • Data transfer between client and server is encrypted.



Main Services: 
Voting, Data Collection, Surveys, and Polling
Location-Specific Services and GIS
Stand-alone Application
Tool Maturity: 
Currently deployed
Program/Code Language: 
Organizations Using the Tool: 

Amazonas State Health Department and Health Vigilance Foundation (Brazil), Foundation human nature (Ecuador), Department of Agriculture and WWF (Phillippines), CMI (Crisis Management Initiative) (Liberia), World Vision Indonesia.


Support Forums:
Languages supported: 
English, Spanish, Portugese (on Server), Any language supported by Mobile Handset.
Handsets/devices supported: 
E61, E61i, E63, E71, E72, possibly other J2ME based devices.
Is the Tool's Code Available?: 
URL for license:
Is an API available to interface with your tool?: 

The Mobile Minute: Your Daily M4Change News

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 29, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute covers how mobiles are improving students' performance in a North Carolina school, personal data theft from a malicious Android app, a $100 million USAID grant for health services in Malawi, the effect of mobile applications on the East African economy, and the release of Opera's "State of the Mobile Web."

The Mobile Minute: Mobile for Non-Literate Users, Latinos and Mobiles, and Nokia's Falling Profits

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 27, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute brings you an interview with Indrani Medhi on her work with text-free interface technology, an SMS case study from Toronto's The Globe and Mail, a look at race and digital technology, Nokia's falling profits, and which mobile domains are most popular. 

Mobile Research at Your Desk - No RSVP required!

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 25, 2010

At MobileActive, we’ve held a bi-weekly Research Ignite series to keep up with the latest in research related to mobiles for development. For the past few weeks, our team has been learning and discussing new research and reports. We invite you to put on your learning caps and plug into our screencasts, where we will feature some exciting developments in the world of m4d.

For this Ignite, we’re featuring three studies that were presented at the 28th ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The research covers mobile games in rural India and China that address literacy, and a study on mobile Internet use in South Africa.


mGames for Literacy and Mobile Internet - Research Ignite #1 from on Vimeo.

Practice Chinese Strokes and Learn Characters

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of California, Carnegie Mellon University and Nokia Research Palo Alto developed two mobile games, Multimedia Word and Drumming Stroke, which aim to help young children in rural China recognize Chinese characters and practice strokes. It is the first known m-game that leverages a mobile learning tool for the Chinese language.

A Mobile Marakothi, a Traditional Children’s Game in India, that Teaches English

In rural India, empirical studies show that children often miss school largely due to family labor, assisting in domestic work at home or in the farm without wages or as hired labor. The authors believe that “Mobile learning can empower poor children to balance their educational and income earning goals,” and so, pursued the development of a mobile game to teach English vocabulary. Mobile phones with the m-game were deployed to children living in rural Uttar Pradesh, India for 26 weeks. The pilot identified opportunities for out-of-school learning, revealed gender influences on m-game usage and surprisingly, showed that m-games traversed caste and village boundaries and facilitated social interaction.

Presentation starts at 4:03 min.

Challenging Assumptions of Mobile Internet Access: The Experience of Women in A Township in South Africa

More and more mobile users are surfing the internet on their phones. For most people in developing countries, there is no plan B – in other words, no PC-based internet access. This study reports the experience of a group of women in Khayelitsha, in Cape Town, South Africa who connected to a mobile-based internet for the first time. In this article, six challenges facing mobile-only internet users in developing countries are identified. The authors propose how to the mobile industry can move forward by keeping the end-users in mind and introduce the concept of “digital divide” that is secondary to mobile access – it’s “after-access”.

Presentation starts at 9:59 min.

Thank you to the authors for providing permission to use images, screenshots and data as well as helpful feedback for the screencast. For more research, reports, and white papers about mobile technology for social change visit our mdirectory.

Mobile Research at Your Desk - No RSVP required! data sheet 5496 Views
Countries: China India South Africa

An Exploratory Study of Unsupervised Mobile Learning in Rural India

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 02, 2010
An Exploratory Study of Unsupervised Mobile Learning in Rural India data sheet 3241 Views
Kumar, A., Tewari, A., Shroff, G., Chittamuru, D., Kam, M., and Canny, J.
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Apr 2010
Publication Type: 

Cellphones have the potential to improve education for the millions of underprivileged users in the developing world. However, mobile learning in developing countries remains under-studied. In this paper, we argue that cellphones are a perfect vehicle for making educational opportunities accessible to rural children in places and times that are more convenient than formal schooling. We carried out participant observations to identify the opportunities in their everyday lives for mobile learning. We next conducted a 26-week study to investigate the extent to which rural children will voluntarily make use of cellphones to access educational content.

Our results show a reasonable level of academic learning and motivation. We also report on the social context around these results. Our goal is to examine the feasibility of mobile learning in out-of-school settings in rural, underdeveloped areas, and to help more researchers learn how to undertake similarly difficult studies around mobile computing in the developing world.

Let's Play Chinese Characters - Mobile Learning Approaches via Culturally Inspired Group Games

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 02, 2010
Let's Play Chinese Characters - Mobile Learning Approaches via Culturally Inspired Group Games data sheet 3373 Views
Tian, F., Lv, F., Wang, J., Wang, H., Luo, W., Kam, M., Setlur, V., Dai, G., and Canny, J.
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Apr 2010
Publication Type: 

In many developing countries such as India and China, low educational levels often hinder economic empowerment. In this paper, we argue that mobile learning games can play an important role in the Chinese literacy acquisition process. We report on the unique challenges in the learning Chinese language, especially its logographic writing system. Based on an analysis of 25 traditional Chinese games currently played by children in China, we present the design and implementation of two culturally inspired mobile group learning games, Multimedia Word and Drumming Strokes. These two mobile games are designed to match Chinese children’s understanding of everyday games. An informal evaluation reveals that these two games have the potential to enhance the intuitiveness and engagement of traditional games, and children may improve their knowledge of Chinese characters through group learning activities such as controversy, judgments and self-correction during the game play.

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Using Mobile Phones to Improve Educational Outcomes: An Analysis of Evidence from Asia

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on May 18, 2010
Using Mobile Phones to Improve Educational Outcomes: An Analysis of Evidence from Asia data sheet 2982 Views
John-Harmen Valk, Ahmed T. Rashid, and Laurent Elder
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Mar 2010
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Despite improvements in educational indicators, such as enrollment, significant challenges remain with regard to the delivery of quality education in developing countries, particularly in rural and remote regions. In the attempt to find viable solutions to these challenges, much hope has been placed in new information and communication technologies (ICTs), mobile phones being one example.

This article reviews the evidence of the role of mobile phone-facilitated mLearning in contributing to improved educational outcomes in the developing countries of Asia by exploring the results of six mLearning pilot projects that took place in the Philippines, Mongolia, Thailand, India, and Bangladesh. In particular, this article examines the extent to which the use of mobile phones helped to improve educational outcomes in two specific ways: 1) in improving access to education, and 2) in promoting new learning. Analysis of the projects indicates that while there is important evidence of mobile phones facilitating increased access, much less evidence exists as to how mobiles promote new learning.


How to Fail in Mobiles for Development: MobileActive's Definitive Guide to Failure

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 14, 2010

As we here at have been covering ICT and mobiles for development now for more than five years, we have seen our fair share of failures. For every great project that changes how a community benefits from technology to improve the lives of its people, there seem to be twice as many projects that fail, and end up wasting time, money, and maybe worst, goodwill.

Too often in our field, we talk up our successes, overhype and overestimate the value of our projects, and sweep the failures under the rug. But, if we don’t talk about what didn’t work (and, perhaps more importantly, why it didn’t work), others will keep repeating the same mistakes.

That is why we invented FailFaire, a gathering that is happening tonight in New York City and that we hope will take place in other cities around the world.  FailFaire is a place where it's ok to talk about what didn't work to learn from for the next project using mobiles for social change and development.

Presenting the First-Ever FAILfaire: Join Us!

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Mar 22, 2010

Calling all failures!  On April 14 we're hosting the first FAILfaire featuring a close look at ICT and mobile development projects that have crashed, burned, and simply FAILED.  

While we often focus on highlighting successes and gains in this field, it's no secret that many projects just don't work - some aren't scalable, some aren't sustainable, some can't get around bureaucratic hoops, and many fail due to completely unanticipated barriers. FAILfaire is a platform to openly and honestly discuss failures so that we can learn from what hasn't worked in the past in order to make our future projects stronger and better.   

This is where YOU come in. Have you been a part of a project that flopped? Maybe the project used the wrong technology for its region. Maybe it didn't engage the intended community.  Did not take culture, people, or both into consieration. Or maybe the rollout was too rushed. Whatever the reason, we want to hear from you. 

Presenting the First-Ever FAILfaire: Join Us! data sheet 4901 Views
Countries: United States

M4Girls: Empowering Female Students

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 23, 2010
M4Girls: Empowering Female Students data sheet 5799 Views

The following is the executive summary of M4Girls, prepared by the Mindset Network and Neil Butcher and Associates, and reprinted here with permission from Mindset.


The M4girls project is a partnership between Nokia, Mindset Network, and the Department of Education (North West Province/South Africa) to test the provision of educational content on a mobile phone platform to girl learners. The project targeted the development of Mathematics competencies in Grade Ten girl learners from underserved communities, and aimed to empower girl learners in the following ways:

Access to mathematics (as a pilot subject area and driven by priority areas in education in South Africa);

Exposure to a complementary platform of curriculum-aligned Mathematics content (Mindset content) on mobile phones; and

Exposure to technology in the form of mobile phones.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

The project aimed to:

  • Increase female students' aptitude with mathematics
  • Expose female students to technology through mobile phones
Brief description of the project: 

The M4girls project is a partnership between Nokia, Mindset Network, and the Department of Education (North West Province) to test the provision of educational content on a mobile phone platform to girl learners. The project targeted the development of Mathematics competencies in Grade Ten girl learners from underserved communities in South Africa, and aimed to empower girl learners. 

Target audience: 

The target audience is grade 10 girls in the North West Province of South Africa. 

Detailed Information
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

Whilst learners’ reports during the focus groups point to the phones mainly being used to listen to music, other general benefits of having access to a cell phone such as Internet access and communication were noted, and this made learners more confident and technologically savvy. During the interviews, it was observed that learners displayed a sense of accomplishment as they described proficiency in using various phone functions. Thus, exposure to technology in the form of cell phones was well received by the MP group. Positive attitudes towards using technology for learning, together with the reports of high cell phone usage (by both educators and learners), indicate the potential of using cell phones for e-learning or m-learning.


What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

Although changes were detected in attitudes towards technology on the part of learners during the project, the findings of this pilot was that there was no significant change in attitudes towards technology and school as a direct result of the technology used by the MP group in the project, given that post-project results for both the comparison and MP groups were generally quite similar. That, is whilst perceptions of technology were enhanced, these perceptions improved across both the MP and comparison group and the extent to which the M4girls project alone contributed to this is unclear.


Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Scaling Mobile Services for Development: What Will It Take? A White Paper

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 11, 2010

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social and economic development in emerging economies have long been a focus of governments, the private sector, and most certainly donors and international development agencies.  Yes, despite all the attention garnered on this field, we are seeing a checkered history of ICTs as a tool for development, with both successes and significant failures littering the landscape.

With the phenomenal growth of mobile technology in the last ten years, the attention of donors, governments, and multi-lateral and international agencies has now turned to the telecommunications sector and mobile technologies as channels to deliver services and products to citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Using mobiles for rural literacy and market information in Niger: Projet ABC / IMAC

Posted by admin on Dec 03, 2009

This guest post was written by Joshua Haynes who is studying for his Masters of International Business, at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Reposted with Hayes' permission.

Projet Alphabétisation de Base par Cellulaire (ABC), conceived of and spearheaded by Tufts University professor Jenny Aker, uses mobiles phones as tools to aid in adult literacy acquisition in rural Niger. 

Adult literacy in rural areas faces an inherent problem.  In Niger, for example, there are no novels, newspapers, or journals in native languages like Hausa or Zarma.  The 20% of Nigériens who are literate are literate in French.  The vast majority of rural villagers have struggled to maintain their livelihoods since time immemorial without ever knowing how to read a single word. What’s the point of literacy if there is no need for written materials?

Using mobiles for rural literacy and market information in Niger: Projet ABC / IMAC data sheet 5372 Views
Countries: Niger

Christelle Scharff, Mobile Bootcamps, and Training the Next Generation of Mobile App Developers in the Global South

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 19, 2009

Christelle Scharff is an associate professor of computer science at Pace University in New York. In our occasional series of mobile innovators, she is discussing her work with the Mobile Development and Web Design for Senegal project that teaches students to develop mobile applications.

We have recently written about the proliferation of mobile bootcamps to nurture the next generation of mobile app developers in Africa.  Christelle Scharff and her colleagues Anita Wasilewska from Stony Brook University, and Mamadou Bousso, Ibrahima Ndiaye and Cheikh Sarr from the University of Thies coordinated the camp in Senegal that is now expanding in reach. The students there developed three mobile phone applications, including an educational game (Wannigame) and an application to manage sales and expenses for local artisans.

To date, the project has also trained 22 teachers in Senegal in a training organized with Manobi. Most of the teachers did not previously identify mobile application programming as a field of study.  The do now! Take a look at Christelle's work.



Christelle Scharff, Mobile Bootcamps, and Training the Next Generation of Mobile App Developers in the Global South data sheet 4910 Views
Countries: Senegal

Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 16, 2009
Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap data sheet 3941 Views
Mobile Web For Social Development
Publication Date: 
Nov 2009
Publication Type: 

This document aims to help readers understand the current challenges of deploying development-oriented services on mobile phones, evaluate existing technologies, and identify the most promising directions to lower the barriers of developing, deploying and accessing services on mobile phones and thereby creating an enabling environment for more social-oriented services to appear.

This document is divided into two major parts. The first part presents the major challenges today for both developing and accessing mobile services, potential ways to bridge them with existing tools, technologies and infrastructure, and potential research directions to follow to provide a more comprehensive resolution or solution. The second part focuses on presenting the major technologies and the major options existing today to deploy content and applications on mobile phones. For each of these technologies, the document presents a short analysis of the technology's potential and the requirements in terms of infrastructure, devices, targeted end-users, and costs associated with implementation and delivery.