The Mobile Minute: Mobiles + Journalism, an Open-Source Mobile Network, Fundraising with QR Codes

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 13, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute features links on fundraising with QR codes, a survey report on how audiences get information, a breakdown of how journalism is changing due to mobile phones, the announcement of a clearer definition of mobile broadband, an open-source, solar-powered mobile network, and five cross-platform mobile development tools. 

July Mobile Events Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 01, 2010

This month, many of the events are more corporate, with a focus on informational conferences for larger organizations. But, as always, we keep you up to date with what's happening in the mobile world! If you have an event that you'd like to share, leave a message in the comments or send us an email at info at mobileactive dot org 

MobileActive.org's July Events:

8 July, New York City, USA: Tech Salon, Participatory Mobile Sensing: MobileActive.org is hosting a tech salon focused on using phones for urban sensing. Join us for a fun, laid-back event that brings together practitioners, developers, and other curious people to learn how mobiles are used to gather and share information about the world around us. Register here.

July Mobile Events Round-Up data sheet 2929 Views
Countries: Israel Nigeria Singapore South Africa United States

Earth Day, the Environment and Mobile Phones: A Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 22, 2010

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a global celebration that raises awareness about the enivronment.  To do our part to celebrate this day, we’ve put together a look at some of the mobile tools and organizations we’ve covered recently that are doing their part to help the Earth. If you have any suggestions about tools or organizations that are doing great environmental work with mobiles, please leave a comment and let us know – and have a good Earth Day!

Water Quality

We recently covered the Water Quality Reporter, a program in South Africa that uses mobiles to test the health of water supplies. The program allows field workers to use mobile forms or SMSs to cheaply and effectively transfer data about water quality to a centralized database, while receiving feedback about how to handle local water problems.

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

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 14, 2010

As we here at MobileActive.org 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.

Interactive Texts Involve You in Public Spaces

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 05, 2010

Many lament that mobile phones can isolate us from our immediate surroundings as we walk down the street texting friends and not paying attention. These three different projects are encouraging people to actively engage with what's around them - with and on their mobile phones. TXTual Healing, Amphibious Architecture and Pathways to Housing take regular text messages and turn them into an interactive experience. 

Txtual Healing

In 2006, Paul Notzold showed the first presentation of TXTual Healing as his MFA thesis project for Parsons School of Design. The project consisted of speech bubbles projected onto the side of a building; viewers texted in messages to fill the speech bubbles. Since then, the project has been shown around the world, including France, Italy, Romania, the USA, the Netherlands and China.

Interactive Texts Involve You in Public Spaces data sheet 9713 Views
Countries: United States

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 4964 Views
Countries: United States

How to Manage e- (and m-) Waste: The UNEP Investigates

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Mar 03, 2010

The United Nations Environment Programme has released a new study on managing e-waste for developing countries. The report focuses one three major points: the market potential of e-waste recycling, encouraging the adoption of the UNEP’s guidelines to foster innovation in e-waste recycling technologies, and identifying places in which e-waste recycling is thriving. 

The study acknowledges that data of e-waste is insufficient, but the United Nations University estimates “that current e-waste arising across the twenty-seven members of the European Usnion amount to around 8.3 – 9.1 million per year; global arising are estimated to be around 40 million tons per year.”

The report used data from 11 representative developing countries to estimate current and future e-waste generation - which includes old and dilapidated desk and laptop computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, digital photo and music devices, refrigerators, toys and televisions.

How to Manage e- (and m-) Waste: The UNEP Investigates data sheet 5568 Views
Countries: Brazil China Colombia India Kenya Mexico Morocco Peru Senegal South Africa Uganda

Recycling: From E-Waste to Resources

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 22, 2010
Recycling: From E-Waste to Resources data sheet 3819 Views
Mathias Schluep, Christian Hagelueken, Ruediger Kuehr, Federico Magalini, Claudia Maurer, Christina Meskers, Esther Mueller, Feng Wang
Publication Date: 
Jul 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Sustainable Innovation, understood as the shift of sustainable technologies, products and services to the market, requires a market creation concept and one common global agenda. The challenge is to raise awareness among all actors of the different sectors in order to realize the innovation potential and to shift to eco-innovations that lead to sustainable consumption and production patterns. 

Throughout this study prepared within the “Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative” the focus lies on a consistent set of different types of metals (ferrous and non-ferrous metals) such as aluminium (Al), copper (Cu), palladium (Pd) and gold (Au). Toxic and hazardous elements are present in e-waste, which are partially drivers for the implementation of sound collection and treatment processes. Therefore in the discussion of recycling technologies, the proper handling and treatment of such harmful elements to prevent environmental or health impact is included. Furthermore, the use and generation of toxic/hazardous substances during e-waste processing (for example, a mercury-gold amalgam or combined dioxins from inappropriate incineration) is critically evaluated with respect to the sustainability criteria for innovative technologies. 

The study, structured in three parts, has the following three main objectives: 

(1) Analysis of the market potential of relevant technologies for the e-waste recycling sector in selected developing countries, 

(2) Examination of the application of the ‘Framework for UNEP Technology Transfer Activities in Support of Global Climate Change Objectives’ in order to foster the transfer of innovative technologies in the e-waste recycling sector, 

(3) Identification of innovation hubs and centres of excellence in emerging economies relevant for e-waste recycling technologies. 


Testing the Waters with Mobile Surveys: Water Quality Reporter

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 03, 2010

Safe drinking water is a necessity for life. But according to a 2005 report published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to quality drinking water.  

In South Africa, a current project is monitoring water quality with SMS in a push to bring safer water to the area. Run by the University of Bristol and the University of Cape Town, the four year project is two-fold: 1) develop a new means of testing water quality and 2) develop a new means of reporting the results of these water quality tests. 

Aquatest, the water quality testing system, is still under development, but the Water Quality Reporter is up and running – on mobile phones with reporting via SMS. The application allows field workers to cheaply and effectively transfer data about water quality to a centralized database, while receiving feedback about how to handle local water problems.

Says Melissa Loundon, a researcher at the University of Cape Town who worked with the development of the Water Quality Reporter,

“The main part of the project is to develop the water test. But the original project team at the University of Bristol realized that if you’ve got a water test that can be used by people who aren’t in the field, or people who aren’t specialists, it doesn’t really help them if they get a result and see that their water is not safe to drink. They may not have a whole lot of resources to do anything about it. So the point of the cell phone application is that once somebody has a result, they can communicate it to a central database and also to somebody in the area who can provide support.”

Testing the Waters with Mobile Surveys: Water Quality Reporter data sheet 7958 Views
Countries: South Africa

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


What's That Sound? Two Tools Track Noise Pollution.

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 24, 2009

From traffic to construction to everyday chatter, noise pollution is a part of city life. But with the ubiquity of mobiles, documenting noise pollution is getting a little bit easier. NoiseTube and LHR NoiseMap are two projects that use mobile phones to record and map instances of noise pollution.

NoiseTube uses crowd-sourcing to monitor noise pollution. Users with GPS-enabled phones can install a free application that measures the noise level wherever they are. Users tag the recordings with a description of the noise, its source, the time of day, and other criteria, and the data is then mapped onto GoogleEarth; in this way participants can use their phones as noise sensors to automatically share information about their city with other members of the community.

What's That Sound? Two Tools Track Noise Pollution. data sheet 9407 Views
Countries: Belgium Brazil France Indonesia Italy Netherlands Romania South Korea Switzerland United Kingdom United States

Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 16, 2009
Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap data sheet 3971 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.

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


IFFCO: Cell Phone Messages with Farmer Advice

Posted by CorinneRamey on Nov 06, 2009
IFFCO: Cell Phone Messages with Farmer Advice data sheet 8209 Views

Chandra Shekar, a farmer who grows crops such as tomatoes and carrots and raises cows and other animals, lives in a remote village in Kolar, India in the state of Karnataka. For the past year, he's received daily voice messages with advice which have helped him to keep his sheep healthy, control diseases that threaten his crops and know what medicines to feed his animals. He has also had access to a helpline that allows him to ask questions to experts, while standing in the field of his farm, next to his animals. "Messages on animal husbandry are serving like daily doctor to me," Shekar said. "When cow was suffering from bloating, it was effectively controlled by making cow to drink groundnut oil which was given in the message."

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

The project aims to provide rural Indian farmers with access to crop and veterinary information and empower them through technology.

Brief description of the project: 

IFFCO, a fertilizer cooperative in India, provides cooperative members with voice messages that give advice on agricultural topics.  The project currently has over 1 million subscribers, who receive updates five days a week.

Target audience: 

The program targets farmers, especially those in rural areas who  access to other information.

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

The voice messages are in local languages, so they are accessible even to illiterate farmers or those who don't speak English.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

IFFCO has worked to adjust the content to better fit what the farmers need.  Feedback from farmers included more messages on animal husbandry, more messages on non-chemical fertilizers, and more messages during morning and evening hours.

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970


Taxation and the Growth of Mobile in East Africa: Making Connections

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 02, 2009
Taxation and the Growth of Mobile in East Africa: Making Connections data sheet 4425 Views
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Mobile phones are revolutionising the lives of millions of people in East Africa and will continue to be the primary means for the great majority to access voice, data and Internet services. But mobile consumers in East Africa are taxed at some of the highest levels world-wide. In addition to VAT, an excise duty, or luxury tax, is levied on mobile services.

Recognizing that this tax hits the poor hardest, the GSM Association, the global trade association representing the interests of over 850 GSM mobile phone operators and over 180 manufacturers and suppliers worldwide, in collaboration with GSM Africa, commissioned Deloitte to analyze the effect that lowering excise duties would have on the industry and total government receipts.

The findings are very encouraging. By lowering the excise duty on mobile services, governments can expect higher level of tax and extend the essential mobile franchise to poorer sections of society. Today mobile phones are a basic need and not a luxury. All stakeholders will benefit if mobile services are taxed accordingly. As the governments in East Africa go into their budgeting rounds, we call for an urgent review of mobile taxation policies. Restructuring mobile taxes can be a win win-win solution for government, business and consumers.

A Cleaner, Safer Way to Cook (tracked with Mobile Tech)

Posted by admin on Oct 28, 2009

Cross-posted by permission. Written by Michael Benedict.

Suraj Wahab is passionate about cookstoves. Indeed, efficient charcoal burning stoves like those made by his company, Toyola Energy Limited, offer a lot to be passionate about.

For hundreds of thousands of families in Ghana who cook using traditional methods, these simple metal and clay devices provide a cleaner, safer, more efficient way to prepare their daily meals, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. The stoves are sold in markets and door-to-door by Toyola “evangelists”, individuals who record each sale in a notebook and then are paid on commission. With 50,000 stoves projected to be sold this year and double that possible in 2010, the paper records are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

November Mobile for Development (or just techie) Event Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 27, 2009

After the hectic month of October where there were way too many events focused on mobiles for social impact, November is a bit more technically focused. To help you find your way in this fast-moving world, we’ve compiled a round-up of some key events that are taking place throughout the month of November.

DroidCon Nov. 2-4 (Berlin, Germany) DroidCon is the first Android business and developer conference in Germany. It covers everyting you want to know about the Open Handset Alliance mobile platform. Not focused on mobiles in social impact, but an indication that Android is starting to hop.

iPhone Developer Summit Nov. 2-4 (Santa Clara, CA, USA) Technical sessions explore web development opportunities on the iPhone, including building social applications and developing high-quality, iPhone-style web-based GUIs for applications.

Dreams of Increasing Connectivity: Virtual SIMs in the Cloud

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Oct 27, 2009

People in the developed world consider the phone a very personal object, something that is always on and always with us. In many developing countries, that's not always the case. People share phones, and many don't own handsets because they are too expensive.

A new company, Movirtu (with a catchy tag line: "Mobile for the next Billion"), wants to extend coverage to so-called bottom-of-the-pyramid customers  by using a handset-independent way to connect to the mobile network.  The company's goal is to "expand the use of mobile communication by the rural poor communities in Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia living on less than $2 a day" - in order to improve their livelihoods.  The method for doing this is to detach owning a phone number from owning a handset--and to allow users to own numbers without owning handsets. And its gaining attention: CEO Nigel Waller was awarded a PopTech Social Innovation fellowship this year, and Movirtu has been shortlisted for Africom's Changing Lives Award.

The idea

Green Power for Mobile: Charging Choices

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 26, 2009
Green Power for Mobile: Charging Choices data sheet 3134 Views
GSMA Development Fund
Publication Date: 
Oct 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

There are more than 4 billion mobile connections worldwide. Over the coming years, many more millions of people at the “base of the economic pyramid” are expected to acquire mobile phones, greatly benefiting their lives, business activities and access to information. However, most of these new subscribers will not have direct access to electricity. This makes it more challenging and expensive for them to charge their mobile phone, not to mention to power the myriad of other daily functions for which electricity is important such as lighting, cooking and refrigeration.

The GSMA Development Fund believes that the issue of electrification is extremely relevant to mobile operators. The innovative nature of base of the pyramid markets has spawned creative solutions to the charging problem - primarily via entrepreneurs who provide electricity on a per-charge basis, powered either by their own access to the grid or through the use of portable car batteries.  It seems likely that renewable energy devices, such as photovoltaic chargers, will provide a practical and environmentally friendly fix. 

As part of its Green Power for Mobile programme, the Development Fund has conducted research into off- grid charging solutions for mobile phones. This study was conducted over a three month period (June-August, 2009) and included extensive research to identify emerging vendors, their products, and other players in the field. The process also included dozens of interviews and surveys of mobile operators and vendors covering 50 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The research has found that there is significant interest in off-grid charging solutions from mobile operators - over half those interviewed have already introduced, or are considering introducing off-grid charging solutions in the near term. At the same time, there is only limited understanding about the full scope of options and the associated social and business benefits.

This publication is intended to provide initial market information and a framework for decision-making about off-grid charging solutions. More practically, it lays out a series of key questions that the GSMA refers to as “Charging Choices” - to help companies think through the possibilities for off-grid charging. The paper is not a fully exhaustive review of all the existing players or initiatives in the market, and the Development Fund is not endorsing the products or companies reviewed herein. This publication is, however, a start of what the GSMA believes will be an important and exciting area of industry growth in the coming years.

Texting for a Cleaner Planet: How 350.org Used Mobiles

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 20, 2009

On October 24th, 2009, more than 5200 events in 181 countries took place as part of a climate change awareness campaign. Planned by 350.org, this worldwide festival of events is a call to action.

In December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen with one critical goal in mind: to create a global treaty to curb carbon emissions.  350.org wants to ensure that the treaty is tough enough to enforce the changes necessary to lower atmospheric carbon levels.

The 350.org name comes from the level of acceptable carbon dioxide –350 parts per million – that can exist in the atmosphere before effects of global warming begin to manifest. Currently, the carbon levels in the atmosphere are at 390 parts per million; 350.org believes that lowering the carbon emissions in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million can help undo some of the damage caused by global warming.

Mobile Citizen Project Launches: Incubator Fund for Mobile Projects in Latin America

Posted by CorinneRamey on Oct 20, 2009

The Mobile Citizen Project, which aims to fund and support mobile initiatives for social change in Latin America, launches today. The program is a project of the Science and Technology Division of the Inter-American Development Bank, with the support of the Italian Trust Fund for Information and Communication Technology for Development. MobileActive.org is a media partner, powering the Program's "Ideas Box."

According to the project's press release, the "Mobile Citizen Program aims to accelerate the development and implementation of mobile services to address acute social and economic problems. We will provide support to develop citizen-centric solutions that target low-income groups in urban and rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region."

Vodafone Launches Betavine Social Exchange, Matchmaker for Mobile Solutions

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Oct 15, 2009

After months of work, Betavine Social Exchange, a matching site for mobile solutions in development and for social impact, launched yesterday.  Supported by Vodafone, Betvaine Social Exchange hopes to connect NGOs seeking mobile solutions to their challenges with developers and community partners. 

NGOs are invited to post a challenge that outlines their specific problem.  According to Steve Wolak, Betavine's principal manager, after a challenge has been posed, "everyone in the community is welcome to join in the discussion. When a mobile developer comes up with a technological solution, he or she uploads it into a solutions page. Organisations who have registered as BSX Support Partners may then step in to assist with deployment."

ICT Access And Usage in Africa

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 08, 2009
ICT Access And Usage in Africa data sheet 5265 Views
Alison Gillwald, Christoph Stork
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Jan 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

This paper is part of a series that contributes to evidence-based Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy formulation and regulation on the continent by providing decision makers with the information and analysis necessary to assess the regulatory impact and policy outcomes of telecommunications reform against actual sector performance.

It reports on the findings of the second household and individual user survey of access and usage conducted by RIA between 2007 and 2008 across 17 African countries. It builds on the first household survey conducted by RIA in 2004/5 and a number of subsequent supply-side studies that have demonstrated that across the continent, even where there has been overall sector growth, sector performance has been sub-optimal.

For the most part, the primary national policy objectives of delivering affordable access to telecommunications have not been met. What the studies confirm is that mobile telephony is addressing the gap between those who have voice services and those who do not.

However, the divide between those able to access the Internet and the range of enhanced services that have become necessary for effective citizenry and consumer participation, and those not able, has widened. This is not only as a result of limited access but also due to the high cost of communications that not only inhibits access but also constrains individual communication and inflates the input cost to business. This demand-side survey provides insight into the continued marginalisation of large numbers of Africans, even from basic communications services, and confirms the sub-optimal use of communications services due to the high cost of access to services. 

The value attached to accessing and utilising communications is evident in the considerable portion of household income spent on communications and the multiple strategies used by individuals to maintain communication access according to their cash flow and the prices of alternatives. The willingness-to-pay model arising from the survey suggests that relatively small reductions in the cost of equipment and services would result in increased uptake and usage, with a significant growth in revenue for operators.

There is also evidence of considerable pent-up demand in countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, for example, where the amount that those without mobile services would be willing to pay for a handset is roughly the same price as the real cost of a handset.

What these findings indicate is that sector reforms have generally been sub-optimal. The introduction of limited competition particularly in mobile services has indisputably improved access particularly to voice services but insufficient competition or effective price regulation has constrained take-up and usage amongst those who have access to communication services and resulted in high prices.

Posted by on Jan 01, 1970