The Mobile Minute: Mobile Apps and Magazines, Checking the Validity of Medicine via SMS, and Speedy Texting

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 23, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on the Hearst magazine empire's new focus on mobile apps, what can go wrong on your mobile website and how to spot it, a camera phone-to-email project in India, checking African drugs with SMS, and a new speed texting record.

Participant and Interviewer Attitudes toward Handheld Computers in the Context of HIV/AIDS Programs in Sub- Saharan Africa

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 23, 2010
Participant and Interviewer Attitudes toward Handheld Computers in the Context of HIV/AIDS Programs in Sub- Saharan Africa data sheet 1614 Views
Karen G. Cheng, Francisco Ernesto and Khai N. Truong
Publication Date: 
Apr 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Handheld computers have untapped potential to improve HIV/AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the collection of survey data. We conducted an experiment in three neighborhoods of Luanda, Angola to assess the impact of the technology on people’s comfort and willingness to disclose sensitive personal information, such as sexual behavior.

Participants were asked about their HIV/AIDSrelated knowledge, attitudes, and practices by local interviewers using either handheld computers or paper surveys. T-tests showed no differences between participants’ self-reported comfort across handheld and paper conditions. However, participants in the handheld condition were more likely to give socially desirable responses to the sexual behavior questions than participants in the paper condition. These results suggest that using handheld computers in data collection in sub-Saharan Africa may lead to biased reports of HIV/AIDS-related risk behaviors.

Barriers and Gaps Affecting mHealth in Low and Middle Income Countries: Policy White Paper

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 20, 2010
Barriers and Gaps Affecting mHealth in Low and Middle Income Countries: Policy White Paper data sheet 2017 Views
Mechael, P., Batavia, H., Kaonga, N., Searle, S., Kwan, A., Goldberger, A., Fu, L., Ossman, J.
Publication Date: 
May 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This White Paper, written by a team of researchers at the Center for Global Health and Economic Development at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, examines and synthesizes the existing mHealth literature to assess the current state of mHealth knowledge, evaluate the impact of mHealth implementations in LMICs and to examine programming, policy and research-related barriers to and gaps in mHealth scale and sustainability.

The paper is divided into two main sections. The first section reviews and summarizes the peer-reviewed literature on mHealth initiatives (focus on LMICS) to highlight trends and challenges. The second section examines the existing mHealth policy environment, barriers and gaps, and key drivers needed for an enabling policy environment.

The major thematic areas include:

  • Treatment Compliance
  • Data Collection and Disease Surveillance
  • Health Information Systems and Point of Care Support
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Emergency Medical Response

The review identified significant gaps in mHealth knowledge stemming from the limited scale and scope of mHealth implementation and evaluation, a policy environment that does not link health objectives and related metrics to available mHealth tools and systems, and little investment in cost-benefit studies to assess mHealth value and health outcomes research to assess success factors and weed out poor investments.




Handheld Computers for Self-Administered Sensitive Data Collection: A Comparative Study in Peru

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 18, 2010
Handheld Computers for Self-Administered Sensitive Data Collection: A Comparative Study in Peru data sheet 1348 Views
Bernabe-Ortiz, A. et al.
Publication Date: 
Mar 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

A PDA-based program for data collection was developed using Open-Source tools. In two cross-sectional studies, we compared data concerning sexual behavior collected with paper forms to data collected with PDA-based forms in Ancon (Lima).

The first study enrolled 200 participants (18–29 years). General agreement between data collected with paper format and handheld computers was 86%. Categorical variables agreement was between 70.5% and 98.5% while numeric variables agreement was between 57.1% and 79.8%. Agreement and correlation were higher in those who had completed at least high school than those with less education.

The second study enrolled 198 participants. Rates of responses to sensitive questions were similar between both kinds of questionnaires. However, the number of inconsistencies (p = 0.0001) and missing values (p = 0.001) were significantly higher in paper questionnaires.

This study showed the value of the use of handheld computers for collecting sensitive data, since a high level of agreement between paper and PDA responses was reached. In addition, a lower number of inconsistencies and missing values were found with the PDA-based system. This study has demonstrated that it is feasible to develop a low-cost application for handheld computers, and that PDAs are feasible alternatives for collecting field data in a developing country.

Open Source Data Collection in the Developing World

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 18, 2010
Open Source Data Collection in the Developing World data sheet 1994 Views
Yaw Anokwa, Carl Hartung, Waylon Brunette, Gaetano Borriello and Adam Lerer
Publication Date: 
Oct 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

The ability to collect data is key to the success of many organizations operating in the developing world. Given the weaknesses of current tools and the surge in mobile phone growth, there's an opportunity for mobile and cloud technologies to enable timely and efficient data collection. This paper discusses Open Data Kit (ODK), a suite of tools that enable efficient and timely data collection on cell phones. ODK is designed to let users own, visualize, and share data without the difficulties of setting up and maintaining servers. The tools are easy to use, deploy, and scale. They also go beyond open source - they're based on open standards and supported by a larger community.

The Development and Evaluation of a PDA-based Method for Public Health Surveillance Data Collection in Developing Countries

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 18, 2010
The Development and Evaluation of a PDA-based Method for Public Health Surveillance Data Collection in Developing Countries data sheet 1469 Views
Ping Yu, Maximilian de Courten, Elaine Pan, Gauden Galea, Jan Pryor
Publication Date: 
Aug 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Epi Data and Epi Info are often used together by public health agencies around the world, particularly in developing countries, to meet their needs of low-cost public health data management; however, the current open source data management technology lacks a mobile component to meet the needs of mobile public health data collectors. The goal of this project is to explore the opportunity of filling this gap through developing and trial of a personal digital assistant (PDA) based data collection/entry system. It evaluated whether such a system could increase efficiency and reduce data transcription errors for public surveillance data collection in developing countries represented by Fiji.

120 participants were recruited from the Fiji School of Medicine were randomly assigned to be interviewed by one of six interviewers in one of the two ways: (1) paper-based survey followed by PDA survey and (2) PDA survey followed by paper-based survey. Data quality was measured by error rates (logical range errors/inconsistencies, skip errors, missing values, date or time field errors and incorrect data type). Work flow and cost were evaluated in three stages of the survey process: (1) preparation of data collection instrument, (2) data collection and (3) data entry, validation and cleaning. User acceptance was also evaluated in the two groups of participants: (1) data collectors and (2) survey participants.

None of the errors presented in 20.8% of the paper questionnaires was found in the data set collected using PDA. Sixty-two percent of the participants perceived that the PDA-based questionnaire took less time to complete. Data entry, validation and cleaning for the PDA-based data collection from 120 participants took a total of 1.5 h, a 93.26% reduction of time from 20.5h required using paper and pen. The cost is also significantly reduced with PDA-based protocol. Both data collectors and participants prefer to use PDA instead of paper for data collection. The trial results prove that eSTEPS is a feasible solution for public health surveillance data collection in the field. Several deficiencies of the softwarewere also identified and would be addressed in the next version.

eSTEPS offers the potential to meet the need for an effective mobile public health data collection tool for use in the field. The eSTEPS field trial proves that PDA was more efficient than paper for public health survey data collection. It also significantly reduced errors in data entry. The later benefit was derived from the software providing its users with the flexibility of building their own constraints to control the data type, range and logic of data entry.

Using Mobile Applications for Community-based Social Support for Chronic Patients

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 18, 2010
Using Mobile Applications for Community-based Social Support for Chronic Patients data sheet 1602 Views
Mhila, Gayo, DeRenzi, Brian, Mushi, Caroline, Wakabi, Timothy, Steele, Matt, Dhadialla, Prabhjot, Roos, Drew, Sims, Clayton, Jackson, Jonathan and Lesh, Neal
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

In this paper, we present a phone-based application called CommCare which supports community health workers (CHWs) as they provide home-based care and social support to HIV+ and other chronic patients. We report on our experience developing and testing the application with five CHWs in Dar es salaam, Tanzania. We have developed a simple and easily useable system by rapidly prototyping CommCare with the community health workers, in quick iterations based on their feedback. The system guides the user through about 15 questions during each household visit. The CHWs answer the questions using the phone’s number pad, and the results are submitted over the cellular network to our server when the session is over.

We report on lessons learned from training and our initial deployment. We discuss the few hardware and software problems that arose during our initial piloting, most of which have been addressed. This use of CommCare has little effect on the time or efficiency of home visits, but results in much easier, much faster, and potentially more accurate reporting. In particular, it saves the CHWs approximately four hours per month spent on compiling reports in the paper system.

Finally, we conducted an initial qualitative assessment of the perception of the phone-based system by the clients of the CHWs who used it. We report on the findings below, which generally show a favorable impression of the system, including an appreciation that a phone can be more discreet than paper notebooks and that it can report data more quickly.

The Use of Mobile Phones as a Data Collection Tool: A Report from a Household Survey in South Africa

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 17, 2010
The Use of Mobile Phones as a Data Collection Tool: A Report from a Household Survey in South Africa data sheet 1999 Views
Mark Tomlinson, Wesley Solomon, Yages Singh, Tanya Doherty, Mickey Chopra, Petrida Ijumba, Alexander C Tsai and Debra Jackson
Publication Date: 
Dec 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Background: To investigate the feasibility, the ease of implementation, and the extent to which
community health workers with little experience of data collection could be trained and successfully supervised to collect data using mobile phones in a large baseline survey

Methods: A web-based system was developed to allow electronic surveys or questionnaires to be
designed on a word processor, sent to, and conducted on standard entry level mobile phones.

Results: The web-based interface permitted comprehensive daily real-time supervision of CHW
performance, with no data loss. The system permitted the early detection of data fabrication in
combination with real-time quality control and data collector supervision.

Conclusions: The benefits of mobile technology, combined with the improvement that mobile phones offer over PDA's in terms of data loss and uploading difficulties, make mobile phones a
feasible method of data collection that needs to be further explored.

The Mobile Minute: Mobile Maternal Health Insurance, M-PESA in Users' Own Words, Environmental Mobile Sensing

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 17, 2010

The Mobile Minute is back with a video explaining the M-PESA mobile money service, news about maternal health insurance via mobiles, an app that helps users determine if a hybrid or plug-in car will be useful to their lives, a report on why you might want to turn off the geo-tagging system on your mobile, and FailFaire in The New York Times. 

Reliable Data Collection in Highly Disconnected Environments Using Mobile Phones

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 16, 2010
Reliable Data Collection in Highly Disconnected Environments Using Mobile Phones data sheet 1790 Views
Brian DeRenzi, Yaw Anokwa, Tapan Parikh, Gaetano Borriello
Publication Date: 
Aug 2007
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Over four and a half billion people live in the developing world and require access to services in the financial, agricultural, business, government and healthcare sectors. Due to constraints of the existing infrastructure (power, communications, etc), it is often difficult to deliver these services to remote areas in a timely and efficient manner.

The CAM framework has found success as a flexible platform for quickly developing and deploying high-impact applications for these environments. Many of the applications built with CAM have relied on a model where a field worker with a mobile phone regularly returns from a disconnected environment to one with connectivity. In this connected state, the phone and a centralized server can exchange information and get the collected data backed up on reliable media.

We propose extending CAM’s networking model to enable continual operation in disconnected environments. Using a set of heterogeneous paths made available through social and geographic relationships naturally present among workers, we describe a system for asynchronously routing data in a best-effort manner.

Monitoring and Evaluation Report of PDAs for Malaria Monitoring in Maputo Province, Mozambique: Final Report

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 14, 2010
Monitoring and Evaluation Report of PDAs for Malaria Monitoring in Maputo Province, Mozambique: Final Report data sheet 1535 Views
Jamo Macanze
Publication Date: 
Jan 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The overall goal of the PDAs for Malaria Monitoring in Maputo and Gaza Provinces, Centre was to improve the management of public health dat using handheld computers in order to provide the malaria program the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative (LSDI) with appropriate assessment tools and the ability to make informed decisions.

The specific objectives of the project that would contribute to the achievement of the overall goal were

  1. to enable personnel from District level of the health service to collect data and provide it to the Provincial level in a timely fashion;
  2. to develop training courses and appropriate collection tools designed for use with handheld computers; and
  3. to evaluate the utility of handheld computers for the malaria control program to provide data rapidly and accurately to allow better targeting of interventions and resources.

AED-SATELLIFE developed and successfully deployed electronic data collection tools which catalog drug and rapid diagnostic test stocks; spray operators daily work performance; weekly health facility data; localization of individual households with GPS, including demographic data on household members, house structure and divisions; and health facility surveys linked to GPS positioning. Training materials were developed inPortuguese.

Independent evaluation confirmed that the electronic data collection/transmission tools proved to be a useful, adoptable, and result in higher user satisfaction compared to paper based approaches. Some challenges need to be addressed before there can be widespread adoption of the technology, such as limited infrastructure, especially cellular coverage.

Family Planning via Mobile Phones: Proof-of-Concept Testing in India (CycleTel)

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 13, 2010
Family Planning via Mobile Phones: Proof-of-Concept Testing in India (CycleTel) data sheet 2496 Views
Katherine Sarah Lavoie, Victoria H. Jennings, Meredith Puleio, Priya Jha, Rebecka Lundgren
Publication Date: 
Nov 2009
Publication Type: 

Results of proof-of-concept testing for an mHealth solution for reproductive health in Uttar Pradesh, India. The text messaging tool based on FrontlineSMS, is a family planning service that relies on the Standard Day Method system of birth control. This method of birth control depends on the woman's fertility cycles to avoid pregnancy. Women can text the date of their menses and user receives their fertility status. Additionally, women can receive information about other family planning options, and support. Presented are observations on the appropriatenss of the technology from focus group discussions. The authors share the input given by target users in the product and service design. Women tested the solution to give insight on feasibility and design.

RedChatZone: HIV Counselling via Mobile Instant Messaging Chat

Posted by kdetolly on Aug 13, 2010
RedChatZone: HIV Counselling via Mobile Instant Messaging Chat data sheet 6843 Views

In South Africa, the number of cellphones greatly outweighs the number of landlines. The National Aids Helpline (NAHL) is free to call from a landline, but regular cellphone rates apply. This makes the NAHL expensive to use from a cellphone, or people have to make use of public phones which are often within earshot of others.

Cell-Life and LifeLine worked together to make HIV counselling more accessible to young South Africans in a medium which is comfortable and familiar to them. Marlon Parker, who started the successful Angel drug counselling service on MXit, was brought in to implement a similar system.

MXit is a very popular downloadable (instant messaging) chat application, where users can add contacts and text/chat to each other at a very low cost. Without getting into a technical description of the system, here is the basic outline of how the service was created:

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

The main goal of this project was to create a mobile-based platform for youth and young adults to learn more about HIV and get support by offering them the ability to communicate anonymously and privately with a trained counselor at a very low cost.

Brief description of the project: 

This project has enabled MXit users to have a conversation with a trained counsellor on their cellphone at a very low cost (around $0.01 in data costs). This has made HIV counselling more accessible and private to users, and has made the counselling process more efficient.

Target audience: 

The 18 million MXit users; generally South Africans between the ages of 12 and 35.

One counsellor can counsel many clients at the same time
Detailed Information
Mobile Tools Used: 
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

Mobile text-chat is an ideal way of providing HIV counselling: it's cheap for users; people can get counselling from anywhere (like their bedroom); it's efficient for providers (as counsellors can counsel many people at the same time); and it's an appropriate way of getting youth to talk about HIV.

Research has shown that users sometimes struggle to call the National AIDS Helpline from a landline because it's difficult to talk about certain things for fear of someone overhearing. They felt more comfortable using the service on a cellphone as it would seem like they were just chatting with a friend on MXit.

The MXit "splash screen" advertising used on National AIDS Day (1st December 2009) increased the use of the service by roughly 4000%. There were even more people queuing, though unfortunately there were not enough counsellors to handle the demand.

Training counsellors to understand "chat" language allowed them to communicate on the same level as the users. Once they were used to text-based counselling, they were able to handle up to 10+ conversations at the same time. Also, due to the less personal nature of chat, counsellors found that users would get to the point far quicker.

Hoax calls are a big problem for South African helplines; the National AIDS Helpline find that up to 80% of calls are hoax, which wastes a lot of counsellor time. On MXit, this decreased dramatically, and the few that there are are easy to deal with as the counsellor can ignore them and carry on with their other conversations. A possible reason for the decrease in hoax calls is that this costs the user a small amount of airtime that could rather have been spent on chatting with friends.

Below are some other features of the system:

  • It’s very cheap to use: a counselling session will cost the user about US$0.01 in airtime.
  • Counsellors can view the chat history of clients, removing the need for the client to repeat ground already covered in previous counselling sessions.
  • Usage statistics can be obtained as and when needed, making staff and service management easier.
  • The conversation text can be made available for analysis (though privacy also needs to be taken into consideration).
  • Counselling can be provided from any computer connected to the internet, saving on call-centre infrastructure costs.
What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

Currently there are only 1-5 counsellors available between 1pm and 3pm. Whilst for most days this is fine (the average number of conversations in a 2-hour session is 46), on days where there have been large numbers of conversation requests (due to advertising the service), the counsellors have not been able to meet the demand. This could easily be fixed by employing a more counsellors, however there are budget constraints preventing this.

The Mobile Minute: Mobile Payments, The Future of mHealth, and Mobile Data Collection

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 11, 2010

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage about contactless mobile payments in the U.S., a report on trends in technology and health, research that covers how mobiles can help economic development in Africa and the challenges that are hindering that development, a data gathering platform from Nokia that is now open-source, and the announcement of the mHealth Summit's keynote speaker.

Nokia Data Gathering is Now Open Source

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 10, 2010

Nokia Data Gathering, a Nokia-built software tool for mobile data collection, recently open-sourced its code. The software has two parts: a server-side tool that can be used to create forms and maintain a database, and a handset client for field workers to use for mobile, in-the-field data collection. Both pieces are licensed under the GPL version 2. The project site is available at Forum Nokia, and invites third-party patches.

Nokia Data Gathering is Now Open Source data sheet 4148 Views
Countries: Brazil Ecuador Indonesia Liberia Philippines

Mobile Monitoring and Evaluation: Experiences from Pilot to National Scale Implementation

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 10, 2010
Mobile Monitoring and Evaluation: Experiences from Pilot to National Scale Implementation data sheet 1631 Views
Eben Conley, Sarah Brown, Kieran Scharpey-Schafer
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Implementation of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) programmes are predominantly dependant on paper forms to measure organisational impact. These forms are then manually captured into an electronic system for analysis. This methodology results in high costs, questionable data accuracy and long turnaround times. Additionally inadequately skilled employees, remote locations and high staff turnover add to these challenges. A solution that allows for flexibility and extendibility within the NGO sector is required to decrease costs and allow for NGO’s to focus their attentions on their main areas of expertise. One potential solution is the use of mobile phones to collect the data.

This paper presents the experiences of implementing a mobile phone based M&E system and the lessons learnt in scaling this system from pilot to national. These include system flexibility, easy-to-learn interfaces, identification of champions and detailed site assessments. Today the system is being used nationally, with over 70 000 electronic surveys submitted and over 300 facilitators using the system.

MobiCollect Project Thesis

Posted by shripal on Aug 10, 2010
MobiCollect Project Thesis data sheet 1976 Views
Shripal Parekh
Publication Date: 
Jul 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The  usage  of  mobile  phones  is  abundant  in  our  daily  lives  in  various  aspects from making phone calls or sending text messages to checking e-mails or news updates to planning our activities or managing our budget. This project aims at making use of this wide spread usage of mobiles to help in the  data  collection  process.  It  designs  and  develops  a  web  based  system  called “MobiCollect”  that  is  used  for  creating  forms  or  questionnaires  to  be  later accessed  by  the  data  collectors  using  their  mobile  phone  web  browser  in  order fill in the form with the appropriate data. 
Once  the  system  design  and  implementation  is  completed  it  will be  tested  and evaluated to ensure the satisfaction of at least the minimum requirements of the proposed system.

Nokia Data Gathering

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 09, 2010
Nokia Data Gathering data sheet 4672 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?: 

Health and the Mobile Phone

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Jul 30, 2010
Health and the Mobile Phone data sheet 1867 Views
K. Patrick, W.G. Griswold, F. Raab, S.S. Intille
Publication Date: 
Jan 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

This paper provides an overview of the implications of this trend for the delivery of healthcare services and population health. In addition to addressing how mobile phones are changing the way health professionals communicate with their patients, a summary is provided of current and projected technologic capabilities of mobile phones that have the potential to render them an increasingly indispensable personal health device. Finally, the health risks of mobile phone use are addressed, as are several unresolved technical and policy-related issues unique to mobile phones. Because these issues may influence how well and how quickly mobile phones are integrated into health care, and how well they serve the needs of the entire population, they deserve the attention of both the healthcare and public health community.

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."

How to RapidSMS

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 23, 2010
How to RapidSMS data sheet 6795 Views

A how-to guide on using and implementing RapidSMS for mobile data collection and communication.

Ths manual give an overview for how to implement and use RapidSMS in a mobile data collection project. RapidSMS is a SMS framework for data collection, group coordination, and complex SMS workflows.  The tutorial outlines when and when not to use RapidSMS, guides the user through project steps and milestones, outlines factors for a successful implementation, and provides worksheets for project planning. Example training materials are included.

More documentation and developers guides can be found here on the RapidSMS site.

Mobile Tools: 

Airtime For Selling More Condoms: Social Marketing Tricks and Tips from Tanzania

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 22, 2010
Airtime For Selling More Condoms: Social Marketing Tricks and Tips from Tanzania data sheet 5487 Views

In Tanzania, a non-profit organization is using airtime as an incentive for increased condom sales. “Ongeo Zaidi na Salama,” or “Talk More with Salama,” offers mobile airtime incentives to shopkeepers who stock and sell condoms (Salama, which means 'safe', is the largely PSI-distributed Tanzanian condom brand), bringing greater visibility to safe sex practices.  

The program, run by Population Services International, an organization widely known for pioneering condom social marketing since the 1970s and 1980s, was developed in reaction to the lack of condoms in Tanzanian stores.

85 million condoms at 100,000 retail outlets were sold in 2009, with the vast majority distributed by PSI. Because the PSI-distributed condoms are subsidized, they are considered lower-value by the shopkeepers than other products as they have low profit margins. Retailers were also reliant on the PSI agents to push and deliver the product and were not incentivised to proactively requests re-supplies when their condom stocks ran low. As a result, promotion and requisition (and sales) of these Salama condoms is not a priority for shopkeepers.

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

The goal of the project is to encourage vendors to buy condoms from wholesale distributers and to display them prominently in their shops. 

Brief description of the project: 

"Ongea Zaidi na Salama," which means "Talk More with Salama" is a social marketing venture to encourage shopkeepers in Tanzania to regularly buy and stock condoms for their stores in order to promote higher condom use rates. The program, run by the non-profit organization PSI, uses a scratch card reward system; shopkeepers who buy condoms from wholesale suppliers get scratch cards that provide them with additional airtime for their phones. 

Target audience: 

The target audience is shopkeepers in rural and urban areas in Tanzania. 

Detailed Information
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 
  • Improved targeting of condoms towards areas with low sales but higher incidence rates of HIV.
  • PSI was able to find partners in telecommunications companies and public health partners in the various regions of the country who promote condom use and safe sex practices
  • The program was widely picked up in all regions on Tanzania 
  • The large mobile penetration in Tanzania and user comfort level with SMS meant that the program was reasonably easy to learn for shopkeepers
  • Ability to monitor and measure results and develop better evidence-based approaches to sexual health. 
  • Ability to survey shop keepers on specific aspects of the program, sales, and promotions.


What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

Challenges included:

  • Finding a balance between the amount of money needed to offer on the scratchcards to make the program financially attractive to shopkeepers while keeping the costs within the confines of a budget. 
  • Budgeting for the cost of the physical scratchcards
  • Developing an effective payment system with questions such as whether the payments were subject to the Tanzanian bank regulatory system? 
  • Working with tech companies that are not experts in public health - requires very clear objectives and requirements which can be hard when it's a new field and requirements can be fluid 
  • Usability of the system - a lot of people found it hard to find the * key on their phones to register and redeem the scratch cards.
  • Developing an easy-to-use toll free number presented challenges
  • Finding the right staff for a database administrator
  • Stil on 1% of retailers and so data is not representative yet for the overall target audience
  • Incorrect data or imcomplete data submitted by shop retailers can be a challenge - about 10% of retailers of the pilot


The Mobile Minute - Monday's Edition

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 19, 2010

The Mobile Minute, our new daily feature, is here to keep you up-to-date on mobile-related news.

[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-postswhite papers and researchhow-tos, and case studies.]

Image courtesy Flickr user QiFei

The Mobile Minute - Monday's Edition data sheet 2245 Views
Countries: India Thailand United States Zimbabwe

New Feature! The Mobile Minute - Daily M4C News!

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 15, 2010

We have a new feature!  We want to keep you updated with fresh content all the time - in addition to our-indepth content.  So - it’s time for the Mobile Minute, your daily guide to the latest mobile news and information. Today's post covers Google's App Inventor, SMS farming alerts, using a phone for eye exams, why your nonprofit needs a smartphone, and reaching another milestone: 5 billion worldwide mobile subscriptions.

• Google Demos Codeless Android Development Tool for Students.” Google’s new “App Inventor” tool (still in Beta) lets users create Android apps through a simple drag-and-drop system – no knowledge of code required.

• Philippines Farmers to Get Rice-Growing Advice Via Text Message.” International Rice Research has developed an SMS program that will text rice farmers information about crops. Farmers fill out information about their crops over their mobiles, and receive back information about timing, fertilizer, and growing amounts. (via

• Eye Exams Using a Mobile Phone.” MIT researchers developed an eye exam that runs on mobile phones. The article quotes the MIT News, describing the tool as, “In its simplest form, the test can be carried out using a small, plastic device clipped onto the front of a cell phone's screen. The patient looks into a small lens, and presses the phone's arrow keys until sets of parallel green and red lines just overlap. This is repeated eight times, with the lines at different angles, for each eye.”

• Five Reasons Why Nonprofit Communicators Need Smartphones.” This article looks at the five key ways mobiles (and specifically, smartphones) are a necessary tool for nonprofit communicators.

• Over 5 Billion Mobile Phone Connections Worldwide.” This BBC article looks at the rapid growth and high penetration rates of worldwide mobile phone subscriptions, examining the mobile boom in India and China, multiple mobile phone ownership, and what those numbers might mean. The article is based on information from Wireless Intelligence, the database for the GSMA. As of this mobile minute, the exact number of subscriptions is at 5,019,477,554.

[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


Mobile Instant Messaging: “Help at the Fingertips of Addicts”

Posted by marlonparker on Jul 10, 2010
Mobile Instant Messaging: “Help at the Fingertips of Addicts” data sheet 1848 Views
Wesley Nitsckie, Marlon Parker
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Sep 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

An increase in gang and drug activity in South Africa has been causing tension within communities and has a negative effect on society. Treatment and counselling facilities are finding it difficult to cope with the influx of substance abuse cases. Traditional face-to-face counselling and telephone help-lines have come under pressure with this increased demand. This presented an opportunity to use mobile and web technologies to provide advice and support to people impacted by substance abuse problems.

This study indicates how a substance abuse counselling service called Drug Advice Support (DAS) uses technologies such as Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) and social networks to benefit and empower these communities in tension (CiT). The service makes it easy for persons with a mobile device with internet connectivity to access the service.

This paper takes an evolutionary journey through the design and development of the DAS system. It studies how the system evolved as an environment in which DAS was operating and co-developed with citizens in the Athlone Living Lab (ALL). The DAS system started with one advisor advising a few people, to multiple advisors advising as much as 471 conversations during a two hour period. It also shows how the implementation of such a system could be used to aid communities facing other social issues in South Africa and other parts of the world.