MobileActive's Blog

Posted by IbrahimMothana on Nov. 29, 2011

Editor's Note: This post is written by Ibrahim Mothana who is an Atlas Corps Fellow with in 2011/2012. He is a Yemeni citizen from Sanaa. 

In Yemen it’s difficult to know just how many wars are raging in the country at any one time. For centuries the country has been plagued by revenge killings and tribal conflict and the result is hundreds of deaths each year with many more injured. These localized wars can last for decades and are one of the most serious issues facing the country today.

In rural regions of Yemen, formal legal systems and a legal infrastructure do not exist, and tribal law has significant legitimacy as the only effective and efficient means of conflict resolution. Tribal laws are based on consensus, and conflicts are resolved through complex mediation processes and appeals procedures presided over by tribal elders and leaders (sheikhs).  Due to the lack of many formal legal channels and the corruption in the legal infrastructure that exists, tribal law is faster, more efficient, and enjoys greater legitimacy.

Yet one of the biggest obstacles in using tribal law as a tool for conflict resolution is the lack of communication -- which is, in fact, often the root cause of many of the disputes between tribes. Creating dialogue between communities becomes an extraordinary challenge in a country with 24 million people dispersed over 150,000 human settlements. 

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 18, 2011

Editor's Note: This guest post is by Janet Gunter, a anthropologist and blogger, an ex-“aid worker” interested in communication, technology, and new economies. She is currently working as an adviser at @Verdade newspaper in Maputo, Mozambique. 

Mobile money arrived in Mozambique earlier this year, after the larger of the two mobile operators, the state-owned mcel, rolled out a service called mKesh (close in pronunciation to mCash). mKesh “soft launched” the service in 2009, but has intensified its efforts this year, with an official launch in September. The service now claims to have 41,000 registered customers and 2,700 agents across the country.

So far, however, the story of mobile money in Mozambique is a cautionary tale which provides clues about the adaptability of the lauded operator-led model.

Like with mPesa, Kenya’s Safaricom-led service, mcel’s 4 million plus subscribers can use the service, creating a “mobile wallet” which is designed to be used to collect cash from participating agents and make payments. 

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Nov. 11, 2011

Ashoka Changemakers announced this week the 11 finalists for the Citizen Media competition. Our project, the Mobile Journalist on an SD Card, is among the finalists! 

The competition asks for promising innovations to boost media access and participation around the world. Media helps connect people, gives voice to ideas, and equips inidviduals with knowledge to improve their lives and communities.  Finalists were chosen from a pool of 426 entries from 75 countries.

Mobile Journalist on an SD Card

Our entry from the Mobile Media Toolkit is the Mobile Journalist on an SD Card. We think one of the most promising and innovative ways to boost media access and participation around the world is via mobile phones. 

Most citizen journalists and reporters already use mobiles phones, but the sheer number of tools available makes it difficult to know the best way to use them. Mobile Journalist on an SD Card tests these tools with reporters working in the field, and then makes accessible the best of the tools for journalists and citizen journalists, downloadable and on micro SD cards ready to plug into any phone. Tools will be selected to work in varying situations, including low-resource reporting environments where Internet access is unreliable. 

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov. 07, 2011

How can you share information across rural areas with limited or non-existent Internet connections? This is the question that Awaaz.De, an India-based organization that uses interactive-voice-response (IVR) systems to share information on mobile phones, is working to answer.

Co-created by Neil Patel and Tapan Parikh, both at the University of California at Berkeley, Awaaz.De is used by organizations to share information with voice as the primary channel. This could, for instance, take the form of a question and answer service, voice discussion forums, voice surveys, and automated calls.

Because of the open-ended structure of the Awaaz.De platform, the platform has been adapted by very different organizations. Labor Voices uses Awaaz.De to allow migrant workers to review jobs and employers in a voice database; the Development Support Centre uses the service to provide information to small-scale farmers as part of the Avaaj Otalo project (covered by here), and Galli Galli Sim Sim (the Indian version of Sesame Street) uses the service to allow pre-school teachers to share teaching experiences and information about educational activities.

According to Patel in a post on the ICT 4 Community Health Worker discussion list, there are now eight organizations using Awaaz.De. These organizations have, together, produced more than 100,000 calls from about 10,000 unique callers. 

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov. 04, 2011

Again, there are plenty of upcoming mobile and tech conferences. Check out our listings for November 2011 below, and feel free to let us know about any other upcoming events on Facebook or Twitter.

  • 1-2 November: AppsWorld (New York City, USA) AppsWorld is a two-track event; one for marketers and one for developers. The app developer track focuses on bringing together developers and entrepreneurs to learn about creating, distributing, and monetizing apps. The marketing track looks at how apps can be used by businesses as part of a marketing strategy.
  • 2-4 November: Open Mobile Summit (San Francisco, USA) The Open Mobile Summit is focused on how mobile, Internet, and media technologies can be used in business. The year's event will look at a variety of subjects including mobile money, the use of video technologies, mobile evolution, and more.
  • 6-9 November: AnDevCon (San Francisco, USA) Love Android? Then check out the Android developer conference, where you can meet up with other developers to take technical classes and workshop projects.
  • 9-10 November: 14th Annual Africa Com (Cape Town, South Africa) This year's conference focuses on "advancing innovation and profitability for a digital Africa." The event will look at a wide variety of digital projects, from m-health, to rural telecoms, to mobile money, to operator strategies.
Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Nov. 02, 2011

PBS MediaShift is hosting a live chat on Twitter about the use of SMS technology by journalists, news organizations, radio shows and more around the world. In many developing nations Internet access is less prevalent, and the main means of interaction is with mobile phones and SMS. Many projects are using SMS to help connect communities to important news and information, and to create a feedback loop for programs.

The chat takes place on Nov. 2 at 10:30 am PT/1:30 pm ET/6:30 pm CET, hashtag #SMSChat.

MediaShift's executive editor Mark Glaser (@mediatwit) will be moderating the live Twitter chat on SMS use, with these special guests:

  • Melissa Ulbricht: and the Mobile Media Toolkit (@MobileMediaKit)
  • Sean McDonald: FrontlineSMS (@McDapper)
  • Zach Peterson: Radio Free Europe/Radio Azadi (@zachprague)

How to follow the discussion:

To follow the discussion, please log on to Twitter and search for the #SMSchat hashtag. Glaser will be sending out questions to the guests and audience in the format of Q1, Q2, Q3, and if you want to answer them, please reply with the Q number as well as the hashtag #SMSchat. All participants will need to use the hashtag in every tweet so we can see that as part of the discussion stream.

The discussion will be archived on PBS Idea Lab on Thursday using Storify.

Help us spread the word! We'll make it easy:

If you'd like to tweet about the chat please use this language or something similar: Live Twitter chat about SMS and journalism, with @mediatwit, @MobileMediaKit, @McDapper, @zachprague, 11/2 at 10:30 am PT at #SMSchat

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov. 01, 2011

Making health initiatives more accessible through technology can help patients and doctors keep themselves better informed about health and wellness. On October 25th, The Path of the Blue Eye hosted unNiched: Scratch, Sniff and Learn, a short conference focusing on innovation in the health marketing and communications world. Fard Johnmar, one of the founders of the Path of the Blue Eye project, introduced all the speakers and explained that the event is about " really getting people together from different disciplines, so that they can learn from each other and improve health and wellness."

Seven organizations gave short presentations on their health and technology initiatives before the group broke out into smaller discussions and demonstrations. Three of the projects presented at unNiched with a mobile focus: MoTeCh, a program using mobile phones to connect community health workers and beneficiaries in Uganda; Ubiqi, a mobile tracking tool for patients with chronic disease; and InStrat, a personalized SMS health alert system. While introducing the mobile technology section of unNiched Johnmar said, "So mobile – you'll see in today's presentations and by interacting with our innovators – really means empowerment, education and finally, most important for me, behavior change."  Watch a short video featuring excerpts from the mobile UnNiched presentations below to see how the organizations are using mobile in their work, and read on for a description of each project.

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Oct. 28, 2011

The fourth FAILfaire, this time in New York City on December 14th, will be an evening dedicated to those tech and mobile projects that were designed to have a social impact but instead crashed, burned, and FAILED. FAILfaire NYC is presented by and hosted by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, with participation from UNICEF's Innovation Unit.

If you do not know about Failfaire, here is some background: Launched in early 2010, there have now been three FAILfaires, events designed to provide a platform for those working in online and mobile technology for social change to openly, honestly (and humorously) discuss our own failures.

As noted in the New York Times’ piece on FAILfaire, “Technology’s potential to bring about social good is widely extolled, but its failures, until now, have rarely been discussed by nonprofits who deploy it.” Well, FAILfaire is changing that, and is doing so in style. The format is informal, the discussions are rich, and the refreshments are adult and, well, refreshing. wrote that FailFaire “...[isn’t] about celebrating failure just for the sake of failure, but about taking lessons from each mistake and using them to create more efficient, economical, and accessible projects that could have a greater effect on a community.” We couldn’t agree more!

To join us, please RSVP here, as the event will fill up quickly.

If you like to be considered as a presenter for the next FAILfaire, go to and submit a note about your failed project and what we can learn from it.

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct. 27, 2011

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on India's mobile growth, smartphones in Asia, the relationship between social media and mobile phones in America, Nokia's global sales report, and the rise of open data projects in the United Kingdom.

  • Reuters reports that mobile subscriptions in India are on the rise; in August alone mobile phone operators added 7.34 million new subscribers, bringing the country's total number of mobile subscriptions to 865.71 million. However, now that roughly 70% of the country's population has a mobile phone, the number of new subscribers is rising more slowly than last year as the market becomes more saturated.
  • The mobile and smartphone market in the Asia-Pacific region is growing rapidly, and Cellular News has the breakdown of current and projected sales: "The smartphone market is [...] expected to have healthy growth, with 24% share in total handset shipments in 2011, up from 17% in 2010. Smartphone shipments in Asia will see a significant growth of 56% in 2011, which indicates the growing demand for smartphones in emerging Asian markets. Smartphone shipments in Asian markets will see a boost for Android-based smartphones, with market share increasing to 52% in 2011, up from 16% in 2010. As a result, the combined market share of Samsung and HTC, the leading Android-based smartphone makers in Asia, will swell from 11% in 2010 to 24% in 2011."
Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct. 25, 2011

Following this weekend's Tunisian elections, the world is looking to the Middle East to see how new democracies are born. But in many countries with emerging democracies, fraud and corruption can taint the credibility of elections, and the public's trust in the fairness and validity of election results. We have long argued that technology - mobile technology in particular - can play a key role in helping to ensure fair and accurate voting processes and results. However, data has been missing to make that point more definitively. 

In areas where much of the voting process isn't digitized, using technology can help mitigate vote tampering and incorrect results. Additionally, SMS reports of vote tabulation from polling stations by trained election observers can be an effective way of limiting voting fraud and corruption, and has been used in different elections around the world. In Lebanon's 2009 elections, roughly 2500 volunteer citizen observers reported from a statistically significant number of polling station incidence reports throughout election day. In Nigeria, 2011 Project Swift Count deployed 8000 trained election observers across the country to report on the elections, including election results from polling stations directly, using SMS.