MobileActive's Blog

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

Posted by admin on Dec 02, 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?

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.

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

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 18, 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.



MobileActive's Pick of the Week: CellStories - Short Stories on Your Mobile

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 18, 2009


Instead of cracking open a book, try sitting back with a short story on your phone. CellStories, which launched in September, offers a new short (1500-2500 words) story every weekday to readers on mobile phones. The website only shows its daily short stories to visitors coming to the site on mobile phones – those on a desktop see a welcome page and are encouraged to come back on a web-enabled mobile.

Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap Released

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 16, 2009

After more than a year's work, the World Wide Web Consortium's Mobile Web for Social Development is releasing its final product: a roadmap that outlines where mobile for social development is today, and will be going in the next few years.

The document is long and dense at times, but highlights a few noteworthy trends and developments.  As with any product developed by committee (and a small committee, in this case - no more than four or five people during the bi-monthly phone calls and drafting process, none of them actual NGO practitioners) this document is lacking specificity and actual relevant use cases, tending to be too esoteric to be useful.

Here are a few highlights of what we liked followed by a discussion of the documents shortcomings.

Betavine Social Exchange Needs Your Help!

Posted by SteveWolak on Nov 15, 2009

Global Regions:

Would you give 15 minutes of your time for a really good cause (and a chance to win a prize)?

Vodafone has recently launched a new version of Betavine, the open mobile application community. This new version encompasses a pilot project called "Social Exchange", which aims to foster the creation of mobile solutions for problems in the developing world.

The project’s aim is to create a website that brings developers, NGOs and community organisations together in order to develop mobile solutions to some of the difficulties faced by people in the developing world. Your input will help Vodafone to make this worthwhile project into a real success.

By participating in a quick and easy online process, you'll also have the chance to enter a prize draw to win a £50 Amazon voucher or one of two £25 ones. If you are willing to help, please go to the following webpage, which will explain everything you need to know:

Voices of Africa: Citizen Journalists Reporting with Mobile Phones

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 11, 2009

Global Regions:

Mobile phones are the tool of choice for a new group of young reporters in Africa. Voices of Africa Media Foundation, a Netherlands-based non-profit, trains young journalists in Africa to create news videos for the web using mobiles.

The foundation currently has programs in Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa, with plans to expand to more countries in 2010. The training program for the young journalists lasts nine months and teaches the trainees how to create video news reports with cell phones. At the beginning of the program, the small group (there are usually six or fewer participants per program) comes together and is trained for three to four days in the basics of mobile reporting (both how to use the technology and in basic journalism).  Then they return to their communities, and for a period of six months, use the phones to make video reports on local stories.

India Bans Pre-Paid Mobiles in Kashmir - Security or Suppression?

Posted by samdupont on Nov 10, 2009


This post was written by Sam duPont of NDN and the New Policy Institute, and is cross-posted at Global Mobile.

For eight years, the Indian government dragged its feet until, in 2003, it finally permitted mobile phones in conflict-torn Kashmir. Intelligence officials had feared that Kashmiri and Pakistani militants would use the phones to plan attacks on Indian army outposts throughout the region, but in '03 they relaxed the ban, and the past six years have been the most peaceful since the conflict began in 1989. Causation? Probably not. But correlation, anyway.

Mobile Phones in Human Rights: Reflections from Open Mobile Camp

Posted by admin on Nov 09, 2009

Mobile phones in human rights monitoring is still relatively rare and there are few examples where mobile shave been used successfully in this field. In this video from the recent Open Mobile Camp in New York, three experts are discussing their projects and thinking on the use of mobiles in human rights work.  Nathan Freitas discusses security issues in regard to using mobiles in this field and his project Guardian, Enrique Piraces from Human Rights Watch describes his thinking in regard to the use of mobiles in human rights work, and Emily Jacobi features Handheld Human Rights and the mobile tools that are part of the project.

Mobiles Hidden in Monks' Robes, Part III: Cracks in the Walls

Posted by admin on Nov 06, 2009

This article was written by Emily Jacobi from Digital Democracy. We are publishing her extensive report on Burmese dissidents' use of technology in three parts.  Part I with an overview of mobiles in Burma is here and part II that describes cross-border dissident communications here. All names of individuals have been changed to protect their identity.

Cracks in the Fortress' Wall

It was May 2008 in Thailand,  and Win Tun was anxiously watching his phone. Early May marks the beginning of rainy season, and reports were coming in of a major cyclone hitting Rangoon. A couple of days after the initial landfall on May 2, residual rains had made it to Thailand, and it was clear that Cyclone Nargis - “butterfly” - had destroyed major swaths of land in the Irawaddy delta. Up to 140,000 were missing or dead. Win Tun was worried about his family in Rangoon.

A former political prisoner, he spent 5 years in the infamous Insein prison for democratic activities in university in the ‘90s. When we met in early 2008, he had a sad air to him. Twenty years have passed since since the uprising of ’88, in which he was too young to participate. The exhaustion of fighting for something that seemed so far out of reach was wearing on him. Worse yet, he missed his family but couldn’t return home without bringing undue attention to them or risking another prison sentence.

After Nargis he was lucky. It took three days for him to get through to his family on their mobiles, and he learned they were okay – just upset, like most Burmese, at the government’s negligence of the victims. In the wake of Nargis, international aid groups waited in Thailand and offshore as the government refused to grant entrance to most.

The first few days after the Cyclone, bewildered Burmese in Rangoon stumbled out of their houses to survey the damage. In the streets, monks helped residents clear felled trees and downed power lines. But there were much bigger problems in the delta. Entire villages had been destroyed, and farmland had turned into swamps, contaminated by drowned bodies.