MobileActive's Blog

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep. 26, 2011

The Ugandan Ministry of Health has launched an initiative to digitize the country’s health management systems. Because mobile technology can be the fastest, cheapest means of collecting and analyzing data, especially in rural areas, the Minstry is embracing mobile technology to create a seamless system of health management and early warning techniques across the country. The Ugandan UNICEF country office has developed projects to work with the Ministry’s goal of digitizing the health systems. mTrac and Community Vulnerability Surveillance are two new projects that use SMS to gather and disseminate data and news, with a focus on health and public services.

Posted by MelissaLoudon on Sep. 22, 2011

Particularly for smartphones, there are many apps that promise improved privacy and security for your mobile communications. Like all apps, some are very good, but other are poorly written or overpriced, and may even be malicious. This article will help you evaluate whether you should trust their promises.

Before You Start

Security apps are most useful as part of a coherent security policy covering all your mobile communications. The Mobile Risk Assessment Primer will help you complete an inventory of mobile communications risks, and decide which are most important and most feasible to mitigate.

Once you’ve completed a risk assessment, it’s important to search broadly for security apps. MobileActive is in the process of reviewing many of these from our current list of security apps, but the mobile security landscape changes quickly. Ask friends and colleagues, read about your specific security need online, and search your device’s app marketplace. Once you’ve identified as many options as possible, it’s time to start evaluating your security apps.

Will It Work on Your Phone?

As with computer software, some mobile apps are built to work on one platform - Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Symbian, Java - and may not work on others. There may be other requirements too, such as particular phone models. Make sure the apps you have chosen are all going to work on your device.

Also consider how you will actually get the app - can it be downloaded from a web link that you open on your phone, or can you get it from an app marketplace? Some apps can also be downloaded to a PC and transferred via bluetooth or a data cable. This step sounds obvious, but it can be tricky when you don’t have stable Internet access on your phone or aren’t used to the app install process.

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep. 22, 2011

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on a new mobile frequency breakthrough, comparisons between mobile devices and PCs, the results of a mobile-based South African youth sex survey, the growth of apps in the Asia-Pacific region, and a look at the future of the global mobile payment industry.

  • Researchers at Rice University have developed a new technology that allows mobile devices to use the same frequency to both talk and listen to cell towers. Normally, two frequencies are needed to transmit and receive wireless data; the new technology could allow operators to double the capacity of their towers.
  • A new study from the International Data Corporation predicts that mobile Internet users will outnumber PC Internet users by 2015. Read Write Web reports that although smartphones are a big part of the shift, the release of tablet devices like the iPad give the predictions of mobile-dominance more credence.
  • The Praekelt Foundation recently released the results of its "Youth Sex Survey," which received more than 130,000 responses via the mobile platform Young Africa Live. The survey asked users of the social portal questions about their sexual health and opinions about sex and relationships; AudienceScapes reports on some of the responses: "Findings included a high percentage (44 percent) of South African youth admitting they are sexually active at the same time that they are significantly concerned about HIV/AIDS – 81 percent of respondents indicated they equate 'not telling a sexual partner that you carry the virus' with outright murder." (Read more about the Praekelt Foundation and Young Africa Live here.) 
  • Mobile applications are huge in the Asia-Pacific region; a study by the analyst firm Ovum estimates that "total number of mobile apps downloaded could reach 14 billion in 2016." TechCircle reports that the region already anticipates 5 billion app downloads for 2011, and that estimated revenue from paid mobile applications could reach $871 this year.
  • If you like charts, check out this graphic depicting a prediction of the global mobile payments market (based off data from Juniper Research) by the year 2015. Divided into eight worldwide regions, the graph (and research) shows how the world will use mobile payments (including near field communications, mobile payments/transfers, and regular purchase of goods).

[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


Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep. 20, 2011

A research study on the role of mobile phones in the slums (favelas) of Rio de Janeiro investigates the power structures of how mobile phones influence social interactions and values among favela residents. Written by Adriana de Souza e Silva, Daniel M. Sutko, Fernando A. Salis, and Claudio de Souze e Silva, "Mobile Phone Appropriation in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil" offers a new perspective on the role of mobile phones in low-income areas. The authors point out that Brazil is in a unique position as it has both high-income and low-income residents living in very close proximity. They say:

Studies of developing countries often exclude Brazil because the  country is considered an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank (Donner, 2008), but this classification ignores Brazil’s extremely uneven income distribution (UDNP, 2008), which results in roughly 10 percent of the population earning 46 percent  of the overall income, while 50 percent makes only 13.3 percent (IPEA, 2005: 52).  Despite this income distribution, there are about 203 million cell phones in Brazil (as of December 2010), making Brazil the fifth largest country worldwide in terms of cell phone absolute numbers, with a 104 percent cell phone penetration rate (Teleco, 2011).

The study's focus on favela residents looks at how mobile phones play a role in both low- and high-income populations.

The study brought together 15 residents from three different Rio de Janeiro favelas (Jardim America, Vidigal, and Mangueira) to discuss how they use mobile phones and how mobile phones are viewed in their communities. The authors highlighted that favela residents live off-the-grid in Brazil; they do not pay taxes and do not receive social services like electiricity, water, or landline phone services. Because the government does not provide infrastructure for the residents, a "parallel" market has sprung up in which favela residents appropriate services from higher-income neighborhoods and redirect them to the favelas. The authors report:

Because favela residents are precluded from corporately legitimized cell phone ownership, they have developed illegal yet easy means for procuring phones while legally avoiding the cost of service and subverting service providers. The clearest example of illegal procurement is the existence of the parallel market: not one interviewee purchased a phone in a store. Phones were either received as presents or purchased from someone in the favela.

The researchers also found that despite Brazil's high phone penetration rate (104%), most of the respondents shared phones among friends and family members. The study participants all indicated that obtaining mobile phones legally was very difficult due to three main barriers: finances, comfort with technology, and difficulty of ownership. The respondents reported that buying a new phone from a legitimate store was out of their price range, signing up for payment plans required a high level of technological savvy, and that the frequent threat of phone theft meant that holding on to a phone in the favelas was difficult.

The paper also researches "diretão," a system of defrauding service providers (which is especially popular among favela drug dealers as it allows them to communicate for free and off-the-grid):

Diretão, as explained by the interviewees, is a phone illegally provided by service provider employees with a special SIM card that allows the user to freely call anywhere in the world for three months. The catch is that, for each individual call, after ten minutes, cell position can be triangulated by the provider, which results in disabling the diretão, and possibly capturing the service thief.

The study is an interesting look at how mobile phones play a role in favelas, and how low-income populations adapt mobile phones to fit into their communities.

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep. 15, 2011

The Praekelt Foundation, a South African organization that runs several mobile-based programs in South Africa, recently produced a catchy video infographic of mobile statistics for Africa. Looking at accessibility, growth, and usage, the video gives a good look at how mobiles have taken off in in the continent of Africa.

The video covers a lot of facts about mobiles, from a breakdown of the rapid growth of mobile phones compared to other forms of media (like radio and television) to the huge drop in price points (the first mobile phone cost US $3995 in 1973 compared to roughly US $15 for certain models today). Some facts from the video:

  • "Today the number of SMSs sent and received everyday exceeds the population of the planet"
  • "In 2002 there were 49 million cellphones in Africa, now there are 500 million"
  • "In Africa, over 95% of mobile users are pre-paid subscribers"

The video also covers other uses of mobile phones such as Please Call Me messages (in which pre-paid mobile users who have used up their airtime send a free message requesting a call back from whomever they want to speak to) and mobile payments, reporting that almost 11% of Kenya's GDP goes through the M-PESA system. M-PESA, a mobile money transfer system, registers almost 10,000 new people each day to use mobile phones to transfer money credits.

If you're curious about the mobile situation in Africa, take a few minutes to watch!

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Sep. 12, 2011

This year, Chinese company Huawei launched an $80 Android phone, the IDEOS, through Kenyan telecom Safaricom. According to sources, the phone has sold over 350,000 units in Kenya, “a staggering statistic considering nearly half of Kenya’s population lives on less than two dollars per day.”

We thought it important to take a closer look at this relatively low-cost device and the larger issues and questions that arise from it.

The Android Edge?

An article on Singularity Hub suggests that while affordability is a key driver for adoption, a larger issue with the IDEOS phone is the competitive edge of Android phones:

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep. 08, 2011

In a report on worldwide trends in mobile usage, Wireless Intelligence investigates the relationship between decreased prices of call times and the related increase in mobile usage around the world over the last decade. "Analysis: How Pricing Dynamics Affect Mobile Usage" looks at both developed and developing countries to see where call prices have changed most dramatically in the last ten years, and how those changes have affected call times and mobile usage. Although the full report is restricted to Wireless Intelligence members, some of the key data is summarized below.

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep. 06, 2011

And, we are back! Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on cross-platform mobile messaging, increased network usage rates for MTN Uganda subscribers, strategies for implementing mobile money programs in post-conflict/disaster areas, and a demographic breakdown of U.S. smartphone users.

  • ChatON, a new, cross-platform mobile messaging service from Samsung, brings texts, group chats, and multimedia sharing to a variety of handsets and operating systems. According to Samsung, the messaging service will work on both feature phones and smartphones, and will operate on a variety of platfroms including Android, Apple, and RIM/BlackBerry. 
  • On September 1st, MTN Uganda announced an increase of up to 100 percent of their network usage prices. The International Business Times reports, "MTN has increased the rate it charges customers for calls to another network by a third to 4 shillings a second while those for calls across its own network will double to 4 shillings. The changes take effect this weekend." The company says this was done to account for an increase in operating costs and as a response to inflation in Uganda.
Posted by KatrinVerclas on Sep. 04, 2011

We are in need of a fabulous web developer for maintenance of two existing complex Drupal sites, and one WordPress site that is currently being built by another firm. We are also starting to use Tilemill and other platforms so proficieny and interest beyond Drupal desired.

Must have extensive and proven Drupal 6 and 7 as well as WordPress development experience, be creative and entrepreneurial and able to work in fast-moving start-up environment. Curiosity and interest in our work related to mobile tech for social change highly desirable, as is making websites super accessible on mobile devices and low bandwidths. Possibility to advance rapidly for the right person. Part-time to start (24 h/week) with potential for more. Full benefits are provided.

Position is based in NYC, no exceptions. We do have a cool office in Chelsea. Competitive salary and signing bonus.

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep. 02, 2011

A brand new month means brand new events, and September has no shortage of mobile conferences, hackathons, and seminars to keep you busy! Read on to find out what's happening in the mobile world this month:

  • 6-7 September, Mobile Money CALA (Miami, USA) This event is all about mobile banking and payment systems in the Central American and Latin American regions. Discussion topics include how mobile banking case studies from around the world can be adapted to the CALA region, building partnerships between mobile networks and banks, and mobile banking for the unbanked.
  • 8-9 September, The Mobile Payment Conference (New York City, USA) For another look at mobile money, the Mobile Payment Conference gives attendees a chance to discuss how mobile payments can be used in both the business and non-profit industries.
  • 10-11 September, TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon (San Francisco, USA) In preparation for the TechCrunch Disrupt event, the company is hosting a 24-hour hackathon for developers to get together and code new projects. After the hackathon, participants demo their creations to the audience to kick off the Disrupt event.
  • 12-14 September, TechCrunch Disrupt (San Francisco, USA) Following the Hackathon, Disrupt brings together entrepreneurs, developers, and start-up founders. The event features the "Start-Up Battlefield," where participants compete to launch their start-up at the conference, with a $50,000 prize for the winner.
  • 16 September, Future of Mobile Conference (London, U.K.) This one-day event has panels on everything from coding in HTML5, CSS, and Javascript, to choosing the right app store in which to launch your app, to crash courses on developing for different operating systems. If you want to develop apps for smartphones, this is the event for you.