Cross-border Mobile Engagement

Posted by sharakarasic on Nov 01, 2008

On day two of MobileActive ’08, Benjamin Brandzel of led a session on cross-border mobile engagement. is an international network of activists who work through the Internet to directly influence policy issues such as global warming, poverty, peace, democracy, and human rights. They have made use of internet and email to reach out to people. There is still plenty of room to grow with that, but now a growing segment of the world’s population uses mobiles and not the Internet. wants to transfer its model of issue advocacy across global boundaries. Brandzel asked if it is possible to engage folks through mobiles simultaneously across many different nations. To do so, we must deal with political issues, legal issues, and technical issues –- for example, there is no global shortcode. There are also language issues. In Zulu, it’s hard to say “Call me” in 160 characters.

Brandzel said, “Trying to set up a shortcode across a number of African countries is a nightmare. It would be nice to get a platform to make it easier.”

He then asked the audience for their ideas.

Regarding cross-country interoperability short codes, Shine George of Zantel said common shortcodes are in the pipeline.

An audience member suggested’s Mobiles in a Box for mobile advocacy tips. Another audience member said: “A lot of the change we’ve seen has happened on a national level, through national campaigns.”

Audience members complained that it’s hard to maintain telecom contacts. They say “Call me back” or there is high churn of employees in telecom.There are shortcodes, double shortcodes, operators to deal with.

Suggestions from the participants included a wiki of key information such as “there’s one dude in Nigeria you have to talk to.” Also, there is a desire to create global activist keywords and phone numbers.

Shine George of Zantel said that network messages are free and could be “operated up” – used to send messages from telecom to telecom across countries. But there needs to be a counterpart in telecoms to address these issues. There needs to be proper collaboration between providers and vendors.

George continued that most GSMA proposals are accepted by the providers – for example, the 100 help line. “Maybe we can get a common shortcode for HIV, “ he said.

George added, “We are missing operators at this conference. Zantel is now going into micro-health insurance – giving people an opportunity to go to a private clinic. We work on projects with social impact. I can find ‘the right Jimmy.’ I also can pitch to wireless application service providers.”

There was a strong desire to share projects within this group, and to move towards greater interoperability. Brandzel said, “There must be people with big bucks like Skype and Twitter who have these problems – let’s connect with them as the social aspect.”

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br> <b><i><blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options