Political Parties, Politics

The Mobile Minute: Crowdsourcing the Turkish Elections, Mubarak Fined by Egyptian Courts, and The Importance of Mobile Broadband

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jun 02, 2011

[Updated with audio recording: If you'd like to hear this Mobile Minute in audio form, check out this podcast recorded by Ashiyan Rahmani-Shirazi @ashiyan]

Mobile Minute - 2nd June 2011 by ashiyan

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on Egypt's ruling against former president Mubarak for cutting Internet and mobile services, the rise of online phone calls, the operating system with the most data downloads, an effort to crowdsource citizen reports from the upcoming Turkish elections, and a look at mobile web content and access in East Africa.

  • Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been fined $34 million by an Egyptian court for cutting access to Internet and mobile phone networks during protests earlier this year. Other Egyptian officials (former interior minister Habib al-Adly and former prime minister Ahmed Nazif) were fined as well, for a total of $90 million in fines among the three former leaders.
  • A new report from the Pew Research Center reveals that online phone calls are becoming much more common. The center reports that 5% of Internet users go online to make a phone call each day, and 24% of adult American Internet users have used the Internet to make a phone call.
  • Curious about which operating system users download the most data? Wonder no more – Android owners use roughly 582 MB of data each month, compared to Apple users who came next with 492 MB of data. The information, compiled by Nielsen, also found that although Android users use more data, iPhone owners downloaded more apps.
  • Turkey's elections are coming up on June 12th, and students at the Istanbul Bilgi University have launched a crowd-sourcing website in order to report on the election. Called CrowdMap, the site maps reports from SMS, email, Twitter, and other Internet sources to provide instant updates about the election outside of the mainstream media.

The Mobile Minute: Libyan Rebels Establish Cell Network, App Developer Contest in Africa, and a Mobile Music Survey

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 15, 2011

Today's news covers a new Android app development contest in Sub-Saharan Africa, Libya's rebel-created cell network, a look at how Android has become the fastest-growing mobile OS, a study on how mobile owners listen to music on mobile devices, and the growth of mobile Internet in South Africa.

  • Are you an app developer in Sub-Saharan Africa? Google has launched an Android Developer Contest – there are three competition regions (West and Central Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa) and three categories (Entertainment/Media/Games, Social Networking/Communication, and Productivity/Tools/Lifestyle). Check out the competition's page to learn more – submissions open on June 1st and are due by July 1st.
  • After Libyan government forces disabled mobile and Internet services in March to cut off rebels' communication, a group of expatriates set up a new cell network outside of government control. Read the Wall Street Journal's in-depth coverage of the creation of the system here.

The Mobile Minute: Explaining Egypt's Internet Blackout, Bad News for M-Banking Retention, and the Rise of Android

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 07, 2011

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on how the Egyptian government shut down the country's Internet and mobile services, work-arounds for communicating during a government-ordered Internet blackout, problems with keeping customers engaged in mobile banking and payment services, Android's new place as the top-selling mobile operating system in the world, and a prediction for huge increases in mobile data traffic by 2015.

  • In the aftermath of the Egyptian telecommunications blackout, ArsTechnica looked at both how the Egyptian government managed to limit the country's communications so effectively (mainly through ordering major ISPs and Telcos to shut off service) and if a government-mandated Internet/mobile lockdown could be recreated in other countries. In related news, Wired.com has created a wiki on how to communicate if the government limits/shuts down Internet access.
  • Vodafone announced that the Egyptian government invoked emergency powers and forced it and the other telcom providers in Egypt to send pro-government text messages to Egyptian subscribers. In a press release, Vodafone claims that the messages were not scripted by Vodafone, and that although they protested the government's involvement, they "do not have the ability to respond to the authorities on their content." Since then, a much-nedeed debate has begun on the responsibility of telcoms to resist this interference.

The Mobile Minute: Hacking GSM Calls, California Rules Against Mobile Privacy, and More

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jan 11, 2011

It's a new year, and the Mobile Minute is back to bring you the latest. We've got coverage on doctors using mobile money for bus fares for fistula patient, Britain's minister of civil society questioning Apple's no-donation apps policy, the BBC's coverage on how hackers can eavesdrop on GSM calls, the California Supreme Court's ruling that police can search the cell phones of arrested people without a warrant, and CGAP's look at current, non-mobile money transfer systems in Haiti.

Inventory of Mobile Data Collection Projects and Rapid Mobile Surveys

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jun 22, 2010

The use of mobile phones for quick-time data collection is proliferating around the world. To get a better understanding of the scale and scope of these new data collection efforts, we partnered with UN Global Pulse initiative to conduct a survey of present and planned mobile data collection efforts. The survey results will help identify new, quick-time data sources.

The first findings of the global survey have been compiled in an inventory. The inventory is a living document that will be regularly updated as we become aware of new projects. If you are managing a mobile data collection project and you would like to have it featured in the inventory, please contact us or leave a comment. 

The inventory is posted in a Google Spreadsheet here: http://bit.ly/mobdatainventory.

We are also currently conducting for UN Global Pulse a mobile phone survey across multiple countries including Uganda, India, Mexico, Ukraine and Iraq. The survey is being conducted via text message and uses simple questions to understand how populations in different parts of the world perceive. We are drawing on our extensive network of partners on the ground to conduct the survey and will make the results publicly available (albeit in an anonymous and aggregate format). The survey is an exercise in rapid, bottom-up data collection. Questions in the survey focus on economic perceptions, including:

Mapping SMS Incident Reports: A Review of Ushahidi and Managing News

Posted by MelissaLoudon on May 03, 2010
Mapping SMS Incident Reports: A Review of Ushahidi and Managing News data sheet 54232 Views

In this how-to, we test out two systems for SMS incident mapping. Incident mapping is a simple but powerful concept that does what it says - using SMS to report a given incidence and mapping the data geographically.

It has been used in various scenarios ranging from reports from natural disasters to tracking violent crime, citizen reporting in elections.


Aware Networks

Posted by pashtan on Apr 23, 2010

At Aware Networks we develop mobile applications for consumers and organizations. Our Cliqtalk product enables the creation of mobile communities that collaborate on topics of shared interest. We work with associates to deliver mobile Web services and offer consulting services in cellular telephony and software technologies.Our website is at: www.awarenetworks.com

A Guide to Mobile Security for Citizen Journalists

Posted by MelissaLoudon on Mar 01, 2010
A Guide to Mobile Security for Citizen Journalists data sheet 13721 Views

Citizen journalism, and with it the rise of alternative media voices, is one of the most exciting possibilities for mobile phones in activism.


Election Monitoring with SMS: Lightweight Mobile Data Collection Meets Powerful Mapping Analytics

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 25, 2010

As we are getting ready for our event in Washington DC tomorrow that will focus on New Tools for Better Elections, we are excited to see that more open source options for mobile data collection and analysys are becoming available than ever sbefore.  Development Seed, one of the most promising Drupal development shops around right now, has been an innovator in developing platforms for data analysis, in particular.
This article describes the latest release of its open-source platform Managing News, and its integration with a low-cost SMS gateway for mobile data collection. It was written by Development Seed's Robert Soden and is republished here with permission.

We can now dynamically map and visualize real-time SMS messages in Managing News using the new SlingshotSMS feature. All the code is available on github.

This release is particularly exciting for us because it ties together two of our core projects in such a way that each is made better. SlingshotSMS is a lightweight SMS gateway that can be run off of a USB drive, needing only a GSM modem and an internet connection to act as a bridge between mobile phones and the web. Managing News is a powerful data aggregator and visualization tool that lets distributed teams work together to make large amounts of information useful. Together, they provide an extensible framework for teams conducting mobile data collection projects in the field.

Extensibility is key here because we need this to meet a wide variety of use cases in order for it to be useful. We have been particularly focused on use cases related to election monitoring, but this is just one of many possible applications. Here's a graphic that Saman made illustrating how the system works:

 Using SlingshotSMS with your team  

This technology is meant to accompany your existing processes of data collection. You have people in the field, they have cellphones, you have a phone back in headquarters, and they can text in messages to you that are then relayed to a visualization space, which helps keep you and your team on the same page.

 Setting Up SlingShotSMS Since SlingshotSMS runs on a USB drive, you just plug it in, plug in your phone, and set up what website you want to have the SMS messages sent to. The SMS messages are turned into RSS 2.0 and PUSHed, like as a fat ping. You computer just needs internet to send these messages.

 SlingshotSMS in the field

Going back to this election monitoring example, here you see the election monitor is texting in that the polling station is closed. You'll notice that the text message contains a few things: a polling station ID, the word "closed", and the word "security." These are key terms we are going to want to look for on the Managing News side to flag.

 SlingshotSMS integration with Managing News  

SlingshotSMS just pushes the data up to Managing News. The Managing News site will have a custom parser that will break up this text message, pulling out key words and numbers.

Customizing SMS parsing for each project

Out of the box, the Managing News/SlingshotSMS bridge simply accepts the SMS and incorporates it into the default Managing News workflow, ignoring important information in this example like the fact the polling station is closed and there is a security issue. This is where the pluggable nature of Managing News proves its worth. It is simple to write a custom parser that replaces the default parser that ships with Managing News. With some creative use of the Drupal taxonomy system to filter incoming results into Managing News channels and some very basic regex, you can quickly have a system that is able to capture this data and let Managing News users react to it. We'll publish a blog post soon explaining exactly how to do this.

Authentication

Authentication of incoming SMS messages is vital in these situations, and we took extra care to make sure the Managing News Slingshot feature will only receive data from authorized sources. The framework is dependent on the Drupal KeyAuth module which allows signed messages to pass between a SlingshotSMS installation and Managing News. When setting up the Managing News Slingshot feature, users are given public and private keys that they then copy into the SlingshotSMS configuration file. In the future we are considering switching to an OAuth based solution.

To get set up, you'll need the following:

Editors Note: We will test-run Managing News and Slingshot in an upcoming software review but meanwhile congratulate Development Seed on the ongoing efforts in building better open source tools for mobile data collection and analysis.

Election Monitoring with SMS: Lightweight Mobile Data Collection Meets Powerful Mapping Analytics data sheet 6163 Views
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Election Monitoring, Citizen Reporting and Mobile Phones: An Interview with Ian Schuler

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Feb 08, 2010

The National Democratic Institute and MobileActive.org are hosting "New Tools for Better Elections", a conference on February 26th on new technologies for fair, representative and equitable elections. In preparation for the event, we sat down with Ian Schuler, Senior Manager of Information and Communications Technology Programs at the National Democratic Institute. Schuler specializes in the application of mobile technology for the advancement of democracy and human rights, He is the author of SMS as a Tool in Election Observation.

In this conversation, Schuler breaks down not only the differences between election observation, citizen reporting, and crowd-sourcing, but also explains why these distinctions matter and how mobile technology is changing the way elections are held. Read on for excerpts from our conversation, or scroll down to watch the interview in its entirety.

Q: You and NDI have done a lot of election monitoring around the world. Explain why election monitoring matters. 

A: Elections are the main process by which people participate in their government by selecting their leaders. People expect that it’s going to be a fair process, and that it’s going to be an accurate process. So it’s important for people to have confidence to know that somebody is really systematically watching the entire process to make sure that it is good. Election monitoring prevents fraud by making it harder for the people who want to manipulate elections to do so; it detects fraud when it happens, and it lets people know if the process was good – and if it was not, what were the problems and what might be constructive, non-violent ways of remedying those problems, whether it’s simply improving the process for later or rerunning elections or whatever is warranted in that situation. 

Citizen Logistics

Posted by groundcrew on Oct 02, 2009

At Citizen Logistics, we’re developing new game-like ways of working, volunteering, finding assistance, and having a good time. Anyone can play, and you get points for making other people’s dreams come true. Our software will let you find cool things to do, build teams, and connect people with jobs and resources, all via the text messaging capability of your cell phone.

We are a Common Good Corporation.

Calling in for Content: Freedom Fone

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Sep 14, 2009

(This is part of a series of posts reporting on mobile media project from Highway Africa 2009 and Digital Citizen Indaba 4.0. Both were held in Grahamstown, South Africa, September 2009).

Brenda Burrell of Kubatana.net in Zimbabwe runs Freedom Fone, an audio tool for information services. She presented Freedom Fone in a workshop titled “Bringing down the barriers: Interactive audio programming and mobile phones” at Digital Citizen Indaba 4.0.

FreedomFone comes from the desire to deliver information to “those who need it most,” people with simple phones without GPRS connections. Freedom Fone integrates a content management system (such as Drupal) with information services via SMS and voice.

When Radio Meets Mobile in Pakistan

Posted by CorinneRamey on Aug 13, 2009

In Pakistan even the cheapest mobile phones, those without cameras or other advanced features, come with the ability to listen to FM radio. Every day, and especially during cricket matches, people walk around the streets with their phones pressed to their ears, tuned into their local stations, says Huma Yusuf, a journalist based in Pakistan.