Communications Access and Infrastructure

The March of the Little Green Guy: $80 Android Phones in Developing Countries

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:

Pricing and Mobile Usage: Wireless Intelligence Reports on Worldwide Mobile Usage Trends

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.

The Mobile Minute: Cross-Platform Messaging, Mobile Money in Post-Conflict/Disaster Areas, and U.S. Smartphone Demographics

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.

September Event Roundup

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.

The Mobile Minute: Why SMS Matters, Apple's Big Profits, and Mobile Video Apps

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 05, 2011

Today's Mobile Minute brings you news about Apple's profit share, the Atlantic Magazine's case for texting, the launch of free SMS in Zimbabwe, a look at how mobile device users choose video apps, and a report on malware in Android's marketplace.

  • PC Mag reports that Apple's iOS, despite being only 20% of the world's smartphone market, receives roughly two-thirds of mobile phone profits. The magazine breaks down the data in several charts, showing operating profits across quarters, and how operating shares have changed between 2007 and now (in Q2 2007,  Apple had 1% of the market and the most popular vendor, Nokia, had 55%; by Q2 2011, Apple has 66% of the market).
  • Curious about why SMS matters? Check out The Atlantic's "Why Texting is the Most Important Information Service in the World." The article pulls together a lot of statistics and real-world examples to demonstrate how SMS is used around the world. From government initiatives in the Philippines (the article reports "87 percent of Filipinos prefer communicating with the government via SMS, compared to 11 percent with an Internet-preference"), to mobile payments in Afghanistan, to agricultural info and help lines in Uganda, the piece looks at how SMS is changing the way people use their phones to interact with the world around them.
  • In other SMS news, the company Free SMS Zimbabwe has launched a new initiative that combines advertising with texting. Users of the service can send an SMS with a maximum of 100 characters and the other 60 will be an advertisement; users can send 100 character SMSs for free as the company subsidizes the cost through the ads.
  • When choosing mobile video apps, a Nielsen Wire survey reveals that the most important factor is "free/low subscription rates." Roughly 63% of respondents chose cost as a very important factor when choosing a mobile video application, more than other factors like video selection, presence of advertisements, or the ability to sync multiple devices.
  • The 2011 Mobile Threat Report, a new study from Lookout Mobile Security, found some big security threats to Android users. eWeek reports that "Android handset users are 2.5 times more likely to be affected by malware today than they were 6 months ago, as anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million users were impacted by malware on their smartphone or tablet computer."

[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

The Mobile Minute: RIM Layoffs, Smartphone Penetration in Asia, and the Growth of Near Field Communication Payments

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 01, 2011

The Mobile Minute is back with the latest mobile news. What's happening today? Nielsen Wire looks at smartphone penetration in Asia, RIM lays off 11% of its worldwide workforce, CGAP investigates how network operators can incorporate mobile financial services into their operations, [x]Cube Labs turns Android's history into an infographic, and Read Write Web looks into the latest developments in the use of near field communication technology for mobile payments.

  • Curious about the smartphone market in Asia? Nielsen Wire looks at the rapid growth of smartphones in Asia. Although current smartphone penetration in the region is less than 20%, a Nielsen survey of consumers revealed that nearly half of respondents plan to buy a smartphone within the next year. Nielsen Wire investigates what the anticipated increase in smartphone ownership will mean for how people access the Internet, how network operators will price their data plans, and how mobile advertising will adjust to a new market.
  • Wired reports that RIM (the makers of BlackBerry devices) announced on July 25th their plans to lay off 2000 employees, roughly 11% of its worldwide workforce. The move comes as RIM has lost market share to the growing popularity of newer operating systems like Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
  • CGAP's "How to Run with Mobile Money and Not Fall" article examines how mobile network operators can incorporate mobile financial services into their current business models. Some of the advice for successfully incorporating mobile money services includes using multiple distribution methods (such as both on-phone purchases and traditional street airtime sellers) and getting support from/sharing knowledge among multiple departments.
  • If you like charts and graphs, check out this history of the Android operating system. Covering everything from its founding date (2003), to the Google buyout (2005), to the launch of the first Android device (2008), to present day releases, the infographic maps out each update in Android's development.
  • Near field communication (NFC) technology allows smartphone users to transmit information to nearby contacts. Read Write Web recently investigated some of the new developments in the NFC field for turning smartphones into credit cards. The first article looks at how the company Isis partnered with four major American credit card companies (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) to develop wireless payments. The second article looks at the Jumio payment company's launch of Netswipe, which "turns any webcam into a credit card reader, both on the desktop and on mobile."

[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

We Need Your Help: Building a SIM Card Registration Database

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 27, 2011

We are developing a global database of SIM cards registrations by country, and we need your help. Please fill out this short survey. We ask you a few questions about a particular country's requirements.

Note: This survey will not track identifying information. We will publish the complete database on the site shortly with the data that we have gathered to date. The survey is here. Thanks!

Photo courtesy flickr user bfishshadow.

Huzzah for my Thing: Evaluating a Pilot of a Mobile Service in Kenya

Posted by VivianOnano on Jul 21, 2011
Huzzah for my Thing: Evaluating a Pilot of a Mobile Service in Kenya data sheet 1847 Views
Ledlie, Jonathan
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Deploying and evaluating a new technology is a major challenge in ICTD research. Introducing new technologies can be hampered by a lack of cultural insight, poor or delayed feedback, and limited evaluation procedures, among other factors. 

This short paper offers a model for introducing technology in developing regions that mitigates these factors. We call these steps the “Huzzah method,” inspired by a quotation that rightly derides technology that is introduced from afar and poorly evaluated.

The paper also includes selected portions from other work on Tangaza, whose design, implementation, and analysis followed the Huzzah method.

Cell vs. Internet: The Impact on Democratization in Africa

Posted by kelechiea on Jul 18, 2011
Cell vs. Internet: The Impact on Democratization in Africa data sheet 2513 Views
Patience Akpan-Obong, Ph.D., Nicholas O. Alozie, William Foster, Ph.D.Ph.D.,
Publication Date: 
Jan 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper presents an empirical assessment of the impact of information and communication  technologies (ICTs) on political development in sub-Saharan Africa. The analysis, based on the  Mo Ibrahim indicators of democracy in Africa for 2008, reveals a close alignment between ICTs in Sub-Saharan Africa and democratization – or political development broadly defined.

Our examination of the data demonstrates that elevated levels of phone, computer, and Internet  diffusion are associated with political development, although only the effect of the phone remains once other variables are specified. The phone is the most robust of all individual factors explaining variations in political development.   This may be explained by the fact that all strata of society can use cell phones, while the Internet is primarily used by the elite.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India: Consultation Paper on Certain Issues relating to Telecom Tariffs

Posted by VivianOnano on Jul 15, 2011
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India: Consultation Paper on Certain Issues relating to Telecom Tariffs data sheet 1858 Views
Bhawa, Mahanagar Doorsanchar.
Publication Date: 
Oct 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Service providers periodically publish different tariff offers with the objective of both customer acquisition and customer retention. Transparency in the provision of telecommunication services and tariff offers has always been and continues to be of prime concern to the Authority. TRAI has in the past taken several steps to enhance transparency in tariff offers.

The Authority, however, is receiving several complaints and representations from consumers and their representatives seeking further effective transparency measures. In view of the increased competition as well as the spread of telecom activity to rural areas, the relevance of having a more transparent regime for tariff offerings cannot be overemphasised.  At the same time, service providers and their associations have also raised certain concerns. This consultation paper brings out various issues that have a bearing on telecom tariff offers.

Building Your Own GSM Network: A Demonstration of the Village Base Station Project

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jul 15, 2011 recently had the opportunity to test an off-the-grid GSM base station. Kurtis Heimerl presented The Village Base Station (VBTS), (link is a PDF) a low-power means of providing mobile network service without grid power or network infrastructure.

Below, Heimerl demonstrates the basic workings of a GSM networks and OpenBTS, an open-source platform that allows one to set up a cellular network at a fraction of the cost of a GSM network. Heimerl shows how phones find their base towers and settle on a frequency, and how OpenBTS condenses that process into a lower-powered, cheaper network.

The Village Base Station is built around voice and low-bandwidth data transmissions. It is an economical solution for rural residents who are outside of typical network coverage or power access, or for people living in situations where network outages occur. In a white paper presenting the VBTS, Heimerl and co-author Eric Brewer describe the project as, "essentially an outdoor PC with a software-defined radio that implements a low-power low-capacity GSM base station. Long-distance WiFi provides 'backhaul' into the carrier." Below are images of elements of the Village Base Station and screenshots from our 'hackday' in a large American city when we demo'ed VBTS with Heimerl. (Warning: If you try this at home, be aware of your local regulator's potential licensing and other restrictions for setting up such network/connecting to it)

Base Station

A Note on the Availability (and Importance) of Pre-Paid Mobile Data in Africa

Posted by VivianOnano on Jul 12, 2011
A Note on the Availability (and Importance) of Pre-Paid Mobile Data in Africa data sheet 1888 Views
Donovan, Kevin; Donner, Jonathan.
Publication Date: 
Jun 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

We argue that access to prepay data will be as essential to the widespread adoption and use of the mobile internet in developing countries as access to prepay airtime is/was to the adoption of the mobile telephone.  In late 2009, we conducted a desk assessment of the availability of pre-pay (payas-you-go) data from the major operators in 53 African countries. In 36 cases we were able to identify at least one operator in each country which offered pre-pay data, and in 3 cases we could determine that no prepay data was available.  

Information available from operators was vague, incomplete, and hard to obtain, suggesting a threshold in general awareness and enthusiasm on the part of operators may not yet have been crossed. We describe an ongoing follow-up “crowdsourcing” activity underway to fill in information from the remaining 14 countries, and suggest topics for further research, both on the demand and supply sides of the prepaid data equation. 

Evaluating the Impact of Mobile Phone Based ‘Health Help Line’ Service in Rural Bangladesh

Posted by VivianOnano on Jul 11, 2011
Evaluating the Impact of Mobile Phone Based ‘Health Help Line’ Service in Rural Bangladesh data sheet 1734 Views
Dr Md. Ashraf, Mahfuz, Noushin Laila Ansari, Bushra Tahseen Malik, Barnaly Rashid.
Publication Date: 
Sep 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Access to basic health  service is limited in rural areas of Bangladesh, where 80% of the total population lives. For instance, 35% of doctors and 30% of nurses are located in four metropolitan districts where only 14.5% of the population lives. Most of the rural people are physically remote from the qualified health care providers. Two major mobile phone service providers in Bangladesh have initiated mobile health care help line service s nationwide as a remedy in this case. Since there is much hope of mobile phones to be used for basic health care services for populations living in rural areas, this research aims to evaluate how far such interventions reached  for the improvement of health care in those communities. Through an interpretive case-based research strategy, our field studies uncover enthusiasm from the rural people towards availing health help line services and the intervention's contribution to improved health-seeking behavior.


Evaluating the Accuracy of Data Collection on Mobile Phones: A Study of Forms, SMS, and Voice

Posted by VivianOnano on Jul 06, 2011
Evaluating the Accuracy of Data Collection on Mobile Phones: A Study of Forms, SMS, and Voice data sheet 1894 Views
Patnaik, Somani; Brunskill, Emma, Thies, William.
Publication Date: 
Apr 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

While mobile phones have found broad application in reporting health, financial, and environmental data, there has been little study of the possible errors incurred during mobile data collection. This paper provides the first (to our knowledge) quantitative evaluation of data entry accuracy on mobile phones in a resource-poor setting.

Via a study of 13 users in Gujarat, India, we evaluated three user interfaces: 1) electronic forms, containing numeric fields and multiple-choice menus, 2) SMS, where users enter delimited text messages according to printed cue cards, and 3) voice, where users call an operator and dictate the data in real-time. Our results indicate error rates (per datum entered) of 4.2% for electronic forms, 4.5% for SMS, and 0.45% for voice.

These results caused us to migrate our own initiative (a tuberculosis treatment program in rural India) from electronic forms to voice, in order to avoid errors on critical health data. While our study has some limitations, including varied backgrounds and training of participants, it suggests that some care is needed in deploying electronic interfaces in resource-poor settings. Further, it raises the possibility of using voice as a low-tech, high-accuracy, and cost-effective interface for mobile data collection.

June Mobile Tech Salon, NYC: Our Mobile Data Exhaust

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jun 14, 2011

According to the Wall Street Journal, “[Data produced by the use of mobile phones] generates immense commercial databases that reveal the ways we arrange ourselves into networks of power, money, love and trust.” As mobile phone use increases and applications become increasingly sophisticated, the volume of mobile data we create continues to grow at an incredible rate, creating new possibilities and posing new challenges to notions of privacy.

Businesses want this data for marketing. Congress wants to regulate it. Activists and privacy advocates want to ensure that it is not used to compromise their safety or freedoms. Meanwhile, projects such as UN Global Pulse want to use information gleaned from mobile phone use to detect and prevent slow-onset humanitarian crises. We invite you to join us on the evening of June 30th for our next New York City-based Mobile Tech Salon as we explore these tough questions:

  • How do we determine socially beneficial uses for mobile data?
  • How can the safety, security, and privacy of individuals be respected while using mobile data to benefit them?
  • How can our mobile data be effectively aggregated and anonymized? Or can’t it?

SharedSolar: Mobiles and Micro-Grids For More Efficient Energy

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Jun 13, 2011
SharedSolar: Mobiles and Micro-Grids For More Efficient Energy data sheet 3264 Views

It is an unfortunate irony that often the poorest people pay the most for the lowest quality energy. In many areas, the rural poor pay as much as 5 USD per month for kerosene or battery power. SharedSolar is a project that attempts to develop the technology, and business case to connect these populations to better, more traditional energy sources. It does so by leveraging existing mobile networks. 

With SharedSolar, rural poor consumers make payments based on their usage by using a scratch card and adding credit via SMS. The system uses a micro-grid network to connect consumers to power, and each household uses a unique prepaid metering system. A group of up to 20 consumers (individuals, households, small businesses, or schools) are all located within a 50 meter radius of a single, central power source -- such as solar panels -- connected via an underground wire. 

At the same time, the SharedSolar team is testing and developing its business model to show that a case exists for micro-grids and mobile energy payment. The team launched an initial pilot in 2010 in Pelengana, Mali and currently has systems set up in Uganda and Tanzania. spoke with Matt Basinger, project lead for SharedSolar, to learn more about the overlap of mobile technology and rural power.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

With SharedSolar, rural electricity consumers make payments based on usage by using a scratch card and adding credit via SMS. The system uses a micro-grid network to connect power to consumers, and each household uses a unique prepaid metering system. A group of up to 20 consumers (individuals, households, small businesses, or schools) are all located within a 50 meter radius of a single, central power source -- such as solar panels, all connected via an underground wire. 

The SharedSolar team is testing and developing its business model to show that a case exists for micro-grids and mobile energy payment. The team launched an initial pilot in 2010 in Pelengana, Mali and currently has systems set up in Uganda and Tanzania. 

Brief description of the project: 

Unfortunately, the poorest people pay the most for the lowest quality energy. In many areas, the rural poor pay as much as 5 USD per month for kerosene or battery power. SharedSolar is a project that attempts to develop the technology, and business case, to connect these populations to better and affordable energy sources. It does so by leveraging existing mobile networks. 


Target audience: 

Up to 20 micro-grid consumers are located within a 50 meter radius of a single central power source. SharedSolar launched an initial pilot in 2010 in Pelengana, Mali and currently has systems set up in Uganda and Tanzania. 

Detailed Information
What worked well? : 

SharedSolar leverages existing mobile infrastructure in a given area. The SharedSolar technology is a near-term, entry-level approach: the application runs on a local server, in-country, with an attached modem (a local SMS device). It can be run on a basic netbook. SharedSolar is a modular system, so the team can add solar generation capacity or deploy additional systems as demand for electricity increases.



What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

When selecting a site to place the system, there are often land rights or land access issues. And although it hasn’t been an issue yet, the team is aware of the possibility of tampering. For instance, a neighbor could dig up someone else’s wire.

Another challenge for SharedSolar comes with trying to develop the business model alongside the technology.  In addition to reducing costs and improving livelihood for the rural consumers, SharedSolar has a goal to test a business model for micro-utility power

Open Source Cellphone Networks are Now on Every Continent

Posted by admin on Jun 07, 2011

[This post was written by Robert Goodier and originally appeared on Engineering for Change. It is reposted here with permission.]

Three men who believe that cellphone service should be cheap and accessible to everyone have found a way to make it happen. The creators of OpenBTS, the open-source cellphone network, launched a startup and have delivered cheap cellphone networks to the world's biggest mobile tech corporations, governments and other clients on every continent. (Yes, even Atarctica—the Australian base is connected via OpenBTS.)

As we reported last year, OpenBTS is a network built on open-source software and hardware that works seamlessly with the average cellphone. With smart coding and decentralized call processing, the system has reduced the hardware needed and cuts the cost of installing and running a cellphone network to about one-tenth that of a traditional setup.

And, importantly for developing countries, the base tranceivers (the gear in the cell towers) are energy sippers that can run on PV cells. The bottom line: The whole network can reduce the cost of service to about $2-3 per month for subscribers.

We spoke with Glenn Edens, a co-founder of Range Networks, with a resume that includes such titles as former head of Sun Lab at Sun Microsystems, former president of AT&T Strategic Ventures, Chief of Strategic Technology at Hewlett-Packard and others. Edens summed up the last six months at Range Networks and told us what lies ahead for the startup.

open BTS

Mobile Applications Laboratories Business Plan

Posted by VivianOnano on Jun 06, 2011
Mobile Applications Laboratories Business Plan data sheet 1192 Views
Vital Wave Consulting
Publication Date: 
Mar 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The goal of the plan is to inform infoDev-supported mobile application labs in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) – and other mobile application laboratory initiatives globally – to develop sustainable business models and transition from a donor-funded start-up phase to a selffinancing, sustainable phase over a three-year period.

The plan's six chapters cover the following topics:

  • Landscape Analysis describes mobile applications labs and similar organizations, including success factors and challenges across these labs.
  • Segmentation Analysis offers a typology of mLabs based on relevant defining characteristics and explores examples from parallel fields (e.g., software development, business incubation, technology transfer) to identify the characteristics of labs that function most effectively.
  • Offering & Promotional Strategies examines the services that best support sustainability for the mLab, and offers strategies for driving branding and awareness.
  • Business Model and Pricing Strategies defines potential revenue streams for the services that the labs offer, including potential price lists and menus of options that are tailored to regional markets via the companion Business Model Workbook Tool.
  • Operating Model provides recommendations on resource requirements (e.g., equipment, staffing, skills) and the phased rollout of services and functions over time.
  • Customer and Partner Strategies including the identification of intermediate clients (e.g., mobile applications developers, SMEs), end clients (e.g., app stores, network operators, equipment manufacturers, governments) as well as potential partners, investors and donors.

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.

June 2011 Mobile Events Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Jun 01, 2011

It's a brand new month, and June is bursting with tons of mobile-themed events around the world! From hackathons for developers and coders to in-depth discussions about mobiles for social change and development, this month's events cover a wide range of topics and sectors. Check them out below:

1-2 June AppsWorld Africa 2011  (Cape Town, South Africa) How can mobile apps be used for development in Africa? This two-day conference uses workshops and exhibitions to explore the potential of apps in sectors ranging from health and agriculture to business and banking.

4-5 June Random Hacks of Kindness (global) This Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon will focus on both disaster risk and climate change. Experts in disaster risk and climate change submit challenges they've faced in their work, and developers and coders gather together to build solutions.

6-9 June Mobile Health Summit (Cape Town, South Africa) Co-hosted by the GSMA and the mHealth Alliance, this three-day event is the go-to place for leaders in the mobile and health fields to learn how mobile technology can improve on global health practices. 

8 June Mobile Applications for Development Workshop (Washington, D.C., USA) Hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank, this workshop focuses on the role of mobile and Internet technologies in fostering social development.

8-9 June Open Mobile Summit (London, UK) For businesses looking to create a mobile presence, the Open Mobile Summit covers all the bases. From workshops on monetizing apps to targeting audiences through social media, panel leaders discuss how to mobilize your business.

8-9 June AITEC Banking and Mobile Money: West Africa (Accra, Ghana) The theme of this two-day event is how mobile banking can drive trade and investment in West Africa. The event looks at how traditional banks can use mobile banking, and the benefits of providing mobile banking options for people at the bottom of the pyramid.

14-15 June PIVOT25 (Nairobi, Kenya) PIVOT25 is an mLAB dedicated to supporting the growth of mobile entrepreneurs in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Somalia and Southern Sudan. Discussion topics at the event include the role of women in ICTs and the use of mobile applications in government, health, banking, and games.


Mobiles for Women. Part 1: The Good.

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on May 11, 2011

A village in India last year banned unmarried women from using mobile phones for fear they would arrange forbidden marriages. The village council suspected young men and women were secretly calling one another to arrange to elope. Meanwhile, unmarried men could use mobile phones under parental supervision.

As mobile penetration increases across the developing world, the entry of mobile phones in the hands of women causes reactions. In many cases, mobile phone ownership empowers women in myriad ways: economic gains, increased access to information, greater autonomy and social empowerment, and a greater sense of security and safety.

But, there is a darker side. Targeting women with mobile phones can cause changes in gender dynamics and family expenditures and may relate to increases in domestic violence, invasion of privacy, or control by a male partner.

Who Cares Where I Am, Anyway? An Update on Mobile Phone Location Tracking

Posted by MarkWeingarten on May 10, 2011

Apple’s release of version 4.3.3 of its iOS operating system “..kills iPhone tracking”, according to a recent article. After nearly three weeks of public attention on this issue, this news will perhaps appease some iPhone fans but is not likely to end the debate over what users should know and control about their smartphones’ location tracking abilities. Like Apple, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone systems have also recently come under fire, though important differences exist in the way each company collects and uses location-based information.

We have reviewed recent articles and research on each of these mobile operating systems’ location tracking capabilities and will describe the various claims made and the research undertaken to test these claims.

The Mobile Minute: Google's Mobile Approach, Mobile Privacy Concerns, and an ICT4D Meetup

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 29, 2011

In today's Mobile Minute, we look at CGAP's coverage on branchless banking and micro-insurance, report on Nielsen and mobile privacy concerns, look at how the New York Times investigates Google's mobile approach and how smartphones are collecting data about cell towers and Wi-Fi hot spots. Lastly, a meetup for those interested in mHealth and ICT4D.

  • Interested in how branchless banking and micro-insurance can work together? GCAP has a roundup of three different organizations (from Ghana, the Philippines, and Kenya) that have paired mobile banking and micro-insurance in order to reach the unbanked and uninsured.

MXIT: Uses, Perceptions and Self-justifications

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Apr 16, 2011
MXIT: Uses, Perceptions and Self-justifications data sheet 1245 Views
Chigona, Wallace, Agnes Chigona, Bomkazi Ngqokelela, and Sicelo Mpofu
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper reports on a pilot study investigating the perceptions and use of Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) amongst the youth in South Africa. MIMs are enjoying a high adoption rate amongst the youth in South Africa and MXit is by far the most popular MIM. However, the media, parents and educators are overly concerned with the use of the system. The accusations against MXit have included the allegations that it is time-wasting for the youth, it is a hunting ground for paedophiles, and it leads to anti-social behaviours. It is interesting, however, that despite the negative perceptions of the system, the youth are still using it, and presumably with their parents’ blessings.


Data for the study was gathered through in-depth interviews with randomly selected youth who use MXit, as well as with parents of children who use the system. The study has found that the youth use the system mainly for social networking and that, to most users, the system is more than just a communication tool - it is also part of their lives. The study has also unearthed the perceptions of the users towards fellow users and towards non-users. In addition, it has been noted that both the users and parents of users are employing self-justification strategies to deal with the cognitive dissonance arising from the negative discourse on MXit and their continued use or support of the system.


The findings of this study contribute to the understanding of how the youth use new media. The findings could be useful for those who may want to use new media for educating the youth and for marketing purposes.

Generation Mobile: Online and Digital Media Usage on Mobile Phones Among Low-Income Urban Youth in South Africa

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Apr 15, 2011
Generation Mobile: Online and Digital Media Usage on Mobile Phones Among Low-Income Urban Youth in South Africa data sheet 1266 Views
Kreutzer, Tino
Publication Date: 
Feb 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

For this study, 441 grade 11 students at nine schools in low-income areas in Cape Town, South Africa were surveyed about their use of mobile phones. These young South Africans have adopted a number of ways to use the Web and mobile Instant Messaging. They also commonly access, produce, and share digital media via their phones and the Internet.

Access to the Web has, until recently, only been available to the wealthiest fraction of South African society (less than 10% of the population), making this a highly significant development. Until now, little quantitative data has been available to describe exactly to what extent and how this cohort is beginning to access and use the Internet and digital media on mobile phones.

The students reported intensive use of mobile phones to access mobile Internet applications, at a far greater level than they report using desktop computers to access the Web. Mobile Internet is considerably more accessible to these students than computer-based Internet access, and they are choosing to use the Internet primarily for mobile instant messaging and other characteristic forms of mobile media use.

This suggests that these students encounter a distinct, mobile version of the Internet. Their experience of Internet access and digital media may consequently be quite different to that of their computer-using peers.