Preparedness and Early Warning

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?

Txteagle in Flight: Mobile Data Collection for Disaster Preparedness

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Feb 07, 2011
Txteagle in Flight: Mobile Data Collection for Disaster Preparedness data sheet 5280 Views

Txteagle is a data collection and engagement platform that leverages mobile airtime compensation for data collection and customer engagement. It is currently used by one nonprofit organization to survey constituents about disaster preparedness. We looked into the company and one of its customers.

Txteagle widely advertises its ability to reach 2.1 billion mobile subscribers currently. spoke with Nathan Eagle, co-founder of the service, to learn more about how it works, how many active participants there are and where some of the large numbers come from. We also spoke with Terry Gibson, project manager for the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction, who is currently using txteagle to collect mobile data on 40,000 respondents in 48 countries.

Basic Information
Project goals: 

The Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction ( is using txtegale to collect mobile data to see if on-the-ground progress is being made by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Brief description of the project: 

Txteagle is a data collection and engagement platform that leverages mobile airtime compensation. It is currently being used by the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction to collect multi-country data on disaster preparedness as part of a community-level survey called Views from the Frontline.

Target audience: 

The global network is using SMS to target individuals in 48 countries.

Detailed Information
What worked well? : 

Airtime compensation incentivizes members to complete surveys. The txteagle platform additionally offers a revenue model for mobile operators. Mobile data collection may be less costly and time-consuming than paper-based, face-to-face interviews.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

The txteagle platform is a hard technology to build, and there will be updates. Working with operators has been a challenge, as networks go down periodically.


Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Feb 01, 2011

The Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction is a major international network of civil society organizations committed to working together to influence and implement disaster risk reduction policy and practice at the local, national and international levels.

Organization Type: 

Notes from a Mobile, Bottom-Up, Rapid, Multi-Country Perception Survey

Posted by anoushrima on Nov 30, 2010

Several months ago, partnered with UN Global Pulse to implement a mobile phone survey across multiple countries including Uganda, India, Mexico, Ukraine and Iraq, as part of a two-part project on mobile data collection.

UN Global Pulse was interested in gaining a preliminary understanding of how vulnerable populations deal with and describe (in their own words) the ongoing impacts of the global economic crisis.

The survey asked two simple multiple choice and three open-ended questions focusing on economic perceptions:

Notes from a Mobile, Bottom-Up, Rapid, Multi-Country Perception Survey data sheet 3006 Views
Countries: India Iraq Mexico Uganda Ukraine

Use of Mobile Phones in an Emergency Reporting System for Infectious Disease Surveillance After the Sichuan Earthquake in China

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 24, 2010
Use of Mobile Phones in an Emergency Reporting System for Infectious Disease Surveillance After the Sichuan Earthquake in China data sheet 2475 Views
Changhong Yang, Jun Yang, Xiangshu Luo & Peng Gong
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

Problem Quick detection and response were essential for preventing outbreaks of infectious diseases after the Sichuan earthquake. However, the existing public health communication system in Sichuan province, China, was severely damaged by the earthquake.

Approach The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention set up a mobile phone emergency reporting system. In total, 495 light-powered mobile phones were delivered to local health-care agencies in earthquake affected areas. All phones were loaded with software designed for inputting and transmitting cases of infectious disease directly to a national database for further analysis.

Local setting The emergency reporting system was set up in 14 counties hit hardest by the earthquake in Sichuan province, China.

Relevant changes One week after delivering mobile phones to earthquake-affected areas, the number of health-care agencies at the township level that had filed reports returned to the normal level. The number of cases reported by using mobile phones accounted for as much as 52.9% of the total cases reported weekly from 19 May to 13 July in those areas.

Lessons learned The mobile phone is a useful communication tool for infectious disease surveillance in areas hit by natural disasters. Nevertheless, plans must be made ahead of time and be included in emergency preparedness programmes.

MobiCollect Project

Posted by shripal on Aug 10, 2010
MobiCollect Project data sheet 2215 Views
Shripal Parekh
Publication Date: 
Jul 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The  usage  of  mobile  phones  is  abundant  in  our  daily  lives  in  various  aspects from making phone calls or sending text messages to checking e-mails or news updates to planning our activities or managing our budget. This project aims at making use of this wide spread usage of mobiles to help in the  data  collection  process.  It  designs  and  develops  a  web  based  system  called “MobiCollect”  that  is  used  for  creating  forms  or  questionnaires  to  be  later accessed  by  the  data  collectors  using  their  mobile  phone  web  browser  in  order fill in the form with the appropriate data. 
Once  the  system  design  and  implementation  is  completed  it  will be  tested  and evaluated to ensure the satisfaction of at least the minimum requirements of the proposed system.


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:

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:

Malaria Kills: Distributing 63 Million Bednets in Nigeria with RapidSMS

Posted by PenelopeChester on May 25, 2010

The human and economic cost of malaria in Nigeria is staggering. There are currently 110 million clinically diagnosed cases in a population of 151 million.  Malaria kills 250,000 children under five years old in Nigeria every year, and is the cause of 11% of maternal deaths. 60% of out-patient visits and 30% of hospitalizations in the country are malaria-related.

In addition to the enormous toll malaria takes on public health, it is also expensive. 132 billion Naira (USD $870 million) is lost every year in the form of malaria prevention and treatment costs and from the loss of overall economic productivity.

 And yet in spite of the risk malaria poses to the Nigerian people, health surveys from 2006 to 2008 indicated that only 8% of households in the country owned at least one insecticide-treated net (So-called ITNs).

Malaria Kills: Distributing 63 Million Bednets in Nigeria with RapidSMS data sheet 10337 Views
Countries: Nigeria

Mobile Data for Early Warning

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 11, 2010

As we are completing an inventory of mobile date collection projects around the world that are focused on vulnerable populations and early warning, we've come across a few efforts that are worth highlighting. One is the SMS and PDA-based surveying of the World Food Programme (WFP).  WFP's food security monitoring systems are set up in many countries.  While some countries are still submitting paper records, there is a push to incorporate PDAs or SMS data transmission for faster and more reliable monitoring of food security.

The data collected includes both food security baseline data and food insecurity indicators. The bulk of WFP's data collected focuses on nutritional indicators, market prices, import, cross border trades, socioeconomic indicators, and health indicators. The UN agency is trialing both FrontlineSMS and RapidSMS, two mobile data collection software tools, in its current projects, as well as PDAs but is likely going to standardize its operations using one of the two with some custom gateway software.

In the process of collecting data, WFP always collaborates with governments and other UN partners. WFP staff are involved with the supervision, training and coordination but but the people who conduct interviews and collect the data are usually government staff, university students, or NGO workers As one WFP staffer noted, "We have huge armies of data collectors."

The scope of the work is accordingly large. Some of the efforts cover an entire country. In Senegal, for example, WFP has 250 numerators covering the country – 22 teams of 11 people each who are collecting data for six weeks, visiting 2,000 villages.

The video below features George Muammar of the WFP Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Unit. He describes rapid data collection in an Emergency Food Security Assessment in Goma, N. Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. 

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:

Organization Type: 

New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 14, 2009
New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks data sheet 3031 Views
Diane Coyle, Patrick Meier
Publication Date: 
Dec 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Natural disasters and violent conflicts have always been part of human existence. But the number of humanitarian crises has been rising in recent years. Moreover, disasters strike most frequently, and with the most devastating impact, in the least developed countries. These countries also have the weakest communications infrastructures, which poses a particular challenge to governments, aid agencies, and the affected population at every stage of a crisis, from the run- up to a disaster through to long-term reconstruction.

There have been dramatic advances in communications technology: in the number of new technologies, the mobility and range of functions available, and the spread of these technologies. Growth has been particularly strong in the penetration of mobile phones and more recently the uptake of social networking websites including Facebook and Twitter. One important change is a shift from one-to-many forms of communication, such as television and radio, to many-to-many forms of communication, such as social networking and crowdsourcing websites, that is changing the way in which information is delivered and exchanged.

Communications advances present an opportunity for humanitarian organizations to harness modern technology to communicate more effectively with communities affected by disasters and to allow members of those communities to communicate with each other and with the outside world. People in affected communities can recover faster if they can access and use information.

A look at the use of communications technology during disasters in recent years shows that while it has played a positive role, its full potential has not yet been realized. Moreover, governments, humanitarian agencies, and local communities face challenges and risks associated with modern technological innovation.

These include 1. Information flows must be two-way to be effective—from the external world to the affected community, but also from those affected to the agencies seeking to help them in useful ways. 2. Information will not be used unless it is trusted. The utility of any technologies will depend on the social context. People are a vital part of the communication system. 3. Information will be helpful only if it is accurate. There are risks in unregulated information flows, especially when these are spread rapidly online, and these risks need to be managed. Authentication is a key challenge. This tension between the potential benefit to humanitarian efforts from harnessing these technologies and the risks that they pose is a key theme of this report.

The report examines how authorities and humanitarian and aid organizations can best balance the opportunities and challenges of exploiting different technologies at the key stages on the timeline of crisis—early warning and preparedness, immediate humanitarian relief, and reconstruction and long-term development.

Mobile Cell Broadcasting for Commercial Use and Public Warning in the Maldives

Posted by natu on Oct 01, 2009
Mobile Cell Broadcasting for Commercial Use and Public Warning in the Maldives data sheet 3542 Views
Natasha Udu-gama
Publication Date: 
May 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper


The Maldives is prone to a number of hazards including tsunamis, earthquakes, flash floods, tidal waves, thunderstorms, tornadoes and waterspouts, strong winds, and drought. The December 2004 tsunami affected many of its islands and wrought considerable devastation to its infrastructure, particularly telecom. Not only did it destroy shelters, but it affected five major nodes, disrupted service to 13 atolls (163 islands), destroyed power systems and batteries, and damaged radio equipment.


Maldives, a country of 1,192 islands and 290,000 citizens, is highly dependent on its natural resources. Along with tourism, which provides more than 30 percent of the country’s income, fisheries and agriculture are essential to livelihoods on the country’s 199 inhabited islands.2 Can early warning help save lives? The need for early warning has become greater since the tsunami and the growing threat of the atoll nation receding under a rapidly increasing sea level.3 These claims are further reinforced by a study conducted by RMSI for UNDP Maldives that “It is estimated that Male will be inundated by 15 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2100 due to climate change and consequent sea level rise”.


Therefore, early warning is essential in timely notification of alerts so that the general populace may be able to take the necessary precautions. In the case of the Maldives, if an early warning is introduced, it must be able to reach all of the outlying islands including tourists on resorts. With mobile phones quite ubiquitous, it may be an ideal time to introduce an emerging technology – cell broadcasting – for public early warning.


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 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.

Peace Corps

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 01, 2009

The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship. Since that time, more than 195,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.

Organization Type: 
Washington, D.C.

Mobile Services and ICT4D: To the Network Economy - Bridging the Digital Divide, The Ethiopian Case

Posted by naodjd on Aug 29, 2009
Mobile Services and ICT4D: To the Network Economy - Bridging the Digital Divide, The Ethiopian Case data sheet 4397 Views
Naod Duga
Publication Date: 
Aug 2009
Publication Type: 
Journal article

This paper presents a development paradigm for Ethiopia, based on appropriate services and innovative use of mobile communications technologies via applications tailored for sectors like business, finance, healthcare, governance, education and infotainment.

The experience of other developing countries like India and Kenya is cited so as to adapt those to the Ethiopian context. Notable application areas in the aforementioned sectors have been outlined. The ETC ‘next generation network’ is taken into consideration, with an emphasis on mobile service offering by the Telco itself and/or third party service providers. In addition, enabling technologies like mobile internet, location-based systems, open interfaces to large telecom networks, specifically service-oriented architecture (SOA), Parlay/JAIN and the like are discussed.

The paper points out possible endeavors by such stakeholders like: telecom agencies and network operators; businesses, government and NGOs; entrepreneurs and innovators; technology companies and professionals; as well as researchers and academic institutions. ICT4D through mobile services and their role in bridging the digital divide by building a virtual ‘network economy’ is discussed.

ICT for Disaster Management

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 08, 2009
ICT for Disaster Management data sheet 2807 Views
Wattegama, Chanuka
Publication Date: 
Jan 2007
Publication Type: 

Since the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC)
together with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have taken initiatives to study the
current situation of emergency communications in the Asia-Pacific countries and to give
recommendation on national emergency telecommunication and national early warning system
setups.Assessments were conducted in Bangladesh,Maldives and Sri Lanka on these emergency
communication systems. To enhance early warning systems, ADPC, under the Indian Ocean
Early-Warning System programme, also introduced the Tsunami Alert Rapid Notification System
Programme with emphasis on robust ICT systems to disseminate information and warnings from
the national to the community level.

In line with this, the following is an e-Primer brought to you by the United Nations
Development Programme’s Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP) and
the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for
Development (APCICT).I am confident that this e-Primer will play an effective role in enhancing
and propagating awareness of various ICT tools and will serve as a guide to policy makers,
disaster management practitioners and media personnel on how best to use ICT tools to
successfully counter the threat of disaster.

An Evaluation of RapidSMS for Child Nutrition Surveillance in Malawi

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jun 20, 2009

Reported by Leigh Jaschke and Melissa Loudon.

This spring, UNICEF Malawi and the UNICEF Innovations Team deployed RapidSMS to monitor child growth and nutrition.  We wrote about it previously here. 

Now there is a detailed report (pdf), evaluating the effort (pdf). The report, released on June 16th, was issued by Columbia University's School of Public Policy and Affairs (SIPA), UNICEF Malawi, UNICEF's Innovations team, and Mobile Development Solutions (MDS).

The report details the findings of the deployment, and outlines recommendations for the future use of SMS in Malawi. Raymond Short of Mobile Development Solutions says that,

“while there have been innumerable ICT development applications introduced recently, there have not been many independent studies of their efficiency”.

Using Twitter in Emergencies

Posted by CorinneRamey on Feb 21, 2008

Twitter might tell you what the friend of a friend ate for breakfast or when your cousin is doing his laundry. But, charges Nate Ritter, Twitter is way more than a social networking tool used to communicate the mundane details of everyday life. The mobile phone service has potential -- and in fact, has been used in the past -- for emergency communication and response.