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Freedom Fone Answers Questions on Zimbabwe Constitution

Tue, 2010-05-04 18:42

Two weeks ago the latest version of Freedom Fone, affectionately known to his handlers as "Fred," was set loose.

Inspired by the cockney rhyming slang "dog and bone" (meaning phone), the Freedom Fone dog logo and quirky character of Fred was born a few years ago. Fred is still young, but after a few years of software development (and dog training!), and thanks to Knight News Challenge funds, he's now ready to go out into the world on his own.

This is a report on his recent adventures since the launch of Freedom Fone version 1.5. To learn more about how it works, try our online demo. But in a nutshell, Freedom Fone is an information and communication tool, which marries the mobile phone with Interactive Voice Response (IVR), for the benefit of citizens. It provides information activists, service organizations and NGOs with widely usable telephony applications, so they can deliver vital information to communities who need it most. Freedom Fone makes it easy to build voice menus, run SMS polls, receive SMS messages and manage voice messages.

Testing Out Fred

Various individuals scattered across the globe have been downloading, installing and testing Fred's performance and his repertoire of tricks to see whether he's a useful addition to their existing communication strategies. For example, one NGO has been exploring the possibility of using Freedom Fone to support original music by indigenous musicians from the Northern Territory of Australia. Another is using it to communicate with multicultural communities involved in community arts. A British organization is considering using Fred to provide information and support for school kids and parents from disadvantaged communities.

Meanwhile, an individual in the States has been investigating whether Freedom Fone can be used for social networking with his friends. The prospect of using Freedom Fone as a "voicebook" platform to offer up some voxpop audio ear candy is a cool one!

We hope that all users of our free open source software have a good experience. If you give Fred a try, we ask that you please let us know how well he fetches the stick that you throw him!

Although Fred has new admirers, he also remains loyal to his long-standing friends. In particular, he's formed a very close bond with the Farm Radio International (FRI) crew, who have been consistently good to him.

FRI has been using Freedom Fone for over a year at Radio Maria in Tanzania and for other projects in Ghana. In Tanzania they are running the Kuku Hotline, which provides rural farmers with information about chicken production. The above image of DJ Lilian Manyuka shows her interviewing a rural extension officer about his role in providing local farmers with information.

Fred Helps with Zimbabwe's Constitution

Another loyal companion of Fred is the Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe. Not only did Kubatana have a hand in breeding and raising Fred, they've also been there to take Fred for lots of walks around the block. So far they are very happy with the way version 1.5 behaves, barks, wags and runs.

Zimbabwe is currently drafting a new constitution, and Kubatana is using Freedom Fone to offer a constitutional question-and-answer service in English, Shona and Ndebele. To do this, it has been collaborating with Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric T. Matinenga (pictured above).

Kubatana's mobile lines have being receiving questions from the public about the constitution; Matinenga's responses will be recorded and the audio clips will be shared using Freedom Fone. In this use case, Fred is proving to be a powerful tool for citizens to question, debate and understand the constitution.

Kubatana also recently used Freedom Fone for lighter fare during the Harare International Festival of the Arts, held between April 27 and May 2, 2010. The Fred-powered hotline featured renowned HIFA master of ceremonies, Gavin Peters, giving the public the inside scoop on what was hot and happening during the festival's week-long activities.

Those are the updates for now, but stay tuned for more on Fred's new bag of tricks!

Amy Saunderson-Meyer

UNLIMITXT: Photographer Explores Global Texting Behaviors

Tue, 2010-05-04 07:48

Photographer Dennis Rito has put together a conceptual series called UNLIMITXT. In it, he explores mediated interpersonal communication through text messaging. [via MobileBehavior]

In his own words:

Mobile phones are impacting societies around the world. In the Philippines, text messaging is considered to be the most exploited service due to its affordability, convenience and immediacy. According to industry estimates, 2 billion text messages were sent everyday from the 60 percent of the population of 90 million who uses mobile phones. This has led to the popular notion of the Philippines as the “texting capital of the world”.

I am interested on how mobile technology affects society and the individual. Face-to-face conversation has now been replaced by virtual means thus texting has made it possible to create new unsurveilled and unconventional relationships. Texting also allows its users to create a seemingly private world capable of expressing real and virtual emotions.

Through my photographs I am attempting to explore the texter’s virtual world and invite the viewers to reflect upon what these expressions reveal about their elationship with the intended recipient.


Village Phone Operators are Trained to be KerjaLokal Agents

Mon, 2010-05-03 18:58

A Village Phone operator signs up to be an agent for KerjaLokal

On April 28, AppLab organized a training of 20 VPOs in Tangerang, Western suburb of Jakarta, on becoming Agents for KerjaLokal, a blue collar job search service that can be accessed via the mobile phone.  The 20 new Agents will participate in our initial pilot testing of the KerjaLokal micro-site and the supporting algorithm to match job seekers with jobs they desire.

The Village Phne Operators pose for a group photo

We distributed 20 Huawei 6100 QUERTY phones that have a WAP browser.  During the pilot, Agents will sign-up job seekers using the KerjaLokal micro-site.  Accompanying the phones, we distributed a User Manual for the micro-site, that explained how to access the micro-site and perform the basic functions of searching for jobs and registering job seekers to the service.  For many of the new KerjaLokal Agents, they have never experienced accessing the internet on a mobile phone, and for that matter, some of them have never had experience accessing the internet.

For that reason, it was all the more impressive to see these new Agents, many of them housewives and micro entrepreneurs with no more than a middle school education, immediately turn on the phone and open the User Manual and begin exploring how to use the micro-site.  It was great to see that level of interest and initiative to start this service.

We then had two hours of training, that included coaching them on registering themselves as an Agents.  The participants were noticeably excited when they received their SMS confirmation that they are registered to the service.  We then followed that with a small-group role-play exercise where the participants were to practice registering AppLab staff, who were playing the role of a job seeker, via the micro-site.  We could not complete the exercise because the Bakrie Telkom network in that location did not have the capacity for 20 mobile App clients trying to access the network at one time in one location.  We promptly improvised, and used an interactive PowerPoint presentation of the user interface to instruct the KerjaLokal Agents on how to register job seekers.

Program Manager Ross Jaxx leads the training

We distributed marketing posters to the new agents, and they began to discuss immediately where they should locate the poster to gain the most interest of potential job seekers.  It seems to be working.  Within the first 5 days, 13 of the 20 new agents had already registered a total of 44 job seekers on the KerjaLokal system.

Posted by:  Ross Jaax, AppLab Indonesia Program Manager

Tenhunen (2008) on mobiles and social change in rural India

Wed, 2010-04-28 09:05

By John Postill

Tenhunen, S. 2008 ‘Mobile technology in the village: ICTs, culture, and social logistics in India’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 14, 515-534

* Anthropological fieldwork in West Bengal village in 1999-2000. Further visits in 2003, 2005, 2007-8, p. 518

* Eschews narrow focus of most technology appropriation studies to date on usage; technology and society are mutually constitutive, p. 529

* Phone usage cannot be separated from village sociality, ‘most calls are public happenings’, messages often being passed on in public or via intermediaries, p. 521; local identity has always been part of networks that extend well beyond the village, p. 522, not least through village exogamy, p. 523

* Most calls happen within kin groups, often asking for help, but mobiles allow people to extend their connections as well, p. 524

* Like researchers in other parts of the world, Tenhunen found that mobiles were improving the livelihoods of micro-entrepreneurs and some farmers, etc., p. 528

* They also further the ongoing decline of traditional village patronage; newly prosperous villagers can now use mobiles to bypass village elders [see same argument made for TV in 1990s rural Kerala by Johnson 2001]

* Mobiles allow women and young people some leeway in conducting their affair(e)s away from the relentless village surveillance

* Mobiles entangled with other processes of social change under way in West Bengal: land reform, new agricultural methods leading to poverty reduction (73% poor in 1973-4 to 32% in 1999-2000), education, women’s movement, spread of radio and TV, p. 529

* Takes issue with practice theorists (Giddens, Bourdieu, Ortner, Sahlins) for playing down critical human agency, esp. the capacity people have to consciously change the conditions of their existence, in this case partly through the aid of mobile phones: ‘actors can consciously strive for change, or show disregard for a cultural code of conduct – such as villagers who obtain help from outside the village instead of from the village leaders, or women who use the phones to broaden their culturally constructed space’, p. 531.

* Also distances herself from ICT domestication tradition and instead focusses on ‘local’ cultural settings, p. 517

* Inspired by anthropological research on mobiles amongst poor Jamaicans by Horst and Miller (2006) but finds that they overemphasize how mobiles contribute to cultural reproduction at the expense of investigating their role in cultural change.

* Along with radio, TV, and DVDs, mobiles ‘offer culturally approved social alternatives and the widening of culturally constructed spheres, especially those of women’, p. 530

* Duality of mobiles: on one hand have improved local people’s ‘social logistics’ (markets, connections, efficiency), on the other they have reproduced existing local culture, strenghtening kinship ties and ‘village solidarity’, p. 530

Nokia launches first open source Symbian phone

Wed, 2010-04-28 07:26
The first handset to use the Symbian operating system since it became open source has been announced by Nokia.

The N8 phone has a 12 megapixel camera and allows people to record and edit High Definition video clips, as well as watch web TV services.

Full article in the BBC.


Unicef launches free SMS number for Nepalese youths

Wed, 2010-04-28 06:41
Unicef Tuesday launched a free SMS number for youths in Nepal so they could text in their views and comments on issues that concern them to the global organisation. Sify reports.

The number is being launched in partnership with the popular radio show 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' (SSMK), a youth oriented radio programme run by Equal Access Nepal.

Every week, SSMK will initiate a topic of debate on air and invite opinions. Listeners can then text in their views and comments on the given topic by sending an SMS, free of cost, to the 'Youth Corner' section of the Unicef Nepal website.


Village voice

Sun, 2010-04-25 23:31
Indian tribals gather news via mobile phone(author unknown)00636598135514419608

Red Sea parts, Development data set free

Fri, 2010-04-23 04:01

This week, the World Bank unleashed data.worldbank.org, a website that provides free access to 2,000 indicators about development.

For years, only those who paid high subscription fees could access much of this data. One of us authors had been meaning for all those years to complain about this — how could a public organization like the Bank charge high fees despite the obvious case for a free public good of data on development?! I never got around to making this criticism, and now it suddenly happened without any obvious cause.  (Maybe if I had procrastinated on another bit of criticism, the World Bank would now be refusing to finance tyrannical rulers.)

OK,  just teasing, congrats to the World Bankers for making their data wide open to any citizen, journalist, student, researcher, or policymaker with a computer and an internet connection.

The site includes the newly-released 2010 World Development Indicators (WDI), along with other widely-used Bank datasets: the Africa Development Indicators (ADI), the Global Economic Monitor (GEM), Global Development Finance (GDF) and indicators from the Doing Business report. The data covers 209 countries and goes back in some cases as far as 50 years.

data.worldbank.org's Country Page on Malawi

Not only that, the Bank is taking some much-needed steps to make the data not just free and available but also user-friendly. For a start, the new visual interface for data exploration is clearly a big improvement over the old Bank statistics sites. Consensus from data and information architecture geeks around the web so far is that the site, created by Development Seed, is both good-looking and intelligently designed.

Getting ever closer to techno-data-utopia, the Bank will host an “Apps for Development” contest later in the year, and you can already download the new World Bank Datafinder app for the iPhone. Aid Watch’s crack beta testers swung into action, and within seconds, we had a chart of trends in Rwandan air freight glowing on our iPhones. (Unfortunately, the chart had no data on Rwandan air freight since 1993. Oh and we could only get indicators on the iPhone that start with A, B, or C.  In fact, this app is pretty clunky- stick with the OECD Factbook app for the moment.)

A partnership with Google has made 39 indicators searchable on the experimental and extremely easy to use Google Public Data Explorer.

In the excitement over this very welcome release, we Aid Watchers can’t forget to keep asking the tough questions about where the data comes from, how it is collected, and where more and better data is urgently needed.

For example, regarding the recent controversy on maternal mortality statistics from 1980 to the present on this and other blogs,  we could quickly check for what years the World Bank was willing to stand by the data.  They limited themselves to providing  “modeled estimate” (i.e. made-up) data for 2005.  Apparently,  even the low standards of the Bank on this variable do not allow them to enter data for any other year.

And now, with the new openness, the more eyes on the data, the better.

Optimism for Sierra Leone Mobile Market Blooms but Difficulties Remain

Thu, 2010-04-22 14:44

By Bai-Bai Sesay

22 April 2010

(Freetown, Sierra Leone)--Sierra Leone’s first mobile network was established in 1994 by U.K.-based Mobitel Sierra Leone Limited, which offered a radio-based telephony network and a mobile paging system throughout the country. But only recently did mobile phone use truly take off-and to such an extent that the days of landlines in Sierra Leone now appear to be waning.

One impetus for recent growth in mobile phone use was the return of thousands of refugees to the country following the long civil war. While abroad, many had been exposed to more advanced mobile handsets and networks; back in Sierra Leone, they were eager to have similar technologies at their disposal.

Emmanuel Kajue, a telephone center operator in the southern city of Bo, said mobile phones are supporting development and business activities. “Mobile phones have created job opportunities for us. Today numerous people have established businesses engaged in selling phones and accessories, and a thriving business now operates based on these modern appliances,” Kajue said.

While cell phones are clearly useful, they have been regarded by some as expensive tools that are inaccessible to the poor and marginalized (the average Sierra Leonean earns less than a dollar a day). But technology and development experts argue that market competition, among other factors, will help bring down costs. Indeed, service providers have begun to offer cheaper handsets tailored to financially constrained customers.

Five mobile phone companies currently operate in the country: Zain, Tigo, Sierratel, Africell and Comium (note that Africell recently acquired Tigo). All save Sierratel offer GSM services such as fixed wireless telephone service, internet, landlines and mobile phone networks. Prepaid cards can be purchased throughout Freetown and in some provincial towns, while the companies offer post-paid contract services to some reliable customers across the country. Two additional mobile licenses were issued in 2008 to Cellcom and Libya’s GreenN, both of which are expected to launch services shortly. According to officials at the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), two other unidentified companies have acquired mobile service provider licenses since 2004, though neither has started operations.

Minister of Information and Communications Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said the government is encouraging foreign investors in communications technologies in order to improve services and lower costs. He added that services are likely to improve dramatically once an international fiber-optic submarine cable reaches the country by 2012, reducing the cost of internet services and increasing services speed throughout the country.

Meanwhile, increasing competition in the mobile market is making calls cheaper for Sierra Leoneans. Notably, the cost of one Sim Pack has fallen steeply. When mobile communications were first introduced in Sierra Leone, a Sim Pack fetched about Le56, 000, compared to only about Le5, 000 (just over US$1) today.

However, not all is rosy in this scenario. Hon. Nuru Deen Sankoh, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Communications, said there is official concern about the rapid rise in the cost of some tariffs. He called on the national telecommunications regulator (NATCOM) to monitor the activities of the GSM operators more closely.

This has already begun to some extent. In January 2010, NATCOM Communications Director Abdul Kuyateh said that Africell and Zain were fined US$50,000 each as a penalty for simultaneously increasing their call tariffs just as the Goods and Services Tax (GST came into effect in the country. The GST is a 15 percent tax levied on companies which have turnover above two hundred million Leones (equivalent to US$50,000) annually. All companies in the country add this tax on goods and services. But commercial managers of the two mobile networks said they have taken a joint civil action in the High Court of Sierra Leone against NATCOM to challenge the fines.

The NATCOM communications director also mentioned the problem of illegal communications networks, citing the recent arrest of individuals involved in illegal operation of GSM communications using VSAT technology. They are presently making court appearances and the matter has not been concluded yet as of press time “This is why we intervene--to ensure everyone is protected from undue exploitation,” Kuyateh noted.

Mobile Money A Hit

Mobile operators have launched mobile money services in the country and they are catching on quickly. Madam Yeabu Kamara, who has a telecenter in the northern town of Makeni, said: “I am now transacting my business so easily with the introduction of the mobile money service in the country.”

Meanwhile, the GSM operators are planning to extend their networks in remote areas of the country so that rural dwellers can be part of the information age. But to do so, operators are demanding more cooperation from Sierratel; they want the company to make its satellite available for networks.

“This is why we want Sierratel to allow us to make use of satellite for our network coverage. We know that as a government communication entity, Sierratel controls and issues out gateways to all GSM companies operating in the country. This is why we are appealing to Sierratel to allow us to use our own satellite facilities in order to provide affordable and reliable network services for our numerous customers. Currently, the government gateway is not effective to all GSM operators,” said a spokesman for one of the leading mobile phone companies.

Related: Overview of Mobile Phone Use in Sierra Leone
Also read our complete Communication Profile for Sierra Leone

Photo Courtesy of Ken Banks, kiwanja.net


Haiti Earthquake Relief Attracted Mobile Donations

Wed, 2010-04-21 09:48
More than 28% of all French, German and UK donors pledge financial support for Haiti via mobile according to MMA research.(author unknown)

Haiti Earthquake Relief Attracted Mobile Donations

Wed, 2010-04-21 09:48
More than 28% of all French, German and UK donors pledge financial support for Haiti via mobile according to MMA research.(author unknown)

Build Your Own Cellular Network

Tue, 2010-04-20 04:00

Just about anybody can create an inexpensive cellular base station that routes calls all over the world.

The task of running a cellular network has usually been reserved for major carriers. But now an open-source project called OpenBTS is proving that almost anyone can cheaply run a network with parts from a home-­supply or auto-supply store. Cell-phone users within such a network can place calls to each other and--if the network is connected to the Internet--to people anywhere in the world.

(author unknown)

After Omar's <b>protest</b>, Kashmir <b>SMS</b> curbs withdrawn

Fri, 2010-04-16 23:20
New Delhi/Jammu: The Union Home Ministry on Friday said the order curbing SMS services in Jammu and Kashmir has been withdrawn. "The telecom department has ...

Video - India Using <b>Text Messages</b> to Fight <b>Corruption</b> - WSJ.com

Fri, 2010-04-16 23:19
India's Central Bureau of Investigation is reaching out to the population with a new way to trap crooked officials -- it's using text messages.

Crisis Response and SMS Systems Management for NGOs and Governments

Thu, 2010-04-15 14:27

Guest blog post: Bart Stidham is an enterprise architect committed to bringing positive change to the world via better information systems architecture. He has served as CTO of four companies including one of the largest communications companies in the world, been a senior executive at Accenture, and served as CIO of the largest NGO funded by USAID. He is an independent consultant and can be found in Washington, DC when he is not traveling.

This blog post builds off of and supports Patrick Meier’s previous post on developing an SMS Code of Conduct for Humanitarian Response. Patrick raises many important issues in his post and it is clear that with the success of Ushahidi-Haiti it is likely we will see a vast increase in the use of similar SMS based information management systems in the future. While the deployment of such systems and all communications systems is likely to be orderly and well structured in normal circumstances, it is likely that during crises such order may break down and these systems may negatively impact one another. For this reason I applaud Patrick’s effort to raise this issue but my hope is that the “normal order” imposed by governments and societies will help prevent the potential disruption of communications systems from occurring in disasters, emergencies, and crises.

I believe Patrick’s concerns are best discussed in the larger issue of frequency spectrum management. This is a huge issue and one that needs substantial education within the entire response space. It is a growing problem across each and every communications system not just in crises but also globally as we humans desire to communicate more in more ways and with more devices. There are limits to the amount of information that can be “pushed” through any communications system and those limits increasingly have to do with the laws of physics, not just the design of the systems.

The electromagnetic frequency spectrum (EF) is the basis of all wireless communication. We started our use of it the late 1800s with the first use of radio. Long ago we exhausted the entire spectrum and are now trying to find ways to reuse parts of it more efficiently. However it is critical that we protect this “public commons” on which so many of our communications systems depend.

Every communications system needs a “physical channel” and this varies widely but they all share some common characteristics. One is the problem of “collisions” which are bad because that means that the information is not delivered successfully. As humans using the physical channel of sound and speech we encounter this in our normal conversations whenever we meet in groups. A simple example of a collision is when two or more people are talking loudly over each other with the result being that no one understands what either is saying.

There are multiple ways to deal with collisions and every communications system must manage collisions or the system collapses. One way is to have a token and you are only allowed to talk if you hold the token. This method of managing communications was used brilliantly by various Native American tribes when discussing heated issues such as war – if you are not in possession of the peace pipe (the token) you are not allowed to speak. This forces everyone to listen to what you are saying and to politely take turns speaking. It is passed back and forth and everyone gets a turn. There are several types of network architecture that use this exact method for avoiding collisions.

Another method is collision avoidance by assigning each speaker a window of time to speak in. This is roughly the approach used by GSM for instance. Yet another method is collision detection where you allow for a certain statistical overlap and all parties know that the last “conversation” collided with another and the information was lost. The system then corrects the problem. This is not as efficient but is easy to do and cheap to implement. This is what Ethernet uses.

Finally as systems are deployed and interact with each other in a certain physical space they need to divide up the space. This can be done by frequency or cables or physical area or by time or all of the above.

In our discussion SMS are best likened to frequencies (although this is not an exact analogy). The advantage of them is that no two NGOs can ever end up with the same long code as this is handled by the carriers and their agreements. Internationally no two carriers can ever issue the same phone number or long code globally. If all NGOs stuck with long codes or full phone numbers we could avoid the problem Patrick is rightly concerned with.

NGOs and other organizations can problematically and mistakenly issue the same short code within a geographic area and we should all be concerned about this exactly as Patrick is. This problem can happen because short codes are for humans – not for the system itself. If the carriers are using different underlying cell phone technologies they can both issue the same short code and neither will interfere technically with the other one. Unfortunately it could have disastrous consequences for the socialization of the short codes to the local or larger population if they cross either technical or geographic lines. This is a problem largely unique to SMS and the plethora of technologies,carriers, bands (or frequencies) that can be deployed in a large physical area and the fact that short codes are for human convenience.

Right now there are 14 frequency bands just within the GSM voice system (thankfully quad band phones support all the widely used ones) and another 14 for data (furthermore the data “bands” actually cover a huge range of frequencies). This is why it is possible to have within one region, country or city with two “overlapping” short codes on two or more different carriers – the codes will each work only on the carrier that operates on that actual GSM frequency band. The system doesn’t care but it can be confusing to us humans.

Another thing Patrick has raised as a concern is actually “subject matter frequency” overlap (or collisions) and the confusion that can result to us simpleminded humans.

It makes no difference how many SMS codes are used as long as they are long codes OR if private and on short codes. The only time there is a problem is when two groups set up short codes that become public (meaning they are advertised in some way to the general public) as “the right number for X” where X is the same subject matter area.

In order to speed response many countries do NOT follow the US 911 system which uses a single short number for all emergencies. For instance Austria uses no less than 9 “short code” voice numbers each for a separate emergency type. That’s great if you live there and have them all memorized and know that for extreme sports there is a number just for “alpine rescue” to get your friend off some ledge that he crashed into in his para-glider. It speeds vital response and gets the right team dispatched in the least time. It does however require a massive amount of public education.

In the US the government decided to have a “one number fits all” system. This was in response to the fact that previously we had thousands of local numbers for each fire and police department, hospital and ambulance service. Without a local phone book it wasn’t possible to know who to call in an emergency. We designed the 911 system as a way to solve this problem and looped all three major responders into the one system. This was then deployed on a county by county basis across the US. There is no national 911 system. The system scales by dividing itself into small geographic sections.

SMS systems tend to be larger in size because SMS carriers are geographically larger that the old local phone POP (point of presence) that became the basis of the US 911 system. Another major concern for SMS design is the total carrying capacity of the carrier SMS system itself. SMS is NOT designed to be use for “one to many” messages. That was never part of the design and the system can be knocked out if the overall limits of the system are exceeded. At that point the SMS systems themselves collapse under the load and start failing and can cause a cascade failure of the entire carrier network in a region – this means that SMS can knock out voice. It does appear that such a failure occurred in Haiti to one of the local carriers that implemented an SMS emergency broadcast system in conjunction with an NGO so this is a real problem.

Getting back to Patrick’s identified concern – we should be worried when multiple SMS “subject channels” are socialized via the mass media and it confuses the public. In Haiti that didn’t happen because there was only one due largely to the work and efforts of the 4636 Haiti.Ushahidi community.

I believe in the future that is also unlikely to happen because I hope the mass media outlets will simply refuse to say “use any of the following SMS codes for health and these for x and y and z.” I think they won’t do this haphazardly. Doing so (meaning confusing the public) could endanger their (mass media) operating license from the host country.

Furthermore countries and cities are typically aware of this whole discussion and carefully control the distribution of short codes (but this does vary widely from region to region). The country that issues the carrier the license to operate the infrastructure is the ultimate authority for this and reserves the right to yank someone off the air or kick them out of the country for failure to follow the rules. Frequency spectrum must be managed for the greater public good or the classic “crisis of the commons” will result. This is the concern Patrick has brought to light.
One can not and should not assume that the rules, laws and policies we (individuals) are used to operating under in our home country apply elsewhere. The term “sovereign nation” means exactly that – they set their own laws concerning how things operate – including technology and communications systems. For instance WiFi is NOT WiFi everywhere and a WiFI router sold in Japan is illegal to operate in the US.

Some well meaning but largely uneducated NGOs deployed systems in Haiti that badly broke rules, laws, policies, etc and the Government of Haiti (and the US Government on behalf of the Haitian Government) was very polite to them. They stepped all over local businesses and disrupted them. Had this happened in the US the FCC would have issued huge fines to them – fines that likely would drive them out of business – and for good reason. They are exploiting the “public commons” for their own advantage. Whether they meant to or not is irrelevant just as ignorance of the law is no excuse.

In the past most responders to such emergencies were large NGOs with trained communications teams that knew they must coordinate their use of various communications platforms with each other or everyone would suffer. In this past this was easy and obvious because NGOs, governments and businesses made extensive use of UHF and VHF radios for communications. Because these systems were voice based it was obvious when you had a problem and when someone was on your assigned frequency. Furthermore you frequently had the opportunity to yell at them over that same communications system.

In the era of digital communications systems we no longer have the ability to yell at anyone and in fact both the designed legal and official user and the illegal user may be unaware that they are colliding and causing both systems to fail. This is a huge problem because it means that both parties have no way to know even know they are interfering with each other much less how or where to resolve the problem.

In conclusion, I applaud Patrick’s efforts as he has raised an important issue that all NGOs that respond to emergencies (both in the US and abroad) must to be aware of. Education is critical. Please tell your organization that they must contact and coordinate with the official frequency manager, typically the local government’s communications agency or ministry, prior to deploying any communications equipment. Failing to do so is typically illegal and can have grave consequences in emergencies, crises and disasters.

New Samsung projector phone released

Thu, 2010-04-15 13:59
Samsung has unveiled a cutting edge new mobile phone with an inbuilt projector, called the AMOLED Beam. Although it is currently being released in Korea, it is expected to come over to the UK in the near future. ProjectorPoint.

A review on Aving.net said that the phone moves the “mobile phone experience from personal use to social engagement.” The phone allows users to project images and multimedia entertainment, so that others can share and enjoy the content. This fundamentally changes the way in which mobile phones are usually used. The projectable content includes photographs, games and video.

Professional users can also use the phone to aid presentations wherever they happen to find themselves, as the projector is, of course, truly portable.


The Haiti earthquake was a watershed moment in SMS donations

Thu, 2010-04-15 13:20

A study conducted by Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and its research partner, Lightspeed Research, demonstrate that people are increasingly turning to mobile as a way of quickly donating to a cause.

The new survey shows that text messaging is now the second most common way that U.S. mobile users donate to charities, such as those assisting in Haitian earthquake relief efforts.

France emerged as the market most likely to use mobile for charitable donations with 30% of all donors choosing to text their financial support and making this the most popular way of contributing.

Germany was a close second, with 26% of all donors using text - a strong choice behind PC-based donation.

Full press release. Via Cellular News.

Image from Wireless and Mobile News.


More mobiles than toilets. Conclusion?

Thu, 2010-04-15 13:15

In an attempt to get attention in a hard market, the UN University has contrasted mobile penetration in India with toilet penetration in India. If telephones had been left to government, unlikely this contrast could have been drawn. So the conclusion? Get multiple parties to participate in building toilets.

Far more people in India have access to a mobile phone than to a toilet, according to a UN study on how to improve sanitation levels globally.

India’s mobile subscribers totalled 563.73 million at the last count, enough to serve nearly half of the country’s 1.2 billion population. But just 366 million people — around a third of the population — had access to proper sanitation in 2008, said the study published by the United Nations University, a UN think-tank.

“It is a tragic irony to think in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones,” so many people “cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet,” said UN University director Zafar Adeel.

Full story.

Pulitzer-winning cartoonist's iPhone app rejected because it 'ridicules public figures'

Thu, 2010-04-15 12:15
Nieman Journalism Lab
Mark Fiore has a hunch Apple will eventually change its mind about his app, as it has with other cartoon apps. "They seem so much more innovative and smarter than that," the SFGate.com cartoonist tells Laura McGann.

Jim Romenesko

Remitting by mobile comes to Bangladesh

Wed, 2010-04-14 03:05

Sending money home has become easier and faster as two banks and a mobile operator yesterday launched a cellphone-based remittance transfer system. The joint move by Eastern Bank, Dhaka Bank and mobile operator Banglalink will allow the remittance receivers to cash in a day instead of three days to one month through different existing channels.

 The new service styled ‘Mobile Wallet’, which will also serve the unbanked population at no cost, got a shape after Bangladesh Bank (The central bank) gave a go-ahead to the move a few months ago. Presently more than 90 percent of the population in Bangladesh does not have access to regular banking facilities. Read more.