Smartphones for Development

Posted by MelissaLoudon on May 27, 2009

At the turn of millennium, tech journalists (clawing their way back from the Y2k=K non-disaster) found smartphones. Futuristic interfaces, newly-discovered mobility and the work-anywhere promise of the Blackberry kicked off the trend, later boosted by the emergence of high-speed mobile Internet and a new crop of Internet-enabled devices. Market figures are for smartphones are certainly impressive, with Gartner recording device sales of 139.4 million in 2008, up 13.9% from 2007.

That same year, the meteoric rise of the iPhone gave us the ability to purchase third-party smartphone applications through the App Store which became a major selling point for the hardware. In the first quarter of 2009, smartphone sales represented 13.5% of mobile phone sales worldwide. Sales show no sign of slowing, and neither does the blistering pace of innovation in hardware, interfaces and 'ecosystems' like the App Store.

The Open Data Kit - Another Mobile Data Collection App (UPDATE)

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Apr 29, 2009

UPDATE: In an email conversation with Yaw, he pointed out a few additional noteworthy things about the Open Data Kit.  

Here is how our client is different:

As researchers we want to push the boundaries of what organizations
can do today to collect their rich data. We want users to own, visualize and share this data without the difficulties of setting up and maintaining servers. We want the tools to be easy to deploy, easy to use, open source and freely available. It is only now that technology (hardware, software and infrastructure) which matches our above ideals have become available.

ODK is more than open source, it is open standards, easy to work with and available today. We use xforms standard for input and output. Organizations can start with low end java phones and run Javarosa. When they are ready to collect data on a more powerful platform, they can move up to the ODK Collect on android phones and all their forms will still work. Results can be sent to any compatible xforms server (in fact, RapidsSMS support is coming soon).

For developers, the code base is easy to use. For example, if you wanted to add barcode reading or submission to Openmrs servers over wifi, it will take very few lines of code. We already have local African developers working on similar functionality.

We've piloted the application and are scaling rapidly. We started with
twenty devices in Uganda which were used to collect over 1000 geotagged forms with images. Our upcoming deployment will be a couple of hundred devices collecting millions of forms.

ODK also has a ton of features and we adding more each day. Touchscreen UI with swipe navigation and progress bar, xforms compatible gps and photo support, question grouping, repeats and constraints, answer defaults and constraints, logic and branching in forms, and much more is coming. We put the roadmap at

We think we've pushed the state of data collection a bit forward. Certainly, ODK Collect is not for every organization who wants to do data collection, but for our partners who are using it now, it is providing a lot of value.

Open Data Kit (ODK) is a suite of tools aimed at resource-poor organizations to collect, transform and report their data. Developed by Yaw Anokwa and Carl Hartung from the University of Washington, ODK Collect enables mobile data collection on the Android platform.  ODK is one of a growing number of mobile data caollection apps, many of which are reviewed here and here on MobileActive.  This video gives an overview of the Open Data Kit.  You can download the source code here

Check out RapidSMS on Android as well, and Nokia Data Gathering here

Rapid Android: Turning an Android Phone into a Data Collection and Supply Management Server

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 21, 2009

In 2006 alone, aid organizations such as the Measles Initiative and UNICEF distributed almost 20 million bed nets to prevent Malaria submission in ten African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria. The distribution and supply management of bed nets, and the follow-up surveys of recipients of bed nets --insecticide-treated nets that can reduce malaria transmission of as much as 90% in areas with high coverage rates--is a daunting logistical challenge.

Aid organizations everywhere are discovering that mobile phones are an essential part in managing supplies and distribution of nets, food, and other aid.  Rapid Android is a new tool now being tested in Nigeria by UNICEF for the distribution of bed nets.  Rapid Android is a supply chain management and data collection tool built on Android, the open source operating system developed by The Open Handset Alliance and Google. 

Do Something NOW! Just-In-Time Volunteering with Your Mobile

Posted by CorinneRamey on Apr 08, 2008

Ben Rigby imagines people sitting in airports during a layover, using their mobile phones to do something for a cause. Using an application called Volunteer Now!, potential volunteers could instantly be connected with short-term "mini" volunteer opportunities near their present location. "We could utilize people's spare time to do good in the world," he said. "There's no method right now for that kind of thing, but there should be."

The application doesn't exist yet -- it's still in the planning stages -- but Rigby told MobileActive that the Google Android Developer Challenge deadline has been a motivating factor for the project and that he plans to submit a draft of the application for the competition's April 14th deadline. Volunteer Now!

Deadline Extension for Mobile App Developer Challenge for Android

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 30, 2008

We have written previously about the Android Developer Challenge by Google that has a strong emphasis on humanitarian applaications. Because (we think) the process and SDK was rather buggy, Google has decided to move the submission deadline for the first Android Developers Challenge to 14 April 2008.

From the Android blog:

The New "Seeing-Eye" Dog: Mobile Phone Navigation for Blind People

Posted by CorinneRamey on Nov 15, 2007

A new software project called Loadstone-GPS provides navigational assistance to blind and visually impaired individuals. The software, which is open source and can be downloaded for free, uses screen readers such as Mobile Speak and Talks and can be operated on a Nokia phone with the S60 smartphone platform.

MobileActive Geeks: Google Awards for "Mobile For Good" Android Applications

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 12, 2007

MobileActives, start coding! We called for an "Android for Good" last week and here it is. Google and the Open Handset Alliance's open platform released its software developer kit (SDK) today and issues a mobile application challenge that includes a call for applications for humanitarian benefit and economic development. The challenge will issue a total of $10 million USD, initially in a first phase that will award $25,000 each to 50 applications received by March 3rd, 2008. The second part of the challenge, launched after the first handsets built on the Android platform become available in the second half of 2008, will then award ten $275,000 and ten $100,000 prizes for the most promising apps that warrant further development.

According to the FAQ, the Alliance is "looking to reward innovative, useful apps that make use of Android's capabilities to deliver a better mobile experience." These include applications in these areas:

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