Rural issues

Designing an Architecture for Delivering Mobile Information Services to the Rural Developing World

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 26, 2011
Designing an Architecture for Delivering Mobile Information Services to the Rural Developing World data sheet 2042 Views
Parikh, Tapan S.
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Populations in the rural developing world have just as many, if not more, information needs as people living in more affluent areas. But their constraints — intermittent power, intermittent connectivity, limited education, literacy and capital — make first-world approaches to accessing information systems inapplicable. Mobile phones are on the cusp of spurring an information revolution in such regions. Long battery life, wireless connectivity, solid-state memory, low price and immediate utility make this device better suited to rural conditions than a PC. However, current software on mobile phones makes them hard to use and to program.

In this dissertation, I present the design, implementation and evaluation of CAM — a mobile application framework designed to address the information needs of the rural developing world. Beginning with a two-month participatory design study, including users with varying levels of education, I propose some general guidelines for user interface and system design in this context. Motivated by these guidelines, I present CAM. CAM applications are accessed by capturing barcodes on paper forms using the mobile phone camera, or entering numeric strings with the keypad. Supporting one-step navigation, direct linkage to paper practices and offline multi-media interaction, CAM is uniquely adapted to rural device, user and infrastructure constraints. To demonstrate the usability of this framework, I implement and evaluate several distinct CAM-based applications (one of which has already been commercially deployed). I also provide preliminary motivation for fourteen other applications that could be implemented with the same, or similar, approach.

Mobiles for Development: How Mobile Technologies Can Enhance Plan and Partners Work in Africa

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 14, 2009
Mobiles for Development: How Mobile Technologies Can Enhance Plan and Partners Work in Africa data sheet 5326 Views
Beardon, Hannah
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 

The ubiquity of the mobile phone in Africa, the accessibility, the usability and crucially, the
bottom-up nature of its growth, has challenged the traditional ICT for development analysis.
People with very little income are prioritising mobile phones and airtime, clearly convinced of
the value to their lives and livelihoods. People who are traditionally the targets of development
aid are mobilising themselves not only to access mobile phones but innovate new functions
and applications which meet their particular needs.1
But beyond the excitement about the potential for mobile phones some voices of caution are
emerging, highlighting gender differences in access and control, for example, or the tendency
for social and economic hierarchies to be reinforced. There is also recognition that the value of
projects using mobile phones, as with any other ICT, can only be as strong as the quality and
appropriateness of the content shared.
There are several examples of pilots and services using mobiles for development or social
change in Africa, though the group of champions is still fairly small. However, a review of
the literature shows some unique and powerful factors which point to mobiles as a key tool
in enhancing the communication capacity and information access of poor and marginalised
communities across Africa. Most of the projects and pilots that do exist grew out of creative
and innovative processes of matching opportunities to needs, so it seems that an understanding
of what mobiles can do, and a review of the types of support and advice out there for people
wanting to use them, could really enhance planning of all types of development activities and
Given this situation, Plan Finland commissioned this research into the potential value of mobile
technologies to the type of child-centred community development work to which they are
committed. While the nature, scope and scale of any work involving mobile technologies
will depend entirely on the context, stakeholders and development objectives, this guide
• an overview of relevant and innovative examples of how mobile telephones have
been successfully integrated into development projects and processes; and
• a three stage process to help Plan staff and other development practitioners identify
the key social, economic and technical factors and issues they need to consider when
planning to use mobile technologies.
The information provided and analysed here is derived from a literature review and interviews
with people in the field. A list references is provided at the end of this guide. It is hoped that
this blend of examples, learnings and reflections will support Plan’s staff and partners to make
well-informed decisions about integrating mobile technologies into their work.