Voice Calls

The Mobile Minute: Mobile Banking in Uganda, QR Codes in the US Elections, and GSMA Research on Mobile Taxes

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 03, 2011

Today's Mobile Minute brings you coverage on the future of QR codes in the upcoming U.S. elections, a GSMA study on the effects of cutting mobile taxes in Africa, a look at how Americans prefer to use their mobile phones, the growth of mobile money transfers in Uganda and the world, and a roundup of whom to follow on Twitter for ICT4D and M4D news.

  • Mashable investigates how QR codes could be used in the upcoming 2012 U.S. elections. Ideas include organizing field operations, soliciting donations, encouraging celebrity endorsements, cross-promoting the election through merchandise sales and social media, and using QR codes to reach out to new voting blocks during get out the vote drives.
  • The GSMA recently released their preliminary findings from research on mobile phone taxation in Africa. The research is still ongoing, and will have a global focus when the final results are released, but the information from Africa shows how lower taxes on handsets can lead to an increase in mobile ownership – in Kenya, after the value added tax on handsets was cut by 16%, sales increased by 200%.
  • CNN reports that the popularity of SMSs as the primary means of mobile communication in the United States is rising, while voice call preference is dropping. From a study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 53% of Americans still prefer voice calls to SMS, while 31% prefer SMS to calls, and 14% said their preference was flexible depending on the situation. The study also found that 27% of mobile owners never use SMS, so voice is still the leading way to communicate via mobile in the US despite the growing popularity of SMS (only 4% of survey respondents said they only use their phones for SMS and never voice calls).
  • In Uganda, mobile payments and mobile money transfers are taking off. According to Business Week, Ugandan telecom MTN reported that they passed more than $200 million in mobile money in August 2011. In related news, The Times of India reported on a new projection from the Ernst & Young consultant firm that estimates that by 2014, roughly $245 billion will be transfered via mobile payments systems worldwide.
  • Interested in global development and want to learn more through Twitter? The Guardian has a roundup of twenty Twitter users who tweet about global development, ICT4D, M4D, global change, and good aid practices. If you're looking to follow some new people on Twitter, this is a good start.

[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


Pick Up The Phone - The News Is Calling

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Mar 26, 2010

There are two new projects in India that are taking advantage of the ubiquity of mobile phones and cheap voice calling there in order to get news to rural villagers. Widespread illiteracy makes newspapers and SMS alerts inadequate as news delivery systems, and irregular electricity makes television and radio unreliable. Voice calls are also very inexpensive in India, with per-second billing and a downward price-war among the main operators. Voice calls over mobile phones are an easy way for villagers to stay informed.

In the region of Uttar Pradesh, Gaon Ki Awaaz delivers twice-daily news updates via voice calls to villagers in their native Avhadi language. Launched in December 2009, the project now has 250 subscribers spread throughout 20 villages. Read our case study on the project here.

Further south, a similar project is operating among the members of the Adivassi tribe in India. Like Gaon Ki Awaaz, it allows villagers to share and receive news over their mobile phones in their native language (in this case, Gondi). Launched by Shubhranshu Choudhary of the International Center for Journalists, the project focuses on citizen reports with dozens of citizen journalists reporting throughout the region. Watch the video below to see how the project works.  For more on audio services, see also our recent scan of projects and tools, Talk to Me: A Survey of Voice-Based Mobile Tech.

These two projects highlight the promise of the mobile phone for targeted news reporting; mobiles can provide cheap, reliable access to hyper-local news that may be more independent than government-controlled media. As mobiles become more common in rural areas, similar projects can provide a way to keep citizens connected. 

Anne-Ryan Heatwole is a writer for MobileActive.org

Image courtesy screenshot of IFC Journalists video

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Countries: India