mobile phones

Taxation and the Growth of Mobile in East Africa: Making Connections

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 02, 2009
Taxation and the Growth of Mobile in East Africa: Making Connections data sheet 3976 Views
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Mobile phones are revolutionising the lives of millions of people in East Africa and will continue to be the primary means for the great majority to access voice, data and Internet services. But mobile consumers in East Africa are taxed at some of the highest levels world-wide. In addition to VAT, an excise duty, or luxury tax, is levied on mobile services.

Recognizing that this tax hits the poor hardest, the GSM Association, the global trade association representing the interests of over 850 GSM mobile phone operators and over 180 manufacturers and suppliers worldwide, in collaboration with GSM Africa, commissioned Deloitte to analyze the effect that lowering excise duties would have on the industry and total government receipts.

The findings are very encouraging. By lowering the excise duty on mobile services, governments can expect higher level of tax and extend the essential mobile franchise to poorer sections of society. Today mobile phones are a basic need and not a luxury. All stakeholders will benefit if mobile services are taxed accordingly. As the governments in East Africa go into their budgeting rounds, we call for an urgent review of mobile taxation policies. Restructuring mobile taxes can be a win win-win solution for government, business and consumers.

November Mobile for Development (or just techie) Event Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 27, 2009

After the hectic month of October where there were way too many events focused on mobiles for social impact, November is a bit more technically focused. To help you find your way in this fast-moving world, we’ve compiled a round-up of some key events that are taking place throughout the month of November.

DroidCon Nov. 2-4 (Berlin, Germany) DroidCon is the first Android business and developer conference in Germany. It covers everyting you want to know about the Open Handset Alliance mobile platform. Not focused on mobiles in social impact, but an indication that Android is starting to hop.

iPhone Developer Summit Nov. 2-4 (Santa Clara, CA, USA) Technical sessions explore web development opportunities on the iPhone, including building social applications and developing high-quality, iPhone-style web-based GUIs for applications.

Deconstructing Mobiles: Myths and Realities about Women and Mobile Phones

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 16, 2009

Mobile phones have been a boon to developing countries and to social development. Access to mobiles may indeed allow for better medical information, change the way farmers grow and sell crops, expand the way families interact, influence the way governments treat their citizens, and improve the way students learn in schools. But what is the real story behind these benefits? And who really gains from them? In our ongoing series on Mobile Myths and Realities: Deconstructing Mobile" we turn to how women are or are not benefitting from the ibiquity of mobile telephony. What did we find?

M-Banking the Unbanked

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 08, 2009
M-Banking the Unbanked data sheet 1785 Views
Alex Comninos, Steve Esselaar, Ali Ndiwalana, Christoph Stork
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Jan 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

While the role of the informal sector in promoting economic growth in Africa is increasingly acknowledged, access to capital remains one of the biggest obstacles hindering the development and growth of the sector (Stork & Esselaar, 2006). Africa is struggling with access to formal financial services for its citizens and the informal sector. In addition to the underlying structural limitations of poverty; risk-averse bankers, unsuitable financial products and high bank charges have also been blamed for this state of affairs.

Poor people with irregular income and informal businesses often have no choice but to make use of informal financial services, which are many times more expensive than formal ones. Formal financial services are usually only extended to those with regular income or collateral (Firpo, 2008). Informal businesses also often lack the required accounting skills and systems to generate necessary data to convince a bank to extend loans to them.

Other obstacles include the bureaucratic and educational bottlenecks that prevent many Africans from having identity documents. This fosters corruption around documents such as birth certificates, IDs and passports, increasing the risk for banks in dealing with new customers.

A critical issue to overcome is that of asymmetrical information. Someone without a bank account approaching a bank for a loan is likely to be rejected unless collateral is at hand. The bank has no transaction history for this person or informal business and hence does not know anything about the applicant’s creditworthiness. Transaction patterns can be used to predict whether or not a customer will be able to repay a loan. Absence of a transaction history means that the ability to repay loans is unknown to banks, making it risky for banks to serve such a person unless the loan is fully collateralised.

Few individuals in the informal sector have access to collateral. They either have their own informal small businesses (such as street vendors) or work on an ad hoc basis. Mobile banking (m-banking) can be seen as one solution to these problems. Despite having been around for some time in several African countries, the existing offerings are mostly value-added services – where the mobile phone is a complimentary channel to operating an existing bank account. Such services are not geared towards the inclusion of the poor and unbanked, and while they are growing in popularity, they have yet to shift the access frontier in order to become “transformational” (Porteus, 2007).

To become transformational, m-banking must progress towards bringing more informal businesses and the poor into the formal economy so that they are better able to access micro-loans and other financial services. Transacting on a mobile payment platform can also generate a transaction history that can act as a basis to evaluate creditworthiness. This would address the inadequate access to finance that restricts the entrepreneurial potential of Africa's informal sector and the poor.

This paper seeks to explore how the ubiquitous mobile platform may be leveraged to move beyond simple transactions and provide an alternative banking system that provides access to formal financial services to the unbanked. This can be achieved by using applications that facilitate transactions over mobiles, which go beyond the& usual voice communications, and the money or airtime transfers.

Uses of Mobile Phones in Post-Conflict Liberia

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 25, 2009
Uses of Mobile Phones in Post-Conflict Liberia data sheet 5282 Views
Michael L. Best, Edem Wornyo, Thomas N. Smyth, John Etherton
Publication Date: 
Jan 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Liberia is a country emerging from years of protracted and devastating civil conflict. Left without any fixed line telephone infrastructure, it relies solely on the mobile phone for telephony. This study investigates the usage of mobile phones in this immediate post-conflict setting. In particular, the authors adopt the uses and gratification approach to media research, giving focus to both instrumental and intrinsic motivations for use. Mobile phone users in both the capital city of Monrovia and in various rural areas were surveyed using the Q methodology, which identified distinct perspectives within these urban and rural groups. Participants were then sorted into groups where each group contained users with similar perspectives on their mobile phones. These identified groups included sets of users who saw their phones as productivity enhancers, means of connectivity to family and friends, essential business tools, technological curiosities, and sources of personal security. The idea of a phone as a stylish object was markedly rejected, especially in rural areas. We contrast these Q-sort results from Liberia with previous work from Kigali, Rwanda, finding differences especially as related to security.

Does ICT Benefit the Poor? Evidence from South Africa

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 18, 2009
Does ICT Benefit the Poor? Evidence from South Africa data sheet 3231 Views
Stefan Klonner, Patrick Nolen
Publication Date: 
May 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The authors study the economic effects of the roll-out of mobile phone network coverage in rural South Africa, addressing identification issues which arise from the fact that network roll-out cannot be viewed as an exogenous process to local economic development.

The authors combine spatially coded data from South Africa's leading network provider with annual labor force surveys, and use terrain properties to construct an instrumental variable that allows us to identify the causal effect of network coverage on economic outcomes under plausible assumptions. 

The study finds substantial effects of cell phone network roll-out on labor market outcomes with remarkable gender-specific differences. Employment increases by 15 percentage points when a locality receives network coverage. A gender-differentiated analysis shows that most of this effect is due to increased employment by women. Household income increases in a pro-poor way when cellular infrastructure is provided.

The Power of Information: The Impact of Mobile Phones on Farmers' Welfare in the Philippines

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 18, 2009
The Power of Information: The Impact of Mobile Phones on Farmers' Welfare in the Philippines data sheet 3510 Views
Julien Labonne, Robert S. Chase
Publication Date: 
Jul 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The authors explore the impact of access to information on poor farmers' consumption. The analysis combines spatially coded data on mobile phone coverage with household panel data on farmers from some of the poorest areas of the Philippines.

Both the ordinary least squares and instrumental variable estimates indicate that purchasing a mobile phone has a large, positive impact on the household-level growth rate of per capita consumption. Estimates range from 11 to 17 percent, depending on the sample and the specification chosen.

The authors perform a range of reliability tests, the results of which all suggest that the instruments are valid. They also present evidence consistent with the argument that easier access to information allows farmers to strike better price deals within their existing trading relationships and to make better choices in terms of where they choose to sell their goods.

Using CAM-equipped Mobile Phones for Procurement and Quality Control at a Rural Coffee Cooperative

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 08, 2009
Using CAM-equipped Mobile Phones for Procurement and Quality Control at a Rural Coffee Cooperative data sheet 1901 Views
Yael Schwartzman, Tapan S. Parikh
Publication Date: 
May 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

With globalization, small rural producers must compete in a competitive economic market. Due to their small size and limited financial capacity, they face significant challenges in doing so. We discuss the design and evaluation of two mobile phone based tools to help small producers achieve economies of scale and a quality premium.

These tools were developed using CAM, a camera-based mobile phone application framework specifically designed for the rural developing world. CAM DPS (Delivery Processing System) efficiently captures transactions between producers and cooperatives, in order to monitor remote inventory levels, and document the price paid to the producer. CAM RANDI (Representation AND Inspection tool) allows local inspectors to digitally capture the condition of farm parcels, using a combination of paper, text, audio and images. Using this data, rural producer cooperatives can improve their efficiency and monitoring, and ensure conformance with quality and certification standards. A preliminary evaluation suggests that these applications are accessible to target users and will serve a significant need.


Posted by oli on Aug 27, 2009
Cryptosms data sheet 4502 Views
Organization that developed the Tool: 
Main Contact:
Problem or Need: 

Encryted and secure SMS for situations where that is warranted.

Main Contact Email : 
Brief Description: 

Cryptosms provides sms encryption for mobile phones running j2me. It is open source and under GPL license. It uses a public/private key scheme. See for more details and a list of supported devices.

Tool Category: 
Runs on a mobile phone
Key Features : 

Public/private key pair encryption of sms, exchange of keys, key verification via fingerprint, completely separate from the normal sms programme, no interference with normal phone operations, all data (keys, received sms, addressbook) is in a crypto container secured with a passphrase...

Main Services: 
Stand-alone Application
Tool Maturity: 
Under development/pre-launch
Java ME
Program/Code Language: 
Support Forums:
Languages supported: 
English, French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Slovenian, Portuguese, Norwegian, Polish, ...
Handsets/devices supported: 
Is the Tool's Code Available?: 
Is an API available to interface with your tool?: 

Mobiles for Health - American Style

Posted by CorinneRamey on Jul 20, 2009

Although nonprofits in the United States has been slower to embrace mobile phones for health purposes than the rest of the world, mobiles are catching on as a way to reach diverse populations across the U.S.

“Mobile provides a fantastic channel for communication,” said Erin Edgerton, senior social media strategist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “It’s always on, always with you and provides personal access to information.”

Nonprofits and government agencies are using this ubiquitous device for health purposes including monitoring, education and instant alerts and communication.

Mobile monitoring

For diabetes patients in Georgia, mobile phones have facilitated an instant connection to help and education. In several different pilot studies, participants used cell phones to document aspects of diabetes treatment ranging from glucose readings to snapping photos of the meals that they ate. Participants then sent the photos, readings, or other questions to a diabetes education center, where a diabetes educator could instantly respond to questions.

Mobile phones may be the right devices for supporting developing world accessibility, but is the WWW the right service delivery

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 14, 2009
Mobile phones may be the right devices for supporting developing world accessibility, but is the WWW the right service delivery data sheet 1153 Views
Parikh, Tapan S.
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Jan 2006
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

In this paper we detail the synergies we have observed be-
tween the features and limitations of mobile phones, and the
usability and accessibility requirements of rural developing
world users. This includes support for sequential interac-
tion, multimedia input and output, asynchronous messag-
ing and a universally familiar numeric keypad. However,
we argue that the WWW as currently conceived may be an
inappropriate model for delivering mobile information ser-
vices in this context. We highlight a number of tensions we
have observed between the traditional web model, and the
design synergies that we have uncovered. To demonstrate
an alternative framework, we describe CAM | a platform
for delivering mobile information services in the rural devel-
oping world. Supporting scripted execution, media-driven,
tangible interaction as well as an online usage model, CAM
is uniquely adapted both to rural accessibility requirements
and the inherent capabilities of mobile phones. By learning
from the CAM design, we can either improve the design of
existing mobile web standards and services, or implement a
more appropriate framework altogether.

A Study of Emergency Response Work: Patterns of Mobile Phone Interaction

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 13, 2009
A Study of Emergency Response Work: Patterns of Mobile Phone Interaction data sheet 1765 Views
Landgren, Jonas; Nulden, Urban
Publication Date: 
Apr 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper presents descriptive accounts of time-critical organizing in the domain of emergency response. Patterns of mobile phone interaction in such work is analyzed showing how the dyadic exchange of mobile phone numbers between the actors plays an important role in the social interactions in the organizing and sensemaking of the emergency. Enacted sensemaking is used as an analytical framework. Implications for design of emergency response information technology are outlined and discussed.

A study of emergency response work: patterns of mobile phone interaction

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jul 07, 2009
A study of emergency response work: patterns of mobile phone interaction data sheet 1738 Views
Landgren, Jonas; Nulden,Urban
Publication Date: 
May 2007
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This paper presents descriptive accounts of time-critical organizing in the domain of emergency response. Patterns of mobile phone interaction in such work is analyzed showing how the dyadic exchange of mobile phone numbers between the actors plays an important role in the social interactions in the organizing and sensemaking of the emergency. Enacted sensemaking is used as an analytical framework. Implications for design of emergency response information technology are outlined and discussed.

Building a Transportation Information System Using Only GPS and Basic SMS Infrastructure

Posted by LeighJaschke on Jun 26, 2009
Building a Transportation Information System Using Only GPS and Basic SMS Infrastructure data sheet 2697 Views
Anderson, Ruth E.; Poon, Anthony; Lustig, Cailin; Brunette, Waylon, Barriello, Gaetano, Kolko, Beth
Publication Date: 
Apr 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

This work consists of two main components:
(a) a longitudinal ethnographic study in Kyrgyzstan that
demonstrates the importance of transportation resources in the
developing world and how to plan for an appropriate ICT
solution, and (b) the results of a proof-of-concept system
engineered to create a bottom-up, transportation information
infrastructure using only GPS and SMS. Transportation is a
very important shared resource; enabling efficient and effective
use of such resources aids overall development goals.
The system, *bus, involved the development of a hardware
device (a *box) containing a GSM modem and a GPS unit, that
can be installed on a vehicle and used to track its location. The
*box communicates via SMS with a server connected to a basic
GSM phone. The server runs route a prediction algorithm and
users can send SMS messages to the server to find when a bus
will arrive at their location.
The paper discusses the system and early testing, as well as the
development implications for a range of urban and rural
environments where transportation is scarce or inefficient, and
where a central authority or institution is not in a position to
provide robust information resources for users. We describe how
the solution is also situated within technology usage patterns
common to the developing world.

Ringing in the Vote: Mobile Phones in the 2009 Indian Elections

Posted by Gauravonomics on Apr 15, 2009

The world's largest democracy, India, is holding its general election this year. The month-long elections to the 15th Lok Sabha, the Indian Parliament, will be held in five phases between April 16th and May 16th when the final results will be announced. 

As India's 714 million voters prepare to elect their 543 representatives, they are witnessing a range of digital initiatives from political parties, civil society organizations, media houses and even corporations.  In fact, some observers are calling this India's first digital elections.

Leading the packed ballot is 82-year-old Lal Krishna Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, who has embarked on an Obama-style new media campaign. Part of the campaign are a blog, a blogger outreach program, one of the most aggressive online ad campaigns ever seen in India, and an ambitious SMS campaign that will reach 250 million of India's 400 million mobile subscribers.

Mobile Activism In African Elections: A Paper and a Missed Opportunity

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 20, 2009

I have been meaning for a while to respond to a paper Rebekah Heacock, a graduate student at Columbia, wrote last year. Hancock describes in Mobile Activism in African Elections (PDF) three recent elections in Kenya, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and how mobile technology was used for both crowd-sourced and systematic election monitoring.

She poses that: 

The proliferation of mobile phones in Africa is transforming the political and social landscape of the developing world, empowering people to source and share their own information and to have a greater say in what comes to international attention. This paper compares the use and impact of mobile technology in three recent African elections: Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Kenya.

International Women's Day: Women in Mobile and Mobile for Women

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 09, 2009

Today is International Women's Day and we are celebrating by featuring innovative women in the community who are making a difference by using mobiles for social impact. Many of these social innovators are indeed focusing their work on improving the lives of women - their health, incomes, and social and political well-being.  We salute you all! 

Melissa Loudon is a research officer at the Centre for Spatial Data Management at the University of Capetown in South Africa. She is also a talented mobile developer who used to work at Cell-Life, and she has written extensively for us, testing applications. Her most recent review of mobile tools for social development focused on data collection using a mobile phones.

Fundraising with a Mobile

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 24, 2009

Mobile fundraising is taking off -- or so at least hope nonprofits hard hit by the economic downturn. Organizations are looking for a new channel for people to give on the spot, wherever they are, with their phones and a quick text message.

Mobile giving via SMS in the United States and many other parts of the world, has been out of reach because of high carrier charges - up to 50% of a donation would go to the telcom -- unacceptable to most charities.

But this has changed in the last two years.  Mobile donation campaigns in the United States that go through the Mobile Giving Foundation are not subject to the high carrier fees.  The Mobile Giving Foundation charges a smaller percentage fee -- currently 10%.  As a result, in 2008 the field of mobile giving in the U.S. attracted the attention by organizations large and small, including by such brands as UNICEF, the Salvation Army, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Jeffrey Sachs on the Mobile Revolution: Deregulate and The Closing of the Digital Divide

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Feb 17, 2009

Jeffrey Sachs, the noted and at times controversial development advocate, spoke to All Africa about the significance of mobile phones in Africa.  Sachs is also the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York which runs the Millennium Villages in 12 locations across Sub-Saharan Africa.  Sachs' assertion  that has often been repeated is that "the cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development."  Asked by All Africa about this claim, he noted that rural poverty especially has been characterized by isolation. Mobile phones have 'broken that isolation', as Sachs notes. 

World Aids Day and the Role of Mobile Phones in Combatting HIV/AIDS: Project M

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 01, 2008

Today is World Aids Day, a day where individuals and organisations from around the world come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic.

Mobile phones are increasinly playing a key role in combatting HIV/AIDS, providing public education and information services, patient monitoring and support, data collection, emergency medical services, and even educational games. 

We have written much on this topic, of immense importance to the world where there are now more than 33 million people living with the disease, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history.  Throughout the day, we'll feature a few projects that use or have used mobile technology in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment that stand out.

A Mobile Voice: The Use of Mobile Phones in Citizen Media

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 12, 2008

We are pleased to release the newest resource, A Mobile Voice: The Use of Mobile Phones in Citizen Media.

In this report we explore the dynamics of the role of mobile phones in enhancing access to and creating information and citizen-produced media.  We explore trends in the use of mobile telephony with a focus on software and platforms that make content creation and broadcasting easier.  We also present an inventory of current and potential uses of
mobile phones to promote citizen media and freedom of information, and present short case studies of examples--all from the community.

Does Mobile Tech Help Women?

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 07, 2008

Kutoma Wakunumadid a great presentation at MobileActive08 on her research that investigates whether women are benefitting from mobile technology. In this interview, shot by at MobileActive08 in Johannesburg this year, she discusses how women are using mobile tech, what some of the barriers are, and social implications of mobile communications for women. A blog post about the discussion we had at MobileActive08 about women and mobile phones is here.

Take a look also at the notes from a session on participatory design for mobile tech with and for women here and an earlier article we wrote about women and mobile technology -- Who Will Join This Standing Up.

First Impressions from MobileActive08

Posted by MartinLucas on Oct 13, 2008

Greenpeace Argentina, Al Jazeera, Unicef, Burmese monks, healthcare workers in ten African countries, geeks and IT entrepreneurs, 380 people from 45 countries: what's the common link?  Mobile technology with a social mission.  Whether it's sharing medical information in rural Mozambique, or helping getting the word out about post-election violence in Kenya or getting accurate demographic data in regions with no IT structure, or using phone minutes for micro-banking or social marketing, someone here (and there are close 400 participants)  is talking about it, and others are sharing their experiences, with each other of course, and with any social network you've heard of from Twitter to Flickr to Youtube to Facebook.  

In general the flash of the IT world is mixed with a fair amount of humility; most people are here as much to listen, and get the lay of the land as they are to present the killer app or networking tool.

For me, coming from New York, the notion that Katrin Verclas suggested, that the event is packed with people and information precisely because it's in Africa, rings true.

Development 2.0 - Another Mobile Application Competition

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Oct 09, 2008

There is yet another competition focused on mobile app development, this time sponsored by USAID and Netsquared. Starting on October 13, Development 2.0 will reward the innovative uses of mobile technologies for international development withup to $10,000 for the winner. While this is less than some of the other recent competitions, applicants can get advice and improve their ideas and clarify their project submissions during the entire application process on a project gallery.

A open voting process will determine the best projects, and then a jury of USAID senior staff will select the final winners. More info is here.

Other compeitions open right now:

Knight News Challenge -- $5 million awarded to digital media projects, including mobile citizen media projects;

Mobile Warriors: Costa Rican Youth, Mobile Phones and Social Change

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Oct 04, 2008

This article was written by Lisa Campbell of the Youth Action Network and is reprinted here with permission.  Lisa's research and articles are on her blog Mobile Revolutions.

Globally 1.5 billion people have access to televisions, and 1 billion to the Internet; yet overall the most actively used electronic gadget is the mobile phone, with over 3 billion users worldwide. Reaching the 4 billion mark before the end of 2008, that equals to approximately one cell phone for every two human beings. Under 30-years in existence, cell phones are one of the most rapid developing technology the world has ever known. According to Touré, Secretary General of the ITU, “The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of ICT and that it is a viable business opportunity.”  According to Touré, “Clearly, ICTs have the potential to act as catalysts to achieve the 2015 targets of the MDGs.”

Mobile phones are the first telecommunications technology to be more popular in developing nations, than their developed counterparts, far outnumbering internet coverage (Zuckerman 2007). More and more people are using their phones to access the internet instead of computers.  Soon there will be more cell phone users than literate people on the planet. This signifies a shift into a new age of digital literacy, where avatars, emoticons, pictures, sounds and videos often hold more power than names and numbers.

Economists around the world are hailing cell phones as the solution for ICT development and a ray of hope in bridging the digital divide.