Citizen journalism in the news

Posted by kiwanja on Aug 17, 2006

Citizen journalism has been hitting the news lately, accelerated by the use of mobiles and blogging during the latest events in the Middle East. Something which has been around for some time is starting to become more and more mainstream by the day. Sadly, most seems to be centred around world trouble spots, but therein lies it's strength.

Move America Beyond Oil With An SMS

Posted by justinoberman on Aug 02, 2006

This summer while thousands of music lovers converge onto Lollapalooza this week in Chicago to listen to their favorite artists sing their favorite tunes they will also get to lend a helping hand to the National Reseource Defence Council's mission to Move America Beyond Oil. And the technology to do so is all in the palm of their hand.

The NRDC Action fund will be there among the crowds, getting out the word to young music fans that they can use their cell phones to the send the text message "MABO" (Move America Beyond Oil) to a designated short code. The SMS drive will help the NRDC compile voluntary phone numbers for eventual follow up's and mobilization efforts with those actvists wanting to get involved with the cause and enlist their support for an eventual MABO petition which aims to lobby for specific policies aimed at reducing US oil dependence.

Vote 4 Me: Thoughts On Mobile Technology and Politics In the USA

Posted by justinoberman on Aug 02, 2006

As the power of the teenager and the text message is becoming more and more evident, some political campaigns and non-profits are betting that this new hip mobile technology can change American politics as well, as it has already proven to do so throughout the world. This, at least, is the gist of a Newsweek article published titled "Vote 4 Me."

The major point of the article is asking whether a teen trend can be "turned into a weapon of choice for politicos hoping to energize their constituents? Some strategists are betting it can: Where 2004 saw the great blog campaign, we are likely to be talking about the great text-messaging campaign of 2008, says Joe Trippi, who, as Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign manager, was a pioneer in the use of the Internet as a fundraising and organizing tool. The technology is right on the cusp of becoming very big.

Hola! Mobile Voter!

Posted by justinoberman on Jul 20, 2006

Picture 8-2 Voto Latino, a non-partisan youth voter registration organization aimed at Latino youths has teamed up with Mobile Voter, a San Francisco non-profit dedicated to harnessing the power of text messaging and mobile technology to drive youth oriented voter registration. Apparently, the Latino group was so impressed by the way in which young Hispanics used text messages and SMS to rally at immigration protests this spring that they have made it their goal to sign up at least 35,000 Hispanic youths nationwide using Mobile Voter's SMS services .

SMS A Secret For A Good Cause

Posted by justinoberman on Jul 19, 2006

Picture 4-3 For those of you heavy readers in the mobile blogosphere you probably have already come across the news of Secret Deodorant#039s mobile campaign here in New York City in honor of the companies fiftieth anniversary which was yesterday.

An SMS Plea for Help

Posted by Bonnie Bogle on Jul 04, 2006

The UN World Food Programme recently received a different kind of text message – a direct plea for help from a refugee in northern Kenya. The message said, “My name is Mohammed Sokor, writing to you from Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab. Dear sir, there is an alarming issue here. People are given too few kilogrammes of food. You must help.”

In an article from the UN Refugee Agency about the SMS, reporter Greg Barrow asks what the impact would be if in addition to giving refugees food, the World Food Programme also gave them a few mobile phones and the numbers of all star donors like Bono and Bill Gates. Mohammed’s text message has been making the rounds in the international press so I don’t doubt that similar messages could draw further attention to problems in refugee camps. But I think a greater impact could be made if an organization, like the One Campaign for example, sought out SMS messages like Mohammed’s from people in refugee camps in need of urgent help and sent them to their network. I bet many people who receive such a personal message will want to help, and if they can help by making a small donation from their mobile phone or sending the sms message on to their political representatives, it could spur action to help alleviate problems such as Mohammed’s.

You can read the entire UNHCR article here.

Using SMS to Fight Crime

Posted by Bonnie Bogle on Jun 27, 2006

Earlier this month the Boston Police Department started sending out text messages and emails to tell residents about crimes happening in their neighborhoods. The goal isn’t to instill fear in residents; it’s to get them involved in solving crimes. Police think that this system will make it easier for people to send in leads on cases since they can do so quickly and electronically, and that it will put more people on the lookout for suspects when they’re most vulnerable – soon after they commit crimes. The alerts also keep people better informed on the specific crimes happening in their neighborhoods, enabling them to better protect themselves. Most people are more inclined to lock their car doors if they know that two cars have been stolen within a few minutes of where they park.

Crime alert systems that use SMS and email messages are becoming more common. Citizen Observer, the company that runs Boston’s system, works with police departments in more than 300 U.S. and Canadian towns and cities. Singapore police have been sending out SMS alerts on local crimes for more than a year, and subscribers receive SMS messages like the following that tell them about local crimes and what they can do to help:

SMS delivers for Election Monitoring of the Montenegro Referendum on Independence

Posted by cspence on Jun 07, 2006

On May 21 the National Democratic Institute (NDI) provided technical assistance to a Montegrin NGO called the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) that successfully monitored their country's independence referendum using SMS as the primary observer reporting tool. We believe this is the first time an election monitoring group has employed text messaging to meet all election day reporting requirements. Details about the program follow.

General Information:

  • Election monitors from the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) in Montenegro conducted the first ever election monitoring project where SMS was used as the primary tool for reporting election information with NDI technical assistance.
  • 200 observers reported approximately 11 times each throughout the day including voter turnout and results data, transferring over 2000 reports to the reporting center in Podgorica. All reports were automatically entered into the reporting database where they were immediately included in analysis reports.



Did you get the one about the politician on your phone?

Posted by Bonnie Bogle on Jun 06, 2006

With the expansion of cell phone access and text messaging use, it was only a matter of time before it started – the SMS joke. And not surprisingly, few subjects are poked fun at more than local politics and of course the politicians.

"Da Vinci Code to be totally banned in the Philippines. GMA [Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] has been informed by Dan Brown that she is a direct descendant of Judas."

That’s one of the many SMS jokes being circulated throughout the Philippines making fun of the current president and her restrictive policies, among other things. Tonyo Cruz from TXTPower, and a MobileActive, passed on a bunch of the jokes that he’s seen sent around the country. You can read them all at the bottom of this post – thanks Tonyo!

The Philippines has been ahead of the curve in using cell phones for activism (remember the 2001 revolution and the Hello Garci ring tones), but SMS political jokes are spreading to other countries too. In Tamil Nadu, India, residents are sending out SMS jokes to make fun of the candidates from a recent election and their policies. One message circulating the region is an image of a candidate crying – supposedly showing her dismay at her party’s poor performance in the election. Another criticizes one party’s idea to give out “freebies,” saying that these practices will hurt businesses and make people lazy.

Using RSS to SMS for rapid notification of emerging information

Posted by on May 10, 2006

I have a robot that constantly looks for select information online about my campaign. It sends me an SMS if and when it finds what I need.

The world today is clearly threatened by information overload, but that's far from the worst problem we face. The right tools for dealing with the barrage of information available can help us deal with the long list of other, more frightening problems facing humanity. 

One new class of tools will do just that - by delivering new items in any RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to your mobile device by SMS or to your IM client. (If RSS is new to you, there are intro links at the end of this post.)

GSM in a laptop: The next big thing?

Posted by kiwanja on May 08, 2006

I've just been reading about Vodafone's new plans to build 3G capability into laptops:

"Vodafone has partnered with world leading notebook manufacturers to make Built-in 3G broadband available to you in a notebook to suit your needs. 3G broadband is an evolution of 3G that delivers a true mobile broadband experience and by integrating it into notebooks it requires nothing to be installed or set up"

This 'new' move towards integrating mobile services into laptops and notebooks themselves could set a new trend (I don't know if Vodafone are the first).

Up until now at the very least the user has needed to install a GSM PCMCIA card or set up a Bluetooth/IR connection to a handset, or connect via a USB/serial cable. If mobile comms becomes a mainstream feature of new laptops (if 3G is available then it goes without saying that an additional bit of software would be able to control SMS) then a whole new world of opportunity could open up. Applications like FrontlineSMS wouldn't seem quite so crazy if that were the case.

SMS Campaigns Taking Off

Posted by Bonnie Bogle on May 02, 2006

SMS campaigns are becoming common in many parts of the world, but perhaps no where so much as in India. Every couple days it seems like a new campaign has been started and is getting coverage in the Indian online newspapers.

On the heels of the Justice for Jessica SMS campaign that received significant press coverage in India and abroad, a campaign has been started seeking justice for a woman in Patna, India. Text messages asking people to forward the message on to friends and to the head of police showing their support for a woman who says she was sexually exploited by a police officer. 

A political candidate in West Bengal, India, is sending text messages to reach out to urban and semi-urban citizens to ask for their vote in an upcoming election. Text messages are being circulated in Madhya Pradesh, India,asking people to conserve water. In several parts of India SMS campaigns are urging parents to send young children to schools that teach in their native language, rather than in English. And university students started a campaign for the quick recovery of Pramod Mahajan, an Indian politician who was recently shot several times.

Presentation on the use of SMS in conservation and development

Posted by kiwanja on Apr 27, 2006

I recently made a presentation at a Conference hosted by Technologies for Conservation and Development (t4cd) at Microsoft's Research Centre in Cambridge, UK.

The Conference, which I helped organise through my work with the lead project partner - Fauna & Flora International - brought technologists and conservationists together to try and join the dots in this 'mini digital divide'. My talk was on the growing use of text messaging within the conservation and development communities, and more generally in wider society.



SMS Messages in Use in the Thai Election

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Apr 10, 2006

SMS messages were in wide use in the recent Thai elections, both officially and inofficially. 

In preparation for Thailands snap election last week, Thailand's Election Commission sent text messages to 25 million cell phone customers politely reminding them to vote. The message read: "You are cordially invited to exercise your right to vote on February 6, between 8 am and 3 pm."

At the same time, the Nation, a Thai newspaper, reported recently on a text message campaign among voters urging them to bring a a pen with them to mark their ballots.

The SMS stated: "Don't use the rubber stamp provided [by the authorities] to prevent fakes. Tell all your friends too."