Consequences of Mobile ICT4D Constraints

A Research Study on Information and Communication Technologies for Development: Mobile Phones & Empowerment

The past two years I worked on my Master’s Thesis which was part of our ICT4DMZ project in Mozambique. I had the pleasure to work with local students and develop an Android application with them. FindUEM is an application which helps students to find PIOs (Point of Interest) at their campus, you can download it from the Play Store. During my stay I conducted my research on if this Android application is usable by the students. Not in terms of usability, but rather if they have access to the technology. So I conducted a survey regarding students’ mobile hardware and on how they use their phones. Back then, only one third was capable of using the Android application regarding hardware and Internet connectivity. So I started to develop a concept of a SMS based FindUEM, which grants access to everyone in possession of a mobile phone. During my research SMSSync was published, which does similar a things and underlines the importance of my research. Out of 451 students, only one did not have a mobile phone. This shows once again the exceptional potential of mobile hardware in the field of ICT4D. My work got recently published as a book and you can buy it here. If you want to know me about this topic, then do not hesitate to drop me a mail or comment below.

The abstract

This book analyses and challenges the fast and dynamic movement of new mobile technologies, particularly in developing countries like Mozambique. The work places itself in the research field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development. The focus lies in the context of mobile technologies in developing countries and on how people can access information on these devices properly. An Android prototype application designed to navigate people around the campus was developed in a lecture with Mozambican students at the Maputo Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. A survey carried out as part of the research indicated that the Android application is not accessible to certain students due to a lack of technology and connectivity. Therefore, an alternative SMS based interface is introduced to meet the criteria of Human Computer Interaction for Development and Universal Design. The new solution uses already existing and cheap infrastructure, focuses on low-end hardware, works along with future-proof alternatives and does, in comparison with the Android application, not exclude potential users.

 

Book Cover - Consequences of Mobile ICT4D Constraints – a Case Study of Mozambique

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Consequences of Mobile ICT4D Constraints
was published on 25.03.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under east africa, sub saharan africa
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Modern software development workshops at the UEM Maptuo

The ICT4DMZ project is now running quite a while and after three amazing weeks in Maputo we are one big step further to reach our goals. Philipp and I (Paul Spiesberger) tried to bring the students of the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo on the right track.

In more than eight workshops we gave them the tools and the knowledge to start programming for their projects. At the beginning we tried to find out on which level their skills are and what we can expect. From that point on we knew that we will have to give them a short introduction to modern software development in a team as well. Up to that day the students were exchanging code with Dropbox and they had almost no structure or/and organisation for their teamwork. At that time we were glad that Florian and Anders did great work a few months ago. They helped them with team roles and project documentation a lot. So it was not necessary to cover that important part too. In order to give them an easy tool to handle their code and the organisation of their projects, we introduced them to GIT and Bitbucket. The students were impressed by the GIT workshop and we were happy to see over the next days that some of them were porting their “Dropbox projects” to their new GIT repositories. Working with Bitbucket-Issues was not that successful at the beginning, but we are sure that this will change over time. From that point on we were ready for programming and we split up the group by the two projects:

Complaint Center

The goal of this project is to create a website which can handle complaints about a company or a product. It should gather information or feedback and help to improve their services. Philipp started with a short tutorial about the PlayFramework and helped to set everything up. After that he assisted with his expertise as much as he could.

Philipp with students

FindUEM

The other group is working on an Android app for students to find POI like lecture rooms, Wifi hotspots or public power plugs at the UEM campus. I started to teach them the basics of Android programming and helped them to set up the project. Since Java programming and developing for Android are quite different, it took a little bit longer to write the first line of code. I tried to explain step by step the important parts and assisted as much as I could.

Paul with students

In total we worked about 27 hours in three weeks with the students. We had some troubles finding the right time slots for all students, since they had different time schedules during their weeks. Especially at the beginning we did some workshops twice, so no one missed the introductions to the technologies. After that, not all students attended to our workshops all the time, but we were never alone.

From now on, we will assist via Skype and e-mail remotely from Austria. We have a good feeling for the outgoing of the projects and hopefully the students keep engaged in the next months as they were during our workshops.

Group picture UEM

During our stay we also helped the UEM to use Moodle for a first test run. We hope that in the future this modern way of IT supported teaching will be expanded to other lectures and faculties to strengthen the teaching abilities at the UEM.

In addition Philipp and I were working hard on our master thesis. Philipp is doing research on big data for emerging countries and for that he conducted some expert interviews. I am interested in user interface design for mobile devices in emerging countries like Mozambique. So I did a survey with students to find out their mobile phone usage and habits.

Of course we also found time to travel and to take a look at this beautiful country. When you talk to people in Mozambique, experience the beautiful landscape and take the time to look behind the curtain, then you get the feeling that this country is moving fast forward. The question is in which direction. The currently discovered massive resources (minerals, oil, gas) can have a positive or a negative impact to the society. There is also a new party growing really fast and it is gaining more and more influence. In the last few months the country was almost slipping into a new civil war. But one week before we arrived, they managed to find a compromise and elections are going to happen in the future. But I think that despite the fact of great poverty, corruption and the lack of education, Mozambique has the ability to find the way to a great and rich future.

3 women

Last but not least I would like to say thank you to Emilio Mosse and Andrei Shindyapin. We are lucky to have this partner and friends in Maputo, who are willing to share their valuable time and love with us. Also a big thank you to the students for their great effort and time!

Philipp and I are excited to continue the work and we are looking forward to meeting our friends in Maputo again.

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Modern software development workshops at the UEM Maptuo
was published on 03.03.2014 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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