Cooperation 2.0 Gijon, day 3 – mobile phones for human development

Mobile phones for human development – Stephane Boyera, W3C

Presentation of Stephane Boyera

Stephane Boyera:

  • W3C mobile web for Social Development
  • Web for Society Program of the Web Foundation
  • EU-FP7 project Digital World Forum

Mobile phones:

  • In December 2008: 4 bio. subscribers
  • change the way people work, communicate, live
  • People offer their work with their m.p. number – makes them flexible
  • but no evidence that the development challenge is addressed

ICTs have changed the Developed World

  • work, meeting, movement

ICT4D promises to bridge historical divides

Issues:

  • Connectivity (devices, bandwidth)
  • Information Availability (relevant & useful services)
  • Information Accessibility (too expensive, language, illiteracy)
  • Without addressing these issues, ICT4D is useless

Last 15 years:

  • focus on connectivity – telecenters
  • no sustainability
  • hard to replicate (legal issues, hight cost)
  • hard to scale up
  • relying on unstable governments – limits the potential of ICTs

What can mobile phones bring?

Minimal connectivity & computing power worldwide

  • it’s possible to focus on new, mobile, innovative services (e-agriculture, e-health)
  • people start to think big – scalability

Bottom-up approach

  • empowering people – now they can contribute and act instead of only consume

Why is that important?

  • it’s the only way to make services scalable – few people in development agencies vs. thousands of NGOs
  • people can start businesses themselves – entrepreneurship & innovation
  • governments are not that important any more – there is put pressure on the government for transparency

Challenges:

  • Capacity building – creating expertise on mobile phone technology locally
  • Make tools available – free & open source, easy to use software
  • Raise awareness about the potential of mobile technology and the easiness to create new content/tools

Current focus: on information availability

For sms, there have to be a lot of prerequisites fulfilles

To make all people benefit:

  • Address the needs of illiterate people or low reading skills
  • Local languages
  • Digital literacy – teach people how to search & use content and services

Technologies:

Mobile phone: “Swiss army knive” – a lot of services

Today: sms

  • easy setup, available, free reception
  • issues: high cost of running services, only text, interoperability between operators

Next generation:

Mobile web:

  • free & easy development, powerful interface, access to knowledge in the internet
  • issues: availability on mobiles, cost

Voice:

  • Natural way of communication, easy to use, everywhere available, flexible
  • Issues: high expertise required, usability, technology

No “one-for-all” device

Next steps

Community building

  • development agencies, local people, academics, NGOs, private sector

Explore local needs

  • field studies, pilot projects

Lower access barriers

  • illiteracy, usability, internationalization

Empowerment

  • easier development & deployment

Mobile phones is a way to reach the people & they are available in the field

But:

  • Expensive
  • Constrained
  • Also other devices necessary – low cost laptops, broadband infrastructure

Conclusion

  • Mobile technology has the potential to meet the ICT4D hopes & make significant impact
  • But next steps: concerted effort of all communities, focus on local needs, bridging the gaps between people, empowerment

Q & A:

Telecenters can also be a complementary service – let’s combine services. What about mobile services for internet access?

  • I agree, inclusing approach is substantial
  • Internet access: we have to understand what it means that people access the web via mobile phone – different interface, constrained
  • Linking your PC to the internet via a mobile phone is possible, if there are PCs available

Comment – internet access & mobile technology are equally important because you need access at the institutional level, not just private level.

How big is the challenge of interoperability? Are there enough standards? Where should they be established?

  • Each technology has a different level – moving from one platform to another is hard
  • On the mobile: making the mobile browser an open standardized tool is a challenge
  • It’s also an issue of power – monopolies
  • Voice is already standardized, but is lacking the open source community
  • Developing applications on the mobile – there is nothing standardized
  • Middle layer: Java stack

One thing that is missing: a lot has to be invested in science and technology – high level innovations, not just applications. There is some kind of technology fetishism.

  • It’s correct, work is primarily on application level.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Cooperation 2.0 Gijon, day 3 – mobile phones for human development
was published on 12.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
1 Comment AddThis Feed Button

Interview with Jacob Korenblum from Souktel

It’s already been a few months ago that we had the chance to interview Jacob Korenblum, the co-founder of Souktel, at the MobileActive08 conference in Johannesburg. Souktel is an outstanding SMS-based job seeking service developed in Palestine. The project emerged from an urgent need for a job seeking platform, as there were no similar governmental services available and newspapers are rare and expensive. At the time the project started access to Internet was still a problem for people in Palestine and Souktel therefore decided to develop their application for mobile phones.

Job seekers can simply create a profile by answering a couple of questions through SMS. The profiles are then matched against current job offers. At the time we recorded the interview about 5000 job seekers used the service every month and about 40 people a month were matched with a job, internship or training opportunities.

In the interview below Jacob Korenblum gives a great 5-minutes summary of Souktel’s services and current activities.

Also check out MobileActive’s excellent blog post about Souktel.

This is the 12th interview from our MobileActive08 video podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

Tags: , , , , ,
Interview with Jacob Korenblum from Souktel
was published on 09.02.2009 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under middle east and north africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
No Comments AddThis Feed Button

M-banking and economic development

Once more I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful during writing my thesis.

Mobile banking and economic development: Linking adoption, impact, and use – by Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research India and Camilo Andres Tellez, London School of Economics and Political Science. It was published this December in the Asian Journal of Communication.

In the following a short summary of the paper:

The paper is about research of the usage of m-banking and m-payment systems which are used by people without access to traditional banks. Specifically, small enterprises in urban India are observed.

Across the developing world, there are probably more people with mobile phones than with bank accounts. In countries like The Phillipines or Kenya services which provide banking services via mobile phone are very popular.

In the developing world, m-banking/m-payment applications are appreciated by the customers as well as the companies. Customers are happy that they get an affordable possibility to transfer money without handling cash, mobile phone companies see it as an easy service to offer and strengthen the bond to the customer, banks have identified it as a convenient method of “branchless banking”.

Most systems offer three services:

  • Store value in an account via a handset
  • Convert cash in and out of the stored value account
  • Transfer value between accounts

To date there is only few research on adoption and usage of m-banking/m-payment systems, especially the contextual factors have not been studied so far.

Three examples for important contextual factors:

  • Conceptualizing Electronic Money:
    interface to handle account services has to be easy and understandable
    “invisible money” has to be represented in an appropriate way
  • Existing Payment Mechanisms
    existing mechanisms and their functioning have to be kept in mind
  • The Social Embeddedness of Economic Transactions
    differences to whom the money is given
    woman empowerment through greater indepence?

When m-banking/m-payment is studied, there are doubtlessly many parallels to other ICTs. Considering it generally as an ICT4D, there are three cross-cutting themes which characterize the social structures underlying the usage of technology:

  • Bi-directionality of influence between communication technologies and the social structures in which they exist
  • Amplification and altering of existing social structures
  • Introduction of trust in the technology, in people, in own skills, …
Picture taken by Turkairo and uploaded on FlickR

Picture taken by Turkairo and uploaded on FlickR

Own study in urban India:

Despite the IT boom in India, most enterprises are still traditional, small and informal – without bank accounts. This study explores, how m-banking/m-payment systems might be used there. Business owners from Bangalore were interviewed for that purpose.

Three types of approaches were identified:

  • Relational businesses:
    no need for complex ICTs
    desire for mobile phone, but problems with affodability
  • Locational businesses:
    special relations to people in their business network
  • Formal enterprises:
    bigger companies
    active users of ICTs

Usage of ICTs has different motivations:

  • Getting new customers
  • Keeping better in contact with present customers
    issues with trust and user capabilities
    19 of 20 enterprises will for now stick to the face to face model for credits
  • Cost-savings are an important reason for using ICTs nowadys

More research concerning the conventions of using ICTs would be useful

  • This could explain the current usage of some services
  • the impact of providing the “unbanked” with a bank account have to be studies more closely

Conclusion:

  • The emergence of m-banking/m-payment has implications for the whole social and economic sphere
    the borders between domestic/productive and social/transactional spheres are blurred
    both, social and economic spheres should be considered in further research
  • “the true measure of that importance [of m-banking/m-payment] will require multiple studies using multiple methodologies and multiple theoretical perspectives before our questions about adoption and impact will be answered [from the article]”

For the whole article I may refer here.

Tags: , , , , ,
M-banking and economic development
was published on 21.12.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under south asia
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
3 Comments AddThis Feed Button

MobileActive08: Eben Conley

Eben Conley works as business analyst at cell life, an organization that develops web and mobile solutions for the HIV sector in Africa. In this interview he talks about his work at cell life and explains how creating mobile applications for collecting data from patients and organizations helps them to make concise decisions for creating mobile solutions.

This is the 7th interview from our MobileActive08 video podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

Tags: , , , , , , ,
MobileActive08: Eben Conley
was published on 12.12.2008 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under sub saharan africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
No Comments AddThis Feed Button

Africa and the Boom in Mobile Phone Subscription

Again I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful during writing my thesis.

This time I will introduce the paper “Transforming Recent Gains In The Digital Divide Into Digital Opportunities: Africa And The Boom In Mobile Phone Subscription” from 2006. Based on recent developments it sums up the potential impact of the mobile phone on African society and economy. It was written by Peter A. Kwaku Kyem and Peter Kweku LeMaire (Central Connecticut State University, USA) for an issue of the online available journal “The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries” (EJISDC).

In the following a short summary of the paper:

In the past years mobile phone subscriptions, fixed lines and internet access have increased in Africa quicker than in any other region on earth.  The questions are now if this technological boost can be used for socioeconomic improvements and if, without accompanying measures, it is enough to raise the living standard.

Digital divide:

The gap results from socio-economic differences in the world that in turn affect their access to digital information. The digital divide thus reflects existing economic divisions in the world.“- from Dzidonu, C.K. (2001) – The Socio-Economic Development Implications of the Digital Divide within the context of African Countries

The digital divide was until 2004 decreased and the access to ICTs in developing countries is now catching up with the western world. A substantial task is now, not to focus just on the physical presence of the ICTs, but to have a clear vision of their use.

The mobile phone is unique in Africa, as it serves as the main communication device now and can take many hurdles, which conventional ICTs did not. Therefore it is the main ICT nowadays available (= becoming ubiquitous) and has a high economic potential.

Direct economic benefits:

  • microenterprises
  • outsourcing from developed countries is through ICTs possible
  • market information for rural and poor areas
  • organization and information – substitute for travels and person-to-person communication
  • improved banking services through M-banking

Socio-cultural impacts of mobile phones:

  • belonging to a communication network rahter than to a place
  • strengthen democracy (protests, elections)
  • status symbol
  • mixing of private and public life
  • increased sense of security

Other potential uses and impacts of mobile phones in Africa

  • improved health services
  • improved education
  • e-government

But overall, adoptions of the technology must come with improvements in other infrastructure areas, otherwise there will be no impact. Furthermore governments need to adapt appropriate ICT policies.

.

Although the paper doesn’t come up with the most surprising answers, it gives a good overview of the potentials of mobile phones in Africa. I think the main conclusions are still valid though a lot has happened in those two years since the paper was written. For the whole paper I may refer to EJISDC.

Tags: , , , ,
Africa and the Boom in Mobile Phone Subscription
was published on 08.12.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
No Comments AddThis Feed Button

Village Pay Phone Project

As I am basically finished writing my Master thesis (hopefully my supervisor thinks like that too), I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful.

This first on is “Village Pay Phones and Poverty Reduction: Insights from a Grameen Bank Initiative in Bangladesh” and is actually a classic.  It was written by Abdul Bayes (Professor of Economics, Jahangimagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh), Joachim von Braun (Director at the Center for Development Research, Bonn, Germany) and Rasheda Akhter (Researcher, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh) in 1999 for the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn.

I deals with the impact of the Village Pay Phone project of the Grameen Bank on the social and economic situation in the villages in Bangladesh where the project was implemented.

In the following a short summary of the paper:

The situation in Bangladesh 1999:

Village Pay Phone Lady - picture taken from Jeevs Sinclair

Village Pay Phone Lady - picture taken by Jeevs Sinclair

  • 80% of the population live in rural areas
  • 47% of the population live below the poverty line
  • Overall there is only few basic infrastructure

The telecom sector in Bangladesh:

  • 0.26 fixed lines per 100 people
  • Calls are expensive
  • Only 20% of calls are completed successfully
  • There are many complaints

Mobile phone operators entered the market some years ago and leapfrogged the fixed-line subscriptions almost immediately. The reason for this was also the competition between seven operators.

Village Pay Phones:

  • Based on an idea of the Grameen Bank
  • Provide mobile phones to the rural poor
  • Four international partners built an NGO and acquired the license for GSM
  • VPPs were only given to women with certain attributes
  • Call fees and the overall procedure were fixed

Phone owners were usually found to be poorer but socially more conscient than the phone users. Most of the people that made phone calls were non-poor (three-quarters) and male (two-third). Problems were for a lot of users the low connection quality which resulted in a wish for lower rates

The effects of Village Pay Phones:

Economic effects:

  • The VPP owners  gain a net profit of ~270 which accounts for about 1/5 to 1/4 of total income
  • The profit was mostly spent to installment payments, education and saving
  • The alternatives for VPPs would have involved transport costs
  • The consumer surplus is therefore quite high and for the poor it is higher than the not-poor
  • Farmers gain more money because they know about market prices
  • Supply of goods became smoother as the market can be better analysed with more information
  • Foreign exchange has been made more transparent
  • Livestock keepers are better informed of possible diseases and how to cure them
  • Poverty was reduced and people have more to eat
  • Dealing with disasters was made easier due to more communication

Socio-cultural effects:

  • Empowerment of women – more decisions are taken by women alone, mobility was raised
  • The owners of VPPs gain higher social status
  • Phone owners have more knowledge and confidence

.

So overall it can be said, that the whole project was a big success story and this guy has really earned his Nobel Prize. For the whole article I may refer to Google Scholar.

Tags: , , , , ,
Village Pay Phone Project
was published on 28.11.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under south asia
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
1 Comment AddThis Feed Button

Voice services

Although many high end projects have been launched in the field of ICT4D, most of the people still can be reached through established media such as radio, television or the basic mobile phone functions – SMS and voice calls. Therefore it doesn’t surprise me that some of the most successful projects in ICT4D (FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, Tradenet, …) rely on these basic features (mostly SMS) for the front end.

An idea of mine which appeared in the course of writing my thesis was to provide updated information from the internet on a telephone number. Me and my colleagues David Hauer and Andreas Hornich wrote the prototype NoisR which uses the service Podlinez for this purpose. Right now, my colleagues work on expanding this prototype with some new features, I’m curious what will be the outcome.

Recently I’ve come across several other projects with a quite similar approach – to provide information from the internet in an audible representation accessible by phone. Or to just provide functionality of the internet for people without internet and computer.

One project was just recently launched by fellow blogger Drew CogbillPigeon.

In his own words:

“Pigeon is a social network that you access through a phone call.  Pigeon gives you one voice message that lasts one minute to tell your world what’s up.  You can think of your Pigeon message as a voice status update, an audio micro-blog, or space for citizen journalism.”

He even uploaded a short video on youtube to demonstrate the functions and now invites everybody to try out the service. Several tools which work quite alike are listed in another blog post of his.

Another service I have an eye on already a while, is Mosoko. It tries to provide functions similar to Craigslist, only by voice.

I really think these projects have potential, also keeping in mind the high rates of illiteracy in lesser developed countries which inhibit access to information represented in written form. Furthermore, as already mentioned, the access to mobile phones is increasingly given, whereas the access to computers and internet is not – I am wondering if there are also successful initiatives which combine the internet with radio, which is an even more popular ICT.

Tags: , , ,
Voice services
was published on 20.11.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
No Comments AddThis Feed Button

MobileActive08: Kutoma Wakunuma

This is the second of the interviews we shot the MobileActive08 conference in Johannesburg last month (organized by MobileActive.org and sangonet). In this video Dr Kutoma Wakunuma from Sheffield Hallam University (UK) talks about the social and economic impacts of new technologies in developing countries. She is specifically interested in gender aspects and investigates how mobile phones and the Internet can empower women in countries like Zambia. In the interview she discusses results from a study that she conducted in Zambia four years ago, regarding differences of mobile phone use between men and women. Her conclusion is that there is a need for more research focusing on the downsides (like social conflicts) of new technologies in developing countries.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
MobileActive08: Kutoma Wakunuma
was published on 07.11.2008 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under sub saharan africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
1 Comment AddThis Feed Button

Affordable mobile phones from Nokia

Nokia released a press release today, announcing that they will introduce affordable mobile phones by the end of November. This is part of Nokia’s ongoing effort to bridge the digital divide. Retail prices for the mobile phones will be starting at 25 EUR.

Nokia further announced the release of Internet services for the emerging market. The services will be available in 2009. They will cover applications and domains like e-mail, agriculture, and health. For example, Mail on Ovi allows users to create an e-mail account directly on the mobile phone. A trial of this service will start by the end of November.

It will be interesting to see the impact of the new devices and services on developing countries in the next months.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Affordable mobile phones from Nokia
was published on 04.11.2008 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under global
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
1 Comment AddThis Feed Button

Leaving on a jet plane…

Today my colleagues Martin Konzett, Martin Tomitsch and Anders Bolin left to Southern Africa for their big film project on mobile phone usage in Africa.

First they will attend the conference MobileActive08, then travel through various southern African countries to gather material.

Subsequently, the material will be put online under a CC license, reviewed, and in the end the resulting film will be promoted by Anders and his UZI-magazine.

So I hope in the next 6 weeks we will get more or less frequent updates on their experiences and also some pictures.

Wish you all the best and a great experience!

Tags: , , , ,
Leaving on a jet plane…
was published on 11.10.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
1 Comment AddThis Feed Button

« older posts | newer posts »