For the time being this is the last video interview that we will introduce through the MobileActive08 podcast series. And we have saved a really exciting interview to conclude this series!
In the video below Chris Williamson from Psitek (a South Africa-based innovative product development company) introduces Streetwise – a mobile computing device that aims to to provide students with lean Internet services, like e-mail or news. The entire device was designed and engineered by Psitek. It comes with a replaceable, durable keyboard and a GPRS antenna that provides Internet access through a SIM card. The device runs on a standard mobile phone battery, but can also be driven on a car battery.
Make sure to watch the second part of the video, where Chris shows this ground-breaking device and explains its features in detail.
Streetwise has also been mentioned recently on WhiteAfrican.com.
Stay tuned for the next video podcast series, which will start soon!
In this week’s video interview Jacob Mtalitinya from the University of Dar Es Salaam gives us some insights into the usage and research of mobile technologies in Tanzania. He explains how the introduction of mobile phones has changed the way people in Tanzania communicate and why M-Pesa has become so popular. At the University of Dar Es Salaam Jacob Mtalitinya investigates the social impacts of mobile technologies. His group is also working together with international partners to push forward research in this area.
This week’s video from our MobileActive08 interview series features Matthias Wevelsiep, who is originally from Germany, but currently works as Senior Program Manager for Human Rights and ICT at Plan Finland. Plan Finland is an NGO that has projects in Africa, Asia and the Americas, where they work together with children, families, communities, and local organizations to develop programs at grassroots levels in fields such as health and education.
In the interview below (this week in German), Matthias talks about the impacts of digital technologies on social movements. He raises the interesting question whether the focus of such research is on digital social movements or on social movements who also employ digital channels. “I believe that that the social movement will totally naturally use digital channels more and more,” says Matthias and gives some examples, where Plan Finland was involved, such as the African Movement of Working Children and Youth. They operate in different countries and adapting digital communication and organization channels from country to country represents a big challenge.
Matthias concludes that the introduction of new technologies is not necessarily important, but that development rather happens on a different level, since existing technologies are often used in other ways than imagined or intended. – “People like to say, ‘well if it doesn’t work in Finland, why should it work anywhere else?’ but if you look closer, you would be surprised to see how well and economically things actually work, just in slightly different ways,” he says.
This week’s video interview features Andi Friedman, Managing Director of Clyral Digital Solutions. He talks about Mobile Researcher, an application developed by his company that allows researchers to collect data in the field using their mobile phone.
There are many applications that support mobile surveys out there, but this one seems to be outstanding in terms of its simple approach. The company started working on this project three years ago and developed the first prototype together with Health Systems Trust, a South-African NGO. This allowed them to observe how people were using surveys in the South-African context and to determine user requirements. The fact that they involved their users from the beginning was probably crucial for coming up with an usable and easy-to-use solution.
Surveys are created using an online web tool and can be deployed to the devices, even while they are in the field. No installation of any additional software is necessary (unless you want to use their mobile application channel, which allows for richer survey representation on the device). They also provide a prepaid system without any licensing or subscription costs, which makes the service accessible to NGOs and other organizations of any size.
Clyral Digital Solutions is based in Durban in South Africa. Check out the video below to learn more about Mobile Researcher.
In this week’s video interview Werner van Staden from MeWe OpenSource talks about his work and his thoughts on current trends of the mobile market in developing countries. He explains how open source software has moved from the desktop computer to the mobile platform. As Werner puts it, “[we need to] push forward the efforts of mobile connectivity and grassroots action in africa today.” Watch the video below to find out how this movement can help to empower the poorest of the poor.
Werner van Staden currently lives in Johannesburg and works for MeWe OpenSource, which is a trading subsidiary of the social enterprise MeWe Art & Education. Both organizations do work in London and South Africa with the aim to improve the lives of children and young people in those countries.
After last week’s interview with Evan Henshaw-Plath, we want to introduce Blaine Cook today, who worked on Fire Eagle together with Evan. We were excited to meet Blaine at the MobileActive08 conference in Johannesburg, since he used to be the chief architect at Twitter, before he joined Yahoo. Currently he works as open source developer for BT group.
Blaine has received quite some attention in media due to his role at Twitter. He also has a big name in the open source developer community, not only for writing an open protocol for secure API authorization for desktop, mobile and web applications (OAuth).
Find out in the interview below what his views on mobile technologies for development are and why he thinks that current trends of the mobile market in Africa will change how this technology is viewed.
Evan ‘Rabble’ Henshaw-Plath is currently working at Yahoo! Brickhouse. In the past he worked on odeo.com and Fire Eagle. His business card says he is a hacker & builder of things. We met this really interesting technologist and activist at the MobileActive08 conference in Johannesburg, where he shared his thoughts on emerging technologies with us.
One of the things he points out in the interview below is that mobile innovation in developing countries is currently restricted by costs. Text messages are a very powerful medium, but projects that rely on text messages are too expensive for actual deployment. In the interview he explains why many amazing projects around the world thus remain pilot projects.
Evan ‘Rabble’ Henshaw-Plath is also the co-author of the upcoming O’Reilly book Testing and Debugging Ruby on Rails. He blogs about technology and politics at anarchogeek.com.
We met Alex Comninos at the MobileActive08 conference in Johannesburg, where he told us about his research on mobile payment and mobile transfers. In the interview below he explains how mobile payment systems like M-Pesa may improve the banking situation in Africa. “We are looking at how we can deepen services like this to integrate people into the formal bank sector, give them access to credit,” Alex says. He further explains how having access to a transaction history would not only help people learning about budgeting, but also potentially make it easier for them to receive loans.
Alex works as researcher and network coordinator for Research ICT Africa, which is based in South Africa.
See also MobileActive’s notes from Alex’ talk at the conference.
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.
We met Yael SchwartzmanÂ from Mexico at the MobileActive08 conference in Johannesburg last year, where she shared her on-going ICT4D project with us.
Yael currently works as a researcher at the University of California. As computer scientist she is involved in the development of a mobile phone application for coffee farmers in Mexico. The application, which is designed for fill in surveys, supports internal monitoring. This is important for the farmers to achieve better accountability, higher quality and improved efficiency, which in turn allows them to get access to a premium market.
To learn more about the application and the situation of coffee farmers in Mexico watch the full interview below. Muchas Gracias Yael!