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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Consequences of Mobile ICT4D Constraints
was published on 25.03.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under east africa, sub saharan africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
No Comments AddThis Feed Button

What is the link between mobile value-added services and unpaid care work?

picture-from-rct

In 2016 nearly 70% of the bottom fifth of the population in developing countries owned a mobile phone, meaning that the poorest households are more likely to have access to mobiles than toilets or even clean water[1]. This breathtaking reality offers a clear opportunity to use available technologies to increase the outreach and efficiency of specific development interventions. Both donors and civil society organisations (CSOs) are wary of the opportunities and challenges associated with using ICTs in a development context, and much effort has been placed on developing commercially viable and sustainable mobile services for agriculture, health and nutrition over the last few years. However, ICTs are only one piece in a bigger system and sometimes we need to step back a bit to discover how a programme is having an unexpected negative impact in the very same people it is trying to benefit.

My name is Alvaro Valverde and until recently I was working with Oxfam as Private Sector Adviser (ICTs). My work included leading two programmes that used mobile phones to advance Oxfam’s work on livelihoods and women empowerment. One of the programmes was mNutrition, which aims to improve nutrition, food security and livelihoods for people living in poverty in 13 countries, especially women and children, through increased scale and sustainability of mobile based nutrition-sensitive information services on health (mHealth) and agriculture (mAgri). The second programme was Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care), my role focused on the use of ICTs for building evidence for influencing change on unpaid care work (e.g. cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children) in Malawi.

The mNutrition programme in Malawi developed SMS and IVR services for agriculture and health in collaboration with Airtel, the government of Malawi and local content partners. The service arm concentrated on creating commercially viable services, while the content arm focused on developing scientific based behavioural change information and messages. In parallel, the WE-Care programme implemented three research methodologies to gather evidence on the current distribution of unpaid care work in Malawi and on the impact that access to mNutrition services and content had in the re-distribution and reduction of unpaid care work for women smallholder farmers in the country.

Through participatory action research the WE-Care programme identified the current challenges and unequal distribution of care related activities at the household level in Malawi. This research was followed by a household survey, where detailed data was gathered using mobile phones from almost 600 households. The findings from both methodologies supported the idea that women in Malawi have an extremely busy daily schedule, as they carry out the vast majority of care related activities within their households, apart from also engaging in income generating activities.

The third methodology was a Randomised Control Trial (RCT), which aimed to understand the impact that access to mNutrition services had on the allocation of time to unpaid care work. Participants in the treatment group received a total of 24 SMS on their mobile phones (health, agriculture and food preparation messages) while those in the control group received a total of 12 messages containing interesting facts and seasonal greetings. The findings from the RCT revealed that the mNutrition programme was having an unexpected impact on the lives of the participants: users of the services prioritized the application of those messages directly related to income-generating activities during the first two months of receiving the information, to the detriment of messages directly linked to health and food practices; this increase in the time allocated to productive work also resulted in a reduction of sleep hours and time dedicated to personal care, as well as a higher perception of the occurrence of domestic violence by participants in the treatment group.

While it is worth taking into account the short period of time in which the RCT took place, these results point to higher calorie consumption by the participants (more time spent in the field and less sleep hours) and no increase in calorie intake, which could result in a potential reduction of the nutrition levels of the beneficiaries in the short term. This would directly challenge the overall goal of the mNutrition programme and even its sustainability in the long term. These findings were used to create a set of recommendations for the redesign of the mNutrition programme and also to inform the development of future ICT4D programmes that target poor women living in developing countries. Read the complete research and recommendations here.

There are three main things I have learned from this experience: women in developing countries have an extremely busy daily schedule and successful behaviour change can only happen if women’s time constraints are taken into account from the onset of a programme; more research is needed to better understand what works and what doesn’t when using ICTs in a developing context, particularly for mobile based information services that aim to promote behavioural change; and ICT4D programmes should not be developed in isolation, but rather linked to ongoing development interventions and existing sources of information.

 

[1] http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/896971468194972881/pdf/102725-PUB-Replacement-PUBLIC.pdf

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
What is the link between mobile value-added services and unpaid care work?
was published on 07.12.2016 by Alvaro Valverde. It files under sub saharan africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
2 Comments AddThis Feed Button

Interview with Evan 'Rabble' Henshaw-Plath

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.

This is the 14th interview from our MobileActive08 video podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

Tags: , , , , , ,
Interview with Evan 'Rabble' Henshaw-Plath
was published on 23.02.2009 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under sub saharan africa
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
2 Comments AddThis Feed Button

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

Mobile phone-based education and health care for LDCs

A recent article covered two Indian-based companies that provide innovative services through mobile phone text messages. EnableM offers e-learning courses in the form of preparatory guides, sample tests, puzzles, and other tools for MBA, CA, Medical, Law, or Engineering courses. The idea is to provide affordable education that is independent of class rooms. It is also far cheaper than computers, considering that more and more people own a mobile phone: the current number of mobile phone users in the country is nearly 300 million and it is growing almost 10 million per month.

The second company is ZMQ Software Systems, which will launch a program later this year that is particularly aimed at women: it allows them to receive prenatal advice via text messages. This new service includes “weekly tips on what to eat, what vaccines to get, and when to get check-ups” [Snippet taken from here].

Both services show directions how the mobile phone can be used to provide health care and foster eduction in lesser developed areas, for people (especially women), who do not have access to those resources. While this idea seems to be both simple and promising there are still many challenges that remain to be solved. For instance, women have less often access to mobile phones than men.

In May 2008 the Women of Uganda Network organized a workshop entitled “ICTs: Is your wealth a click away?“. They invited people to contribute to a set of questions. Answers posted on the website revealed important issues from users’ perspectives:

It’s still a theory because the common woman has no access to ICTs.
It’s a theory and only reliable for a few urban literates.
ICTs would be more helpful if more content was available in local languages. [Snippet taken from here]

It will be interesting to see how the service for pregnant women in India will perform once it is available and what can be learnt for similar services for LDCs.

[Thanks to Martin for pointing me to the article on livemint.com]

Tags: , , , , ,
Mobile phone-based education and health care for LDCs
was published on 22.09.2008 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

|

This website stores some user agent data. These data are used to provide a more personalized experience and to track your whereabouts around our website in compliance with the European General Data Protection Regulation. If you decide to opt-out of any future tracking, a cookie will be set up in your browser to remember this choice for one year. I Agree, Deny
526