As the online Forum on “Mobile Telephony in rural areas” is getting closer, the list of projects using mobile is getting longer and longer. I have to thanks the participants to the KM4Dev list who have been proposing examples of application they were aware of. Let’s see what’s new around the table:
- Launched in the late 2006, Lifelines is a phone-based service which enables rural population in India to access accurate and up-to-date information on agricultural topics. Farmers can dial the Lifelines number 365 days a year and record their question on an automated voicemail system. This message is then picked up by a dedicated knowledge worker from OneWorld who sources the necessary information from a panel of agricultural and veterinary experts. The answer to the question is then left as a recording on the phone, which the farmers can pick up 24 hours later.
- The National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS) is a voice-based service, intended to serve farmers’ needs in rural areas of Kenya where internet access is limited. NAFIS covers a wide range of crops and livestock information with a variety of services like: text-to-speech systems, Automatic Speech Recognition systems, multilingual agricultural terminology banks, easily-navigable agricultural content and an expert system to make it user-driven and hence more responsive to farmers’ queries.
- TradeNet is a privately-operated market information system based in West Africa. It allows users to sign-up for SMS alerts for whatever commodities and areas they are interested in. Users in 15 countries can request prices which are provided in real time on the network from many market enumerators that are active throughout 380 markets spread across the continent. Users can also indicate their areas of business and receive instant SMS alerts for offers to buy or sell as soon as anyone else on the network has submitted an offer via their mobile.
- Established in 2003, Mobile4good is a social franchise project designed to use mobile phone technology to help alleviate poverty and improve the lives of people in the developing world. The platform can distribute content relevant to individual participants based upon different parameters, such as handset, location, time and business profile. The system include different services and have been used in Kenya mainly for the creation of new employment opportunities and to provide medical information.
- State government officials in Orissa, India, have instituted the use of SMS to help increase transmission speed of alerts and execute the necessary precautionary measures in the context of a campaign to check the spread of avian flu. The field staff send weekly reports using SMS to their directorate, which compiles the data for a consolidated weekly report for critical analysis and a response of appropriate remedial measures.
- EpiSurveyor is an open source tool enabling users to easily create a hand held data entry form, collect data on a mobile device, and then transfer the data back to a desktop or laptop for analysis. This technology allow users to create forms offline (using the standard EpiSurveyor program) or online (using the future WebiSurveyor site) and download them to mobile phones. The users can then send data collected on those forms by email or uploading to a server. EpiSurveyor, combining an open-source model with leverage of the burgeoning mobile computing network, contribute to the change the nature of public health practice by putting the tools for efficient public health data collection and analysis completely into the hands of health practitioners. The project is one of the Winners of the Stockholm Challenge Award 2008.
- Zumbido is a pilot project created to support groups living in urban and rural areas of Mexico. 40 people have been divided into 4 groups and provided with mobile phone that enabled a simultaneous communication between all the ten members of each group. Every participants had unlimited text messages. So doing, people are able to simultaneously communicate using messages to their nine co-members. The participants’ enthusiasm was demonstrated by 5,000 messages sent in the first three days and over 240,000 during the course of the trial. Clearly, there was a deep need to communicate and share experiences about access to health care services, discussing human rights and problems of discrimination and ignorance.
- The mobile hospital project in Argentina aims to take health and health education where people lives, eliminating the social, economic and cultural barriers that prevent people from having access to a good medical care system. In the long term, the project wish to promote a major equity within the society by integrating the poorest people to the health system.
- Ushaidi in Kenya is an experiment to exchange and distribute information via cellphones about social and political crisis. The platform allows anyone to gather data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. The goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response. During riots in early 2008, Ushahidi worked as a tool for people who witnessed acts of violence to report incidents they have seen. Once verified by local groups working on the ground, the incidents were placed on a map-based view in a blog (geo-positioning technology to build up a picture of the situation was used) for other citizens to see.
- SMS and mobile technology have been used also in Nigeria to monitor voting activities during the elections in 2007. The Network of Mobile Election Monitors (NMEM) used SMS to feedback observations to a central computer hub. The goal was to give every citizen an opportunity to monitor the elections and tell the world via cellphone what was happening in their area during the voting. Voters’ and volunteers’ observations were texted to one cell number and lately cross checked to make sure of their accuracy. NMEM kept track of all of the texts using FrontlineSMS and prepared a final report.
- MIND (Mobile Technology Initiatives for Non-Formal Distance Education) is an innovative research project that looks into the viability and effectiveness of using SMS as part of a blended learning experience for out-of-school youth and adult learners in the Philippines. The goal is to test the feasibility and acceptability of using SMS for delivering non-formal distance education modules to different socio-economic, cultural and gender groups, and to determine the motivation of users for distance education purposes.
- With the VAVAN ICT Agricultural Sustainable Project, cellphones and other ICT equipments are used to foster agricultural development, by easing communication between farmers and the consumers’ community. Using SMS, farmers can reshape the “supply chain” for their products, avoiding long trips to distant markets and delivering the products directly at the customers’ houses. This eases transportation and prevention of accidents and theft, as farmers exchange text messages about roads conditions and suspect situations. In the future, a website will advertise all the products of the farmers’ network, offering from vegetables, cocoyam, yams, cassava, plantains, bananas to animals, like chickens, pigs, goats and cows.
Tools and software
- MXit is a message exchange software for cellphones. It enables sending and receiving text messages to and from mobile phones and PCs via the Internet, using a GPRS or 3G connection, rather than standard SMS technology. People can chat directly from their mobile phone, with other MXit users on their mobiles or on their PC’s, anywhere in the world. The software allows to send a message of up to 2000 characters and connect to MSN messenger, Yahoo, ICQ, AOL messenger or Jabber communities.
- RapidSMS is an SMS-based tool that allows mobile data collection and bulk sms messaging. Users can collect both quantitative and qualitative data through SMS forms. It also includes support for IVR interaction and voice callback. RapidSMS has been developed by the Youth Section within the Department of Communication of the UNICEF using mobile phones in the field.