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Putting People First

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Posts in category 'Asia'

30 August 2009

Using Nokia Life Tools in India to learn English

Nokia Life Tools
Dina Mehta, founder and managing director of Mosoci India, reports on how Nokia Life Tools actually gets used in India, and more in particular, how the how the Learn English program, a part of Nokia Life Tools, really works on the ground.

“On the long drive to the villages, Natesh, Head of Nokia Life Tools, India spoke to us extensively about how they developed this concept. It started with debunking the myth that people in villages are so poor they cannot afford such tools, and figuring out through research, what would make a real difference. They found that the need “to better my life” is huge, and Nokia Life Tools might find a space in this, by making users “better prepared when the opportunities strike”. I believe this is a little step in that direction and has a lot of potential for distance education too.”

Read full story

Also check this follow-up article on the use of Nokia Life Tools by Indian farmers.

24 August 2009

Mobile phones drive health IT innovation in developing countries

 
Paula Fortner, iHealthBeat senior staff writer, reports on how innovative mobile technologies are helping to fundamentally transform health care in many developing countries.

“Last month, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a $100 million initiative to strengthen health systems in Africa and Asia by building capacity, supporting policy interventions and promoting health IT applications.

As part of its health IT strategy, the foundation intends to leverage mobile phone-based technologies to improve health care access, quality and efficiency.

Karl Brown, Rockefeller’s associate director of applied technology, explained that the foundation sees mobile health technologies “as sort of the front lines of e-health.” He said that although servers, databases and Web sites will be necessary to support the mobile phone applications, health workers can use the devices to extend their reach to regions that lack adequate health care infrastructure.”

Read full story

3 August 2009

Nokia’s MeraNokia service

MeraNokia
Nokia’s MeraNokia (Majha Nokia in Marathi) is actually a Nokia Life Tools (NLT) application coded into the 2300 and 2323 handsets being used in the pilot. Farmers and villagers pay around Rs 2 per day, every 10 days, for the latest on crop pricing, weather, farming tips, among other things. All this is freely available on the net for those with PCs and Internet access. For the farmers, the mobile is the PC.

“Across India, the mobile revolution is passé by now and is just a matter of tracking the millions. (By the time you will be reading this, the number of mobile subscribers in India will have crossed 400 million, making it the world’s second-largest market.) But this very growth has put the fear of commoditisation into the hearts of the players. They need a differentiator. That differentiator is services.”

Read full story

(via Open Gardens)

26 July 2009

Indian Design for All newsletter features German design

Design for All
The Design for All Institute India has published a special issue of its newsletter together with IDZ International Design Centre, Berlin. Guest Editor is Prof Birgit Weller.

Design for All Institute Of India is a self financed, non-profit voluntary organization, located in Delhi, India, which seeks corporate and public partnership in order to carry forward its very ambitious agenda of pro-actively building bridges of social inclusion between the design community and all other groups whose activities can be positively influenced by a coherent application of design methodology. Design for All means creating products, services and systems to cater to the widest possible range of users’ requirements. We initiated the concept and have received enormous encouragement from domestic as well as International communities.

Download newsletter (125 pages)

10 July 2009

Rural India

Rural India
The Wall Street Journal and India Knowledge@Wharton present a unique mix of reporting, analysis, interviews and video on life and business in rural India. The Rural India reader resource combines specially-commissioned material with recent articles.

A selection of articles relevant to the topics of this blog:

Vikram Akula: mobile banking could be the future of microfinance
In an interview with India Knowledge@Wharton, Vikram Akula, founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance, spoke about emerging trends in microfinance.

India’s rural poor: why housing isn’t enough to create sustainable communities
The real story of rural India must be told with more than five hundred million characters who live on less than a dollar a day, most of them in terrible living conditions.

The poor deserve world-class products and services
C.K. Prahalad has long championed the notion that business — rather than government handouts — represents the most effective solution to poverty.

Rural India Snaps Up Mobile Phones
India’s cellphone industry continues its steady growth, led by demand from rural consumers, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Doing well by doing good?
The mobile phone is now one of the hottest development tools world-wide, with corporations eyeing untapped rural markets in the hope that new mobile-phone services can boost rural incomes and corporate revenue at the same time.

26 June 2009

Microsoft’s global R&D transformation

Rural kiosks
Navi Radjou writes on HarvardBusiness.org that he recently visited the Microsoft Research India lab in Bangalore, describes what he learned about their Technology for Emerging Markets (TEM) unit, and draws some interesting wider conclusions.

“What impressed me most about TEM is its staff members’ multidisciplinary backgrounds. In addition to computer scientists and engineers, TEM also includes experts in the areas of ethnography, sociology, political science, and development economics, all of which help Microsoft understand the social context of technology in emerging markets like India. [...]

By leveraging its multidisciplinary talent, TEM has developed some amazing solutions designed for emerging and underserved markets, both in rural and urban environments.”

Radjou sees this as an example of Microsoft’s new direction in terms of research and development:

“Undoubtedly Microsoft is pioneering the R&D 2.0 model that I discussed in my last post — an organizational model that relies on anthropologists and development economists to first decipher the socio-cultural needs of users in emerging markets like India and then use these deep insights to develop appropriate technology solutions. And it’s telling that Microsoft picked India as the epicentre of its global R&D transformation.”

He concludes with “some operating principles that [he] can offer to senior managers in other multinationals who wish to deploy the R&D 2.0 model in their own emerging market units like India.”

Navi Radjou is the Executive Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.

Read full story

24 June 2009

Intel’s Genevieve Bell on humanising technology

Genevieve Bell
Malaysian newspaper The Star devotes plenty of space to user-centred design in three stories that feature the work of Genevieve Bell, Intel’s user experience director.

“Marrying” anthropology and science

“I still write and publish my work in academic journals. To me, what we do in companies like Intel is the cutting edge of anthropological study.

“We form a relationship with the consumer and represent their needs. It’s a moral obligation to tell their stories.

“We find out what makes people tick, not just so that we can sell them things, but to make life better for them by ensuring that people in small towns and emerging markets can afford it. We want to help create technology for more people.”

Annoying things device-users do

“The top responses for strange mobile etiquette behaviour ranged from making a cashier wait until a cellphone call was completed and texting while driving.

Other responses included using a laptop in a public toilet, as well as hearing typing and conversations at church, during a funeral, and in a doctor’s office.”

Better television

“My engineering colleagues were desperately convinced that everything was a PC waiting to happen.

“What is needed is to meaningfully blend television and the Internet. My research conclusion was clear – consumers love television and only put up with their PCs because they want to connect to the Internet.

“It’s clear that people care about social networking and its technologies so how to we bring that into TV sets?

“Imagine accessing Flicker or Twitter on your television without turning it into a PC ? We desire for television to do more but it must not be too complicated. The challenge is to create technology that can accommodate local content,” she says, noting that there is a huge space for advancement in consumer electronics, especially to “make television better”.

15 June 2009

Nokia to offer Life Tools for rural mobile users

Nokia Life Tools for farmer
Nokia plans to roll out its Life Tools group of services to more emerging markets following a successful pilot program in India, a company executive said Monday.

“Nokia plans to roll out its Life Tools group of services to more emerging markets following a successful pilot program in India, a company executive said Monday.

Nokia is now formulating plans to roll out Life Tools, which includes agricultural and educational services for rural mobile users, in other emerging markets following the “great success” of a trial conducted in India, said Mary McDowell, executive vice president and chief development officer at Nokia, speaking at a company event in Singapore ahead of the CommunicAsia conference and exhibition, which opens on June 16.”

Read full story

13 June 2009

In South Korea, all of life is mobile

Mobile in South Korea
Somehow I missed out on this 24 May New York Times article about South Korea being the test case for the mobile future, thanks to its high-speed wireless networks and top technology companies.

“It has been a while since the mobile phone became more than just a phone, serving as a texting device, a camera and a digital music player, among other things. But experts say South Korea, because of its high-speed wireless networks and top technology companies like Samsung and LG, is the test case for the mobile future.”

Read full story

12 June 2009

The participatory web – new potentials for ICT in rural areas

The participatory web
Web 2.0 solutions offer people in rural areas a platform for networking and knowledge exchange.

This brochure, published by GTZ, provides a systematic overview of Web 2.0 experiences made to date in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It serves as a practice-oriented introduction to the theme and discusses both the potentials and the possible limits to the participatory web.

Read press release
Download brochure (44 pages)

11 June 2009

R&D 2.0: fewer engineers, more anthropologists

Navi Radjou
Navi Radjou argues on the HarvardBusiness.org Voices blog that R&D in emerging markets needs fewer engineers and more anthropologists.

“To effectively identify and address the explicit and unmet needs of the broader consumer base in emerging markets, I believe multi-national companies [MNCs] must adopt a new global innovation model. Let’s call it global R&D 2.0.

This global R&D 2.0 strategy calls for a talent recalibration in MNCs’ R&D labs in emerging markets. I suggest that multinationals, besides employing technically-oriented engineers and scientists, begin to staff their R&D units in developing nations like India with two other types of experts, namely:

Anthropologists and ethnographers. By having anthropologists study and interact with end-customers in their natural settings, Western firms can learn to tailor their business models and offerings to match users’ socio-economic and cultural context. [...]

Development economists. [...] To effectively lure low-income buyers into procuring their low-end goods and services, multinationals need the help of development economists who can concoct creative pricing and financing mechanisms, such as microcredit schemes.”

Read full story

11 June 2009

From little things…

Uganda van
The Future Tense programme on Australia’s ABC Radio features bottom-up, user-generated innovation in Africa:

“In this program we’ll highlight several interesting initiatives, one in Africa and one in the South Asia region, initiatives which have had success largely because of their responsiveness to people needs. And we’ll also question the West’s preconceptions about the future technological needs of the world’s poor.”

The programme features Nathan Eagle, a research scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, whose “area of expertise is exploring ways in which the lives of people in the developing world can be enhanced by creatively using a simple piece of everyday technology, the mobile phone”; Jerry Watkins, a senior lecturer in design at Swinburne University in Melbourne, who is the co-principal investigator of the ‘Moving Content’ project in India; and Archie Law, CEO of ActionAid Australia, which is “in the process of setting up what they call a ‘blog outreach post’ where the idea is “to send someone to a remote part of the developing world, in this case Tanzania, and have them establish a communications point there.”

Listen to audio or view transcript

11 June 2009

The Bottom of the Pyramid

Anti capitalism pyramid
This week the Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion hosted a conference about the “Bottom of the Pyramid” and Elizabeth Losh, author of Virtualpolitik and writing director of the Humanities Core Course at the University of California, Irvine, has an excellent and long summary on her blog.

“[The conference] frequently explored and critiqued the thesis of CK Prahalad in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, which argues that aiming corporatized products at those living at the very bottom of the social ladder will enable markets to alleviate poverty while giving do-gooders a respectable profit by aiming for a kind of long tail that aggregates small sums and micropayments and often uses mobile phones and other kinds of ubiquitous computing technologies to foster exchange.”

Read full story

1 June 2009

FT special report on connectivity

Connectivity
The Financial Times has published a special report on connectivity, analysing the implications of a connected planet.

My preferred pieces:

Skills: Business must learn from the new tribe
So-called ‘digital natives’ are bringing down the barriers to collaborative working, finds Jessica Twentyman
(If you read one article only, this is the one.)

Mobility: Flexibility is driven from the bottom up
But organisations must ensure employees are not slaves to mobile devices, notes Stephen Pritchard

Overcoming the fear of connectivity
Some organisations, fearful of untoward consequences such as reputational damage, ban social networking websites. Others embrace them enthusiastically and try to persuade others to do likewise.

Developing world: ‘Have-nots’ no closer to catching the ‘haves
Cellphones are nearly ubiquitous but internet access is still very patchy, says Paul Taylor

Case study: Text messages give shopkeepers the power to bulk buy
Stroll through South Africa’s villages – as steeped in ancestral tradition as they are deprived of basic services – and you will come across the convenience store, writes Tom Burgis.

Opinion: IT makes poverty a ‘curable affliction’
Olav Kjorven of the UNDP argues that innovative programmes in developing nations have helped people increase their choices and opportunities

Donor programmes: Sponsors can now view benefits online
Non-governmental organisations and government bodies can see exactly how their money is being spent, writes Danny Bradbury

Developed world: Those with no access miss out on opportunities
Jessica Twentyman examines the evidence that digital exclusion and social disadvantage go hand in hand

Connecting the world: Ubiquity will be a hard state to reach
Network access for all requires money but there are also significant technical hurdles, writes Stephen Pritchard

(Note that without subscription you can read only 10 FT articles a month. But you can double or triple that by installing more than one browser.)

31 May 2009

Round. The World. Connected. A video series

Round. The World. Connected.
The Nokia Siemens Networks has created an extremely well produced website and video series, entitled “Round. The World. Connected.” that sets out to understand what connectivity means to different people and cultures across Europe, Asia and the Americas. The project focuses specifically on how the latest communications technologies are touching peoples lives and on the socio-economic impact of connectivity.

“Adrian Simpson discovers the future of TV entertainment in Belgium; how the mobile phone camera revolutionizes healthcare in Kenya; the way in which government processes are facilitated through internet access in Mexico; and the political influence of SMS and social networking sites during the Obama election campaign in the US. But that’s not all – in the second half of 2009 Adrian will continue to travel to the corners of the globe, to find out how connectivity is impacting people’s lives from Austria to Zimbabwe.”

Currently the site has five 10 minute video episodes up on Europe, Africa, Latin America, USA and India (with China and Jakarta/Tokyo following soon). Each episode comes with clearly marked additional footage, plus interviews of Nokia Siemens Networks customers in those areas.

Mira Slavova of the excellent mmd4d blog that deals with mobile services for emerging markets, reports extensively on the African episode and its additional footage.

19 May 2009

Mobile Literacy

Besera Bhen
Our friends at Adaptive Path have posted some information on a design and research project that aimed to understand how mobile technology can work more effectively in emerging markets.

The company went to rural India to investigate the impact of mobile technology and developed concepts for new mobile devices for this market. Based on the research they conducted there, they developed a series design principles and concepts for mobile devices to meet the needs of people in emerging markets.

You can find more information in a new dedicated section of their website.

More background is also on their blog:

19 May 2009

New media practices in China, Korea, India, Brazil, Japan and Ghana

 
The blog series on New Media Practices in International Contexts, which I announced in January, is now complete. It covers the unique characteristics of digital media user behaviours in very different socio-cultural contexts of China, Korea, India, Brazil, Japan and Ghana, with a particular interest in the intersection of youth, new media and learning.

The authors, a group of people around Mimi Ito, believe that examining new media practices from an international (and, in some cases, transnational) perspective will enhance their current efforts to theorise youth, new media and learning, a wider MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Initiative.

China (by Cara Wallis): introductionmobile phonesgaminginternetnew media productionconclusion
Korea (by HyeRyoung Ok): introductioninternetgamingmobile phonesnew media productionconclusion
India (by Anke Schwittay): introductionmobile phonesgaminginternetnew media productionconclusion
Brazil (by Heather Horst): introductioninternetnew media productiongamesmobile phonesconclusion
Japan (by Mimi Ito and Daisuke Okabe): introductioninternetmobile phonesnew media productiongamingconclusion
Ghana (by Araba Sey): introductionmobile phonesinternetnew media productiongamingconclusion

Each case study focuses upon the telecommunications landscape, internet and mobile phone practices, gaming, and new media production, and provides a unique perspective on the ways in which infrastructure, institutions and culture (among other factors) shape contemporary new media practices.

7 May 2009

In cellphone, India reveals an essence

Anand
Anand Giridharadas, South Asia correspondent at International Herald Tribune, describes what makes the cellphone special in India, and what it means for democracy.

“The cellphone appeals deeply to the Indian psychology, to the spreading desire for personal space and voice, not in defiance of the family and tribe but in the chaotic midst of it.

Imagine what it was like, back in the Pre-cellular Age, to be young in a traditional household. People are everywhere. Doors are open. Judgments fly. Bedrooms are shared. Phones are centrally located.

The cellphone serves, then, as a technology of individuation. On the cellphone, you are your own person. No one answers your calls or reads your messages. Your number is just yours.”

Read full story

4 April 2009

Information technologies and international development

ITID
Information Technologies and International Development, a quarterly peer-reviewed journal that focuses on the intersection of information and communication technologies (ICT) with economic and social development, is a gem.

And the entire contents are available for free online.

Here are some of the recent contributions:
Digital Green: participatory video and mediated instruction for agricultural extension [in India]
Constructing Class Boundaries: gender, aspirations, and shared computing [based on research in India and Chile]
A Peer-to-Peer Internet for the Developing World
The Case of the Occasionally Cheap Computer: low-cost devices and classrooms in the developing regions
Why Don’t People Use Nepali Language Software?
Warana Unwired: replacing PCs with mobile phones in a rural sugar cane cooperative
Problematic Empowerment: West African internet scams as strategic misrepresentation
Sustainability Failures of Rural Telecentres: challenges from the sustainable sccess in rural India (SARI) project
The Impact of Mobile Telephony on Developing Country Micro-Enterprise: a Nigerian case study
ICT in Education Reform in Cambodia: problems, politics, and policies impacting implementation

The Nigerian case study got a lot of feedback recently, as it underlines how in effect mobile phones are excluding millions in the developing world.

10 March 2009

SustainIT – a supplement worth reading

SustainIT
The Independent today introduced SustainIT, the first in a series of three monthly supplements on ICT and globalisation. Some of the articles in the supplement (especially those not written by sponsor BT staff) are a treat:

Corporate social responsibility is vital for business survival
Corporate social responsibility used to be seen as a luxury. No longer. In today’s climate, looking beyond short-term profit is increasingly important – and ICT can help. Roger Trapp explains.

Diane Coyle: For new networking technologies, there are boom times ahead
The whole world should feel the benefit.

Closing the digital divide
How the spread of ICT is improving quality of life for millions in the Third World.

Dreaming up a connected world
Adrian Turpin on the ‘imagineers’ whose visualisations will determine the nature of future communications technologies.

Modern networker: using ICT to change Kenyan life for the better
Ory Okolloh, 32, could be seen as a face of Africa’s connected future.