“These are some of the themes we will explore in the “Mobile Message.” Over the next few months we will delve into the human stories behind the growth of mobile technology in the developing world. We’ll take a closer look at the background and thinking behind FrontlineSMS, and hear from a number of users applying it to very real social and environmental problems in their communities. We will also hear thoughts and insights from other key mobile innovators in the field, from anthropologists to technologists to local innovators.”
Posts in category 'Emerging markets'
“My primary output is analysis of how new technology users are living at the intersection of macro processes. Examples of questions that I ask are: What does the future of the internet look like? What happens when the next 300 million migrants with digital tools are able to get online? How will the state, the world, and technological infrastructures accommodate such a massive change in scale? How do we design and market to this group?
I hang out with people and spend a lot of time trying to see the world through their eyes. I make long and deep observations of how everyday life is achieved and negotiated. I then interpret my observations and contextualize my analysis in relation to past, current and future socioeconomic, technological and cultural developments.
By answering these questions I am able to provide context and explanations for why people engage or don’t engage with certain technologies, to explain how this all interfaces with historical and present day life, and how designers, engineers, and organizers can meet the daily needs of both low-income/marginalized users and the burgeoning middle class.”
In developing world countries like Kenya, the technology to do this has been around for several years – and you do not need a bank account to use it.
M-Pesa launched in 2007, and there are now nearly 100 services like it around the world, mainly in developing countries.
Can the developed world learn from Kenya’s experience with the mobile wallet?
The BBC’s Fiona Graham finds out.
The two-day Harvard Forum II was sponsored by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University in September 2009.
ITID is a peer-reviewed, international, multidisciplinary quarterly that focuses on the intersection of information and communication technologies (ICT) with economic and social development. It is designed for researchers and practitioners from the engineering and social sciences, technologists, policy makers, and development specialists.
- The mobile and the world – Amartya Sen
- Some thoughts on ICT and growth – Michael Spence (Nobel in Economics, 2001)
- Capital, power, and the next step in decentralization – Yochai Benkler
- Decentralizing the mobile phone: a second ICT4D revolution – Ethan Zuckerman
Data for a better planet
Now that more people have location-aware smartphones and the Web has made data easy to share, personal data is poised to become an important tool to understand how we live, and how we all might live better.
Citytracking presents data on cities for map, visualisations
Citytracking, created by design and technology studio Stamen, presents digital data about cities that journalists and the public can easily grasp and use, and provides a series of tools to map and visualize data that lets people distribute their own conclusions.
Mobile data will be crucial to economies
In a short video interview on IdeasProject, Ushahidi co-founder Erik Hersman says once the data processing capabilities on mobile devices improve that it will be a huge growth area with huge social implications to economies all over the world.
“Researchers say the web as it was originally, if idealistically, conceived — a largely free, monolingual space where a shared digital culture prevailed — may soon be a distant memory. And it’s happening remarkably fast.”
“More than 4 billion of the 6 billion people on earth now have a cell phone, with a quarter of those owners getting one in just the last two years. And many are using them, in a giant global experiment, to change the way life is lived, from Manhattan to Ouagadougou.
The phones now allow Masai tribesmen in Kenya to bank the proceeds from selling cattle; Iranian protesters to organize in secret; North Koreans to communicate with the outside world; Afghan villagers to alert Coalition soldiers to Taliban forces; insurgents to blow up roadside bombs in Iraq; and charities to see, in real time, when HIV drugs run out in the middle of Malawi.”
“The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar has no clean water for its shacks made of ripped tarp and bamboo. No garbage pickup along the rocky, pocked earth that serves as a road. No power except from haphazard cables strung overhead illegally.
And not a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 people.
Yet nearly every destitute family in the slum has a cell phone. Some have three.”
Waller dropped the surprising statistic that worldwide there are one billion people who use cell phones–but don’t own one; instead they share, borrow or rent them.
The Cloud Phone was intended to serve this market. At first Waller tried to create a cell phone that could be manufactured for just $5 so that everyone could afford one, but he couldn’t pull it off.
Instead Waller went with a $25 phone, but designed it so that a village of users could share it while still maintaining individual phone numbers accounts on a single phone. Activation cost? Just 10 to 20 cents per person.
Read the full interview, which is filled with interesting insights on how the other half uses their phones.
“The phone’s small size makes its extremely portable, and easy to carry or stow. That narrow, squishy keypad is dustproof and water resistant, so a splash of rain or a drop in the sand won’t ruin it. The phone’s plasticky shell and light weight make perfect sense the first time you see it bounce off your tile floor, skittering to a stop unscathed. [...]
This phone was meant to survive and to do; its only jobs are to call and to text and to create convenience for as long as possible, as cheaply as possible.”
“While nearly all of this work is well-intentioned, almost none of it amounts to anything concrete,” points out a magazine editor I know, who may be dazed by the number of do-gooder projects pouring into his inbox. “Why is there such a disconnect between the countless schemes of these designers and … well, to put it bluntly, real results? What has to happen to get the ratio of good intentions to completed projects to a more game-changing one?”
The roots to these answers are deep and hairy. They depend on the Jesuitical parsing of words like success, which can be defined quite differently depending on whose perspective you’re considering: designer, funder, recipient. Even design takes on semantic complexity in the social-change arena. “Half of success is determined before anybody picks up a pencil to sketch,” says Mariana Amatullo, director of Designmatters, a department of Art Center College of Design that undertakes social-change initiatives. She’s referring to the network of relationships that must be built for projects launched from outside a community to have a hope in hell.
The democratization of mobile telephony in Africa, its availability, ease of use and, above all, the extent to which it has been appropriated by the public, have made it a major success story. Very low-income populations are not only actively demanding access to mobile telephone services but also innovating, by creating the functions and applications they can use. Development is thus happening “from the bottom up” and an entire economy, both formal and informal in nature, has come into being to meet people’s needs. Many different actors – private, public, NGOs – are now mobilized.
Operators and manufacturers have successfully changed their economic model and adapted their products and applications to allow access to services at affordable prices. NGOs have in addition created a range of messaging- based services in different sectors. However, the future evolution of mobile telephony is not clear. A range of different approaches will co-exist, from SMS up to full Internet capacity, including experimental initiatives using smart phones and “netbooks”. Falling costs will lead to an increase in the number of phone devices with data receiving capacity. Individuals and companies involved in creating services or applications for development will need to take account of their users’ demographics and incomes, as well as the pricing systems of telecommunication companies in countries where they wish to operate. In this, States and regulating authorities have grasped the crucial role which they must play in promoting an investment-friendly environment with the goal of achieving universal access and stimulating innovation – key factors in achieving a “critical mass” of users.
The advent on the African continent of high-capacity links via submarine cables will change the ground rules and force operators to seek new sources of revenue. The inventiveness that has already been evident in mobile voice telephony will be needed once again if the “mobile divide” (in terms of costs, power supply, and so on) is not to widen.
This report takes stock of developments in this sector, which is crucial to Africa’s economic development, and suggests a number of possible directions it might take.
“We’re selling ourselves short if we think the flow of innovation only goes way. There is a lot we can learn back from the developing world about the inventive uses they find for the technology we take for granted.”
“Designing Liberation Technologies” is (at least in its current iteration) an experiment in remote, user-centered design. Starting in April, Stanford d.school students from a diverse array of disciplines – including computer science, medicine, business, law, education – worked with computer science students at the University of Nairobi to identify the design needs of health care providers and low-income mobile phone users in Kenya. The students then developed prototypes of mobile applications to support delivery of health services in urban areas. In August, a group of students travelled to Nairobi to meet with NGO partners, test prototypes, and advance plans for the future.
“For a technology company, Mobile Money is remarkably low-tech. Only the tiniest amount of bandwidth is necessary for a financial transaction, and it doesn’t need to be instant – the store and forward of SMS is perfectly good enough. There are a number of technologies used in Mobile Money, including USSD, SIM toolkit, Java and plain old voice through IVR – which is great for places with an illiterate population. None of these technologies are new. The barriers to Mobile Money are business models and logistics.
So while it might seem that Mobile Money is just another ecosystem in Nokia’s service strategy, look closer and you find that Mobile Money is a peculiarly good fit.”
“My talk today is about how I came into my research at Nokia wanting to answer the question: how can ethnographers contribute to the product design process of a mobile device? Ethnographically grounded research for technology use is a method that aims to reveal users’ values, beliefs, and ideas. Nokia was one of the first mobile companies to concertedly hire ethnographers as part of its design process, In the mid to late nineties, Nokia changed the mobile industry forever by creating affordable, user friendly phones. More than a decade later, the hardware mobile phone market is nearing saturation. With Nokia transitioning from a company that produces hardware to software, how can ethnographically driven research provide strategic insights for this shift?”
Poking around on Tricia’s site, I discovered some more inspiring and excellently written treasures to savour:
The Great Internet Freedom Bluff of Digital Imperialism: thoughts on cyber diplomacy, cargo cult digital activism… and Haystack
The Haystack Affair, like the recent Google-China Saga is just another technology that has been caught in the digital geo-politics of neo-informationalism. Neo-informationalism is the belief that information should function like currency in free-market capitalism—borderless, free from regulation, and mobile. The logic of this rests on an ethical framework that is tied to what Morgan Ames calls “information determinism,” the belief that free and open access to information can create real social change. [...] Neo-informationalist policies, such as the new “internet freedom” foreign policy to ensure free and flowing information, compliment neoliberal practices in corporate welfare to keep markets free and open to the US and all of our allies who benefit from our work. But it’s not free for all when it’s just free for some.
Check also these related posts:
- Evgeny Morozov: Were Haystack’s Iranian testers at risk?
Haystack is the Internet’s equivalent of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It is the epitome of everything that is wrong with Washington’s push to promote Internet Freedom without thinking through the consequences and risks involved; thus, the more we learn about the Haystack Affair while it’s still fresh in everyone’s memory, the better.
- Sami Ben Gharbia: The Internet Freedom fallacy and Arab digital activism
This article focuses on grassroots digital activism in the Arab world and the risks of what seems to be an inevitable collusion with U.S foreign policy and interests. It sums up the most important elements of the conversation I have been having for the last 2 years with many actors involved in defending online free speech and the use of technology for social and political change. While the main focus is Arab digital activism, I have made sure to include similar concerns raised by activists and online free speech advocates from other parts of the world, such as China, Thailand, and Iran.
Three useful perspectives on technology, design, and social change (and countering the ICT4D hype)
As someone who researches the social side of technology, I am constantly trying to find new ways to talk to technologists that technology itself does not create social change, rather it’s how technology is socially embedded in a variety of institutions and cultural contexts. [...] Three resources have been very useful to me lately.
Research article by Melissa R. Ho (University of California, Berkeley), Thomas N. Smyth (Georgia Institute of Technology), Matthew Kam( Carnegie Mellon University) and Andy Dearden (Shefaeld Hallam University)
Recent years have seen a burgeoning interest in research into the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the context of developing regions, particularly into how such ICTs might be appropriately designed to meet the unique user and infrastructural requirements that we encounter in these cross-cultural environments. This emerging aeld, known to some as HCI4D, is the product of a diverse set of origins. As such, it can often be difacult to navigate prior work, and/or to piece together a broad picture of what the aeld looks like as a whole. In this paper, we aim to contextualize HCI4D—to give it some historical background, to review its existing literature spanning a number of research traditions, to discuss some of its key issues arising from the work done so far, and to suggest some major research objectives for the future.
(via relevant history)
One of [Younghee's] most recent projects was Nokia Open Studios. It’s a project that was conducted in three communities across the globe, in a bid to discover what people want when it comes to a mobile phone. But it’s not your typical research with a clipboard and a welcoming smile. Join us as we chat to Younghee about Nokia Open Studios, the challenges she faces and a glimpse into the world of mobile phone research.
“Wandering through winding alleys dotted with makeshift worksheds, one can’t help but feel clouded by the clanging of hammers on metal, grinding of bandsaws on wood, and the shouts of workers making sales. But soon it becomes clear that this cacophony is really a symphony of socioeconomic interactions that form what is known as the informal economy. In Kenya, engineers in the informal economy are known as jua kali, Swahili for “hot sun,” because they toil each day under intense heat and with limited resources. But despite these conditions, or in fact because of them, the jua kali continuously demonstrate creativity and resourcefulness in solving problems.
In Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy, Steve Daniels illuminates the dynamics of the sector to enhance our understanding of African systems of innovation. The result of years of research and months of fieldwork, this study examines how the jua kali design, build, and manage through theoretical discussions, visualizations of data, and stories of successful and struggling entrepreneurs. What can we learn from the creativity and bricolage of these engineers? And how can we as external actors engage with the sector in a way that removes barriers to innovation for the jua kali and leverages their knowledge and networks to improve the lives of those who interact with them?”
The blog also supported TakingITMobile, an international study on youth mobile communications that she completed as a part of her Master of Environmental Studies at Canada’s York University. And her key findings are well worth taking a look at:
The fastest spreading communications technology the world has seen yet, mobile phones are rapidly changing the face of youth activism globally. TakingITMobile is a community-based research study conducted in partnership with the social network TakingITGlobal that examines how youth leaders across the globe (Campbell Salazar surveyed twenty countries) use mobile communications to create social change within their local communities and internationally. Survey participants (n = 565) paint a picture of the diversity of mobile youth activism around the world.
It was found that the majority of youth reported using their mobile phones to generate Citizen Media to share their message globally, mobilize protests, fundraise, educate their peers and spread solidarity.
TakingITMobile participants were passionate about a number of global issues, including the Environment (39%), Human Rights (36%), Poverty (28%), Health (24%), Peace (23.8%), HIV/AIDS (22.4%) and Violence (11.6%). While the most common mobile feature was Voice Calls (75%), TakingITMobile participants used a variety of mobile phone features, including Text Messages (46%), Web Browsing (38%), Social Media (27%), News (26%) and Photography (22%).
It was also discovered that youth who own smart phones are more likely to use their phones for activism (81%) than youth who don’t (71%). As well, females are much less likely (70%) to use their phones for activism than males. Youth ages 25-29 show higher levels of activism (84%) than youth in their teens (67%), early 20s (75%) and 30s (75%). GDP per capita was an influencing factor on both monthly costs, monthly average number of minutes used, number of SMS used and internet data used.
Overall it was found that participants from countries with high GDP per capita received cheaper services, with the exception of very high income nations such as Canada and the United States.
A number of barriers were identified for mobile youth activists, including cost of services (32%) cost of mobile phones (10%) as well as network coverage (9%) were the biggest barriers to accessing mobile phones.