SMS Newspapers

MobileActive has a good piece on  how the Namibian, an independent newspaper with 27,000 sales a day, launched SMS pages – pages in the newspaper dedicated to printing submitted messages.

MobileActive notes that the SMS program originally started as a way for readers to respond to a small number of articles – the editors placed a mobile phone logo beneath certain stories in the paper and invited readers to text in their responses to it. The program grew so popular that the paper now dedicates two pages of the paper three times a week and a section of their website to publishing SMS responses. The messages cover everything from direct responses to articles to more general quality-of-life comments.

Carmen Honey, sub-editor for the Namibian sums up the goal of the SMS Pages as: “To give as many readers as possible, whoever and wherever they are, a chance to take part in the democratic process by sharing their views at the lowest possible cost.”

As mobile phone penetration expands, traditional media will increasingly find convergence opportunities with new media. Radio stations running call-in programmes, newspapers printing SMS messages. What other examples of convergence will emerge?

Pakistan announces mobile developer contest

The COMSATS Institute of Information Technology has launched a new initiative to support mobile innovation in Pakistan. Called Best Mobile Innovation in Pakistan (BMIP) Contest 2010 is open for any “Made in Pakistan” innovation related to the mobile industry and technologies. The winner will receive $10,000.

Laughing at extremism

A recent report by Demos into violent extremism suggests the most effective way to strip the al-Qaeda brand of its glamour mystique is ‘by emphasising the incompetent and theologically incompatible side of al-Qaeda inspired terrorists – including through the use of satire’.

Its interesting that Four Lions, Chris Morris’ comedy about four violent extremists, came out at the same time.

Another good example is the web-based comedy ‘Living with the Infidels’. In a 2009 Guardian interview its creator Aasaf Ainapore said ‘it is only by ridiculing these extremists that you can hope to persuade young Muslims to turn against radicalism.”

See the first episode below:

Twitter returns to SMS

Twitter aims to become one of the largest volume SMS programmes in the world. As Twitter expanded, the number of SMS became too expensive to continue offering as a free service. It currently processes close to a billion SMS based tweets per month.

But Twitter aims to reach beyond this with the acquisition of cloudhopper that according to Twitter’s blog provides a ‘messaging infrastructure company that enables Twitter to connect directly to mobile carrier networks in countries all over the planet’.

What I find interesting about this is that it suggests that Twitter has plans, and increasingly the capacity to offer its service where smartphone and internet access is limited, relying only on SMS. This massively increases its potential in the developing world.

TED in Pakistan

Ali Kapadia’s winning TED video

On Friday June 4th, TED came to Karachi, Pakistan. TED, short for Technology, Entertainment and Designis a global series of talks for “ideas worth spreading,” These bring incredible diverse people and ideas together. Past TED speakers include Al Gore as well as  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – which gives you an idea of the magnitude and scale of the conference.

Faisal Kapadia has a great writeup of the event here.

The ethos of TED is one particularly suited to Pakistan, in my experience one of the most innovative and creative countries. Its fitting that TED speaks to new, and especially technologically, innovative ideas in a country where mobile phone usage is estimate to top 130 million by 2014, and 100 million of its 170 million population are under 25 years old. Harnessing those technological advances and youthful creativity is exactly what Pakistan needs.

Last mile connectivity – Bangladeshi InfoLadies

Good piece in the Guardian about how Bangladeshi women, armed with  a netbook, GSM mobile, blood pressure monitor and pregnancy kit, are ‘champions’ by people who used to think it was a scandal. The project, run by D-Net (disclaimer – with Panos Im helping D-Net develop a tool for NGOs to work out how to use mobile phones in their work) aims to provide information people need in areas such as agriculture, health, sanitation and disaster management.

Its a particularly good piece, because it makes the point that these efforts are filling in where the State is failing:

“The success of the InfoLadies is making the failure of the state more noticeable. “We have corruption and political interference in every sector,” says Gullal Singha, a state executive officer of Sagatha sub-district. Sagatha is severely affected by soil erosion and is home to the poorest of the poor. “Even the ultra-poor entitled for food relief are segregated as Bangladesh Nationalist Party poor or Awami League poor,” says Aziz Mostafa, an elected representative of a local civic body.”

Its striking how much innovation in the area of communications in Bangladesh.

Afghan past- 1960’s Kabul

Mohammad Qayoumi has put together  a wonderful book of Kabul pictures from the 1960’s.

In a piece for Foreign Policy he says:

Remembering Afghanistan’s hopeful past only makes its present misery seem more tragic.’

and that he

‘ wants to show Afghanistan’s youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived.’