Tag Archives: cellphone

Getting the balance right in mobiles for development

Ken Banks of Kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS recently asked whether development projects using mobile technologies should be led by mobile technology experts or by development practitioners – Who’s best placed to run a successful “m4d” project – the m‘s or thed‘s?”.

This question has been sitting at the back of my mind over the last week as Ive been working with Panos and D-Net in Dhaka, developing an assessment and design tool to help people figure out how mobile phones can help development projects.

The idea behind the tool was to respond to issue underlying Kens question. In our experience too often development practitioners recognise that mobile technologies could help their programmes, but they dont have the technical expertise. Similarly, well meaning technologists often get frustrated because they dont have a clear sense of what the problem is, and we have all seen sophisticated solutions that don’t receive rapturous reception from development practitioners – leading to wasted efforts. As a result technologists feel frustrated by the lack of interest from the development community in new ways of approaching old problems.

So how to realise the potential that mobile technologies have for addressing intractable development problems? What came through so strongly in Dhaka was that ideas flowed best when both development practitioners and mobile technologists worked together. The trick was to recognise that both had different but equally important roles. Wayan’s Venn diagram outlines this well, showing how the two sectors can find common ground:

The different worlds of mobile, ICT and Development

The role of the development specialist was to identify and keep focus on what the problem was, and what needed to change (and the tool we developed specifically identifies needs in a way that technology and communication specialists can engage with). It was also very helpful to give the technologists ideas a reality check and stress test their practicality.

It was an incredibly rich experience, with mutual learning and collaborative design at the heart of the process. Key to its success was technologists respect for the insights of the development specialists, and to recognise that they knew best what would work in a specific context. On the development practitioners side, being open minded to new ideas and tools was critical to fruitful discussion.

And at the end of it came a really simple yet potentially effective way of addressing a chronic problem in Bangladesh’s health care sector (which Ill share in detail once its up and running!


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.

Cellphone Tools (1) – Freedom Phone


Another cellphone tool just released today. Freedom Fone’s has its origins in Zimbabwe, and is developed by The Kubatana Trust. The ‘elevator pitch’ is:

Freedom Fone is innovative telephony software, which takes the fastest growing tool for round-the-clock personal access to information – the mobile phone – and marries it with audio voice menus and SMS.  It provides a new far-reaching communication medium – for information activists, service organisations and NGO’s – to deliver vital information on demand, to communities who need it most.

Key Features:

  • Freedom Fone is free open source software.
  • The telephony based applications – audio voice menus, voice messages, SMS messages and SMS polls – are easy to manage via a user-friendly, browser based interface.
  • Delivering information with audio overcomes barriers associated with literacy and language and enables users to move past the 160 character limitation of an SMS.
  • Freedom Fone has been designed to connect to GSM (mobile) networks and run using low cost and low powered equipment.
  • No internet is required for the users and callers alike.
  • There are no geographical or community size limitations to implementing Freedom Fone.
  • The leave-a-message functionality opens the door to two-way communication, which means Freedom Fone can be used as a platform for citizen journalism.

Particularly interesting is its integration of voice with SMS – overcoming the literacy barrier. Ill be doing a few more posts on cellphone tools, looking at Frontline SMS, Ushahidi and others to compare features and utility.