7 December 2008

Johannesburg conference showcases African bottom-up innovation in mobile phone use

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If you are interested in bottom-up innovation within emerging markets using mobile phones, the recent MobileActive08 conference (more here) in Johannesburg, South Africa generated a wealth of materials. Below are some videos:

Mobiles and news gathering at Al Jazeera
Safdar Mustafa, head of Al Jazeera’s mobile media unit, describes some trials where mobile phones were used for news gathering in Chad and the Sahara.

Money, mobiles, micro-business
Jonathan Donner, from Microsoft, talks about the transformation that has been brought upon the way small/informal businesses function using mobile devices (specifically mobile phones). He provides an anecdote on one businessman he knows – a baker, whose business flourished due to the use of a mobile phone he acquired. Included in this video are examples of how this technology enhances the efficiency of product/service delivery by informal businesses.

No difference in how Zambian men and women use mobile phones
Here Kutoma Wakunuma discusses whether women how women are using mobile technology including what are the barriers and social implications. Dr Kutoma revealed that there is no difference in how men and women use cellular phones and also no difference in the socio-economic potential of mobile usage. She unveiled that mobiles phones decrease isolation among women in society and provide easy and fast communication, especially as the price of mobile phones is becoming cheaper by the day. She added that cellular phones encourage job creation for women who sell airtime and those who run public phone stations. They help in emergencies and danger and have made a major impact in health information as some people access counselling through mobile phones on an anonymous basis.

Measuring social impact of mobiles
Dr Peter Benjamin, the General Manager at Cell-Life, together with Patricia Mechal, the Millenium Villages Project advisor hosted a workshop at the MobileActive08 conference. The workshop, on Mobile Metrics and Evaluation explored the importance of investigating the social impact of initiatives that introduce mobiles into societies expecting the impact to be an inherently positive one. The workshop also dealt with how such initiatives tend to be ignorant of the negative repercussions such projects may have.

Microsoft launches ‘Midas’
Microsoft representatives Fredrik Winsnes and Ian Puttergill talk on the MIDAS prototype, a mobile survey application for developing contexts.
MIDAS is based on a Microsoft driven research initiative based in India, to develop an SMS application for improving the farmer’s access to timely and critical information.
The MIDAS prototype allows farmers to send an SMS query pertaining to details about the local crop market, and an almost immediate response is sent back with the appropriate details.
The project is about making farming efficient, and increasing availability.

Mobiles and citizen media
David Sasaki and Juliana Rotich discuss the role of Global Voices online and Ushahidi.com in leveraging citizen media during the post-election violence in Kenya.

Banking the unbankables
Jesse Moore of GSMA development fund facilitated a workshop at mobileactive08 which evaluated mbanking and mpayment and the evolution of these services within the market. The social impact these services could have on people who are not banking, how mobile banking and payments would work and the future of this service were topics addressed in the workshop.

Mymsta – a loveLife conception
Trina DasGupta, loveLife Mobile Marketing Specialist shares the process that went into creating mymsta.com. A youth website geared at guiding the youth towards making their move. Mymsta is about mobilising young people towards positive change. Its about giving them a forum to share their views, on everything from relationships to employment.

Gary Marsden, mobile interaction designer
Interview filmed at MobileActive08 in Johannesburg, featuring Gary Marsden from the University of Cape Town.

Social SMS gets message across
Activists are boosting their social campaigns by piggy backing on “please call me’s”, flashes and beeps.
Please call me’s are free messages that cellphone users send to get friends and loved ones to call them back.
Jonathan Donner (Microsoft Research India) and Robin Miller (Praekelt Foundation) tell how to use please call me’s to maximise social campaigns and call-centre traffic.

Erik Hersman of whiteafrican.com
Interview with Erik Hersman from whiteafrican.com, shot at MobilActive08 in Johannesburg.

Freedomfone’s fresh look at radio
Mobile’s answer to radio is the Freedomfone. Freedomfone gives users access to dial-up information and services over their mobile. Dubbed ‘dial-up radio’, the service will be invaluable in societies where many people own cellphones but draconian governments have restricted access to newspapers and the airwaves.

Save sea-life with your cell
eMobile phones are becoming the latest gadget used for environmental activism. iVeri payment technology has developed a mobile system for the Southern Africa Sustainable Seafood Institute (sassi)where the public can text a query. The system then sends back a prompt short message reply informing the consumer who is about to make a seafood purchase about the sustainability of the sea life product and other health parameters.

Burma’s GenX activists
Digital Democracy 2.0’s Emily Jacobs and Marc Belinsky show how Burmese (Myanmar) youth use cellphones to communicate with the outside world on political issues that are suppressed by the government.

Mobile’s ‘Dark Side’
“What are the real risks of mobile surveillance?” Al Alegre, executive director of the Foundation for media alternatives has conducted research in 5 Asian countries to investigate the dark side and vulnerabilities in digital interactions and discovered there are threats both internal and external.

Mobile use in low income areas
The use of mobiles in South Africa has increased over the years in low income areas. Tino Kreutzer a masters student at UCT conducted a pilot study into how the youth in low income areas are using mobiles, what this data means and where can researchers go now that they have this data available.

Mobile phones in rural development and agriculture
Ugo Vallauri, David Newman and Jonathan Campaigne discuss small farm productivity issues which are key to economic growth and poverty reduction. They discuss how farmers are not effectively linked to the larger industry and therefore how mobiles phones can be used to help with this area. Farmers use these phones which allow people to enter markets and improve access to partners thereby improving their likelihoods and food security.

Here is the full list of videos

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