Mobile Phones

The Mobile Phone Gender Gap

New research on mobile phone ownership finds a 300 million gender gap in low and middle income countries. The report, sponsored by the GSMA Development Fundand the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, finds that despite the rapid growth of the industry, women are still 21% less likely to own a phone than men. This figure increases to 23% in Africa, 24% in the Middle East and 37% in South Asia.

Over the next 5 years the report predicts, two out of every 3 new potential subscribers will be women. By connecting these women, mobile operators have a potential to add 600 million subscribers and to boost their collective annual revenues by $29 billion. Household income and whether a women lives in a rural or urban area are the currently most important factors influencing mobile phone ownership.

Closing this gap, the report argues, would have major development benefits through increased access to educational, health, business and employment opportunities. The report was the focus for discussion of Technology Salon- the network for development and technology professionals. During this, the author argued:

We all know that equipping women in low-income countries with productivity tools earns tremendous returns for development - it's not just good for them, it's good for their families, villages, societies, countries.

We know that women spend up to 90% of their income on their families and are responsible for up to 80% of food production in many low and middle-income countries. These women run families and businesses.

DataDyne project empowers Chilean farmers

Ashoka Tech writes about a pilot project providing SMS information to farmers in Chile about weather, news updates and crop prices:

COOPEUMO, a grassroots farmer’s cooperative with more than 350 small scale farmers as members provides a number of services to farmers such as technical assistance, credit and training. Last year COOPEUMO started a pilot project called DatAgro to provide SMS based information to farmers. The service started in April, 2009 has been supported by DataDyne, Federation of Agrarian Innovation, UNESCO, Entel PCS and two Chilean newspapers- El Mostrador and El Mercurio.

By providing information related to supply and product prices, climate conditions, and international markets; the initiative allows small scale farmers to align with the market needs. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile phones, farmers today have access to such information. ‘Last week I received one (message) about the weather so I didn’t plant anything because of the information I received and I planted yesterday, after the rain had stopped’ says Hugo Tobar, a farmer. Ninety percent of adults in rural areas of Chile have mobile phones. Farmers today consider mobile phones as a necessity and not a luxury.

At the heart of this initiative is the Mobile Information Platform (MIP), a technology developed by DataDyne. MIP is a platform to broadcast SMS based information to mobile phones. MIP works on the most basic mobile phones and on less-than-GPRS networks. The added advantage of MIP is that farmers can also subscribe to RSS feeds from interesting and useful internet sources by sending simple SMS text commands.

Read the full post here.

Cell Phones Are Liberating Middle-Eastern Youth

Aida F. Akl writes in the Voice of America that the rapid spread of cell phones in the Middle East over the past decade has created a new space for young people in the closed societies of the Middle East to interact and express themselves while providing activists with more efficient ways to organize massive political campaigns. Middle Easterners from all age groups and walks of life, for example, use their mobile phones to vote for their favorite artist on Star Academy, the region's counterpart of American Idol. The cell phone has also broken down the barriers posed by gender segregation, curfews, and supervised dating by giving young people new ways to connect and allowed young people to access pornography, a big taboo in Middle Eastern societies. Middle Eastern activists have also used cell phones to organize pro-democracy protests. Kuwaiti women used mass text messaging to organize a successful campaign to gain voting rights. Shi’ite activists in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain used text messaging to campaign for political participation. As we've discussed before on the liberation technology blog, Iranian demonstrators also used cell phones to upload photos of clashes with security forces to social media web sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The m-banking Revolution Will Not Be Televised

In an earlier blog story, we asked about how mobile banking could be used to alleviate poverty. According to the, mobile banking could benefit both sellers and buyers in the developing world. Development Economist Robert Jensen of Harvard University has discovered that, while fishermen in Kerala, India, earn 8% more from their produce, retail buyers pay 4% less. So far, producers and buyers were using mobiles only for price negotiation, cutting out middle men and saving time so crucial for perishable items. Now, without even having a bank account, buyers and sellers in the least developed countries can use mobile-linked no-frills accounts not only to enable cash deposits and withdrawals but also to transfer money from one account to another, solely by using a mobile phone.

Rebel with a Cause: Ira David Socol and Liberation Technologies for Education

Ira David Socol is a Ph.D. student studying special education technology at Michigan State University. This would not be of interest to our community were he not also a champion of liberation technologies in education. At his personal blog and institutional blog, Ira has various resources that may be of interest to those studying at the intersection of liberation technology and education. As Ira notes in an interview with

Thomas Loughran Recounts His Experiences Bringing Internet Access to Uganda

Thomas Loughran from the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame writes about his experiences working with BOSCO at trying to bring Internet access to Uganda. There are important practices to be gleaned from his experiences that can be applied to other projects such as Paul English's, which seeks to extend Internet Acess to the entire African continent:

"I work with a small non-governmental organization (NGO) named BOSCO Uganda bringing connectivity to Northern Uganda. BOSCO is gaining experience using a variety of connectivity options in a war-affected rural environment, including Inveneo equipment and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in partnership with War Child Holland. We are piloting some mapping projects in rural areas. It seems to me, trying to think from a new-user perspective, that perhaps groups like BOSCO would be well advised not simply to wait for connectivity of the sort Kayak co-founder Paul English from proposes, but to become involved and somehow track the coming and prepare for the arrival of higher speed internet and more widespread connectivity."

Bangladesh's InfoLadies Use Netbooks to Improve the Lives of Millions of Poor People

Davinder Kumar writes in The Guardian that InfoLadies are using netbooks, medical supplies and bicycles to improve the life chances of millions of poor people in Bangladesh, a country where according to the 2009 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report over 36% of the country's population lives on less than US$1 a day, and almost every second child under five is underweight. Kumar describes the scene as follows:

CFP: JCertif 2010

JCertif is the premier event for the Central Africa IT community and allows attendees to explore, share, and collaborate on the latest developments and practices related to Java technology, Web 2.0 and Mobiles apps.

JCertif 2010 will be one of the first conferences in the Central Africa to teach developers the Java programming and the basics of developing on mobile platforms.

Given that a large majority of people on the continent of Africa have access to the Internet via their mobile phones, it was difficult to ignore the mobile applications and especially the Web2.0. JCertif topics fit with the needs of both local developers and enterprises of the Central Africa region.

Speakers will include many of the local and world’s respected experts - both developers of the technology, and applications and systems users.
JCertif 2010 will include sessions organized into two tracks, and individuals are encouraged to submit proposals targeted at one of the two tracks .

JCertif conf : August, 26 2010

CFP: International Symposium on Technologies for Social Advancement (T4SA'10)

International Symposium on Technologies for
Social Advancement (T4SA'10)
Wisla, Poland, 18-20 October 2010

All Paper Submissions: May 31, 2010 EXTENDED until June 20, 2010
Authors Notification: July 12, 2010
Camera-ready Submission and Registration: August 23, 2010

The International Symposium on Technologies for Social Advancement will be held within the International Multi-conference on Computer Science and Information Technology in Wisla, Poland, 18-20 October 2010.

T4SA strives to stimulate and promote cross-disciplinary communication between researchers and developers working in different domains with the goal of developing frameworks, applications, and technology for social impact. The type of impact can range from individuals (children,elderly, disabled, illiterate, informal businesses, etc) to communal, and in a variety of areas such as economic and social development, education, advocacy, human rights, and healthcare.

The T4SA symposium will be held as an open forum to promote discussions. The symposium will have a modified format with round table discussions and extended paper presentations. The extended paper presentations will include a regular presentation length and a 15-20 minute discussion period.

The T4SA symposium encourages submissions of original research papers, practical applications and technology, and position papers on all aspects of computing technology connected directly or indirectly with social advancement. We are also looking for ideas about ways to use, deploy, develop and promote the application and use of mobile phones and Internet Technology toward educational and social goals.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

* Applications and technology for the disabled/elderly & health care
* Applications and technology for education

New paper from Jenny Aker on mobile technology in Africa

Update: The Center for Global Development has a podcast which features Jenny Aker in conversation with Lawrence MacDonald, talking on the subject, Mobile Phones for Development: Hope vs Hype.

Jenny Aker and Isaac M. Mbiti have released a new working paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, examining how mobile technology is changing Africa. Here's the abstract:

"We examine the growth of mobile phone technology over the past decade and consider its potential impacts upon quality of life in low-income countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. We first provide an overview of the patterns and determinants of mobile phone coverage in sub-Saharan Africa before describing the characteristics of primary and secondary mobile phone adopters on the continent. We then discuss the channels through which mobile phone technology can impact development outcomes, both as a positive externality of the communication sector and as part of mobile phone-based development projects, and analyze existing evidence. While current research suggests that mobile phone coverage and adoption have had positive impacts on agricultural and labor market efficiency and welfare in certain countries, empirical evidence is still somewhat limited. In addition, mobile phone technology cannot serve as the “silver bullet” for development in sub-Saharan Africa. Careful impact evaluations of mobile phone development projects are required to better understand their impacts upon economic and social outcomes, and mobile phone technology must work in partnership with other public good provision and investment."