Mobiles and community radio: report from

With many developing countries lacking reliable internet access, radio remains a popular tool for distribution of information. has a new report on the way that mobile technology is being integrated into community radio.

The report identifies four roles for mobiles in enhancing community radio:

  • As a recording tool - mobiles enable people to report on what is going on around them and contribute that to stations
  • As a listening device - many phones now include FM radio transmitters and some phone companies are producing integrated circuit devices that combine WiFi, Bluetooth and an FM receiver
  • As revenue stream - money from premium SMS for dedications and messages can help community radio stations support themselves
  • As a catalyst for dialogue - listeners can take part in the conversation quickly and cheaply using SMS. Where radio is a critical service for providing information about community health, education and water distribution, SMS participation ensures broadcasts are current

While at the moment, integration of mobile technology into radio is "ad hoc and highly individual", the report concludes that it is at a "nascent yet promising stage, ripe for proper documentation and development of global tools and processes". Read the full document here.

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.

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

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

Why citizen reporting is not a substitute for election monitoring

Katrin Verclas of MobileActive has written an interesting post about the way citizen reporting is being conflated with systematic election monitoring. Despite the excitment around new platforms, "citizen reporting (via SMS and online) during elections has so far received relatively low response rates compared to established election monitoring systems, yet have been hyped as the solution to election corruption and disruption." A look at the numbers makes this clear:

"A recent citizen reporting effort in Sudan, the Sudan Vote Monitor, which ran on the Ushahidi platform and was supported by senior officials from the US State Department, estimated that they received between 300 and 500 responses during the recent elections. In comparison, two domestic election monitoring coalitions, SuGDE and SuNDE, “received more than 13,500 reports from over 4,300 trained and accredited election observers who were deployed to over 2,000 polling stations across all of Sudan’s 25 states.” SuNDE and SuGDE decided not to use SMS to report data as they rightly feared that the mobile networks would be shut down during the election. The networks were indeed not operational for much of the election proceedings."

Jordan's Queen Rania, Popstar Shakira, World Cup Stars and Mobile Phone Companies Use Texts to Promote Child Education

Just in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup to be held this summer on the African continent for the first time, the biggest names of the football world have come together with mobile phone companies under the leadership of GSMA to launch the world's biggest ever mobile phone campaign named 1GOAL: Education for All. The effort -- which will be run by the Global Campaign for Education -- will enable 1.5 billion people around the world the opportunity to show their support for child education by sending 1 billion text messages to petition world leaders to host an education summit and commit $16 billion a year in order to provide an education to 72 million out-of-school children by 2015. With a potential market of 1 billion people, 1Goal expects its campaign to become the largest, cause-related event in world history. People will be able to sign up by simply responding 'YES' to a free text, by going to the 1Goal webpage on their handsets, or by sending an e-mail. Handset manufacturers Nokia and Samsung will also make a 1GOAL mobile app available to their customers.

Microsoft Designs Clever System to Promote Democracy via Grassroots Journalism in One of India's Least Developed and Most Violent Regions

Indian freelance journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary brings to our attention a set of articles published in the Hindustan Times (1 and 2) and the BBC about the work that he and Microsoft designer Bill Thies (who recently gave a talk at our group) did to establish a grassroots news network in Chhattisgarh, India. Based on an audio wiki technology developed by Thies and Saman Amarasinghe at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the system is named CGNet Swara (Chhattisgarh Net Voice), which enables trained amateur volunteer journalists to phone in their reports to a central number where moderators then record and check the reports for accuracy. Once approved, the report is sent via text message to everyone on the news service's contact list, and they can subsequently phone in to hear the story at normal phone charge, which is less than five rupees (10 US cents).

Concern Worldwide Launches Innovative Text Messaging Program to Save Women and Children from Famine in Niger

Amanda McClelland -- a member of Concern Worldwide's Emergency Response Team -- warns about the dire situation provoked by the famine in Niger. Concern is experimenting with text messages to save lives in that country:

Niger suffered a major food crisis in 2005 that claimed thousands of children’s lives. No one wants to relive that tragedy. Concern has already launched a response, including an innovative program using mobile phone technology and text messages to distribute emergency cash to the most vulnerable women in 160 villages. Concern is also doing “manual” cash transfers as part of pioneering, side-by-side research to document the effectiveness of each method. A code is delivered via text message to each recipient, which they can redeem for cash at mobile dispensing agents operated by telecommunications service provider ZAIN and their newly introduced cash transfer technology, ZAP.

Texts or Toilets? India Has More Cell Phones Than Toilets

The Poverty News Blog comments on a news article from the Global Post and The Telegraph that brings us a shocking statistic from the United Nations: "Half of India's population has a mobile phone while only a third has access to a toilet." As the Poverty News Blog notes, the statistic suggests that India has a long way to go on public health. Saritha Rai, author of the Global Post article, notes that one major problem seems to be the application of power- and resource-intensive Western sanitation ideas to India, a country with much lower energy and water usage and much more simplified waste disposal management practices than the Western world. Beyond the resource considerations, there are also cultural ones: "In many parts of rural India, a toilet is not just about the infrastructure but about age-old traditions. A poverty-stricken family would rather build a house or a shop and rent it out rather than have a toilet. And then they would continue going out to the fields for their daily rituals." The YouTube video below explores India's sanitation crisis in more detail: