Our Mobile World

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A few articles on the role mobile played in the Kenyan Election

In 2011 Oxfam sent me to Kenya and Tanzania to research how mobile phones could be used for campaigning. The trip went well and it left me with a deep fascination in the way mobiles are being used to strengthen civil society, share information and shape the future. When I left a few people told me to keep a close eye on the next election in Kenya, since mobile played a big part in the crisis surrounding the 2008 election.

I’ve just been catching up on a few articles and thought I’d share them with you:

Bloomberg: To Report Election Violence in Kenya, Text Ushahidi - a good article published before the election showing how Usahidi, a platform born out of the 2008 Kenyan election violence

Ushahidi hopes Kenyans can help avoid repeating the crisis. The group has put ads on buses and taxis encouraging people to text 3002 to report what’s going on at polling places. The group’s staff and volunteers will watch the reports streaming in by text message, email, Facebook, and Twitter, and verify them with the 30,000 election monitors that civil society groups are sending to the polls. The citizens’ accounts will be published on the web site Uchaguzi, the Swahili word for elections.

Techpost.ug How Al Jazeera used mobile Technology to aid its extensive coverage and citizen reporting of the Kenyan elections

Al Jazeera employed both voice and SMS technologies to aid its extensive coverage and citizen reporting of the Kenyan elections. Kenya is known for its high mobile phone penetration, as well as related innovations like M-PESA (mobile money) and Ushahidi, a crisis-mapping tool that had its roots in the 2007-2008 post-election violence that marred the previous Kenyan elections.

Finally, here’s a great project that really caught my imagination. Flashcast runs information systems on public busses across Kenya and have set up a peace promotion system. It’s super simple, people SMS in messages encouraging peace and they get displayed on dot matrix displays to bus riders and on this website.

I’m sure there are many more articles. Let me know what else I should read on twitter

Filed under mobile kenya election SMS

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Worth reading: Taking mHealth Applications to Scale

Just came across a great article in the Stanford Social Innovation review on the big question of how best to take mobile health applications to scale. Here a taster:

mHealth has the potential to transform healthcare, particularly for the hardest-to-reach women and children around the world. The debate about exactly how, when, and in what form is alive and well. Successful pilots are in abundance, but most of the sector has been slow to reach scale. In short, the sector has a case of mHealth Pilotitis. In the first debate of a series on mobile health, the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship partnered with Johnson & Johnson and Stanford Social Innovation Review to surface important lessons and learning from some of the world’s leading organizations who have taken mHealth services to scale. This debate will also set the stage for a larger discussion on mobile for development at this year’s Skoll World Forum in Oxford, UK.

Read it in full here.

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How Nextrdrop is successfully using mobile to bring water to the thirsty in India

This is a blog I drafted in India in January but never managed to publish, I’ve finally got around to getting it up now. Sorry for the delay!

Urban residents in most Indian cities with more than 40,000 households receive municipal water supply once every 3-10 days for only 2-3 hours.. The middle classes can cope with this by getting big domestic tanks and automatically pumping them full whenever the water comes on. For those who can’t afford the expensive tanks and machinery this erratic supply is a serious problem. It means that you an waste a huge amount of time waiting around for the water to come on or know that you may not have enough water for your household to function. 

Because of the state of urban infrastructure the solution isn’t a regular scheduled water supply. In a lot of areas electricity is make the pumps work that keep the water pressure up. There isn’t enough water to keep the pipes full all the time either. So every area needs specialist “valve man” and engineers whose job it is to ensure every area gets water for a few hours every other day. They have to carefully allocate figure out the best times to give each area water, and try to ensure everyone gets a decent pressure. The end result is households may get water any time from 5am to the dead of night. 

This is obviously a big problem for poorer households. Into that gap steps Nextdrop which is working with valve men to allow them to send out automated calls or text messages to allow householders to know when their water is coming on. The system is very simple. The valve man will normally know the day before when each area is going to get water. They then just need to call an automated system, tap in ID number for the valve they’re going to open and the times it will be open. Although The valve man generally knows when the water is going to arrive a day in advance, he normally calls in the IVR only 1-2 hrs prior to the supply

Then Nextdrop sounds out automated calls and text messages to let residents know when to expect water.

Last week Nextdrop took me on a fieldtrip to visit a pilot area for this work in Bangalore. Here’s a photo tour. (note, this is my first attempt at a photo tour blog. Would love any feedback - tweet me at @j_chatterton)

The area we visited was a Bandappa Garden, an established slum in the North East of Bangalore. The first thing that struck me is that the valves that the staff have to open are right in the middle of the road - it’s the hole in the foreground. The local water work has to stand in the middle of the road to bring water to open the water valve.


The area I visited was made up of small streets with 4-6 houses on each 40 meter street. Each household had small water drums outside that contained their entire water supply for two days. The households couldn’t get larger drums because they need to be able to move them - if they are evicted:


and here are the drums: 


Each house that joins the NextDrop trial has a little flyer next to their electricity meters: 


and many of them have posters explaining to residents how the scheme works. Note, many residents are illiterate so the scheme explains this pictorially. 


I was struck at how much the residents love the service. Here is Mahadevamma who was extremely enthusiastic and showed me exactly how it works! 


And here’s what the service is all about - the text messages that users receive as soon as the valveman turns the water on. 


Want to read more?

Here’s the Nextdrop website and blog

Here are a few good articles about them

Filed under india mobile nextdrop water

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Meet Mswipe — India’s Square

This isn’t campaigning but it is a great example of a great use of appropriate technology so I’m going to blog it anyway!

Square is pretty great, it lets shops accept credit and debit cards via iPhones, iPads and Android phones. That’s super convenient for shops and it’s also cheaper than traditional card systems.  Here’s a snap of their website to show you what their devices look like:


This is a big growth sector, a few months back Square announced they were processing US$10 billion in payments a year. It’s such a big deal that PayPal have created a rival called PayPal here, here’s a quick video explaining how it works:

But here’s a problem - this is all irrelevant for India. Square only works in the US and Canada at the moment. PayPal here is only in United State, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. But even if it was available here it would require retailers to buy an expensive iPhone or a cheaper but stil pricey smartphone. Smartphones are still expensive to most Indian’s - which is one of the reasons only 3% of Indian’s have bought one. 

But a few weeks ago in India we were in a shop and asked to pay by card and the staff member got out this:

It works just like Square, except you don’t need a snazzy iPhone or Android - it works on much cheaper feature phones. The retailer pops in the amount, swipes the card and your phone number and your sent an SMS receipt like this: 

A little bit of Googling reveals Mswipe has only being going for 4 months but already is in use in 200 cities across India by 4,000 merchants. It’s clearly attracting attention, it just got an investment from Matrix Partners.

Here’s their slick video explaining how it works:

Filed under mobile payment india

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This week I’m at the Greenpeace Digital Mobilisation skill share

This week I’m hanging out with over 100 campaigners from all over the world at the Greenpeace Mobilisation Skill Share, here in Barcelona.

The aim of the event is:

  • To share state-of-the-art strategy and tactics in citizen engagement and digital mobilisation from around the world
  • To build on our successes and learn from our failures
  • To grow a powerful network and community of practice to innovate, test, mobilise, and win

It’s been going a few years, here’s a video of last years:

I’ll be trying to blog from this, but it looks like it will be a hectic time. You can get updates and see what we’re up to here.

Filed under greenpeace skill share barcelona mobile

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Zuckerberg - Facebook is now a mobile company

This matters for campaigners, Facebook has completed it’s transition to a mobile company. Bloomberg reports:

"Today there is no argument: Facebook is a mobile company,” Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call Wednesday with analysts.

Why does this matter? A few reasons:
- Facebook accounts for a vast amount of traffic for campaign groups. If the majority of their traffic is now mobile you need to be optimising your entire campaign experience for mobile
- Facebook usage reflects what users want to do. Facebook has focussed a lot on getting users hooked. They do this through lots of tricks including providing a decent service no matter what device you are on. This huge growth in mobile is happening because that’s what internet users want to do - use the web on a small screen.
- the internet is changing. Most people campaigning today grew up with the internet on desktops. That’s spoilt us with fast connections and big screens. Tomorrow’s campaigns will play out on 4 inch screens on slower connections. We need to figure out what that means.

Source http://mobile.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-30/while-facebook-pivots-to-mobile-investors-remain-jittery

Filed under facebook mobile desktop