Posts

mHero
With more and more people in danger of contracting Ebola, officials believe that information is key to preventing the spread of the disease. Mobile phones and new technologies such as mHero (Health Worker Electronic Response and Outreach) are now playing a big role in the fight against Ebola.

Even in some of the poorest regions, many people have access to mobile phones. Because of the presence of mobile phone users, data scientists believe that this may be the easiest and most efficient way to distribute health information to people in West Africa. Officials are now using phones to collect activity data from citizens in disease-prone areas.

Mobile data allows organizations like the CDC to determine where citizens are making the most health service calls and therefore the best locations to assemble treatment centers. The data has also helped officials with traveler screening in order to prevent the spread of Ebola.

Additionally, user data has played a large role in helping to track population movements and foresee how the virus might spread. In the past, analysts only had access to on-the-ground surveys and police and hospital reports to determine the movement of diseases. However, mobile data has been a tremendous help in tracking Ebola and predicting its movement. Many believe that this is the most effective way to keep Ebola contained.

mHero is a new form of communication for Ministry of Health personnel that uses mobile phones to send important information to healthcare workers. The system works by releasing text message reports on Ebola diagnosis, treatment and prevention in addition to caretaker safety information. mHero also allows those working on the frontline and in remote areas to stay in contact and receive important Ebola updates.

mHero provides instantaneous access to health workforce data such as mobile phone numbers. “Officials can use mHero to conduct real-time monitoring, complex multi-path surveys and detailed analyses,” says IntraHealth Technical Advisor, Amanda Puckett. mHero launched in Liberia last month and currently has over 8,000 Ministry of Health members connected through its system.

Healthcare workers are also beginning to use mobile phones for interactive voice response technology. Systems such as these allow for higher user content limits and also provide solutions for literacy and language barriers that many healthcare workers face in foreign nations.

Mobile phones and technology are extremely beneficial tools that have been helping citizens and healthcare workers in the fight against Ebola. Researchers hope that this technology combined with other current methods will help to prohibit the spread of the virus and to provide infected patients with necessary care.

– Meagan Douches

Sources: The Guardian, VITAL, BBC

the praekelt foundation
In an article published last year, The Stanford Social Innovation Review referred to Africa as the newest “mobile continent,” citing the new-found prevalence of cell phones. Mobile device usage has continued to rise, opening doors for Africans and charities who have found new and effective ways to disseminate information, educate Africa’s population and empower African businesses.

Current data shows that more than 450 million mobile phones, roughly equivalent to nearly 50 percent of the population, are in use in Africa. Cell phones are found in both urban and rural neighborhoods, and the Guardian estimates that by the end of 2014, there may be more than 635 million mobile phones in use.

This technological advancement can be used to humanitarians’ advantage, illustrated by the work of the Praekelt Foundation. To intensify the benefits of the spread of technology in Africa, the Praekelt Foundation has targeted mobile phone users. Services and information that had previously been inaccessible, in the words of founder Gustav Praekelt, are now being harnessed for poverty reduction.

Harnessing the interconnected potential of the cell phone has taken several forms. Of course, it allows for long distance communication, which had previously been unthinkable, but it also assumes forms of aid that may not be immediately intuitive. These include the ability to manage bank accounts and payment systems wirelessly, as with Kenya’s M-Pesa system, to sell crops or other goods at higher rates by connecting sellers with consumers at greater speeds and to access forums where virtual groups discuss the stigmatization that follows mental illnesses, AIDS or physical disorders.

Extreme poverty no longer means extreme isolation like it used to. Effective economic and development programs, such as this one, take advantage of what’s becoming global interconnectedness.

“The digital divide is beginning to close,” says Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “The flow of digital information through mobile phones, text messaging, and the Internet is now reaching the world’s masses, even in the poorest countries, bringing with it a revolution in economics, politics, and society.”

The products of the Praekelt Foundation, applications designed to facilitate communication and connection, vary in scope and impact. They include Ummeli, a mobile network created to find employment opportunities for Africans; Vumi, a “conversation engine” built for emerging markets and spreading ideas; and Jmbo, a way to create, publish and discover mobile content.

Other products are TxtAlert, a way to remind patients about clinic appointments, and Young Africa Live, a mobile platform from which youth can talk and learn about love, sex, disease or anything else they think is important.

Reducing poverty must be in the end a collaborative effort. Connecting Africa is the necessary first step in making this effort strong.

– Adam Kaminski

Sources: SSI Review, Praekelt Foundation, The Guardian
Photo: CapitalFM

Phones_developing_world
Silicon Valley, CA – American internet giants such as Facebook and Mozilla are vying for world domination as more people in the developing world gain access to mobile phones. The world is witnessing an epochal “global rebalancing,” with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new “global middle class.” This new and growing middle class demands mobile phones.

There are about 5.4 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, with 483 million subscriptions from low-income countries and 2.6 billion from lower-middle-income countries. There are even 80 million mobile phone users in places where there is no access to the electrical grid. And because mobile phones have low infrastructure requirements, are easier to use, and are more affordable than other communication devices, mobile phone subscriptions in developing countries outpace those in developed countries. However, the kinds of phones being bought and used are the less sophisticated ones.

In 2011, Facebook launched its “Facebook for Every Phone” application. Facebook collaborated with many carriers worldwide to enable its social networking service to be featured on over 3,000 kinds of phones, ranging from the simple and cheap to the more capable and expensive. In July 2013, Facebook announced that more than 100 million people are using the Facebook for Every Phone app every month. Profits from advertising are minimal for the time being, but Facebook is looking at the long-term potential after it establishes itself as the main marketing connection between consumers and producers in the developing world.

“In a lot of foreign markets, people think that the Internet is Facebook,” said Clark Fredricksen, a vice president at the eMarketer research firm.

In Spain this summer, Mozilla just launched its new web-based OS, Firefox, on more affordable smartphones. The launch is in partnership with the Spanish carrier, Telefonica, which is also planning to launch Firefox OS in Latin America later this year. Mozilla has managed to attract a growing number of carriers to sell phones that carry its web-based OS as an alternative to more high-end and expensive Android phones and iPhones. The carriers are focusing on developing countries like India where smartphone sales are growing more quickly than in regions like the United States and Western Europe.

Orlando Vea, Chief Wireless Advisor of Smart, the Philippines’s leading wireless services provider and one of the 18 initial global operators welcoming the Open Web device, said, “We’re excited to see Firefox OS in the market because this will help bridge the digital divide. Its HTML5-based technology will make available affordable mobile devices with an open mobile ecosystem. This is aligned with our vision of putting mobile Internet in the hands of every customer.”

Maria Caluag

Sources: The New York Times, Forbes, UNDP, infoDev, The Guardian, Mozilla, Facebook
Photo: Taringa

video games
The video game industry is huge – worth about $78 billion in 2012 – the size of the movie and music industry combined. Yet almost all games are produced in the developed world. The limitations on producing games in the global south are manifold – technological, education, and financial. So how can game creators in these areas grow?

Even in relatively wealthy South Africa game consoles are years behind industry leaders. Support from game publishers outside their core territories is minimal. On top of that, hurdles to creating games on the current platforms are high: access to the specialized hardware and licenses provided by the console manufacturers are expensive and not given easily.

The most common platform for gaming in Africa and Asia is the mobile phone. In Africa, of the 650 million mobile phones, Nokia Series 40 and BlackBerry 7 are still the dominant platforms. Adam Oxford of htxt.co.za explains that, “Mxit and BiNu are really big social networks geared up for feature phones, with massive followings in South Africa and Nigeria. There are loads of games on both platforms.”

Although there are not many local game makers in the developing world, Africa has a handful scattered in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Nana Kwabena Owusu of Ghana’s Leti Games thinks this shortage of talent is an education problem. “There are good creators, but retraining them to think in terms of game development, merging technical and creative thinking, is tough.” This is not a problem restricted to Africa – the education system in the U.K. has only just been restructured to encourage good programmers, and game design is still mostly learned though experience in studios.

By giving the opportunity of learning how to develop games and programs in Africa, a new market could be tapped. Even though the most common electronics in Africa are outdated in comparison to East Asian, American, and European products, there is still the opportunity for new developers to sell to American markets. Developing games on the Android and iPhone markets is an easy way to insert African developers into a market that has much potential to grow. This increase in developers in Africa could in turn boost the strength and diversity of many African nations’ economies.

– Matthew Jackoski

Sources: The Guardian, MCV
Photo: Wonder How To

Mobile Phone Consumers Poor
Developing nations have become the mobile phone industry’s biggest new consumer. Some of the poorest countries in Africa have seen a meteoric rise in cell phone use in recent years. Since the invention, cell phones have enabled users to connect across geographic boundaries in ways that were impossible before. Additionally, cell phones are now used in developing for monetary exchanges that have fueled growth.

A vast majority of the population in Africa do not have bank accounts. Instead, their populations are increasingly reliant on “mobile money”, often in the form of pre-paid airtime minutes. Mobile handsets can be acquired at a relatively cheap price and they allow their users to make financial transactions in a way that is independent of inflation or economic stability. Airtime can be transferred between handsets or converted to cash by airtime dealers.

In Botswana, approximately 30% of the population over the age of 16 have a bank account, however nearly 60% have mobile phones. In Cameroon, the difference is even greater, with 7.1% with bank accounts and 36.5% operating mobile phones.

This pattern continues across much of the African continent. The airtime economy offers monetary independence for Africans living on minuscule incomes. Though the cost of entry still prevents the poorest communities from entering the market, handset manufacturers have taken notice of these emerging markets and are developing cheaper, more rugged handsets for poorer communities.

– Andrew Rasner 
Source: The Economist, TechCrunch, IST Africa
Photo: Smart Mobile Solutions

nigeria-famers

In 2012, Nigeria spent $11 billion dollars on imported food. A very large number for a country that has the ability to provide enough food for not only the people that reside within its borders but for much of West Africa.

Nigeria’s Agricultural Ministry is now implementing a plan that will cut down on outside spending and utilize more of its own resources. The new plan, if effective, will increase food production, increase income for locals, and create economic growth and job opportunities within Nigeria.

The Nigerian Agricultural Ministry has been utilizing mobile phones to combat a corrupt bureaucracy that has misused government funds to buy fertilizer and seeds. Upon investigation, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, found that instead of providing local farmers with these necessary tools, the government has been subsidizing corruption. The fertilizer and seeds that were meant for local farmers were actually being exported to neighboring countries, who utilized it to grow produce, which was, then, exported back to Nigeria to be consumed. “The real seeds, the real fertilizer, was sold for private gain,” states AllAfrica.org.

To outflank this corrupt system, Nigeria’s Agricultural Ministry has registered a substantial amount of local farmers, 1.2 million in the last year, and created a database that utilizes mobile telephone numbers. With these mobile devices, the Ministry has created a system that sends vouchers to the mobile devices, which local farmers can, then, take these vouchers to registered dealers and get subsidized fertilizer and seed to grow produce with.

However, the farmers of Nigeria are too poor to afford cell phones, which strikingly differs from middle class Nigerians who often have up to 3 mobile phones on different networks to obtain the best service. Thus, the Nigerian Agricultural Ministry has implemented a plan to provide 10 million mobile phones to the nation’s poorest farmers, including half of the phones going to women.

This will provide the poorest farmers, who have the most ability to increase food production in Nigeria, and thus, decrease the need for importing food, with access to the necessary tools and ingredients to adequately farm their land.

Angela Hooks

Source:All Africa
Photo Source: Business News