Tuesday, 17 March 2009

mobile projects and crowdsourcing in developing countries

Thanks to Ellen Trude (blogging in German), I got hold of this 38 minute video on mobile phone use in developing countries (focusing in this video on the sub-Saharan part of Africa). If you are into mobile applications, this is worth watching.

Nathan Eagle (MIT) teaches computer scientists in Africa how to program mobile phones at first, but is now involved in mobile crowd sourcing projects. What is nice about him is that he is always looking at the interaction between human and machine.

Some interesting facts from the movie:
Developing world uses 59% of the cell phones in comparison to 41% in the developed world. But the mobile applications in Africa are most of the time disconnected from the mobile users in Africa. So African companies are refurbishing mobiles and material adding to the real need of Africans.
There is a ubiquity to using mobile phones and if the users are more aware of this the applications that are developed will be more tailored to the user’s needs also.

Examples mentioned:
  • How prepaid cards can be used to get water in Kenya, electricity in Rwanda…
  • Real time monitoring of blood supplies;
  • Day laborers organizing themselves through sms.
And 21 minutes into the speech he gets into mobile crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is interesting and feasible in a region were a lot of people are unemployed.
Some examples are mentioned: citizen journalism, translating (a lot of languages across Africa, so if by crowdsourcing you can build a dictionary, the phone companies can use this data to develop localized mobile interfaces – this is something that might be useable in education).
All these mobile crowdsourcing projects got some money in the pockets of the users.

Nice movie to keep in touch what is going on in Africa on the mobile side.