This photo was taken by Melanie Kotsopoulos in Cairo.
I came by this open source, Mozilla-based, pre-production suite called Celtx, which is a set of basic tools to use in a movie project, such as editing, storyboarding, scheduling etc.Â
The software is free and it’s possible to donate through a cause they support, Against Malaria. And if you’re into video editing, you can help directly by editing raw footage of information films, about distributing Malaria bednets, into shorter illustrative clips, which they then distribute on DVD. I thought this was a clever approach; to bundle software with the user’s specific knowledge and connect it directly to a cause.
Two articles that struck me today:
In the Guardian, Richard Wray mentions that
the head of the UN’s agency for information and communication technologies predicting that there will be 4 billion mobile phone users – or more than half of the planet’s estimated 6.7 billion inhabitants – by the end of this year. [from here]
On SciDev, Katherina Nightingale writes an interesting entry about the applications of podcasts in less developed countries for purposes similar to radio. There is information about a Practical Action project in Peru allowing people to request information and receiving them via a podcast in a nearby telecentre, and several other potential applications for podcasts are presented.
So how is that connected?
Well, actually it’s easy. Podcasts record voice and with mobile phones it’s possible to listen to voice. Now why not combine this and put podcasts somewhere online, accessible with a telephone number? Easy said, easy done – Webby Award winning project Podlinez does just that with any desired podcast and an American number.
In my opinion this would be also a great thing to do with local numbers in less developed countries – to make these podcasts less expensive to call. The combination of podcasts and mobile phones has a low technological entry barrier – every mobile phone has this ability – and it doesn’t even require the user to be literate.
This would be an easy way to make information accessible. In a university course last year, two friends and me already created a mashup which transforms information into a podcast and then publishes it on an American number – NoisR.
Another approach is to create voice-based internet portals, like Mosoko which attempts to offer a voice-based marketplace for goods and services.
So overall this combination has great potentials I think.
The conference Picnic08 took place 24th to 26th September in Amsterdam (it’s somehow like TED I guess) and as amongst others Ethan Zuckerman and Erik Hersman were giving presentations, I want to point to the coverage of their and all the other talks.
So generally there should be videos of the talks online on PICNIC TV, but also Ethan Zuckerman himself wrote a lot about the different speakers.
Both are presenting ingenious and unique ways of people in Africa coming up with useful services and tools.
There is a lot happening in Africa concerning technology nowadays and generally those things are not triggered by foreign aid, but by the innovation of people directly confonted with problems. As Richard Heeks put it some time ago in his article on ICT4D 2.0, the approach to development for the poor (pro-poor) will not work in the future, but rather development with the poor (para-poor) and by the poor (per-poor).
We should dismiss the “aid” approach towards development, we should just focus on enabling everybody to participate in it and not putting poor countries down any further – through unfair trade agreement or financing wars for example.
It’s fascinating to see how African entrepreneurs have a fully sustainable farm, producing goods for worldwide markets and even running an internet cafe.
Everything is produced in a “green” way, one areas waste becomes another areas fuel input. The idea is such a big success that there are more of these centers opening, even in neighbour country Nigeria.
Some useful and frequently updated calendars connected to ICT4D and development assistence in general:
White African – African Tech Events: covers conferences and general events focusing on technology in Africa, most of them take place in Africa
ICTlogy – Events: covers conferences and workshops connected to ICT4D worldwide
OneWorld – Termine: cultural events, parties, gatherings, conferences, exhibitions, meetings… in Austria related to foreign countries and cultural exchange in general
Global Knowledge Partnership – ICT4D Events Calendar: conferences, institutional gatherings and summits on ICT4D in a broader sense (telecom, microfinance, environment) world wide
A recent article covered two Indian-based companies that provide innovative services through mobile phone text messages. EnableM offers e-learning courses in the form of preparatory guides, sample tests, puzzles, and other tools for MBA, CA, Medical, Law, or Engineering courses. The idea is to provide affordable education that is independent of class rooms. It is also far cheaper than computers, considering that more and more people own a mobile phone: the current number of mobile phone users in the country is nearly 300 million and it is growing almost 10 million per month.
The second company is ZMQ Software Systems, which will launch a program later this year that is particularly aimed at women: it allows them to receive prenatal advice via text messages. This new service includes “weekly tips on what to eat, what vaccines to get, and when to get check-ups” [Snippet taken from here].
Both services show directions how the mobile phone can be used to provide health care and foster eduction in lesser developed areas, for people (especially women), who do not have access to those resources. While this idea seems to be both simple and promising there are still many challenges that remain to be solved. For instance, women have less often access to mobile phones than men.
In May 2008 the Women of Uganda Network organized a workshop entitled “ICTs: Is your wealth a click away?“. They invited people to contribute to a set of questions. Answers posted on the website revealed important issues from users’ perspectives:
Itâ€™s still a theory because the common woman has no access to ICTs.
Itâ€™s a theory and only reliable for a few urban literates.
ICTs would be more helpful if more content was available in local languages. [Snippet taken from here]
It will be interesting to see how the service for pregnant women in India will perform once it is available and what can be learnt for similar services for LDCs.
[Thanks to Martin for pointing me to the article on livemint.com]
We where previously discussing prepay versus subscription in the cellular network business. Now we want to go into prepaid electricity supply. Niti Bhan is reporting about the benefits of prepaying by example of John Lumbe out of Blantyre, Malawi. I spent myself 3 month down in Blantyre, and a was not a friend of topping up my electricity counter. As i grew up in Austria, electricity was always there. You just plug a device in, and it is lighting up and working. Prepaying therefor is just overhead. Why should you prepay, when you have electricity at almost no cost and the supplying company is just charging your account?
In lesser developed countries the situation is different. Companies don’t trust their customers. They want the money in advance. The consumption behavior is different. People want to spend small amounts of money to services and want to get a short experience. E.g. people spent this affordable small amount of money to plug in their TV an watch the news 5 minutes a day. On the other hand business owners can benefit from the prepaid system:
- No writing off of bad debts
- Cost decrease
- Simplifying management information
- Help companies to cope with uncertainty
[bullets taken from here]
I just stumbled upon a site on world-wide poverty, which provides a lot of numbers displaying the alarming disparity between rich and poor countries.
I heard some statistics which are presented on the site from time to time but the sum of them is simply overwhelming.
It’s made up of citations of reliable sources like the UNICEF or the World Bank – some random results:
- One in two children worldwide live in poverty
- World’s poorest 20% acount for 1,5% of private comsumption, world’s richest 20% for 76,6% of private comsumption
- People in Europe and the US spent 1998 approximately as much for perfumes as would be needed to grant basic health and nutrition in all developing countries (12 vs. 13 billion $)
- About 0.13% of the worldâ€™s population controlled 25% of the worldâ€™s financial assets in 2004
- More than 10% of the world’s population lived on 1$ or less a day in 2005 [all from here]
Check our the article: Anup Shah, Poverty Facts and Stats, GlobalIssues.org, Last updated: Wednesday, September 03, 2008
But what to do?
I think the first and most important step is to bring this information into the conscience of the people. Everybody has heard things about the rich and the poor and the big difference, but in my opinion facts and numbers are strong arguments and can impact in people’s minds. Of course not everybody can start working in development assistance immediately or donate all his/her money to NGOs, but it’s good to have in mind how little our problems are in relation. The gap is even becoming larger and that’s simply not tolerable. When everybody is convinced that change must come, it will.
However, political discussions are often shallow and public interest is finding a new hot topic almost constantly so it’s a hard piece of work to raise awareness. This blog should be a small reminder. But we want to go large scale. One first step is “Mobile-the movie“, documenting the usage of mobile phones in southern Africa, since we think that technology can help improving living conditions.
Another thing Martin pointed me on is the One Dollar Diet Project.
Two Social Justice teachers have decided to start eating on one dollar a day. [from here]
It’s their way of raising awareness. Or the Laafi Fest in Vienna tomorrow.
Poverty is a problem, but we can do something.