Written and compiled by Gudrun Wicander at Karlstad University in Sweden, M4D Overview 1.0 is a  the 2009 introduction to mobile for development.  It describes and discusses how mobile devices are used in the developing world to enable economic and technological growth in developing countries. The report presents a broad overview of various reports and studies, ranging from United Nations organisations to reports from mobile operators and producers. These reports outline how developing nations can, and do, use mobile devices to bring essential services, such as medical advice and education, to rural areas.

Some of the topics covered in M4D Overview 1.0 include descriptions of mobile services, how mobiles are used in everyday life, and factors influencing the acquisition, adoption and usage of mobiles. The report also turns its focus to Africa, and examines numerous reports from e.g. Tanzania. Included in M4D Overview 1.0 is a discussion about why m4d is worth considering, and examples of m4d projects in developing countries.

M4D Overview 1.0 is intended for a wide reader audience, and is directed to “d-people without m-knowledge” (that is to say, developers without mobile media knowledge), “m-people without m-knowledge” (mobile media experts with no background in the developing world), and newcomers to the field who have neither a development background nor knowledge in mobile media.

Click this link to access the PDF to the full report.

The Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) is the USAID Bureau for Global Health’s flagship maternal, neonatal and child health (MNCH) program. Awarded in September 2008, MCHIP focuses on reducing maternal, neonatal and child mortality in 30 priority countries, contributing to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5.

Designed by USAID as a “Leader with Associate Cooperative Agreement” (LWA), MCHIP can be funded by USAID Missions and Regional Bureaus through traditional field support and other mechanisms. In addition, MCHIP can accept Associate Awards that Missions, Regional Bureaus or Global Offices develop with the Leader organization and oversee directly.

MCHIP takes “what works” to scale by working with USAID Missions, national and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, communities and partner agencies. Based on country context and identified gaps in providing services at the household,community and referral levels, MCHIP designs program strategies to ensure that services reach women and their families.

What MCHIP Is Doing Using Mobile Technology

Nearly half of all births in developing countries occur in facilities, yet the quality of care provided is often unknown. Reported clinical practice may differ greatly from observed practice. MCHIP has developed a Maternal and Newborn Quality of Care (MNH QoC)Toolkit consisting of five mobile, electronic data-entry tools for assessing the quality of services provided in hospitals and health facilities. These are primarily checklist tools for observing health worker performance related to services provided for labor and delivery and essential newborn care. The tools are designed to capture health worker responses to spontaneous complications, such as pre-eclampsia/eclampsia (PE/E) or postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), two of the leading causes of maternal death.

As of November 2010, MCHIP MNH QoC assessments have been conducted in five African countries, providing baseline data for quality improvement activities for maternal and newborn care at facility, regional and national levels.

Maternal and Newborn Health QoC Mobile Toolkit

  • Obstetricians and nurse-midwives are trained to use mobile phones for capturing observational health worker performance data at hospitals and health facilities;
  • Data is entered on Windows Smart Phone forms with Range, Logic, Skip and other data quality controls;
  • Data includes clinical observation checklists on labor and delivery services, antenatal care, facility inventories, health worker maternal and neonatal knowledge tests, register, maternity chart and partograph review;
  • Quantitative and qualitative data is captured via interviews, simulations and observation checklists including audio noted and pictures of partograph;
  • Data is backed up to internal SD card and then transmitted via GPRS to in-country servers; and
  • Results are uploaded to the Web in predefined table, graph and map templates.

A Tool for Improving Quality of Care

The overall goal for MCHIP is to contribute to the reduction of frequent, preventable maternal and newborn deaths through increased quality of known life-saving interventions in countries facing the highest disease burden. Mobile phones have improved the quality of data and expedited the timeliness of results reporting. Specific needs for effective interventions for screening, prevention and treatment of obstetric and newborn complications are being identified as results come in from the MNH QoC Assessments.

Data collected and analyzed provides an opportunity to guide development of program interventions to improve the quality of facility-based maternal and newborn care services. By providing a baseline and end line measures in countries where the survey is part of an evaluation of interventions being implemented, data also provides an opportunity to inform policy change and resource allocation. These indicators and data collection tools can be used in multiple countries to provide information on key screening, prevention and management of interventions of the most frequent direct maternal complications.

Click here to view the poster presented by USAID at the mHealth Summit 2010. Also check out this Youtube Video of MCHIP’s own David Cantor speak as part of the panel discussion at the Summit.

Mr Qing, ploughing in the fields, relies on China Mobile's farming service

Mr Qing, ploughing in the fields, relies on China Mobile's farming service

The BBC recently reported on Nongxintong, a network created by China Mobile to deliver news and information directly to rural farmers via their cell phones.

The farmers, who generally don’t have access to the internet, receive text or audio messages with market prices, job opportunities, warnings, advice, buyers and sellers. There is also a mobile phone hotline aimed at those with rural businesses.

Click here to read the original article.

Eric White, of the GBI team, gave a presentation to a gathering of USAID infrastructure specialists from missions around the world about the importance of investing in ICT infrastructure. He specifically highlighted the importance of wireless voice and broadband connectivity in meeting the US Government’s goals under the new “Feed the Future” program.

Food Security, Mr. White explained, can come either through improving domestic agricultural output and distribution or through improved cross-border trade facilitation.  He highlighted ways that ICT infrastructure improves both.  After pointing out that agricultural development is the flip side of rural economic growth Mr. White explained how numerous studies, at both the macro and micro level, have found a 10-1 relationship between expanding ICT coverage and GDP growth.  A 10% increase in ICT penetration is generally associated with a 1% increase in GDP growth rates.

Mr. White then explained how it is possible to work with private sector firms to expand ICT access to rural people in developing countries.  He pointed out the remarkable willingness-to-pay of even the very poor when it comes to communication.  Even people living on only a few dollars a day are willing to pay up to 10% of their income for access to communication.  Given that relatively large willingness-to-pay and a relatively low cost of capital it is in fact possible to reach every developing country resident with wireless technology through the smart use of targeted subsidies and investment in emerging low-cost technologies.

A technician reads information, transmitted from a microchip attached to a tree, with his GPS device during a presentation of the Monitoring System Electronic Tracking and Forestry project in Nova Mutum in Mato Grosso state, August 28, 2010.

The identifiable roar of a chainsaw brings a gigantic Amazonian tree in Nova Mutum, Brazil to the forest floor.

This could be any other other day in the South American country where trees fall frequently each year in Brazil’s portion of the world’s largest forest. There is only one small detail that makes this one a little different: it is a “smart” tree; a microchip is attached to its base and contains data about its location, size and who cut it down. Each microchip tells the story of the individual tree’s life, from the point that it landed on the ground to the sawmill that processed and sold the wood, it has key information for buyers who want to know where it came from.

Though it is only a small pilot project, its leaders say the microchip system has the potential to be a big step forward in the battle to protect the Amazon. The chips allow land owners using sustainable forestry practices to distinguish their wood from that acquired through illegal logging that destroys swathes of the forest each year. Forestry engineer Paulo Borges from the organization Acao Verde, or Green action, which manages the project on a large farm, remarks:

People talk a lot these days about wood coming from sustainable forestry practices — this is a system that can prove it…

Brazil is under international pressure to reduce deforestation that destroys thousands of square miles of the Amazon each year, making the country one of the world’s biggest sources of greenhouse gasses. The project is part of a growing trend toward lumber certification that gives buyers a guarantee the wood was produced without damaging the forest it came from. Acao Verde says widespread use of chips in trees would help eliminate corruption that allows illegally harvested wood to be “cleaned up” through bogus certification papers, and aid in spurring Brazil’s sustainable forestry movement. Similar projects in Bolivia and Nigeria use technology such as bar codes readers or satellite tracking to help crack down on illegal logging and preserve delicate ecosystems. Acao Verde collected data on trees in 100 hectares (247 acres) of forest on the Caranda farm, which produces soy and corn but maintains native vegetation on a third of the land as required by law.

Forestry engineers attach chips contained in white plastic squares similar to office I.D. cards to each tree.

Landowners who adopt the system could cut down on time-consuming paperwork and reduce the need for inspections by environmental authorities, which for years have had tense relations with agribusiness in the region. Patrik Lunardi, 26, whose family allowed the project to be carried out on their farm see the chips as a transparent way to show their  sustainable farming techniques:

People out there still think farmers like us are destroying the environment. It’s not true and we want to show that it’s not true.

There are a multitude of very interesting ICT4D events that are going to take place in 2011 throughout different regions of the world. The  biggest mobile web conference- Mobile Web West Africa– will take place in Lagos, Nigeria on February 2-3, 2011.

However, in many African states governance is a huge issue and Kenya is set to hold an e-Governance conference in March 8-9, 2011 at KICC in Nairobi – Kenya.

The theme of this conference is, ‘Delivering Services through e-Government’. It shall include paper sessions, panels, demonstrations and poster sessions.  It is a first of its kind in Kenya and it is hoped to become a tradition of showcasing exemplary GoK e-Government projects through project highlights and presentations. The 2011 conference also seeks to promote informal discussions on emerging digital government topics as well as feature research papers and case studies that seek to enhance the achievement of e-Government in Kenya in support of Kenya Vision 2030 and the implementation of the New Constitution.

The objectives of this conference are:

  • To showcase Kenya’s ICT innovations and strategies
  • To promote Kenya as an ICT hub in the African Content
  • To benchmark Kenya against other countries in terms of Government e-readiness.
  • To foster innovativeness and competition among Government Agencies
  • Demonstrations on the best case practices in e-Government Technology
  • Provide a platform for leaders, public managers, professionals, researchers and academicians to share their practices, ideas and research results
  • Explore collaboration potentials through the exchange of practical experiences in e-Government project implementation within the region

Learn more about the e-Governance conference in Kenya, visit its website

Short text messages can be used to increase HIV awareness and double the number of people who go for HIV testing, a survey has stated. According to the results of a survey conducted by Text to change, an SMS quiz and reminder sent to respondents led to an increase in the number of people who went for HIV testing.

The SMS campaign was conducted in February 2010 in Lira (Northern part of Uganda). The survey documents that after sending SMS questions and reminders in the second week of February, 398 HIV tests were carried out at the Lira AIDS Information Centre, twice the number compared with 185 in the first week of February.

The survey was conducted among 7,000 people in Lira with an average age of 28.Among those surveyed majority had sufficient knowledge on issues surrounding HIV and family planning. However, only 44 percent had been tested of HIV in the past year.

During the survey conducted by Text to Change, in partnership with Deutscher Entwicklungsdients (DED), more than 145,000 people in the North Western region of Uganda were asked via radio broadcasts to subscribe to the Text to Change HIV/AIDS SMS Quiz. A record 96% of participants in the survey stated that the survey helped them gain new knowledge on HIV and related issues.  Ralf Westhageman from DED Lira, stated:

“Both AIC and DED were surprised with the excellent results in terms of program participation and uptake of HCT services. People in Lira liked this programme so much. Even until today we get an enquiry to continue with it. Together with the Town Council, we never expected such a high number (7,000) of subscribers to take part and get involved. In short, it is without doubt, that we can call it “the most successful HIV Programme in Lira to date”.

Participants received seven questions on HIV/AIDS issues and three on family planning. One of the questions asked was: Would you think of getting an HIV test? YES or NO to improve participants’ knowledge, an SMS confirming whether their responses were correct was sent. Participants, who replied an incorrect answer, received additional information on HIV.

The survey indicates that on average, 74% of all questions sent via SMS were answered correctly a clear sign that majority of participants are somewhat knowledgeable in regard to HIV and related issues.

This marked an increased level of awareness compared to the 2006 Domestic Household Survey where only 28% of women and 36% of men had any comprehensive awareness of HIV/AIDS. Men formed the majority of the respondents -81%. Generally women were much more likely to answer correctly on questions regarding their higher chances of becoming infected with HIV whereas men answered correctly on the issue of a woman transmitting HIV to her baby during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

The objective of the study was to improve HIV/AIDS awareness and to increase the number of people going for testing services in Lira in order to increase the awareness of one’s HIV status and to encourage people to seek early treatment and care in order to decrease further HIV transmission. Lira-town has an estimated 80,000 inhabitants according to the results of the 2002 census and approximately 145,000 people living in the wider district. The high mobile penetration in East Africa has placed the use of SMS as an appropriate means of disseminating information due to easy access and simplicity in use.

Click on this link to the Text to Change website for the full research paper.

This is a research paper compiled by the Center for Global Development, an independent, nonprofit policy research organization dedicated to reducing global poverty and inequality and to making globalization work for the poor.  The paper evaluates and draws conclusions about a mobile education program, called Project ABC in Niger.

The pilot phase of Project ABC began with the Catholic Relief Service (CRS), in partnership with UC Davis, Tufts, and Oxford University and shows how SMS can turn mobile phones into a platform for adult literacy and market information for agricultural communities.

Projet d’Alphabetisation a Base Cellulaire, or Project ABC, works with non-formal education centers established by the CRS Niger Food Security and Nutrition Program (2007-2011), is funded by USAID/Food for Peace, and is implemented with Care and Helen Keller International. The project uses multimedia phones that have been programmed with a digital curriculum in the local languages of Hausa and Zarma, and incorporates a practical literacy component tied to obtaining market information via text message.

In the first year of ABC, participants learn basic cell phone technology, including SMS. In the second year, interactive multimedia phones and a digital curriculum that includes phonetic activities and varied texts are used to further develop literacy skills. Participants also use skills in literacy, numeracy, and basic cell phone technology in a companion program that teaches them how to request and retrieve market information via SMS.

The final research paper indicates that mobile phones have had an impact on participants’ literacy skills, and the model could be sustainable in the long run:

Overall, students demonstrated substantial  improvements in literacy and numeracy test scores, suggesting that the adult education curriculum is effective in increasing learning. Students in mobile phone villages showed substantial additional gains in literacy and numeracy exam scores.

There is also evidence of persistent impacts: eight months after the end of the first year of classes, students in ABC villages retained what they had learned better than the non-ABC students. These effects do not appear to be driven by differences in the class time devoted to students, teacher experience or teacher and student attendance. Rather they can be partly explained by the effectiveness of mobile phones as an educational tool: Students in ABC villages used mobile phones more frequently to make calls, write SMS and search for price information as compared to their nonmobile phone counterparts. The program suggests that simple and relatively cheaper information and communication technology can serve as an effective and sustainable educational tool for rural populations.

According to Isbrandt, the program is operational in 56 literacy centers in the rural regions of Dosso and Zinder, in primarily agricultural villages. As is the case in most rural settings in West Africa, local language reading materials are otherwise scarce. Participants in the program include 1,400 learners, half of whom are women

For the full research paper and the evaluations in the PDF format, please visit this link.


Aker, Jenny C., Christopher Knoll and Travis J. Lybert, “ABC, 123: The Impact of a Mobile Phone Literacy Program on Educational Outcomes,” Center for Global Development Working Paper, September 2010

Isbrandt, Scott (2009) Cell Phone in West Africa: Improving Literacy and Agricultural Market Systems. Retrieved September 1, 2010.

Maarifa centre in Kenya

An article written by Maina Wararu for the New Agriculturist describes a profound new way for farmers to sell their goods in Africa. In Ng’arua, a remote village in Kenya’s Rift Valley province, smallscale farmers may now sell their produce directly through e-marketing. Thanks to the use of internet technology, farmers in this semi-arid region, some 350 kms north west of the capital Nairobi, are now cutting out the middlemen and selling their maize to the highest bidder. This is thanks to Sokopepe, an online commodity marketing platform developed by the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), an NGO working in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

This article written by Babar Bhatti discusses how public policy is being used to drive long term benefits for society, the Universal Service Fund of Pakistan has made the use of renewable energy compulsory for all Base Stations funded by USF

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