by Rowena Luk on 27 February 2010
One of the most striking things about the mobile phone is its universality. You see the same phone, same make and model, in the hands of Ethiopian tribesmen, Himalayan herders, and Pakistani kids. It’s easy, sometimes too easy, for us to confuse the possession of mobile phones with the kind of social and political freedoms that only come with a stable government. For our current work in Iraq (on the Children’s Happiness Poll, a UNICEF project in collaboration with ThoughtWorks
, and ZAIN Iraq
), this appears far from true. It may be the same phone, but it’s a completely different world.
For example, we recently gathered a group of 25 kids just out of Iraq and asked some of them to submit answers to a survey question on a mobile phone. We asked them about their level of happiness, what stopped them from being happy, and how they felt their lives would compare to their parent’s lives. Pretty innocuous, right? The response:
- They demanded to know where these messages were going and who would be reading them.
- They did not feel comfortable sharing their answers even with other children in the group.
- They were not convinced that the teacher would tell them everything they needed to know about the exercise.
- The last question elicited conversations about the future, which were permeated with uncertainty and loss of control. While they had tangible hopes for their lives, theses hopes were couched in the sober belief that they were at the mercy of events beyond their control.
- Kids as young as 8 years old focused on problems of racism, religious strife, and personal security.
Even in these kids, arguably some of the most fortunate in the country, we see a generation of fear and mistrust in the making. We’ve seen projects live and die by the trust that exists between its members. What does it mean for a country when the kids no longer trust the schools, the institutions – even a cell phone?
It is easy for us in the West to take for granted the securities that our governments will uphold for us. We expect that our emails are private. We announce our opinions and beliefs in online forums, confident that doing so will not put ourselves or our families in danger. We text passwords and opinions freely, and it doesn’t matter to us that we’re leaving a digital trail of our thoughts on the phone and with the operator. Yet, for some people, in some countries, the digital cloud is no refuge from the war outside.
But I’m not here to paint a hopeless picture. Rather, my point is that we need to be aware of these considerations and be respectful and doubly creative in our innovations. For instance: in this project, the students will be sharing the facilitator’s phone, so that they don’t have to reveal their own, or their parent’s, numbers. We originally wanted our participants to submit photos of themselves, but it quickly became obvious that that was a risk many were not comfortable with (particularly women). We don’t force kids to critique. We don’t record names. We don’t ask for political affiliations.
Hopefully, it won’t always be this way. Hopefully this is just one step in fostering a citizenship which is more vocal, better connected, and empowered to use the best tools available in order to mobilize for change.
by Justin Sitter on 25 February 2010
Invention and Technological Ideas Development Organization (ITIDO) is a non-profit organization registered under NGO’s Act of Tanzania with the aim of creating a collaborative environment for inventors to innovate and share ideas and processes with individuals from the academic, non-profit and public sectors. The mission of ITIDO is to encourage, support and promote technological and innovative ideas.
As a part of our objective, which is to promote innovation in Tanzania, we do capacity building to provide skills to innovators. In order to achieve this, we have engaged with partners and initiatives, such as Dimagi and Coded in Country. ITIDO can utilize its local presence and expertise to provide senior and junior programmers to pair with other CIC nodes, creating a collaborative environment the enables effective development and training.
Thus far, we have received a CIC grant to develop CommTrack, a software package (using RapidSMS and JavaRosa) for tracking the status and location of resources in health facilities.
CommTrack Brief Description
CommTrack is a system for tracking the status and location of resources. It maintains a master index of the status and location of resources in a country, easily accessible and updatable by Internet and mobile phone.
While a basic functionality is available via SMS, a complete application running on a mobile phone will be developed using an open source platform known as JavaROSA. It will produce indicators such as the number of status changes per week, the current status of equipment, and warnings or alerts that will help monitor whether the system is in use. It will also support verification functionality (i.e., somebody reports status of resource without knowing current value) to monitor the reliability of the data in the system.
What Has Been Done So Far?
The working prototype is ready and all basic functionality can be demonstrated. You can update the equipment status using SMS, Web and JavaRosa enabled application. The next step it to refine all the code and develop all functionality fully. We expect by end of August 2010 the fully, robust and stable 1.0 version will be available.
by Jonathan Jackson on 17 February 2010
Dimagi has recently become a certified B Corp. We are very excited about the efforts of the B Lab to create a new type of corporate structure . B Corporations are a new kind of company which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Dimagi’s social mission aligns perfectly with efforts of B Lab, in making corporations legally accountable both fiscally and socially. View our score and B Corp profile here.
by Jonathan Jackson on 15 February 2010
Jonathan will be speaking at the Fuqua School of Business conference on sustainable business and social impact. He will be on a panel “Beyond Aid,” discussing social business models and entrepreneurship.