The Open Mobile Consortium (“the OMC”) officially launched today, which includes founding member organizations Millennium Villages Project, Cell Life, Dimagi, D-Tree, InSTEDD, MobileActive, TextToChange, UNICEF and Ushahidi.

Here is our press release:

New York, NY – May 26, 2009 – The Open Mobile Consortium today launched its global development community to help organizations working towards social good to better collaborate and share mobile phone-based technologies.  The OMC’s open source software tools help organizations to better serve the health, humanitarian and development needs of the “bottom billion,” the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens of the world.

The Open Mobile Consortium is an unprecedented collaboration across organizations to better serve communities with open source mobile tools.  Together, they are building a vibrant set of platforms for use, at no cost, with no restrictions. OMC members share a vision that by working together to drive grassroots mobile technology innovation in some of the most challenging, resource-poor environments in the world, they will create a simple, flexible, and reliable set of technology that enable to individual and organizations anywhere in the world to effect social change.

With almost 280 million subscribers in Africa alone, mobile phones are recognized as instruments of change in finance, agriculture, media and development work. Mobile technology can easily provide data on food prices to farmers, patient  information to remote medical clinics, and help track supplies and logistics. It is estimated that by 2010, 1 in 3 Africans will own a mobile phone. The Open Mobile Consortium was founded to develop and bring to scale free  and open source solutions that leverage the power and ubiquity of mobile phones.

“OMC’s approach is a radical departure from how the traditional humanitarian and development works,” said Robert Kirkpatrick, Chief Technology Officer of InSTEDD and chair of OMC. “Typically, organizations must compete for funding grants, which frequently leads to ‘silo’ mentality and hesitation to fully share key technologies.  By contrast, we are agreeing to work together to share source code, standards, protocols, approaches and lessons learned.  We’re even sharing development plans and testing each others’ software.  As a result, we’re building a vibrant community and making very rapid progress.”

Katrin Verclas, founder of MobileActive.org and a founding member of the Open Mobile Consortium, says, “The mobile technology explosion has put more than four billion phones in use around the world.  In the hands of organizations working for social good, and with easily available and accessible software, mobile phones can significantly improve the health and well-being of people in developing countries around the world.  But there are technology and collaboration barriers. The Open Mobile Consortium aims to eliminate these barriers by developing interoperable, free and open source mobile platforms, and we encourage others to join us.”

“Mobile technology can make a huge difference in key areas like access to health care and education, and UNICEF helped form the Open Mobile Consortium to challenge the open source community to play a role in this process,” says Erica Kochi, co-lead of UNICEF’s Innovation team.  “OMC is a forum to pool expertise and develop partnerships to empower those most in need and to use mobile technology to improve their lives.”

The OMC strives to enable organizations working in the field in developing countries to collaborate across disparate platforms and products, reduce redundancies, and create a mechanism for freely sharing technical tools, information and approaches.

OMC has already brought together a number of mobile technology tools for collaboration and sharing.  These include, among others:

  • CommCare, a mobile-phone based application that allows community health workers to provide better, more efficient care and improve coordination of community health programs;
  • Mobilisr, an open source enterprise class mobile messaging platform for NGOs around the world;
  • Mesh4X, a platform for seamless cross-organizational information sharing between mobile devices, databases, desktop applications, and websites;
  • RapidSMS, an open source platform allowing for any mobile phone to use SMS to collect data, used in Malawi, Ethiopia and Nigeria to collect information and provide rapid feedback to field workers;
  • GeoChat, a flexible open source group communications tool that enables mobile field communications and situational awareness during emergencies;
  • Ushahidi, a web-based platform that any person or organization can use to set up their own way to collect and visualize information.

About the Open Mobile Consortium

The Open Mobile Consortium is a thriving community of mobile technologists and practitioners working to drive open source mobile solutions for more effective and efficient humanitarian relief and global social development. Founding member organizations include Millennium Villages Project, Cell Life, Dimagi, D-Tree, InSTEDD, MobileActive, TextToChange, UNICEF and Ushahidi.  We are at http://www.open-mobile.org.

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