Mobile Phones

Brief Description

"Mobile telephony for development" is a discipline which aims to investigate how mobile phones can be used as communication tools in support of development projects. Phones can be used as stand alone applications or in combination with other media and ICTs.

"I can't live without. Difficult to believe that we use to live without them! How did we manage?..."
In many places there is not always available or affordable internet connection. An alternative to connecting people is the use of mobile phones. There is both growing access to phones across the developing world, and new applications for phones that enable agriculture support and development.

Mobile telphony in addition to other media
Mobile telphony in addition to other media

Mobile telephony (and related knowledge sharing applications) can refer to both web enabled smartphones (such as iPhone, Blackberry, Android phones etc.) that allow complex functions to be performed, or simple "non-smart" cellphones phones which use only voice dialing and SMS functionality.

When to use:

Mobile phones can be very effective in any location where other kind of media are not able to deliver their content. Rural areas, being traditionally disconnected, are very suitable places to adopt mobile telephony in support of communication strategies. At the same time, in those areas, it is possible to adopt cellphones in conjunction with other tools like rural radio, or the Internet when available.

Same approach can be adopted also in urban areas where, even if other media can be available (radio, TV, newspaper), their access can be still difficult or impossible.

The list of topics that can be addressed by mobile telephony is quite long:
  • mDevelopment
  • mEmergency
  • mHealth
  • mEducation
  • mGovernment
  • mDemocracy
  • mBanking

How to use:

Depending on the kind of technology mobile phones are using, different services can be implemented:
  • to start with, SMS technology is very basic but effective to support the distribution of text and simple data; while
  • Mobile Visual Services, using graphical approach, can be suitable for more advanced level of communication and interaction.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

(add yours)

Examples & Stories

Many different examples have been collected on a map where you can see the world wide distribution of development projects adopting mobile telephony.

Claire Bure wrote on the KM4Dev mailing list: "I'm now working with DataDyne.org to implement a project called DatAgro (http://www.datadyne.org/programs/mip/datagro) in the crop producing region of Chile. The project uses open source technology for small-scale farmers to receive (and eventually rate) locally-produced information via SMS text messaging. Content is created locally, and covers anything from market prices, changes in micro-climate, agricultural data to local news. A local partner has donated 30 mobile phones for our primary group of testers, and interestingly, the phones can connect to the radio. We're now trying to make the connection with radio by highlighting content on community radio programming (Chile even has it's own agricultural radio station: www.radioagricultura.cl). Here's the project video if it interests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXq5DBrErss "

Who can tell me more?

  • Luca Servo (luca.servo [at] fao.org)

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