"Mobile phones are the success story of bridging the rural digital divide, bringing tangible economic benefits and acting as agents of social mobilization through improved communication."
Meeting with farmers in Batticaloa to exchange ideas.
They expressed interest in using text messages to provide
seasonal flood alerts to the community. FOSS software
like FrontlineSMS makes it possible to involve them
directly in the process of designing, running, and managing
the alert system for themselves.
|Ken Banks' depiction of the social mobile long tail|
|Dialog's Tradenet service uses SMS to help match buyers and sellers|
of goods, including those involved in agriculture.
Teleuse at the bottom of the pyramid, or Teleuse@BOP, pioneered by LIRNEasia in 2005, is a unique series of cutting edge demand-side studies on ICT use among the BOP. It was one of the first large regional studies to assess demand for ICT services among emerging Asia’s BOP in a systematic way. The studies have proved useful in making government understand the significance of telecom, especially the mobile, at the Bottom of the Pyramid. [link to source]
This newly introduced connectivity at the BOP invites a hope that development intervention services can be delivered directly to the hands of the poor. Indeed, many development agencies and NGOs are exploring the potential of mobile phone as a cost-effective platform to carry development services such as education, healthcare, financial, agricultural programs. Spurred by the evidence of the mobile phone’s positive impact on economic activities ... and the successful cases like mobile banking service in Kenya ... mobile phones are increasingly perceived as a smart catalyst to development. (p. 2)In our case, we are looking to platforms like FrontlineSMS to support community-based initiatives using text messaging for both peer-to-peer and broadcasting applications (see Helen Hambly's post on Radio Plus for the broadcasting application). If the communities of practice with whom we are working do not use SMS then it would seem we have a fundamental obstacle to the success of the project. The Kang & Maity study sheds some light on what we might expect when it comes to SMS usage in Sri Lanka.
... we found that the main drivers of SMS adoption is useful content and services that can appeal to the BOP by increasing efficiency in organizing and managing their everyday activities. … Rather than offering a package of information that is perceived as “useful” by the providers, it is important that the utility of the SMS-services be understood from a perspective of the users at the BOP. The design of such m-services also needs to be contextualized sufficiently to address the direct and visible benefits relating to the BOP’s everyday activities. To do so, we suggest that the ICTD practitioners should take a closer look at the everyday needs of the users at the BOP, and design services perceived as useful by them. (p. 22)SMS is a particular technical implementation of a larger category of communication we can refer to as short messaging, which would also include various instant messenger tools and micro-blogging services like Twitter. Short messaging clearly has an important and growing role as a low cost, practical communications method and one that could hold important benefits for enhancing knowledge mobilization.
|A projection of FrontlineSMS for participants to see during our |
rapid prototyping exercise with cinnamon farmers in Polgahawela
|The research team meets with a group of farmers near Vakarai|
|Nuwan and Chandana carrying out a rapid prototyping exercise|
with a community group in Melsiripura, near Kurunegala