Having fun with the future

PC World

“Few companies innovate with the intensity and frequency of those working in mobile, and today’s present is a future that only a handful of people would have predicted just a few short years ago. While most of us happily soak up rampant innovation as mere consumers, a handful of people in the hallowed corridors of mobile R&D labs are already working on the next big thing – the phones we’ll be carrying around in our back pockets in 2012 and beyond”

Check out my latest PC World column for a few off-beat, random, fun thoughts on the future of mobile.

Unintended consequences

This is a subject which always fascinates me – “potential negative outcomes” from “perceived positive acts”. I’ve seen this kind of thing in the field before, but today found a blog which brings it much closer to home and, as a result, makes it far more relevant to far more people.

On her inspiring “Good Intentions are Not Enough” blog, Saundra Schimmelpfennig gives us “5 questions you should ask before donating goods overseas”:

Is the donation appropriate for the local climate, culture, and religion?
Do they actually need the donation?
Are the goods available locally?
Will the people receiving the goods be able to afford to fix or replace the donated item?
Will donating this item do more harm than good?

This reminded me a little of the opening of one of my older posts, which shared some application development observations in the social mobile space:

Understanding is important

Sometimes we think we’re doing the right thing because our intentions may be good, but things don’t always turn out that way.

Saundra is currently taking a year off to write “Beyond Good Intentions: How to Make Your Disaster Donations Do the Good You Intended”. Her book and blog are an attempt to start a conversation about the endemic problems in aid and how we, as donors, can impact its quality. I can’t wait. In the meantime, you can follow Saundra on Twitter.

The Social Mobile Long Tail explained

What follows is a short extract from the recent “Soul of the New Machine” human rights/technology conference hosted by UC Berkeley, in which I explain my theory of the Social Mobile Long Tail.

This video is also available on the FrontlineSMS Community pages

Social Mobile Long Tail

A full video of the session – PDA’s and Phones for Data Collection – which includes presentations from InSTEDD, Ushahidi, DataDyne and Salesforce.com, is available via the FORA.tv website.

FrontlineSMS, media, and the Malawi elections

It doesn’t quite make the headlines in the same way as elections in Nigeria, the DRC or Zimbabwe, but today the people of Malawi are awaiting the results of a general election which many are saying is too close to call. A peaceful and orderly outcome is crucial. Malawi has one of the fastest growing economies in the world (although it is starting from near-bottom, admittedly) and continued stability is vital if progress is to continue.

Access to balanced and unbiased election information is often a key problem at crucial times like these. The logistical challenges of running nationwide elections is often compounded by a lack of election-specific knowledge among local media, which can often lead to misreporting, misinformation and – in worse-case scenarios – civil unrest. The availability of ICT tools for local journalists can also be problematic, compounding the problem yet further.

Malawi elections, courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/malawielectionspix/

The African Elections Project (AEP) Malawi focuses on developing the capacity of the media through the use of ICTs, and mobile-enabled AEP Malawi team members are working across the country, using voice and SMS to stay in touch with a central newsroom based in Blantyre. This newsroom is equipped with a copy of FrontlineSMS, which is helping manage incoming and outgoing SMS to and from newsroom members, and helping auto-manage and disseminate news via SMS to subscribers.

FrontlineSMS is free software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables users to send and receive text messages with large groups of people through mobile phones.

To receive regular election updates and certified results from the Malawi Electoral Commission, log on to www.africanelections.org/malawi. Malawians can text “subscribe” to +265 884 583 980 or email their mobile number to malawi@africanelections.org.

Updates are also available on Twitter by following @malawivotes2009

The African Elections Project (AEP) Malawi is co-ordinated by the International Institute for ICT Journalism working hand in hand with key partners, with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).