Blog it, Kenny: Most read posts of 2009

After months – maybe years – of badgering by good friend Erik Hersman (he of White African fame), late last December I finally moved my blog over to WordPress. I actually began blogging in February 2006, but started with a plain-old HTML page on the kiwanja website. Shortly after I moved over to Blogger before finally seeing the light and moving to the king of blogging platforms. (Erik – you were right).  🙂

It’s been great seeing the readership grow, and with a neat calendar year of invigorated blogging behind me I thought it would be fun to throw together a list of the top twelve most read posts of 2009. These posts are the most read, rather than most popular (usually measured by number of comments, Tweets, etc):

1. Bones for mobile phones (1466 reads)
2. Anthropologists! Anthropologists! (946 reads)
3. A mobile database that brings it all together (806 reads)

4. The making of an SMS icon (727 reads)
5. The Million Dollar Homepage (639 reads)
6. Dispelling the myth? (603 reads)

7. Time to eat our own dog food? (564 reads)
8. Mapping medicine availability via SMS (547 reads)
9. FrontlineSMS: Now with Forms (540 reads)

10. Step inside the laptop bank (538 reads)
11. Grameen’s AppLab comes of age (533 reads)
12. Radios. Batteries. Solar. Implications (529 reads)

And three personal favourites which didn’t make it to the list:

13. “Inappropriate” appropriate technology?
14. Why does this picture trouble me?
15. A glimpse inside social mobile’s long tail

Interesting that three of the top six posts are anthropology-related (as is one of my favourites). Anyway, happy new-year-blogging to everyone! Thanks for reading. Here’s to 2010!

Information into action: Africa and beyond

Two organisations I’ve had the pleasure of working with – Tactical Tech and Fahamu – have independently announced the release of a film and a book which cover different aspects of non-profit digital activism. Both are well worth a look. – a Tactical Tech initiative – explores how rights advocates “use information and digital technology to create positive change”. Actions are broken down into 10 tactics which, through the site, provide original and artful ways for rights advocates to capture attention and communicate a cause (see video, above). The website includes a 50-minute film documenting inspiring info-activism stories from around the world and a set of cards, with tools tips and advice to help people plan their own info-activism campaigns. Further details of the launch are available on the BBC News website.

Turning to more traditional media, Fahamu/Pambazuka have published a new book – SMS Uprising: Mobile Phone Activism in Africa – which provides “a unique insight into how activists and social change advocates are addressing Africa’s many challenges from within, and how they are using mobile telephone technologies to facilitate these changes”.

The book is essentially a collection of essays by people engaged in using mobile phone technologies for social change, and it provides an analysis of the socio-economic, political and media contexts faced by activists in Africa today. The essays address a broad range of issues including inequalities in access to technology based on gender, rural and urban usage, as well as offering practical examples of how activists are using mobile technology to organise and document their experiences. Contributors include friends Sokari Ekine (Blacklooks) – also the editor – Amanda Atwood (, Juliana Rotich (Ushahidi), Christian Kreutz ( and others.

Congratulations to everyone at Tactical Tech and Fahamu on their initiatives, both of which provide valuable contributions to a growing body of literature on digital activism. Thanks also for the invitations to contribute – an honour and a pleasure!

Fishing meets texting in Banda Aceh

We continue our recent agriculture theme in this, the eighteenth in our series of FrontlineSMS guest posts. Here, Teddy Syahputra – a System Consultant at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Banda Aceh – talks about their use of the software, and how it is set to underpin a new nationwide SMS service in the country

“The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in Banda Aceh (Indonesia) have been using FrontlineSMS for over two years, and recently it was deployed in a pilot project concentrated on the needs of local fishermen. Following the success of this early pilot, we are now implementing a nationwide project called Fish Marketing Information System (FMIS) to support the development of conducive and fair trade practices for economically competitive fish products from Aceh in the local, national, regional and international markets.

Image courtesy FMIS

The price information is processed by a computer-based system (primarily a website and MySQL database) using FrontlineSMS as the SMS gateway. Fish price information is being disseminated to fisherfolk, fish farmers, traders, processors and government agencies through a combination of SMS, local radio, the project website and local newspapers.

For the data collection we developed our own software – called “Enumerator” – and we provide each of the collectors with a handset with the software pre-installed. The software is easy to use, allowing the operator to insert the species name and the prices in pre-defined fields. “Enumerator” then binds the data into an SMS, which is then sent to FrontlineSMS for processing and passing into the database. Integration and implementation was easy thanks to FrontlineSMS’ powerful ‘keyword’ functionality.

FMIS and FrontlineSMSThe next phase of the project is to implement FrontlineSMS/FMIS throughout other provinces in Indonesia, but this time the Indonesian Government will be handling the SMS gateway in each province, and the local website.

This project has already helped hundreds of people in Indonesia, with many more to follow. FrontlineSMS has been invaluable in helping us achieve this. Not only is the software free, but it is incredibly easy to use – we downloaded it and had it working ourselves in no time. This ease-of-use is also essential if other districts are to be easily able to replicate what we have done here”.

Teddy Syahputra
National Information System Consultant
Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations
Banda Aceh, NAD – Indonesia

ICT, emergencies and conflicts

Following their recent examination of the mHealth landscape, the UN/Vodafone Foundation partnership today turned their attention to a new topic – New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts. The new study, available for download on the UN Foundation website, examines how authorities and humanitarian/aid organisations balance the opportunities and challenges of exploiting different technologies at key stages during the timeline of a crisis.

The report provides a useful overview of the topic, and gives a number of good examples of how social media tools are being deployed on the ground in emergency and crisis situations. The report also highlights a number of mobile-related tools and services – including FrontlineSMS and Souktel – and provides a number of examples of how Ushahidi has been deployed in trouble spots around the world.

Update: Release of the report was also covered on the BBC News website – check out “Aid agencies must use new tools” for more.