mobile phones


Which African city Tweets the most? | 

A new map shows the tweets sent out from Africa’s 20 most populated cities, in the period of 24 hours. Geo-located tweets were tracked over the last three months of 2013 to determine the trends. Coming in number one is Johannesburg with 344,215 geo-located tweets. The top five include Ekurhuleni (264,172); Cairo (227,509); Durban (163,019); and Alexandria (159,534).

The findings should not come as too much of a surprise. English, French and Arabic are the predominant languages and the highest level of activity took place on the day that Nelson Mandela died. Analysis comes from a business perspective for the Nairobi-based Portland Communications, the group that carried out the analysis.

Football (not the American kind) was the most discussed topic. Politics did not fare so well, but brands seem to be making some gains.

“The African Twittersphere is changing rapidly and transforming the way that Africa communicates with itself and the rest of the world. Our latest research reveals a significantly more sophisticated landscape than we saw just two years ago. This is opening up new opportunities and challenges for companies, campaigning organisations and governments across Africa,” said Allan Kamau, Head of Portland Nairobi, in a release.

The explosion of mobile phones in Africa in two graphs | 

Billionaire investor Kerr Neilson is betting on Africa in part because of its mobile revolution.

“To have reliable information about anticipated weather conditions and prices of agricultural products, to be able to transmit funds to relatives in remote and distant villages, to be able to access healthcare advice on one’s mobile phone, are huge breakthroughs,” he said.

Here are two charts from the Financial Review that will certainly please Neilson:

e366b4d0-1a81-11e3-b6e2-76e4ec7b1ea5_ves snag africa telco

HT World Bank Media Revolutions blog

How a prize-winning computer programmer fights poverty |
Yaw Anokwa

If you’ve ever spent time in a hospital in the developing world, you see all kinds of problems. Sometimes conditions are decrepit, or the facility is understaffed, or it’s charging too much for healthcare.

Then there’s “the paper problem.” Data about each patient – name, age, symptoms, everything that’s critical to good treatment – gets scrawled on slips of paper. Often these slips get filed away, but they’re inaccurate or badly written. Or they get lost. The whole system is cumbersome and slow, which means worse health outcomes for patients.

In a challenging resource-poor setting, how do you solve this issue?

Yaw Anokwa figured it out. He’s one of the minds behind the Open Data Kit (ODK), a data collection platform that’s been implemented in hospitals in Rwanda and Kenya, where the it cut down processing times for AIDS patients  by months. Farmers in Uganda, street children in India, election monitors, even environmental activists in Brazil – all of them have used Open Data Kit in innovative ways to collect data using smartphones and then use the information swiftly and productively.

Anokwa himself has come a long way. He moved to the United States from Ghana at a young age, and his passion for computer programming once got him suspended from school for a week. Now he has a new software company called Nafundi whose business is built around ODK.

Tom Paulson talks to Anokwa about his personal story, why he eschews more lucrative technology work, and where Open Data Kit goes from here. ODK is an amazing technology, but the story of how Anokwa has used it – carefully, keeping it open-source, and in partnerships with local organizations around the world – is just as important. Before the interview, our Boston correspondent Tom Murphy and I discuss the headlines from this week, including food aid and corruption.

Listen to the end for Anokwa’s tantalizing comments on what the next generation of this technology looks like. (And don’t forget to subscribe to the Humanosphere podcast on iTunes.)

UNICEF Gets a Little Bit Cooler and More Innovative | 

Erica Kochi and Christopher Fabian work together on mapping the future of innovation at UNICEF House, New York
Erica Kochi and Christopher Fabian work together on mapping the future of innovation at UNICEF House, New York
Susan Markisz

Celebrities often fill the pages of the annual TIME 100 list. The 2013 list fulfills that trend with the inclusion of Beyonce, Sheryl Sandberg, Jay Z, and Justin Timberlake. A more cynical article would gripe about placing musician Beyonce and skier Lindsey Vonn in the same ‘icon’ category as a woman who endured years of house arrest in an oppressive country (Aung San Suu Kyi) and a pair of women who survived assassination attempts (Malala Yousafzai and Gabby Giffords).

Heck, we here in Humanosphere are ones to do that more often than not. But I can’t help but remain fixated on the inclusion of two ‘pioneers’ from UNICEF, Chris Fabian and Erica Kochi. The two are the co-leaders of the innovation unit over at UNICEF. That’s right, one of the oldest development institutions has a group devoted to innovative solutions. Here is just a things the team is doing as summarized by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey for TIME:

More than half of the 6 million births each year in Nigeria are not recorded. Without a birth certificate, a child is much less likely to get educated, be vaccinated or receive health services. Two young UNICEF staffers — Erica Kochi and Christopher Fabian — moving fast within their 66-year-old organization, have made registering a birth as easy as sending a text. They’ve employed similar methods to prevent early deaths as well, creating systems to track the distribution of some 63 million insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets to stop the spread of malaria. Erica and Chris are using technology and accessible, intuitive interfaces to quickly transform the face of humanitarian aid and international development. The world will benefit from their continued efforts.

The most notable achievement by the pair is the open source technology tool RapidSMS. The tool uses cell phone text messages for collecting data that supports logistics coordination, database building and improved coordination. Its simple set up allows development organizations of any size to support their work through mobile phones. It is one of the more important developments in the realm of mHealth and it is no mistake that Kochi played a game of musical chairs at the 2012 edition of the mHealth Summit by shuffling from one panel to the next. Continue reading

Evidence needs to catch up with enthusiasm for mobile phones & health, aka mHealth | 

AED Satellife's Gather Data, an Open Sourced Voxiva of health application; mhealth
Credit: Wayan Vota

There may really be an app for everything.

Cell phones are being used to perform echo cardiograms by American primary care physicians. Pregnant women in Bangladesh are receiving text message reminders to improve maternal health. Here’s a story from SciDev today about using phones to diagnose malaria.

The rapidly expanding use of mobile phones in health applications, aka mHealth, is widely touted as a global revolution unfolding. It may yet be, but where’s the evidence in support of the claims?

It is expected that 80% of the people living on the African continent will have access to mobile phones by the end of this year. This technological leap means that information can be communicated to more people in places that were previously hard to reach, or completely isolated. The diffusion of this technology has not been lost on governments, NGOs and the private sector. All are seeking ways to improve health services using phones. Continue reading

Phone animations for poor farmers | 

The Science and Development Network has a very cool story about a project that aims to use animation sent over mobile phones to provide poor farmers in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world with valuable technical information or health advisories … or whatever.

Here’s the story at

There are a lot of reasons why this may never work, but it’s fun to consider. Here’s a video report:

And here’s a Q&A with Scientific Animations Without Borders by Jaclyn Schiff at Global Health Hub