November 26, 2012

Instagram launches Web profile pages

Interact with Instagram directly from the Web

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, educators, journalists, general public.

John HaydonDid you know that Instagram profiles on the Web are now live? Until now, all interactions on Instagram (purchased by Facebook earlier this year) took place entirely on smartphones. Here’s my profile pageif you’d like to see what they look like.

Sweet and simple, right? I like that profiles are only for the purpose of viewing, commenting on, and liking photos. But snapping, creating and sharing photos is still mobile-only as if to preserve the simplicity and pureness of the experience. Continue reading

September 1, 2009

Voice-based technology aids social change

Projects that use mobile to deliver impactful information

By Prabhas Pokharel
MobileActive.org

The precursors to mobile phones were walkie-talkies, and the first generation of mobile phone networks only supported voice communications. With second generation networks and a happy accident came SMS, and only with the third generation networks came mobile data services in the form of GPRS.TalkToMeImage

Most applications using mobile phones these days tend to use these newer channels of communication: SMS and data. But even though we sometimes forget, voice is still a part of mobile phone communications. This article profiles interesting ways in which voice technology is being used for social work all around the world.

Voice transmission has a singular advantage over SMS and data transmissions—it channels human, spoken  language directly. Users of many literacy levels can use voice technology with keypad and voice navigation, and applications can be run in local languages. Users can issue commands and requests in their natural language, and thus communicate more accurately. The problem, unfortunately, lies on the receiving end. Voice data is much harder to process automatically than text or other data. It requires considerable technical effort (or a lot of person-power) to parse and separate voice data (and even then accuracy isn’t perfect), and searching voice data still remains a nearly impossible feat. Second, airtime costs tend to run higher than text message costs. Continue reading

March 24, 2009

Social mobile: A moral duty to do more?

kiwanjaIs the future of social mobile an empowered few, or an empowered many? Mobile tools in the hands of the masses presents great opportunity for NGO-led social change, but is that the future we’re creating?

In The White Man’s Burden – Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good,” William Easterly’s frustration at large-scale, top-down, bureaucracy-ridden development projects runs to an impressive 384 pages. While Easterly dedicates most of his book to markets, economics and the mechanics of international development itself, he talks little of information and communication technology (ICT). The index carries no reference to ‘computers,’ ‘ICT’ or even plain old ‘technology.’

But there is an entry for ‘cell phones.’

smallbeautifulE. F. Schumacher, a fellow economist and the man widely recognized as the father of the appropriate technology movement, spent a little more time in his books studying technology issues. His seminal 1973 book – Small is Beautiful – The Study of Economics as if People Mattered” – reacted to the imposition of alien development concepts on Third World countries, and he warned early of the dangers and difficulties of advocating the same technological practices in entirely different societies and environments. Although his earlier work focused more on agri-technology and large-scale infrastructure projects (dam building was a favorite ‘intervention’ at the time), his theories could easily have been applied to ICTs – as they were in later years.

Things have come a long way since 1973. For a start, many of us now have mobile phones, the most rapidly adopted technology in history. In what amounts to little more than the blink of an eye, mobiles have given us a glimpse of their potential to help us solve some of the most pressing problems of our time. As the evidence mounts, I have one question: If mobiles truly are as revolutionary and empowering as they appear to be – particularly in the lives of some of the poorest members of society – then do we have a moral duty, in the ICT for Development (ICT4D) community at least, to see that they fulfill that potential?

Continue reading