Mobile Web for Development

In 2007, half the world population — 50.10% to be true — were subscribers of a mobile telephony service, representing 72.1% of the total telephony subscribers (fixed, mobile, satellite, etc.). The datum is even more shocking if we move into the African continent: there, still only one third of the population has (actually, is subscribed to) a cellular phone (28.44%), but it is important to stress the fact that this third stands for 89.6% of the total subscribers to telephone lines, the highest proportion of the five continents. Though it is but an average that goes way higher when looking into specific countries like Tanzania (98.1%), Mauritania (97%), the Congo (97.2%), Kenya (97,7%) or Cameroon 96%), just to put some examples.

These data absolutely support the creation, in 2008, of the Mobile Web for Social Development Interest Group (MW4D), fostered by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This interest group — a part of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative — has as a purpose to:

explore how to use the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on Mobile phones as a solution to bridge the Digital Divide and provide minimal services (health, education, governance, business,…) to rural communities and under-privileged populations of Developing Countries.

Some projects using mobile phones for development
  • Kiwanja and their projects: FrontlineSMS, to help nonprofits to benefit from using SMS for advocacy and monitoring; nGOmoblie, a competition to encourage them to think about how text messaging could benefit them and their work; and Silverback, a game for mobile phones to raise awareness about gorilla conservation
  • TradeNet, to access and manage market information (specially on agriculture markets) from the mobile phone;
  • M-Pesa, to transfer money and make payments through text messaging;
  • Ushahidi, a platform that crowdsources crisis information, allowing anyone to submit crisis information through text messaging using a mobile phone, email or web form.
  • and their experience monitoring the elections in Zimbabwe, now converted into a handbook on How to run a mobile advocacy campaign

These and other projects, stories, people and organizations using mobile phones for social impact can be found at MobileActive.

On the other hand, Stéphane Boyera and Ken Banks, co-chairs of the Mobile Web for Social Development Interest Group will be at the II International Meeting on ICT for Development Cooperation, where there is a whole track on mobile telephony for development.

More information

Ken Banks just confirmed that he cannot come to the II International Meeting on ICT for Development Cooperation due to agenda reasons.


If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Mobile Web for Development” In ICTlogy, #63, December 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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