The field of digital data collection is constantly and rapidly changing, and as we’ve seen in the many iterations of our online courses on Mobiles for International Development and mHealth, Magpi has been a leading innovator in mobile data collection.

That’s why we were not surprised to learn that Magpi has been ranked “Top Digital Data Collection App” by Kopernik, a Rockefeller Foundation and Asia Community Ventures non-profit that ranks technology for development tools in their “Impact Tracker Technology” program.

Rankings for this category were based on scoring for criteria including affordability, usability, rapidity – the “ability to send and receive large volumes of data on a real-time basis”, scalability, and transferability – “flexibility in using the services for different purposes, sectors, and contexts”. This is first time Magpi has appeared on this Kopernik list where the judges tested the tools in the field.

For those who might not yet be familiar with Magpi, it is a user-friendly mobile data collection application that works on various mobile devices. Magpi uses SMS and audio messaging, and is built specifically for organizations with limited IT and financial resources. The company formally known as DataDyne is now Magpi and they have retired the DataDyne name as well as updated their website here, which lists some of the new comprehensive features they’ve recently added. Magpi is led by Joel Selanikio, who is also an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s Department of Pediatrics

Congratulations to the Magpi team! We look forward to having you guys join us again in our upcoming online courses!

TC105: Mobiles for International Development alumna, Ivy McCottry is starting a job at AT&T after completing her TechChange M4D course and MBA at Wake Forest University.

Read on to learn how she broke into the mobile technology industry.

What interested you in taking TechChange courses?

I found TechChange when searching for ways to build up my technical background for using technology to improve lives. Through undergraduate Urban and Regional Studies courses, I knew I needed to demonstrate my interest in furthering technology and also be well-versed on current and emerging technical issues. I considered pursuing a tech-based MBA program and completed an MBA internship at a telemedicine startup. Later, I took a course on telemedicine with a clinical focus. While pursuing my MBA, I specifically sought out course work to supplement my business education with technology training.

Ultimately, I chose TechChange’s popular Mobiles for International Development course that offered a unique approach to learning with an international focus on the ubiquity of mobile phones. I saw this course as a great way to become familiar with various mobile initiatives at large, emerging mobile trends and major players in this space including GSMA and others.

What did you find useful from your TechChange course, Mobiles for International Development?

1. Demonstrating interest in technology with a credible certificate

Without an engineering background, the certificate I earned from completing the M4D course, together with my telemedicine internship, validated  my interest in technology. The certificate gave credence to my desire to work in the mobile technology industry.

2. Access to high quality guest experts

I knew that the guest experts for the course would be great, but the quality of these experts exceeded my expectations. For example, one of my favorite moments from the Mobiles for International Development online course was during a session with a Motorola phone designer who discussed literacy. I learned from him the importance of understanding customers’ literacy before you design products, and how design can promote literacy with intuitive user experiences. This layer of analysis for thinking about literacy in product development was new and fascinating to me.

 3. Diversity of resources and perspectives on global mobile use cases

In a class I took in my MBA program on Emerging Markets (BRICs), we discussed a Harvard case study on M-Pesa, which was covered in the TechChange M4D course in our discussions on mobile money. During this lecture, I was able to offer some different insights on M-Pesa that I had learned from the M4D course discussions on building products for the base of the pyramid. In my lecture, I cited materials on M-Pesa mentioned in the TechChange course and added to the MBA course materials.

What impact has TC105 had on you and your career?

1. Job offers from Fortune 100 companies

After finishing the Mobiles for International Development course, I received job offers from McKesson, which is involved with healthcare, and AT&T. I chose AT&T because of the opportunity to work on mhealth and more broadly, connected communities. It’s my goal to leverage my city planning and federal government experience to create smart/connected communities that improve life and safety matters. I recently joined AT&T to participate in a company leadership development program. In this program, I will be engaged in a variety of roles where I will learn about various aspects of AT&T’s business such as network operations, global products, and so forth.

2. Understanding the mobile industry landscape

Through the M4D course, I was able to better grasp what the drivers are for investment in mobile initiatives. I became very interested in learning about profitability and sustainability issues for mobiles from the perspectives of stakeholders like operators and the needs of mobile users. Additionally, I learned about the various business models being tested in this space and the various public private partnerships in place. This helps me have perspective about operators’ and users’ adoption factors.

3. Instant access to a well-connected global network

When I began my MBA program, I had no touch points with the mobile technology industry. Now, I have instant networks to various players within the field through the well-connected TechChange community.

What advice would you give to students taking TC105 or any TC course?

1. Know what you want to get out of the course.

The more you know precisely what you want to gain from the course, the more you will get out of it as you can prioritize those topics and ask questions that will focus discussions on areas you care about most.

2. Attend live sessions

The “live event” sessions are very helpful. Even though these sessions are recorded and archived, it’s good to sit in live because you can contribute questions in real time and process the context of what’s being presented. You also don’t have to mull over content independently – you can send questions immediately or expand on an idea that has been mentioned. When attending these events, I always made sure the facilitator knew I was there at the session so my private sector interests would be covered in the presentation.

3. Network with guest speakers and course participants

If speakers represent organizations that you want access to, definitely enroll in the course. The access that TechChange provides at this dollar value is unheard of and a great return on investment.

It also helped me to read profiles of other people who were taking the class and alumni as well. I was definitely inspired by the success stories of Carolyn Florey and Trevor Knoblich who advanced in their careers with the help of TechChange courses.

Interested in pursuing a career in mobile technology like Ivy? Enroll now in our Mobiles for International Development online course. Next round starts Monday, May 11.

Four months ago, we wrapped up our ninth TC105: Mobiles for International Development course here at TechChange. Fifty-eight participants joined us online from twenty-two different countries for our four-week course with guest experts, live events, and great discussions.

Our participants represented a variety of development and tech organization, including: DAI, Belgian Development Agency, UNICEF Nepal, Google, Vodafone, OECD, World Vision, Plan International, Mercy Corps  Yemen, NYU, Michigan State University, University of Denver, Helvetas, and more!

Some highlights from the course:

  • Collaborative Learning: After a session on M-Pesa, participants shared their excitement about the possibilities for M-Pesa, especially given the large migrant worker population abroad who send remittances back home and the influx of mobile phones in Cambodia and similarly in Albania. A participant from Tanzania wrote about the wide use of M-Pesa in Tanzania and also informed other participants about the outage of M-Pesa in Kenya during the post-election violence and other complications that come with mobile money regulations.

During the mobile data session with Democracy International, participants were asked to upload surveys on a mobile data platform and share their experience. They shared the ease and difficulties they experienced using mobile surveys in different platforms like Formhub, Textit, Magpi, and ODK providing insights for each other.

  • Guest Experts: The course was facilitated by Chris Neu with a line up of eleven guest experts. Guest experts included Amy Sweeney from GeoPoll, Arjen Swank of Text to Change, Kristen Roggeman of DAI (previously with GSMA mWomen), Gabriel White of Small Surfaces, and more! With access to a great panel of speakers, the participants enjoyed asking questions and interacting with them during our live events. One of the participants even interviewed a guest speaker for her final project.

Some of our participants summed up their experience with the course:

“The lineup of speakers is phenomenal, the tools are amazing, and the staff bring it all together on top of an online course platform that actually works. If you have interest in the ICT4D space, there is no better way to jump in than with a Tech Change course.” – Ian Reynolds, Ian Reynolds IT Services

“Week 2 had 4 great tools listed with videos/tutorials and a basic introduction to each which were very helpful for me. Being able to test them out was key for my understanding of how they worked. The background readings in week 1 were useful in understanding the context for this course. And the final project is a great way to synthesize everything from across the 4 weeks and put together something that showcases your learning.” – Kate DiMercurio, Monterrey Institute of International Studies

“Great survey course for the uninitiated. But if you’re interested in strengthening a specific area of expertise, the accessibility of experts and information is outstanding.” – Christina Eyre

“While I knew generally how mobiles could be used in development, this course really helped me realize the breadth and depth of how they can be used. Furthermore, it made realize how many considerations must be taken into account when designing a project that uses mobiles in order to create a product that is really useful for the target beneficiaries. I will be taking a lot of what I learned in this course and sharing it with colleagues for guiding future program development.” – Jacole Douglas, World Education Inc.

For our upcoming TC105 Mobiles for International Development online course, we are happy to welcome back Chrissy Martin and Amy Sweeney as guest experts in this course one more time and excited to hear from experts like Louise Guido, Steve Ollis, Jonathan Dolan, Jacob Korenblum, Louis Dorval, and Kelly Church.

Nearly two dozen people from ten different countries have already registered, representing organizations such as Task Force for Global Health, Management Sciences for Health, World Council of Credit Unions, Banyan Global, UNICEF, United Methodist Communications, Center for International Private Enterprise, Belgian Development Agency and many more!

Secure your spot in our upcoming TC105: Mobiles for International Development online course that starts on Sept 8th. Register now to save your seat!

For my final project for TC105: Mobiles for International Development, I decided to interview Amy Sweeney of GeoPoll, one of the guest speakers of our class. Working on global development issues, I am deeply interested in new opportunities offered by technology, particularly how it allows people living even in the poorest countries to share information through mobile devices. GeoPoll strikes me as one of the most innovative players in this field and for this reason I decided to go back to Amy and ask her to describe GeoPoll’s work in more detail.

Since the interview I have also been amazed to learn that some of my colleagues at the organisation I work for, the OECD, already collaborate with GeoPoll on a ‘data revolution’ project that will contribute to more accessible information on development in the next few years… one more proof that there are no coincidences in life. I am now in touch with them on a regular basis to see how the project will evolve.

Interview with Amy Sweeney, Director of Business Development, GeoPoll

GeoPoll is a mobile survey platform that allows you to carry out mobile surveys in any country in the world except North Korea. Technically GeoPoll is registered as a US small business but it sees itself more as a social enterprise. It is eligible for both grants and contracts by US and international funders alike.

GeoPoll Overview

1. How would you define your added value compared to your competitors? What is your unique approach to mobile surveys?

GeoPoll’s approach is to reach as many people as possible regardless of their income or status. While many mobile surveys require the use of the Internet or web-based applications, we offer the opportunity to take a survey just by using any mobile phone (e.g., feature phones all the way up to smart phones). We aim to reach a greater portion of the ‘bottom billion’ people through simple text or voice messaging. There are other players in our market, particularly local companies, but we are different in that we establish partnerships with mobile network operators. We serve as a platform but also serve as a “sample  source”. We have access to more than 150+ million mobile subscribers in Africa alone. We can achieve more reach, scale, and connections with these operators than anyone else.

GeoPoll – How Our Platform Works

2. Who are your primary clients? Do you foresee any major change in their composition?

Roughly half of our business is with the social sector, e.g. international organisations like WFP and USAID, NGOs, etc. The remaining half is with commercial companies and market research groups but this percentage is likely to increase this year due to recent media measurement products produced.

3. Are you planning to collaborate again with the World Bank and the UNDP My World Survey?

The collaboration with the World Bank in 2010 was for the World Development Report focused on community-based consultations on gender-based violence in DR Congo. World Bank’s annual World Development Reports cover a different topic and a different country every year. At the moment there are no plans to collaborate again on a World Development Report in the near future but we are exploring other opportunities with the World Bank. The same goes for the My World Survey.

4. How do you ensure free participation or even incentives for survey takers? And who covers these costs?

GeoPoll connects with mobile network operators’ billing systems allowing mobile subscribers to participate in mobile surveys at no cost (e.g.:. zero-rated or free to respond to). For example, those that do not have airtime credit on their phones can still participate. Each carrier is different but ultimately our agreement with them ensures that the survey comes at no cost to the survey taker, which reduces the economic barrier for participation.

5. Is there such a thing as an average response rate? Does it vary across regions, gender or any other big factor?

Responses to our surveys really depend on the country and the topic in question. We have noticed that the response rate increases over time as survey takers get to know GeoPoll as a reliable service. Once trust has been built people feel more comfortable taking the survey. Also, we have done some testing that shows that response rates tend to increase with incentives. Another approach we have taken which has been widely successful is running panel-based surveys, including measuring TV viewership and radio listenership ratings, in several African countries. In that case, response rates have been astronomically high because users are engaged on a daily basis.

I hope you will find this interview useful. I’m excited to see that Amy Sweeney is coming back as a guest speaker for TechChange’s upcoming Mobiles for International Development course! Also, feel free to connect with me via Twitter (@faridabena) to continue our discussion on mobiles for development.

Interested in mobile data and other ways mobile phones bring understanding to the world? Join our upcoming online course on Mobiles for International Development.


About Amy Sweeney

Amy Sweeney

Amy Sweeney is the director of business development for GeoPoll based in Washington, DC. Prior to joining GeoPoll, Ms. Sweeney spent nearly five years developing and honing her international development experience at Chemonics, where she held the position as new business director in Caucasus and Central Asia RBU. She previously served in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan and worked in Afghanistan and Turkey. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

About Farida Bena

Farida Bena

Farida Bena is the Economist / Policy Analyst at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris, France. She has more than 15 years of experience working in development, humanitarian aid, and global advocacy across four continents. Before joining OECD, Ms. Bena has worked as the director at the International Rescue Committee Belgium and led the Aid Effectiveness Policy team at Oxfam International. Ms. Bena holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Yale University.

It’s been two years since Chrissy Martin wrote a post on her thoughts on mobile money for development for TechChange’s Mobiles for International Development online course. As Chrissy has focused on mobile money issues since then, so much of it still rings true including the challenges of preventing fraud and best practices for working with telecoms.

In a recent Forbes article, we learned that more than two thirds of Kenyan adults use M-Pesa (a mobile digital currency), accounting for more than 25% of Kenya’s GNP. The ubiquitous use of mobile phones and the growing market for increasingly affordable smartphones will only make mobile money more popular in the developing world. According to ITWeb Africa, mobile money users now outnumber adults with bank accounts in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

While M-Pesa is the most well-known mobile-based financial transfer service, there are more players in the field such as Zoona, an African social enterprise that provides mobile payments and working capital financing to micro & small enterprises. Chrissy works as the Global Partnership Manager at Zoona and we can’t wait to hear more about the cool things that Zoona is doing in Africa.

Get a sneak peek of what to expect from Chrissy’s session on mobile money and Zoona with this video here:

Interested in mobile money and other ways mobile phones are improving lives? Join our upcoming online course on Mobiles for International Development.

About TC105 Guest Speaker, Chrissy Martin

Chrissy Martin headshot Zoona

Chrissy Martin is a product manager with several years of experience implementing digital financial solutions in emerging markets.  With operational knowledge across multiple sectors, she effectively bridges the gap between the private sector and the development industry.  Presently, she serves as the Global Partnership Manager for Zoona, an African social enterprise passionately committed to helping small businesses grow. Before Zoona, she was at the development organization MEDA, expanding rural access to financial services in countries including Zambia, Uganda, and Nicaragua. Previously, Chrissy was based in Haiti, working as the Product Manager for Mobile Financial Services at Digicel.  Chrissy holds degrees from The Fletcher School and the University of Virginia.

 Featured image photo credit: Zoona Facebook page

Hamlet (community) health workers in Vietnam learn to interact with mCare (Photo credit: FHI360)

With international development program cycles often having a “project design phase”, how can online learning as a team improve project design?

How do you design a technology program intervention to improve health outcomes?

HIV Challenges and Keeping Up with mHealth

According to the WHO, HIV has claimed 39 million lives so far globally with 1.5 million lives in 2013 alone. At the end of 2013, there were 35 million people living with HIV, with 2.1 million becoming newly infected. With 24.7 million people living with HIV in 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region in the world accounting for almost 70% of the global HIV infections.

HIV often gets highlighted as a major problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, but it is also a major public health concern in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam where the use of needles to inject drugs drives the epidemic. As of 2012, 260,000 (of the 89 million) people in Vietnam are living with HIV, according to UNAIDS Vietnam. As a result, FHI 360 is working with the Government of Vietnam to address the country’s HIV challenges with “effective programs that cost less, are implemented locally, and decrease donor dependence”.

Technology developments in public health change very quickly, especially with the emergence of mHealth – there’s more mHealth programming, new applications, and emerging research.

MHealth is a key strategy for us as these applications can be used to incentivize health-seeking actions, increase the timeliness of data collection, improve patient communications, and document system-client interactions. MHealth can also facilitate workforce development through task shifting, performance support, and human resources management.

According the blog Tech in Asia, “For every 100 Vietnamese people, there’s 145 mobile phones. For a country whose population is just over 90 million, that amounts to more than 130 million mobile phones.” reported that, as of January 2012, census data indicated there were 119 million mobile users in Vietnam when the population was at 88 million. Given the emergence of the mHealth industry and the large percentage of the Vietnamese population with cell phones, we at FHI 360 need to effectively mobilize this ubiquitous technology for impactful programming that helps individuals in all areas of the country protect their health and well-being.

A Social Online Learning Solution

In 2012, I first participated in TechChange’s 4-week online certificate course called “Mobile Phones for Public Health.”  I decided to take the course again in 2013 – this time with numerous colleagues — to share our mHealth programming experiences and to continue to learn from renowned mHealth practitioners around the world.

Like all busy development professionals, it is difficult to find time to cultivate learning during our day-to-day work.  The TechChange course was structured and delivered to meet our needs.

Nick Martin mHealth course social map

Here’s a social graph from Mobile Phones for Public Health showing participant interaction

Cutting-edge, timely, and relevant information

  1.  TechChange updated its courses at least once every 3-6 months, based on direct feedback (through crowdsourcing and surveys) from its broad learning community to deliver the most up to date and relevant course content.

Great format for busy working professionals in Vietnam and beyond

  1.  Keeping our busy schedules in mind, the course content was designed to be mobile and tablet-friendly, allowing us to learn wherever and whenever fit our schedules. All live events were recorded so that learners could access materials according to their schedules.
  2. For those of us who had difficulty finishing the course in the one-month period, access (and technical support) is available for four months after the end of the course so that we can complete our final project and receive the formal certificate.
  3. The online interface was the most intuitive learner platform we have ever used:  An online course map visually illustrated all components of the program, while a calendar highlighted a variety of live discussion events with renowned experts from around the world.
  4. The main facilitator actively participated in all discussion boards; introduced weekly themes (through video, email and platform) and summarized (through print and video) the highlights of each week.  He and a facilitation team also provided “office hours” for those who needed extra support (and this support was provided in various time zones).

Interactive learning experience

  1. There was great communication between facilitator and learners. The course required 7-9 hours of effort per week and the 50 or so participants were motivated to actively participate. Learner outcomes were clearly defined and each week’s themes were well-articulated so that we knew what to expect and what was expected from us.
  2. Instead of relying primarily on print materials, sharing video, audio and weekly live events/”chats” allowed learners from various cultural backgrounds to gain knowledge and skills through a variety of channels through interactive learning.
  3. Practical exercises and interactive simulations ensured knowledge application and exchange.
  4. Individuals got to know each other through a variety of “get to know you” activities and collaborative exercises.
  5. TechChange added some fun by integrating game dynamics into the course, awarding points each time a person participated in a discussion or attended an event, with a minimum participation threshold established in order to earn a certificate.

Joining a professional network and community

  1. All learners also became TechChange alumni upon finishing the course. We are now connected through social media with others in mHealth (and offered substantial discounts on upcoming courses).
  2. It’s been great to see other mHealth alumni like Lauren Bailey making strides in the field after joining this course.

Here are some additional comments from two of my colleagues:

“I really enjoyed reading the forums at my own pace. I liked that other participants put so much thought into them.” – Deen Gu

“I like the discussion parts most as they offer me many interesting thoughts and experiences of TechChange’s members on different topics.” -Nguyen Thi Van Anh

As a recent graduate of TechChange’s courses, I can speak to the benefits of participation.


USAID/SMART TA team provides hands-on training to hamlet health worker in Nghe An (Photo credit: FHI360)

Results of mHealth Training with TechChange

Through this mHealth course, my team learned best practices as a group to explore ways to implement mHealth projects. My colleagues learned how mobile technologies are being used in other countries and sectors and thought about ways it could be applied in Vietnam. The individuals who have participated in the TechChange course are now our office mHealth champions and are actively identifying areas of work where mHealth solutions can be applied.

Here are two current mHealth pilots we have launched in Vietnam through the USAID/SMART TA program to address HIV challenges:

1.  Fansipan Challenge – uses the metaphor of Fansipan mountain (Vietnam’s highest peak), gamification, and mobile technologies to support people who inject drugs and their intimate partners to test for HIV and be linked to care if they are positive.

Fansipan was created by USAID funded SMART TA project in Vietnam. Learn more about SMART TA here.

Here is a Prezi presentation explaining the Fansipan project in Vietnam called How Mobile Technologies and Gaming are Improving HIV Program

2.  mCare – is the first case management application in Vietnam that utilizes mobile technologies to support and track clients across the cascade of HIV outreach, testing, care and treatment services.  It also manages performance-based incentives for hamlet health workers who identify potential clients, encourage them to test for HIV, and support them to enroll and be re-engaged in HIV care and treatment and methadone maintenance treatment.

confirmation message

A confirmation message sent from mCare (Photo credit: FHI360)

The Results of the mHealth Pilots So Far

While mCare is in its early stages of deployment and refinement, the Fansipan Challenge has shown a dramatic reduction in programmatic unit costs, combined with significant increases in testing uptake and HIV yield among underserved key populations.  Between June – November 2013, 62% of 656 injecting drug users and their intimate partners tested for HIV after a single contact. Approximately 71% of these individuals were first time testers; 17.8% were diagnosed as HIV positive. Comparative expenditure analyses of USAID/SMART TA-supported outreach services show a 50% reduction in costs associated with identifying an HIV positive person.  And preliminary data further suggest that HIV positive people identified through Fansipan have higher CD4 levels (average 287.5 cells/mm3) and will thereby have better treatment outcomes than those who initiate treatment when they are severely immuno-compromised.

These new initiatives rely on mobile technologies and we, like other technical assistance providers in the development sector, need to be constantly learning about mHealth innovations, and emerging knowledge and applications.  The TechChange mHealth class was a great investment in having my team become more familiar with mHealth as we introduced our mHealth initiatives.

About Caroline Francis

Caroline Francis

Caroline Francis is FHI360’s Deputy Country Director in Vietnam and completed TechChange’s Mobile Phones for Public Health course in 2012 and in 2013 when she took the course again with her team in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. She is currently involved in FHI360’s Sustainable Management of the HIV/AIDS Response and Transition to Technical Assistance (SMART TA) project in Vietnam and her areas of expertise include HIV and AIDS prevention and care and Social and behavior change communications. Caroline has previously worked as the Associate Director (HIV Prevention, Mitigation, Strategic Behavioral Communications and M&E) and Deputy Director for FHI 360 Cambodia. She received her M.A. in Anthropology from University of Victoria.

My current focus on tourism development led me to explore how some of the tech tools discussed in the Mobiles for International Development class can be applied in the tourism industry. In particular, a large part of the tourism assessment and development process involves both evaluating the visitor experience in a destination and examining the attitudes of local residents towards tourism development.

Surveys are the most common tools for carrying out these evaluations, but most of the time they result in stacks of papers that need to be keyed into a computer, introducing errors and wasting valuable time. In the M4D class, we saw a physical example of this where a pickup truck was loaded with stacks of questionnaires.

Today, mobiles and tablets are overcoming the challenges faced by paper-based surveys and evaluations as they bring efficiency, a variety of user-friendly survey platforms, and real-time feedback.

1. Quick and easy access to better processed surveys
Compared with paper questionnaires, a more efficient data collection method would be to use the Formhub tool that we learned about during the course. The additional cost of purchasing a few basic tablets and rugged cases could be offset by savings in labor costs for data entry and the added value of the data being processed in a more timely and accurate manner.

2. Variety of user-friendly survey platforms
The advantage of a tablet over a smartphone is that the tablet more closely resembles a paper format questionnaire, making it easy to hand over to visitors or residents to complete. Formhub can also be used offline; completed questionnaires can be uploaded once a connection is reestablished, making it particularly useful in remote tourism destinations lacking wifi or cell service.

Since visitor surveys are usually carried out in places where large numbers of tourists congregate (city plazas, transportation system waiting areas, etc.), the survey-takers often hand out paper forms to many people simultaneously, presenting a potential disadvantage for Formhub if only a few tablets are available. A potential solution could be a QR code to scan that takes tourists to a web site on their own personal smartphones to complete the questionnaire. This method could be used in conjunction with the tablets (i.e. tablets could be used for those visitors without smart phones). There would have to be measures in place to ensure that the same person doesn’t submit multiple questionnaires, but I think that could be designed relatively simply.

3. Real-time feedback
Another way to make surveys valuable to both tourists and destination planners and developers, would be to couple geolocation with an SMS service. Tourists could opt in to the program upon arrival at a destination, and upon entering certain geofences they would automatically receive an informational text describing the attraction with links to more information if they’re interested. For instance, upon approaching a monument a visitor could receive historical information about the attraction, or upon entering a local market the user could receive a link to a detailed map showing where certain stalls are located. This system could be coupled with an SMS survey system like TextIt. This way, the destination could get real-time feedback from tourists about certain aspects of an attraction as the visitor is experiencing it (i.e. rating scale questions about customer service, facilities, etc.). This would help to eliminate the problem of recall bias that often exists when tourists are asked to recall certain aspects of their trip days (or weeks) after it’s over.

There’s obviously a ton of potential for mobile tech in the context of tourism, from the inspiration and planning stages, to booking and experiencing, to sharing the tourism experience with others. I’m super excited to see what kind of apps and novel technologies will be launched in the next few years to further enhance and add layers of value to the tourism experience.

About Jason Kreiselman

Jason Kreiselman

When he’s not backpacking through far-off corners of the planet, Jason Kreiselman works as a digital marketing specialist with Brand USA in Washington DC helping to promote international visitation to the U.S. He also works with the International Institute of Tourism Studies conducting tourism research for public and private sector clients. Jason spent four years in Ecuador as an ICT Advisor to the Peace Corps where he worked to promote small businesses and secure grants for organizations focusing on environmental conservation and sustainable development.

Jason holds a Master of Tourism Administration degree with a concentration in Sustainable Destination Management from The George Washington University. You can find him on LinkedIn here.

Interested in learning more about this topic of digital options for surveys and evaluation? Register now for our Technology for Monitoring & Evaluation online course, which runs 26 January – 20 February 2015.

Photo credit: TextIt

I am not tech savvy. I do not keep up with the newest phones or gadgets and I have no idea how to build a website. However, I have been texting for many years and I know that if I can master the SMS system and stay connected through messaging, anyone can. Which is why I was so impressed by TextIt, a messaging platform that is simple yet can achieve so much- from surveying dispersed populations to disseminating life-saving information that may not have otherwise reached its target destinations.

When learning about the tool and using it in the Mobiles for International Development class, I was thinking about access, a main concern of mine within international development. Not only did I find TextIt accessible to me as the creator of a campaign in terms of the ease of building an SMS flow (again, if I can do it, most people can), but also in the array of possibilities of its relevance. Whether it is access to clean water, healthcare, education, or safe roads, TextIt provides a platform for people on the ground, even those in the most remote areas, to communicate their experiences and needs through the tips of their fingers.

In my own field of interest, namely providing access to education to marginalized populations in developing countries and humanitarian settings, I believe TextIt could be an asset. I can see it being used for purposes of teacher training, of understanding if a regional school system is being inclusive of the community’s children with disabilities, or even in a post-disaster situation, letting communities know about impromptu schools being set up by organizations and finding how many children are not in school. The possibilities are countless.

TextIt has the potential to expand more widely in several areas. Currently, it only operates on Android phones and I would hope that the developers are working to make it accessible to other mobile companies so as to increase access. In addition, survey taking may not be familiar to some cultures and seeing the large-scale success of TextIt could take a lot of time. Though the SMS system may be quick, cost efficient and reach many people, it does eliminate the human aspect of international development and the nuances of person to person conversations are lost through the mobile devices (for example, you can survey a group of villagers about the infrastructure in the area, but unless the person developing a campaign physically goes to see the area, much of the reality is lost). Moreover, a survey that is not well-planned or well-worded or inaccurate information is being sent out could cause mistrust of the system and the senders and people will stop using it.

Overall, I think using TextIt as an international development tool encourages more creativity, pushing professionals to think beyond traditional methods of interaction with their beneficiaries. Personally, I see myself finding a way to incorporate TextIt in my future projects and hopefully with that, I will become just a bit more tech savvy.

About Yael Shapira

Yael Shapira TechChange alumni

Yael Shapira works as Assistant Director of International Relations, Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University and recently completed TC105: Mobiles for International Development. Yael received an M.A. in International Education from GW in 2012, with an academic focus on providing access to education to marginalized populations in conflict and post-conflict settings, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has lived and worked in Ethiopia, India, Israel, Niger and Switzerland, where she planned and implemented educational projects for refugees, street children, children with disabilities and other populations. Yael received her Bachelor’s in International Relations from Boston University in 2009. She was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel.

Interested in learning more about TextIt and other mobile platforms in the context of global development? Join us for an online course on Mobiles for International Development.

In a recent LinkedIn post, World Bank President Jim Kim discussed the global impact of smartphones in even the most remote areas of the world today. President Kim called cheap smartphones the “poor’s new window to the world of the rich.” Not only are smartphones increasingly providing people in the developing world a medium to view possibilities in other countries, they also provide the means for online access to media, services, and goods offered abroad.

Industry-wide, the prices of smartphones are lowering. Current mobile leaders looking to expand into new markets including emerging markets are offering products at a lower price points to be affordable to new customers. Expanding internet access initiatives by a variety of players will drive down the costs of data plans for smartphones. The entrance of more players in the mobile phone provider space is pressuring mobile phone companies to compete by offering smartphones at low prices, allowing smartphones to be more accessible in the developing world.

Here are the top 5 cheap smartphones for under $50 USD as of July 2014:

1. Mozilla  (as low as $25)
OS: Firefox
Now available in India for $33 (buy it on SnapDeal)
Will be available in: Latin America and Africa (buy it on Firefox) Mozilla $25 smartphone

Photo credit: Cellular News

Popularly known for their desktop browser, the Mozilla Foundation announced at the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona its collaboration with the Chinese chipmaker, Spreadtrum Communications to release the cheapest smartphone to date. Mozilla hopes to attract customers in Latin America, Africa, and India by using their own operating system, Firefox — rather than iOS or Android. This affordable Mozilla phone recently launched in India on August 25th for $33. It supports Hindi and Tamil, the two most widely spoken languages in India.

2. Used Apple iPhone 3GS as low as $40
Available in: any country with a GSM carrier with a sim card (buy it on Amazon) Apple iPhone 3G

Photo credit: The Unlockr

While known for making the most coveted and expensive smartphones, Apple’s older iPhone models do come at an affordable price. You can buy Apple’s used unlocked iPhone 3GS on Amazon for as low as $40. Once unlocked, the iPhone may be used with any carrier with a new SIM card, allowing it to be used in other countries. Another alternative is going through mobile donation programs such as Hope Phones. Hope Phones is a program that accepts phone donations to supply to mHealth workers across the world. TechChange donated several used iPhones to Medic Mobile last year.

3. Karbonn Smart A50S $46 (Rs. 2,790)
OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Available in: India (buy it on Flipkart) Karbonn A50 smartphone

Photo credit: BGR

Already making affordable handsets in India, Karbonn Mobiles is entering the affordable smartphone race by introducing the cheapest Android smartphone in India. While Android enjoys 80% of the smartphone market in India, according to Android’s Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai, less than 10% of the Indian population has access to smartphones. With its relatively low cost, Karbonn will attract first time smartphone buyers in remote places.

4. Spice Smart Flo Edge Mi-349 $47 (Rs. 2,845)
OS: Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
Available in: India (buy it on Flipkart) Spice Smart Flo Edge Mi 349

Photo credit: GSMArena

Joining Karbonn in providing the Indian consumers with another affordable smartphone is Spice Smart with its Flo Edge Mi-349. Spice Smart provides yet another option to the Indian population on the already popular Android platform.

5. MTN Steppa $48 (499 Rand)
OS: Customized Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Available in: South Africa (at the following stores: MTN stores, PEP, Foschini, Edcon, Truworths, Ackermans, John Craig, Woolworths, Rhino, Dunns)

 MTN Steppa smartphone

Photo credit: TechCentral

Known as the most affordable smartphone in South Africa, MTN Steppa can be purchased in select stores for 499 Rand ($48). MTN Steppa is based on Qualcomm Reference Design Programme that allows any brand to produce their own brand device at a lower cost. MTN Steppa is yet another player in mobile companies’ race to make the most affordable smartphone.

Runner Ups
Beyond the Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxies that dominate the smartphone market in the U.S., there are other smartphone providers that didn’t make it on this list. Honorable mentions include:

Are there other budget smartphones we missed here? How much quality can consumers expect from these low-cost phones? Are you interested in this topic of cheap smartphones and their applications in the developing world? Enroll now in our Mobiles for International Development online course.

What role can mobile phones play in distributing a survey and collecting feedback and data from respondents? In particular, how can we use mobile technology to reach out to and engage individuals in developing countries that tend to be underrepresented in global surveys?

In the recent My World 2015 survey launched in December 2012 in honor of the end of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and the establishment of a new “post-2015” global development framework, the United Nations Development Program, the UN Millennium Campaign, the Overseas Development Institute, the ONE campaign, and over 700 on-the-ground grassroots organizations as well as international and local information technology companies created and continue to implement a worldwide survey seeking to collect the opinions of individuals everywhere on what matters most to them when it comes the future.

Survey respondents are asked to vote on 6 out of a possible 17 policy priorities, including a fill-in-the-blank priority that the individuals can add themselves. The survey aims to examine the public policy priorities of individuals across the globe. The survey allows respondents to choose 6 out of 16 pre-selected priorities or to submit their own priority in a 17th ‘fill-in-the-blank’ option. Respondents have participated in the survey via pen-and-paper ballot, via a central website, and through mobile technology (SMS, IVR, and a mobile application).

Here are five findings on the ways mobile phones have been leveraged for distributing the My World 2015 survey:

1. About 20% of over 2 million votes have come in via mobile phones.

2. Over 70% of the mobile phone respondents live in developing countries. These participants came from nations that score low on the Human Development Index (versus 31% in the overall survey).

3. More men have responded via mobile than women. (at a rate of 2 male respondent for every one female), and respondents via mobile tend to prioritize better job opportunities at a slightly higher rate than the majority of respondents.

4. Mobile distribution benefited heavily from local and international partnerships and, as with the web, more immediate and centralized collection of the data was possible. In implementation, the mobile phone promotion and distribution of the survey differed slightly from the pen-and-paper and web distribution of the survey.

5. A survey is only as effective as its promotion and distribution. Local and international partnerships helped distribute the survey through targeted high tech, low tech and no tech campaigns. Promotion for all three of the survey distribution methods included integrated campaigns targeting specific national and regional audiences as well as ongoing global efforts to raise awareness and foster interest in the survey.

How do these results so far compare to your own surveys? What kind of mobile data collection methods have you used in your projects and organizations? What challenges have you faced in gathering this feedback and engaging with survey participants in developing countries?

Linda Warnier OECD

Linda Warnier is a Communication Officer at OECD and an alumna of TechChange’s Mobiles for International Development online course. She develops and implements digital strategies and uses paid and free tools to plan and perform online impact assessments for large international organisations including the OECD and, before that, the European Commission.

To read Linda’s full report of My World 2015 and Mobiles, please click here.


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