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Why We Prefer Plain Mobile Phones: Simplicity Is Key!

Why We Prefer Plain Mobile Phones: Simplicity Is Key!

This is a Guest Blog from Text to Change (TTC) Programme Manager, Arjen Swank (@arjenswank). It originally appeared on the Text to Change blog, and you can read it in its entirety here.

The ICT4D sector is developing and evolving in a rapid pace and ICT and mobile tools are increasingly interweaving and interacting. This not only makes it difficult to define the M4D sector, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to understand what programs exactly to pick up as Text to Change and what is better left to our ICT expert partners.

Technology VS context

Text to Change realizes that technology required for manufacturing smartphones is becoming cheaper, increasing accessibility and use of smartphones in a rapid pace for Africa. With the launch of Chinese manufactured 100$ smartphones in Africa, many will argue that smartphone adoption will only take little time, even in developing countries. However many technological and contextual hurdles have to be overcome before smartphones and tablets alike will be widespread adopted across the developing world. How can supply of electricity required for working with advances technologies be guaranteed in countries where the only reliable power outlet is a several kilometres walk, if any is available? Also, when will people at the BoP, earning 2$ or less per day, be able to afford expensive smartphones and the corresponding subscription fees? In an average TTC program, 85% of the time required for implementation is spent setting the context and adapting from a general setting to local factors. 15% of time is required for technical set up and the choice of appropriate technology. In the context of development work, most time and energy should be focused on adaptation to local context, because the technology will always be there to support your goal and can be tailor-made to fit your preferences.

Why Text to Change prefers simple mobile phones

TTC tries to overcome constraints as failing internet connectivity and network coverage, (technical) illiteracy, expensive irreparable equipment and subscriptions, lack of reliable power sources and lack of mobile technological infrastructure and capacity, by focusing on plain and simple mobile solutions. TTC applies basic mobile technologies as SMS text messaging and Voice response systems to ensure effectiveness and full involvement of beneficiaries in aid programs. Employing basic and feature phones for interactive, toll-free campaigns assures that individuals can participate regardless of phone brand, type, network coverage or location. Simple and plain solutions have proven over more advanced technologies in previous campaigns, especially in low-tech environments. In the future more programs will move towards employing more advanced mobile technology solutions, and Text to Change is preparing itself for this moment. Still, until mobile internet and general mobile networks increase to more widespread coverage and subscription fees descend; awareness and information dissemination and data gathering can best be performed employing simple, plain and workable mobile solutions. Text to Change has many ideas for employing new technologies that combine old, proven solutions to complex problems. Currently we are performing tests with a New York University designed open source GSM network , which could change the communication opportunities and behaviours of many in closed and small-scale communities throughout the developing world. This solution combines the power of open source technology with easy, ready available tools like SMS text messaging and Voice calling. The development of Formhub and ODK is another great example of combining best of options to find a solution to complex problems with tools already available on the market.

In current M4D and ICT4D programs, the key to workability, effectivity and positive results is simplicity and straightforward solutions. Text to Change will always try to implement simple solutions even to the most complex problems, in order to have mobile technology engage, connect and interact people throughout all levels of society.

Photo: Text to Change

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