Smarter Planet -- How Cognitive Boosted UNICEF's Social Biz -- A Smarter Planet Blog

Solomon Assefa, IBM Research

Solomon Assefa, IBM Research

By Steve Hamm

IBM researcher Solomon Assefa likes to operate at the intersections of scientific domains and social institutions. It allows him to envision ways of using cutting-edge technologies to tackle new challenges.  In a recent example of how his approach can pay off, he made the connections that resulted in a small team of IBM scientists helping boost a United Nations Children’s Fund social networking project that could improve the lives of millions throughout the continent of Africa.

The UNICEF project, called U-report, got its start as a text-messaging system for gathering information from young people in Uganda. Initially, UNICEF surveyed people via their mobile phones to get information about what was going on in their lives. The flow of messages turned into a torrent when youngsters, unsolicited, started reporting all sorts of problems in their communities–everything from dry wells to child abuse. More than 240,000 people signed up for the program. UNICEF’s staff couldn’t handle the deluge of messages.

If you want to learn more about the era of cognitive computing, download a free chapter of Smart Machines, a book by IBM Research Director John E. Kelly III, at the Web site of Columbia University Press, http://cup.columbia.edu/static/cognitive.

smartercities:

Building Innovation Ecosystems | Smarter Planet Blog
The message is clear: CEO Ginni Rometty wants IBM to play an active role in building innovation ecosystems in Africa.
California’s Silicon Valley is the prototype innovation ecosystem. It benefitted from the combination of good universities, entrepreneurial companies, government incentives and robust supplies of venture capital. Many of other places have tried to copy Silicon Valley’s formula—some quite successfully, among them Bangalore, India, and Singapore.
Kenya is among the countries in Africa that have the potential of creating a vibrant innovation ecosystem. Students and entrepreneurs dream of tapping science and technology to solve social and business problems. Universities aim to expand their research and teaching programs in science, math and technology. Business leaders are creating startup incubators to encourage entrepreneurship—places like iHub, FabLab Nairobi and NaiLab

smartercities:

Building Innovation Ecosystems | Smarter Planet Blog

The message is clear: CEO Ginni Rometty wants IBM to play an active role in building innovation ecosystems in Africa.

California’s Silicon Valley is the prototype innovation ecosystem. It benefitted from the combination of good universities, entrepreneurial companies, government incentives and robust supplies of venture capital. Many of other places have tried to copy Silicon Valley’s formula—some quite successfully, among them Bangalore, India, and Singapore.

Kenya is among the countries in Africa that have the potential of creating a vibrant innovation ecosystem. Students and entrepreneurs dream of tapping science and technology to solve social and business problems. Universities aim to expand their research and teaching programs in science, math and technology. Business leaders are creating startup incubators to encourage entrepreneurship—places like iHub, FabLab Nairobi and NaiLab

(via yvesvs)

These $10 Robots Will Change Robotics Education | Wired Design | Wired.com
When the African Robotics Network announced their $10 robot design challenge this summer, co-founder Ken Goldberg was careful not to share too many expectations, lest he influence contestants’ designs. But he never imagined one of the winning entries would prominently feature a pair of Spanish lollipops.

These $10 Robots Will Change Robotics Education | Wired Design | Wired.com

When the African Robotics Network announced their $10 robot design challenge this summer, co-founder Ken Goldberg was careful not to share too many expectations, lest he influence contestants’ designs. But he never imagined one of the winning entries would prominently feature a pair of Spanish lollipops.

springwise:

Solar-powered kiosks in Africa offer groceries, light and electricity
Italy has already trialled solar powered utility kiosks in the form of Turin’s Smart Booth scheme. Taking this idea a step further, the German-designed SOLARKIOSK aims to be a vital source of electricity for those living in off-grid communities. READ MORE…

springwise:

Solar-powered kiosks in Africa offer groceries, light and electricity

Italy has already trialled solar powered utility kiosks in the form of Turin’s Smart Booth scheme. Taking this idea a step further, the German-designed SOLARKIOSK aims to be a vital source of electricity for those living in off-grid communities. READ MORE…

ibmsocialbiz:

How Africa is embracing “the cloud” on its own terms. Landline, Internet and electricity challenges make Africa an increasingly attractive proving ground for cloud computing. Out of the one billion people in Africa, only an estimated 140 million use the Internet, but over 600 million use mobile phones. And given the lack of reliable power grids, rechargeable mobile devices are a more practical way of accessing Internet-based applications than PCs. Broad use of mobile application services in Africa is already the norm, and adoption of some types of mobile applications already dwarfs their usage in the US.
For example, Safaricom’s M-PESA mobile payment system, which allows customers to transfer money to each other via mobile phones, has largely replaced cash transactions in Kenya. Users are sticking to content within apps without realizing they’re Web-based at all. Technology development is now focused on this mobile market and serving the “un-webbed,” including ways to get applications distributed to customers using their non-Web, real-world social networks. Via  Ars Technica

ibmsocialbiz:

How Africa is embracing “the cloud” on its own terms. Landline, Internet and electricity challenges make Africa an increasingly attractive proving ground for cloud computing. Out of the one billion people in Africa, only an estimated 140 million use the Internet, but over 600 million use mobile phones. And given the lack of reliable power grids, rechargeable mobile devices are a more practical way of accessing Internet-based applications than PCs. Broad use of mobile application services in Africa is already the norm, and adoption of some types of mobile applications already dwarfs their usage in the US.

For example, Safaricom’s M-PESA mobile payment system, which allows customers to transfer money to each other via mobile phones, has largely replaced cash transactions in Kenya. Users are sticking to content within apps without realizing they’re Web-based at all. Technology development is now focused on this mobile market and serving the “un-webbed,” including ways to get applications distributed to customers using their non-Web, real-world social networks. Via  Ars Technica

Africa is being tipped to pass one billion mobile subscriptions to become the world’s second largest mobile market by 2016 according to new research from analyst firm Informa. Mobile activations in the continent, which currently stand at 616 million, are estimated to grow by more than 60 percent over the next five years making the region the world’s second largest telecom market behind only Asia. Informa explains that the development of the region’s “relatively immature telecoms market” — thanks to increased competition and lower costs — combined with the continued growth of Africa’s population are the primary reasons for its growth predictions. The use of 3G is also tipped to rise at a strong rate from 6.6 percent of Africa’s total mobile subscribers today to 46 percent by the end-2016 .

Can Harvesting Fog Bring Water To The Thirsty? | Fast Company
With 900 million people around the world living without safe drinking water and the worlds population increasing, researchers at MIT are looking for innovative solutions to capture clean water. Inspired by the Namib Beetle, an African beetle that collects water droplets on its shell, MIT researches believe they can capture water droplets from fog. Although the project is far from being finished it certainly has potential.

Can Harvesting Fog Bring Water To The Thirsty? | Fast Company

With 900 million people around the world living without safe drinking water and the worlds population increasing, researchers at MIT are looking for innovative solutions to capture clean water. Inspired by the Namib Beetle, an African beetle that collects water droplets on its shell, MIT researches believe they can capture water droplets from fog. Although the project is far from being finished it certainly has potential.

TxtEagle Raises $8.5 Million To Give 2.1 Billion A Voice
Never mind tablets, smartphones, and mobile-social-location-photo-sharing apps. Heck, never mind computers.  The single most important technology of the last half-century, the one  that has most drastically changed the day-to-day existence of very  nearly everyone on Earth, remains the plain old GSM phone: unloved and  half-forgotten in NYC and Silicon Valley  — but still used by the billion in the rest of the world.
That’s why Boston-based TxtEagle last week raised $8.5 million from a consortium including Spark Capital and RBC Venture Partners.  Well, that plus a clever business model, a nifty technology platform,  and partnerships with 220 mobile operators in almost 100 countries who between them cover 2.1 billion subscribers.
TxtEagle offers crowdsourcing and market research in developing  markets. Clients such as UN researchers or advertisers hire them to  survey masses of people; TxtEagle then forwards the survey (or other  task) to thousands of individual members via their GSM phones, and pays  them upon completion. You might guess that they communicate via SMS, and  pay with cash — but no.
“People think we’re an SMS-focused company, and we’re really not,” says Nathan Eagle, their CEO and co-founder. Instead they have built their own platform atop the USSD protocol that GSM phones use to communicate with their service  providers. (For the techies among you, USSD is to SMS as telnet is to  email.) USSD communications are free, which gives TxtEagle a huge  advantage in emerging markets where a) virtually all mobile service is  prepaid, and b) the 10 cents it costs to send an SMS is a hefty chunk of  the mere $2-3/day that many people make.
Source: TechCrunch

TxtEagle Raises $8.5 Million To Give 2.1 Billion A Voice

Never mind tablets, smartphones, and mobile-social-location-photo-sharing apps. Heck, never mind computers. The single most important technology of the last half-century, the one that has most drastically changed the day-to-day existence of very nearly everyone on Earth, remains the plain old GSM phone: unloved and half-forgotten in NYC and Silicon Valley — but still used by the billion in the rest of the world.

That’s why Boston-based TxtEagle last week raised $8.5 million from a consortium including Spark Capital and RBC Venture Partners. Well, that plus a clever business model, a nifty technology platform, and partnerships with 220 mobile operators in almost 100 countries who between them cover 2.1 billion subscribers.

TxtEagle offers crowdsourcing and market research in developing markets. Clients such as UN researchers or advertisers hire them to survey masses of people; TxtEagle then forwards the survey (or other task) to thousands of individual members via their GSM phones, and pays them upon completion. You might guess that they communicate via SMS, and pay with cash — but no.

“People think we’re an SMS-focused company, and we’re really not,” says Nathan Eagle, their CEO and co-founder. Instead they have built their own platform atop the USSD protocol that GSM phones use to communicate with their service providers. (For the techies among you, USSD is to SMS as telnet is to email.) USSD communications are free, which gives TxtEagle a huge advantage in emerging markets where a) virtually all mobile service is prepaid, and b) the 10 cents it costs to send an SMS is a hefty chunk of the mere $2-3/day that many people make.

Source: TechCrunch

Feast Salons: Soho House - The Feast Conference 

SPEAKERS:
Steven Daniels, Researcher, IBM and Author, Making Do
Steve’s  research focuses on how people create, adapt and use technology in  resource-constrained environments, currently as a researcher in ICT for development at IBM. Prior to joining IBM,  Steve’s research focused on systems of production among African makers,  from which he published the book Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s  Informal Economy, a call to action in the field of development for a new  brand of industrialization centered around co-creation with local  makers. Steve is the founder of the Better World by Design conference,  an annual summit organized by students at Brown University and the Rhode  Island School of Design to engage creative students and professionals  with the challenge of reshaping our built environment. 
On the web: IBM African Innovation

Feast Salons: Soho House - The Feast Conference

SPEAKERS:

Steven Daniels, Researcher, IBM and Author, Making Do

Steve’s research focuses on how people create, adapt and use technology in resource-constrained environments, currently as a researcher in ICT for development at IBM. Prior to joining IBM, Steve’s research focused on systems of production among African makers, from which he published the book Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy, a call to action in the field of development for a new brand of industrialization centered around co-creation with local makers. Steve is the founder of the Better World by Design conference, an annual summit organized by students at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design to engage creative students and professionals with the challenge of reshaping our built environment.

On the web: IBM African Innovation

 The Coming Battle for Africa’s Internet
[Seneweb] is one of several laying links in what they hope could become as much as 100,000 miles of broadband wiring criss-crossing the world’s second-largest continent like the 21st century version of a transcontinental railway. The connections start with undersea cables and extend onshore towards 3G towers within reception range of the continent’s growing middle class.That burgeoning bourgeoisie is Africa’s lead variable, and Herlihy ballparks its current mass at 300 million people, each earning between $2,000 and $5,000 yearly — not always enough to keep a router in the living room lit, but certainly enough to pay off a BlackBerry bill. The service they enjoy, smoother than its American equivalent, runs off towers that are newer and more adaptable to data transfers, which is rendering Africa’s telecom transition — from a continent of voice phones to one of pocket PCs — more scalable than expected. "It’s just happening faster and faster than anybody could have imagined," Herlihy says.

 The Coming Battle for Africa’s Internet

[Seneweb] is one of several laying links in what they hope could become as much as 100,000 miles of broadband wiring criss-crossing the world’s second-largest continent like the 21st century version of a transcontinental railway. The connections start with undersea cables and extend onshore towards 3G towers within reception range of the continent’s growing middle class.

That burgeoning bourgeoisie is Africa’s lead variable, and Herlihy ballparks its current mass at 300 million people, each earning between $2,000 and $5,000 yearly — not always enough to keep a router in the living room lit, but certainly enough to pay off a BlackBerry bill. The service they enjoy, smoother than its American equivalent, runs off towers that are newer and more adaptable to data transfers, which is rendering Africa’s telecom transition — from a continent of voice phones to one of pocket PCs — more scalable than expected. 

"It’s just happening faster and faster than anybody could have imagined," Herlihy says.