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Mobile Communications and the World’s Most Vulnerable

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With the widespread use of mobile technology in Africa, with an estimated 280 million subscribers, the UNICEF organization in an “Aha!” moment realized that they could transforming the common SMS (text) message into a communication platform that would improve child health and reduce under-5 mortality. Their solution, RapidSMS, is a technology used to monitor the distribution of RUTF (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food), which consists of four basic ingredients: sugar, dried skimmed milk, oil, and vitamin and mineral supplements.

The framework known as RapidSMS was created by programmers working together with project implementation teams. It can be adapted to any mobile device that can send and receive text messages.


Image credit: Rapid SMS Project

In 2008, RapidSMS was used in Ethiopia to monitor the distribution of RUTF by compiling mobile text message data into real-time correlated reports.


Image credit: Rapid SMS Project

These reports show RUTF inventory levels at local health posts; once that data is reported to a central warehouse, supplies can be replenished immediately, instead of waiting several weeks.

RapidSMS technology works with even the most basic mobile phones, and is simple to use; duplicating this process in other areas of Africa and globally is possible.

In South India, changes to the local fishing industry have been traced to the mobile phone use by fishermen. According to the Economist, since 1997, “the mobile phone has revolutionized the fishing industry in Kerala by providing up to date pricing information and inventory requirements, making it more efficient for local fishermen selling their daily catch.” Brough Turner, a telecom and Internet specialist, has also documented studies about how mobile phone use by fishermen in Kerala has reduced price volatility in the fish markets.

As rural mobile markets in emerging countries mature, mobile smartphones, and related applications will play an important role in transforming emerging nations. These communication devices will affect the way people learn, do business, and are influenced by other cultures globally.

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About Peter Sabbagh

Peter Sabbagh is a Marketing Strategist at Blue Sky 365 Digital Strategy. He has traveled extensively implementing marketing campaigns in the United States, United Kingdom, Africa, Pacific Basin and Asia. He passionate about digital and social strategy, technology innovation, and social media. He is also interested in how social media and digital technologies affect human behavior. He is a writer for the following online communities: Blog Critics Online Magazine Ezine Writer Expert @ http://bit.ly/ayXTFy Find Peter also on - Web Site: http://Bluesky365.com Linkedin: http://linkd.in/aNoOdV Facebook: http://on.fb.me/LXVq1y Twitter: http://bit.ly/AAG7tK Foursquare: https://foursquare.com/