MobileActive.org is a global network of people using mobile technology for social impact. They are committed to increasing the effectiveness of NGOs around the world who recognize that the 4.5 billion mobile phones provide unprecedented opportunities for organizing, communications, and service and information delivery.
Smartphone.Biz-news.com spoke with Katrin Verclas, co-founder and editor of MobileActive.org; she was one of the speakers at Mobile Monday workshop @ Lift10 that took place last month in Geneva, Switzerland.
Katrin explained to us what MobileActive.org is: “Our core resources, which are available to any organization that is interested in using mobile technology in their work, include our blog where we regularly report and feature case studies on latest issues and trends on innovative uses of mobile technology in areas as diverse as poverty alleviation, providing health diagnosis, improving elections, reuniting families after a natural disaster, advocacy and fundraising, mobile journalism or human rights reporting, and more.
“We also publish How-To Guides and strategic tool-kits geared towards NGOs and civil society practitioners wanting to use mobile phones in their work, as well as maintain the m-Directory on our website, which is a comprehensive database of information on projects, programs and mobile tech tools for social change,” she said.
And, because it’s important to engage & share experiences offline as well as online, MobileActive.org frequently organizes events, workshops and mobile camps focused on mobile technology for social good. These "M4Change camps" happen in various cities across the world.
Katrin said that one of the most meaningful ways they play a role is by “connecting people and organizations that have experience and know-how with others who are seeking to do similar work.”
“By maintaining a deep awareness and knowledge of what different projects and programs are being implemented around the world, MobileActive.org functions as the connector or facilitator – bringing together the appropriate people who may be helpful to one another.
“For example, if there is a project to help young people find employment in India through SMS alert messages, and we know that a similar project is underway in Morocco, MobileActive.org will facilitate an introduction and bring those groups together to share experiences and expertise, as well as lessons and challenges learned which can help avoid redundancy and "re-inventing the wheel" in a world of scarce resources,” she said.
MobileActive.org was founded in 2005 when 40 activists from various parts the world convened in Toronto for the first time ever to explore the use of mobile technology for social change. Out of this three-day meeting a new community, and ultimately organization, was born. Today, five years later, MobileActive.org manages a growing international digital community of more than 10,000 highly skilled practitioners, technologists, campaigners and strategists who are actively collaborating and sharing information, innovative strategies and tools.
“The time has been right for the MobileActive.org network,” Katrin said. She claims that “as in any new and fast-moving field, there is a need for knowledge and skill-sharing in order to not be redundant, to maximize scarce resources, and to advance common issues.”
“MobileActive.org’s fast growth, active community, and the many collaborative projects which have been born, are result of this need. Community and collaboration matter in this brand-new field where we all ‘build the plane as we fly it’ in order to learn from one another and collectively advance our knowledge and experience,” MobileActive.org co-founder said.
“With more than 4.5 billion phones globally, the use of mobile phones to improve lives has often been referred to as a mobile revolution,” as MobileActive.org states on their website. Asked how they foresee the future development of this revolution, Katrin said: “I think the revolution lies in the fact that we are now a connected humanity – we have a way to reach each other and connect no matter where we are in the world. If you think of this network of humanity that is unprecedented in history in revolutionary terms, I am ok with that!”
According to her, “the way we can communicate today, exchange information, received and deliver services certainly has the potential to be revolutionary.”
“However – she said – I am not sure we have realized this potential yet. Mobile phones as a communication device that connects us all — even those at the bottom of the economic pyramid has certainly had an economic impact – mobile companies in some countries are the largest employer and contributors of tax payments and markets have been made more efficient with the introduction of mobile communication (and when markets become more efficient prices tend to go down and incomes rise).
However, we are still only at the beginning of what will be the real revolution – mobile payments and financial transfers, including savings and wide-scale remittances, mhealth services that are universal, secure, and reliable, and ways in which people can use mobile to make their governments and political processes more accountable. In some of these areas we are just at the beginning of what is possible.”
When asked about the effective strategies and tactics of mobile use for NGOs that MobileActive.org organization recommends, she had this to say: “The two single most important things that we preach to organizations are a. to be very clear about what you are trying to accomplish and, consequently, very clear about how mobile fits into those goals (and sometimes it just simply does not) and b. knowing the target audience extremely well – and their needs, wants, desires, and ways in which they currently use mobile.”
She added that they have heard of more examples than she can count where an organization thought that including a mobile strategy was a good idea only to find out that the target audience did not agree. “A clearly identified need and rationale for why to include mobiles into the organizational work and goals is a must. This might sound trite but it’s the point organizations do not take seriously enough in the rush towards and the hype amidst the ‘mobile revolution," Katrin said.
She claims that, while it is not a new concept, citizen media (which refers to media content produced by private citizens who are otherwise not professional journalists) has become more widespread in recent years.
“Due to developments in information & communication technologies such as smaller and cheaper recording devices, cameras and phones, and shifts in access to venues and platforms for self-publishing (thanks to blogs and social media websites etc.), media production tools are in the hands of a lot more people today,” she said.
“Given that the mobile phone is the most ubiquitous communication device in human history, mobiles certainly play a special role in the spread of citizen media and reporting. Mobiles allow people to express themselves: take pictures, audio, video, write. Even a simple SMS message is a means for transmitting critical news & information in real-time.
And because phones are small and mobile, they can be with people wherever things are happening. This has been especially notable in large-scale events such as the London bombing, the crackdown on protesters in Burma, 2009 Iranian elections, etc. In each case, citizens were able to take video/pictures and bear witness, sometimes even where journalists couldn’t,” Katrin said.
She gave us an example: a video filmed on a mobile phone that recently made history when it won the prestigious George Polk Award for Journalism. The famous video clip showed of the death of Neda, a young woman who was killed in the violent aftermath of the Iranian elections last year, and came to be seen around the world upon gaining the attention of international media.
“This is symbolic of the rise in citizen media and the role of mobiles, as the the video was taken on a mobile phone, and it was the first video in the Polk’s 61-year history awarded to an anonymous citizen journalist,” Katrin concluded.
Mobile Monday is a global community of mobile industry visionaries, developers and influentials fostering cooperation and cross-border business development through virtual and live networking events to share ideas, best practices and trends from global markets.
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