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Mobile Phones

Video games, screen time and early childhood development

Michael Trucano's picture
thre must be a screen here somewhere, where could it be?
there must be a screen here somewhere,
where could it be?

At 9:00 am this past Monday morning, almost 30 people crammed into a small conference room at the World Bank in DC to talk about ... videogames. (A good number more were queued up online to join in, but unfortunately technical snafus prevented them from participating -- our continued apologies if you count yourself among that group.) As the featured presenter at this discussion, my colleague Mariam Adil ("Meet the Woman Who's Shaking Up Pakistan's Social Gaming Industry"), the founder of GRID (Gaming Revolution for International Development), shared some of the interesting and innovative things she has been doing to help create and roll out a number of educational mobile apps, as a contribution to broader discussions on topics related to 'early childhood development' (ECD).

Providing children and their caregivers with access to quality pre-school education opportunities is a primary activity of the World Bank's work related to early childhood development. No one who participated in Monday's discussion expressed the view that 'technology is the answer to the challenges of ECD'. That said:

Are there approaches and activities related to early childhood development worth pursuing that can be complemented, and in some cases helpfully enabled by, new technologies?

As the related World Bank strategy states, "Investing in young children through ECD programs—ensuring they have the right stimulation, nurturing and nutrition—is one of the smartest investments a country can make to address inequality, break the cycle of poverty, and improve outcomes later in life."

Given the proliferation of mobile phones in communities around the world, there can be no denying that such things are increasingly in the hands of parents and caregivers (and, for better or worse in the hands of children as well, both briefly and for extended periods of time).

What are we learning about what is possible, and what is useful, to do with these devices that can complement and extend many ECD activities and programs?


Media (R)evolutions: Facebook fatigue sets in

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Facebook is, by a long shot, the world's largest social network.  As of June 2015, it claimed a staggering 1.49 billion active users globally and 968 million daily active users, with mobile users making up more than 87% of these totals. Outside China, over 80% of internet users have a Facebook account, and the platform still has the most members and active users of any social network.

Moreover, users tend to visit Facebook multiple times each day— activity not seen to the same degree on other networks. Visits from users in developed countries are generally briefer than those in emerging markets, but regardless of location, more than half of Facebook’s active users engage with the site more than once a day.

However, even though Facebook's empire continues to expand, with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram all playing important roles, "Facebook fatigue", in which users avoid the platform for weeks at a time, has emerged as a new trend.  GlobalWebIndex (GWI) interviewed 200,000 internet users across 33 different countries, and the results appear to show that this trend is increasingly global.
Decline in Facebook use globally

​Quenching the Thirst for Innovation: Are subsidies just a drop in the sea?

Mariana Dahan's picture
As the world is rapidly moving towards recasting development financing to meet the pressing needs of the post-2015 development agenda, the question of subsidies’ efficiency comes to light (again).

Should subsidies still be supported by countries, with donor funding, to help maintaining and streamlining service delivery in critical sectors, such as agriculture, energy and telecommunications? Debates have been ongoing for more than a decade.
But a recently published research work points out that well-targeted subsidies in the early stages of mobile technologies diffusion can play a determinant role in their massive adoption, helping to overcome initial confidence barriers, leveraging economies of scale, and, in the longer-term, triggering macroeconomic positive feedback mechanisms.

Evidence shows that information and communications technologies (ICT)  especially mobile telecommunications services  can lead to sustained economic growth and human development. Mobile telecommunications, without any doubt, have triggered many positive changes and impact in the developing world. They are by far the leading area of growth in the ICT sector. Because of this central role, mobile technologies are increasingly used as a transformational tool to foster economic growth, accelerate knowledge transfer, develop local capacities, raise productivity, and alleviate poverty in a variety of sectors.

5 potential benefits of integrating ICTs in your water and sanitation projects

Fadel Ndaw's picture

A new study was recently carried out by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank on how to unlock the potential of Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) to improve Water and Sanitation Services in Africa[1]. According to a Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) report[2], in 2014 52% of all global mobile money deployments were in Sub Saharan Africa and 82% of Africans had access to GSM coverage. Comparatively, only 63% had access to improved water and 32% had access to electricity. This early adoption of mobile-to-web technologies in Africa provides a unique opportunity for the region to bridge the gap between the lack of data and information on existing water and sanitation assets and their current management — a barrier for the extension of the services to the poor.

Banning and unbanning phones in schools

Michael Trucano's picture
forbidden ... or encouraged?
forbidden ... or encouraged?
When planning for new initiatives that will introduce and/or utilize information and communications technologies (ICTs) in some way, a simple general rule of thumb is worth considering:

The best technology is often the one you already have, know how to (and do) use, and can afford. In many places around the world, this technology is the mobile phone.

This is not to contend that 'new' technology devices should not be considered -- far from it! Rather, this general guidance is meant to serve as a reminder for planners and decisionmakers to consider how it might be possible to take advantage of and leverage *existing* technologies, and the activities and processes these technologies enable, before committing to introduce totally new (or foreign) technology tools into a given environment. Just because something is new doesn't mean that it is automatically better. Of course: It doesn't mean that it is worse, either.

At a conceptual level, when considering what technology devices are to be utilized as part of a given project or activity, mobile phones may often be the 'best' technology. But: Does that make the mobile phone an appropriate or practical technology choice for use in schools, and/or by students and teachers?

It depends.

When it comes to mobile phones and the education sector, things aren't so simple, and answers vary considerably by place -- and are changing. In some countries and schools, mobile phones are not allowed at all for students (and in some cases for teachers as well) and/or their use is limited to certain circumstances inside (and in some instances even outside) of school. In other places, phones are allowed with few restrictions. In yet other places, long time bans on phones are being reversed. Even where bans are in place, phones are still to be found in schools, for better and for worse, and they are used for a variety of purposes (again, for better and for worse).
What are some current perspectives and practices related to
the use of mobile phones in schools and education systems around the world?

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The surprising benefits of autocratic elections
Washington Post
After a bitterly contested election campaign and several controversial postponements, Muhammadu Buhari engineered an upset of Nigeria’s incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, the country’s first-ever case of electoral turnover. Legislative elections will follow on April 11, while two other African countries, Sudan and Togo, are also scheduled to hold elections over the next two weeks. Besides the coincidence in electoral timing, these countries share another surprising link—all three are generally recognized as autocracies. The marriage of autocracy with contested elections is, in fact, the norm nowadays. All but five autocracies have held a national election since 2000, with about three in four allowing multiparty competition. What makes these regimes autocratic is that the elections fail to meet democratic standards, typically with state power being used to favor the ruling party.
Cellphones for Women in Developing Nations Aid Ascent From Poverty
New York Times
Here is what life is like for a woman with no bank account in a developing country. She keeps her savings hidden — in pots, under mattresses, in fields. She constantly worries about thieves. She may even worry about her husband taking cash she has budgeted for their children’s needs. Sending money to a family member in another village is risky and can take days. Obtaining a loan in an emergency is often impossible. An unexpected expense can mean she has to pull a child out of school or sell a cow the family relies on for income. Or, worse, it can mean she must give birth at home without medical assistance because she doesn’t have the money for a ride to a clinic. In ways big and small, life without access to financial services is more difficult, expensive and dangerous. It constrains a woman’s ability to plan for her family’s future. At the community level, it traps households in cycles of poverty. More broadly, it limits the economic growth potential of developing countries.

Media (R)evolutions: Skipping the landline, going straight for a mobile phone

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Back in the late 1990s, a traveler from Lebanon to London would have noticed something interesting about telecommunications in the two countries: while many people in Lebanon owned a mobile, London was still accustomed to using red telephone boxes to make calls on the run.  During the Lebanese Civil War, all land-line infrastructure was destroyed, and the Lebanese leapfrogged to owning mobile phones. Fast-forward fifteen years to today, and one can see a similar pattern in many developing countries, where landlines and personal computers are bypassed for mobile internet.  

In places with bad roads or unreliable land lines, mobile phones allow people to determine price data, reach wider markets, participate in mobile money, and obtain news and entertainment.  Since poverty is linked to isolation and a lack of access to education, health services, and government services in some places, mobile phones are already having a huge impact on how people manage their lives.

The graphs come from a recent Pew Research Center study on Communications Technology in Emerging and Developing Nations and show the percentage of people who have a working landline in their house and who own a cell phone.

Landline use worldwide Cell phone use worldwide

Accessing the Inaccessible

Adam Smith International's picture

Despite insecurity, development must continue. But how can donors be confident their money is well spent if locations are inaccessible?
Last month, insurgents killed more than 60 people in north-east Kenya. This is only the latest in a wave of violent incidents heightening insecurity along the remote Somali-Kenyan border.
The north-east is one of the poorest regions in Kenya. Weak infrastructure and limited public services are exacerbated by banditry and insurgency. The national primary school enrolment rate is over 90%, but in the north-east it is below 40%.
It is clear that despite insecurity, development and investment must continue. But how can donors be confident their money is well spent if locations are inaccessible to most implementing partners? If donors can’t see results, they are unlikely to reinvest.

Thoughts on the Future of ICT Regulation in Nigeria

CGCS's picture

An Ox 2013 alumnus Temitope Lawal discusses the issues surrounding Nigerian ICT regulation and the future of the Nigerian ICT sector.

What drew you to the study of telecommunication and media regulation?

The liberalization of the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, which started in 2001, aroused my interest in regulation of the ICT sector. This, coupled with the rapid development of new technologies including next generation network access in developed countries, informed my decision to pursue the requisite academic and professional knowledge towards contributing to the development of the ICT sector in Nigeria.

What effect has learning about telecommunications globally and interacting with people from cultures and backgrounds had on your research?

Learning about global telecommunications has exposed me to various issues, including the importance of reducing the digital divide in developing countries. As a developing country, Nigeria continues to struggle with the provision of telephony, broadcasting, and internet access to people residing in under-served areas of the country. I intend to further my research in this area so as to understand how best to address and overcome the challenge of providing people with equal access to communication services, taking into consideration my experience and interaction with telecommunication practitioners around the world.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Four key principles—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion—have in recent years become nearly universal features of the policy statements and programs of international development organizations. Yet this apparently widespread new consensus is deceptive: behind the ringing declarations lie fundamental fissures over the value and application of these concepts. Understanding and addressing these divisions is crucial to ensuring that the four principles become fully embedded in international development work.
Ebola communication: What we've learned so far
This week, a World Health Organization infectious diseases expert reported the death rate due to Ebola in West Africa has now climbed to 70 percent, higher than previous estimates. And by December, new cases could hit 10,000 a week. For front-line medical workers, the projections couldn’t be grimmer. They are overwhelmed and their numbers are dwindling — Médecins Sans Frontières has already lost nine staff members to the epidemic — but reinforcements remain sparse. For organizations involved in communication and awareness-raising campaigns, meanwhile, this situation means they need to be more aggressive and robust, and their messaging fool-proof.  We know many of them are on the ground, conducting door-to-door campaigns and spot radio announcements, putting up posters and distributing pamphlets to inform communities about the disease. Some have even resorted to using megaphones to reach people who choose to remain indoors, conduct skits in schools and communities via youth drama troupes. A few aid groups are even considering perceived viral forms of communication like music and video messaging led by former football player and now UNICEF ambassador David Beckham.  But are these campaigns actually working? Will the new plans be effective?