How the developing world is using cellphone technology to change lives

From the Toronto Star by Tim Alamenciak an update on cell phone technology’s impact on the developing world

In Nigeria, a young girl can ask questions about sex discretely through SMS and get accurate information.

After the earthquake in Haiti, survivors in remote towns could receive money for food straight to their cellphone.

In Senegal, election monitors sent updates on polling stations through their mobile phones, revising an online map in real time with details about late openings or worse.

Projects like Learning about Living in Nigeria, MercyCorps in Haiti and Senevote2012 in Senegal are just a few examples of how the rapid spread of mobile technology has changed life in the global south.

Many places are jumping straight from paper records to mobile information because they are getting cellphone towers before Internet connections or even traditional phone lines. This means that for the first time it’s possible for a doctor in Guatemala City to monitor a newborn baby in a rural part of the country.

“People who never had access to information can get to a telecentre or a computer at their church or they have a mobile phone even if they share that mobile phone with their whole family and everyone just has their own SIM card,” said Revi Sterling, director of Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD) graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“If that’s your data collection tool instead of papers that get blown away and eaten by goats, that’s valuable,” said Sterling.

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Art + Botany: LeafSnap Field Guide Free App

For those of us who are not botanists and struggle to tell the difference between one tree and another, here’s and app for us – I,m not sure yet if it will help us much with our species here in South Africa, but the  idea is surely encouraging and a matter of time before this collaborative effort  reaches all corners of the globe: From Garden Design Magazine by  Anna Laurent 

PHOTO BY: LeafSnap

Fresh from the digital fields and humming with plant life, LeafSnap is a new mobile app that can identify a tree’s species by looking at a photograph of the leaf. It’s the first of app of its kind, and a field guide for the twenty-first century. Using facial recognition algorithms to analyze the leaf’s contour, LeafSnap then selects a match from its index of species. If it’s not entirely sure (let’s be fair—leaves of different species can look rather similar), it will bring up a list of possible identifications. You can then browse through the collection to determine which tree’s leaf you’re holding. To make this easy, LeafSnap has a botanic dossier on all of its trees, including all sorts of information about the tree’s habitat, growth, and critical specs (are the fruits poisonous or sweet?), as well as a collection of photographs that show the tree’s seeds, bark, flowers, and fruits. The tree’s entire life cycle is captured in a pocket-sized album, at very high resolution. Truly modern, the photographs can be magnified to examine the veins on a petal or the pollen on an anther. A wealth of information and a gorgeous gallery of botanic photography, the guide is also wonderful bedtime reading, when you’re not in the field.   Continue reading