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Innovative ideas take flight on mobile platform

Innovative ideas take flight on mobile platform
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First Published: Mon, Jul 25 2011. 01 21 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Jul 27 2011. 07 00 PM IST
New Delhi: Winners of the mBillionth Award South Asia 2011, organized by the Digital Empowerment Foundation, were announced at an event in New Delhi on Saturday. The second edition of the awards, aimed at encouraging and recognizing innovations on the mobile phone platform across South Asia, were given in nine categories that included m-Inclusion, m-Infrastructure, m-Entertainment, m-Governance, m-Health and m-Education and Learning. Some of the winners are profiled below:
Category: m-Business & Commerce
Title: Electronic Money Transfer Service of Bangladesh Post
Producer: Bangladesh Post Office
The service allows people to send or receive money through money orders within minutes within the country using mobile phones.
“It is money transfer in a moment,” Mohammad Sirajuddin, director, Bangladesh Post, describes the electronic money transfer service that was started as part of the country’s postal service in May 2010.
The process is simple: anyone who has to send money can visit a post office to make a transfer. The sender gets a confirmation code that has to be conveyed to the receiver of the money. The receiver can then go to a post office with the code and a proof of identity to get the money. The process is done through mobile phones.
The money transfer service is in line with the Bangladesh government’s mandate to digitize the country by 2021.
In June, nearly 240,000 people used this system to remit about Tk214 crore. The mobile operator gets Tk7 for each transaction and Bangladesh Post about 1% of the money transferred.
Bangladesh has 72 million mobile phone subscribers, which is about half its population. The target now is to spread the reach of the project to all the post offices in the country.
Category: m-Governance
Title: Interactive Voice Response System based Daily Monitoring System of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in Uttar Pradesh
Producer: Mid Day Meal Authority, Uttar Pradesh
The project envisages an automated management information system to make available daily data on all children availing midday meals.
Welfare schemes sponsored by the government are plagued by leakages at various levels. The IVRS-based daily monitoring system of Uttar Pradesh’s midday meal scheme aims to tackle such leakages.
Sudhanshu Tripathi, chief finance officer of the state’s midday meal authority, says the trigger for conceptualizing the idea was the difficulty in getting information on how many children actually took midday meals and how many schools provided these meals.
“The idea was conceptualized way back in 2007 when we had 1.52 lakh schools in UP spread across to the far ends where children from the deprived section were coming,” he said. “Unless we had the exact information, nobody could take remedial intervention.”
Category: m-Business & Commerce
Title: Kumari Bank Mobile Cash
Producer: Kumari Bank Ltd
Western Nepal is a rather inaccessible rural area. But it has the only bank branch in the surrounding region.
This has required people living around the area to travel 7-8 hours by road to cover a stretch of about 15km so they can send money to their children studying in Kathmandu, capital of the Himalayan nation. There were no other options until a few months ago.
Kumari Bank of Nepal has now introduced a mobile banking service that allows users to send or receive money using their mobile phones.
“In Nepal, because of the landscape and lack of physical infrastructure, one way to get to people in the hills and the mountains is the telcom, the mobiles, where the user rate is growing at 30-40% in the country,” says Radhesh Pant, chief executive of Kumari Bank. “We wanted to be the first ones to launch mobile wallet so that we could focus on 70% of the people who really don’t have any banking or financial access.”
A person using the service doesn’t need to have an account with Kumari Bank but has to be registered with it. They can then approach the bank’s agents to pay and load an amount into their mobile accounts, which they can then transfer to other accounts anywhere in the country.
With more than 13,500 users already and about 200 transactions a day, worth about NPR 5 lakh, the network is growing fast.
Category: m-Travel & Tourism
Title: M-ticketing – Train Ticket Reservation System
Producer: Mobitel Pvt. Ltd.
It has computerised the Colombo Kandy Intercity train ticket reservation system and has made it possible to purchase tickets over mobile phones.
The train ticket reservation system of the Sri Lankan Railways is one example of how technology, especially mobile phones, can make life simpler for millions of people.
While in the past people had to wait in long queues to book train tickets and sometimes leave unsuccessful, his company’s mobile-based reservation system has simplified the process, said Jeewapadma Sandagomi, manager, ERM and revenue assurance, Mobitel Pvt. Ltd.
Passengers can dial into Mobitel’s booking system, punch in the source code that’s published across the country, and contact the customer care centre, which will check for availability and book the ticket online. “Ticket charges are deducted from the credit limit of the passengers and are charged at end of the month,” says Sandagomi. Mobitel is one of the largest mobile service providers in Sri Lanka. About 17 million of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people use mobile phones.
Category: m-Health
Name of the company: CommCare
Founder: Network for Enterprise Enhancement and Development Support [Needs] and Digimedia Inc.
Country: India and the US
Description: The application contains illustrations and audio messages covering essential topics in antenatal care, which a local health worker can use to educate pregnant women in her village, regardless of how literate they are.
The challenge was to educate women on infant mortality and childcare in remote areas neglected by the country’s healthcare system. Murari M. Choudhary CHECK, executive director of Network for Enterprise Enhancement and Development Support (Needs) says they realized that in places where people did not even have television, the mobile technology could deliver health messages.
The company, in collaboration with US-based Dimagi Inc. CHECK, created a mobile technology to help teach women who are pregnant or have recently given birth how to take care of themselves and their child.
A local health worker is given a mobile phone pre-loaded with learning material in the local language and with pictures.
One health worker covers a population of around 1,000 people and any pregnancy in the area is registered through the mobile phone. The task of the health worker is to regularly visit the patient and educate her using information that can be accessed though the mobile phone and downloaded from the company’s central server.
“The most illiterate people get the most interested in this technology because it in their language and also has a picture,” says Choudhury CHECK.
The company began with a pilot project in Jharkhand with 10 health workers covering a population of around 10,000 and has now moved to around 60,000. It aims to take the programme to three districts now.
“A lot of behavioural change is happening. Women have started following the advice they are being given and health workers are taking their jobs far more seriously,” Choudhury said.
Category: m-Education & Learning
Name of the company: Sparsh
Founder: IL&FS Education and Technology Services Ltd
Country: India
Description: This cellphone-based sex education course provides a learning solution in 12 modules focused on sexual and reproductive health for teens and adults.
“While initially researching for the product we discussed it with one of the group(s) and one of them asked, ‘So what are you going to do? You are going to teach people how to have sex?’ That statement immediately clicked with us and we realized how much sex education is missing in the country and people don’t even know what it is even about,” says Ankur Rohatgi, head of the emerging technologies group of IL&FS Education and Technology Services Ltd, which has developed Sparsh, a sex education tool.
Divided into 12 modules, it targets teens and adults providing on-the-go learning on sexual and reproductive health.
It works through mobile text messages as well as through interactive voice response technology. Each module has a section of frequently asked questions and a list of related facts and myths. Subscribers can get text-based information on any module. Users also have access to counsellors to discuss complex problems.
Non-profit body Family Planning Association of India has provided the content.
Rohatgi says though his team finds it a little laborious to promote the tool in certain areas as “it is a little controversial,” the product has been received well. “The telecom companies who have promoted it are getting huge response. Within a few months of having started, we already have 300,000 clients.”
He adds that the organization hasn’t sought government support yet. “We wanted to work it other way round, to get public support first and then get to the government.”
Category: m-Health
Name of the company: TB DOTS/Operation Asha
Founder: Operation Asha/Sandeep Ahuja
Country: India
Description: The project ensures reliable delivery of Tuberculosis DOTS medications using low-cost biometrics and mobile phones.
Operation Asha, a non-profit body, has developed a system to monitor the administration of medication to tuberculosis patients through a biometric system that sends alerts on mobile phones to healthcare workers and consultants, notifying them of patients who have missed doses on a particular day.
The service keeps track of all tuberculosis patients coming to healthcare centres for the so-called directly observe therapy (DOTs), an eight-nine month treatment for tuberculosis under the direct observation of health workers.
“It’s very difficult to track each and every patient as (we) are dealing with urban slum populations, which is basically a migrant population, (and) this solution is a great aid in this area,” says Nupur Bhatnagar, chief information officer of Operation Asha. “Now the program manager is also in loop. He also knows which patient is missing from which centre and he can call any time and ask about any patient.”
The project, implemented a year ago, is in a nascent stage. The biometric solution has so far been implemented in South Delhi. “We have 26 terminals which are working and the government has committed itself to scale it up,” Bhatnagar says.
The project was the brain child of Operation Asha’s chief executive Sandeep Ahuja, who roped in Microsoft Corp. The text alerts go not only to the program managers but also to the central sever where the electronic medical record systems are updated to generate reports and maintain electronic patient cards. “One pleasant change is that now more patients are coming into the centre to take the medication,” says Bhatnagar.
Category: m-Entertainment
Name of the company: GamesClub
Founder: Nazara Technology Pvt. Ltd.
Country: India
Description: A cross-platform gaming service that offers users unlimited mobile gaming at price as less as Rs 5 a day to Rs 99 a month.
Chirag Shah, head-carrier relations, Nazara Technologies, says that according to his company’s research, close of 90% of mobile games don’t have more than Rs10 of balance in their phones. It means users are looking for inexpensive games to be downloaded and played on their phones. But users can’t gauge the quality of a game till it is downloaded “as there are games which are very premium and high in quality, and then there are games which are not as good,” he says.
To tackle this problem, Nazara internally developed GamesClub, a library or catalogue of games. The user is given access to this library at Rs5 a day and has close to 300 premium as well as non-premium games to choose from.
Shah says the company developed the GamesClub on the “BigFlix model”. For the user, it is inexpensive, and for developers, it provides economies of scale.
Shah does not reveal the revenues GamesClub has made, he claims telecom companies using the platform have “doubled their gaming revenues”.
GamesClub, which splits revenues with the telecom service providers, has close to a million users playing about 300,000 games and downloading about 12,000 games a day. The potential of the mobile gaming industry is rosy with high-end smart phones becoming popular, says Shah.
The company plans to expand its reach by making GamesClub compatible with all phones (currently, it is compatible with around 2,000 handsets) and by adding social networking features.
Category: m-Health
Name of the company: PharmaSecure
Founder: PharmaSecure
Country: India
Description: The service allows consumers to verify the authenticity of a medicine by sending text messages from their mobile phones.
Drug authentication has been around for a while but implementing this for consumers is a new concept.
PharmaSecure, a US-based company, has designed a mobile-based text messaging service in India to verify the authenticity of a drug. “Any consumer anywhere in the world can use the service to make sure whether a medicine is real,” says Nathan Sigworth, chief executive of Pharmasecure. “It is really a differentiatior. If you are a customer you can buy a drug where you can actually make sure it’s real. It gives you an added value and that is something companies are realizing.”
A customer using the service can send the serial code provided by the manufacturer on a drug’s packaging and will receive a text message notifying the status of the drug.
The service took some years to gain acceptance from Indian drug manufacturers. “It took a while originally to get manufacturers to get on board but now we are seeing a lot of momentum happening. Indian government has also been supportive. Now, we are working with top 10 manufacturers of India and we have billion drugs which are being serialized,” Nathan says.
“What was important for us was to find a way that makes sense to manufacturers, and a lot of our focus has been on making it easy to integrate it (the service) into manufacturing line,” he adds.
surabhi.a@livemint.com
Mint was the media partner to the awards.
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First Published: Mon, Jul 25 2011. 01 21 AM IST