New Delhi: The inaugural mBillionth awards, presented by the Digital Empowerment Foundation on 23 July in New Delhi, showcased several mobile innovators from South Asia.

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One of the 24 winners was the paperless admission system developed by a team of students and professors from the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), Sylhet, Bangladesh. It allows final year school students to apply to the university through just two text messages. Not a single form or visit to the university is required.

Mass communication: Winners of the mBillionth South Asia Awards. Pradeep Gaur / Mint

“The only purpose to develop this app was to help students save time and money. Secondly, it is eco-friendly, no use of paper. All the database is maintained online, so no more endless form filling," said Abu Awal Md. Shoeb, lecturer at SUST and a member of the winning team.

Another winner was Suruk—an application for mobile phones with global positioning systems (GPS) that allows auto-rickshaw passengers to keep track of the distance covered, the rate charged and detect if the driver is over-charging or taking a wrong route.

Suruk has around 450-500 customers in Bangalore, including 300-350 regular users, and plans to expand its services to other cities. “We wish to bring hospitality and travel, value-added services and personal commuting under Suruk’s umbrella of operations and utility," said BalaSundaraRaman, chief mentor, Suruk.

One other unique function of this application is its inbuilt capability to send an emergency SMS to a contact (provided by the user at the time of registration) with a geographic location (via an URL of a Google map) in case of any unforeseen incident.

Also Read mBillionth Award: the winners of 2010

Yet another mBillionth award winner hopes to fight an age-old problem: how to prevent leakage from the public distribution system (PDS).

Laxmikant Deshmukh, district collector of Kolhapur, Maharashtra, decided to take control of things by using an innovative m-distribution system. The mobile application he developed helps in tracking the various steps in the supply chain of PDS food shipments and can be used on a GPRS-enabled phone. “We have to train people to use computers, but using a mobile phone needs no training," said Deshmukh. It ensures transparency in the supply and distribution of foodgrains, and enables effective inventory management and helps in curbing unethical practices such as hoarding and arbitrary price escalation.

With hundreds of similarly innovative and disruptive nominees, awards jury member and consultant Madanmohan Rao related how difficult it was to choose the best out of so many. “The criteria were that projects should be up and running, no pilot projects; client and third-party testimonies; snapshot of the products/apps and, lastly, access to the contestant to cross-question," he explained.