No Power, No Connectivity, No Problem

Sean Gallagher, Ars Technical IT Editor, wrote last week about Africa and cloud-based services. Generally speaking, there are vast areas of Africa with no or very limited Internet access. What is available is cost prohibitive. There is a serious lack of wired infrastructure within and across most of the countries. And then there are the power outages that occur without warning and may last for days at a time.

So people have turned to mobile phones. Gallagher notes, “Out of the one billion people in Africa, only an estimated 140 million use the Internet, but over 600 million use mobile phones, according to data from the World Bank.”

One result has been broad adoption of mobile application services. Forty percent of the adult population in Kenya uses a mobile payment system to transfer money.  Another mobile application in the works is a mobile health platform. Applications such as iCow are popular with farmers.  The advantage to mobile applications in Africa – which could translate into advantages in the United States – include the ability to recharge when electricity is available and access Web content even when electricity is down.

Mr. Gallagher also noted that a lot of cloud applications are being offered for mobile devices rather than as Web-based interfaces (i.e. not for your desktop).  His parting comment sounds a lot like what we say about Extension: success is built on paying attention to local needs.

The American Red Cross has been collaborating on mobile phone applications since 2010. The newest application is First Aid for iPhone and Android.

Is EDEN moving in this new direction? I think so. For instance, Becky Koch and her colleagues in North Dakota have released three mobile applications in the past year.  They are: Heating Fuel Comparison, Winter Survival Kit, and Disaster Recovery Log. The first two are available for Android and iPhones, while the Disaster Recovery Log is available for Androids. Kim Cassel, SDSU Extension, is also working on a mobile application.

What’s your idea for a mobile application?