How Mobile Can Move Us Forward

By Annie Rosenthal as part of the 2018 +SocialGood series on emerging technologies

Mobile technology has become more common than working toilets. Mobile phones have connected people worldwide to vital information, financial resources, and life-saving networks. This month +SocialGood will explore mobile solutions, from messages for maternal health to collaborative disaster reporting.

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Picture by Neil Palmer (CIAT)

The mobile technology revolution has transformed the ways we communicate, gather information, and connect with the outside world. Development organizations, businesses, governments, and every day people have used these new capabilities to progress the Global Goals. Check out three examples here:

Connecting marginalized populations to services: Mobile phones offer connections to people who have been historically difficult to reach due to cultural, geographical, or other barriers. The United Nations uses mobile technology to offer access to health care and information, educational services, financial inclusion, and even birth registry. Learn how you can set up a system to manage two-way SMS in two minutes from UNHCR here.

  • RapidPro, a free, SMS-based mobile health monitoring tool developed by UNICEF, allows workers to gather information on vital areas even in the most remote, far-flung corners of the world.
  • UNDP shares how a partnership with ANZ Bank, the Australian Government, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Program used mobile technology to connect 900 rural coconut farmers in the Solomon Islands to secure financial services.
  • UNICEF’s pilot program to use mobile technology to register births in an area of Pakistan had amazing results. In 2014, only 5% of newborn children were registered within the first six months of their birth. By 2015, that number had reached an impressive 95%.

Collecting essential development data: In addition to reaching marginalized and difficult to reach populations, mobile technology also allows those populations to report information about their health, their surroundings, and the challenges they face. Mobile reporting has helped combat disease, pinpoint sexual harassment, assist farmers, and more. Read the mobile data for development primer from the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data here.

  • MHealth solutions help support global health by tracking risk factors, identifying counterfeit medicines, surveying populations, and helping implement national policies.
  • QR codes allowed WFP to track the movement of the nearly five million mosquito nets they delivered on behalf of UNDP and the Global Fund to 1,000 health centers around Zambia. These codes allowed the nets to be tracked by a centralized Relief Item Tracking Application at the WFP Headquarters in Rome.
  • The AgriUp app allows smallholder farmers in Guatemala to share and receive location-specific weather alerts, agricultural advice, and nutrition tips.

Creating opportunities for action: Mobile technology allows people to identify problems, share information, and create solutions. Whether by organizing on the ground action or through virtual collaboration, mobile technology gives people the tools they need to make a difference.

  • U-Report, which partners with UNICEF, is a social media messaging tool that is free to everyone who wants to raise their voice. This platform allows people to speak out on development issues, support children’s rights, and create movements to improve their communities.
  • WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping unit tracks data about communities in order to best predict and prepare for hunger crises.
  • WEF shares how mobile phones are empowering women to change their lives for the better.

These are only a few of the ways mobile phones are being used to make the world a better place. Join +SocialGood throughout February as we explore the opportunities mobile technology presents to help progress the Global Goals. Share your thoughts, solutions, and ideas with #SocialGoodTech!

Join us at 10am on Thursday, February 22nd for our #SocialGoodTech Twitter chat on mobile technology for social good!