Most efforts to capitalize on the rapid rise of mobile platforms often focus on smartphone experiences in first-world markets. But the safe bet for your average Western tech goliath ignores where mobile development matters the most: the developing world, where phones are cheap, basic, and a valuable source of communication for millions of people for millions of people.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation hopes to help change this. Last week, the foundation awarded a total of $2.4 million in funding to eight mobile ventures dedicated to informing and engaging communities. Many of the winners of the Knight News Challenge: Mobile shared the common focus of aiding communities in developing nations through mobile innovations.
On Friday, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, the challenge winners presented their projects before an audience of their peers. (Disclosure: Arizona State is a partner with and the New America Foundation in Future Tense.)
Some of the most interesting projects focused on community building through fostering education and public advocacy. For instance, Wikimedia’s entry aims to increase the developing world’s access to Wikipedia’s wealth of information. “Knowledge is power. Education is the most important way to get people out of poverty,” said Kul Takanao Wadhwa, head of mobile and business development at Wikimedia. In his presentation, Wadhwa explained that this initiative intends to increase the number of languages in which Wikipedia is available, improve the user experience of the service on basic feature phones, work with cellphone companies to lower costs involved with accessing Wikipedia.
Also utilizing the power of easy information-sharing, RootIO is an open-source toolkit that allows for the easy creation of a small-area radio station with only a cheap smartphone and transmitter. In areas where radio is still a primary source of information, this can encourage both community engagement and education.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.