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November 13, 2008

Nokia Life Tools and other cool things

GLOBAL – I’ve been a watcher of mobile phone use in emerging markets ever since Chris Heathcote planted the thought in my head many years ago. Back then, there were two billion mobile phone users globally and we were facing the prospect of one billion more being added over 18 months, of which 80 per cent of those will be first-time users in emerging markets without PCs. Indeed, the kernel of my Club 1100 thoughts come from that time, and with the reception the Nokia 1202 (very similar to the Nokia 1209 I am using) is having (see below), I think Nokia is onto something.

Yeah, we’re a business and are in it for the money. But, a ‘happy job’ is when your work adds positive value to someone’s life. Read on to see the responses we got from our announcements last week.

Life Tools

We wrote about Life Tools when it launched last week (more on What made me most proud was that leaders in the use of mobile in emerging markets, Ken Banks, creator of FrontlineSMS, and Nathan Eagle, from MIT, have recognized the impact of Nokia getting deeper into this area.

Others also picked up the story, with Clinton Jeff, from, doing two big write ups.

Hopefully at some point I can get a demo of these new tools. I think believers in Club 1100 know there is still so much one can do with just voice and SMS (which makes my convergence-minded colleagues roll their eyes every time I say this).

Advocacy and mobiles

Of course, ‘happy jobs’ merging tech and helping people better themselves are nearly indistinguishable from social-political advocacy. In both cases, folks have strong beliefs of what needs to be done to achieve a better life for the target group. Both, Ken Banks’ FrontlineSMS and Nathan Eagle’s txteagle, look to fuse SMS with serious social, political, and economic needs.

Last week, some really clever folks set up Twitter Vote Report for voters and vote-monitors to send in reports of any issues with voting across the US. Indeed, pundits partially credit Obama’s campaign success to the use of the Web and mobiles to activate voters and support (there was even a very clever iPhone app).

Furthermore, and I don’t know how I stumbled across it, but the Tactical Technology Collective, an international NGO human rights advocacy group that uses all sorts of communications technologies in their advocacy work, has a cool site, called Mobiles in-a-Box, that is chock-full of ideas and tools for using mobiles for organizing and promoting causes and advocacy actions. They propose simple, but effective things such as taking advantage of mobile web sites, camera phones, and even ringtones.

Simple but effective

I keep finding myself looking back at the simple stuff we used to do with simple mobile devices as a guide for how we can maximize the use of mobiles to improve lives. Keeping it simple and accessible. Understanding local needs, which sometimes includes life-saving privacy. These are the things we already know how to do, but have left behind while chasing faster and more advanced tools.

I do miss my N85, but living with my Nokia 1209 reminds me of how billions of folks live and how they manage communications, information, and participation in society.

Heh. Being tutored by a wee phone.

So, any similar stories for you to share with me?