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Mobile Technology Driving Social Change

19 June 2008 at 2:34 pm
Staff Reporter
Mobile technology is transforming the way advocacy, development and relief organisations accomplish their missions, according to the results of a new global survey.

Staff Reporter | 19 June 2008 at 2:34 pm


Mobile Technology Driving Social Change
19 June 2008 at 2:34 pm

Mobile technology is transforming the way advocacy, development and relief organisations accomplish their missions, according to the results of a new global survey.

The report called Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use, has been prepared by the United Nations Foundation and The Vodafone Group Foundation.

The study says that over 3.5 billion mobile phones are in use around the world and organisations are harnessing this technology to help overcome humanitarian challenges.

The study examines emerging trends in "mobile activism" by looking at 11 case studies of groups active in the areas of public health, humanitarian assistance and environmental conservation.

Among the programs highlighted are two conflict prevention projects, both active in Kenya. Oxfam-Great Britain and the Kenyan umbrella group PeaceNet created a text messaging ‘nerve centre’ that collected alerts about violent outbreaks during the recent civil unrest and mobilized local ‘peace committees’. The project served as a vital tool for conflict management and prevention by providing a hub for real-time information about actual and planned attacks between rival ethnic and political groups.

Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use was written by Sheila Kinkade ( and Katrin Verclas (, and commissioned by the United Nations Foundation-Vodafone Group Foundation Technology Partnership.

The report also highlights the results of a global web-based survey of NGO mobile technology use developed by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

Responses were collected between December 10th, 2007 and January 13th, 2008, and generated 560 surveys completed by representatives of NGOs working in all parts of the world.

The global survey found that 86% of non-governmental organisation (NGO) employees use mobile technology in their work, and 25% believe it has revolutionized the way their organisation or project works.

While voice and text messaging are still the most common applications of mobile technology among NGO workers (90%), respondents report using wireless technology in a number of other ways, including photo and video (39 percent); data collection or transfer (28 percent); and multi-media messaging (27 percent).

The survey also finds some NGO workers using mobile technology for more sophisticated purposes such as data analysis (8 percent), inventory management (8 percent), and mapping (10 percent).

Importantly, the amount of money invested in mobile technology correlates to a higher diversity of application; those NGOs that spend more use this technology for higher-end functions.

Users of mobile technology on projects with a health focus are also more likely to use
mobile technology for data purposes.
The study says that the perceived benefits of NGO mobile use are enormous.

It reveals that the key benefits of mobile technology for all NGOs include time savings (95 percent); the ability to quickly mobilise or organise individuals (91 percent); reaching audiences that were previously difficult or impossible to reach (74 percent); the ability to transmit data more quickly and accurately (67 percent); and the ability to gather data more quickly and accurately (59 percent).

Not surprisingly, then, 76 percent of NGO users said they would likely increase their use of mobile technology in the future.

The full report is available at

The UN Foundation-Vodafone Group Foundation Partnership is a leading public-private alliance using strategic technology programmes to strengthen the UN’s humanitarian efforts worldwide.

Created in October 2005, with a £10 million commitment from The Vodafone Group Foundation matched by £5 million from the UN Foundation, the Partnership has three core commitments: (1) to develop rapid response telecoms teams to aid disaster relief; (2) to develop health data systems that improve access to health data thereby helping to combat disease; and (3) to promote research and innovative initiatives using technology as an agent and tool for international development. Further information can be found at:

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