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Jonathan Erickson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

The Open Mobile Consortium: Helping People via Open Source and Mobile Technology

May 26, 2009

 Now here's a project that I like -- the Open Mobile Consortium. What I like about the OMC is that it is about things that are meaningful to me -- mobile technologies, open source, and using technology in helping people.  

 The Open Mobile Consortium is a collaboration across organizations that are creating open source software tools help organizations to better serve the health, humanitarian and development needs of the "bottom billion," the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens of the world.

With almost 280 million subscribers in Africa alone, mobile phones are recognized as instruments of change in finance, agriculture, media and, development work. Mobile technology can easily provide data on food prices to farmers, patient  information to remote medical clinics, and help track supplies and logistics. It is estimated that by 2010, 1 in 3 Africans will own a mobile phone. The Open Mobile Consortium was founded to develop and bring to scale free  and open-source solutions that leverage the power and ubiquity of mobile phones.

Katrin Verclas, founder of MobileActive.org and a founding member of the Open Mobile Consortium, says, "The mobile technology explosion has put more than four billion phones in use around the world.  In the hands of organizations working for social good, and with easily available and accessible software, mobile phones can significantly improve the health and well-being of people in developing countries around the world.  But there are technology and collaboration barriers. The Open Mobile Consortium aims to eliminate these barriers by developing interoperable, free and open source mobile platforms, and we encourage others to join us."

The OMC has already brought together a number of mobile technology tools for collaboration and sharing.  These include, among others:

  • CommCare, a mobile-phone based application that lets community health workers provide better, more efficient care and improve coordination of community health programs;
  • Mobilisr, an open source enterprise class mobile messaging platform for NGOs around the world.
  • Mesh4X, a platform for seamless cross-organizational information sharing between mobile devices, databases, desktop applications, and websites;
  • RapidSMS, an open source platform allowing for any mobile phone to use SMS to collect data, used in Malawi, Ethiopia and Nigeria to collect information and provide rapid feedback to field workers.
  • GeoChat, a flexible open source group communications tool that enables mobile field communications and situational awareness during emergencies.
  • Ushahidi, a web-based platform that any person or organization can use to set up their own way to collect and visualize information.
If you'd like to get involved with the OMC, go here.

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