dissemination of Information in the Developing An annotated bibliography By Chris Plummer

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‘Short Messaging Service (SMS) and the
dissemination of Information in the Developing

An annotated bibliography

By Chris Plummer


Communication technologies play an important part in Information
Communication Technologies (ICTs) fo
r development. Mobile commerce on
the African continent in particular has exploded due to the lack of fixed line
capability and the demand from consumers for a cheaper medium of
communication. SMS has developed as one of the lowest cost and easily
communication mediums. The versatility of the mobile phone and the
relatively low cost of the handset compared to a computer makes it an
attractive choice, especially with the growth of wireless internet capabilities
such as 3G.

This bibliography will con
sider an array of sources which use SMS, such
as health systems, market information systems to disseminate information
and bridge communication divides in marginal poor communities.


Accenture (no date) ‘Growing the Mobile Commerce Marketpla
ce: A
New Co
operative Approach to Offering Products and Services’,

ited 10


Summary: This article is not primarily focused on the developing world but
does highlight some of the private sector rhetoric behind the use of mobile
and SMS technology. The article also touches on the idea of an Open Market
Approach to
developing a mobile information infrastructure. The focus is very
much on developed mobile markets and provides a business analysis from a
leading private consultancy firm on maximising the use of SMS technology.

BBC News (2004) ‘Mobile Markets Deny Midd
lemen’, Monday 2




Summary: This article relates to the Ugandan Foodnet programme. Foodnet
pays people in to
wns around the country to find out the prices for produce in
the local market. Once a week the information is sent by fax to Foodnet's
Kampala office and is then uploaded onto the South African
owned MTN
mobile phone network. It can then be accessed with a

mobile phone via Short
Message Service (SMS)

type the keyword, for example, 'maize', send it to
phone number 198 and a few seconds later the information is sent back to
your phone.

This article provides more information on the collection of data
and the

functioning of the Foodnet programme. A very useful resource.

BBC News (2003) ‘BBC News via text reaches India’, January 21


14th March)

Summary: The BBC has teamed up with mobile operator Orange to launch a
mobile news service in India. Users just need to type BBC and send it as an
SMS to 12323 to get the latest headlines. There are around four million
mobile subscribers in
India, with between one to two million on the Orange
network, which is known as Hutch outside of Mumbai.

Bertolini R (2004) ‘Marketing Information and Communication
Technologies: Work for food security in Africa’,

(Visited 14th March)

Summary: Article asses the developmental challenges facing Africa in the light
of the Millennium Development Goals. Bertolini provides a number of facts
and statistics regarding fixed

telephone lines and the explosion in mobile
phone networks. Bertolini then goes on to assess the opportunities that ICTs
may provide in creating food security. Bertolini mentions the importance of
using SMS technology with other ICTs to empower rural popu
lations. A good
article which highlights an important issue in the digital divide within Africa
between urban and rural areas and the way that technologies such as SMS
can bridge this divide.

FOODNet (no date) ‘Marketing and post harvest research in East
and Central Africa’,

(Visited 10


Summary: The FoodNet website is part of the FoodNet agricultural and
development network in Eastern and Central Africa that offers
a national
marketing information service (MIS). Data is collected on agricultural
commodities form markets across Eastern and Central Africa. Data is then
processed and disseminated via a number of methods, FM radio, newspapers,
email and fax. A local mana
gement information system for small farmers and
traders gives information on prices, trade volumes, market flows and growing
conditions in local language via SMS on mobile phones.

Guardian (2003) ‘UN Summit Fails to Bridge Digital Divide’,

December 12

2003 (Visited 12

March )

Summary: This article challenges the intentions and the relevance of the

Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). WSIS
central goal is to get
the internet, telephones and other communications to at least half the world's
inhabitants by 2015. This would be able to impact upon developmental issues
such as AIDS, Tuberculosis, po
or education and child mortality rates.
Comments by Wainaina Mungai a well regarded IT aid worker suggest that
more than words are needed. Funding and co
operation between
governments and NGO’s are needed to bring relevant technology to the
developing worl
d and also bridge the digital divide. This article highlights the
challenges about the relevance of ICT in developing countries and if
technology such as SMS is to make any impact on creating opportunities for
the poor, real commitments must be made by don
ors and recipient countries
as well as NGOs.

Gupta P (updated 2005) ‘Short Message Service: What, How and

isited 14th March).

Summary: A very good article looking at the more technical aspects of what
SMS is how it works and where it works. The article lists the applications of
SMS , such as message exchange and email, as well as looking at the present

of SMS but this is focused on the developed world. Gupta also lists
some of the main limitations of SMS, in particular its inability to text more
than 160 latin characters. Whilst focused mainly on the developed world there
is some good general informati
on on the actual technology of SMS.

Hamilton P (no date) ‘m
Commerce in Africa
Innovation Overcoming

(Visited 10th

Summary: A useful look at th
e predicted rise in the use of mobile telephone
technologies due to the lack of fixed line telecoms and of the technological
revolution. This will obviously impact on the coverage that mobile phones will
have in Africa and thus the use of SMS as an informa
tion system. The article
focuses on some of the major private mobile firms MTN, Vodacom and Econet
Wireless in developing m
Commerce. The article is not dated but would seem
to come from 2000/01 and in the dynamic quick moving world of ICTs is

on H (no date) ‘Investing in Infrastructure in Developing
Regions : Innovative Strategies and Policies’,

(Visited 10


Summary: Hudson’s article makes an interesting comment on the use of SMS
in developing countries in line with the development of mobile phone
Hudson argues that the main driver for the rise in mobile
services has been the lowering of mobile tariffs in particular SMS charges due
to competition between mobile providers. The Phillipines is the world’s largest
user of SMS and prices of SMS in the de
veloping world tend to be less than
the developed world due to demand and the ability to ‘pay as you go’ for

Iconnect (2005) ‘SMS Technology for TB Treatment’,

(Visited 14


Summary: This Tuberculosis (TB) project is based in Cape Town South Africa
which uses SMS to alert and remind patients to take their medication. Th
objective of this project is to increase the recovery rate of patients and lead
to savings for healthcare authorities. Cape Town has one of the world’s
highest incidence of TB. TB patients must follow strict medication regimes
and take 4
5 tablets each w
eek for 6 months. Medication is often forgotten
and this has exacerbated TB by creating drug resistant stains of TB. The
article gives detailed background context and also an impact assessment.

ICT 4 Rural Extension (2005) ‘SMS’,

(Visited 14th March)

Summary: Very good resource which provides information of SMS within
Africa in extending rural agricultural markets. The page suggests some uses
for SMS t
echnology and the positive and negative issues and also provides a
brief summary of some relevant case studies for use of SMS in rural
communities. The page also offers links to other websites regarding the use
of SMS in extending rural agricultural market

Intelecon (2004) ‘Challenges in Creating Viable Rural Connectivity
Models in Developing Countries: International Seminar on ICT Policy
Reform and Rural

(Visited 15


Summary: This is a very informed and useful article which sets out to answer
some key questions regarding the use of communications technology in
extending acc
ess to rural areas. Topics such as the viability of
communications in rural areas, bridging the digital divide and how much do
rural people require communications technology and what they are willing to
pay are covered. SMS and mobile technology is recogni
sed as having played a
key role in providing low cost communications access to rural communities.

Intelecon (2002) ‘African Connection Centre for Strategic Planning
Nigeria Rural ICT Market Opportunity Report, October 4




Summary: Provides an in
depth look a
t the telecommunications sector in
Nigeria, which had the lowest fixed line and mobile teledensity after the
Democratic Republic of Congo. The article focuses on the opportunities in the
rural mobile telephone market in Nigeria with the potential to gener
ate annual
revenues of at least US $344 million. The use of mobile SMS is touched upon
but the what the article really puts across is the massive obstacles towards
developing a viable mobile telecommunications infrastructure in particular the
amount of pol
itical instability, fraud and corruption. The article also addresses
the idea of the proliferation of ICTs across sub
Saharan Africa and the
implications for businesses investing here.

KACE (2004) ‘Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange Reaching the

in Kenya with Market Information: The role of information
tools in food security, Maputo, Mozambique, November 8




Summary: This article highlights the use of harnessing the power of
information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower smallholder
farmers to access markets more efficiently and profitably. This is achieved via
a market information system (
MIS) developed by KACE a privates sector firm.
The components of KACE MIS are rural based market information centres,
mobile phone SMS, interactive voice service and an internet based regional
commodity trade and information system. The idea is that when t
system is implemented, transaction costs will be lowered and improve market
efficiency and thereby enhance smallholder farmer access to markets and
lower market risks. The article is not solely focused on the use of SMS
technology and provides a ve
ry informative look at the use of ICTs as MIS.

Lallana E (2004) ‘eGovernment for Development

Service for the Philippines Civil Service Commission’,

, Febr
uary 2004 (Visited 10


Summary: The article is about an SMS
based service of the Philippines Civil
Service Commission (CSC)

an effort to "provide citizens with a weapon, a
tool to pressure government agencies into examining their systems and
cedures towards faster and more efficient delivery of services". Like many
bureaucracies in the developing world, the Philippine bureaucracy is not
exactly known for exemplary service. In an effort to improve service, the CSC
launched a programme called M
amamayan Muna (Citizens First) to receive
complaints, to respond to queries, and to provide assistance for citizens who
are dealing with the bureaucracy. Since launching, and in spite of minimal
public announcements and promotions, TXT CSC is receiving an
average of
1,000 to 1,500 messages per month: among the highest of the government's
various SMS
based information/complaint services. The article provides a very
good example of the way SMS can be used to empower marginalized people
in making the governmen
t accountable.

Minges M (no date) ‘Mobile Internet for Developing Countries’,

(Visited 14th March)

Summary: Minges article makes interesting comment about the growth in
mobile phone technology and in particular the way that SMS could pave the
way for the development for mobile internet via WAP and 3G. Minges makes
comment that in

the month of December 2000 15 billion SMS messages were
sent around the world, thus making the potential of developing mobile
Internet vast. The article also provides a good case study of Uganda
highlighting its rapid development of mobile phone technolog
y. This article
does look dated though, as most data is from 2000/01 and given the current
climate of rapid technology change may not be as relevant. However Minges
idea is interesting and the explanation of other platforms of mobile
technology is useful.

Mudhai O (no date) ‘Exploring the Potential for More Strategic Civil
Society use of

(Visited 12


Summary: This article takes an in depth look at the use of mobile phones in
strategic and political empowerment of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
Mudhai argues that CSOs have not moved beyond email and simple
sites. Mudhai identifies the use of mobile phones as one of the technologies,
which could change this. The article identifies a number of mobile browsing
platforms such as WAP and 3G but maintains that SMS is the cheapest and
most appropriate way that
CSOs can effectively use mobile handsets. An
effective and interesting article which is well researched and written.

New Consumer (2004) ‘
UKs first SMS text petition: campaigning for
Fair Trade at

(Visited 12


Summary: This relates to an ambitious project by the magazine New
Consumer to form a petition of 1,000,000 p
eople to take to the G8 summit in
2005 regarding fair trade. The article provides some interesting statistics
regarding the importance of free trade. This article provides an important
example of how communication technology such as SMS can be used to out
forward views and opinions. It shows an example of how technologies such
as SMS, whilst simple can be empowering in providing information and
communication links.

Nokia (2004) ‘Nokia enables richer, dynamic mobile

(Visited 14th March)

Summary: This article relates to person to person mobile communications,
which is essentially a voice SMS message. Instead of typing text users will

able to send short voice messages that are sent instantaneously without the
user having to talk directly to the sender. PTP is used extensively in the US
but has yet to be developed in Europe due to the success of SMS. For
developing countries the impl
ication of this technology is that greater
personal connectivity will be possible without the cost of phone calls. An
important article in forecasting the further development in messaging

Nokia (2001) ‘Leading companies in telecommunications
agree that
Multimedia Messaging Service will build on the success of SMS

(Visited 14th March)

In a unique initiative CMG, Co
mverse, Ericsson, Logica, Motorola,
Nokia and Siemens unveil a common vision for Multimedia Messaging Service
(MMS). The objective is to raise overall awareness of MMS and to ensure
consistent market development into an open global market. MMS combines

forms of rich content, such as audio and video clips, photographs and
images with text messaging. MMS could be the a development for the future
of SMS in creating more content and functionality for mobile phones.

RITIM (no date) ‘Will M
Commerce Bridge t
he Global Digital Divide’,

(Visited 15



The capabilities of accessing, delivering, and exchanging
information in digital forms vary greatly across rich and the poor countries. In
income countries, high costs of information and communication
technology (ICT), supply constraints, lack o
f relevant skills, unavailability of
required content on the Internet, unfavorable geographic structures, and
other similar factors are responsible for the lack of access to digital
information. This article argues that the characteristics of mobile techno
and emergence of mobile commerce (m
commerce) offer the prospects of
bridging the global digital divide if proper policies are put in place at various
levels in the public and private sectors.

Sustainable ICTs.org (no date) ‘E
commerce for Farmers

Hands on
Training Programme’,

(Visited 12


Summary: This site provides a case study from the Philippines on how
farmers, fishermen and mediums

access markets and trade products via a
website or by SMS and mobile phone. The project objective is enable farmers
to harness the benefits of information and communication technologies to
promote economic and social development. The idea is to increase
in agriculture and offer market information to farmers who have suffered
from poor access to buyers and sellers. Clearly presented with key issues for
the programme listed as well as lessons learned and some success stories.

Tambo I (2003) ‘In
tegrating ICT in Development Programmes’, DAC
Journal 4(2)

Summary: The article explores the challenge of integrating information and
communication technologies (ICT) into national development plans and donor
programs in Developing countries. The article
also assesses the importance of
private partnership and the role for governments and donors in
implementing ICT programmes. This gives a more theoretical background to
the uses of ICTs in developmental thinking in line with meeting the World
Bank Mi
llennium Development Goals.

UN (2002) ‘United Nations Conference on Trade and Development E
Commerce and Development Report 2002, Chapter 4: m
Wireless Communications Opportunities for Developing Countries’,

(Visited 10th March )

Summary: Wireless communications provide long sought after platform that
can make digital data transfer possible in many developing coun
tries. The
lower costs of mobile systems relative to fixed networks means that the
provision of SMS and of 3G broadband wireless networks. SMS is considered
here as a practical alternative for those who do not have a computer. SMS
could be used to make pay
ments through post paid amounts. The information
on SMS as part of an MIS is limited yet the information on m
provides a valuable insight into different forms of ICTs and m

Vandemoortele J (2002) ‘Millennium Development Goals’, O
Observer Issue 223 pg 25, August 2002

Summary: The article provides an argument that the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) set by the World Bank and the United Nations are another set
of commitments that are rarely fulfilled. Vandemoortele argues t
hat if the
1980’s was the lost decade for development than the 1990’s most go down in
history as the decade of broken promises. The article goes on to suggest that
if real commitment by donors and NGOs are not fulfilled the MDGs will be
another set of empt
y promises.

World Bank (2003) ‘ICT and MDGs: A World Bank Group

, December 2003 (Visited 14


Summary: An important and detailed article which links the use of ICT with
the Millennium Development Goals. The article defines what ICTs are and
gives a summary of the MDGs. This article addresses an number of issues in
which ICTs can be used such as
Gender and Development and Health. A
range of ICTs are assessed in a number of case studies. Whilst not directly
focused on the use of SMS the article is never the less important to consider
as SMS is simply part of a whole ICT network.


re is a definitive lack of academic research on what I feel is an
important part of the digital revolution in developing countries in particular
those within Africa. Mobile commerce has exploded in Africa and surely
academic research into this field to ass
ess its impacts and suggested uses is
critical. Information regarding SMS systems was fairly limited and no
information portal exists on any organisation’s website.

It is also evident that given the simplicity if the SMS technology, there
does seem to be
a real lack of practical application by donors and NGOs. The
use of SMS should be considered more important in providing a relatively
cheap and instant communication medium.