The pervasiveness of cell phones in the Global South is an old story that everyone has heard multiple times already. However, it is a nascent technology and its innovative uses and applications are still unfolding in many parts of the world. Here are two recent experiences from my trip to Jordan & Lebanon to add to the “cool uses of mobile technology” theme.
Donating Through SMS in Jordan
During my stay in Amman, there were a couple of advertisements in Jordan Times by Zain, one of Jordan’s leading mobile telecommunications company. The ads urged everyone to give their Zakat Al-Fiter (charity at the end of Ramadan) to cover the cost of cancer treatment. Subscribers can donate to King Hussein Cancer Foundation by sending a mobile message “life” to a 9-70-70. The donation amount: 1 JD per message.
If anyone has access to Zain or King Hussein Cancer Foundation, I would love to know how much this effort raised. It would also be interesting to find out how it all worked (technical back-end, logistics, etc) so we can replicate this for another cause at another time. For instance, how about donating through SMS for International Women’s day? May be even expand it a bit more – donate through SMS to honor the women in your life. And we will send an SMS to let her know. One can go on…
Credit Card Protection with SMS in Lebanon
Dinner with a friend at this really great Lebanese Restaurant (yeah, be jealous :)) in Beirut. We finish. She gives her credit card to be charged. While we wait to sign the bill, she receives an SMS. It is the credit card company, sending her an SMS to let her know that her card has been swiped. The bill arrives. She signs. We leave.
The SMS is probably part of financial institutions’ attempt to increase consumer trust and confidence in using credit cards. The jaded cynic side of me says that they are doing it only to increase consumer spending so they can make more money. But, the solutions architect/techie-geek part of me admires the speed and elegance of this solution. And, the passionate optimist in me is all excited about the opportunities this opens up for NGOs, like online fundraising and ecommerce. I really should stop before I take this further and give myself a multiple personality disorder.[Footnote: Experiences courtesy of my trip to Jordan & Lebanon to facilitate the National Institute for Training of Women Trainers in Information and Communication Technology for Social Change. The institutes were convened by Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) in partnership with Sisterhood Is Global Institute-Jordan (SIGI-J) in Jordan and Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (CRTD.A) in Lebanon. These are fantastic organizations, in case you are looking to lend support or donate to a worthy cause.]