From iPhones to the new BlackBerry Playbook, it seems like everything has suddenly gone mobile. Handheld devices are playing a growing role in our daily lives, especially in countries like Kenya or Afghanistan, where communities–and the aid agencies that serve them–use simple cell phones for everything from breaking news alerts to banking. No surprise, then, that mobile and the non-profit sector were hot topics at this month’s Rutberg Summit for tech executives in London.
With directors from Airtel, Zain and Vodafone–three of the largest mobile networks in Africa and Asia–on the speaker’s list, and decision-makers from Intel, Google and RIM in attendance, the annual event is regarded by many as a critical “meeting of the minds” for all things mobile. This year Souktel was honored to join the conversation, speaking on a panel about innovative uses of mobile tech among non-profits and aid agencies.
“It goes without saying that this was a fantastic opportunity for us, and a real honor,” relates Souktel co-founder Jacob Korenblum. “Here you have all the biggest players in the mobile industry, all in one room. For a young organization like Souktel, it’s an amazing chance to learn from these leaders”.
At the same time, the non-profit panel also let corporate leaders learn how text messaging and apps are being used for humanitarian purposes. “From our experience, the work that Souktel does–using mobiles to send out SMS emergency aid updates, or to collect field data on classroom attendance–isn’t on the radar of many mobile companies,” Korenblum adds. “The Sprints and Verizons of Pakistan or Nigeria are mainly looking to sell ringtones, calling plans, and other commercial services”.
“We’re hoping that events like these can raise awareness about the power of mobile to streamline food aid distribution or flood relief,” Korenblum concludes. “After the disasters in Haiti and Japan, I think we’re seeing a real shift in the way mobile operators work with communities. This is good news for the 20+ UN and US-funded projects we serve: We believe it’ll lead to new and better cooperation with networks like Zain or Airtel on humanitarian aid responses down the road”.
Learn more about the Rutberg summit here.