Betavine Social Exchange – Accessibility

June 6, 2009

This week I had the pleasure of attending at least part of the Mobile Web 2.0 Summit in London – which was sponsored by Vodafone and Betavine.

The winners of the Betavine Widget Competition were announced on the Wednesday evening.   Winners announcement pictures can be found on Flickr.

An added bonus for me was being able to meet up with Ken Banks from and Stephane Boyera from W3C Foundation because we were able to have a quick chat about the Betavine Social Exchange.

One of the topics that is a key focus of Kiwanja is how to get mobile technology and their associated services into the hands of the poorest people in the developing world.   Ken has made some great progress with FrontlineSMS – a service to enable text messaging between groups of people anywhere that there is mobile coverage. 

Ken challenged me to think about how to make the Betavine Social Exchange accessible to the widest possible audience and in particular to the poorest communities that do not have access to PCs and broadband.  This is going to be a big challenge for us but we will consider this as the project progresses and seek input from NGOs, like Kiwanja, to help point us in the right direction.

How can we make the “problem definition” part of the Betavine Social Exchange accessible to people who only have access to low end mobile phones?  Clearly, text messaging is an option but we will have to think about how complex problems can be described in 160 characters!  Another idea is low cost mobile internet capable handsets.  Maybe we can use widget technology?

One of the key things we can learn from Kiva is the importance of a local partner so there may be ways of linking people to the BSX via the local partner network.

As usual, I would love to hear your views and comments on this.


6 Responses to “Betavine Social Exchange – Accessibility”

  1. Nicky H Says:

    Hi Steve,

    I think there is a role for voice as a UI for those with limited access. Making cheap internet-capable handsets available is fine, but has two major drawbacks
    a) anything that depends on hardware distribution is challenging and costly, and would naturally slow the spread. Also, despite best efforts, this would not likely reach the poorest
    b) users must be literate or the UI must use icons and images (very close cultural attention to detail required, and costly to develop), leading to the exclusion of large % of the poorest population

    Re the name… how about betavine roots? (grass-roots, source of inspiration, rooted in community etc). You could always go for ‘beta-roots’ but I think that is a bit cheesy.


  2. stevewolak Says:

    thanks Sacha, I take your point about using approprate means … 160 characters to input a complex problem will not work.

  3. Sacha Tueni Says:

    Hi Steve!

    Some thoughts on your 2 questions

    – ‘how to ‘address complex problems’ in 160 characters:

    From experience, I would not seek to solve problems with one mean of communication only, nor with a simple widget. Good solutions are designed in a way, that different services complement each other; each in its own strength. Example: the strength of SMS is its wide reach & quick usability. Thus it’s a great input tool for rapid communication, which – at later stage – can be enriched with more detailed info through call, internet, or widget (?).

    In our project (citizen reporting during the Lebanese election) SMS served well to 1st: provide regular citizen with a simple tool to break the news; 2nd: to send journalist/validating groups to the right area, interviewing people & take pictures. Preliminary info (like validation of SMS reports) was then sent back by SMS; followed up by more detailed report through call (for the story) or internet (for the pictures).

    – ‘importance of ‘tapping into local partners’
    Local partners can provide for reach, credibility & trust. In our case, we partnered with a group of youth journalists to deliver & check on reports coming in through our platform It was a perfect fit, as it provided the groups with the infrastructure to compete with heavyweights in reporting. Or – to put it in the words of a twitter-follower: “with updates from @sharek961 @justimage and @Beirutspring I didn’t miss CNN’s @octavianasrCNN take on the elections in Lebanon.”

    Thanks for your interest,


  4. stevewolak Says:

    thanks, post updated.

  5. kiwanja Says:

    Hi Steve

    Thanks for the positive comments and the post. It was good to meet you, too.

    One small thing – it’s (not kiwanga). Other than that, spot on. ;o)

    Emailing you now – so meet up soon.


  6. […] and stream content just like a huge smartphone. In the long run, when mobile internet devices Betavine Social Exchange – Accessibility – 06/06/2009 This week I had the pleasure of attending at least part of the […]

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