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MW4D Framework Document


This document describes the vision behind the Mobile Web for Social Development Interest Group (MW4D). It details what is in and out of the scope of the group, the goals of the group in its current timelife (till end of may 2009), the goals at longer term, the expected output, and the potential stakeholder who should be interested to participate in.


The current editors of this document are

  • Jeffrey Sonstein - Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Stephane Boyera - W3C
  • Renjish Kumar - Invited Expert

If you are interested to become an editor, please contact StephaneBoyera

Status of the Document

This document is currently under development by the MW4D group. It does not reflect yet a consensus in the group. Comments and discussions about the content of this document are taking place on MW4D public list: archived at Details on how to subscribe to this mailing-list or to become a member of MW4D is available at

NB: the process for making change of this document is to comment on the mailing-list, and the editors will report consensus in this document. Please DO NOT EDIT it directly if you are not one of the editors


content description

this section should give in few sentences the overview of the group focus, scope and mission.

content items

  • the domain is ICT4D: using ICT not as a goal, but as a mean to resolve traditional developed/developing societies divide: access to healthcare, access to information, access to education, access to financial services, access to state/government services...
  • specific focus on exploiting the potential of the mobile platform as an ICT platform.
  • in order to have a significant impact on the above mentionned traditionnal divides using ICT, mw4d will consider the different dimension: identifying challenges related to development, deployment and availability of these services by either ngo/grassroot/non-profit or governments, identifying challenges about how to make services accesssible, relevant, usable, useful and affordable by targeted populations,... and proposing potential solutions to follow to resolve (part of) these challenges. Should we mention MDGs
  • primary objective is to look at exploiting the full potential of mobile phones in places where it is already deployed and accessible by people (as a personal item, or a shared one)
  • the Web as an infrastructure and repository for social development-oriented services is perfect, we will investigate how to leverage web access from mobile phone to access these services
  • the aim is to leverage participation from people that are targeted and concerned: ngo on the fields, people living in developing countries, people involved in local projects, ...
  • raising awareness on the potential of the mobile phone as an ict platform among ngo/grass-root/non-profit, and government

to be resolved:

  • use mobile devices instead of mobile phones ?
  • how to talk about the future, and how to talk about what's possible today (e.g. mobile web vs sms) ?

written content

Over the last decade, mobile has registered phenomenal growth globally, emerging as a powerful means of communication, outpacing the growth of fixed-lines. The developing world, in particular, is successfully embracing it as a tool for social, economic and political empowerment.

As the developed world continues to take the evolutionary next step of accessing the Web data and content over broadband and mobile, the developing markets present a contrasting picture. Limited infrastructure due to lack or lower penetration of advanced broadband and mobile access networks and devices, lower income levels, higher illiteracy (including digital) rates, higher data charges, and a lack or limited availability of Web content in non-mainstream languages are among the many barriers threatening to increase the digital divide, thereby alienating a major section of the global population from repeating the success of mobile communications. The urgency to address these challenges can be better gauged from the fact that a majority of today’s three billion or more un-connected population live in the developing world.

Therefore, the vision of this group is to bridge the growing digital divide and create an environment of digital inclusion by developing solutions enabling mobile Web access to masses in the developing world to usher in opportunities for sustainable social development.

To achieve this vision, the group aims to explore the immediate potential (a time span of next 3 to 4 years) of mobile technologies available today defined by the devices (such as low-end mobile phones) and access networks (such as narrowband GSM/CDMA) accessed by a majority of the population as a personal or shared item by:

  • identifying the challenges of key stakeholders in development, deployment and availability of mobile Web for the target population
  • identifying challenges in making services accessible, relevant, usable, useful and affordable to the targeted populations
  • proposing potential solutions and best practices to resolve some of the key challenges identified
  • leveraging participation from the targeted population or the relevant stakeholders directly involved with them
  • raising awareness on the potential of the mobile phone as an ICT platform among the targeted population through relevant stakeholders


content description

This section should describe who are the targeted end-user

content items

  • in general, socially and economically deprived
  • rural communities
  • urban poor
  • important to note that some of the targeted user are concerned because they have potentially access to mobile phones and infrastructure, and some are not because mobile is not yet there. We are concentrating on the first category.

should we talk here about the strategy to reach targeted end-users ? strategy: through ngo/grassroot, through local entrepreneur, through institutional players/government


content description

This section should describe the type of participants that should take part of the discussions, idenitfying what they could bring to the group, and what they could take out of it

content items

  • NGOs / Grass-roots
  • International Organization
  • Mobile Industry: should we detail here  ? handset manufacturers, operators, ...
  • Academics (from developing and developed regions)
  • Government Representatives
  • Regulators
  • Entrepreneurship specialist

other suggestions ?

should we mention the "strategy" here: starting from the fact that it is not really possible to involve targeted end-users directly, so it is important to get those who are in direct contact, or are responsible for providing them development-oriented services ?


content description

This section should describe what are the goals of the group: which topics it would investigate, and why.

content items

  1. Identify the current practices, potential and issues/challenges in deploying applications for social and economic development on mobile phones
    • Technology
      • existing ways to deploy content, domain of applicability, and issues
      • network aspect
  2. End-user: what are the specific challenges and issues to make relevant, usable and useful applications for the targeted users
    • HCI: targeting people without past ict experience and without technological background have surely implications on the way design interface and interaction. what are the existing issues and potential solutions.
    • illiteracy: what is the problem ? what are the goals here ?...
    • internationalization/localization: same here
    • type of applications:we might want to explore what are the major domains or areas where services will be most useful to people (health, education,....) and the specific opportunities and constraints.
    • how to capture the needs ?
  3. Context
    • education/capacity building: what kind of curiculum could disseminate the knowledge in society. what re the different potential targeted candidates (ngos ? student ? in which domain ?...)
    • tools/toolbox: what exists, and what should exist for who (for which profile)
    • regulation: what are regulatory context that could prevent creation of new content and services, or at the opposite that could leverage and enable them.
    • capture of ict needs: how do you identify the needs a specific community would have?
  4. Develop resources
    • information of mobile infrastructure and device characteristics
    • information about available guidelines/ best practices/literature/training content...
    • information about available software/toolkit/solutions
other suggestion ?

Expected Output

content description

This section should describe what are the expected achievements at the end of the currently scheduled group life (end of may 2009)

content items

What is the expected output of this group in the 10-12 month timeframe ? I would consider a full success if at the end we have:

  • a handbook for those who would like to develop and deploy ict services on mobile phones to do select the right technologies
  • a set of ressources to help in deploying services
  • a roadmap for W3C and potentially other organizations to launch appropriate actions to tackle identified issues


The following people participated in the discussions and development of this document by alphabetical order

  • Nadeem Akhtar
  • Slim Amamou
  • Ken Banks -
  • Stephane Boyera - W3C
  • Raphael Dard - ITC
  • Bill Gillis - EFR Source
  • Kai Hendry
  • Lauri.K.Hirvonen - Nokia
  • Adesina Iluyemi
  • Renjish Kumar
  • Janusz Lukasiak
  • Marianne Marck - Walt Disney Group
  • JD Moore - Nokia
  • Jacob Ninan - IATA
  • Jeffrey Sonstein - RIT
  • Tadao
  • Evan Wheeler - UNICEF