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MW4D Roadmap Document

NOTE May 2009: a new version is currently developed. Please provide comments on the new version


This document is the heart of the MW4D IG work, understanding the current challenges of deploying development-oriented services on mobile phones, evaluating existing technologies, and identifying most promising direction to explore to lower the barriers of developing and accessing services on mobile phones, and create an enabling environment.

@@SB: this abstract should be further developed at a later stage of the document cycle


  • Stephane Boyera (W3C)
  • Joseph Michiels (Foster Business School)
  • Arun Kumar (IBM India Research Lab)
  • Adesina Iluyemi (CHMI, University of Portsmouth)

NB: If you are editing this document, providing materials, please add your name and affiliation in this section.

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

As of September 2008, this document is not yet formally structured. It is used as a brainstorming medium, gathering informations before deciding how to structure it appropriately

Table of contents

Delivering Applications on Mobiles
Capacity Building

1. Delivering Applications on Mobiles

1.1 Section Description

This section has the aim to analyze existing real projects deployed in the field (on mobile phones) and for each type of applications identifies (not limited list):

  • what is the technology used
  • what are the requirements on device and network
  • who is the content developer and provider (government/public sector, big corporation, individual enterpreneur, grassroot/ngo)
  • what are the socio-economic impacts of the services (what kind of improvements for which segment of the population)
  • what are the content provider challenges
  • what are the access challenges (challenge for targeted users to access the service)
  • what are the cost and sustainability challenges

1.2 Committed Contributors

  • m-agriculture: Raphael, Arun
  • m-commerce/banking
  • m-education
  • m-health: Adesina, Arun
  • m-government:
  • crisis/disaster management:Evan
  • conservation
  • Humanitarian Assistance

1.3 Section Items

1.3.1 m-agriculture

Trade at Hand was developed with the aim of using mobile phones to enhance small and medium size enterprises and small exporters' competitiveness. The service started with an application that delivers fruit and vegetable prices, from international markets, to small exporters from West Africa.

  • Technology used: Price database to SMS (via automatic emails from price collector system to SMS Gateway).
  • Requirements on device and network: Basic services. Simple mobile phones and SMS capacity of network.
  • Content developer and provider: Ministry of agriculture of the French government, "Service des Nouvelles des Marchés" (Market News Services).
  • Socio-economic impacts of the services: Small fruit and vegetable exporters can consider their products' position in the international context. They can adapt business strategies (i.e. timely exports) according to price fluctuation during the various products' seasons. It generally participate in supporting their business competitiveness.
  • Content provider challenges: Tailor the service, with appropriate (solid) local partners in order to provide a sustainable (self-sustained) business model
  • Service access challenges: Information on the service is necessary but costly. Farmers could also benefit from this price information but need to be informed.
  • Cost and sustainability challenges: Finding a strong enough partner in the field, motivated enough to maintain the service, even with the low costs involved (service costs - therefore margins for service managers - are maintained to the lowest levels in order to provide a very affordable service to users (exporters).

IDRC-funded (Sri Lanka-based) LIRNEasia
"At Sri Lanka’s largest agricultural market a large projection screen overlooks 12 acres of stalls brimming with produce. Traders at the Dambulla market consult the screen to receive up-to-the-minute pricing information on produce being sold in the market."
Link to IDRC website and related information source.

1.3.2 m-commerce/banking

1.3.3 m-education

  • Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE)

The MILLEE [1] research project provided educational applications on programmable cellphones. It proposed the use of educational games as a means to improve learning of English as a second language. The project factored in the constraints of rural areas and slums in urban areas and promoted literacy acquisition in out-of-school context.

Delivery Platform used : Programmable Mobile Phones

Technology : Educational Software applications (e.g. games)

Challenges : Enabling development of educational software with localized content

1.3.4 m-health

  • mHealth by Voxiva [2]

"Voxiva has created a mobile solutions framework for healthcare called mHealth. It is a platform that can be configured to meet the unique information flows of multiple aspects of the healthcare industry (from information dissemination to adherence support to research). Voxivas mHealth solutions are designed to bring health workers closer to their patients in a cost-effective and low-burden way. Reminders are enabled for medications or for appointments. Ongoing tips and information on living can be provided to those with a chronic condition."

Delivery Platform : Mobile phones

Technology : SMS

1.3.5 m-government

1.3.6 crisis/disaster management

"Solutions built on the Pyramid Platform allow organizations to collect information from and communicate with distributed networks of people in a timely and systematic way. Voxiva also provides the tools to organize map and analyze the data collected and make the right decisions. Voxiva systems are deployed to track diseases, monitor patients, manage HIV/AIDS programs, report crime, and respond to disasters across Latin America, Africa, Asia and the United States." " A system in Africa, closely related to Voxixa and built on it s platform is the TRACnet Health Information System in Rwanda:" [3]

Delivery Platform : Multi-channel (Web, Phone, Fax)

Technology : Multiple (SMS, Voice, Email)

  • The Ugandan Health Information Network [4]

"The Ugandan Health Information Network in Uganda since 2004 has been using mHealth for supporting health workers capacity building through mLearning and health system performace through mobile Mobile Health Management Information System (MHMIS) with measurable and considerable success. Success has resulted in spread to other Africa countries like Mozambique, Rwanda and South Africa"

Delivery Platform : Multi-channel (Mobile Data/Internet, Web, Open Source, Voice)

Technology : Multiple (GSM/GPRS, PDAs, Laptops, African Access Point( Wall-mounted wireless server)

"Cell-Life, sponsored mostly by Vodacom Foundation has been using mHealth to support the processes of HIV/AIDS management. It has about 6 components, but Aftercare is an interesting one. It involves equpping Community Based Health Workers with mobiles phone for providing home-based care to People Living with HIV/AIDs in their homes within the community."

Delivery Platform : SMS, Web, Phone

Technology: GSM/GPRS/3G, WIG, USSD, Internet, Open Source, Mobilephones/Smartphones

  • Gramjyoti Mobile Telemedicine project [6]

"Piloting of advanced mHealth services has carried out in India. Ericsson India in partnership with Apollo Telemdicine Services and a local mobile operator have demonstrated real-time video teleconsultation between rural patients and urban doctors. Patients vital signs like blood pressure, hearts beats were also captured through digital devices and transmitted over the mHealth network. Mobile vans equpped with telemedicine devices provided the service in the rural communities. Up to 240 patients was successfully treated, as claimed by the implementers. Success of this pilot has also inspired pilot replication in Bhutan, Bangladesh and other parts of India"

Delivery Platform: Internet, IP

Technology: 3G/HSPA, Videoconferecing, medical diagnostic devices, Laptops

" Real-time diagnosis of Millennium Development Goals(MDGs)such as HIV/AIDs, TB and Malaria are required for starting prompt life-saving treatments. Blum Centre for Developing Economies, University of California are testing a mobile device can use for these functions in low-resource environment in rural Uganda. A similar pilot project currently underway in Egypt aims to use mHealth for diagnosing skin lesions through a teledermatology network [8]"

Delivery Platform: Mobile web, GPRS/3G

Technology: Smartphones, micro-cameras, micorscope lens

1.3.7 conservation

1.3.8 Humanitarian Assistance

2. Technologies

2.1 Section Description

In this section, we are identifying the different existing technologies that are available to deploy content and services on mobile phones. For each technology, at elast the following aspect should be identified:

  • what are the available tools to support apps authoring and/or

deployment using the technology

  • what is the process/cycle for a content provider to develop and deploy a service
  • what are the discovery mechanisms for potential users to learn about new services
  • what are the requirements and cost of delivering a service
  • what are the cost of accessing the service
  • what are the requirements on the service developer (expertise, hardware, software...)
  • what are the requirements on infrastructure and handset
  • what are the access challenges and potential strenghts for users

Software development for client/device mobile communication can be single-source (where an original equipment manufacturer primarily dictates a device’s functionality), but commonly expands to an ecosystem of developers for low and high level applications. As the ecosystem grows, development can be distributed across multiple participants.

A subclass of applications called browsers render and interact with (mobile) web content over http. This includes markup languages with legacies in the world wide web such as WML, AJAX, XHTML, CSS, cHTML, and many variations of them. Most browsers are defined by the OS, but some can also be installed by the user as a standalone application.

2.2 Committed Contributors

  • SMS:Evan, Arun
  • Voice:Arun, Stephane
  • Mobile Web: Arun, Stephane
  • Native applications:

2.3 Section Items

SMS Applications

  • CAM

"It is a framework of mobile tools that integrate through the use of a camera-enabled mobile phone. The CAM framework uses the mobile phone to capture images, scan documents, as well as to record and transmit financial transaction data via SMS."

"Field agents use specially printed documentation (called CAMForms) containing barcodes and free-form fields for hand-printed data. They accept applications, collect payments, and processes transactions by completing the CAMForms. The CAMForms are scanned on-site using the mobile phone’s built-in camera. A browser on phone the information on CAMForms and the data is stored on the phone it is within range of the mobile network. CAM utilizes SMS to transmit the data to a management information system (MIS) where it can be stored, managed, and reported on."[9]

Mobile Web

Problems of availability of Web browser.

  • There is no web browser on low-end phones.
  • Role of WAP browsers to be determined.
  • Cited From Sao Paulo workshop: Organizations like GSMA are not integrating in the specification of their Emerging Market Handset the need of having a web browser.

Mobile Browsers:

  • Opera Mobile (Opera Software)
  • Internet Explorer Mobile (Microsoft)
  • Mobile Firefox (currently under development, Mozilla Foundation)
  • jB5 Mobile Browser (Jataayu Software, now part of Bharti Telesoft)
  • Safari (Apple)
A more comprehensive listing can be found at

User Interface

  • usage of mobile Web browser are still problematic : entering URI, ...
  • The World Wide Telecom Web (also known as The Spoken Web)

"It is the vision of a Web for the billions of under-privileged, that is parallel and complementary to the existing World Wide Web. It is primarily meant for the under-served population in emerging economies, and allows creation and deployment of voice based sites (called VoiceSites - analogous to websites). These VoiceSites are created as well as hyperlinked using voice as a medium of interaction and are accessible over an ordinary phone call". A voice driven, server-side Browser is used to browse the Spoken Web.

Voice Applications

"VoiGen is a technology that simplifies the process of creation of voice based applications (called VoiceSites) by enabling it through a voice-driven interaction over a phone call. A phone subscriber could call in to VoiGen and compose an application by navigating through the custom options offered to her. This application is then deployed as a VoiceSite (analogous to a VoiceSite) and is accessible to others over a simple phone call. By virtue of having a voice-driven interface, the services get exposed to all telephony devices including very low end ones."

Native Applications

Native Mobile OS and Application Platform Software:

  • Google (Open Handset Alliance)
  • LiMo (Consortium for open, hardware agnostic, Linux OS for mobile devices.)
  • Nokia (Symbian)
  • Qualcomm (Brew)
  • Apple (iPhone SDK, Webkit)
  • Microsoft (Windows Mobile, Silverlight)
  • Adobe (Flashlite)

This is just a rough baseline for brainstorming, derived from Vision Mobile’s Seven Centers of Gravity In Mobile

Hardware: Hardware in it’s broadest definition is the ecosystem of devices (from OEMs), network (carriers/operators), and 3rd parties (add on components/hardware, ).

  • OEMs
  • Brief Summary of current state of OEMs?
b. Affect of OEM device lifecycle on access
  • Network Operators:
  • Brief Summary of current state of cellular network providers
b. Affect of Operators on access (deck content, network services)
  • Integration Partners
  • Brief Summary of "everyone else" in the ecosystem, 3rd party developers, handset mobile
b. Affect/Implications of 3rd parties

3. Challenges

3.1 Section Description

In this section, we are identifying the challenges of either providing or accessing content and services on mobile phones.

3.2 Committed Contributors

  • Nicolas

3.3 Section Items

Access Challenges

This sections contains challenges that are related to accessing content and applications, therefore apply to targeted end-users.


User Interface

  • usage of mobile Web browser are still problematic : entering URI, ...


  • price and the unpredictability of the cost of data services,
  • price of voice services
  • availability of affordable plan types (flat-rate, pay-go)

General Population Trends May Create Challenges around Adoption

  • Cultural comfort with new mobile behaviors (sms, billing, email, banking).
  • Lack of comfort with mobile communication behavior patterns (security concerns, faceless “remote” communication)
b. Gender roles can also affect adoption/relevancy. 
  • Limited locally and culturally relevant content in developing regions may limit adoption of services.
  • “Some of older phones have WAP browsers, and when available, it is used, but there is a lack of WAP content.”
  • Mentioned in minutes from W3C Workshop on the Mobile Web in Developing Countries, Bangalore, India December 2006
b. Also see “The Role of Mobile Phones In Sustainable Rural Poverty Reduction”, Bhavnani, Silarszky, ...

Problems of configuration :

  • the difficulty to configure a phone to enable web browsing, compared to the immediate accessibility of SMS is seen as a blocking point.
  • Discoverability is currently a limiting factor for new applications.
  • Mobile devices currently have little OTA upgrades available.
  • Exceptions to this exist, but have not gained footholds in developing regions.

Content Providers Challenges

This sections contains challenges that are related to developing and deploying content and applications, therefore apply to content providers.

Standardization of Software
  • Hardware continues to significantly evolve and diverge and therefore it is unlikely that it will standardize in the near term.
  • Accessing information and communication beyond current baselines (such as sms communication protocol) requires sophistication of handsets and mobile applications. Examples where development is active includes mobile web browsing applications, or more robust device applications. [more examples?]. As software platforms become more sophisticated, it also diverges into different standards, limiting wide-spread adoption/use.
  • The relationship between the Web and SMS /voice applications also may factor into the definition of application development.
a.[See W3C Workshop on the Role of Mobile technologies in fostering Social Development, São Paulo, Brazil June 2008, for more on this.] 

Platform & application environments have begun to mature from integrated & proprietary solutions to flexible and open environments.

  • Generally, the most common software platforms are still “closed” and proprietary.
  • The most open platforms are building momentum but not widespread adoption.


Regional Issues Vary

  • The needs of developing regions/populations may vary depending on the current state of infrastructure, cultural differences, existing NGO and private initiatives, and other factors. Choosing a “one size fits all” strategic direction across diverse needs is difficult.
  • Examples:
b. Supporting NGOs can include data collection (mHealth), wide-area communication. 
c. Supporting populations directly can include increasing mobile services (mBanking) and content (job postings, safety alerts).

Other Non-technological Challenges [This is partially informed from the minutes from W3C Workshop on the Role of Mobile technologies in fostering Social Development, São Paulo, Brazil June 2008].


  • Regulation of telecom market
  • Licensing
  • Access to Infrastructure

Domain Specific Issues for Targeted Solutions

  • mBanking: E.g. m-banking applications require specific regulatory context, and specific agreements.
  • mHealth and Public Health: data/communication have complex relationships with the treatment of Personal Health Information (PHI), local privacy laws, and regulatory standards (ex: HIPAA).
  • mHealth: applications for supporting health workers' clinical and healthcare activities and health system enterprise management and service delivery (Adesina.).
  • mAgriculture: mobile applications for supporting farmers' farming activities, logistic support, weather and environmental information and products sales and distibution information (Adesina).
  • Identity: These issues listed above may be magnified by the nature of technology usage in rural areas where devices are shared and issues like privacy, security, and identity can arise.
  • Identity: In a context of heavy use of the shared phone model (one phone used by many people), mobile services and applications providers have to particularly take this factor into account.

4 Capacity Building

4.1 Section Description

This section analyzes existing initiatives around developing capacity on mobile applications development, their impact, and future directions to explore.

4.2 Committed Contributors

  • Stephane

4.3 Section Items

5. References

5.1 Section Description

This section contains references to documents/articles/reports/papers that are providing input to the other sections of this roadmap

5.2 Section Items