Mobile Technology Helps Every Person Count

From National Geographic:

Using basic mobile phones and text messages, “invisible” poor or homeless people in India and Africa can be counted as individuals with needs and rights — and receive their share of social resources.

In this installment of Mobile Message, Matt Berg, a technology practitioner and researcher in the Modi Research Group at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, discusses how mobile technology may help make everyone count.

Mobile Message is a series of blog posts about how mobile phones are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.

By Matt Berg

From the abacus to early computers, technology has long provided mechanisms that help to better account for things — finances, transactions, diseases, people. In so doing, it has conferred value on those things, making them count.

Today, the mobile phone promises to fundamentally increase accountability by connecting people, even the world’s poor, to modern communication networks that facilitate the collection and sharing of information.

The value of increased accountability can be seen in everything from systematic counting of children receiving vaccines or attending school to tracking how funds allocated to a public works project are spent…

Born in Cameroon and raised in Senegal, West Africa, Matt Berg is a technology practitioner and researcher in the Modi Research Group at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and serves as the ICT Director for the Millennium Villages Project. He is a respected thinker in the mobile-for-development space and helped created ChildCount+, a child and maternal mobile health platform. Previously, Matt was the director of the Geekcorps’ Mali Program and Chief of Party for USAID’s Last Mile Initiative aimed at improving access to information via innovative ICT services in rural Mali.

Matt was a Pop!Tech 2010 Social Innovation Fellow, the 2010 Knox College Young Alumni Achievement Award Winner, and was named to the 2010 Time 100 List of Most Influential People for his technology work in Africa.