mBillionth South Asia Awards: 100 innovators recognised for mobile excellence

The 4th annual mBillionth Mobile South Asia Awards and Conference wrapped up in New Delhi with a new round of winners in 12 categories, and it was an honour and delight for me to anchor the awards ceremony. This was also accompanied by the Vodafone Foundation-sponsored Mobile for Good awards for social entrepreneurs, four of whom won Rs. 10 lakhs each.

A number of international experts weighed in on the status of mobile diffusion around the world, and the opportunities for startups.


Mobile evangelist Tomi Ahonen reeled off a number of applications of mobiles around the world: Nigeria announced its new constitution through mobile; Guatemala announces national disaster alerts through mobiles; Estonia has launched voting and polling through mobiles; and Pakistan has female literacy drives powered by mobiles.

“The mobile phone is a ‘truth machine’ – it’s in your pocket at all times and you use it to check facts in real time, via Google search or social media,” said Ahonen. Mobiles present the opportunity of a lifetime for innovators, he added.

Reshan Dewapura, CEO of Sri Lanka’s ICT Agency, said mobiles play a big role for people at the bottom of the pyramid. Sri Lanka has 125% penetration of SIM cards in the population, and every household has a mobile user. Better revenue share for developers by mobile operators is needed to spur the mobile ecosystem, and more market education and incentives are needed to spur mobile Internet growth.

N. Ravi Shanker, administrator of India’s Universal Service Obligation Fund for telecoms, said that within a couple of years all Indian panchayats will have 100 Mbps broadband connectivity. “Digital empowerment can help remove illiteracy in India. Mobiles are moving from becoming objects of desire to instruments of empowerment,” he said.

“We need apps that can scale up across India, and to other countries,” urged R. Sukumar, editor of Mint newspaper.

“Mobiles are potent tools for bridging digital divide, enhancing educational and health services, and improving government transparency and accountability,” observed Dr. Rajendra Kumar, joint secretary of the Department of Electronics and IT.

India has an estimated 30-40% penetration of mobile phones, with only 10% penetration in rural areas. There are about 220 million devices in India today – still a long way to go for truly realising the benefits of mobiles on a mass scale, according to Osama Manzar, chairman of the Digital Empowerment Foundation.

Mohammad Chowdhury, telecom director at PWC, said by 2020 there will be 20 billion connected devices on the planet, three times the size of the world’s population, opening new kinds of opportunities for services providers and developers.

The conference also brought together over 100 tech startups, innovators, and social entrepreneurs, who exhibited their services, took part in panel discussions and competed for excellence awards (see Table 1). Proceeds from books sold at the conference went to Uttarakhand relief funds.

Vodafone’s Mobile for Good awards went to Mojolab’s CGNet Swara (story telling solutions for tribals), ZMQ (Mobile Lifeline Channel for maternal and child health), BBC Media Action (mobile health), and ACCORD (Adivasi tea leaf marketing workflow solutions). The winners get Rs 1 million (10 lakhs) each, plus mentoring services by PwC and the Digital Empowerment Foundation for two years.

Table 1: mBillionth Awards: Finalists and Winners for 2013

Category Winners Finalists 
m-Business& Commerce/ Banking ZipDial mobile marketing and Analytics Platform [India]SEWA-SBi Financial inclusion Programme [India]Adivasi tea leaf marketing (Atlm) paperless workflow [India] Kotak Stock trader [India]DelightCircle [India]
m-Culture& Heritage my indiEye GPS Video tour [India] Vastu Compass [India]Gujarati Pride [India]
m-Education& Learning CAtapp [India]Career Counseling [India]Chala Skul Ku Jiba (let us go to school) [India]  Learn English With the BritishCouncil [Sri Lanka]Harness touch-on-Cloud [India]
m-Entertainment comix on-the-go [India]nexGtv [India]ZengatV [India] Wild Blossoms Project [India]Palm Reader [India]
m-Environment Peer Water Exchange – SMS Reporting [India]Wild india [India] Project Noah [USA]
m-Governance Silent observer [India]NCHmobiAPP JGJ-(Jago Grahak Jago) in Hindi [India]mobile Seva [India] mPCB mobile Voice Campaign [India]mGovernance in Maharashtra [India]
m-Health Healthkart Plus [India]Nokia life and Arogya World: mobile diabetes awareness program [India]Mobile based Surveillance Quest using IT (moSQuit) [India] HeWeFi – Health Wellness & Fitness [India]Scale-up and Replication of CommCare in Bihar [India]Sevamob [India]
m-Inclusion Jharkhand mobile Vaani [India]Saral Rozgar [India] Better life [India]
m-Travel & Tourism RedBus.in [India]olaCabs [India]SmartShehar [India] mobile First- Products for makemytrip [India]Cleartrip [India]
Mobile empowerment for women and children my Baby Diary [India]mobile Academy and mobile Kunji [India]Aponjon – mAmA [Bangladesh]Helpls [India] Ez School Bus locator [India]Home Remedies [India
m-News & Journalism Alive [India]SamudaayVaani [India]NewsHunt [India]
m-Infrastructure AppWrapper [India]India Against Spam [India]Grameenphone Hysawa [Bangladesh]
Madanmohan Rao

Madanmohan Rao

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