mBillionth 2015 Awards: how mobile apps are making a difference in South Asia
Each year, the mBillionth Awards recognises and honours outstanding mobile content and apps from around South Asia. A jury put together by the Digital Empowerment Foundation screens nominees online followed by two days of heated face-to-face debates.
Three-hundred-and-twenty nominations from across five countries in South Asia were received for the 2015 awards, with 24 winners declared across 10 categories. Most nominations were in the categories of mobile health, business and education, followed by mobile governance and social development for women and children. From Indian states, the largest number of nominations came from Maharashtra, NCR and Karnataka, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Here are profiles of the winners, with more details on the finalists and exhibitors to come next. (See also my previous photo essay and winner write-ups from last year’s mBillionth Awards 2014, and highlights from YourStory’s own MobileSparks startup events from 2014 and 2013.) It was an honour and delight for me to serve as awards juror, conference panel moderator, and anchor for the mBillionth awards ceremony!
Agriculture and Ecology
ICT Based Livestock Management System from mPower Social Enterprises is an app for livestock workers to register farmers and their cattle. During regular visits, the livestock worker captures the changes in health, production, rearing management of the cattle and takes relevant photographs. Vets in urban areas can remotely view the profiles and make recommendations. The system has served 2,700 farmers in six districts of Bangladesh.
Business, Commerce and Banking
Banyan Sustainable Waste Management has developed a mobile app that empowers informal sector waste collectors for efficient waste management. Networks of kabariwalas (urban waste collectors) in the greater Hyderabad area can be coordinated to map, route and schedule pickups and prices, and can benefit manufacturers as well. Over 100 kabariwalas have currently signed up.
bKash, a subsidiary of BRAC Bank, is a mobile phone based financial service for ensuring greater financial inclusion in Bangladesh, especially in low income segments and those living in remote rural areas. The money management tool enables an adult to transact money nationwide, instantly and easily using a mobile phone. Already the second largest MFS in the world (in terms of wallet numbers) bKash’s customer base has rapidly grown to more than 10 million in the last four years.
Unlockar Lock Screen connects users with brands via a smart lock screen that offers user preferred content, entertainment and advertising. In return, the user gets rewarded with real-world freebies. The content offerings are divided into different channels accessible via gamification.
Culture and Heritage
mGuide from Sri Lanka’s MobiTel is a mobile app that offers audio information on sites of archeological and tourist interest in Sri Lanka. Developed in collaboration with Sri Lanka's Ministry of National Heritage, Department of Archaeology and Sri Lanka Tourism, the service is indexed by a short code to each site in the country, and is targeted at pilgrims, tourists and students. About 20,000 subscribers per month have accessed the service.
Kan Khajura Tesan, developed by Hindustan Unilever, is a mobile-based marketing campaign in media-dark regions of India which provides free ad-supported audio entertainment via mobiles. Many rural households have more access to mobiles than TV. The service is activated via missed calls, and has reached out to more than 33 million subscribers across India, delivering 700 million minutes of engagement.
FlipBeats, developed by Sri Lanka’s HSenid, is a user-friendly music player app that allows users to search and listen to free music online. The cloud-based model already reports 1,50,000 downloads, and offers users options to edit meta-data tags and music categories. The app is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Russian.
Bangla Boipoka (‘bookworm’) is a mobile app for selling and reading e-books in the Bengali language. It is the largest Bangla e-book market place in the world. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is used to manage copyrighted content. Community features include ratings and reviews.
Education and Learning
LokSewa Nepal is a mobile app that helps ensure Right To Education (RTE) Act compliance for all government schools in the Nepal. It assists students in preparing for LokSewa exams conducted by the Public Service Commission, Nepal. Syllabus updates, news and question banks are provided, and students from remote areas do not need to flock to Kathmandu for such services as with print resources. The application has, so far, been downloaded more than 45,000 times.
Shikkhok.com is a platform for providing free online high-quality education to underprivileged students in Bangladesh and India. Founded by computer science professor Ragib Hasan, the Bengali language MOOC site offers 75 courses, and has reached more than 7,00,000 students and delivered 6 million lectures in less than 2.5 years. The site is also optimised for mobile devices, and draws on a team of volunteer teachers from across the world.
Smartur 3D by TrendyWorks Technologies is a mobile app that enables students to learn through enjoyable 3D stereoscopic experiences. Material and problems from the CBSE and NCERT curriculum are made to look ‘alive’, thanks to the use of augmented reality. The stereoscopic and interactive content helps student grasp complex concepts and develop their own activities. Over 40,000 downloads in India are reported.
GIS@School from the National Informatics Center, Madhya Pradesh, is a mobile app that has enabled Madhya Pradesh to ensure RTE Act compliance for all government schools in the State. It ensures geo-tagged and time-stamped data and images of all 1.25 lakh government schools in Madhya Pradesh. This helps ensure availability of a primary school within one km radius, middle school within three km radius and a high school within five km radius of each inhabitant.
Mission Mode Project from Demi Solutions is a mobile app that enables quick, easy, efficient and accurate digitisation of government documents and records in Sikkim. The initiative is part of the NeGP, and uses tablets on a movable platform instead of the traditionally rigid flatbed scanners. The new process design is fast, reliable and efficient, and the benefits are passed on to citizens in the form of widespread convenient access.
Karnataka Mobile One is a mobile app in Kannada and English for the delivery of over 4,000 government and private sector services to citizens. The information, alerting and transaction services span G2C, B2C and G2B segments. As of May 2015, there have reportedly been more than 1.5 lakh downloads and payments of over Rs 3 crore.
e/m Attendance is a mobile app for monitoring timely attendance of government school teachers in Madhya Pradesh. Geo-stamping of attendance times for all government school teachers has been implemented in all eight districts of Indore Division. The service now covers 55,000 teachers in 18,000 schools. Attendance data generated helps prepare salary bills and brings in transparency to the whole system.
Preventive Healthcare Service from National Health Mission, Uttar Pradesh, a mobile app that enables ante-natal and infancy preventive care delivery services to rural women. It is specially designed for Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) - a cadre of frontline health workers instituted by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs). The solution sidesteps the need for text-heavy reference materials via self-learning modules and quizzes, and has workflow support for data gathering and SMS alerts.
mSakhi by Swayam Shikshan Prayog provides mobile healthcare services for Arogya Sakhis in rural Maharashtra. They are provided with tablets and mobile diagnostic equipment (HB meter, glucometer, BP machine) for door-to-door rural medical services communicated in Marathi. Expert advice is provided via physicians in cities like Pune. Beneficiaries detected with anomalies are alerted and referred by Sakhis to existing network-hospitals and doctors. Coverage now includes 56 villages in Osmanabad district, 20 villages in Ahmednagar district and two villages in Chakan.
Web Accessibility Checker by GreenClouds Education Solutions is a cross-device website checker and design tool for ensuring accessibility compliance for people with disabilities. More than 100 automated tests are provided for a wide range of sites providing important and relevant resources in education, employment, government, commerce, and health.
Netradaan (eye donation) from Sightica is an app which makes it easy for citizens to provide information about eye donation. The app provides an Eye Donation Form whereby a sighted user can pledge his/her eyes for donation (after death). The Eye Bank Association of India receives the forms and sends the donor a donor card, and also alerts the next of kin about the pledge made by the donor. The app is currently available in English and Hindi.
Travel and Tourism
CoYatri.com is an app for enabling inter-city carpooling by allowing car owners to share vacant seats with willing travelers. The ride-sharing portal and app is particularly relevant for home town travel during weekends and festival season for working professionals and students. The mobile-based service also handles security concerns by verifying each and every individual who wants to register with CoYatri, and enables inter-person communication. There are also features like GPS tracking and panic buttons. Over 4,500 registered users and 570 rides have been booked till date.
Chutti.pk is a mobile app that provides customised travel information for Muslim travelers from Pakistan. There is also an Arabic language version called Irhal. The app has GPS-enabled locations of Halal restaurants and mosques, prayer timings and a compass showing the direction of Makkah (Mecca). Monetisation is through advertising, affiliate sales of travel packages and hotel bookings.
Place SMS is an app from Pakistan that allows users to send location-triggered messages to selected recipients and thus inform them the user’s current location. Use case scenarios are: informing parents when the school bus is near the destination, car-pooling, and traffic jam alerts.
Development for Women and Children
Maya Apa from Bangladesh is a mobile app that enables women to get advice on health and well-being issues from experts. Users can choose their language of preference from Bangla or English, and a team of doctors, lawyers and psychosocial counselors will respond to a query within 48 hours. Community inputs are also archived and searchable as a grassroots resource.
iSafe from UST Global is a mobile app that enables individuals in Thiruvananthapuram to alert the police when in a panic situation. Alerts are captured in City Police website and app, and an alert is sent to the Police Control Room along with the location, subscriber ID and IMEI number of the mobile. The nearest police vehicle is then dispatched for rescue.
Special mentions were also awarded to RainbowAgri, BillBachao, Mindspark, m-ePay, m-PDS, e-novatRx, ixigo app, and Talking Eyes.
Runners up were Mandi Trades, Kisan Mitra, Sulekha.com, Mobcast, Series Addict, YuppTV, DEAIB-Digital Education In a Box, Lab-on-a-Tab, MP Commercial Tax Department, Mobile Application Based Quality Monitoring System (MABQMS), FreedomTB, ICT Solutions for Real Time Monitoring, Arogya Sakhi, Vatsalya Mandla, ACF Mass Screening, NOVV, VoiceOFr, Mogo Reader, Uttara Alert, PParke and EyeWatch.
The high-profile jury members were drawn across industry, media, academia and government:
Rajen Varada (CEO, Open Knowledge Community)
Moe Chiba (Programme Specialist for Culture, UNESCO)
Soumya Sarkar (National Editor, Mint)
Archana Sahay (Community Relations Manager, India; Cisco)
Madhu Singh Sirohi (Country Head, Vodafone Foundation, India)
Rajnesh Singh (Regional Bureau Director for Asia-Pacific, Internet Society)
Manoj Ramchandra Dawane (Vice President and Head of Technology, Ericsson)
Ingrid Srinath (CEO, Hivos India)
Amitabh Singhal (Board Member, Public Internet Registry)
Jonathan Bill (Founder, PluggedIndia)
Andrew Garton (Filmmaker and Creative Producer)
Vijay Sai Pratap (Director, Business Development, OnMobile)
Ranjan Reddy (Vice President, Boku)
Madan Padaki (Managing Director, Head Held High Services)
Sameera Jayawardena (Project Manager, ICTA, Sri Lanka)
Anirban Mukerji (Senior Manager – Wireless Reach, Qualcomm)
Nikhil Pahwa (Founder, Medianama.com)
Sunny Sharma (Founder, Foetron)
Amarendra Srivastava (Business Coach, Omnizient Labs).