Mobile GIS for 3rd World Development

Last month a spatial app, Live Traffic, won 2nd place ($5000) in the Nokia Open C challenge:

Live Traffic is a traffic assistance software that provides real-time traffic volumes, developed by a project team of four developers, led by by Pu Zhihua of Shanghai, China. Live Traffic adopts FCD (Floating Car Data) technology to acquire road traffic information anywhere anytime, and publish mapped traffic information to Nokia phone users via GPRS or EDGE connections. The developers ported 2,500 lines of code via Open C.

First place winner got $10,000 for … oh, don’t ask, suffice to say it is yet another video app.

Nokia is not a member of the Open Handset Alliance, which is promoting the Android API designed by Google, so I guess they are competing for market. With the top award for Google’s Android Developer Challenge set at $275,000, I bet Android beats out Open C.

I’m not certain, but it looks like an entry to the Android challenge could leverage the MapView. So maybe the grand prize winner will be something useful instead of yet another way to watch TV.

The Revolution will not be on Streaming Video

Like the folks at the One Laptop Per Child program, it seems like the US geospatial community is too focused on laptops/desktops as a hardware platform. At Large points out a good article about mobile phones in Africa (“Can Cell phones Save the World?”). I like the system described here by Manobi, but it seems like it needs spatial enablement.

What we need are some slick mobile geospatial apps for 3rd world development.

In a country like Bangladesh, for example, almost every everyone has a mobile phone while few have (or need?) laptops.

I suggest developing a mobile app that connects farmers, truckers, and packers. Imagine an eBay like system on mobile phones that connect these three groups of users. Location would be important since transport costs are such a large factor. Farmers (who rarely own trucks) would contract to sell produce to packers and have it delivered by truckers. The packer they choose would be based on trucking cost subtracted from the price offered by packer. Truckers would offer prices based on routing costs, (including deadhead), coordinating between multiple pickup locations.

With three people involved in a transaction (farmers, truckers, and packers), would it be possible for an eBay-like rating system?

If so, then the payoff could be substantial.

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