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April 16 2012


Vodafone Americas Foundation Announces 2012 Wireless Innovation Project Winners

Three Groundbreaking Mobile Innovations Target Critical Issues in Agriculture, Healthcare and Developing Economies

The Vodafone Americas Foundation and mHealth Alliance are pleased to announce the 2012 winners of the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™ and the mHealth Alliance Award, a competition designed to spark innovation and help solve pressing global issues. The winning projects include Wireless Bug Sensor, a wireless sensor that helps farmers “spy” on insects; OScan, an inexpensive and easy-to-use tool for screening oral cancer; and InSight, a simple credit building tool for entrepreneurs in developing countries. Each of these projects leverage the ever-increasing accessibility to wireless technology to solve prevalent social problems. Collectively, the projects will be awarded $650,000 in cash and prizes to further develop their projects for implementation and adoption. The winners will accept their awards at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington D.C. on April 17, 2012.

"It’s incredibly energizing to be able recognize these innovative solutions for social good," said June Sugiyama, Director of Vodafone Americas Foundation™. "This is our fourth year of this competition and we continue to identify unique and impactful solutions.”

Introducing the 2012 Wireless Innovation Project Winners:

1st Place, winner of $300,000 – Wireless Bug Sensor, University of California, Riverside
A largely unrecognized barrier that farmers face to crop production is insect infestation, which is particularly difficult for farmers in developing countries due to high costs and limited access to pesticides. The Wireless Bug-Sensor team at UC Riverside in collaboration with ISCA Technologies has created a technology that senses the location, type, and number of harmful insects in the field, alerting the farmer about the type of intervention needed with a once-a-day text message. Inspired by the lasers used in spy movies to listen in on conversations, this wireless technology drastically reduces the costs typically spent by farmers on untargeted, blanket pesticide spraying. Ultimately, this will increase profits for farmers as well as alleviate hunger worldwide. www.cs.ucr.edu/~eamonn/CE/

2nd Place, winner of $200,000, and mHealth Alliance winner of $50,000 in strategic and networking support – OScan, Stanford University
70% of the world's tobacco consumption comes from developing countries and is sharply rising, leading to a large number of deadly diseases, including oral cancer. Early detection and treatment of these diseases can dramatically improve survival rates. The OScan team at Stanford University has developed an affordable screening tool that brings standardized, multi-modal imaging of the oral cavity into the hands of rural health workers around the world, allowing individuals to easily and effectively screen for oral cancer. This inexpensive device mounts on a conventional camera phone and allows for data to be instantly transmitted to dentists and oral surgeons. OScan aims to provide a means to empower health workers to connect early stage patients to health care providers and teach communities about the importance of oral hygiene. stanford.edu/~manup/Oscan

3rd Place, winner of $100,000 – InSight, InVenture
In many developing countries small business entrepreneurs are unable to grow their businesses and take advantage of financial services simply due to the fact that they are perceived to be risky. With InSight, an SMS-based money management tool, these entrepreneurs can track their finances in their native language, increasing their financial literacy and more efficiently running their businesses. More importantly, InSight serves as a global credit rating platform for small business owners. By creating access to credit reporting opportunities for these individuals, InSight will help to lower interest rates, mitigate risk, and increase profits. This is a vital tool that will lift entrepreneurs and other individuals in developing countries out of poverty. www.inventure.org/using/lea...ut-insight

“The Vodafone Americas Foundation partnership with the mHealth Alliance is exceptionally powerful in that it allows us to propel ideas for wireless technology into action,” said Patty Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance. “The field of mHealth is constantly growing, and now more than ever it is essential for us to support innovations that will enable us to overcome development challenges and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. This kind of competition inspires entrepreneurs and innovators to explore unchartered territory, enabling the realization of visionary ideas that improve communities throughout the world.”

Open to nonprofit organizations, universities, and NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) each year, the Wireless Innovation Project selects three winners and helps stimulate the projects through the next stages of development, such as prototyping and scaling. Since the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project was launched in 2009, nine winners have been awarded more than $1.8 million in cash and additional benefits. Vodafone provides invaluable support for the winning projects by integrating the teams with the foundation’s vast network of social entrepreneurs, NGO’s and international agencies.

ABOUT the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™
Vodafone Americas Foundation™ launched the Wireless Innovation Project™ in 2009 to make a global impact through innovative wireless solutions. Applicants compete for first, second and third-place prizes worth $300,000, $200,000 and $100,000. The mHealth Alliance Award winner will receive an additional prize package worth $50,000, which includes strategic and networking support from the mHealth Alliance, an organization dedicated to enabling the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world.
A panel of esteemed judges from the fields of wireless engineering, international development, social entrepreneurship, and business evaluate the applications for their potential to address issues in the fields of education, health, access to communication, the environment, and economic development.
Further details about the competition and winning projects can be found at project.vodafone-us.com. More information about the mHealth Alliance and its work can be found at www.mhealthalliance.org.

ABOUT the Vodafone Americas Foundation™
Vodafone Americas Foundation™ is part of Vodafone’s global network of foundations. It is affiliated with Vodafone Group Plc, the world's leading mobile telecommunications company, with ownership interests in more than 30 countries and Partner Markets in more than 40 countries. As of March 31, 2011, Vodafone had approximately 370 million proportionate customers worldwide. In the U.S., the foundation directs its philanthropic activities towards wireless technology projects in order to make a positive and enduring impact on the community. The Foundation is driven by a passion for the world around us. It makes grants that help people in the community and around the world lead fuller lives.

ABOUT the mHealth Alliance
The mHealth Alliance champions the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world. Working with diverse partners to integrate mHealth into multiple sectors, the Alliance serves as a convener for the mHealth community to overcome common challenges by sharing tools, knowledge, experience, and lessons learned. The mHealth Alliance advocates for more and better quality research and evaluation to advance the evidence base; seeks to build capacity among health and industry decision-makers, managers, and practitioners; promotes sustainable business models; and supports systems integration by advocating for standardization and interoperability of mHealth platforms. The mHealth Alliance also hosts HUB (Health Unbound), a global online community for resource sharing and collaborative solution generation. Hosted by the United Nations Foundation, and founded by the Rockefeller Foundation, Vodafone Foundation, and UN Foundation, the Alliance now also includes HP, the GSM Association, and Norad among its founding partners. For more information, visit www.mhealthalliance.org.

August 03 2011


Transparency, iteration, standards: Knight-Mozilla’s learning lab offers journalism lessons of open source

This spring, the Knight Foundation and Mozilla took the premise of hacks and hackers collaboration and pushed it a step further, creating a contest to encourage journalists, developers, programmers, and anyone else so inclined to put together ideas to innovate news.

Informally called “MoJo,” the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership has been run as a challenge, the ultimate prize being a one-year paid fellowship in one of five news organizations: Al Jazeera English, the BBC, the Guardian, Boston.com, and Zeit Online.

We’ve been following the challenge from contest entries to its second phase, an online learning lab, where some 60 participants were selected on the basis of their proposal to take part in four weeks of intense lectures. At the end, they were required to pitch a software prototype designed to make news, well, better.

Through the learning lab, we heard from a super cast of web experts, like Chris Heilmann, one of the guys behind the HTML5 effort; Aza Raskin, the person responsible for Firefox’s tabbed browsing; and John Resig, who basically invented the jQuery JavaScript library; among other tech luminaries. (See the full lineup.)

There was a theme running through the talks: openness. Not only were the lectures meant to get participants thinking about how to make their projects well-designed and up to web standards, but they also generally stressed the importance of open-source code. (“News should be universally accessible across phones, tablets, and computers,” MoJo’s site explains. “It should be multilingual. It should be rich with audio, video, and elegant data visualization. It should enlighten, inform, and entertain people, and it should make them part of the story. All of that work will be open source, and available for others to use and build upon.”)

We also heard from journalists: Discussing the opportunities and challenges for technology and journalism were, among other luminaries, Evan Hansen, editor-in-chief of Wired.com; Amanda Cox, graphics editor of The New York Times; Shazna Nessa, director of interactive at the AP; Mohamed Nanabhay, head of new media at Al Jazeera English; and Jeff Jarvis.

In other words, over the four weeks of the learning lab’s lectures, we heard from a great group of some of the smartest journalists and programmers who are thinking about — and designing — the future of news. So, after all that, what can we begin to see about the common threads emerging between the open source movement and journalism? What can open source teach journalism? And journalism open source?

Finding 1:
* Open source is about transparency.
* Journalism has traditionally not been about transparency, instead keeping projects under wraps — the art of making the sausage and then keeping it stored inside newsrooms.

Because open-source software development often occurs among widely distributed and mostly volunteer participants who tinker with the code ad-hoc, transparency is a must. Discussion threads, version histories, bug-tracking tools, and task lists lay bare the process underlying the development — what’s been done, who’s done it, and what yet needs tweaking. There’s a basic assumption of openness and collaboration achieving a greater good.

Ergo: In a participatory news world, can we journalists be challenged by the ethics of open source to make the sausage-making more visible, even collaborative?

No one is advocating making investigative reporting an open book, but sharing how journalists work might be a start. As Hansen pointed out, journalists are already swimming in information overload from the data they gather in reporting; why not make some of that more accessible to others? And giving people greater space for commenting and offering correction when they think journalists have gone wrong — therein lies another opportunity for transparency.

Finding 2:
* Open source is iterative.
* Journalism is iterative, but news organizations generally aren’t (yet).

Software development moves quickly. Particularly in the open source realm, developers aren’t afraid to make mistakes and make those mistakes public as they work through the bugs in a perpetual beta mode rather than wait until ideas are perfected. The group dynamic means that participants feel free to share ideas and try new things, with a “freedom to fail” attitude that emphasizes freedom much more than failure. Failure, in fact, is embraced as a step forward, a bug identified, rather than backward. This cyclical process of iterative software development — continuous improvement based on rapid testing — stands in contrast to the waterfall method of slower, more centralized planning and deployment.

On the one hand, journalism has iterative elements, like breaking news. As work, journalism is designed for agility. But journalism within legacy news organizations is often much harder to change, and tends to be more “waterfall” in orientation: The bureaucracy and business models and organizational structures can take a long time to adapt. Trying new things, being willing to fail (a lot) along the way, and being more iterative in general are something we can learn from open-source software.

Finding 3:
* Open source is about standards.
* So is journalism.

We were surprised to find that, despite its emphasis on openness and collaboration, the wide world of open source is also a codified world with strict standards for implementation and use. Programming languages have documentation for how they are used, and there is generally consensus among developers about what looks good on the web and what makes for good code.

Journalism is also about standards, though of a different kind: shared values about newsgathering, news judgment, and ethics. But even while journalism tends to get done within hierarchical organizations and open-source development doesn’t, journalism and open source share essentially the same ideals about making things that serve the public interest. In one case, it’s programming; in the other case, it’s telling stories. But there’s increasingly overlap between those two goals, and a common purpose that tends to rise above mere profit motive in favor of a broader sense of public good.

However, when it comes to standards, a big difference between the the open-source movement and journalism is that journalists, across the board, aren’t generally cooperating to achieve common goals. While programmers might work together to make a programming language easier to use, news organizations tend to go at their own development in isolation from each other. For example, The Times went about building its pay meter fairly secretly: While in development, even those in the newsroom didn’t know the details about the meter’s structure. Adopting a more open-source attitude could teach journalists, within news organizations and across them, to think more collaboratively when it comes to solving common industry problems.

Finding 4:
* Open-source development is collaborative, free, and flexible.
* Producing news costs money, and open source may not get to the heart of journalism’s business problems.

Open-source software development is premised on the idea of coders working together, for free, without seeking to make a profit at the expense of someone else’s intellectual property. Bit by bit, this labor is rewarded by the creation of sophisticated programming languages, better-and-better software, and the like.

But there’s a problem: Journalism can’t run on an open source model alone. Open source doesn’t give journalism any guidance for how to harness a business model that pays for the news. Maybe open-source projects are the kind of work that will keep people engaged in the news, thus bulking up traditional forms of subsidy, such as ad revenue. (Or, as in the case of the “open R&D” approach of open APIs, news organizations might use openness techniques to find new revenue opportunities. Maybe.)

Then again, the business model question isn’t, specifically, the point. The goal of MoJo’s learning lab, and the innovation challenge it’s part of, is simply to make the news better technologically — by making it more user-friendly, more participatory, etc. It’s not about helping news organizations succeed financially. In all, the MoJo project has been more about what open source can teach journalism, not vice versa. And that’s not surprising, given that the MoJo ethos has been about using open technologies to help reboot the news — rather than the reverse.

But as the 60 learning lab participants hone their final projects this week, in hopes of being one of the 15 who will win a next-stage invite to a hackathon in Berlin, they have been encouraged to collaborate with each other to fill out their skill set — by, say, a hack partnering with a hacker, and so forth. From those collaborations may come ideas not only for reinventing online journalism, but also for contributing to the iteration of open-source work as a whole.

So keep an eye out: Those final projects are due on Friday.

April 12 2011


Three Pioneering Projects Win Coveted 2011 Vodafone and Mhealth Alliance Wireless Innovation Awards

Three Pioneering Projects Win Coveted

Vodafone And Mhealth Alliance Wireless Innovation Awards


$650,000 Competition Recognizes Projects with Most Potential to Solve Critical Global Challenges


The Vodafone Americas Foundation and mHealth Alliance today announced the winners of the third annual Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™ and second annual mHealth Alliance Award. The winning projects include a device to diagnose eye disorders, a wireless system that identifies high-risk pregnancies, and a solar-powered apparatus to monitor patients’ medication and relay the information to their local health workers.  The projects will be awarded $650,000 in cash and prizes to further develop their projects for implementation and adoption. Team members from the winning projects will accept their awards together at the Global Philanthropy Forum conference in Redwood City, CA on April 14, 2011.


The 2011 Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™ and the mHealth Alliance Award winners are:


First Place Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™:

NETRA ($300,000)

From the MIT Media Lab, NETRA is an inexpensive mobile visual testing tool, which is a clip-on eyepiece for mobile phones that can instantly screen for eye conditions and transmit data to an optometrist, allowing for early treatment of common refractive eye disorders and cataracts. The device exploits emerging high-resolution screens of mobile devices and a software that analyzes the patient interaction. It will lead the way to addressing the most common, treatable visual impairments that, because of a lack of access to technology, disable more than half a billion people worldwide. (More at http://eyenetra.com


Second Place Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™ and

Additional mHealth Alliance Award Winner:

Smart Diaphragm ($200,000 plus $50,000 in mHealth Alliance Award benefits)

From University of California, San Francisco, the Smart Diaphragm is a wireless monitoring and early warning system for high-risk pregnancies that can be cheaply and easily administered by a patient. Around the world, one in ten babies are born prematurely – leading to death and lifelong disabilities, however, pre-term labor is often preventable or can be delayed with early detection and treatment. The Smart Diaphragm detects decreasing levels of collagen in the cervix – an indicator of impending pre-term labor – with results transmitted to a cloud database monitored by physicians.


In addition to the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™ prize, as the winner of the mHealth Alliance Award, Smart Diaphragm also will receive prizes worth $50,000, including strategic and networking assistance from the mHealth Alliance. 


Third Place Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™:

CoolComply ($100,000)

This inter-disciplinary collaboration involves the Massachusetts General Hospital, Innovations in International Health at MIT, and an international NGO, the Global Health Committee. CoolComply is a solar-powered wireless detection system that monitors the doses and the temperature of the medication, relaying readings via wireless to the local healthcare workers to track treatment and intervene when necessary. CoolComply provides patients undergoing treatment for Multiple Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and their caregivers with the proper monitoring to ensure they are meeting the standards for their treatment.  The number of MDR-TB cases is growing and, while curable, the treatment is extensive – 18 to 24 months – and complex, involving temperature and time sensitive doses of medicine.   


 “It is heartening to see that the caliber of entries continues to grow for the Wireless Innovation Project,” said Peter Barry, President, Vodafone Americas Foundation.  “The entries for this year’s competition were very inspiring and extremely competitive.”

This year, nearly 100 Wireless Innovation Project™ applications were received with the potential to help solve critical social issues across a variety of fields including healthcare, education, access, economic development, environment, connectivity and disaster relief.  Due to the growing collaboration between Vodafone and the mHealth Alliance, there was a significant increase in mHealth applications compared to last year. 

 “Our goal with the mHealth Alliance Award is to spur wireless innovation to solve global health challenges, especially in developing countries,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO, United Nations Foundation, which hosts the mHealth Alliance.  “Cutting edge technologies like the Smart Diaphragm will be critical if we are to succeed at reducing maternal and child deaths and help meet the Millennium Development Goals.”

Eight finalists representing the fields of education, environment, healthcare, transportation and Internet access were selected from a large and diverse applicant pool to travel to San Francisco to personally present their projects in front of the judges.  The other finalists were:

Cellphone-Enabled Tricorder – A compact wireless device to monitor subjects with sleep apnea and infants at risk of SIDS.


mobileVision – A community healthcare worker-centric hardware and software mobile platform to perform low-cost eye exams and check-ups and transmit the results to a remote ophthalmologist or optometrist.


PocketSchool - Enabling and tracking highly interactive learning and training instances through a hybrid (i.e., cellular & wi-fi) ad-hoc mobile learning network designed for the neediest and most remote corners of the world.


TUBE-ing Over Digital Divide – A software system that computes and delivers congestion dependent pricing for mobile Internet access, enabling an extremely affordable wireless data plan where users can leverage low-congestion and low-price time slots. 


Wireless Green Patch – A low cost wireless device to monitor the integrity of civil and transportation structures as well as energy efficiency in buildings.


The awards for the Wireless Innovation Project™ and mHealth Alliance Award will be presented at the annual Global Philanthropy Forum conference.  The Global Philanthropy Forum, with a mission that complements the goals of both the Vodafone Americas Foundation and the mHealth Alliance, is building a community of donors and social investors committed to international causes and aims to inform, enable and enhance the strategic nature of their work.  The Global Philanthropy Forum conference provides an ideal venue for the Wireless Innovation Project winners to receive their awards, providing the opportunity for them to meet people in similar fields and to develop international partnerships and collaborations.


Through its foundations, Vodafone has long recognized that wireless technology has the potential to make the significant impacts in the world – particularly in developing countries.  Vodafone Americas Foundation™ launched the Wireless Innovation Project™ (http://project.vodafone-us.com/) in 2008 to foster creativity and fund the most promising innovations with the potential to solve pressing issues around the globe. In addition to the Wireless Innovation Project™, Vodafone and its global network of 27 foundations are helping hundreds of thousands of people around the world lead better, fuller lives through more than $60,000,000 in grants and contributions.


Open to NGOs, universities, nonprofit and mHealth organizations, each year, the Wireless Innovation Project fosters three winners to advance their projects through the next stages of development. Vodafone provides additional – and invaluable – support by integrating the winning projects with the foundation’s vast network of social entrepreneurs, NGO’s and international agencies.  Previous award-winning projects have already begun to show impressive results. Last year’s second place winner, FrontlineSMS: Credit, is building an application to enable easy enterprise use of mobile payment systems to bring financial services to the entrepreneurial poor, and will be beta testing software in East Africa this spring.


The expert judges for the competition represent a mix of expertise and backgrounds in the fields of wireless telecommunications, health research, and advocacy.  Each judge is a recognized leader in business, government, academia or international development.

The 2011 panel of Judges includes:


Dr. James Kahn, Professor of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco

Richard J. Lynch, Executive Vice President, Verizon

Peters Suh, CEO, Wholesale Applications Community (WAC)

Katrin Verclas, Co-Founder and Editor, MobileActive.org

Jody Ranck, DrPH, Director of Thought Leadership, Policy and Advocacy at the mHealth Alliance/UN Foundation


About the Vodafone Americas Foundation™

Vodafone Americas Foundation™ is part of Vodafone’s global network of foundations. We are affiliated with Vodafone Group Plc, the world's leading mobile telecommunications company, with ownership interests in 30 countries and Partner Markets in more than 40 countries. As of March 2010, Vodafone had approximately 341.1 million proportionate customers worldwide. In the U.S., our foundation directs its philanthropic activities towards the San Francisco Bay and the Metro Denver Areas where most of our employees live and work, and where we strive to make a positive and enduring impact on our communities. The Foundation is driven by a passion for the world around us. We make grants that help people in our communities and around the world lead fuller lives.


About the mHealth Alliance
The mHealth Alliance (mHA) mobilizes innovation to deliver quality health at the furthest reaches of wireless networks and mobile devices.  Working with diverse partners, the mHA advances mHealth through research, advocacy, and support for the development of interoperable solutions and sustainable deployment models.  The mHA sponsors innovation challenges and conferences, leads cross-sector mHealth initiatives, and hosts HUB (Health UnBound), a global online community for resource sharing and collaborative solution generation. Hosted by the United Nations Foundation, and founded by the UN, Rockefeller, and Vodafone Foundations, the mHA now also includes PEPFAR, HP, and the GSM Association among its founding partners. For more information, visit www.mhealthalliance.org



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