51 posts categorized

September 30, 2015

SMS Is Helping Women in Kenya Track Their Pregnancies


In remote areas of east Africa, regular healthcare for expecting mothers is hard to find. Nairobi, Kenya, for example, is desperately impoverished; the infant mortality rate in this region is one of the highest in Africa, with 40 out of 1000 babies not living past infancy. This is a story Malele Ngalu, marketing director for Kenya-based Totohealth, laments on a personal level. 

Ngalu was born in Africa; his mother faced medical disadvantages that resulted in the loss of his twin brother shortly after birth. Today, Ngalu has teamed up with Felix Kimaru, founder of Totohealth, a free SMS text service to help mothers and their infant children during a five-year program.  

Kimaru has raised more than $50,000 to get his startup off the ground and implemented in several rural areas throughout east Africa. Nairobi was one of the first areas Kimaru and Ngalu tackled, sampling the service to 2,000 parents.

According to Ngalu, most parents don’t realize their infant is sick until it’s too late. 

“We asked the parents why they did not bring the children in when they saw they had a problem, and they said they didn’t know there was one,” he said.


Texting for Health

To combat this problem, Kimaru has developed content to be delivered on a weekly basis via text message. The content relates to various developmental stages (up to the age of 5) as well as women’s health. The texts also advise regular checkups and include ready access to a help desk, where trained medical doctors and nurses are available to answer questions, as well as refer parents to nearby clinics or hospitals.

Since its launch early last year, Totohealth has seen significant user growth across the continent. Word of mouth from the original 2,000 users helped double the number of parents actively using the service in nearly 30 different countries. 

Unlike most developed countries, providing this service via app is not yet possible in east Africa—the infrastructure just doesn’t exist yet. 

“Even in low income settings like Kibera, the majority of people have basic phones,” said Ngalu.  

Most basic phones have the ability to receive and send text messages, so for the time being, SMS is the best way to deliver the information as well as track patient progress.  

According to Kimaru, the parents who use the service have a 96 percent likelihood of attending every recommended checkup and appointment. These kinds of results are getting the attention of large groups like the World Health Organization. 

The other advantage to using text is that it’s relatively inexpensive, costing only about 25 cents a month per user. Right now, county governments are footing the bill for the service, hoping that government policy and social awareness will help drive further change to reform maternal programs.  

Kimaru is looking to raise another $300,000 in funding to expand Totohealth’s operations throughout other parts of Africa. 

September 01, 2015

Infographic: How Mobile Has Transformed Education

In 2015, the vast majority of American teenagers have access to some kind of mobile device, and most classrooms provide Internet connectivity. Textbooks have been replaced by tablets and e-readers, and new apps are constantly being developed to help our young people learn more effectively. There's no doubt about it: within a generation, technology has made education practically unrecognizable to those of us who  attended school with nothing more sophisticated than a calculator...


August 28, 2015

How to Reach Students with Your Mobile Marketing Campaign


There’s a good reason marketers scramble to get the attention of college students. Sure, they’re increasingly hard to reach, but according to a new eMarketer report, college students are “poised to out-earn and outspend non-college millennials for decades to come.” 

There are 19 million college students in the US, and nearly all of them are mobile users engaged in multiple social networks. These networks have become the primary playground for creative marketers, as they bypass traditional media buys with shareable content. 


The Social Student 

College students aren’t just looking to be entertained. According to the report, students are influenced to buy by several factors including peer recommendations and money-saving discounts. While this may or may not be surprising, it does speak to the tech-savvy side of millennials—marketers can’t just throw money at targeted mobile displays or video. A student-targeted mobile marketing campaign needs to be cleverer than that.  

According to Michael Hanley, an advertising professor at Ball State University, “About 65 percent of students report receiving mobile ads, and 70 percent of them don’t like it.”

Social campaigns are the remedy to this marketing problem. Matt Britton, CEO of MRY, a creative and technology agency headquarter in New York, said, “The most effective form of social media marketing is always creating content that’s highly shareable.” 


Short and Sweet 

To keep marketers on their toes, the sharable content should also be compact—small enough to consume within the restrictive space of mobile screens and short attention span of the college user. 

“When you think about people on their phones,” Britton continued, “they’re scrolling so quickly that if you try to come up with long-form content, they’re not going to take time to read it.”

Some apps are built for this kind of content; SnapChat and Vine, for example, proliferate this kind of content with an emphasis on creativity and viralability. Marketers simply have to find ways to appeal to students from within these and other social networks to succeed in communicating new products and services. Explore what these apps can do for your next mobile marketing campaign.


Say Less, Show More 

Britton also advises the use of imagery as a means to communicate more effectively within the time and size constraints. Instagram is one app that has defined the practical use of creative imagery to build brand recognition and communicate sales and discounts. Moreover, GIFs have recently increased in popularity across nearly every social media channel, which really drives home Britton’s point.  

Does this mean the written word is doomed on the Internet? As far as marketers are concerned, it would seem so, with long-form content being replaced by hashtags and images that are presumably worth 1,000 words. As for the students, most of their reading must get done in textbooks. 



August 16, 2015

BYOD Has Taken Off in Our Schools


If you had asked me ten years ago if I thought it was a good idea to allow students access to personal mobile devices during class time, I would have shuddered at the thought. I belong to one of the last generations that can remember what life was like before iPhones, tablets and Google. My younger sister, born only four years later, can hardly remember a time before AOL.  

For those of us who can make the distinction, I think it’s healthy to fear the unknown ramifications of our tech advancements, particularly on the youth. However, not everyone agrees with this view. 

Despite how many of us might feel about technology in the classroom, nobody wants to be the one stuck harping on the past. Today’s young learners have become so accustomed to mobile, tablets, and desktop computers that it would seem regressive to deny them access to these tools during a formal education—tools that may help students to learn smarter, faster, and more efficiently. 

Instead of resisting what comes naturally to these students, wouldn’t it be better to change the way we teach

According to a report by Sophic Capital, mobile education is the platform of choice for current students and teachers. The popularity and accessibility of mobile devices has made them as common among students as pens and paper. Many school districts are taking advantage of this and adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) polices. 


What Is BYOD?

The BYOD policy provides educational institutions with a way to implement technology in the classroom and manage budgets by putting most of the cost on students. Instead of spending money on a uniform platform or device, students can use the device they already have or are most comfortable using. 

The benefits are unique and largely new to the landscape of public education. First, students will take ownership of the learning process by having more control over the ways in which some information is received. Further, they will have more flexibility outside of the classroom to review material during times most suitable to their schedule. 

Teachers will also gain significant insight into their students’ progress, gaining valuable analytical tools. Teachers can also communicate with students more regularly and gather real-time information from students to ensure material is being absorbed properly; if not, the teacher will have more time to adjust the lesson plan.  

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because there are some serious drawbacks that must be addressed. For most of the educational tools to function within the BYOD policy, students will also need access to the Internet. Parents and administrators alike agree that open access to the web is dangerous. From social media, inappropriate content, and predatory concerns, the list of issues and dangers grows with every passing year.  Formal safeguards among school districts have included comprehensive network security, limited access, and monitoring. Time will tell if these safeguards are enough to proliferate BYOD polices across the country. 

August 14, 2015

Textbooks Vs. Tablets


In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District made headlines for spending $30 million on iPads for nearly 640,000 students. Currently, the K-12 publishing market is an $8 billion industry, dominated by just three publishes: McGraw, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The debate as to whether more school districts should make the digital leap is met with fierce opposition from publishers as well as other tech naysayers, who see the value of printed textbooks unrivaled by tablets.  

Why should school districts replace textbooks? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Textbooks aren’t broken, but students today learn and engage differently with technology than previous generations. Tablets allow students to feel empowered by the learning process by playing to their strengths. Moreover, most K-12 teachers believe technology benefits students’ learning goals. 

Some of the more practical reasons tablets are working well in places like Los Angeles involve the hardware itself. For starters, one tablet has the ability to store more books than a student will ever need for the entire duration of his or her public education. Plus, in addition to textbooks, tablets can store homework, quizzes, and tests, eliminating heavy loads from students’ backpacks and desks. 

Additionally, tablets allow teachers to give their students the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Publishers have been criticized for making minor amendments to text volumes and charging schools top dollar for new editions. Once textbooks go digital, the print costs will be eliminated, which will result in textbook savings of as much as 60% for school districts. 

But aren’t iPads expensive? Yes, they are. One of the strongest arguments against a paperless system is that technology doesn’t come cheap. The trouble isn’t so much with the tablet cost as all the software and infrastructure school districts would have to develop to support these devices. To put things into perspective, the average battery life of a tablet is less than the length of a school day. Imagine 640,000 iPads plugged in: that’s a lot of juice.

Additionally, wear and tear on a textbook can go much further than on an iPad. And a forgotten textbook on a picnic table doesn’t have the same appeal as a state-of-the-art tablet. Some paperless opponents believe students will be targeted for theft if tablets become a common student item. 

There are more obvious problems facing the paperless fight. Open access to the Internet is like opening Pandora’s box; students are notoriously distracted by social media, gaming, and texting. 

Whatever stance a school district takes, the omnipresence of mobile in student life will remain. Will we choose to adapt to student preferences, or are the risks too high?


August 03, 2015

Can Supportive Text Messages Act as Pain Relievers?


An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? But can a text message do the same thing? Can the use of mobile technology actually reduce perceptions of pain and suffering? That’s exactly what Jamie Guillory, a scientist at the research institute RTI International, set out to discover. 

Guillory and her team designed a study to determine if the use of text messaging throughout the day could impact patient’s chronic pain levels. During a four-week period, participants from various pain clinics were divided into two groups. One group received its regular pain treatment in addition to encouraging messages sent throughout the day for a total of three weeks. The other group received regular pain treatment but did not receive uplifting text messages. The first week was the study’s control—during this time, neither group received text messages.

In addition to receiving texts, the first group was asked to download an app that allowed members to record their pain management, and relate their feelings to images. 


What the Study Said 

The results were fascinating. The group that received regular encouraging text messages recorded a clear reduction in pain during the three-week period following the control week compared to participants who did not receive text messages.  

This study offers valuable insight into the effects of mobile devices on patients’ mindsets. In addition to the positive impact this may have on those who suffer from chronic pain, it’s a useful tool for doctors to learn more about their patients’ behaviors and feelings throughout the process of treatment.  

While this is amazing news for people with chronic pain, the study also considers other factors that may have contributed to a reduction of pain during the three-week period. For example, patients who were married or in a relationship saw more significant pain reduction than patients who were single. The tangible support system maintained by married patients was notably more developed than that of single participants. It was suggested by Guillory that the encouraging text messages only worked well in collaboration with a tangible support system already in place. 

Text messages can only contribute to reducing chronic pain so much. Few things can replace or imitate the genuine love and compassion we feel for those in our family or close circle of friends. People who experience chronic pain are more susceptible to perceiving this pain when their immediate support system is weak, something no amount of mobile interaction can change—yet. 

But the study does highlight hope for a future in which mobile texting and app recording can have a positive role in patient pain management. 


July 15, 2015

Swedish Blood Donors Receive Thank You Text Messages for Successful Transfusions


Around the world, blood donation rates are at an all-time low. Britain has 40% fewer donors today than 10 years ago (according to the NHS). In the United States, only three out of every one-hundred people donate blood. The latest statistics from Executive Healthcare (EHM) shows that about 60% of the American populace is eligible to give blood, but only 5% of the people elect to give. This is a difficult problem because, despite the necessity to maintain a healthy blood supply, the Red Cross needs to find clever ways to convince donors to give.

In recent news, the Stockholm blood service may have come upon an excellent way to increase donations. If you donate blood in Sweden, you are sent an SMS text message each time your donated blood is used to save a life. The SMS texts go on to report on the impact of their donations, which can help to motivate donors as well. These “thank you” texts have created not only a way to make donors feel good about their altruism, it also is a subtle way to remind donors to come back for another donation at a later date. 

The program has been lauded as a success. Swedish citizens who participate have reported that they feel more appreciated once receiving the SMS text messages. Furthermore, donors often share the news with their peers via social media.

The outreach of the Stockholm blood service doesn’t stop there, though. Other text messages are sent to people who’ve donated before to remind them when they are eligible to donate again. In addition, the blood service has been using Facebook and email reminders to reach their potential donors as well. And it doesn’t hurt when they add light-hearted messages like “We won’t give up until you bleed.” Donors have shared that they appreciate these texts as well, since people often forget to donate amid their busy schedules.

Finally, on Stockholm blood service’s website, they have a chart giving a running total of how much blood of each type is left in stock. The idea is that if people know that the blood service is in need, then the people will be more likely to give.

There’s scientific proof that these techniques work. In a study by Johns Hopkins, researchers examined a Facebook initiative that allowed friends to share their organ donations in their status updates – the study observed a 21-fold increase of organ donor registrations in a single day! 

While this program currently only exists in Stockholm, it is likely that similar programs will be rolled-out throughout Sweden. Other countries, like Britain and the United States, are searching for similar techniques to get people to donate. The NHS Blood and Transplant service in the UK is looking to create some viral advertisements to increase donor turnout. Only time will tell how much these programs actually do to increase donor turnout but, in the meantime, we can all agree that SMS text messages and social media have proven to be excellent means to motivate the general public.

July 14, 2015

Early Education Mobile App Wins $2.2 Million in Funding


Daycare, preschool and child development centers aren’t the first things that come to mind when browsing Apple’s App store. But even early educators need and app to make their job easier, right? Why shouldn’t they benefit from mobile technology? That’s exactly what Dave Vasen, founder and CEO of Brightwheel was thinking before he developed the first app for early education providers. 

On June 17, Brightwheel—a groundbreaking mobile platform for preschools, daycares and afterschool programs—received $2.2 million in seed funding. The funding comes as the app releases its latest version for iOS and Android, which includes the addition of new features previously unavailable to the public. 

Brightwheel is the first of its kind: a free, easy-to-use mobile SAAS platform for early childcare providers. However, Brightwheel is also proving valuable to parents and guardians who struggle to stay informed about daily activities and educational progress—something Vasen was personally familiar with. 

Vasen recognized the challenges faced by childcare providers after the birth of his first child. Not being connected with his daughter during the workday was difficult for the new father; he also observed overworked childcare providers. This scene is likely familiar to parents who need childcare programs, daycares, or after school services. Many early development providers face strict regulatory systems, long hours, and an incredible amount of paperwork to manager in addition to focusing on their real job—taking care of children.  

Brightwheel helps parents and administrators stay connected; allowing teachers and caregivers to practice cohesive programs in class or at home. With Brightwheel, teachers can track attendance in multiple classrooms, record daily observations, and share photos and notes about activities happening throughout the day. Other features include paperless billing for tuition and fees, and community settings for grandparents, nannies or friends. Brightwheel is integrated for both web based and mobile access.  

The childcare market in the United States nears $45 billion each year, so it’s surprising that few tools like Brightwheel have been made available—something Vasen says he is happy to have changed. 

PRE Ventures and Eniac Ventures raised the seed capitol with assistance from CrossLink Capitol, Golden Venture Partners, Red Swan Ventures and Sherpa Ventures. 

Brightwheel is free for parents and administrators and is now available in the Apple App Store and for Android devices.  


July 02, 2015

Cuba Tackles Web Connectivity Deficit


Last week, Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde announced government plans to expand the country’s underperforming web infrastructure by adding Wi-Fi capacity to dozens of internet centers and cutting the cost of access.

A spokesman for Cuba’s state communications company said that, as of next month, 35 government computer centers would have Wi-Fi at a cost of around $2 per hour - still unaffordable for many Cubans, but a significant step in the right direction (where Wi-Fi was available previously, it cost around $4.50 per hour to access).  

Until now, the only Wi-Fi availability in the country has been at tourist hotels. While critics say the lack of connectivity is down to fear of social unrest, the Cuban government insists the problem is a result of the U.S. embargo, and has publicly stated an intention to expand internet access across the island.  

The recent move is indicative of the government at least beginning to make good on its promise.   Another positive indicator of a shift towards the open internet access enjoyed by other countries was the government-approved Wi-Fi spot provided by Cuban artist Kcho. Established at Kcho’s Havana arts center, the spot has attracted praise from open internet advocates in Cuba and around the world who hope it is the thin end of the wedge for fairer web access in one of the world’s least-connected countries.

Cubans - and especially young people living in the capital - are as au fait with computer technology as their contemporaries in other, better-connected countries. Visitors might be surprised to see iPhones and Androids in use all over Havana; hundreds of mobile-phone stores number among Cuba’s private businesses, all of them offering ways to install offline apps, as well as providing the usual repairs. 

Things look less developed outside the capital, where there are far fewer cellphones per head, and smartphones are extremely thin on the ground. But at least, with the recent slashing of prices (by more than half) for web access, Cuba is moving slowly towards the inevitable future of a fully connected citizenry.

May 27, 2015

The Mobile Marketing University


Always wished you could go to school to learn mobile marketing tactics? Now you can. 

Mobile marketing automation powerhouse Swrve created Swrve University, a free online training program designed to teach anyone and everyone how to succeed in mobile marketing.  

 “We assembled some of the smartest people we know to join the faculty of a comprehensive online training program for mobile marketers,” Swrve CMO Steve Gershik writes on the company website. “It is the first, I believe, to focus on the complete, holistic experience of mobile marketing from acquisition to analytics.”  

A vendor-neutral course, it’s being taught by a distinct group of mobile marketing experts from a variety of companies and industries via webinars. The first session was entitled “Mobile: At the Center of Your Marketing Strategy, “ and featured tGershik, as well as Jeff Hasen, a respected mobile strategist, CMO and author of the upcoming book, The Art of Mobile Persuasion. The class covered the current status of the mobile landscape, as well as techniques for doing well with marketing campaigns. Mobile trends for 2015 were also discussed, as were “benchmarks for evaluating mobile success” and “real-world examples of mobile campaigns that work.” 

The second webinar, “Mobile Relationships: How to Build Them and Why They Matter,” featured Forrester principal analyst Julie Ask, author of The Mobile Mind Shift. Ask’s session covered why mobile businesses fail and how to avoid joining them, essential tips for mobile success, the scale of mobile opportunity, and “how successful relationships are built on mobile.” 

“Only 4% of companies today have an effective mobile marketing strategy,” Swrve writes on the sign-up page for Ask’s class, adding that you may not need the session if you’re one of them. 

Participants are encouraged to interact with their “teachers” in future sessions. 

“CMOs today know a mobile strategy is vital, but many simply don’t have the time, knowledge or the properly trained staff to be successful,” Gershik noted, adding that “..our program is designed to teach anyone how to become one of the world’s greatest mobile marketers and harness the full power of reaching customers on their portable devices. By bringing together professionals from across the industry we are providing a complete and free guide to attacking the mobile marketing world from the basics to highly technical campaigns.” 

Ideal for mobile marketing strategists looking to learn more or further train new hires, Swrve University is poised to function as a fantastic research platform for businesses and entrepreneurs alike. Accessible to anyone with an internet connection, the company says upcoming classes will be announced soon. Swrve also asks attendees to submit topics and questions to