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Designing an Architecture for Delivering Mobile Information Services to the Rural Developing World

  • Tapan S. Parikh, Department of Computer Science and Engineering University of Washington, USA
  • Edward D. Lazowska, Department of Computer Science and Engineering University of Washington, USA

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Track: Technology for Developing Regions

Slot: 16:00-17:30, Wednesday 24th May

Implementing successful rural computing applications requires addressing a number of significant challenges. Recent advances in mobile phone computing capabilities make this device a likely candidate to address the client hardware constraints. Long battery life, wireless connectivity, solid-state memory, low price and immediate utility all make it better suited to rural conditions than a PC. However, current mobile software platforms are not as appropriate. Web-based mobile applications are hard to use, do not take advantage of the mobile phone's media capabilities and require an online connection. Custom mobile applications are difficult to develop and distribute. To address these limitations we present CAM - a new framework for developing and deploying mobile computing applications in the rural developing world. CAM applications are accessed by capturing barcodes using the mobile phone camera, or entering numeric strings with the keypad. Supporting minimal navigation, direct linkage to paper practices and offline multi-media interaction, CAM is uniquely adapted to rural device, user and infrastructure constraints. To illustrate the breadth of the framework, we list a number of CAM-based applications that we have implemented or are planning. These include processing micro-finance loans, facilitating rural supply chains, documenting grassroots innovation and accessing electronic medical histories.

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