Unlocking mobile p...

Photo: Aadhar BhalingeAadhar Bhalinge

Unlocking mobile phones for job creation

Aadhar Bhalinge talks about 'Smart Rickshaw' - mobile app winner of innovation prize

India's Aadhar Bhalinge is the winner of the $20,000 grand prize of m2Work, a World Bank-sponsored online competition seeking the best ideas for spurring the job-creation potential of mobile phones. The online challenge, organized by Nokia and infoDev, drew a total of 939 ideas, 96% of which came from developing and emerging economies.

m2Work, which stands for mobile microwork, aims to expand microwork to the 5 billion mobile phones in the developing world. Currently, millions of people supplement their income through microwork—small digital tasks they can perform online.

Bhalinge convinced the high-level jury of World Bank, Nokia, UKaid, and other private sector representatives of the development impact, novelty, and feasibility of his “Smart Rickshaw Network” to take home the US$ 20,000 grand prize. His tool would organically crowdsource maps at a very low cost in developing nations by employing fleets of rickshaw drivers to feed live traffic updates into a subscription service.

Bhalinge was chosen from a pool of six finalists who all received business coaching during the finals.  The other finalists’ ideas touched on environmental conservation, access to health care and education, and social publishing.

“The diversity of ideas submitted demonstrates that we are just beginning to tap into the potential of combining access to technology in the developing world with innovative ideas to help solve the critical development issues we face today. It was inspiring to see the participants' creativity and passion for effecting change”, said Stephanie von Friedeburg, the World Bank Group’s Chief Information Officer and chair of the m2Work jury.

Second place went to Armenia’s Alexander Shakaryan, whose “MicroForester” application would aid reforestation projects. Nadia Millington and Luis Rosenthal got an honorable mention for “3MD: Mobile Diagnostics” which would allow paraskilled health technicians to take on disease diagnosis tasks based on patients’ digitized scans.

Research by infoDev has highlighted the potential of microwork. Studies by the ICT industry predict that mobile data traffic in developing countries is expected to grow by 80% per year, based on improved devices and network capabilities.

For co-organizer Nokia, m2Work underlined the power and job-creation potential of mobile innovations. “All six finalists tell the powerful story that mobile technology is not only about being entertained or about consuming–it is also about earning,” said jury member Esko Aho, Nokia’s Executive Vice-President for Corporate Relations and Responsibility. “All of these ideas were about sustainability, so direct social impact was the key to our decision,” he added.

m2Work is supported by UKaid. infoDev, as part of the World Bank Group, will use its vast network of Mobile Applications Labs (mLabs) and business incubators to help the finalists develop their seed-stage ideas into viable start-ups that can create sustainable jobs.

Read the World Bank Private Sector Development blog post on the announcement.

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