Some 4.5 billion mobile phones are now in use worldwide‚ providing unprecedented opportunities to communicate and collaborate with people in even the remotest of communities. But what if cell phones, your only means of communication, were too expensive for your friends and family to afford?
Movirtu, a for-profit social enterprise that provides innovative network infrastructure solutions for mobile operators servicing rural poor communities in Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, aims to provide shared access to basic mobile phone services for people earning less than $2 a day. frog collaborated with Movirtu on their MXShare series to bring a critical resource-communication-to a population in need, in an easy to use and easy to understand format.
Design Research for Empowerment
In order to better understand the emotional and practical needs of the community that Movirtu aims to serve and how well the system worked for a rural population, frog sent a team of designers to conduct a field study with 12 residents of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. From conversations and observations the team discovered the core needs of those in Kibera, as they relate to both life and mobile phones. frog’s design team identified six basic needs of the handset-less in Kibera that would be satisfied in the end product: pride, privacy & security, identity, education and enablement. From the ability to easily store contacts to effortlessly send text messages, frog ensured that each aspect of the user experience met these needs. frog found that in the case of the Kibera residents, the end product that met these needs was not only successful but provided empowerment for the disempowered, connectivity, and the ability to live in dire circumstances while having a strong sense of self.
Moving into the Cloud
Movirtu’s MXShare is a virtual cell phone system that can be installed into a mobile network’s core. The system allows people who can’t afford to buy a handset to make calls, receive calls, and send text messages using other people’s phones. Borrowing phones and swapping SIM cards can be problematic for rural populations that spend a majority of their day commuting several miles, so Movirtu allows individuals to log in using codes. Customer contacts and all usage data are stored in the “telecom cloud,” not on the mobile device, which maintains privacy, reduces personal data security risks and frees customers from any specific device. frog helped to shape the info architecture to make the login process and navigation of the service more intuitive and efficient for users.
Movirtu and frog at SOCAP10
As part of the Mobile Track at this year’s Social Capital Market Conference on October 4-6th in San Francisco, the frogs behind the design research of the MXShare will join Movirtu CEO Nigel Waller to present a deep dive case study on the cloud phone. The discussion will examine the high-level principals and larger frameworks of designing for (and with) those living at the “bottom of the pyramid.”
frog design is an official media sponsor for the conference and will feature posts on how social entrepreneurs are using innovative ways to provide meaningful impact in business. During the week of the conference design mind will offer live coverage of the conference through daily blog posts and live tweeting of various keynotes and workshop sessions.
-Written by Kristina Loring (Cross post from frog design’s Design Mind Blog)