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ICTs: Tools

Page history last edited by editor 7 years, 11 months ago


This page contains useful information regarding variety of applications, platforms and technologies used in development arena. The page provides comparisons of such variety of options for anyone planning to leverage ICT-based technologies to solve different development challenges.








Open-source applications


Overview Application development ease Costs Ease for end-user Connectivity


An extensible, open-source suite of tools designed to build information services for developing regions. ODK currently provides four tools to this end: Collect, Aggregate, Voice, and Build.

  • Smartphone - android
  • Touch screen based interface
  • GPS points, photos, audio, barcode scanning
  • Programmer not required
  • Can design your own forms online easily
  • Smart-phone
  • Internet (Wifi)
  • Server
  • No Data or SMS costs
  • Branch logic, multi-language support
  • Literacy is necessary
  • Can work offline, and send data to central server via GPRS or wifi; Offline xform processor



A software to distribute and collect information via SMS. The software can work without an internet connection and with only a cell phone and computer.

  • Leverages basic tools available in NGOs - mobile & computers
  • Allows to send bulk SMS, and respond to SMS inquiries
  • Easy to use desktop software
  • Programmer not required 
  • SMS costs
  • Any phone can work
  • Phone SIM needed (that sends SMS)
  • A computer needed
  • No cost for the software
  • Any phone can use
  • Ability to read SMS is needed
  • Too many SMS responses can slow down performance
  • Phone chip must be connected in the main computer at all times
  • No central server needed


A SMS-based (text message) framework that manages data collection, complex workflows, and group coordination using basic mobile phones — and can present information on the internet as soon as it is received

  • A continuous stream of data
  • Can easily export data to excel for further analysis, query existing database
  • Requires programmer
  • Codes are freely available for modification
  • SMS costs
  • Programmer costs
  • Server costs 
  • Any phone
  • Ability to use SMS is sufficient
  • A central server is needed


A platform that enables people to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet, while simultaneously creating a temporal and geospatial archive of events on the web

  • Can use multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web
  • Web application written in PHP
  • Can be customized without expertise but consulting services are also available1 
  • SMS Server
  • free web application
  • technical fees if developer hired
  • Depends on access and abilities of users to varying input mediums 
  • Need to set up SMS server/gateway
  • Can use a range of methods from paid service to FrontlineSMS (or other SMS gateways in a local computer)

Managing News

A news aggregation and republishing platform that offers SMS and mapping functionality

  • Web application written in PHP2
  • Need a more technical user (than for Ushahidi)2
  • SMS Server
  • free web application
  • technical fees if developer hired
  •  Depends on access and abilities of users to varying input mediums
  • Need to set up SMS server (USB drive) from Development Seed - SlingshotSMS



Communication Medium


SMS (Short Message Service)

  • Any phone
  • Any network (no data required)
  • Messages queued (don't drop messages when out of network or phone dead)
  • Toll-free (no cost to end-user)
  • Effective for monitoring (can make structured SMS - for data entry)
  • Easy to broadcast (good for reminders, alerts)
  • Data quality depends on user's abilities
  • Not ideal for larger surveys
  • Cost
  • Literacy necessary
  • Data security is low, any one can view SMS on phone

IVR (Interactive Voice Response)


  • Easy access to and familiarity with telephone technology
  • Consistency of interviewing
  • Independent of literacy skills
  • Real time data collection and storage
  • Increased perceived anonymity
  • Automated reminders
  • Many survey instruments may not have been validated in IVR format
  • Participants can't seek clarification during a survey
  • Requires script validation and piloting
  • May need dedicated staff to program and maintain the system



Mobile Technology


J2ME (Java Platform, Micro Edition)


  • Strong data validation
  • Branch logic for data collectio
  • Low data transmission costs via GPRS (some clients can send SMS)
  • Messages queued (don’t drop messages when out of network or when phone dead)
  • Data can be collected offline
  • Requires feature phone that runs Java (>$50)
  • J2ME Clients don’t work on all phones (many varieties: different memory requirements,etc)
  • Experience not as rich as smart phones (prices converging)
  • Transmission requires data network (GRPS) or computer link
  • Requires credit (Hard to reverse bill data)

Smart Phones (Android)

  • More sophisticated 
  • Has better interface (such as touch-screen, photo capture, GPS capture) 
  • Expensive
  • If end-users are poor, this is not the right option 






Useful Websites



 and resource on the
 impact. They
NGOs and
organizations. They share knowledge and skills through a peer network of more than 20,000 people around the world. Their site also maintain a comprehensive mDirectory of mobile applications, research, case studies, tactical guides, and strategy resources for NGOs. The global MobileActive.org community includes NGO staff, activists, technologists, content and sevice provides, MVNOs, academics and donors.


infoDev is a global partnership program within the World Bank Group which works at the intersection of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship to create opportunities for inclusive growth, job creation and poverty reduction. infoDev assists governments and technology-focused small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow jobs, improve capacity and skills, increase access to finance and markets, ensure the appropriate enabling policy and regulatory environment for business to flourish, and test out innovative solutions in developing country markets. We do this in partnership with other development programs, with World Bank/IFC colleagues, and with stakeholders from the public, private and civil society sectors in the developing world.



  • The World Bank Group: Information and Communication Technologies | Web | Publications (see below) 

Through extending access to ICTs and encouraging the use of ICTs, the World Bank aims to stimulate sustainable economic growth, improve service delivery, and promote good governance and social accountability.



WB Publications (see more publications)


IC4D 2012: Maximizing Mobile

Tim Kelly and Michael Minges


This report analyzes the growth and evolution of applications for mobile phones, focusing on their use in agriculture, health and financial services, as well as their impact on employment and government. It also explores the consequences for development of the emerging “app economy”, summarizing current thinking and seeking to inform the debate on the use of mobile phones for development. It’s no longer about the phone itself, but about how it is used, and the content and applications that mobile phones open.

PDF Download publication


Mark D.J. Williams, Rebecca Mayer, and Michael Minges


The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD) produced continent-wide analysis of many aspects of Africa’s infrastructure challenge. The main findings were synthesized in a flagship report titled Africa’s Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation, published in November 2009. The flagship report served a valuable role in highlighting the main findings of the project while this technical monograph makes more detailed material available to a wider audience of information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure practitioners.

PDF Download publication


Rajendra Singh and Siddhartha Raja


This volume analyzes the strategic and regulatory dimensions of convergence. It offers policy makers and regulators examples from countries around the world as they address this phenomenon. The authors suggest that countries that enable convergence are likely to reap the greater rewards. But the precise nature of the response will differ by country. Hence, this book offers global principles that should be tailored to local circumstances as regulatory frameworks evolve to address convergence.

PDF Download publication



Reports and Analysis


  • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Global Knowledge Partnership (2004). “Open Source Software Pros and Cons from a Development Perspective” in ICT4D-Connecting"















  1. http://www.ushahidi.com/services
  2. http://www.mobileactive.org/howtos/mapping-sms-incident-reports-review-ushahidi-and-managing-news 
  3. Melissa Loudan. Mobile Phones for Data Collection. Mobile Active.org http://www.mobileactive.org/howtos/mobile-phones-data-collection | Review of multiple open source tools.

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