Masawa, derived from the Arabic word for ‘equality’, delivers information and services to the palms of the poor through powerful mobile applications on lower-tech phones. For millions of the world’s poor, cell phones are primary portals to information and communication, the fundamental means of escaping isolation and poverty. Yet mobile phones are not fully benefiting low-income users. A fragmented market, supply-driven products, and cumbersome text-based applications prevent mobile solutions from reaching scale.
Masawa scales mobile solutions through the creation of a shared technological platform, connecting NGOs and local developers to produce a new generation of locally-driven applications. We link developers and users worldwide through an online, open-source marketplace.
By 2015, the Masawa platform will be hosted on 10 million handsets globally. Our efforts increase access to information, services, and communication for the poor, while simultaneously enhancing NGOs’ abilities to serve this population effectively and efficiently.
1. Common Technology Platform. Masawa uses a common base code and platform to launch applications. We use Java, a programming language familiar to developers across the world, to encourage participation and collaboration. There are over 800 million Java-enable phones and more than 4.5 million Java developers, with a substantial number of those in the developing world. Java delivers the biggest technology bang for the lowest handset buck.
2. Connecting Developers and NGOs for New Applications. We connect NGOs willing to invest in applications with developers able to meet their needs and grow demand. By keeping software development local, we increase employment opportunities and invest in the human capital that will create technological revolutions in developing countries.
Masawa will become globally available by 2013. We began research in Haiti in 2009 and experienced the devastating earthquake firsthand in January 2010. Through 2011, Masawa will focus field operations in two of seven high impact potential countries: Kenya, Mozambique, Haiti, Brazil, Nicaragua, India, and Bangladesh.
Masawa hosts innovative suites of mobile applications meeting the information needs of individuals, governments, and NGOs, like:
Monit-Plus: monitor development programs and collect data instantly from the field
Early Warning: receive first-hand reports of reports of outbreaks of meningitis, locusts, flooding from the field
Mobile-pedia: reference materials like agriculture and health how-to books that are completely contained within the phone
Video Infotainment: convey messages geared towards health, elections, agriculture, domestic violence, etc., through music
A team of eight innovative and entrepreneurial (now former-)graduate students created Masawa. We have worked in 38 countries, converse in 20 languages, and have 36 years of combined experience working in software, international development, hardware development, engineering, finance, analytics, product development, law, advocacy, and monitoring and evaluation.
Outstanding Commitment Award, Poverty Alleviation, Clinton Global Initiative University
Emerging Market Innovation Award for Development, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy