Technology TED Fellows

TED Fellow Jon Gosier wins Knight News Challenge Mobile grant

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Congratulations is in order for TED Fellow Jon Gosier. His mobile app, Abayima, has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge, which funds innovative projects designed to get information to all corners of the globe.

While smartphones may be the norm in the West, most mobile phone users in the world — about 4 billion of them, to be specific — use simpler phones, often called “feature phones,” that don’t have a lot of storage memory, and can’t be used when a phone signal isn’t available. Abayima is an open-source application that turns a SIM card into a storage device, using every inch of the limited memory available on a standard SIM.

This means that a cheap feature phone can be used as an e-reader, for instance. And that, in locations where communication networks have been compromised or are under surveillance, journalists can communicate with sources safely using good old “sneakernet,” sharing information hand-to-hand via a small SIM chip.

Gosier and the team at Hive Colab tested a pilot of the app during the 2011 elections in Uganda, when text messages were being monitored and blocked, and were encouraged by the results.