August 27, 2009

Microsoft OneApp Creates Access to Mobile Apps for Feature Phones in Emerging Markets

On August 24, 2009, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corporation "announced Microsoft OneApp, a new software application that enables feature phones — commonly found in emerging markets — to access mobile apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live Messenger, and other popular apps and games." Through OneApp, according to the software, services and solutions company, "people around the world who own feature phones will be able to do more and enjoy a better mobile experience with their existing phones." OneApp is available in South Africa through Blue Label Telecoms and their mibli service and Microsoft plans to launch OneApp in more countries within the next year.

Designed to run on the most popular feature phones, OneApp appears as a single application that allows users to easily access all of their mobile apps. Microsoft explains that OneApp appears on a customer phone as a single application where they can then easily access all of their mobile apps. Here is a list of additional features:
  • The OneApp lightweight on-phone footprint of just 150 KB makes the initial installation easy and fast;
  • OneApp dynamically launches just the parts of a mobile app that a person wants to use, eliminating additional installation time and the need for a person to store all of the mobile apps on the phone;
  • OneApp includes cloud services that help offload processing and storage from the phone to the Internet, improving overall performance; and
  • OneApp uses data networks efficiently to reduce data access charges, saving money for the customer.

Microsoft's press release says, "Software developers can write new apps for OneApp using industry standards such as JavaScript and XML. The OneApp software developer kit is expected to be available for developers by the end of 2009." OneApp was created under Microsoft Unlimited Potential, which combines advanced technologies and strong partnerships with governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, educational institutions, and technology and service partners into making technology more affordable, relevant and accessible for the five billion people around the world who do not yet enjoy its benefits.

Here is a good demonstration video of OneApp produced by Todd Bishop, co-founder and managing editor of TechFlash and author of a blog on Microsoft:

August 24, 2009

Win $100,000 for Solving Humanity's Most Pressing Problems

On August 17, 2009, The Buckminster Fuller Institute announced "the call for entries to the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an annual $100,000 prize program to support the development and implementation of a solution that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems." The Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit organization explains, "Winning the Buckminster Fuller Challenge will require more than a great stand-alone innovation. If for example, your solution emphasizes a new design, material, process, service, tool, technology, or any combination, it is essential that it be part of an integrated strategy dealing with key social, economic, environmental, policy and cultural issues."

Founded in 1983, "The Buckminster Fuller Institute is dedicated to accelerating the development and deployment of solutions which radically advance human well being and the health of our planet's ecosystems." Their objective is "to deeply influence the ascendance of a new generation of design-science pioneers who are leading the creation of an abundant and restorative world economy that benefits all humanity."

Regarding the 2010 challenge, "The winning solution should exemplify the trimtab principle. Trimtabs are small steering devices used on ships and airplanes which demonstrate how relatively small amounts of leverage, energy, and resources strategically applied at the right time and place can produce maximum advantageous change. Entrants must put forward a bold, visionary, tangible initiative that is focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. Proposed solutions must represent a preferred state model – one that aims to optimize conditions from inception in order to create the most desirable, sustainable, future outcome. Entries should be regionally specific yet globally applicable, and backed up by a solid plan and the capability to move the solution forward."

Entries must be:
  • Comprehensive — applies a whole systems approach to all facets of the design and development process; aims to simultaneously address multiple goals, requirements, conditions and issues;
  • Anticipatory — factoring in critical future trends and needs as well as projected impacts of implementation in the short and long term;
  • Ecologically responsible — reflecting nature's underlying principles while enhancing the Earth’s life-support systems;
  • Feasible — relying on current know-how, technology and existing resources;
  • Verifiable — able to withstand rigorous empirical testing;
  • Replicable — able to scale and adapt to a broad range of conditions.
The winning strategy will integrate all these criteria into a powerful catalyst having the potential to play a significant role in the transition to an equitable and sustainable future for all. Here is a video about the Buckminster Fuller Challenge:

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge from Buckminster Fuller Institute on Vimeo.

August 12, 2009

Sprint Launches Samsung's Eco-Friendly Phone and New Environmental Initiatives

According to Greenpeace International, electronic waste (e-waste) "is now the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream because people are upgrading their mobile phones, computers, televisions, audio equipment and printers more frequently than ever before." Despite the several, Greenpeace claims "mobile phones and computers are causing the biggest problem because they are replaced most often." A mobile phone contains 500 to 1000 components including toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium and hazardous chemicals, such as brominated flame retardants. Polluting PVC plastic is also frequently used. Considering the wide availability of mobile phone recycling programs, several studies report that only 3-5 percent of mobile phones are actually sent to recycling facilities by consumers. This creates a need to manufacture mobile phones with eco-friendly products and recyclable materials.

On August 16, 2009, Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint Nextel launched the Samsung Reclaim™, the first phone available in the United States constructed from eco-friendly bio-plastic materials. According to Sprint's news release, "Made from 80 percent recyclable materials, Samsung Reclaim is a feature-rich messaging phone that offers environmentally conscious customers a perfect blend of responsibility without sacrificing the latest in network speeds and must-have features."

The Samsung Reclaim from Sprint is designed with environmentally-responsible components and fully recyclable packaging, which will gain the attention of eco-conscious consumers. Some of the added-value components of the Reclaim include:
  • Its bio-plastic material, made from corn, makes up 40 percent of the Reclaim's outer casing. Samsung Reclaim is free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, and nearly free of brominated flame retardants (BFR): three materials commonly targeted on green electronics guidelines;
  • The outer packaging and the phone tray inside the box are made from 70 percent recycled materials. The images and text on the box as well as the phone warranty information are printed with soy-based ink;
  • The typical thick paper user manual has been replaced with a virtual manual that users can access at; and
  • The charger is Energy Star approved for meeting the highest energy efficiency standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. It consumes 12 times less power than the Energy Star standard for standby power consumption and is equipped with a visible notification to alert the user to unplug the handset once it’s fully charged.
With the release of the Reclaim, Sprint is also expanding its Corporate Social Responsibility program. "When customers purchase Samsung Reclaim from Sprint, $2 of the proceeds will benefit The Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program, which supports land conservation across the United States and protects some of the world's most beautiful and important natural habitats."

Sprint press release also explains the launching of several new environmental initiatives in an effort to support the company's aggressive long-term environmental goals:
  • Sprint is the first U.S. wireless carrier to establish a set of environmental design criteria for future devices and accessories;
  • Sprint is implementing a series of new environmentally-responsible retail initiatives including adding a dedicated display area in stores that highlights Sprint's commitment to eco-friendly products and accessories; and
  • Sprint is committing to reduce paper usage by 30 percent during the next five year.
The Samsung Reclaim will come with Sprint's One Click, a "customizable user interface with quick access to such social networks as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. A new green One Click tile makes its debut on Reclaim providing the gateway to several green applications." These applications include:
  • Five Simple Steps from Discovery Channel provides five simple changes you can make to be more eco-friendly, from how you commute to what you eat for dinner;
  • Green Guides from Discovery Channel offers handy guides to help you green your lives with ease, and understand why;
  • Green Glossary from Discovery Channel provides words and explanations about the Earth and Climate Change; and
  • All Things Green, a Sprint Web category contains dynamic green headline and links to downloadable content.
Below is a video produced by IntoMobile about the new and innovative Samsung Reclaim.

August 6, 2009

Apply Now for 2010 University of Washington Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition

I participated as a judge in the 2009 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) organized by the University of Washington's Global Business Center at the Michael G. Foster School of Business. According to its website, GSEC "engages creative minds around the world to encourage bolder and less conventional business solutions to global poverty." I am pleased to announced that applications for the 2010 competition are being accepted until November 11, 2009. I encourage you to share this information to those who may be interested in applying for this innovative social entrepreneur competition. (Photo courtesy of the University of Washington)

GSEC explains, "Students from around the world—and across fields of study—are invited to find innovative, commercially-sustainable business solutions to problems of poverty in the developing world. GSEC plans are judged on the quality of life in the developing world, financial sustainability, and implementation feasibility." GSEC plans must clearly demonstrate the Social Return on Investment (SROI) in addition to the financial return on investment. In addition, GSEC plans must be for a low or lower-middle income country and need to address poverty alleviation in the developing world.

The application deadline consists of an executive summary and team registration. Executive summaries must conform to the executive summary format as detailed in the GSEC Submission Requirements. Applications go through two rounds of reviews to determine the semi-finalist GSEC teams. In mid-December, semi-finalist teams are selected from the applicant pool and are invited to attend GSEC Week, March 1-5, 2010 at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Once semi-finalist teams are confirmed, they are paired and work with mentors to develop the full business plan. GSEC teams are required to submit a full business plan draft by January 19, 2010 and the final full business plan by February 16, 2010.

During GSEC Week, teams attend exclusive company visits, receive feedback on their presentation and pitch their business ideas to judges as they compete for prize money totaling up to US$17,000. SROI includes the social good of improved health and, in addition to the GSEC grand prize, two prizes in global health will be offered. Please refer to the GSEC global health plan guidelines for more information.

In the 2009 competition, 14 teams from around the world presented their business ideas to judges and the UW community where they competed for US$20,000 in prize money. The 2009 GSEC team members came from nine countries and 15 different academic institutions. Their double-bottom line business plans seeked to create commercially sustainable solutions to issues of poverty in the developing world. The 2009 business ideas included water sanitation in Nepal, solar ovens in Africa, networks for NGO donors, microfinance in Ghana, healthcare and biofuel programs in India, education in Rwanda, and pedal-powered phones in Nicaragua.

August 2, 2009

Palau's President Creates Blog to Promote Transparency

In this blog, I often discuss the need for governments, at all levels, to operate more transparently when it comes to formulating public policy or implementing public projects. I am happy to learn that Johnson Toribiong, President of the Pacific island nation of Palau, launched a blog to promote government transparency. Bernadette Carreon wrote an article for the Marianas Variety, a newspaper based in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, saying "the Belau Blog was established to promote direct access to government information and address misinformation." (Photo of President Toribiong courtesy of the ROP)

In an interview given by President Toribiong, according to Ms. Carreon's article, "the blog contains information regarding the executive branch including laws that needed to [be] explained." The Belau Blog will allow Palauans living outside their native country "to access information about the executive branch" and will offer all readers the opportunity to comment on President Toribiong's activities. Posted on July 29, 2009, President Toribiong's first entry said, "Welcome to the Official Blog of the Republic of Palau. As much as we can, we will publish as much news, executive, orders and such on this Blog. Please feel free to comment on this blog but please keep it polite. Thank you very much and hope you visit the blog often."

I commend President Toribiong's efforts in using technology to promote transparency and, I hope, government accountability. I recommend all nation leaders to follow the President of Palau's lead in using the Internet to engage citizens at home and residing abroad. Using blogs and social media services will allow citizens to become better informed on various issues and engage constituents to help formulate solutions to their nation's most pressing problems.