Old Phones and New Thinking

Half the Sky is a social change movement that seeks to challenge gender inequality in developing countries.

Half the Sky started out as a book, but has now grown into a huge transmedia project, and documentary series to be shown on PBS in the Autumn. With celebrity advocates including George Clooney and Meg Ryan, and a prime time TV slot you would expect this project to be doing something quirky and new…. and yes they are (facebook games that prompt giving etc)

But the most interesting thing for me is that the team are doing something innovative and exciting using old technologies: very basic mobile phones.

The games are aimed at teaching children in developing countries basic, but ultimately life saving health advice. The challenge for developers was to build games that could be played on really old phones.

Presenting at Games for Change this week the team suggested that the mobile phone has been a much bigger deal than computers or land lines ever were in developing countries. Recognising the educational potential of games the team have developed 3 games that can be played on a wide range of mobile phones.

Each of the games has a different educational purpose:

Worm attack : teaches about intestinal worms- a tower defence game

9 minutes: teaches about healthy choices for women when they are pregnant – the aim is to give birth to a healthy baby in 9 minutes

family choices: is a decision based comic book story, and allows players to see how decisions they make shape their life chances.

How many people will these games reach? How many lives will these games change? are two questions that have yet to be answered …

My key take away from this project is that the Half the Sky team didn’t complained about the lack of wifi in New Delhi, or the poor reception in Africa – instead they embraced the economic context of their brief and developed games that would work on the devices available to their target audience. These games have the potential to change lives, and life chances through the educational content they will deliver.

So in short, and very much a note to self.

Stop complaining about what you don’t have, and start asking what can you do with what you do have?

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