Asha is an enquiry into the possibility of using mobile phones and Bluetooth to create improvised communication networks in situations where phone and internet fail. Designed as an iPhone application, Asha helps reunite families and loved ones torn apart by disasters and conflict, through simple relay-based networks using humans and cell phones to carry tiny packages of information – like a name cross-referenced with a location/time stamp.
Using simple Bluetooth technology, Asha allows rescue workers to automatically collect names and locations of people they meet during their normal routines and sync them across platforms. Meeting a person who is missing a loved one, the resulting database can be searched – revealing where and when the loved one was in the vicinity of an Asha equipped phone.
Asha was designed in response to the overwhelming amount of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world. Estimated at 42 million* worldwide, this number represents not only human tragedy at the global scale, but also the tragedy of thousands of families torn apart while fleeing from disaster or conflict areas. Often stuck in camps and shelters where communications are severely limited, people are forced to carry the immense mental burden of not knowing where their relatives or loved ones are – sometimes for years at a time.
Asha was designed to:
- utilize the superior data storage and GPS functionality of smart phones while still allowing for less advanced phones to contribute information to the database.
- use the mobility of rescue and aid workers locally and globally.
- not interfere with the aid workers other routines.
- be cheap in comparison to other systems and easy to implement.
- utilize the growing mobile phone penetration in emerging markets**
- be viral. 50 Asha Apps in the field, registering 13 names a day, amounts to an astounding 4550 names registered in one week.
- Alleviate in the short term locally and in the long term globally.
- Finally and most importantly, to give refugees enough peace of mind to be able to start over again.
Asha was created by Martina Pagura, Anders Højmose and Ulrik Hogrebe for a GUI class at CIID 2010, taught by Jack Shulze, Timo Arnall and Matt Cottam. Asha was created for the iPhone using Dashcode and the Apple SDK.
Asha was featured on PSFK blog – Nice!
* UNHCR 2009
** Africa Telecom News reported that cell phone penetration in Africa was close to 50% in 2007