Study

Google Live Transit

According to a new colleague of mine, research recently done at the California Center for Innovative Transportation (a research institute at UC Berkeley) revealed that while Google Transit’s uniform data is great for users, it presents a challenge for most small transit agencies.  Time, manpower, and technical prowess are often in short supply in such organizations.  And, despite Google’s trademark ability to make things simple, transforming one’s transit data in to GTFS (or General Transit Feed Specification) and managing the system over time is no small feat. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW3ubvjG0PU&w=440&h=280]

In searching to find out more information about the topic, I came upon this report written by consultants NelsonNygaard and Trillium Solutions in conjunction with the California State Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Shasta RTPA (a northern California regional transportation planning agency).  The study finds that the 8 rural agencies that make up this region desire to leverage Google Transit as a customer information tool, but that they face budget constraints in paying for technology and consultants, staff constraints for maintaining the system over time, and political constraints – it must provide an obvious value to customers and the agency.  None of these 8 agencies currently have automated vehicle locator (AVL) technology and only half have their transit data in a GIS.

While the report lays out 9 important implementation and next steps, I found it to lack critical convincing arguments to get agencies interested in this solution in the first place.  It does a good job of estimating costs for particular next steps and outlining important parties the agency would have to partner with to fully implement Google Transit, which are both helpful pieces of information, however they’re only relevant to agencies who already have the internal impetus to get something off the ground.

Interestingly, I think skimming this study made me realize the true value of research in-and-of itself more than the value of Google Transit for rural agencies.  This study involved 8 agencies, 5 of which piloted the Google Transit trip planner.  The simple act of contacting and involving these small agencies enabled them to get a solution up and running.  It serves as an example, and it also alerts other important stakeholders (most importantly, Google) to the various challenges faced by small transit agencies.

While reaching out through research is not a scalable solution, it is one important piece of the puzzle in spreading technological innovation.  As a bright-eyed and somewhat naïve student planner, I sometimes forget this.  I’m anxious to identify problems, find solutions, and implement them quickly.  I hope the study inspires enough additional writing (like this one, this one, or this one) to spread the idea that small agencies can also reap rewards of new technologies; even if it happens slowly, I’ll be glad to see it happen.

- Terra Curtis

 

Health Risks and Mobile Phones

This past month, one of the largest studies to date revealed little conclusive link between cell phone usage and brain cancer, adding to the general ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding mobile phone usage and one's health. The study organized by the World Health Organization, involved several thousand people from 13 countries who'd been diagnosed with a glioma or a meningioma. Researchers looked to see whether people with tumors reported spending more time on cell phones during the previous decade than other people. The results also show that the 10 percent of people who reported the most cell phone use were more likely to be diagnosed with a glioma. However, the researchers themselves are quick to qualify the results, indicating likely biases and errors in reporting; a number of study subjects reported using their cell phones for as many as 10 hours per day. Researches go on to argue that the study itself demonstrates the need for further research inquiries. Despite these conclusions, many health advocacy groups have seized upon the study as a prediction of the increased health-effects associated with mobile phone usage.

If nothing else, the study demonstrates the latent demand for more expansive and comprehensive research inquiries into the health risks associated with the use of mobile phones.

Study on Mobile Phones in Education

Last month the World Bank launched an international initiative to study the use and the potential application of mobile phones in education in the developing world. The study, titled "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries", plans to fill gaps in research that has until now focused on: (1) advocacy pieces about how phones *could* be used in education; (2) 'studies' of how phones have been used in a small pilot by one teacher somewhere; or (3) conceptual (often academic) discussions of the potential utility of mobile phones within various learning environments (often drawing on rich existing research into the use of PDAs for learning). (*As reported by the World Bank Development Blog) [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFWk6I2Huvw&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0] [Reader's note: The above YouTube clip showcases the Text2Teach program implemented in the Phillipines and is part of the larger BridgeIT program]

Through this initiative the World Bank plans to play a similar role in mobile education initiatives as it has in other mobile initiatives, namely mobile banking, using its institutional presence to make sense of existing, discreet initiatives and create opportunities for scalability, commercialization and gains in efficiency.

According to the World Bank's Edutech blog, the study intends to accomplish the following:

This study proposes to:

1. Map the existing universe of projects and initiatives exploring the use of mobile phones in education, with a specific attention to developing countries. 2. Map the existing and potential uses of mobile phones in this regard, comparing and contrasting such uses with other ICT devices, relevant to specific education challenges, needs and contexts found in a number of developing countries 3. Document lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area, proposing tentative guidance for policymakers and various stakeholder groups in this fast moving area. 4. Propose a conceptual framework and way forward for further analytical work to aid in the documentation and rigorous impact cost and impact assessment of the use of mobile phones in education.

The study will run through December of 2010. For now, I hope the folks at the World Bank make an effort to explore mobile applications specifically in continued education courses.

Study on Mobile Phones in Education

Last month the World Bank launched an international initiative to study the use and the potential application of mobile phones in education in the developing world. The study, titled "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries", plans to fill gaps in research that has until now focused on: (1) advocacy pieces about how phones *could* be used in education; (2) 'studies' of how phones have been used in a small pilot by one teacher somewhere; or (3) conceptual (often academic) discussions of the potential utility of mobile phones within various learning environments (often drawing on rich existing research into the use of PDAs for learning). (*As reported by the World Bank Development Blog) [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFWk6I2Huvw&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0] [Reader's note: The above YouTube clip showcases the Text2Teach program implemented in the Phillipines and is part of the larger BridgeIT program]

Through this initiative the World Bank plans to play a similar role in mobile education initiatives as it has in other mobile initiatives, namely mobile banking, using its institutional presence to make sense of existing, discreet initiatives and create opportunities for scalability, commercialization and gains in efficiency.

According to the World Bank's Edutech blog, the study intends to accomplish the following:

This study proposes to:

1. Map the existing universe of projects and initiatives exploring the use of mobile phones in education, with a specific attention to developing countries. 2. Map the existing and potential uses of mobile phones in this regard, comparing and contrasting such uses with other ICT devices, relevant to specific education challenges, needs and contexts found in a number of developing countries 3. Document lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area, proposing tentative guidance for policymakers and various stakeholder groups in this fast moving area. 4. Propose a conceptual framework and way forward for further analytical work to aid in the documentation and rigorous impact cost and impact assessment of the use of mobile phones in education.

The study will run through December of 2010. For now, I hope the folks at the World Bank make an effort to explore mobile applications specifically in continued education courses.