Answers to common questions about Abayima?
Is Abayima the name of a technology?
No. Abayima is the name of a non-profit organization that uses technology to support people facing humanitarian challenges. We use technology to ensure that people's voices can always be heard. Our ultimate objective is to provide completely decentralized methods of communicating when ICT networks go down. As we work towards this goal, we will try many different things. One of those projects is the open source technology we distribute, called Open SIM Kit.
What is Open SIM Kit?
Open SIM Kit (OSK) is a project that aims to become an open source SDK (software development kit) of sorts for hacking SIM cards. In practice, this allows users to modify the contents of SIM cards. Why? If our penultimate objective is to provide a resilient means for communication available to all people around the world (particularly those in developing countries), we must first take steps towards creating the scenario where this is possible.
- Decouple mobile phones from the 'single-point of control' that they all share (the mobile networks).
- Decouple SIM cards from the mobile networks to give them further utility.
- Leverage ubiquitous devices that are cost-prohibitive to the fewest number of people.
- Build new solutions for communicating once the above goals are accomplished.
How are SIMs useful for communicating? (also: Why does this matter? This doesn't make any sense!)
SIMs can be used to distribute information to people who are 'off-grid". Whether they are off because someone deliberately cut them off, or because they live in remote areas where cell coverage doesn't reach. Digital file transfer is something you and I take for granted, but some parts of the world (where computers and thumb drives are scarce) can make use of it. Think of it like transferring files on a thumb drive except for people without thumb drives, or computers.
What is the advantage of using a SIM over paper?
The benefit of turning the SIM into a storage unit is that digital storage devices retain their size and weight regardless of the amount of content being added, whereas paper does not. SIM cards are discreet and ubiquitous in developing countries where computer, smart phones and other means of communication (and sometimes even paper) are not.
Secondly, have you ever run an app on a piece of paper?
Does this mean you have to give everyone in the world new SIM cards to make this useful?
No. Open SIM Kit works with any existing SIM. We also publish our own SIM cards, which have no restrictions on how they are used (at least not the same as a mobile carrier). These SIMs are not intended for calling but instead can be used as digital archives of information for NGOs or Journalists who want to try to reach populations in a different way.
What is the advantage of using a SIM over SMS?
All SMS platforms share a common risk. They have a 'single point of control'. Meaning, if you want to attack the resilience of an SMS based platform, you just attack the mobile carrier that enables the network. The benefit of using SIMs is that by using Open SIM Kit, you give them utility beyond what the mobile carrier intended.
We're by no means a replacement for SMS (which works in near real-time over great distances) but the advantage is it circumvents the network provider, especially in scenarios where the provider becomes compromised or unreliable.
Doesn't modifying a SIM card violate the Terms of Service of a mobile carrier?
Modifying the SIM does not necessarily violate any terms of agreement. It depends on what you do in the modification. Simply storing messages on a SIM doesn't change anything about its use, in fact you've probably already done it at least once in your lifetime by saving your address book contacts to the SIM instead of to the phone's internal memory.
Can't modifying SIMs already be done?
Yes, if you are a programmer who is proficient in programming languages like Python, C, and AT. Even then modifying SIMs is very tricky and laborious. SIM Kit makes it easy to program SIMs, not just for programmers, but for activists, civic groups, journalists and individuals. The fact that it's open source makes it accesible to all and extensible by those who want to contribute code to the project.
What do you hope to accomplish with Open SIM Kit?
Eventually, it may be possible to use SIM Kit to free the mobile phone from the normal carrier, so that it might be used with an ad-hoc tower set up during crises. Obviously, this would require more than a hacked SIM, but the fact that it may be possible makes the first step (turning SIMs into a platform) worth pursuing for our team.
Is there a commercial version of SIM Kit?
Yes. The commercial service allows publishers to store content on SIMs and helps them distribute content to readers in mostly poorer countries. SIMs are cheap and wide-reaching and work with nearly 6 billion existing mobile phones. For some, it becomes a highly efficient and affordable means to deliver content to the literate poor.
When was Abayima founded?
In 2011 during the elections in Uganda.