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Posts from — September 2008

Call to arms: Meeting our Clinton Commitment

It’s not every day you get to glance around the room and see the likes of Bono, Al Gore, Mohammed Ali, Tony and Cherie Blair, Olusegun Obasanjo, John McCain, Bill Gates, the Queen of Jordan and Bill Clinton. I’m just back from an incredible week where I did just that, thanks to a complimentary invitation to this year’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGi) annual meeting in New York.


Despite the line-up there wasn’t too much time to get star-struck. Condition of membership – worth a whopping $20,000 – is that new CGi members make a ‘commitment’, outlining an idea which, when implemented, is expected to “impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world over the next ten years”. kiwanja’s commitment might not reach such dizzy heights, but it was deemed significant enough to be announced live on-stage during the ‘Poverty and Information’ workshop on Friday.

kiwanja’s commitment – the FrontlineSMS Ambassadors Programme – seeks to increase the scale of FrontlineSMS use among the global grassroots NGO community. By the end of 2010 our commitment is to reach an additional 5,000 users through a combination of:

  • Identifying leading international organisations working in key areas of education, energy and climate change, global health and healthcare delivery, and poverty alleviation

  • Training Ambassadors within each organisation how to use FrontlineSMS and how to leverage the software’s rapid prototyping capabilities in order to meet needs and outcomes

  • Charging individual Ambassadors within each organisation with the promotion and implementation of FrontlineSMS use within their organisations and organisational area of influence

  • Recruiting teams of volunteer Ambassadors from civil society

  • Enabling individual Ambassadors to report use, constituency impacts and measurable outcomes derived through FrontlineSMS implementation

  • The development of a FrontlineSMS Ambassadors website and resource centre

The commitment is due to start in January 2009. Between now and then we’re going to need help in two critical areas. If you’re a web developer interested in volunteering a little time to help us get a site together, please get in touch. Or, if you have project management skills and are interested in helping plan and co-ordinate this exciting new Programme, drop me a line. Alternatively, if you know anyone else who might be interested in helping out in either of these areas, please let them know. If you’re new to FrontlineSMS and want to find out a little more, check out this recent Blog post, or check out the project website.

Help empower the grassroots NGO community, and help take FrontlineSMS to new heights.

Make your own commitment to help us reach ours.

September 29, 2008   5 Comments

NEWS: kiwanja talk lined up at School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Ken Banks has been invited to speak to students studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. SOAS is the world’s leading centre for the study of a highly diverse range of subjects concerned with Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Ken’s talk will focus on mobile-enabled grassroots business and technological innovation, and address some of the challenges in developing appropriate mobile solutions for the grassroots non-profit community

September 27, 2008   No Comments

NEWS: kiwanja.net contributes article to Berkman “Publius Project”

kiwanja.net has contributed an essay on mobile technology for “Publius“, a Berkman Centre publication which seeks to bring together a “distinguished collection of Internet observers, scholars, innovators, entrepreneurs, activists, technologists and other experts, to write short essays, to foster an on-going public dialogue”

kiwanja’s article – One Missed Call? Refocusing our attention on the social mobile long tail – sets out some of the challenges in developing appropriate, usable mobile applications for the grassroots NGO community, and discusses what the ICT4D community needs to do to take full advantage of today’s mobile opportunity

September 21, 2008   No Comments

NEWS: kiwanja.net awarded 2008 Pop!Tech Fellowship

16th September, 2008: kiwanja’s Ken Banks has today been named as one of sixteen Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows for 2008. According to Pop!Tech, “For the past year we have combed the planet searching for visionary change agents incubating breakthrough approaches to the world’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges. We received more than a hundred amazing submissions from over thirty countries worldwide, and we’re proud to present the most outstanding sixteen – the 2008 Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows”

Ken joins friends Erik Hersman and Ory Okolloh of Ushahidi fame, and Nam Mokwunye, who he last worked with at Stanford University as a fellow Fellow on the Reuters Digital Vision Program in 2006/2007

The Pop!Tech Faculty will lead the Fellows through an intensive four-day “boot camp” just prior to the start of the “Pop!Tech 2008: Scarcity and Abundance” conference. Each Fellow will then be showcased at the conference itself, kicking off a year of access to mentors, influencers and resources

A copy of today’s official Pop!Tech press release is available here (PDF, 170Kb)

September 16, 2008   2 Comments

NEWS: “Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Technology” new PC World column online

For NGOs and developers alike, the ICT4D space can be a tough nut to crack. While NGOs generally struggle to find the tools to meet their particular needs, developers face the opposite problem – getting their tools into the hands of those who need them the most. Attempts to connect the NGO and developer communities – physically and virtually – continue to this day with varying degrees of success. There is no magic bullet

kiwanja’s latest PC World column – “Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Technology” – discusses some of the challenges in getting an ICT4D project to ‘market’, and looks at four projects which have taken a successful “rapid prototyping” approach to the problem

September 15, 2008   No Comments

NEWS: Open Source in Mobile (OSiM) conference appearance

Next week kiwanja.net will speak at the Informa Telecoms and Media-organised Open Source in Mobile (OSiM) World conference in Berlin. kiwanja was invited to present following a well-received keynote address at this years’ Mobile Messaging Congress in Cannes, another Informa event. OSiM, the only mobile-specific open source conference and exhibition in the world, boasts a line-up of over a hundred speakers. kiwanja’s Ken Banks will talk about the social impact of mobile technology in the developing world, and the challenges – and increasing opportunities – for mobile applications development in the social mobile space

September 14, 2008   No Comments

NEWS: kiwanja.net writes for “Microfinance Insights” magazine

A guest article written by kiwanja.net has been published in the latest edition of Microfinance Insights magazine. The article – Mobile Telephony and the Entrepreneur: An African Perspective examines grassroots economic activity triggered by the arrival of mobile technology, and is based on earlier articles for PC World and the Boston Review. Microfinance Insights offers in-depth analyses and commentary on the microfinance sector, updates on the latest trends, and profiles of global sector players

September 10, 2008   No Comments

Message pending

I’ve just spent the weekend in Paris. Lovely you might think – and you’d be right – but not because of the sightseeing or famous French cuisine (although we did get a taste of the latter). A few of us got together to share ideas and thoughts on Freedom Fone, a Knight News Challenge-winning project building a media distribution platform providing news and public-interest information via land, mobile or Internet phones. Since the “social mobile” space isn’t a particularly big one, sharing project-level ideas and experiences over an intensive weekend workshop made a lot of sense. There was particular interest in the decisions and processes which lead to the redevelopment of FrontlineSMS, something I’m always happy to share, particularly with good friends and colleagues (old and new).

Today, activities such as this sit in stark contrast to the early kiwanja days, where I’d be largely asked to comment on what other people were doing. The last couple of years has seen a gradual shift, so much so that I’m now at the point where I rarely get invited to speak at a conference if the topic isn’t FrontlineSMS, social mobile or grassroots mobile activity (see Staying Connected. And Relevant). With a number of new projects in the pipeline it’s looking like this trend is set to continue.

Getting a social mobile product to ‘market’ can be a challenging and time-consuming business. The FrontlineSMS concept is well over three years old, but only now do we have something significant to offer grassroots NGOs (the earlier version was more a proof-of-concept). The challenge has now shifted from concept design, fundraising, project management and launch, to one dominated by outreach and promotion. Fortunately, people seem to want to hear what we have to say.

The next ten weeks are busy and exciting in equal measure, with a flurry of conference and workshop activity starting with a Telecommunications Industry Partners Strategy Meeting at the World Economic Forum in New York this week. Shortly after comes Open Source in Mobile (OSiM) in Berlin, where we’ll be sharing our experiences developing mobile applications in the social mobile space. It’s a new topic for the conference, and great that the organisers, Informa Telecoms, are beginning to take more of an interest in the subject.

Later this month sees a return to New York for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGi) annual meeting where we’ll be announcing the new “FrontlineSMS Ambassadors” initiative. An invitation to sit on the technology panel at Social Capital Markets 2008 in San Francisco on 15th October is followed by an appearance in Maine for Pop!Tech. October comes to a close in London where I’ll be talking at a Chatham House event – “Technology: a platform for development?” – about my take on non-profits and mobile technology.

Finally, November kicks off with the fascinating A Better World By Design gathering in Rhode Island, where twenty-five speakers have been invited from all fields to discuss a wide range of world challenges and issues. Then, after an invitation to sit on the panel of a public meeting at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, we finish off with something completely different with a presentation of our Silverback mobile phone game at Net Impact in Philadelphia. A nice way to end, for sure.

These are still early days (if you forget the last three years!). The new FrontlineSMS is beginning to make considerable inroads in the NGO world, and with increasing numbers of non-profits planning FrontlineSMS implementations, this is certainly not the time to take our foot off the gas.

September 9, 2008   No Comments

NEWS: kiwanja.net Economist interview

kiwanja.net was recently interviewed by the Economist for a Technology Quarterly article examining the role of – and potential for – the mobile web in developing countries. This is the second time kiwanja has appeared in the Economist. The first – last November – covered the use of FrontlineSMS in Nigeria and Pakistan. This latest Economist article is available here

There has been increasing interest in the mobile web in recent months, which has also seen the creation of a new W3C Mobile Web for Social Development Group, co-chaired by kiwanja’s Ken Banks and W3C’s Stephane Boyera. Ken’s recent PC World article – Mobile Phones and the Digital Divide – also discusses the issues and challenges facing the mobile web in developing countries. This widely read article has been picked up by a number of sites, including ICT4Peace, appropriate it and Many Possibilities

September 5, 2008   No Comments