Ken Banks

For hire.

Ken Banks has worked at the intersection of technology, anthropology, conservation and international development for over twenty years and is internationally recognised for his work. He is a writer, speaker, moderator, compere and panelist who features regularly on the international conference circuit. If you're after a professional communicator for your office event, function or conference, let's talk.

About me

Ken Banks is the Founder of and creator of FrontlineSMS, a text messaging platform helping drive social change projects in 170 countries around the world. Ken holds a BA (Hons) in Social Anthropology with Development Studies, was awarded a Stanford University Fellowship in 2006, and named a Pop!Tech Fellow in 2008. In 2009 he was named a Laureate of the Tech Awards, an international awards program which honours innovators from around the world applying technology to benefit humanity.

He was named a National Geographic Explorer in May 2010 and an Ashoka Fellow in 2011, was the recipient of the 2011 Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest, and was selected as a member of the UK Prime Minister's delegation to Africa in July 2011. In 2012 the Cambridge business community presented Ken with a "Special Achievement Award" for his work as a social innovator. He is also a published author.

In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

When he's not working, Ken spends much of his time being bossed around by his young son, Henry, and twins Madeleine and Oliver.


As a speaker

Ken is an accomplished public speaker. If you or your audience have a personal or professional interest in social innovation, technology and entrepreneurship across the developing world, let Ken share photos, experiences and analysis based on over twenty years experience. Available for bookings at private or corporate events, lunches or evening functions.


As a panelist

Ken is the ideal candidate if you’re holding a workshop, symposium, conference or round table discussion and need a practical, first-hand perspective on how technology is driving social innovation around the world.


As a consultant

Ken has a strong track record in consultancy, and over the past ten years has acted as an advisor and consultant to a number of international organisations including the United Nations, Fauna & Flora International, the GSM Association, Nike Foundation and The Grameen Technology Centre. Ken is available for short, full-time assignments or can work with you part-time over extended periods.


As a moderator

Are you looking for someone to help manage and guide an in-depth discussion? Someone with first-hand experience in the world of technology, development and social innovation? A moderator who knows how to moderate, and not dominate? Ken has recently successfully steered sessions at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, and at National Geographic in Washington DC.


As a writer

Ken is well known for his writing and blogging on Africa, technology and social innovation and his work has been published online by CNN, the BBC and the Guardian among many others. He has written for the print edition of Wired Magazine, had a regular column in PC World online, regularly writes for the National Geographic website and has had guest chapters published in a number of collaborative books. In November 2013 he published his first book – “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” – which challenges established thinking around social entrepreneurship and comes with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.




  • AparnaKothary

    Ken was more than just a speaker during his time on Semester at Sea. He was a mentor, a role model, and most importantly, a valued community member. What resonated most with me was his genuine passion for his work

    Aparna Kothary, Semester at Sea Alumni and Development Coordinator
  • LeethaFilderman

    In his appearances on the Pop!Tech conference stage, Ken has mixed passion, clarity and humor to very effectively engage the audience. His innovative use of playful props and contests transforms conference participants into active advocates for Ken's larger goals. In short, he is an impactful speaker and thought leader

    Leetha Filderman, Pop!Tech President
  • GarethMitchell

    I have met Ken, interviewed him and heard him speak at numerous events. He has such an impressive command of his subject and is full of insights into technology and its potential to improve lives in some of the most challenging corners of the world

    Gareth Mitchell, Lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College London
  • RobWilson

    Ken has been an invaluable public speaker and facilitator for Ashoka events on numerous occasions. Most notably he led a fantastically engaging session in Summer 2012 for a group of 15 young social entrepreneurs who were finalists in our pan-European Join our Core Changemakers competition ran in partnership with Ben & Jerry’s

    Rob Wilson, Ashoka UK Strategy Director
  • OllieWilder

    As a faculty member for the Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows program, Ken has provided warm support, deep insight and sleeves-rolled-up advice to each year's class. The Fellows emerge energized, more focused on true social impact and better able to engage others in their work

    Ollie Wilder, Pop!Tech Senior Program Manager
  • daniel

    Ken combines a paradoxical blend of humility and confidence. As a global pioneer and entrepreneur in mobile technologies across the developing world, he has the rare ability to transfer his knowledge through incredible story telling

    Daniel Epstein, Founder of the Unreasonable Group
  • kristin

    Ken hosted an excellent panel on mobile-for-development at the 2013 Skoll World Forum. He was a great partner from idea conception to panel moderation. He skilfully engaged the audience as part of the conversation - a great gift of facilitation that leveraged the high caliber delegates in the room

    Kristin Gilliss, Former Principal, Skoll Foundation
  • david

    In my work over the years with Ken, I have valued his deep knowledge of how to effectively use mobiles to achieve social outcomes. He is an influential thought leader, bringing years of experience and entrepreneurial creativity combined with often surprising insights - and is great to work with

    David Edelstein, Senior Vice President of Global Programs, Grameen Foundation


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