News Archive: 2008

Here’s where you’ll find details of kiwanja’s 2008 activities including talks, conference attendances, media interviews, writing and other general news. Links to even earlier news items can be found at the bottom of the page. Please note: Given the age of some of these entries, some external links may now no longer work.

December 2008: kiwanja’s Pop!Cast now available online

A video of Ken Banks’ presentation at this year’s Pop!Tech gathering in Camden, Maine is now available online. Ken, who was selected as a Pop!Tech 2008 Social Innovation Fellow, talks about Dr. Who, Daleks, appropriate technology, mobile phones and FrontlineSMS in a five minute talk given to 700 delegates and attendees

The video is available via the site (with some additional background information) or directly from the Pop!Tech site. Videos of the other Fellow’s presentations are available on the Fellows page

December 2008: “Mobiles in Malawi” project featured on

Josh Nesbit’s Mobiles in Malawi project has been featured on the ‘Technology’ pages of the website. Josh travelled to Namitete over the summer to install a text-based communications network using FrontlineSMS. Josh, who is about to return to Malawi, was interviewed along with kiwanja’s Ken Banks for the article, which can be read here

December 2008: and FrontlineSMS to featured on SHIFT Radio

The work of, and specifically FrontlineSMS, has been featured on a special edition of SHIFT Radio. SHIFT Radio is an informal, lively internet radio channel hosted by Chris Melissinos. “Each week he talks about the latest in tech gadgets, interviews leaders in the video game and rich media industries and cuts up revolving guests, hosts and live callers”. Ken Banks was contacted by the station after taking part in a Net Impact discussion on social mobile gaming, and the recent launch of kiwanja’s Silverback gorilla game. The one-hour interview can be played via the SHIFT website here (look to the top right of the screen for the MP3 player)

December 2008: Video interview with Nokia Conversations website

Late last month Ken Banks was invited to meet up with the team behind Nokia Conversations, the handset giant’s official blog. During a short six minute video interview, Ken gave his thoughts on mobile innovation in Africa, plans for FrontlineSMS (following the recent announcement of funding from the Hewlett Foundation), and the challenges of sustainability faced by social mobile projects. The interview is available here

November 2008: Hewlett Foundation announces major kiwanja funding

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have today announced a major grant in support of kiwanja’s ongoing activities. The grant, worth a total of $400,000 over two years, will see the ongoing support and development of FrontlineSMS, the creation of an MMS (multimedia messaging) version of the platform, FrontlineSMS outreach, the creation of a non-profit online text messaging aggregator, and the scaling of the nGOmobile competition

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation makes grants to address the most serious social and environmental problems facing society, where risk capital, responsibly invested, may make a difference over time. The Foundation places a high value on sustaining and improving institutions that make positive contributions to society

The grant also represents the official launch of The kiwanja Foundation, a US non-profit organisation founded last year with the support of Perkins Coie. The kiwanja Foundation will act as a wider fundraising mechanism for kiwanja’s work and, in the future, aims to become a source of seed funding for innovative “social mobile” projects. The Hewlett grant announced today follows previous grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Open Society Institute

November 2008: Radio France programme tackles social mobile

A series of special reports currently being aired on Radio France International is exploring the impact of mobile technology around the world. The second programme, broadcast earlier this month, looks at the many uses of mobile technology in the non-profit (or “social mobile”) space. Researchers interviewed executives from both industry and the NGO sector, including Manobi and, and discuss a range of mobile-based projects including Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS. Excerpts from the interviews are available, along with the article, on the RFI website (both in French)

November 2008: W3C announce latest Mobile Web Initiative workshop

Following successful workshops in Bangalore, India (2006) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (2007), the W3C Mobile Web Initiative have announced an Africa-based workshop scheduled for Maputo, Mozambique next April. Africa Perspective on the Role of Mobile Technologies in Fostering Social Development aims to understand specific challenges of using mobile phones and Web technologies to deliver services to underprivileged populations of developing countries, and to capture the specificities of the African context.’s Ken Banks is a member of the Program Committee, which will shortly be putting out a Call for Participation

November 2008: “Silverback” featured at Net Impact 2008

kiwanja’s Silverback mobile phone game was recently discussed at Net Impact, where Ken Banks took part in a panel discussion on the use of video games as a tool to promote the work of non-profit organisations. The panel introduced the audience to the concept and impact of social games and explored the challenges of creating, funding and marketing them. “Silverback”, a gorilla conservation game, has previously been featured on the National Geographic and BBC websites, and has its own Facebook Group

November 2008: kiwanja to speak at National Endowment for Democracy

Ken Banks has been invited to speak in Washington DC at an event organised by The Centre for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy. The half-day workshop – “The Role of Cell Phones in Carrying News and Information” – seeks to answer a range of questions including how cell phones are being used as a medium of communication for news and information, who is using them to receive information, how journalists and NGOs are integrating them into their work, and which approaches have been unsuccessful and why. The ultimate goal of the workshop is to formulate recommendations for funders, policymakers and implementers on strategies for using mobile technology in conveying news and information

November 2008: Danish Radio features and FrontlineSMS

An interview given by Ken Banks earlier this year at the Supernova conference in San Francisco has just been aired on Danish Radio’s ‘Harddisken’ technology show. During the interview, Ken talks with Henrik Fohns about FrontlineSMS and the wider impact of mobile technology in the developing world

November 2008: lined up to appear at Rhode Island conference

Ken Banks has been invited as one of only twenty speakers to present at a conference at Brown University in Rhode Island this month. The conference, A Better World By Design, “asks the question today’s designers, engineers, and economists should be asking. How can we use technology to improve the world? Hear answers from world-class professionals and academics in this milestone conference that will change the way you think about global crises and push the limits of user-centric, affordable design”

Erik Hersman, a friend and supporter of kiwanja’s work and the man behind the highly regarded White African and AfriGadget websites, is also lined up to speak, as is Paul Polak, author of “Out of Poverty” and founder of International Development Enterprises (IDE)

October 2008: awarded 2008 Pop!Tech Fellowship    

kiwanja’s Ken Banks is attending Pop!Tech this month after being named 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 “bootcamp” 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 the official Pop!Tech press release is available here 

October 2008: joins the ICT4D Collective

Professor Tim Unwin from the ICT4D Collective has appointed kiwanja’s Ken Banks its latest member. The Collective, based at Royal Holloway at the University of London, is a group of people committed to undertaking the highest possible quality of research in the field of ICT4D, and making the results of this available freely to the global community. They do this primarily in the interests of poor people and marginalised communities. In 2007, the Collective was awarded the Status of a UNESCO Chair in ICT4D

As well as research, the Collective undertakes teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and contributes to the delivery of focused short courses on all aspects of ICT4D. Members of the Collective also provide consultancy services in the field of ICT4D

October 2008: SoCap08 panel discussion on ICTs in developing countries will be taking part in a panel discussion at Social Capital Markets 2008 in San Francisco on 14th October. SoCap08 brings together hundreds of leading social entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. Panel members include David Edelstein (Grameen Technology Centre), Ken Banks (, Marnie Webb (Techsoup) and Dwight Wilson (One Roof). The discussion – “ICT in the Developing World” – will be moderated by Gary Bolles from Xigi Media, and will discuss innovative approaches and key challenges in developing and rolling out ICT solutions – including mobile applications – in developing countries

October 2008: kiwanja talk lined up at School of Oriental and African Studies

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 2008: and FrontlineSMS at the Clinton Global Initiative has been awarded a complimentary membership and invitation to the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative (CGi) annual meeting, due to take place in New York from 23rd to 26th September. CGi is an invitation-only event which aims to move “beyond discussion, fostering a sense of shared responsibility to address major global problems”. This year CGi – which is attended by global leaders, heads of state, CEOs, non-profit leaders, philanthropists, directors of foundations, scholars, high-profile media and religious leaders – is focussing on education, energy and climate change, global health and poverty alleviation. New members are required to make a ‘commitment‘ to address some of the more pressing problems in the world today. kiwanja’s commitment has been selected for a special on-stage announcement during the “Poverty Alleviation Working Session”. Further details to follow…

September 2008: contributes article to Berkman “Publius Project” 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 2008: Open Source in Mobile (OSiM) conference appearance has been lined up to 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 2008: “Microfinance Insights” guest article published

A guest article written by 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 2008: interviewed by the Economist 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 2008: World Economic Forum invitation

Following an appearance earlier this year at GSM Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ken Banks has been invited to an invitation-only World Economic Forum meeting in New York this month which will focus on collaborative opportunities between the telecommunications, financial services, healthcare and media & entertainment industries. Addressing the critical issues needed to catalyze innovative solutions, this meeting will bring together senior level executives and top strategists as well as leaders from the areas of public policy, civil society and academia

Outcomes from the meeting, which will focus on mobile health, banking and entertainment, will serve to guide the World Economic Forum’s ongoing workstream around the mobile Internet as well as frame discussion for its upcoming Annual Meeting in Davos 2009. Invitees from the telecommunications community include the top strategists and executives from Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Avaya, BT, Cisco, France Telecom, Google, HTC, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Telstra, Vimpelcom, Vodafone and many others

July 2008: lined up to appear at Rhode Island conference

Ken Banks has been invited as one of only 25 speakers to present at a conference at Brown University in Rhode Island this November. The conference, A Better World By Design, “asks the question today’s designers, engineers, and economists should be asking. How can we use technology to improve the world? Hear answers from world-class professionals and academics in this milestone conference that will change the way you think about global crises and push the limits of user-centric, affordable design”. Erik Hersman, a friend and supporter of kiwanja’s work and the man behind the highly regarded White African and AfriGadget websites, is also lined up to speak

July 2008: kiwanja guest chapter in new digital learning publication was recently invited to contribute a chapter on mobile learning for a new book, Education for a Digital World. Described as a guide, resource, textbook and manual for policymakers and practitioners in developing and developed countries, the book has been published as a collaborative effort by fifty contributors from around the world representing the research, administration and business communities. Publication is by BCcampus and the Commonwealth of Learning

kiwanja’s chapter – “Mobile Learning in Developing Countries: Present Realities and Future Possibilities” – looks at the emerging use of mobile phones as an educational tool, discusses a number of case studies and examines some of the technical challenges faced by organisations looking to develop or use mobile technology in support of education initiatives in the developing world. The book can be downloaded in full or as a single kiwanja chapter

July 2008: Silverback mobile game featured on National Geographic Channel

National Geographic are profiling kiwanja’s Silverback mobile phone game as part of their promotion of Gorilla Murders, a new programme about the plight of the mountain gorillas in Central Africa (showing on 1st July on their cable channel in the US). The website has also republished kiwanja’s earlier Blog post on the thinking behind the game

June 2008: Next-generation FrontlineSMS software launched

On 25th June, launched the latest version of FrontlineSMS, its text messaging platform aimed at grassroots non-profit organisations in the developing world. Over a year in the making, and after several months of phased testing, the latest version – funded through a grant from the MacArthur Foundation – builds on the success of the earlier version by supporting Windows, Mac and Linux platforms; by providing remote data collection functionality for organisations needing to electronically capture information in the field; by offering language support for Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili; by working on an increasing range of handsets and modems; and through its provision of built-in support for online messaging services, designed for NGOs who do have access to the internet. The new FrontlineSMS website also contains a community section allowing NGOs from around the world to connect and share experiences, ideas and suggestions for future releases

A number of sites have already picked up on the release, including White African, Discovery Channel’s Etherized Blog, 160Characters and ICT4Peace. A copy of the official Press Release is available here

June 2008: kiwanja lined up for CBC radio interview

Following online publication of kiwanja’s photo essay in Vodafone receiver (see earlier News item) the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have interviewed Ken Banks about kiwanja’s work, and the wider impact of mobile technology in the developing world, for the final episode of their Spark radio programme. Spark is a “blog, radio show, podcast and an ongoing conversation about technology and culture”

Click here to listen to the full interview, or visit the Spark web page for programme details

June 2008: invited to sit on Supernova 2008 mobile panel


Ken Banks has been invited to take part in the Mobile Connections: The Next Great
Ideas? Panel, co-hosted by Tech Crunch, at the Supernova 2008 conference in San Francisco on 16th June. In putting together their panel of six, the hosts were looking for “game-changing innovations that provide a glimpse of the wireless future”. Ken will talk about kiwanja’s empowering work with non-profits, and the potential for and direction of mobile innovation in the developing world. A copy of his presentation is available here. Many thanks to Nokia for supporting and sponsoring kiwanja’s attendance

June 2008: Ken Banks appointed Co-Chair of new W3C Interest Group

Ken Banks has been appointed Co-Chair of the W3C Mobile Web for Social Development (MW4D) Interest Group, a new initiative announced during the recent W3C Workshop in Sao Paulo. Stephane Boyera, Chair of MW4D, welcomed the appointment. “I’m sure Ken’s participation will be a key factor in the success of the Group. He has very rare expertise which combines a mix of anthropology, field expertise in real-life on-the-ground projects, and growing recognition from the mobile industry for FrontlineSMS and his nGOmobile initiatives. These are a perfect fit for the position of Co-Chair in our Group”

June 2008: Next-generation FrontlineSMS gears up for launch

Over 25 non-profit organisations from around the world are currently putting the latest version of FrontlineSMS through its paces before it is finally launched to the wider NGO community during the last week of June. The software, which has users in over 40 countries and counting, has received over 75 download requests since it’s imminent release was announced during kiwanja’s keynote address at Global Messaging Congress 2008. Volunteers have also signed up in West and East Africa, as well as the USA and other European countries, to help promote the software. News of the launch will be posted here in the coming days

June 2008: kiwanja writes new regular column for IDG Publishing

As part of their new Africa-centred initiative, IDG Publishing recently approached to contribute a regular column on the role of mobile technology on the continent. IDG, a large US-based technology publisher, produces titles such as Computerworld, PC World and MacWorld magazines, among many others. kiwanja’s column has so far covered a wide range of topics, including the OLPC/Intel ‘battle’, mobiles as an appropriate technology, mobile-centred economic development, and the debate surrounding the right for telecommunications. Articles are also fed out through IDG’s newswire and are aggregated on a number of other sites, including Yahoo! Tech and CIO, as well as sister-IDG sites around the world

Contributions to PC World, the recent Vodafone receiver and Boston Review articles (see News items below) and a growing number of mobile industry talks all form part of kiwanja’s wider efforts to take news of the impact of mobile technology beyond the non-profit domain to a wider international audience

June 2008: speaking and chairing at W3C Workshop

Ken  Banks has been invited to talk at the forthcoming W3C Workshop on the Role of Mobile Technologies in Fostering Social Development, being held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, between 2nd and 3rd June. The talk, entitled “Developing appropriate mobile solutions for grassroots non-profits in the developing world” will focus on kiwanja’s approach to developing grassroots, appropriate technology solutions using emerging mobile technology in developing countries, and will include case studies on the use of FrontlineSMS. Ken, who is also on the workshop Program Committee, will Chair a later session on applications, with speakers from ITEC and Opera

June 2008: Ken Banks writes for Vodafone receiver

Ken Banks was recently approached by the publishers of the Vodafone receiver and has contributed a picture essay on kiwanja’s work, based on images from the Mobile Gallery, for the June edition of the online magazine. According to Vodafone, “receiver is Vodafone’s magazine for future thinkers, attracting a wide range of influential writers and industry leaders. It is a neutral space, where pioneer thinkers challenge you to discuss exciting and future-oriented aspects of communications technologies. Launched six years ago, receiver is now established as one of the industry’s key idea generators”. The article, entitled “Africa’s grassroots mobile revolution – a traveller’s perspective”, can be read here

May 2008: in the Boston Review was recently invited to respond to a Boston Review paper by Edward Miguel, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. The paper, entitled “Is it Africa’s Turn? Progress in the world’s poorest region“, discusses recent economic developments on the continent. In response, Ken Banks highlights the increasing economic activity spurred on by the arrival of mobile telecommunications, and suggests that much of this ‘informal’ activity falls under the radar of many studies on African economic development. kiwanja’s response can be read here

May 2008: “Silverback” debuts on BBC TV

kiwanja’s Silverback mobile phone game, recently launched to help raise awareness and funds for gorilla conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been featured on BBC TV’s Fast Track programme. This follows its ‘appearance’ on the BBC World Service Digital Planet radio programme late last month

According to the BBC, “Fast Track is a travel programme on the BBC World News, designed to appeal to viewers who travel frequently for both business and leisure”. Fast Track goes out weekly on BBC World TV. A link to the segment of the programme is available via the BBC website here

May 2008: FrontlineSMS debuts in Stockholm as a Challenge finalist

FrontlineSMS has been nominated for an award in the “Public Administration” category at the 2008 Stockholm Challenge for its use by citizen monitoring groups in last years’ Nigerian elections (reported by the BBC here). The goal of the Stockholm Challenge is to help counteract social and economic disadvantage, wherever it occurs, by promoting the use of ICT for development. It is mostly targeted towards developing regions and community or social sectors such as gender equality and minorities with the greatest needs. Update: The winner, announced at a Gala Dinner in Stockholm on 22nd May, was the e-Government Public Service Delivery Mechanism from India. The event was attended by NMEM, FrontlineSMS’s Nigerian NGO partner

May 2008: launches conservation mobile phone gorilla game, in partnership with Fauna & Flora International and Masabi, have re-launched a mobile phone gorilla game originally developed for the Vodafone wildlive! service back in 2003. Revised and updated, the game aims to educate people about gorilla conservation, and increase awareness of the current conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a rebel war which is adversely affecting both the people who live there and the last remaining mountain gorilla population

The game, which is being distributed for free, can be downloaded from the Silverbackers website, where voluntary donations can also be made. There’s also a Facebook Group for people who want to help promote the game, show their support or simply discuss the game, and a kiwanja Blog entry which discusses the thinking behind its re-release

The game was also covered by the BBC News website and discussed on The World – for background on the Programme see the News item below

May 2008: keynote at Global Messaging Congress 2008 has been invited to give a keynote address at Global Messaging Congress 2008 in Cannes on 8th May. Entitled “Mobile Messaging as a Means of Empowerment: How Has SMS Been Harnessed by NGOs Around the Globe?”
Ken Banks will discuss FrontlineSMS and nGOmobile, and the wider impact of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change around the world. The
Cannes event will also see the launch of the new version of FrontlineSMS, and a new website, funded by the MacArthur Foundation

April 2008: Kubatana and kiwanja interviewed on “The World”

Following recent news of the use of kiwanja’s FrontlineSMS system in the ongoing Zimbabwean election crisis, Kubatana and have been interviewed by the Technology Correspondent from The World, a radio programme which goes out to over 240 stations throughout the United States. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. A podcast of the news segment is available here

April 2008: FrontlineSMS used during the 2008 Zimbabwean elections, a grassroots NGO seeking to improve the accessibility of human rights and civic information in Zimbabwe, have been using FrontlineSMS to keep members of the public up-to-date with election news, and to solicit opinions on the ongoing crisis

Used as part of their “What would you like a free Zimbabwe to look like?” initiative, Kubatana commented that “Without FrontlineSMS we would not have been able to process the volume of responses we have received, and we would not have been able to establish a two-way SMS communications service in the way that we have”. kiwanja’s FrontlineSMS software has just been selected as a finalist in the Stockholm Challenge for its use last year in the Nigerian elections. To read kiwanja’s Blog posting on FrontlineSMS in Zimbabwe, click here

April 2008: Ken Banks interviewed for New York Times mobile article

Ken Banks has been interviewed alongside Jan Chipchase of Nokia for an article published in the New York Times Magazine, and New York Times Online, looking at how the mobile phone is being used to help end global poverty. A shortened version of the article was also published in the International Herald Tribune. The full article can be read on the New York Times website, or via kiwanja’s Mobile Database

April 2008: “The FrontlineSMS story” published in Stanford Africa Journal

The story behind FrontlineSMS – from conception in early 2005 through to its use two years later in the Nigerian Presidential elections – has just been published in the slightly-delayed Fall 2007 edition of SAUTI, Stanford’s Journal of African Studies. The article was chosen by the Editor’s because of its “optimistic, positive and empowering theme”. It hopes that readers will “come to a position where they feel adequately primed to leverage their knowledge and skills to make the dream of Africa’s economic, political and social development a reality”

The article can be read here

April 2008: OSI to fund third phase of FrontlineSMS development

The Open Society Institute (OSI) have just announced funding for kiwanja’s FrontlineSMS system which will follow the completion of the current MacArthur Foundation round of funding which ends in May. The OSI grant will see the exploration and development of a sustainable business model for the software, and the identification of the optimal open source license. OSI is a private operating and grant-making foundation which aims to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform

April 2008: invited to Microsoft mobile gathering has been invited to attend an “intimate conference” at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. Mobile Design Dialogue is bringing together what it describes as a group of leading lights in mobile research and design to explore and re-invigorate the future of the mobile landscape. The event, which takes place early this month, in supported by Microsoft Research, Google, FIT Lab and the University of Cape Town

March 2008: Calabasas meeting with Nokia design team

Ken Banks has been invited to meet with members of the Nokia design team, based out of their offices in Calabasas, Los Angeles, to discuss and share kiwanja’s work in developing countries. This meeting continues a trend which is seeing increasing numbers of industry bodies, academic institutions and international companies taking interest in kiwanja’s focus on bottom-up, human-centered, replicable appropriate technology solutions. Next stop is a conference at Microsoft – see earlier April 2008 news item for details

March 2008: Hat-trick of appointments

Following the recent announcement of his Advisory Role position for the innovative Question Box initiative (reported here late last month), Ken Banks has been appointed a member of the Program Committee for the W3C Workshop on the Role of Mobile Technologies in Fostering Social Development, and a judge for the forthcoming 2008 Mobile Messaging Awards. FrontlineSMS, which was short listed for a 2007 Mobile Messaging Award, will be at the centre of Ken’s speech in Cannes – where the 2008 winners will be announced, and where he will be making the non-profit keynote address on the use of SMS by grassroots NGOs around the world

The W3C Workshop, scheduled for Sao Paulo in June, aims to understand the specific challenges of using mobile phones and web technologies to deliver services to underprivileged populations in developing countries. kiwanja presented a paper at W3C’s Bangalore Workshop in 2006. A Call for Participation for the 2008 event went out at the end of February

March 2008: nGOmobile competition on the BBC World Service

Ken Banks has been interviewed by Gareth Mitchell for the BBC’s Digital Planet programme, discussing the origins of the nGOmobile competition and profiling the four winners (see News item on the next page). Digital Planet announced the launch of the competition last year, and plan to report on the progress of the winners – from Kenya, Uganda, Mexico and Azerbaijan – in a future programme. The interview, which was broadcast on the World Service on 4th March, is available here, courtesy of the BBC

February 2008: nGOmobile winners announced

On the eve of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the judges announced the four winners of the inaugural nGOmobile competition, aimed at empowering grassroots NGOs seeking to use mobile technology in their work. Out of a highly competitive field of over seventy entries the winners, who come from Kenya, Uganda, Mexico and Azerbaijan, will be provided with laptop computers, mobile phones, GSM modems, cash and kiwanja’s FrontlineSMS software

The projects chosen will be using SMS to work with local communities to promote the protection and sustainable use of environmental resources; to launch an SMS-based service for rural communities allowing them to ask a range of water-based questions on topics such as sanitation, hygiene, water harvesting, and water technologies; to help rural Central American and Mexican communities solve problems of deforestation, poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and the marginalisation of women; and to help grassroots and politically excluded people understand their human and legal rights, and to engage them further in the political process

Profiles of the winners are available via the nGOmobile website Winners page. The official Press Release is available here

February 2008: FrontlineSMS featured in latest UN report on ICT’s

kiwanja’s FrontlineSMS software has been featured in the UN’s recently released Compendium of ICT Applications on Electronic Government. The first in a series of volumes, it focuses on the use of mobile technology in the areas of health and learning. Future plans include publishing additional volumes on the use of ICTs in other areas such as human resource development, environment, management development, finance, farming, and government operations. The Compendium is described as a “unique collection of current ICT applications being used directly by or in partnership with governments, governmental institutions and the private sector around the world to support administration and public service, while addressing governance challenges”

February 2008: “Question Box” Advisory Board role for

Ken Banks, Founder of, has been appointed to the Advisory Board for Open Mind, a non-profit organisation which houses Question Box, a project developing a simple telephone intercom which connects rural people to the internet. Requiring no literacy or computer skills, users place a free call to an internet-enabled operator by pressing a green button and asking a question. The first Question Box went live in September in Phoolpur village, Greater Noida (India). will be helping the project develop a mobile-enabled version of the Question Box application

February 2008: profiling FrontlineSMS at Stanford conference

At the end of this month will be profiling the use, and potential of, FrontlineSMS in the health sector as part of Stanford’s Texting4Health Conference, being run by BJ Fogg’s Persuasive Technology Lab. According to the organisers, “text messaging is the only viable interactive means of reaching people on a massive scale around the world – the event will highlight the significant, untapped potential for changing health behaviour through the SMS channel”. Ken Banks will talk during the Showcase of Texting Applications session, and demonstrate the software during a special session on the Saturday

February 2008: to speak at EComm2008 has been invited to speak at EComm2008 in March. The event, being held at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, focuses on the “communication technologies, trends, companies and individuals who are leapfrogging the industry incumbents and opening the door to the future, disrupting the telecom industry in the process. It is the gathering of thought leaders who wish to share and develop their ahead-of-the-curve ideas and products”. Ken Banks’ talk, “Keeping it relevant”, will discuss the application of anthropology in kiwanja’s work, and the need for mobile application developers to appreciate technological, cultural and geographical issues when applying their work in developing countries will be speaking at a number of conferences in the coming months, including the keynote address at a leading industry event. Watch this space for further news…

February 2008: completes judging of Global Mobile Awards 2008

Romilly Gregory from Oxfam, Jessica Ekholm and Nick Jones from Gartner, Aloysius Choong and Randy Giusto from IDC, Ian Jones from the Henley Management College and Ken Banks from have recently completed judging the Bridging the Digital Divide category for the forthcoming Global Mobile Awards 2008. The identity of the judging panel remained confidential until the final shortlist was drawn up

Winners will be presented at the Global Mobile Awards Dinner on Tuesday 12th February 2008, which will take place at the National Palace in Montjuic, Barcelona. Ken Banks will attend the Awards Dinner, which follows on from his presentation as part of the “Society on the Move” track earlier in the day (see news item below)

February 2008: presenting at Mobile World Congress 2008

Ken Banks has been invited to present at the “Society on the Move” track at Mobile World Congress 2008 in Barcelona this month. His talk – entitled “Strengthening Democracy via SMS” – will highlight some of the uses of FrontlineSMS in countries such as Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. The GSMA Mobile World Congress is the largest, most significant and most successful global mobile event in the world. An estimated 52,000 visitors gathered last year in Barcelona to do business, to discuss the hottest trends in the mobile communications industry, and to participate in its future. This is the first of kiwanja`s two appearances at GSMA events in 2008, the second slated for Cannes in May

January 2008: Mongabay interview to be translated into several new languages

A popular interview given to last year, which was recently re-published in the Sussex University Falmer magazine, is in the process of being translated into a number of languages including Portuguese, French, Chinese and Spanish. seeks to promote appreciation of wildlands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging local and global trends in technology, economics and finance on conservation and development. Last April, Ken Banks and Rhett Butler discussed emerging technology trends, in particular the use of mobile phones in global conservation and kiwanja’s own work in this field. A Portuguese translation is now available along, of course, with the original English language version

January 2008: mLearning article published in Didactics World

An article by on mLearning in developing countries has been published in the current edition of Didactics World, a magazine which focuses on technologies, products and services relevant to schools, universities, colleges and institutes throughout the Middle East. The December edition tackles digital divide issues, with contributing an article on the potential of mobile technology for education in the developing world. The article forms part of a longer piece, which will be published as part of a collaborative book on the subject in the summer. You can read the Didactics World piece here

January 2008: Two UK-based talks lined up for in January

Ken Banks has been invited to present at Nokia and Sussex University this month. The first talk, with Nokia’s User Interface (UI) Team in London, will focus on FrontlineSMS and how it is being used in over 40 countries around the world. The meeting is of particular interest to both Nokia and kiwanja as the two organisations begin to work closely together on a number of initiatives, including the recently-closed nGOmobile competition. The second talk, two days later, will be back at Sussex University where Ken Banks graduated in 1999. The Sussex talk will focus on the role of the mobile for social and environmental benefit in the developing world, and will be aimed at “Anthropology of Development”, “MA Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation” and “MA Social Development” students. Ken was recently interviewed by the Sussex Alumni magazineFalmer – on the role of mobiles in international conservation and development

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