We write, and get asked about our work. A lot. This page contains a selection of guest articles, book chapters and interviews. There’s more writing in our PC World column, The Guardian’s Global Development site, our Digital Diversity series on National Geographic, a one-off for Wired Magazine and, of course, the kiwanja.net blog.
Current book project (2020/21)
Part Memoir, Part Study: A Book about the Pursuit of Purpose
When it comes to the idea of ‘purpose’ I’ve always found myself with more questions than answers. What exactly is purpose? Why is it so important to so many people? Where do you look for it? How do you know if you’ve found it, or what do you do if you never find it? What drives people to look for it in the first place?
The list goes on.
Using a combination of my own personal experiences and a mixture of academic and primary research, this new book aims to unpick some of these questions to help us better understand something which is becoming increasingly important to people the world over – what they should do with their lives. Read more about the book, which is currently under development, here.
Musings of a Mobile Anthropologist (Free PDF eBook, 9Mb)
Introduction by the Founder of kiwanja.net, Ken Banks
“Musings of a Mobile Anthropologist: Tales of technology, anthropology, conservation and development” is the definitive collection of writing and blog posts from kiwanja.net spanning over a decade.
Previously, some of our most popular articles were shared annually in a collection of favourite posts, and these turned out to be popular among students and academics who found them useful conversation starters and discussion themes. To build on this, we decided to publish over seventy of the most thought-provoking posts from the past twelve years in one place.
“Musings of a Mobile Anthropologist” is free to download and share on the kiwanja website – in PDF format – via the link above. The eBook is also available for a small fee in the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk Kindle stores, and as a paperback in all Amazon stores (regular book prices apply).
Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation: International Case Studies and Practice (PDF of book introduction, 4.3Mb)
With forewords by Ashoka founder and CEO, Bill Drayton, and musician and activist, Peter Gabriel.
Social innovation and social entrepreneurship look for creative and affordable solutions to specific societal problems. Fuelled by the spread of the internet and the ubiquity of mobile phones, there are more people working to solve pressing social and environmental problems in the world today than ever before in human history. “Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation” presents the journeys of pioneering – and often accidental – social innovators who, faced with a problem, used their courage, tenacity and creative thinking to find a solution.
Using their own words to reflect on their experiences, these cases do not gloss over the setbacks and the dead ends social entrepreneurs can face. Instead, readers will gain a realistic insight into the challenges and an engaging look at the problem-solving mindset needed to overcome them. From a life-saving project to bring solar-powered lighting to midwives in Nigeria, to a news dissemination service that’s grown from small beginnings to have a global impact, each case study draws out the lessons learnt by the innovators, providing guidance and advice for those looking to follow in their footsteps. “Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation” is an invaluable resource for social entrepreneurs and innovators looking for new ideas and insight into what really works – and what doesn’t. This book is an inspiring read for anyone with a social conscience and a desire to change their world for the better.
The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator (PDF book sample, 1.2Mb)
Foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Classes in social innovation, social entrepreneurship and design thinking have become increasingly popular in recent years. On the one hand, this might be seen as a good thing. After all, the world needs as many smart, engaged citizens as it can get, particularly when you consider the multitude of challenges we face as a planet. But does a career in social change really begin in the classroom, or out in the real world? How much social change is planned, and how much accidental? And which approach tends to lead to the most meaningful, lasting or impactful solutions?
With a foreword from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” provides a welcome challenge to conventional wisdom in social entrepreneurship. It highlights the personal stories of ten social innovators from around the world. Ten social innovators – ordinary people – who randomly stumbled across problems, injustices and wrongs and, armed with little more than determination and belief, decided not to turn their backs but to dedicate their lives to solving them.
BBC Future: November 2014
How technology democratised development
Mobile innovator Ken Banks argues that technology has become a vital tool in the fight against poverty.
BBC News: September 2009
Mobiles offer lifelines in Africa
If you want to see how east Africa may respond to the arrival of high-speed internet links, look no further than the mobile phone market, says developer Ken Banks.
BBC News: July 2008
Mobile development rings true
Today from Kenya to South Africa, from Sweden to Greece, conservationists are using mobile networks to track a range of endangered species using GSM technology.
Guardian Online: March 2014
Digital technology means development is now happening outside the system
The spread of the internet and rise of mobile phone ownership means more social entrepreneurs are succeeding outside the traditional development system.
Guardian Online: December 2013
Innovate or die: what it takes to transform global health
Social entrepreneurs are changing the lives of millions in the developing world, but it is often a lonely and frustrating journey. Ken Banks shares his tips for success for would-be innovators.
Guardian Online: January 2012
Technology’s new chance to make a difference in 2012
The ICT4D community must close the gap between the hype around new technologies and the reality in the developing world.
Guardian Online: June 2011
Activate 2011: Technology powered by people
The one-day conference on technology and development made clear it’s not just about technology, but who uses it and how.
Guardian Online: February 2011
Mobile conference needed more debate on development
An ‘intense’ annual congress of the mobile phone industry could have focused more on the non-profit use of the technology.
Guardian Online: January 2011
Technology’s role in fighting poverty is still ripe for discussion
As technology blazes a trail, policy and procedure are playing catch-up to harness the benefits for development projects.
Stanford Social Innovation Review: December 2015
The Top-Down, Bottom-Up Development Challenge
Do international development projects designed and managed at the grassroots level perform better overall than those managed from the outside?
Stanford Social Innovation Review: April 2015
From Projects to People: Addressing a Donor Funding Imbalance
Donors are always calling for innovative thinking, so why not show a little inclination to innovate themselves?
Stanford Social Innovation Review: September 2014
A New Donor Code of Conduct
Donors are in an ideal position to stem the flow of poorly thought-out or inadequately planned technology-for-development projects.
Stanford Social Innovation Review: January 2013
The Truth About Disruptive Development
The West shouldn’t create solutions to problems we don’t understand using fashionable mobile technologies.
PDF DOWNLOADS: OTHER DOCUMENTS, PAPERS AND MAGAZINE ARTICLES
Horizons or Mirages: Exploring the Potential and Limits of Digital Innovations (PDF, 239Kb)
Co-authored chapter for NESTA’s ‘Innovation for International Development’ collaborative book examining the opportunities of digital technologies and the potential problems of over-reliance as a development panacea
Digital Technology and Human Development: A Charter for Nature Conservation (PDF, 800Kb)
Co-authored paper for a special edition of Ambio’s Journal of the Human Environment arguing the need for a charter to help in the effective use of technology for conservation
The European Business Review (PDF, 246Kb)
Guest magazine article looking at social innovation and mobile technology in international development
Cambridge Business Monthly (PDF, 230Kb)
Book review of “The Dream Cafe: Lessons in the Art of Radical Innovation”
GSMA Mobile for Development (PDF, 2Mb)
Co-authorship of a study on the use of data to help unlock and scale mobile projects
Stability Journal (PDF, 1.5Mb)
Article reflecting on my ten years working in the ICT4D field
Cambridge Business (PDF, 910Kb)
Interview with Cambridge Business News Magazine
Learning from Experimentation (PDF, 200Kb)
Rockefeller Foundation paper on organisational innovation, featuring FrontlineSMS
Ericsson Business Review (PDF, 213Kb)
Interview on innovation and technology for development
Ericsson Business Review (PDF, 213Kb)
Interview on innovation and technology for development
Testing Planet (PDF, 2Mb)
Guest article published in The Testing Planet on building mobile apps for social good
National Geographic Traveller Magazine (PDF, 600Kb)
Interview with the Editor on kiwanja’s work and travel throughout Africa
Innovations Journal (PDF, 400Kb)
Co-authored article on our work ethic/approach
Musings (PDF, 3.8Mb)
A collection of the ten most popular posts published on the kiwanja.net blog
Design Without Boundaries (PDF, 2.5Mb)
An article, co-authored with Joel Selanikio, on how to design and build mobile applications
World Watch Magazine (PDF, 462Kb)
Special feature on appropriate technology with a central focus on kiwanja’s work
GTZ Newsletter (PDF, 260Kb)
Article on the potential of mobile phones for Cambodian farmers
Microfinance Insights (PDF, 600Kb)
Guest article on grassroots economic activity and mobile technology
Didactics World (PDF, 150Kb)
Guest Opinion piece on the potential of mobile technology for m-Learning in the developing world
Boston Review (PDF, 550Kb)
Invited response to an article by Edward Miguel on economic development in Africa
Stanford Journal of African Studies (PDF, 150Kb)
The Story of FrontlineSMS
Africa Journal (PDF, 154Kb)
Interview with the Corporate Council of Africa’s Africa Journal
Sussex University Falmer Magazine (PDF, 350Kb)
Interview with the Sussex University Alumni magazine on mobiles in conservation
Nokia Horizons (PDF, 86Kb)
Interview with Nokia’s “Expanding Horizons” industry magazine
Oryx Journal article (PDF, 40Kb)
‘Conservation News’ article on the use of text messaging in conservation, and the release of FrontlineSMS
FFI magazine article (PDF, 95Kb)
Article written for Fauna & Flora International’s membership magazine on their technology programme
Mobile Phones: An Appropriate Tool for Conservation and Development? (PDF, 260Kb)
Co-author on an early comprehensive report on mobile technology use in international development
Our special series on technology-for-good for National Geographic
An earlier series on the use of technology in conservation and development for PC World Magazine