Author Archives: Ken Banks

Publishing and the art of iteration

Eighteen months ago, “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” hit the shelves. The product of a combination of donations, crowdfunding, ten inspiring innovators, an editor with too much time on his hands, and an engaged publisher, the book was always something of an experiment. Tales of people innovating ‘outside the system’ – people with little by way of resources or money, and often without qualification or permission – just getting on with fixing social ills that deeply bothered them seemed like stories the world needed to hear. Today, it looks like I may have underestimated the number of people who wanted to hear them. Professional book reviews are hard to get, particularly when you self publish.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Talking ICT4D

Back in 2009 I carried out something of an experiment. Me and Erik Hersman attended ICT4D in Doha. For both of us it was our first time at a ‘professional’ tech-for-development gathering. After hearing and writing so much about the disconnect between academia and practitioners in ICT4D, I wanted to see if it existed – and in what form – for myself. I wasn’t disappointed

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Global Development: Investors in People?

We hear it all the time. Investors invest in people, not products or ideas. Marty Zwilling, a veteran start-up mentor, describes people as the great competitive advantage. I wonder what the non-profit world might learn from people like him? The vast majority, if not all, non-profit foundations and donors are project-focused

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Book Review

The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator Ken Banks (ed), London Publishing Partnership, 2013, 232 pages Review by the Society of Business Economists “Any book with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and comments from the World Economic Forum, the BBC and National Geographic is surely one to take notice of, and this book still exceeded my expectations in so many ways. If the book has a purpose, it is probably to inspire us to innovate using existing technology for those who cannot help themselves. As an economist in the field of innovation and creativity I was ready to uncover the principles involved. What I didn’t expect was the emotional roller coaster that made me stop and wonder why I was so close to tears. Human stories of injustice and income inequality are so much more powerful than statistics.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Principles and Charters: A recipe for harmony in ICT4D?

There’s a phenomenon in the science world known as ‘multiple independent discovery‘. It’s where “similar discoveries are made by scientists working independently of each other” and the Theory of Evolution, the jet engine and the television can be counted among its ranks. Not that any of my work comes close to any of these, it was no surprise when I recently announced my Donors Charter to learn that friends on the other side of the Atlantic were working on something very similar. Or at least that appeared very similar. The Donors Charter was borne out of a specific frustration that donors often appeared to be funding ICT4D projects they shouldn’t.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Like writing? Social innovation? Technology? Read on.

If you’re interested in technology – in particular the human face of technology in international development – have excellent writing and research skills, and want to develop our presence on the National Geographic website, then we might have the perfect opportunity for you. For a number of years, kiwanja.net has worked hard to take the ‘mobile message’ to the masses, sharing human stories of how technology is improving lives around the world and sharing them in an accessible format with the general public. “Digital Diversity“ with National Geographic is our flagship effort, and to date we have posted dozens of stories on how different technologies, from mobile phones to solar power, are improving the lives of people everywhere. The series is very popular and has strong support from the National Geographic staff who regularly tweet and share the stories with their millions of followers. The series has recently been managed by a number of volunteers, a couple of which have since gone on to take up full time roles with international development organisations

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Every three seconds

Every three seconds, someone in the world dies from hunger or extreme poverty. In a society where materialism reigns, what is the real secret to happiness? Award-winning filmmaker Daniel Karslake (For the Bible Tells Me So) tells the unforgettable stories of five regular folks – a boy, a college student, a thirty-something and two seniors – whose lives went from ordinary to extraordinary based on one simple decision: to engage. Each chose action over apathy, and in the process, each one has had a significant and lasting impact on two of the most challenging, yet solvable, issues of our time: hunger and extreme poverty.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

The folly of “Designing with the end user”

After years of near-invisible end users, it’s promising to see the beginnings of ‘end-user recognition’ in much of ICT4D‘s emerging best practice. It looks like we’ve made a big stride forward, but we’re not where we need to be yet, despite making all the right noises. To a great extent, we’re still saying one thing and doing another. The international development sector, which includes the ICT4D community, is famously uncoordinated. That’s no surprise to many of the people who work in it.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

International development: A problem of image, or a problem of substance?

The world has problems. Big problems. They need big answers, ambitious projects and innovative solutions. And they cost money. Lots of it.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Rethinking livelihoods.

This post appeared on the PopTech blog and has been republished with permission. You can read the original post here. This post is co-authored by PopTech president Leetha Filderman, and Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS. Together they are co-facilitators of the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program.  We are pleased to announce the 2014 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows, a diverse group of designers, social innovators, technologists and writers with expertise in technology, global health, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and informal sector economics. Sean Blagsvedt, Alexice Tô-Camier, Dominic Muren, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Solomon Prakash This year’s program is focused on rethinking livelihoods

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Time for a Donor Funding Charter?

“Innovation isn’t about green bean bags and whacky idea sessions. It is a long term business development strategy“ Lucy Gower Behind almost every good social entrepreneur you’ll find a donor. These donors come in all shapes and sizes – family members, friends, companies, CSR departments and sponsors are the most typical, increasingly followed by the crowd funders among us. While plenty of great things get funded, pretty crazy stuff does, too.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Field of dreams

Two years ago this summer, long-time friend Erik Hersman and I took a stroll through this grass meadow in St. Ives, a small market town in Cambridgeshire where I work from a small office above a supermarket. Erik was on holiday, but that didn’t stop us taking a long walk discussing life, family and work. Erik had a few ideas on the boil, and I was entering a new phase after stepping back from day-to-day operations at FrontlineSMS a couple of months earlier. I walk a lot, and often use the time to think, strategise and develop my ideas

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Reflections on two days in a ‘media silo’

I’m sitting in the old German parliament building listening to a plenary discussion on activism. It’s my second day at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, and I’m in Bonn to help mentor Ashoka Fellows as part of their Globalizer programme, to speak on an Ashoka panel on social entrepreneurship, and to take part in a Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications discussion on how mobile technology is changing society. It’s been a busy three days, and I’ve had to regularly remind myself that I’m at a media-focused event. We’ve had discussions on the future of journalism, new business models for the media, big media vs. social media, how to communicate in disasters, community building, social entrepreneurship, the Arab Spring, mobile connectivity, technology in Africa, democracy building, governance, digital security and privacy, surveillance, big data and how to engage youth in development.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Tribute to a friend

It’s quite fitting, really, that I find myself sitting in the most unlikely place – the foyer of a five star hotel in Saudi Arabia – randomly reading a tribute to a man who was instrumental in helping get me where I am today. You won’t find anything online about Frederick Richard Vivian Howard Cooper, not even news of his passing late last year. Freddie was an intensely private man. His phone number was ex-directory, and he never gave anyone his contact details. For the vast majority of the time I knew him it was his social club down the road from the housing estate where I grew up in Jersey that gave me the point of contact I needed.

Posted in mHealth, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed