Author Archives: Ken Banks

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

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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.

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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.

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Enabling a future generation of writers

This post was written by Rebecca Leege from World Vision. When children are acquiring reading skills, good teaching is critical. But just as critical is the opportunity to practice reading. Practice allows children to apply skills learned in class and to expand their vocabulary and content knowledge through reading. Unfortunately, children’s reading materials are rare in developing countries

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Innovation out of necessity is alive and well

(This article first appeared on the Virgin website as part of their special feature on innovation and disruption. The original post can be read here). While much of the West debates the pros, cons, merits and current state of technological innovation, innovators in the developing world just get on with it. And they’ve never been so busy. Innovation out of necessity is alive and well, and on the rise, according to Ashoka Fellow, Ken Banks

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Want to help spread the mobile message?

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 two volunteers, who have since gone on to take up full time roles with international development organisations. The series is high profile, and a great springboard for anyone looking to develop a career in communications and/or development.

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Scaling the charts

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Great to see “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” hitting the top spot in Amazon‘s best selling ‘Development Studies’ books chart (24th February 2014). 

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Social innovation: Celebrating the unpolished

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“I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous, and it did not get into print until, fifty years later, publishers would publish anything that had my name on it” George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) Late last year The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator hit the shelves. It was my first taste of publishing, and if I’m honest it really started off as something of an experiment.

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Thinking the future with shift 2020

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I’m excited to announce my contribution to a new book project - shift 2020: How Technology Will Impact Our Future. It’s a self-published book curated by Rudy De Waele which includes foresights on how technology will impact our future from some of the world’s leading experts. The idea of shift 2020 is based on Mobile Trends 2020, another collaborative project Rudy launched early 2010. It’s one of the highest viewed decks on Slideshare (in the Top 50 of All Time in Technology with +320k views). Reviewing the document a couple of weeks ago Rudy realised that many of the predictions were becoming dated, and asked the original contributors for an update on their original predictions and for new foresights for the year 2020

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Reluctant innovators are go!

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It’s been a busy few months as our new book – “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” – has been taking shape. We’ve been finalising chapter contributions, working on the introduction, sorting out cover and chapter designs, doing last minute copy-editing, building a new website, keeping Kickstarter supporters up-to-date, and pulling in book endorsements. We got 24 of those in the end, all glowing and hugely supportive. You’ll find all of them on the inside cover of the book, or on the website (click here for a full PDF version). All that said, everything has been delivered on time, with the new website set live on the eve of the book launch

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Charting The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator

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“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who come alive” – Howard Thurman (1899 – 1981) When David Rowan, editor of Wired Magazine, invited me to write a short article for “Ideas Bank” last spring, it gave me a great opportunity to share something I’d been witnessing on an increasing scale since my days at Stanford University in 2007. The article had to be short – 600 words – and because of that I only invited a couple of friends to contribute their stories.

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m4d: The fun is over. Time to get tough?

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I’m all for discussion and debate, and I’ve taken part in my fair share over the past eleven years. But I’m now beginning to wonder if, after all this time, everything we could have said has been said. The fact we’re still talking about the same handful of challenges and issues implies that very little, if anything, has changed where it matters – on the ground. Have we really made so little progress?

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Time to think message and motivation

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Few companies succeed if they don’t take the time to understand their users. Fewer non-profit ventures succeed if they don’t either. After recently ‘moving on’ from FrontlineSMS and a ten year spell focusing exclusively on ICT4D, I’m beginning to realise that much of the wider technology-based social sector suffers from not-too-dissimilar problems. Few people, it seems, working on software-based solutions have much of an appreciation of the motives to engage, and the technical literacy, of their target audience. Whenever that’s the case, things tend not to turn out too well

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Joining forces with the GSMA

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Good mobile data is hard to come by. Much is either speculative, out of date or – if based on more recent research – expensive. And what is freely available is often spread far and wide across the Web. If you’re into mobiles for development then today your life is set to become a lot easier with the launch of “Mobile for Development Intelligence” (MDI), a new open data platform from the GSM Association which aims to educate and unite all who want to harness the power of mobile for good - “Closing Mobile’s Data Divide” - June 2012. Exactly one year ago I had the pleasure to blog about the launch of Mobile Data Intelligence, at that time the latest in a line of GSMA m4d initiatives designed to help unlock the potential of mobile technology for development.

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