Author Archives: Ken Banks

Joining CARE as their Entrepreneur in Residence

This post first appeared on the CARE International ‘Insights’ website and is republished here with permission. Welcome to CARE International’s first ever Entrepreneur in Residence, Ken Banks. Ken will be spending time with us over the next year to help make sense of the increasingly complex world of social innovation and technology-for-development. So, what exactly is an Entrepreneur in Residence, and why might we need one at CARE?

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

What technology-for-conservation might learn from technology-for-development

Although the majority of my more recent work has sat in the ‘global development’ bucket, much of my early interest lay in conservation. Before I stumbled into the world of mobiles-for-development (m4d) I was helping with biodiversity surveys in Uganda and running primate sanctuaries in Nigeria, and focusing my academic studies on the role of anthropologists in the creation of national parks. My first m4d project looked at the potential of mobile technology in conservation, and it was my work around Kruger National Park over 2003 and 2004 that lead to the idea behind FrontlineSMS. Conservation is still one of my biggest passions, and I returned to my roots a couple of years ago when I was asked to speak about the potential for, and use of, emerging technology in the global conservation effort at the 2013 WWF Kathryn Fuller Symposium. You can watch that talk below (it’s also available, along with other talks, in the Audio & Video section of this website).

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

The case of We Care Solar and our failure to spot winners

“The first ever US$1 million UN-DESA Energy Grant has been awarded to We Care Solar, a non-profit organisation, to enhance and expand the use of its ‘Solar Suitcase’. By making solar power simple, accessible and affordable, this device allows for the provision of electricity for medical procedures during childbirth in many developing countries, helping to avoid life-threatening complications for mothers and children” – UN website Yesterday afternoon at United Nations HQ in New York, Laura Stachel and her organisation, We Care Solar, picked up the inaugural UN-DESA award. It’s the latest in a string of awards and accolades for a project I’ve known and admired for many years. You can read more about what happened yesterday on the UN website. Liberian Health Workers receiving their Solar Suitcase (Photo: We Care Solar) I was already a fan of simple, appropriate technology solutions to problems before I met Laura in 2009

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

Halting the push-push of global development

“On 29th August 1965, an article was published in The Observer entitled “How to help them help themselves”, written by Fritz Schumacher the distinguished economist with support from his close friend Observer editor, David Astor. In it, Schumacher pointed out the inadequacies of aid based on the transfer of large scale, capital-intensive technologies and argued for a shift towards “intermediate technologies”, based on the needs and skills possessed by poor people themselves. This article helped shape the future of development.” – Simon Trace, CEO, Practical Action I came across Schmacher’s writing almost 20 years ago during my time at Sussex University. I was only three years into my global development journey, having spent a decade working in the technology sector until everything changed after a trip to Zambia in 1993. Shumacher’s call for appropriate technologies resonated on so many levels, and seemed to sit in stark contrast to many of the active – and failed – policies of the development system. Sadly, despite the rhetoric, little has really changed, and many ICT4D projects simply follow big brother’s bad practice.

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

Lone innovators of the world unite

Conventional wisdom among much of the investor community might have you believe that only projects borne out of teams have the potential to succeed. People that work alone are an awkward fit. Maybe they’re considered anti-social, giving a sign that they’re not able (or willing) to work with others? Or they’re considered too introvert?

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

Want a holistic view of the world of social innovation? Try these four books.

We’re seeing a steady stream of great books hitting the shelves at the moment, each focusing on a different aspect of the technology/social innovation debate. While some offer hardcore theory and research, others offer softer inspiration and advice. One day we’ll have a book which captures and weaves together all four – that would be the ideal book – but for now we’ll have to read them all as separate volumes. So, what are they?

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

1995. 2005. 2015. Two decades of code

Precisely ten years ago this morning I sat down at a kitchen table in Finland and started coding. Armed with a Visual manual, a laptop and GSM modem, a couple of SIMs and a Nokia 6100 and cable – and plenty of coffee – I delved into the world of Windows programming for the very first time. I’d already done a fair amount of professional software development over the years, designing and building a membership/fundraising system for Jersey Zoo, and a range of accounting and amortisation systems for a legal firm, but that was ten years earlier in the mid-1990’s when QuickBASIC was my weapon of choice. Ten years had passed, and I’d never written anything event-driven before. I was on a steep learning curve, but was motivated.

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

Gazing into development’s crystal ball

It’s a sector that famously likes to look and plan ahead. So what does the development professional of today think it takes to be a professional development worker of tomorrow? In partnership with the USAID Global Development Lab and PSI, Devex recently conducted a survey of development professionals to see what tools, skills and approaches they think the next-generation of development professionals will need to thrive ten years from now. Last week they published a report of these findings.

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

Why planning isn’t everything: Embracing serendipity, chance and luck in the pursuit of…

Each year, hundreds – if not thousands – of engaged students walk through the doors of schools, colleges and universities around the world eager to learn the art of social change. But is this the best approach? Does turning social entrepreneurship into an academic discipline give out the right message? 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

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

Internship opportunity at Means of Exchange

Are you interested in technology, community, the sharing economy and how we might promote better understanding and economic co-operation among neighbours, communities and neighbourhoods? If so, our Means of Exchange project is looking for someone for a short three month Internship to help with the following: 1. Managing and maintaining our Twitter feed 2. Posting links to news stories and articles to our Community Links page 3.

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

ICT4D students: The world is your classroom

It seems courses in business and innovation are getting a hard time these days. First, Peter Jones, a 49-year-old serial entrepreneur in the UK, said he believed that hands-on experience was far more valuable to potential business leaders than several years studying theory in a lecture theatre. Then we had the likes of Peter Thiel, Scott Cook and Elon Musk telling us they believed business school graduates were hurting, rather than helping, innovation. If we’re overstating the role of education in entrepreneurship and innovation, are we doing the same with social innovation and ICT4D?

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

Making a new ending

Exactly two-and-a-half years ago I sat on the Unreasonable at Sea ship, docked in Ho Chi Minh City, planning next steps in a life and career that’s taken me from programming Commodore PET computers, running primate sanctuaries and developing messaging tools to mentoring tech startups and students on a ship with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. If it’s all about the journey, then I think I’ve passed on that one. Despite all of that, as time passes the destination inevitably becomes just as important. After 25 years working in technology – 22 years of those in conservation and international development – I’ve been rewarded with some amazing friendships, many wonderful experiences and more than my fair share of (unexpected) awards and recognition.

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

Global development R&D: Maintaining a balance

My first brush with technology-for-development, almost twenty years ago, wasn’t on the potential of the Internet, or how mobile phones were going to change, well, everything. To be honest, neither were really on the development radar in any meaningful way back then. It’s almost funny to imagine a time when that was the case. No, my first contact with what was to become a career in ICT4D started off with an essay on the failure of plough and cook stove projects across Africa. I was struck by the beauty of simple, locally appropriate solutions and amazed at how development experts just didn’t seem (or want) to get it

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

Is ‘fixing development’ the real Grand Challenge for Development?

“Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives” – Bill Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation I’ve got an idea for a great new project if anyone out there is looking for one. But we warned – it won’t be easy

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