Facebook’s Free Basics Incubator

Facebook and its initiative (now called ‘Free Basics’), have faced their fair share of criticism, but I’m guessing that neither is going away anytime soon. So, here’s something that may be of interest to folks working with and/or designing mobile tools for lower income populations or those with lower end phones. Praekelt Foundation is partnering with Facebook on an open source toolkit of technologies and strategies that will open the Free Basics platform to more organizations and/or tech developers to adapt existing services or create new ones for distribution through the web and the Free Basics platform. Praekelt Foundation will be running this incubator for Free Basics. It will provide 100 social change organizations with tools, service and support worth a total of $200,000

Photo from Daniel Agee

Community Survey: Use of Digital Clinical Resources

Digital clinical resources are on- and off-line tools that are used in the context of medical education and/or care delivery with the overarching goal of Read More

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Prevention of sexually transmitted infections using mobile devices and ubiquitous computing

Background: Advances in the development of information and communication technologies have facilitated social interrelationships, but also sexual contacts without appropriate preventive measures.


UN and ICT4Peace launch project to counter use of ICTs for terrorist purposes in cooperation…

Since the late 1990s, terrorist groups have become more sophisticated in their use of the internet and ICT. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, extremist groups came under increasing pressure to go underground, finding in the internet an ideal channel through which it could continue communications while reaching out to a larger audience, and as a means to seek finance for its activities. Confronted with the growing threat posed by the Islamic State (IS), concerns regarding terrorist use of ICT and the internet further increased, due in large part to IS’ adeptness in using the technologies and related platforms to groom and recruit foreign fighters and supporters, produce and disseminate propaganda

In West Africa, mHero Inspires Country to Country Collaboration

During the Ebola crisis my fellow Sierra Leoneans and I saw how conflicting messages and misperceptions about the disease contributed to its spread.I began working with IntraHealth International as a consultant in November 2015, right after the World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone Ebola-free. The consultancy was an opportunity for me to help improve the health system in my country. My assignment is to help the Ministry of Health and Sanitation implement two technologies.The first is iHRIS—open source software that helps countries track and manage their health workforce data, including mobile phone numbers. The second is mHero—a mobile phone-based communications system that connects ministry staff with frontline health workers via two-way SMS text messages.I am excited to support the ministry’s implementation of mHero and confident that it will strengthen health information systems in Sierra Leone.Learning from Liberia’s planLike in Sierra Leone, the Ebola crisis severely weakened Liberia’s health sector and revealed system weaknesses, including a fragmented health information system. At the time of the outbreak, health officials found it difficult to obtain reliable information to make timely decisions

Can the Internet end poverty? Share your thoughts

When was the last time you unfolded a map on your last road trip? Or went to the post office to mail a letter? With a few swipes of your thumbs, you can pay bills, buy and sell stuff, hold conference calls, and talk to your friends and family. Whatever you need, and everything you may not know you need, there’s an app for that. If you’re plugged in, the world is, literally, at your fingertips

The Rise of Mobile Money Services in Somaliland

In 2009, Somaliland’s biggest mobile network operator, Telesom, launched their mobile payment service “ZAAD”, and today more than 10% of the 3.8 million inhabitants are subscribed to the service. As with normal mobile money systems, you can transfer, receive, and deposit money with ZAAD. The mobile money service is used for different purposes such as paying for your groceries, dinner at the restaurant, or your electricity. Other money payment transactions include livestock trade, merchant payments, and bill and salary payments. Recently on a trip to Somaliland I took through the streets Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, my Somali colleague and I wanted to purchase some traditional Somali fabric.

A call for sanity – not innovation – in humanitarian tech.

If you’re a socially-focussed tech organisation working with refugees, it’s been a pretty tough few months. Not only have you had to deal with the ever-growing number of people fleeing conflict – now at record levels – but you’ve had to deal with the politics of the ‘humanitarian technology sector’. For those who have been working with refugees for years, often with proven, well-thought out solutions, it must be frustrating to see call after call – through Challenges and Innovation Competitions and the like – for ‘innovative new solutions’ to the crisis. Not only is it madness to imply that every solution already out there isn’t any good (which asking for new ones implicitly does), but it often sidelines the very organisations with the best background and experience – the ones best-placed to build the ‘desperately needed stuff that works’ that we need. Can we agree to stop calling for ‘innovative and new’ solutions to every crisis, and commit to at least first looking at what currently exists

App aims to fill critical need for physical addresses in Nairobi

If you’ve ever been to Nairobi, chances are you’ve gotten lost. Thanks to a massive population boom in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi has become a city of winding rough roads, veiled bypasses and hidden thoroughfares, most of which remain unmarked. While many see the absence of physical addresses as a simple annoyance, Timbo Drayson and his

Time for a top-down bottom-up development challenge?

Earlier last week I stumbled into a post on Chris Blattman’s website provocatively titled ‘Is this the most effective development program in history?‘ It in, he shares the story of how, in 2011, the Nigerian government handed out $60 million to 1,200 Nigerians – that’s about $50,000 each – to help them create, run and/or scale a business. “Three years later there are hundreds more new companies, generating tons of profit, and employing about 7,000 new people”. Not bad for a reasonably modest amount of money. Although I see this as more of an investment program rather than a development initiative, I come to similar conclusions to Chris. What if we channelled more funds to the middle and the bottom, and let market forces and entrepreneurialism in-country take over?

Revealing inside stories of social innovation

It all started as a casual conversation about a new book idea over coffee last March. Despite being self-published with no marketing budget, my first book, “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator“, had gone down particularly well and I had been encouraged by how well it had been received, particularly in academia. It turns out there aren’t many books like it – ones that give the true, authentic voice of the social innovator and their life, work, achievements and struggles in their own words. I was happy with the book, but the feedback – great as it was – told me I could do better. The end result, exactly one year later, is “Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation: International Case Studies and Practice‘

R/T ≠ Endorsement

For pretty-much eight years now I’ve been tweeting about international development, technology, social change, innovation, technology, my work, and how we can all help make the world a better place. Some of it is pretty serious stuff. And sometimes it gets the odd retweet, too. So it’s funny that my most popular tweet so far – posted exactly a year ago today – covered none of those. Welcome to the world of social media.

Political and Humanitarian Crisis in Burundi: Launch of ICT4Peace Wiki

The ICT4Peace Foundation is pleased to publicly release its new wiki on the crisis in Burundi. Curated by Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the Foundation, the wiki is meant to alert and raise awareness on the ongoing tragic political and humanitarian crisis in Burundi and provide timely, meaningful and urgently needed information for policy and decision makers as well as practitioners from Governments, International Organisations, civil society, business and media.

New idea? Or old idea done better?

Last week I received my yearly mailing of Ashoka’s inspiring ‘Leading Social Entrepreneurs’ publication. It’s always fascinating flicking through the work and lives of some quite extraordinary individuals helping make their part of the world a better place. At the end, it struck me how many solutions there were between the covers of the publication, and how many further answers were out there to the world’s social and environmental ills. I also wondered what was happening with most of those ideas. Were they being implemented in single (or sometimes multiple) locations by single social innovators or organisations?

The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs of Choosing an M&E Platform

At the recent MERL Tech conference, Tania Lee (Caktus Group), Tom Walker (Engine Room), Laura Walker McDonald (SIMLab), and Lynnae Day (Oxfam America) led a session called, “The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs of Choosing an M&E Platform.” They’ve written up their reflections and learning from that session focusing on project design, tool design/research, and getting things off the ground, whether that means finding external help or building a custom solution. Choosing a tool: where to start? Many organizations come to a procurement process with a favourite platform in mind, either from prior experience or because they’ve heard compelling marketing or stories. Starting from the tool means that you are not being true to what really matters – your needs and those of your users. SIMLab and Caktus Group use an Agile methodology that prioritizes a general sense of direction and strong knowledge of the user, and uses that to get to a prototype that actual users can test as early as possible (whether you’re building a tool or configuring an existing one).

The usefulness of school-based syndromic surveillance for detecting malaria epidemics:…

Syndromic surveillance is a supplementary approach to routine surveillance, using pre-diagnostic and non-clinical surrogate data to identify possible infectious disease outbreaks.

ICT4Peace at UN special sessions on preventing abuse of ICT

ICT4Peace was invited by the UN New York to moderate on 16 December 2015 a technical panel discussion on Collaboration between the Public and Private Sector to promote safety and counter messaging on the Internet, to prevent the recruitment of terrorists and incite terrorist acts, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. “Terrorist groups continue to utilize the Internet and social media to facilitate their activities, including incitement to commit terrorist acts, radicalization to violence, recruitment, training, planning, collection of information, communication, preparation, financing, and execution of attacks.” (UN CTED) The panel session was organized by the UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), and included panelists from inter alia Facebook, Microsoft, Tencent, Symantec. The program can be found here

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