Posts Tagged ‘mobile phones’
In what has become an annual tradition, we’re honored to have Terry Kramer, now Regional President – Vodafone Americas, return to the Technology Salon and update us on Vodafone’s continued efforts to bring mobile technology to the developing world.
Whew, I think this was one of the most intense and contentious Technology Salons yet! After an hour of lively discussion around what “sustainability” and “scale” means to information and communication technology programs, we were just starting to pull back the layers around the topics.
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Sustainability Means Many Things
We quickly found that there were many definitions of sustainability and scale. Maybe too many, as these terms differed wildly across implementers and donors. It was even suggested that in the realm of ICT, development has an unbroken string of failures since none of the projects have scaled to the extent of mobile phones.
Before we cast out the entire body of work to date, much of ICT4D is done as experimentation – there is an expectation of failure while we figure out models that would work. At least we have mobile phones to show that there are ICT models that can scale, sustainably.
What do you think is the single most important issue at the intersection fo technology and development? Recently, the twin issues of sustainability and scale have come to the forefront in many conversations, with both peaking in October in several forums:
- Sustainability: This month’s Educational Technology Debate is focusing on ICT4E sustainability and at an IADB meeting, virtually everything that USAID does was suggested to be unsustainable.
- Scale: I was recently reminded that while there is an incredibly vibrant mobile phone industry, after 15 years of PDA and mobile phone pilots there are few, if any, sustained mobile technology development projects that are more than 5 years old, continued after funding ended, and scaled beyond pilots.
But what do we mean by “sustainability” and “scale” in ICT4D?
Now here’s the real issue. What might be our shared definition of both “sustainability” and “scale” with information and communication technology programs in international development?
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In our September Technology Salon, we took on James BonTempo’s pertinent question of What Does the “m” in mHealth Really Mean? in a spirited debate with technology and development practitioners.
We were seeking a better definition of mHealth than the current focus on devices, and specifically the hype around mobile phones. As one participant bemoaned, it seems that every health project with a mobile phone or PDA, no matter their usage, is now an mHealth project.
So we sought to put parameters on what could be called an mHealth project, and through that, come up with a new definition for mHealth. After an hour of vibrant debate, we developed these four aspects for mHealth projects:
At the Future of Mobile-Empowered Development we focused on the desire by mobile network operators (MNO) to increase revenues and market share by expanding into rural areas, where it becomes more difficult and costly to provide service. We also recognized that the development community wants to capitalize on the success and reach of the mobile network to assist the poor, but these two actors are still wrestling with how to make that happen.
So how would the development community partner with an MNO like Vodafone? The Salon identified two issues that are key to developing partnership opportunities:
- MNOs have specific business objectives and drivers. The development community needs to understand these requirements to design projects that will engage MNOs.
- MNOs want to partner with the development community. They are looking for key applications that solve a common need for many in developing countries. MNOs want to satisfy those needs for better business results.
In essence, both parties need to understand each other’s business better. Let’s begin with briefly outlining Vodafone’s strategy and then what they are looking for and how development initiatives can partner with them.
So what can the development communities learn from the mobile operator approach? Where are they going in their “emerging markets” – the future of mobile coverage, usage tariffs, distribution channels, and network sharing? And what’s the next paradigm shift in technology that can spur more development – be it public or private?
Please join Terry Kramer, Group Strategy & Business Improvement Director for Vodafone in an intimate, informal, and in person, discussion around the nexus of mobile technology and international development at the next Technology Salon.
The Future of Mobile-Empowered Development
April Technology Salon
Friday, April 24, 8:30-10am
UN Foundation Conference Room
1800 Mass Avenue, NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036 (map)
Our gracious host is the UN Foundation and we’ll have coffee and donuts for a good morning sugar rush to wake everyone up. Two changes with this Salon – we’ll meet on Friday morning, instead of Thursday, and Alice Liu will be the guest moderator, as I will be in San Francisco.
There needs to be a micro mobile telco solution, an entrepreneur-led, small-scale business model to deliver connectivity to rural or underserved areas not seen as commercially viable by large GSM providers.
In this model, voice communication is the original “killer app” – the key functionality that drives early and widespread adoption and revenue. But should broadband data also be provided, even if there isn’t obvious demand?
Broadband data connectivity is needed for many applications in virtually every development sector, from e-government to e-health, and is often central to any educational intervention. And as mobile carrier backhauls are almost always IP networks, the technology it there.
In fact, there was also consensus that technology was not the main micro mobile telco constraint – costs and functionality continue to develop to the advantage of potential effective solutions like WiFi mesh networks, WiMax technology, and GSM infrastructure.
Mobile phones are an amazing success story in the developing world, bringing transformative opportunities to many underserved communities. But they do not reach out to remote rural villages – where there is demand and purchasing power, albeit limited – and a scaleable micro mobile teclo solution could transform communications and development for the poorest of the poor.
So what might be the business and technology models that would allow entrepreneurs to roll out mobile phone systems to these underserved communities? And could development organizations play a role?
Which technology would be best: GSM? WiFi? WiMax? What’s the business case: Handset sales? Subscriptions? Airtime Only? Could voice services be augmented with data? Even broadband? How might an entrepreneur serve 400 customers at $10 per month revenue or $48,000 per annum? And should aid organizations seed these businesses?
Join David Ferguson, for a lively discussion of possible micro mobile telco models and expect to hit the whiteboards with your ideas.
Epidemics and a shortage of healthcare workers continue to present grave challenges for governments and health providers in the developing world. Yet in these same places, the explosive growth of mobile communications over the past decade offers a new hope for the promotion of quality healthcare – billions now have access to reliable technology that can also support healthcare delivery.
With the explosion of mobile handsets and the faltering of the “$100 laptop” idea, the international development community is focusing on the mobile phone as an empowerment tool, while questioning investments in computers. Is this wise? Is there a data continuum that includes both? Or should development dollars really shift to one platform at a loss to the other?
The primary development platform?
Please join us for a spirited debate where Troy Etulain of USAID will push us to envision a future where development objectives are achieved on mobile phones, while Wayan Vota will back computers, desktops even, as the true tool of choice to accelerate development with technology.
Katherine Townsend of State will moderate the discussion with an eye to finding realistic recommendations for the development community.
Our gracious host is the UN Foundation and I’ll have coffee and donuts for a good morning sugar rush to wake everyone up.
Mobile Phones vs. Computers: a False ICT4D Choice?
February Technology Salon
Thursday, February 12th, 8:30-10am
UN Foundation Conference Room
1800 Mass Avenue, NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036 (map)
Do note that seating is limited and the UN Foundation is in a secure building. So the first dozen (12) to RSVP will be confirmed attendance and then there will be a waitlist.
For the July Technology Salon, we’re returning to the cellular technology world, with a twist. We’ll be discussing mobile banking, m-Banking, but we’ll move beyond the handsets and the hype to discuss the legal frameworks required to make it a reality.
In some countries, text messages cannot be used as evidence in court – a problem if that’s all you have to show for a money transfer. In other regions, cross-border and multi-currency transactions is the domain of banks, not mobile operators. In either situation or more, what is the development community’s response to facilitate m-Banking?
Please join Michael Tetelman of AED, and Ann Casanova of CARANA, at the UN Foundation headquarters for a vibrant discussion of their work in overcoming legal and regulatory barriers to make local and intra-regional m-Banking a reality in the developing world.
Mobile phones have established themselves as the communication and networking platform of choice for billions of the world’s consumers, most of whom are at the base of the global economic pyramid. Worldwide, mobile phone subscribers outnumber Internet users almost 3 to 1, with much of that gap coming from skyrocketing mobile phone use in Africa, India and China.
Yet new mobile computing platforms, such as the XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child and the Asus Eee PC promise to radically change Internet access with breakthrough portability, performance, power and price. Does “4P Computing” pose a challenge to mobile phone dominance, or does each approach blend into the other?