Community of Practice

As a consultant on building online communities of practice, I hope to lead a discussion on how a group of people who share a common passion for a subject can, through regular interaction and communication, improve their knowledge and expertise in a given topic area.

VSO international board.jpg

Picture a dusty, hot Saturday afternoon in Kaduna, Nigeria, the buzz of cheap Chinese motorbikes filling the air. In the backroom of a small community foundation, I introduce myself to the two people told to me as the "hardest working loan officers at Fantsuam Foundation." Bent over their laptops, sweat dripping on their brow, two Kenyan VSO volunteers are doing intricate financial modeling in their role as loan officers for the foundation.

This was my first introduction to of Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) volunteers in the field and I was immediately impressed with them and VSO in general. Peace Corps volunteers work hard (I was one, briefly) but not on Saturdays. And to see Africans volunteering in Africa gave me great pride and renewed hope.

Great pride in seeing the dream of Geekcorps become a reality; Africans empowered with high-level information and communication technology (ICT) skills able to grow and succeed on their own terms. Renewed hope in the belief that through this empowerment, we all - North, South developed and developing - can work together towards greater economic and social advancement.

So it is with great honor that I announce that I am now an international board member of VSO, as part of the appointment of a new Chair and six new trustees to its International Board. My ascension to the board is part of VSO's transition from a U.K.-based volunteering organization to a global development charity that engages people from all over the world in the fight against poverty. As Marg Mayne, CEO of VSO says:

"I'm excited to be working with the new trustees, all of whom are from outside the UK and nearly half from the global south. Their appointment shows how we're implementing this more global approach at the highest level."

Through its "People First" strategy, VSO is now more than just volunteering. VSO's approach has moved away from direct service delivery to a greater focus on strengthening systems, developing policies and building capacity in the 34 countries that play host to roughly 1,600 VSO volunteers, most of them mid-career professionals with an average age of 43. A VSO volunteer is now just as likely to be someone from Kenya, India or the Philippines as they are someone from the UK, Ireland or the Netherlands.

As an international board member, I plan on upholding the efforts of those two Kenyans I met in Nigeria by contributing to the continued shift at VSO and support VSO's global development impact with cutting edge skills and information and communication technology.


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Fail Faire DC 2011 is a celebration of failure. We will have great speakers with fun, fast, Ignite-style presentations of their professional failures. Audience participation is not only encouraged, it is mandatory! We are all peers and none of us is perfect. Expect much laughter as we navel-gaze at where we have all gone wrong in ICT and international development.

Yet we will LEARN from failure. Failure is no reason to be ashamed, and there is great value in examining our mistakes. So while we encourage irreverence and humor, we will be improving our profession too.

We will have light refreshments to lubricate the conversation and there will be an after-party to continue the celebration. However, an RSVP is mandatory for attendance and space is limited, so sign up today!

Fail Faire DC 2011 Sponsors

Fail Faire DC 2011 will happen on October 13th at the World Bank.Those that RSVP will be sent the specific room location just before the event.

Fail Faire DC 2011 is brought to you by theWorld Bank, Development Gateway, and Inveneo.


  • 6:00pm: Welcome and drinks
  • 6:30pm: #FAIL-Slam
  • 7:30pm: Open Discussion
  • 8:00pm: Mingling, learning, networking, more drinks

Featured Speakers (so far)

  • Dr. Tessie San Martin, CEO, Plan International USA
  • The World Bank on their 70% ICT4D failure rate
  • Ian Schuler, Internet Freedom Programs, U.S. Department of State
  • You? Apply today!

Remember, you must RSVP to attend.

Do you want an international development job in information and communication technology? An exciting career where you travel the world using ICT to improve peoples lives? Or to find the perfect ICTD colleague or employee to help you do that?

Then join the ICT4D Career Network to get career tips, employment ideas, and job offers in ICT4Dev.


Personalized Career Support

To connect with thought leaders and experts working in ICT4D, join the network, introduce yourself, and start asking questions. The Network is a global support community via moderated emails to help you understand the international development and foreign assistance employment landscape.

This is much more than a simple jobs board. The forum will help:

  1. Job seekers start and succeed at an ICT4D job search
  2. Mid-career professionals explore options to improve an existing ICT4D career
  3. Employers and recruiters find and hire quality ICT staff and colleagues

This advice and support comes from leaders in ICT4D and will help you find new and amazing ICT4D jobs, and most importantly - start and grow your ICT4Dev career.

Job Announcements

We scour the Internets to find the best ICT jobs in international development and as a subscriber, you'll get these job ads as we find them. If you are a recruiter, join to advertise your jobs to the best ICT candidates.

Personalized Support

We are here to answer your questions around starting or growing your ICT career. Join to ask experts for help and receive detailed feedback on how to improve job searches, expand employment options, and advance careers. The personal advice is anonymized and shared with the wider network so we can all gain from the collective employment expertise.

General Advice

We also share general job search and career advancement tips that can help you plan for a career change or achieve a promotion. Join to get this unique advice on the ICT4D industry.

Your Investment

The ICT4D Career Network is a pay service - $5 a month. This is a pittance when participation should reduce your job search efforts and helps you gain a promotion or a raise. Yet by paying you show that you are serious about your ICT4D career and we are serious in helping you.

Join Now

Once you complete the payment process, you should receive a confirmation request email. Please confirm your membership and be sure to whitelist the email address. You are paying for it after all.

I have a problem that I think is not unique to me and could be a money maker for the right entrepreneur - address book cleaning, cross checking, updating, and general verification. Below I define 3 problems I have with my contact lists, with the Address Book cleaning the most important. And since importing in/out of Apple's Address Book is problematic, the Address Book cleaning would need to be done on a Mac as well.

The Main Problem:

In Address Book I have around 3,000 entries, many with the following 4 issues

  1. duplicate entries with the same info (two separate and identical entries)
  2. duplicate entries for the same person with different info (2 different emails, or one for phone and one for email)
  3. entries w/o First Last name defined (just the email address)
  4. entries with errors in first/last name from email address syntax that use of (), -, " in name
  5. contacts w/o company reference in the contact info yet the company name in the address ( for example).

I'd love these cleaned up and corrected so I have 1 entry for each person, with company name, and multiple emails and phone numbers if needed

A Second Problem:

In a mailing client I have several hundred contacts in two different lists. For both lists, I'd like to have:

  1. First/last name & if possible company added - this can be helped by cross referencing between lists and Address Book
  2. All members of both lists imported into my Address Book

A Third Problem

I have over 1000 contacts in LinkedIn but not sure how many of those are in my Address Book

  1. Download the LinkedIn contacts and have new contacts added to my Address Book

Why this is a business opportunity

I know for a fact that I am not the only person to suffer from Address Book messiness and willing to pay to have someone clean it up for me. I personally would love to have this cleaning and updating of my lists at least once a year - quarterly if I could afford it. I also know that anyone with an Address Book as big as mine is scared of just handing it over to Plaxo or an Amazon Turk worker - I don't want my list getting copied and passed around to "affiliate marketers". Yet neither Samasource nor Digital Divide Data can handle this Mac-based task.

So there are two values a smart entrepreneur could offer:

  1. The physical task of cleaning and updating an Address Book on a Mac
  2. Trustworthiness that the contacts would not be stored, copied, or shared with anyone else.

Do you think you could manage this? What do you think you'd price for this work? I'm happy to be a test subject for what I am sure would be a very profitable business. A gut feel says somewhere around $.02 a contact based on total list size would be a easy price to pay for this service - maybe $.03 for the initial cleaning, which would take much work, and $.01 for an annual contract of quarterly (4x year) cleaning for maintenance. Again, based on the full Address Book size.

What do you think? Would you want this service? Could you perform this service? Either way, let me know.

infoDev is implementing the ambitious "Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy" program with the Government of Finland and Nokia to expand the impact of mobile applications in the economic and social advancement of the developing world.

A major component of the Creating Sustainable Businesses program are five regional mobile application laboratories, in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. These "mLabs" will facilitate demand-driven innovation of breakthrough low-cost, high-value applications through a web of inter-related activities to help entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and partners share knowledge, experience and perspective.

After a series of RFP's to identify organizations that will implement this program with infoDev, I am happy to note that infoDev announced that CSIR Meraka Institute and *iHub_ will be the two African mLabs. I have also learned that Vital Wave Consulting is advising infoDev and the mLabs on sustainable business models. In this mix, yours truly will also play a role.

I am honored to announce that I will be working with infoDev and its mLab partners to create an international community of practice for those working on mobile applications for development. While the exact scope and goals of the community are still being developed, early indications are that it will consist of a range of mLab community news and networking opportunities, including promoting local offline gatherings.

I am very excited to work with Meraka Institute, *iHub_, and Vital Wave Consulting. Principals at latter two I've known for years and always admired.

To hold my own with them, I plan to draw on my 15 years experience with every aspect of Internet publishing, from hand-coding commercial websites, to starting blogging before the term "blog" existed, to using multiple social networking tools, to building communities of practice that bridge the real and virtual worlds.

This includes developing the following four international communities of practice - each a leader in its field:

  • Educational Technology Debate - a discussion of low-cost ICT devices for educational systems in the developing world, and one of infoDev's flagship online communities of practice.
  • ICTworks - a premier knowledge resource for ICT practitioners deploying sustainable technology interventions, already central to over 300 entrepreneurs around world.
  • OLPC News - the leading independent analysis of the One Laptop Per Child program. It is now the largest community of OLPC supports, recognized as such by Nicholas Negroponte himself.
  • Technology Salon - a monthly meeting of ICT and development experts to discuss the impact of ICT in the developing world. It is so prestigious the UN Foundation's Technology Partnership with the Vodafone Foundation now sponsors the Salon.

My key learning from all four of these communities? No matter how fancy the platform or its social networking capacity, it's engaging personal contacts and timely and relevant content that form the basis of a successful community. Both are also interrelated as the best content comes from the best contacts that are outstanding because they have thought leadership and share it through good content.

To that end I hope I have your trust and support to help me develop and launch the infoDev mLabs community - I surely can't do it alone!

In May 2009, infoDev at the World Bank launched the Educational Technology Debate in conjunction with Unesco with its first topical discussion, "Are ICTs the Best Educational Investment?" between Tim Kelly of infoDev and Wayan Vota, consultant to infoDev. From this humble beginning, the Educational Technology Debate is now an expanding community of practice.

The long-term goal of the Educational Technology Debate is for it to become a focal point and catalyst for an informed discussion and debate around practical implementations of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in education globally, bringing innovative technology and best practices to the overall ICT for development (ICT4D) effort.


It's well on its way to achieve this goal, and become a commanding presence in the ICT for education (ICT4E) conversation, through three interrelated activities:

  1. Stimulate a public, holistic, and documented discussion on appropriate low-cost ICT solutions for educational systems in developing countries.
  2. Become a primary knowledge repository and knowledge transfer mechanism to support implementations of low-cost ICT devices in education.
  3. Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of low-cost ICT device implementations in educational environments of the developing world.

The Educational Technology Debate is central to the ongoing global discussion around ICTs and learning. Through its 100+ posts by subject matter experts on 17 topics central to ICT in education, its gained over 550 subscribers to its content, and generated over 740 comments by technologists and educators. In fact, leaders in the ICT for education field (ICT4E) say:

"Educational Technology Debate is invaluable. I used an excerpt of Atanu Dey's Live Debate presentation in my efforts to educate the Ministry of Education on ICT4E best practices. I footnote and link to ETD throughout my reports." Edmond Gaible, PhD, CEO of Natoma Group

The Educational Technology Debate utilizes social networking tools to expand its reach and has even bridged the on and off-line world with a Live Debate that was broadcast around the world. You can read about this progress in the Educational Technology Debate Year 1 Report.

In the next year, expect the Educational technology Debate to expand its dialogue and continue to push for a greater discussion on low-cost ICT initiatives for educational systems in developing countries.


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Recently, Ken Banks put forth an interesting question in his post "Mobile community: The holy grail of m4d?" He essentially asked "Who is the mobile community?" and hinted that there is a lack of clarity in the definition and therefore the need for a specific mobile community.

Taking his hint, Nate Barthel suggested we think of a Venn diagram of the m4D community as overlapping the ICT and development communities, with Prabhas Pokharel creating this one so we could visualize a m4D community.

I'd like to present my own Venn diagram of m4D, adding in Apps4D:

Now here is each category explained, along with its placement in these respective communities:

  • ICT
    Information and communication technologies represent the full array of solutions, from FM radio to cloud computing that the world uses to create and relay information electronically.
  • Mobile
    Mobile technologies, from the mobile phone to the iPad are a subset of ICT that, like the name suggests, are primarily focused on allowing the user to interact with ICT while in motion.
  • Development
    Often called "international development", its the industry seeking to increase the economic and social development of disadvantaged communities and countries.
  • ICT4D
    Where the use of ICT is for the purpose of developing a community, its referred to as ICT4D (ICT for Development).
  • m4D
    Where mobile technologies are used for development, this is called m4D and is a subset of both mobile and development.
  • Apps4D
    Where software applications interact with mobile technologies, often but not always as software on the mobile device itself, for development, it is Apps4D.

Now this does not mean that m4D should not have its own community - it should. I only wanted to show its location, and to an extent its size, relative to the other communities.


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"We need a website. Who wants to figure that out?" says my new boss in the very first staff meeting I attend on the very first day of my new job.

"I will," I answered, and so in 1995, I started blogging, before there was even a term for it.

wayan vota
Blogging got me on 60 Minutes!

Fast forward 15 years and I'm now paid to blog. In fact, through blogging, I'm known as an ICT4D expert, which has led to the best job I've ever had and a sweet consulting gig with the World Bank. It's also led me to great personal happiness, but that's a different post.

We're not here to talk about personal blogs. We're here at the World Bank's "Making a Difference in International Development with Blogging" session to learn how to blog your profession to achieve an amazing international development career.

First, do you blog? If you said no, then do you Facebook? Or Twitter? Then you're blogging. In fact, I would say that in this day and age everyone blogs in one-way or another. Personally, I blog professionally on five platforms:

  1. ICTworks - an online community for ICT practitioners in the developing world.
  2. Technology Salon - exploring the nexus of ICT and development
  3. OLPC News - the premier independent online community on One Laptop Per Child
  4. Educational Technology Debate - discussing low-cost ICT initiatives for education
  5. Technology Salon - an in-person, informal discussion at the intersection of ICT and development

That looks like a lot, right? Its actually not, as all these blogs cover the same topic, ICT4D, in different ways, so a post for one can be re-purposed for others. But no matter which blog I write for, I keep 3 things in mind:

Write to Your Key Audience

To improve your professional standing, you need to blog professionally. You need to think of your blogging/social media as a sales tool you're using to reach your target audience, and then be focused on that audience's needs.

First, define your target audience. Personify the 5-10 specific people that you'd like to work with or for. Then figure out what might arouse their interest and attention (topics, thoughts, arguments, etc) - ask them directly if you already know them.

Next, slavishly focus on them. Write every blog post as if you are writing to them. You can even send them select blog posts. Just be sure to keep on topics of their interest or find themes they mention elsewhere and comment on them (the ideas) in posts.

If you pick the right key audience (thought leaders in your industry, or decision makers in your field), others will start to read your work too, and soon you'll be leading a tribe of followers.

olpc wayan
Enlightened by OLPC News success

The OLPC News Example

When I started OLPC news, my goal was to stop work at the One Laptop Per Child headquarters when I published a post. I wanted to reach the 30+ people leading the initiative and make them think. I wanted to change the way OLPC was being deployed.

By being so purposeful in my writing, I was able to focus on topics that mattered, and I definitely go their attention. I knew that when they sent a consigliere, a Tom Hagen, to tell me to chill out in my rants.

Through that focus, I eventually owned the OLPC community. Over 5,000 people read OLPC News every day, a real achievement for a niche blog, and they spend an average of 4 minutes on the site, an eternity in the web world. And the site is a recognized force in the community, even by Nicholas Negroponte himself, the OLPC founder.

Engage Your Key Audience Everywhere

Realize that no matter your writing skill, you nee dot be where your audience is. A post unread does not exist. So be on any platform your key audience congregates on, from MySpace to Okrut, to LinkedIn, even if you dislike it.

Also, be sure to create opportunities for offline, face-to-face meetings as well. These can be as simple as a meetup over beers, or as formal, scheduled meetings or conferences, but just remember to keep activities focused and relevant to your key audience.

Your goal with both of these activities is to get on your key audience's and their colleagues' radar. You want your key audience to think, "Wow, they are everywhere in this space. I need to pay attention to them."

Once there, you can use the body of work you'd written on the blog as deeper background after you've met them, "Thanks for the meeting, by the way, here's a post I wrote on what we talked about," and additional contact opportunities, "Do you know this other expert on the topic we talked about?" This will help make you central to their professional community.

Rob Munro discussing his SMS efforts

Technology Salon Example

Even though I pretty much live online, there isn't any substitute for meeting in-person. So for each platform, I also organize offline events. In fact, I created the Technology Salon specifically to network with my peers face-to-face.

The Technology Salon started when I wanted to have a few beers with my ICT4D colleagues and talk about our work. Then I realized that like me, they all had spouses, kids, and other entanglements that eliminated casual evening meetups. So I moved the Salons to the morning, gave us a strong industry focus, and served coffee and donuts instead of beers. Only begrudgingly I started blogging our meetings, but they have actually driven greater attendance at Salons.

And wow! The Salons now attract a stunning turnout. We have everyone from Vodafone regional presidents to USAID decision makers, to technology innovators on the cutting edge of ICT, and there is even a three-month waiting list for speaker slots. From this networking session, jobs have been found, proposal teams created, and large contracts won - the ultimate measure of success.

Focus on Tangible Outcomes

Which brings us to the ultimate goal of your professional blogging - cash money, honey. Going back to the first point I made, blogging and social media should be one part of your overall professional sales strategy. And you are selling something: your expertise, monetized as a salary or consulting contract.

So always keep that in mind when you are blogging. You are positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field, raising your profile to "expert", and advertising your ability to achieve results. This does not happen overnight, of course, but blogging can speed up the process. To copy from Why Blogging is Good for Your Career, here are the seven benefits it bestows:

  1. Your blog becomes a log of your ideas for yourself (inspiration and record keeping)
  2. Your blog is like an extended business card (personal branding)
  3. Looking for materials for posts makes listening and reading more active (focus)
  4. Researching for posts is educative (learning)
  5. Posts can be used to claim intellectual property rights (protection)
  6. Interaction with idols, readers and others (networking)
  7. A blog makes you visible online (controlling web presence)

From this elevated profile, you should start to get a following, people who read your work regularly. Focus on the quality of your following - is it your key audience? Are they linking to your posts, commenting on them directly or in their own work? And most importantly, are they now coming to you with questions about trends in the industry or best of all, opportunities for employment?

Wayan Vota at Live Debate India

Educational Technology Debate Example

infoDev at the World Bank has always been a leader in the integration of ICT into development, especially ICT4E - the use of ICT in education. They literally wrote the book on its usage around the world and everyone looked to them for leadership.

As I started focusing on ICT4E as part of my overall ICT4D blogging, I consciously focused on attracting their attention. Once I realized that infoDev decision makers were reading my posts, I made sure to meet them in person, integrate their thoughts and ideas in my writing, and generally develop a relationship with them.

Over time, my blogging exploits lead to infoDev inviting me to submit a consultancy proposal for an ICT4E community of practice. And now I just finished a two-year contract organizing the Educational Technology Debate, which itself has lead to other consulting offers.

Blogging is Not Silver Bullet

Note that blogging should only be one sales tool of several you should use to promote yourself. Business cards, a good resume, clear focus on the skills you bring and the position you want, are just as important.

And all of this is predicated on your ability to think critically and express yourself fluently - though both of these will improve as you blog more. Practice makes perfect, and blogging has you practice your writing regularly.

So what are you waiting for? Start blogging on your profession today and dream about the kick-ass ICT job you'll have tomorrow.


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Washington, D.C. -- December 1, 2009 -- Facebook today announced that Wayan Vota, the last social networking expert without an active Facebook account, has finally acquiesced to the need to be "friended" by those known and unknown to him through the world's largest social networking site. See Wayan Vota's Facebook here

"We are honored that Wayan Vota got off his high horse and accepted the reality that Facebook is driving adoption in Africa. To continue to lead an exploration at the intersection of technology and international development, he needed to have a presence with us," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.* "We've worked hard to bring more than 200 million people - 70 percent outside of the U.S. - onto Facebook to share with friends, family and co-workers. Wayan Vota represents the pinnacle of that effort."

Wayan Vota concours, "It was time that I entered the Facebook. I am excited to expand its ability to connect and share with thought leaders in both the information and communication technology (ICT) industry and the international development community. This will be a wonderful voyage of discovery for both initiatives."

Wayan Vota will continue his work with Inveneo - a social enterprise that puts the tools of ICT (like Facebook) in the hands of those who need it most in the developing world. In fact, he's already developed the ICTworks presence on Facebook to empower Inveneo's Certified ICT Partners in 21 countries across Africa and South Asia.

About Wayan Vota
Wayan Vota starting blogging from before it was a word and now publishes seven different websites and commands LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter from his world headquarters in Washington DC.

About Facebook
Founded in February 2004, Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment. Facebook is a privately held company and is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.

*To the best of Wayan's knowledge, Mark Zuckerberg has no clue who Wayan Vota is - but he should!

At the end of November, Twitter came out with a new retweet feature that supposedly solved a number of problems with the usage of retweets (RT) on Twitter; attribution confusion, mangled tweets, redundancy, and untrackability.

It is our stated option that the new RT is service degradation. Why? Because...

  • Attribution confusion: While Twitter felt we users were confused by who wrote a RT, we were not. We saw faces we trusted recommending information - the best attribution any tweet author could ask for.
  • Mangled and messy: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and where some see mess, we saw art of the Tweet Sculpt - adding our own value to the original tweet to give greater relevance to our followers.
  • Redundancy & Noise: For those that have either, you follow too many people. Those of us who live for social media know how to select voices to listen to - ones that only RT value. And by RT'ing the same content, but with new value to each, all RT's gain value.
  • Untrackable: To this we simply say "search"

But above all what galls us the most is the forced RT without commentary or annotation. To rip from our control the ability to add value to a tweet, to give it relevance to our followers - to make it ours. For this there is no excuse. Not for its implementation nor usage.

So we hereby issue the #RTFail Manifesto:

RTFAIL Manifesto If you use new RT function, you are on my unfollow shortlist. I wanna see your face and added value in tweet

That's right - if we follow you, and you use the auto RT function 3 times (you will be warned) then you're unfollowed. Love ya, but no exceptions. The new RT's are Twitter spam, and until they are fixed, they shall be scorned in streams and in apps (looking at you Tweetie2).

For those that agree - join us in the #RTFail Manifesto in these simple ways:

  • Get at RTFail Twibbon
  • Issue your own #RTFail Manifesto warnings
  • And of course, RT the #RTFail Manifesto, but only with a classic RT:
    -your snippet here- RT Join in the #RTFail Manifesto - Bring Back the RT!

We the Twitter RT'ers

My status

View Wayan Vota's profile on LinkedIn


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