Results tagged “infoDev” from Wayan Dot Com

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!

The rise of the smartphone has unleashed a wave of excitement and income generation across the software development community. Applications that can run on iPhones, Android phones and Blackberry's, can be written quickly, and on the cheap, and have generated outsized returns for their creators.

Even more impressive is that this application revolution is just starting. As Darrell Owen pointed out in the Apps4D presentation at a Business Growth Initiative meeting, iPhone adoption is growing at an order of magnitude faster than any other Internet technology - 11x the rate of AOL at its peak.

In addition, smartphone adoption in the developing world is only at 3-5%, compared with 70-80% for mobile phones in general. Smartphones are the emerging middle class aspiration, and will be the mark of financial arrival that can be conspicuously displayed for all to see.

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So the demand is there for smartphone applications in the developing world. Around this demand, Darrell and Steve Schmida ask three very pivotal questions to the international development community:

  1. Does smartphone application development offer a real opportunity for advancing entrepreneurship in the developing world?
  2. How could donors facilitate the efforts of private industry to accelerate application development?
  3. What impact would investments in application development have on international development goals?

To these three questions, I propose these answers on how software application development can be an engine for entrepreneurship and economic growth in the developing world, on a limited basis.

Smartphone applications are within reach of African developers

Right now, Facebook is driving ICT adoption in Africa. But Facebook is not coded in Africa - its written in Silicon Valley, where the majority of commercial and website software comes from. Yet there are a number of successful software companies in Africa.

In fact, MXit, a mobile social network holds its own in South Africa and just expanded into Kenya with Safaricom.

In addition, software development centers like Accra, Lagos, Nairobi, and Kampala are churning out applications for smartphones and even basic mobile phones, which can only SMS. Applications like OhmSMS and iWarrior show you what's possible - and that's without any donor support.

Donor support would increase competitiveness

Now imagine if these same mobile application software developers had access to mentoring from established leaders in the field, if they were able to share experiences and resources with their peers in a results-focused environment, and if seed funding and growth financing were easy to obtain.

That's exactly what Limbe Labs and Appfrica Labs are attempting to bootstrap with their incubators. And its what infoDev at World Bank aims to achieve with its Regional Mobile Applications Laboratory grants - seeding world-class entrepreneurship in at least two locations in Africa.

Donor support would increase diversity

The private sector will be quick to capitalize on Africa's software development for their own mobile applications - and let them. The donor community should leverage this opportunity to ensure there are social development applications as well. Just look at what the Kenya ICT Board is doing.

They're investing $4 million in grants from the World bank's International Development Association for mobile applications to enhance citizen participation in eGovernment.

I could see an Apps4D program using the same approach to bring eGovernment services to businesses, or eLearning to expand the reach of secondary or adult education.

Apps4D would have limited employment impact

Before we get too excited about Apps4D, a little history. Back when every country thought they could become a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) hub, like India, by proclaiming themselves a Silicon Valley and investing in software development industries, USAID spent many millions on improving software development business skills and enabling environments.

The expectation was that BPO would magically employ thousands and the IT industry would be the path to middle class incomes for all. That didn't happen, and BGI found little long-term employment impact from all those millions.

But that should not be a surprise - IT isn't a high-employment industry. It only takes a handful of coders to produce the most elaborate software. One person can write good mobile software applications, which is both a strength and a weakness.

Homegrown success would be an inspiration

Youth are the largest cohort of unemployed in Africa, with young males the most listless. Yet they're also the most tech-savvy and mobile phone addicted. By showcasing one or two young mobile application software development stars, coders who make it relatively big through their apps, we could engage an entire generation to focus on positive role models.

Just look at the following Google has across Africa at their developer-focused Google Technology User Groups - software development hopefuls flock to their meetings.

Still, there isn't a need for that many software developers. So don't expect an Apps4D program have a big employment impact. It will only create a handful of good jobs. Instead, measure it by how many youth look to mobile application development as an inspiration for the basics of good grades and dedication to employment.

Apps4D should be a targeted investment

While mobile software application development can be an engine for entrepreneurship and economic growth in the developing world, it should only have a small role within a larger context. It's the sizzle that can help sell the development basics of improvements in education, employment, and business climate.

At a few hundred thousand dollars, the infoDev regional mobile application labs are a rounding error in USAID mission budgets, yet imagine the positive publicity and impact when one of them creates the next ChildCount+ or Ushahidi!

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4P Computing Device Survey for infoDev

| in 4P Computing

Back before there was One Laptop Per Child and the 4P Computers it spawned, we had to hunt for information on ICT projects. Finding low-cost devices or the initiatives behind them was a challenge only solved by infoDev's comprehensive Quick Guide to low-cost computing devices for the developing world.

I can remember pushing to get the Geekcorps' Desert PC listed, and the pride I had in our entry. Flash forward five years, and I'm now tasked with updating this list. Time has changed more than my involvement with ICT, its also changed the entire ICT field. Now, new 4P Computing devices are coming on line every day.

Yet so are great data gathering tools, like this Google Docs form below. Please let me know what's your favorite ICT device via this simple interface:




And be sure to spread the word far and wide via email, Twitter, and the like. You can even re-tweet the survey using this handy, short snippet:
Help update @infoDev's Quick Guide to low-cost ICT devices - please RT and add your favorite 4PC today! http://bit.ly/ict_device_survey
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