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Presentation Proposal - kiwanja.net

here's some brief background on what I'd like to discuss/present
at the Workshop.

Despite increasing interest in the potential for mobile technologies to help
combat issues such as poverty, disease, illiteracy and the abuse of human
rights, many non-profit organisations are missing out due to a lack of
tools, and a lack of focus on their specific needs. Many mobile-based ICT
solutions are either out of reach due to cost or complexity. When we read
about advances in the use of mobile technology at the bottom of the pyramid,
we usually do it from a top-down perspective - through new developments in
the manufacture of mobile devices, or the launch of mega-platforms which
seek to build Africa-wide marketplaces. Rarely are the grassroots
organisations working on the ground heard, this despite them perhaps being
best placed to help develop solutions to their specific needs and problems,
and those of the communities they work with. As a topic I recently blogged
about (see
http://www.blogspot.kiwanja.net/2008/01/social-mobile-and-long-tail.html), I
believe that there is currently too much focus on the high end of solutions
development, and not enough in the long tail.

At the Workshop I propose to talk about my approach to developing tools for
the long tail. FrontlineSMS, a text messaging hub which I developed in 2005
specifically for grassroots NGOs in the developing world, has been used by
grassroots NGOs in over forty countries for a range of activities, including
blood donor recruitment and assisting human rights workers, to promoting
government accountability, keeping medical students informed about education
options, providing security alerts to field workers, election monitoring,
the capture and exchange of vegetable (and coffee) price information, the
distribution of weather forecasts, the co-ordination of healthcare workers,
the organising of political demonstrations, the carrying out of surveys and
the reporting and monitoring of disease outbreaks. Its use has been reported
on the BBC News website, on the BBC World Service, in the Nokia industry
magazine and more recently in The Economist.

Late last year, I also ran a competition aimed, again, at grassroots NGOs.
nGOmobile is a text message-based competition aimed exclusively and
unashamedly at grassroots non-profit organisations working for positive
social and environmental change throughout the developing world. These
people don’t lack passion and commitment, simply the tools and resources.
Every year, nGOmobile aims to help a number of these NGOs leapfrog the
mobile technology barrier by encouraging them to think more about how mobile
technology could be applied in their work. NGOs are encouraged to submit
project ideas based on what they're going to do, rather than what they've
done, and the best projects win laptops, phones, modems, software and cash
to enable them to carry out the work. 2007 winners came from Kenya, Uganda,
Azerbaijan and Mexico.

If this is of interest then I would happy to make a presentation, and to
also cover some of the wider issues I come across, including the need to
appreciate the cultural, geographical and financial landscape when seeking
to provide information to people living in rural areas in developing
countries. My work is not academic, but a first hand account of the problems
as I see them.

Many thanks.