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June 2010
30 June 2010

Interactions magazine on subtlety and change

Interactions
The current issue of Interactions Magazine is generally on subtlety and change, writes co-editor-in-chief Jon Kolko:

“There are some strange changes under way in our world. We constantly hear the refrain of the massive chaos around us, yet the allure of such a large, looming flux may distract us from something more important: the countless tiny, nuanced, and fundamental ways in which our culture and society are advancing. This issue of interactions describes these subtleties and teases them out of the greater topics that we’ve grown accustomed to discussing: environmental change, the role of education and government in a technological society, and the nature of behavior.”

Here are the articles that are currently available for free:

Time goes by, everything looks the same
by Dennis Littky
“The system doesn’t work.” So says Dennis Littky, author of our cover story and founder of Big Picture Learning – a school focused on developing a new educational model. Dennis offers his views on how design and a designerly approach can bring change to the broken education model in the United States.

The research-practice gap: the need for translational developers
by Don Norman
Between research and practice a new, third discipline must be inserted, one that can translate between the abstractions of research and the practicalities of practice. We need a discipline of translational development. We need translational developers who can act as the intermediary, translating research findings into the language of practical development and business while also translating the needs of business into issues that researchers can address.

Visible synthesis
by Katie Minardo Scott
Katie Minardo Scott describes the challenge of research-practice synthesis—the relationship between a designer and the data that can be so overwhelming. To make research valuable, she says, we need to make the synthesis process as visible as the research phase and make the synthesis output visible to stakeholders. Personas accomplish both of these goals, recognized or not.

Navigating the terrain of sustainable HCI
by Carl DiSalvo, Phoebe Sengers, Hronn Brynjarsdottir
The authors explore the manner in which sustainability has impacted HCI and academic research. No longer a simple colloquialism of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” sustainability research and design now require an acknowledgment of the political differences involved in the discipline. This demands a more nuanced discussion of topics, as well as a more direct connection between research and practice.

Adding by leaving out: the power of the pause
by Liz Danzico
What would happen if, as communicators and designers, we became more comfortable with the pause? Because it turns out we can add by leaving out. The pause has power.

Adaptive reuse: things, containers, and streets in the architecture of the social web
by Fred Scharmen
A way of talking about buildings and cities in terms of protocols, relationships, and parameters—all borrowed by architectural theory from computer science—can be returned to a conversation about online systems in order to rejuvenate our methods of understanding and designing places.

On education
by Jon Kolko
It is interaction design, and behavior, that will act as the driving force behind the educational revolution of the next century.

30 June 2010

Goodbye to UXnet “News” readers

UXnet
For nearly three years, selected Putting People First posts — 837 to be precise — have also been published on the website of UXnet.

Now that UXnet is being disbanded, the site will be archived and these posts will stay on the archive site. You can also find all UXnet posts directly on the Putting People First blog.

We thank the community for their interest in our news and invite all of you to continue reading Putting People First where all the UXnet posts came from.

25 June 2010

Essays on service design in higher education

coten
COTEN, the collaborative online research project exploring service design for higher education in 2010, features some interesting lecture essays:

Small change and re-thinking education (audio)
by Nabeel Hamdi
17 May 2010

Our first Special Guest is Nabeel Hamdi who, in this interview with Andy Polaine, talks about both his approach to development work, which advocates a bottom-up “small change” approach, as well as giving us his insightful views on education, especially the role of designers as catalysts rather than experts. Keywords: change, development, education.
> discussion

Service design education (video)
by Lauren Currie and Sarah Drummond, Snook
21 May 2010

Lauren Currie and Sarah Drummond from Snook give their view on the issues surrounding teaching service design as well as their thoughts on the structure of higher education in this video podcast. Keywords: service design, education, teaching, learning
> discussion

Building a culture of trust (video)
by Arne van Oosterom,
24 May 2010

Arne van Oosterom, owner and Strategic Design Director at DesignThinkers brings us an insightful and entertaining view on Building a Culture of Trust. Arne will be joining us in the Main Studio to discuss his talk and the issues it raises. Keywords: Trust, Culture, Service Design, Design Thinking, Business, Touchpoints
> discussion

Bonfire of the literacies
by John Thackara
7 June 2010

John Thackara on education, service design and the limits of online.
> discussion

Time, co-creation and improvisation
by Liz Danzico, chair and co-founder of the MFA in Interaction Design Program at the School of Visual Arts
9 June 2010

For me at least, the collaboration question is not an easy one. It’s not a matter of talking about how, but of “how good,” and increasingly, “when.” This last consideration, the consideration of time is key. As service designers, collaboration and co-creation — with one another and with our audiences — is increasingly happening in the moment. And that’s both something we can plan for and nothing we can expect. The way we work together must be, to a certain degree, unscripted. There are hundreds of opportunities for us to co-create in one way or another may bring a creative spirit to the work we do. But do we? Can we in a way that’s relevant and meaningful?
> discussion

Tools to encourage behaviour change
by Mary Rose Cook and Zoë Stanton, founders Uscreates
21 June 2010

Uscreates is an agency which empowers the public to help change negative behaviours in their communities. We apply a range of knowledge and approaches drawn from service design, social marketing and behavioural economics to help the public devise strategies and interventions to encourage behaviour change. We are going to use our week hosting the COTEN project to focus on behaviour change and some of the ways in which we use service design processes and methodologies to add value to behaviour change work, and vice versa.
> discussion

Experience, experience, experience: lets get specific
by Ben Reason, co-founder live|work
21 June 2010

Service Design cannot escape talking about experience and experiences. The current and future experiences of people – service customers, clients, users, patients, consumers, etc. – are the context that service design works in.
> discussion

24 June 2010

Content strategy and the future of the online experience

UX Magazine
Two new articles in UX Magazine:

Fusing content strategy with design
by David Gillis
Context maps and content flow diagrams are just two possible ways to integrate content strategy and UX design—which is really the goal. Content strategy needs to develop its own brand of design thinking and action in order to truly come into its own as an essential part of a holistic UX design process.

What’s next for the online experience?
by Moira Dorsey & Forrester Research
Three types of trends are driving online experiences into their next phase: capabilities, consumers and competition.

23 June 2010

The huge challenge of Nokia’s head of design and UX

Marko Ahtisaari
The acclaimed Italian journalist Luca De Biase recently interviewed Marko Ahtisaari (blogwikipedia), Senior Vice President, Design and User Experience of Nokia, for the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Here is what happened these last few weeks: A warning by Nokia on second-quarter sales and profits, a recent fall in the Nokia share price, yesterday’s news that Nokia runs a risk of being downgraded by S&P, and now the latest news that the iPhone is biting in Nokia’s European markets. But not all is bad: Nokia is making some gains in less expensive smartphones. Yet in all, this surely creates huge pressure on Marko, who was recently brought back to Nokia after careers at Blyk and Dopplr, to radically improve Nokia’s position in the high-end device market.

In view of this context, here is my translation of the story on Ahtisaari that was published in Italian:

Ahtisaari (Nokia): “My micro-sized social network”

Smart phones: After the blockbuster success of the iPhone, Nokia intends to write the sequel. Marko Ahtisaari, 41, was mandated to draft the screenplay. He first needs to to ask himself some basic questions: Who is the leader? The biggest or the most influential? Nokia or Apple?

Nokia’s new head of design knows that this is the key question making the rounds since about three years ago the charismatic Steve Jobs crossed the road which was once so securely in the hands of the Finnish phone giant. The question remains open, as Nokia continues to sell a dozen times more phones than Apple. But it only gains a fraction of the media attention. And of the market attention, as evidenced by the succession of iPhone imitations of the iPhone, launched by competitors. Peter Drucker once said: “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right thing.” Now Marko Ahtisaari plans to come up with a surprising answer: a giant can do the right thing. Ma deve ribaltare parecchie abitudini. But he has to overturn many old habits, because the issue is no longer to sell good products, but to regain the cultural leadership.

How? By changing the game. “I will have to tear down some dogmas,” says Ahtisaari, referring to the mobile phone world that now seems to only speak the language of Cupertino and Silicon Valley. “The leadership of Apple, Google, Facebook is American. We are a European company. And we have something to say.”

Yeah. But what? The challenge is immense: Apple has managed to redefine the mobile phone business, making it into a complex whole that builds on design quality, simplicity and number of functions, emotional contents, and usefulness of online services. Apple has brought its experience with internet-connected computers to the world of mobile devices, and started a whole new market of applications, often produced by small software houses all over the world, that provide the iPhone with a breadth of functions that no one company could ever design. Apple captured a central strategic position that has displaced the other handset manufacturers, has generated an earthquake in electronic commerce, and has even created problems for the operators.

Nokia has the opportunity to play on a much wider field than that of Apple: it can serve the end of the market that wants a good phone that is not too smart; can offer smartphones with all crucial functions at the lowest price on the market; but also has to play at the high-end of expensive and attractive smartphones like the iPhone. It is the high-end market where cultural leadership is defined.

So Ahtisaari spends half his time thinking about how to redefine the relationship between mobile phones and their users. “As I look at people in the restaurant, I see them bending over on their phones, no longer paying attention to the other diners. I think there is something to improve here. The experience offered by the current smartphone is “immersive”. It is persuasive technology, as BJ Fogg would have said. A phone that is controlled by touching the screen invites users to give all their attention to the device. “But for me it is more important that people can look each other into their eyes, and that the phone stays in its place.” It is a generous starting point for a designer: moving the products out of the way to leave the centre stage to people. “This is consistent with our identity: Nokia is not lifestyle. Nokia serves and facilitates communication between people. Now we have to bring this concept to a new level.”

Ahtisaari has all the fundamentals to move Nokia forward in the new millennium. His culture has been formed by a number of start-ups in the fast world of social networks. During the years when his father Martti worked with diplomatic patience in Kosovo, before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Marko was CEO of Dopplr, a platform to share travel information. Now at Nokia he began by unifying the groups that deal with hardware and software design. And he works closely with the developers of online services, from Ovi – Nokia’s application platform – to the group that develops mapping services, which is in a bit of a refresh these days after having been taken from Yahoo!. He knows where to play his next game.

“Advertising-based social networks have to concentrate all attention on themselves and tend to confuse the boundaries between the private network of friends and public communication. They must grow, always gaining new users who themselves also have an increasing number of connections – as one can see with Facebook. “We [at Nokia] will always be on the side of small groups that communicate. We focus on the relationships that develop within the circle of trusted friends and neighbours. And we have to serve this small circle with a mosaic of services that do not intrude with people, by making their lives public. We will always be on the side of privacy even if this would slow down the growth of the service.”

In short, Ahtisaari’s project seems clear. A new approach for a number of emerging needs in a world that is increasingly hyperconnected and distracted by today’s smartphones. The implementation is still to be conceived. But already it is clear how right the questions are that Ahtisaari has raised and how potentially revolutionary the responses can be. Strong leadership has the effect that many will follow the guide. But it can have many causes: vision, credibility, power, authority, muscle, size, charisma. If in a few years time we will see less people bent over the displays, also Ahtisaari will walk tall.

Three stages

1. When everybody online knew everything about everybody
The premise. Privacy online? But it doesn’t exist, of course. The phrase is by Scott McNealy, then Sun’s head, and goes back some 10 years. It was a company vision and an ideological mantra. In the effort to reduce the world to a global village, the web knows down all obstacles in a euphoric pursuit of exchange. It is the zero level of the Internet, with sharing the banner word: everyone wants to know everything about everyone. Having to sacrifice a bit of privacy seems to be the least of problems. This approach finds its triumph in Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Born to trace the “classmates” who are out of sight, the social network soon became a must. You have to be there to be someone.

2. Facebook and Google run for cover
The rethinking. Google’s dizzying race turns into an obstacle course. Just a few days ago there were the Street View maps that show the faces of unsuspecting passengers. And they protest. The Mountain View giant decides to suspend the release of his new facial recognition software. It puts limits to Google Buzz, the new social network introduced to connect users directly to their most frequent Gmail contacts. Facebook decides to do the same. It is an attempt to staunch the decline of contacts and members. Social networks discover that privacy has value – not only philosophically, but also economically.

3. No secrets? Only for those who I say
The possible scenario. Social networks are shown for what they are: not a medium in which to cultivate “friendships”, but a house without doors and walls of glass. According to calculations made by SearchEngineLand, the number of active users is growing less and less quickly. Possibly because people have sensed this possible two path development: social networks that are restricted to few with a threshold of privacy tends to a minimum, and a broader use of the Web with fewer personal data ‘moving around’. This is the direction of the scenario drawn by Marko Ahtisaari: minimal social networks for “real” friends.

Disclosure: Experientia has worked with Marko in the past (while he was at Blyk), and we admire his competence, strategic insights and entrepreneurial approach. So good luck, Marko.

Also, you may want to check this article on the vision presented by Tero Ojanpera, Nokia’s Executive Vice President of Services, in London this morning.

23 June 2010

Why we desire, display and design

Nancy Etcoff
Humans around the world wear clothing and accessories to hide their bodies, to emphasise them, even to evoke magic. Indeed, personal ornaments appear to be among the first forms of symbolic communication. US psychologist Nancy Etcoff linked fashion to psychology in the sixth Premsela Lecture: ‘Born to Adorn: Why We Desire, Display and Design’, delivered on 26 May in Amsterdam.

At the yearly Premsela Lecture, a speaker from outside the world of design addresses current developments in the field. The yearly lectures are organised by Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion.

“”Dress, clothes and fashion are rare topics in the social sciences,” Etcoff said, “particularly the branch I inhabit, at the intersection of neuroscience and psychology. Perhaps that is because historically, there has been far more interest in reason and the mind than in emotion and the body, in depth rather than surface, [although] dress has as much to do with reason as emotion, as much to do with the mind as the body, and as much to do with our inner depths as our surface.”

She outlined the variety and importance of our reasons for adornment, ending with a call to designers to use science to push fashion further in its enhancement of human well-being.”

Etcoff, author of The Survival of the Prettiest, The Science of Beauty, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Download text of lecture

(via InfoDesign)

23 June 2010

IKEA’s Playreport

Playreport
Playreport is a global research project on children, families and play, initiated by IKEA.

The company conducted 11,000 interviews in 25 countries, and spoke to 8,000 parents and 3,000 children aged 7-12. It is therefore, according to IKEA, the largest global research project ever conducted on parenting, children and the state of play around the world.

The Playreport lives on on Ikea’s Facebook page, which invites experts and parents around the globe to join in the conversation in order to increase awareness and discussion about the value of play for kids.

Download the international summary of the Playreport (pdf)

(Via Creativity Online)

22 June 2010

Intel transforming lives of senior citizens in 2050

Blood pressure monitoring
This month Chip Chick, the site that focuses on technology for women, was invited by Intel to its annual Upgrade Your Life Event where the company presented what it is working on. This feature article updates us on how Intel’s healthcare projects aim to transform life for senior citizens in 2050.

“Today Intel’s social scientists are studying the needs of seniors and their family caregivers in 1000 homes in 20 countries. […] From this ethnographic research several personal health projects and devices have sprung up. “

Read article

(Check also this previous Chip Chick feature on what Intel is doing on web-connected Smart TVs)

22 June 2010

The reality of social media

Social life
In this post Adrian Chan “teases apart the objective and subjective dimensions of social media, to examine what’s behind the relational economy we now live in, and its particular mode of production.”

“All commerce and much personal and social utility implied by use of social media, writes Chan, owes to the subjective value added to what was, previously, a mode of production of information (publishing).

I will try to demonstrate here the manner in which social acts and communication result in mediated social realities. And suggest that the relational connections and value-added associations which are the byproduct of social media use create a marketplace of content whose highest value, individually motivated subjective choices, we are only beginning to capture and mine.”

Read article

22 June 2010

Don Norman: the Want interview

Want Magazine
“The ability to explain complex academic theories in palatable layman’s’ terms is the mark of a good teacher—and Don Norman is certainly that,” writes Ken Grobe in his commentary accompanying the video of the interview.

“He is, of course, much more than a professor. Often called “The father of User Experience,” Norman coined the phrase some two decades ago. He’s the co-director of the dual-degree MBA and Engineering program at Northwestern University. Professor. Author. Ground-breaking usability theorist. Being taken to school by someone in his league, I can deal with.

I arrived at his Palo Alto home with pad, pen, and camera crew to chat with him about the “Engineering of Want,” the theme of our maiden issue. I left with a surprisingly environmentalist critique of product design, a preview of his new book, Living with Complexity, and the idea that the ultimate state of UX is for it to disappear. Oh, and he accused me of being a marketer.”

Watch video

21 June 2010

On ethnography and balance scorecards

UX Matters
Three new articles have been published on the UX Matters site:

Ethnography in UX
by Nathanael Boehm, user experience and social interaction designer for the Australian Government, Canberra, Australia
“In this article, I want to look at ways in which UX professionals can conduct research, usability testing, and evaluation for the upper rungs of the Human-Tech Ladder—the social elements of technology design and how people interact with a particular technology while working together within an organization.”

User Experience Balance Scorecard
by Sean Van Tyne, user experience director at FICO
“As user experience becomes more established as part of an organization’s overall strategy, a comprehensive Balance Scorecard must include user experience. It would be beneficial for UX leaders within organizations to understand the Balance Scorecard system and how to map their UX groups’ objectives to their organizations’ business strategies.”

International UPA 2010 Conference: Research Themes and Trends
by Michael Hawley, VP Experience Design at Mad*Pow Media Solutions LLC
“For the first time in its history, the International Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) conference took place outside of North America. […] Unfortunately, it was impossible to attend all of the sessions, but in this conference recap, I will outline several trends I recognized.”

19 June 2010

UXnet disbanded

UXnet
Louis Rosenfeld, president of the Board of Directors of UXnet, announced last night that the user experience network is being disbanded:

“On behalf of UXnet’s board of directors, I have a bit of difficult news to share: we are disbanding UXnet.

UXnet simply is not structured to achieve its goal of building a sustainable network of UX people. We don’t have the ability to tackle or pay for the kind of development work that such a goal requires. We’ve tried hard for eight years, but it’s time to recognize that our approach isn’t the right one and move on.”

Read announcement

19 June 2010

New Masters in Service Design at Domus Academy

Il Servizio
The Domus Academy in Milan is launching a new Masters in Service Design.

“Domus Academy’s distinctive approach is to consider the aesthetic of the experience along the parameters of quality and efficacy for a good service performance: such a dimension depends on sensitive and emotional aspects, linked to human nature, behavior, and cultural backgrounds.

The Master in Service Design is a unique occasion to experience the Italian design culture and its humanistic approach along with the most advanced service design methods and tools to envisage innovation for the service sector.”

Led by Elena Pacenti, the Master program focuses on consumer services (B2C): from banks and insurance, hospitality and tourism, mobility and transportation, entertainment and culture, retail and commercial, to healthcare and public services.

The aim of the Master Program is to develop professional skills for Service Design and Management, with a focus on the quality of the overall customer experience and on the design of innovative service ideas.

Domus Academy is also hosting a service design competition where prospective students can gain a scholarship.

Download the leaflet

(via Jeff Howard’s Design for Service)

19 June 2010

Parliament of Things

EU
In a resolution adopted Tuesday, the European Parliament officially endorsed the development of the Internet of Things, reports Read Write Web.

This resolution frankly encourages the development of an Internet of Things in the European Union. It even calls on the European IoT Commission to “secure co-financing for the implementation of these technologies” and “continue funding pilot projects.”

The resolution also sets out instructions to factor in issues of privacy while building out the European IoT.

Read article

18 June 2010

Deciphering the cause of human motivation

Drive
Anand Giridharadas, columnist at the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, is at it again in his usual delightful way. This time he reflects on the nature of human motivation.

“Call it, perhaps, the great showdown over the nature of human motivation.

One camp regards our species as Homo Incentivus. It conceives of us as shrewd responders to carrots and sticks, hooked on a diet of incentives and external rewards. This camp bristles at the thought that we do things just because we love them or believe they are right. […]

Which idea reflects our cultural moment? Are we cool, rational optimizers or suckers for the balm of purpose?

In a recent book called “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” Daniel Pink, who wrote speeches for Al Gore when he was the U.S. vice president, attacks the incentive-based vision of humans. On his telling, Motivation 1.0 came naturally: It was biological survival, the escaping from lions and tigers. Then we developed Motivation 2.0, which is the use of incentives — external penalties and rewards. But in our attempt to induce useful behavior, we may actually have drained the intrinsic pleasure from it, Mr. Pink contends.”

Read article

17 June 2010

Resistance is futile and the design of politics

Personal and Ubiquitous Computing
Paul Dourish, a researcher frequently written about on this blog (check e.g. Monday’s mentioning of his paper on Postcolonial Computing), has posted a few more papers that are worth exploring:

“Resistance is Futile”: Reading Science Fiction Alongside Ubiquitous Computing
Personal and Ubiquitous Computing
Paul Dourish, Department of Informatics, University of California
Genevieve Bell, Director of the User Experience Group, Intel Corporation

“Design-oriented research is an act of collective imagining – a way in which we work together to bring about a future that lies slightly out of our grasp. In this paper, we examine the collective imagining of ubiquitous computing by bringing it into alignment with a related phenomenon, science fiction, in particular as imagined by a series of shows that form part of the cultural backdrop for many members of the research community. A comparative reading of these fictional narratives highlights a series of themes that are also implicit in the research literature. We argue both that these themes are important considerations in the shaping of technological design, and that an attention to the tropes of popular culture holds methodological value for ubiquitous computing.”

HCI and Environmental Sustainability: The Politics of Design and the Design of Politics
DIS 2010
Paul Dourish, Department of Informatics, University of California, Irvine

“Many HCI researchers have recently begun to examine the opportunities to use ICTs to promote environmental sustainability and ecological consciousness on the part of technology users. This paper examines the way that traditional HCI discourse obscures political and cultural contexts of environmental practice that must be part of an effective solution. Research on ecological politics and the political economy of environmentalism highlight some missing elements in contemporary HCI analysis, and suggest some new directions for the relationship between sustainability and HCI. In particular, I propose that questions of scale – the scales of action and the scales of effects – might provide a useful new entry point for design practice.”

17 June 2010

User-driven innovation for Nordic businesses

Ludinno
Ludinno, a hands-on user-driven innovation-project, has provided new concepts, ideas and knowledge for businesses, and a platform for a Nordic research cooperation in the field of merging design and user-driven innovation (UDI) processes. In the project students supported by academics and trained professionals cooperated with businesses to carry out real and user driven business projects.

The project’s main objective was to allow participating companies and consultants, to test, experiment with, and then implement methods for UDI in their business operations. These playful laboratories were called Learning Labs, and used multidisciplinary teams consisting of users, company employees and students.

Five Learning Labs have been conducted, in Karlstad (Sweden), Oslo (Norway), Helsinki (Finland), Linkoping (Sweden) and Aalborg (Denmark). All together, projects in the five learning-labs have engaged 30 companies as primary stakeholders, over 100 students, and innumerable number of users.

The project report describes the setup and results from each of the five Learning-Labs. It also provides practical ideas about how design can be used in UDI-projects, and recommendations for which way public policy in the Nordic countries can support innovation capacities.

17 June 2010

Jon Kolko on design that changes human behavior

Jon Kolko
As part of its “Future By Design” series, Forbes Magazine interviewed Jon Kolko, associate creative director at Frog Design and founder of the Austin Center for Design, on how a “well-crafted product can make the world a better place.”

Forbes: What do you think constitutes good design?
Good design is design that changes behavior for the better. I think it needs to take into account the context of the environment, of the human condition, the culture and then attempt to make the things you do–make us do them better, make us do better things. It encourages us to change the way that we live.

Read interview

17 June 2010

Collaborative consumption

TEDx Sydney
Rachel Botsman, co-author with Roo Rogers of the upcoming book “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption”, was one of the speakers at TEDx Sydney, the conference which featured a selection of Australia’s leading visionaries and storytellers on May 22nd.

The book Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping redefined through technology and peer communities.

From enormous marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist, to emerging sectors such as social lending (Zopa) and car sharing (Zipcar), Collaborative Consumption is disrupting outdated modes of business and reinventing not just what we consume but how we consume. New marketplaces such as Swaptree, Zilok, Bartercard, AirBnb, and thredUP are enabling “peer-to-peer” to become the default way people exchange—whether it’s unused space, goods, skills, money, or services — and sites like these are appearing everyday, all over the world.

In her talk she presents a strong case for 21st Century sharing.

Watch video

(This video can also be found on TEDx, a weird aggregator site containing thousands of TEDx videos, yet also featuring a very poor search engine and an “About Us” page that is beyond belief.)

15 June 2010

The innovative use of mobile applications in East Africa

Apps in Africa
The Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA) has published a report by Johan Hellström (blog) that gives an overview of the current state of mobile phone use and services in East Africa.

The report outlines major trends and main obstacles for increased use as well as key opportunities and potential for scaling-up mobile applications. It draws on secondary data and statistics as well as field work carried out in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya during 2008 and 2009.

It identifies relevant applications in an East African context for reaching and empowering the poor and contribute to social and economic development. The identified mobile applications range from small pilots to scaled-up initiatives – from simple agricultural, market or health information services to fairly advanced financial and government transaction services.

From the executive summary:

“The ‘killer application’ in East Africa is peer to peer communication, i.e. voice, SMS and beeping. The number of subscribers who use their phones to access internet is however steadily growing, which opens up for a whole range of new applications and possibilities. Many of the existing SMS based applications that could benefit the poor the most are still in their infancy in the region. A few successful cases, namely mobile money transaction systems and various health related solutions are being used at scale, but the fact remains that the number of scaled-up mobile services are still few and/or limited geographically.

So, what hinders the take off of mobile applications for economic and social development in East Africa?

  • First the cost of communication must go down – SMS is very overpriced and so is voice and data traffic.
  • Secondly, many applications and services never reach out to the masses due to poor marketing and the non-existing meta data about the available applications. Subscribers must know what solutions are available, why and how to use them. This will lead to volumes intensive which will eventually lower the price of the particular service. In other words, there is a huge need for marketing (of the product) and education (for the end user) in order to make mobile applications sustainable.
  • Thirdly, many interventions are not designed with scale in mind. Few implementers are familiar with all the costs involved and seen from a technological point of view, the requirements on networks and different requirements on handsets and end-users that mobile applications have must be understood better.

Despite these challenges, we are witnessing a small revolution regarding new applications and services added to the mobile phone.

Some high potential application areas include financial services and various governance related services. After successful implementations of mobile money services in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and most recently in Rwanda, m-banking is set to grow. As it grows, there will be an integration of m-transactions systems into existing applications and services and m-commerce in general will thereby take off rapidly and widespread. Public service delivery can be improved by integrating services with m-transactions and facilitating interaction between the state and its citizens.”

Download report
Read article