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Posts in category 'Emerging markets'

6 April 2011

Africa to be first post-PC continent

 
A convergence of historical circumstance and an increase in innovative mobile applications may make Africa the first post-PC continent.

Low investment in wired telecommunication infrastructure has driven increased mobile penetration, creating a user base that supports a rise in mobile innovation and increased interest in content development, according to observers.

Read article

25 March 2011

Design!publiC: design for governance in India

Design!publiC
LiveMint.com, the Indian online partner publication of the Wall Street Journal, reports on India’s first Design!publiC conclave “on design thinking and the challenge of government innovation,” which took place in New Delhi on 18 March.

The event — which was organised by the Center for Knowledge Societies, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and with support from, amongst others, the Centre for Internet and Society — brought together influential thinkers in Indian government, including Arun Maira of the National Planning Commission, R. Gopalakrishnan of the National Innovation Council and Ram Sewak Sharma of the UIDAI, as well as members of leading corporate and development sector agencies.

In the lengthy article Aparna Piramal Raje, director of BP Ergo, describes the approach advocated at the conclave:

“Design thinking denotes an approach to problem-solving, with three distinct aspects. First, users are studiously followed and analysed employing ethnographic tools. Human needs, attitudes, preferences, challenges, their context and the immediate environment are documented using multimedia technology.

These in-depth observations generate insights into the heart of a given problem. Based on these, design thinkers collaborate and brainstorm to conceive a set of possible solutions. Prototypes of these solutions are created, tested and validated to arrive at a final solution. [...]

Design thinking’s biggest strength—the last mile, or the citizen-government interface—is the biggest pain point for government service providers. User-centricity forms the foundation for all design thinking; they are typically the weakest link in any government programme. Greater sensitivity to everyday interactions between citizens and government services can result in enhanced standards of living through better housing, transportation, health, education, among other necessities of daily life, the panellists said.”

Make sure to watch the video that is embedded in the article.

Excerpt from the Design!publiC vision text

“The problem of governance is perhaps as old as society, as old as the rule of law. But it is only more recently — perhaps the last five hundred years of modernity — that human societies have been able to conceive of different models of government, different modalities of public administration, all having different effects on the configuration of society. The problem of governments, of governmentality, and of governance is always also the problem of how to change the very processes and procedures of government, so as to enhance the ends of the state and to promote the collective good.

Since the establishment of India’s republic, many kinds of changes have been made to the policies and practices of its state. We may think of, for instance, successive stages of land reforms, the privatization of large-scale and extractive industries, the subsequent abolition of the License Raj and so and so forth. We may also consider the computerization of state documents beginning in the 1980s, and more recently, the Right To Information Act (RTI). More recently there have been activist campaigns to reduce the discretionary powers of government and to thereby reduce the scope of corruption in public life.

While all these cases represent the continuous process of modification, reform, and change to government policy and even to its modes of functioning, this is not what we have in mind when we speak of ‘governance innovation.’ Rather, intend a specific process of ethnographic inquiry into the real needs of citizens, followed by an inclusive approach to reorganizing and representing that information in such a way that it may promote collaborative problem-solving and solutioneering through the application of design thinking.

The concept of design thinking has emerged only recently, and it has been used to describe approaches to problem solving that include: (i) redefining the fundamental challenges at hand, (ii) evaluating multiple possible options and solutions in parallel, and (iii) prioritizing and selecting those which are likely to achieve the greatest benefits for further consideration. This approach may also be iterative, allowing decisions to be made in general and specific ways as an organization gets closer and closer to the solution. Design thinking turns out to be not an individual but collective and social process, requiring small and large groups to be able to work together in relation to the available information about the task or challenge at hand. Design thinking can lead to innovative ideas, to new insights, and to new actionable directions for organizations.

This general approach to innovation — and the central role of design thinking — has emerged from the private sector over the last quarter century, and has enjoyed particular success in regards to the development of new technology products, services and experience. The question we would like to address in this conference is whether and how this approach can be employed for the transformation public and governmental systems. [...]

[More in particular,] in this conclave, our interest is to explore how design thinking and user-centered innovation might help [governmental and quasi-governmental] organizations better accomplish their mission and better serve their beneficiaries. We also seek to explore and establish particular modalities through which governance innovation can be achieved, as well as to identify key stakeholders and personalities gripped of the challenge of governance innovation. Our larger goal is to craft a path forward for integrating design thinking and innovation methodologies in the further re-envisioning, refashioning and improvement of public services in India and elsewhere in the world.”

The conclave seems to have been extremely well prepared, given the wealth of supporting materials that are available online:

Design!publiC blog

Press release
CKS organizes “Design Public” conclave – lays foundation for creating a national framework for governance innovation. High-level officials from Government of India work together with design and Innovation Experts at “Design Public” conclave

Conclave Note
Concise document that covers vision, case studies, programme and attendees

Case studies of governance innovation
Mainly European examples (unfortunately) from Denmark, UK and Norway

Glossary on design, innovation and governance
Glossary of terms that are often used by designers and innovation specialists. Also includes key terms related to governance and state-craft.

Bibliography on governance innovation
[Pleasantly surprised to find my own name there, as well as the one of Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels]

Design!publiC Book
A combination of all the above, including a detailed introduction to the design innovation ideas that were explored at the Design Public Conclave, the complete Design Public bibliography, the glossary of design terms, case studies of design innovation being applied to government, and bios for the guests that attended the conference.

15 March 2011

Experientia intern wins UNICEF 2010 INDEX design challenge

Teddy Bag
Experientia intern, Ane Eguiguren, together with her team partner François Verez, has been announced the winner of the INDEX: Design Challenge 2010.

The UNICEF challenge encouraged young designers to envision solutions to education in developing countries.

UNICEF in collaboration with the Danish not-for-profit organization INDEX launched the challenge in June 2010, and more than 1000 students from 29 countries across the globe joined the competition which resulted in 115 submitted design solutions.

From a short-list of seven, Ane and François’ “Teddy Bag” project was selected as the design with the most potential to be realised with the highest impact.

The Teddy Bag is a fully-recyclable backpack created for children to use in emergency situations, or in areas lacking education facilities. It is a lightweight backpack, which the child can use to carry equipment to school, but then transforms into a desk and chair for the child to sit on and study at, at school or even at home.

The INDEX Jury selected the Teddy Bag according to criteria of form, impact and context, commending it for having “the child in the centre and for a design where impact could be measured easily”. The jury also commended the thorough iteration process the winners went through, their testing and the broad product range that can be extended from the design.

The selection process included a workshop in Copenhagen, where short-listed teams worked with the Jury, advisers and experts to develop their initial concepts into go-to-market ideas.

The two young designers are now working with UNICEF, in an effort to conduct further field testing and hopefully implement the project.

- Read press release
- Watch video
- Download submission (pdf)

11 January 2011

Mobile youth around the world

Mobile youth around the world
Nielsen’s new whitepaper on Mobile Youth Around the World reveals that most young people with mobile phones chose their own device. In fact, across all the countries surveyed, only 16 percent of young people reported that their parents selected their mobile phone. Price was the most common consideration among youth in selecting a mobile phone, though that is true among other age groups, too. Youth aged 15 to 24 in all countries surveyed put price as the first purchase driver, with the exception of Russian youth, 21 percent of whom placed design/style first. (Some grown-ups care about design, too. Around 14 percent of Brazilian adults say design/style is the most important consideration, compared to seven percent of U.S. adults.)

Out of all the countries examined, Italy leads in smartphone penetration with 47 percent of young people ages 15-24 owning a smartphone, compared to 31 percent of adults over 25. Smartphone penetration among European youth averages 28 percent in the countries surveyed, while penetration among older adults in Europe is 27 percent. Twenty-eight percent of U.S. mobile subscribers have smartphones. Youth in the United States exceed the population average smartphone penetration by 5 percent.

According to the report, China is the biggest spot for the mobile Internet, with 73 percent of Chinese youths age 15 to 24 citing mobile Internet usage as among the things they used their cell phones for in the past month. By comparison, less than half of American and British cell-phone toting youths used the Internet from their mobile devices, while the rest of Europe had rates less than 25 percent.

Read article

8 December 2010

Ken Banks on technology, anthropology, conservation and development

Mobile message
In Mobile Message, a new series of blog posts for Nat Geo News Watch starting today, innovator, anthropologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ken Banks shares exciting stories about how mobile phones are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.

“These are some of the themes we will explore in the “Mobile Message.” Over the next few months we will delve into the human stories behind the growth of mobile technology in the developing world. We’ll take a closer look at the background and thinking behind FrontlineSMS, and hear from a number of users applying it to very real social and environmental problems in their communities. We will also hear thoughts and insights from other key mobile innovators in the field, from anthropologists to technologists to local innovators.”

Read article

30 November 2010

Understanding communities through ethnography

Tricia Wang
Digital marketing expert Dhiren Shingadia interviewed ethnographer and technology researcher Tricia Wang to learn how ethnography can provide new insights for companies seeking to understand communities.

“My primary output is analysis of how new technology users are living at the intersection of macro processes. Examples of questions that I ask are: What does the future of the internet look like? What happens when the next 300 million migrants with digital tools are able to get online? How will the state, the world, and technological infrastructures accommodate such a massive change in scale? How do we design and market to this group?

I hang out with people and spend a lot of time trying to see the world through their eyes. I make long and deep observations of how everyday life is achieved and negotiated. I then interpret my observations and contextualize my analysis in relation to past, current and future socioeconomic, technological and cultural developments.

By answering these questions I am able to provide context and explanations for why people engage or don’t engage with certain technologies, to explain how this all interfaces with historical and present day life, and how designers, engineers, and organizers can meet the daily needs of both low-income/marginalized users and the burgeoning middle class.”

Read interview

(via FutureLab)

22 November 2010

Can the developed world learn from Kenya’s experience with the mobile wallet?

m-pesa
Using your mobile phone to do your banking and to buy goods and services is becoming more common, with the rise of the smartphone.

In developing world countries like Kenya, the technology to do this has been around for several years – and you do not need a bank account to use it.

M-Pesa launched in 2007, and there are now nearly 100 services like it around the world, mainly in developing countries.

Can the developed world learn from Kenya’s experience with the mobile wallet?

The BBC’s Fiona Graham finds out.

Watch video

20 November 2010

Harvard Forum essays on ICT4D

ITID
ITID (Information Technologies & International Development) has come out with a special issue devoted to papers emerging from the second Harvard Forum on ICTs, Human Development, Growth and Poverty Reduction (audio cast).

The two-day Harvard Forum II was sponsored by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University in September 2009.

ITID is a peer-reviewed, international, multidisciplinary quarterly that focuses on the intersection of information and communication technologies (ICT) with economic and social development. It is designed for researchers and practitioners from the engineering and social sciences, technologists, policy makers, and development specialists.

Some highlights:
- The mobile and the world – Amartya Sen
- Some thoughts on ICT and growth – Michael Spence (Nobel in Economics, 2001)
- Capital, power, and the next step in decentralization – Yochai Benkler
- Decentralizing the mobile phone: a second ICT4D revolution – Ethan Zuckerman

16 November 2010

How data use and data visualisations can improve our lives

Data life
Data use and smart human-centric data visualisations are becoming the “next big thing” in UX design. A number of posts this week delve into the matter:

Data for a better planet
Now that more people have location-aware smartphones and the Web has made data easy to share, personal data is poised to become an important tool to understand how we live, and how we all might live better.

Citytracking presents data on cities for map, visualisations
Citytracking, created by design and technology studio Stamen, presents digital data about cities that journalists and the public can easily grasp and use, and provides a series of tools to map and visualize data that lets people distribute their own conclusions.

Mobile data will be crucial to economies
In a short video interview on IdeasProject, Ushahidi co-founder Erik Hersman says once the data processing capabilities on mobile devices improve that it will be a huge growth area with huge social implications to economies all over the world.

16 November 2010

The newest web users are changing the culture of the internet

Cybercafe in Brazil
The newest billion people to venture online are doing so in developing countries rather than North America or Europe, writes Erik German in Globalpost, and they are changing the culture of the internet itself.

“Researchers say the web as it was originally, if idealistically, conceived — a largely free, monolingual space where a shared digital culture prevailed — may soon be a distant memory. And it’s happening remarkably fast.”

Read article

11 November 2010

How the cell phone is changing the world

Mobile in Tanzania
In a very general overview article published in Newsweek, Ravi Somaiya reports on how the impact of the ubiquitous device extends from politics to business, medicine, and war.

“More than 4 billion of the 6 billion people on earth now have a cell phone, with a quarter of those owners getting one in just the last two years. And many are using them, in a giant global experiment, to change the way life is lived, from Manhattan to Ouagadougou.

The phones now allow Masai tribesmen in Kenya to bank the proceeds from selling cattle; Iranian protesters to organize in secret; North Koreans to communicate with the outside world; Afghan villagers to alert Coalition soldiers to Taliban forces; insurgents to blow up roadside bombs in Iraq; and charities to see, in real time, when HIV drugs run out in the middle of Malawi.”

Read article

2 November 2010

India: Land of many cell phones, fewer toilets

 
Ravi Nessman reports from Mumbai, India.

“The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar has no clean water for its shacks made of ripped tarp and bamboo. No garbage pickup along the rocky, pocked earth that serves as a road. No power except from haphazard cables strung overhead illegally.

And not a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 people.

Yet nearly every destitute family in the slum has a cell phone. Some have three.”

Read article

28 October 2010

Meet the 20-cent ‘cloud phone’

Nigel Waller
CNN has an interview up with Nigel Waller, the CEO of Movirtu Limited and the man behind their Cloud Phone, writes Core77.

Waller dropped the surprising statistic that worldwide there are one billion people who use cell phones–but don’t own one; instead they share, borrow or rent them.

The Cloud Phone was intended to serve this market. At first Waller tried to create a cell phone that could be manufactured for just $5 so that everyone could afford one, but he couldn’t pull it off.

Instead Waller went with a $25 phone, but designed it so that a village of users could share it while still maintaining individual phone numbers accounts on a single phone. Activation cost? Just 10 to 20 cents per person.

Read the full interview, which is filled with interesting insights on how the other half uses their phones.

24 October 2010

The most popular phone in the world

Nokia 1100
To fully understand what’s wrong [with Nokia], we’ve got to understand what’s been right, or to put in another way, what’s distracted Nokia. Meet the most popular phone in the world.

“The phone’s small size makes its extremely portable, and easy to carry or stow. That narrow, squishy keypad is dustproof and water resistant, so a splash of rain or a drop in the sand won’t ruin it. The phone’s plasticky shell and light weight make perfect sense the first time you see it bounce off your tile floor, skittering to a stop unscathed. [...]

This phone was meant to survive and to do; its only jobs are to call and to text and to create convenience for as long as possible, as cheaply as possible.”

Read article

22 October 2010

The (limited) power of good intentions

Intentions
Socially responsible design, writes Julie Lasky in Metropolis Magazine, is a whole lot harder than it looks.

“While nearly all of this work is well-intentioned, almost none of it amounts to anything concrete,” points out a magazine editor I know, who may be dazed by the number of do-gooder projects pouring into his inbox. “Why is there such a disconnect between the countless schemes of these designers and … well, to put it bluntly, real results? What has to happen to get the ratio of good intentions to completed projects to a more game-changing one?”

The roots to these answers are deep and hairy. They depend on the Jesuitical parsing of words like success, which can be defined quite differently depending on whose perspective you’re considering: designer, funder, recipient. Even design takes on semantic complexity in the social-change arena. “Half of success is determined before anybody picks up a pencil to sketch,” says Mariana Amatullo, director of Designmatters, a department of Art Center College of Design that undertakes social-change initiatives. She’s referring to the network of relationships that must be built for projects launched from outside a community to have a hope in hell.

Read article

15 October 2010

Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa

Mobile Africa report
The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have jointly published the report entitled “Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa“.

The democratization of mobile telephony in Africa, its availability, ease of use and, above all, the extent to which it has been appropriated by the public, have made it a major success story. Very low-income populations are not only actively demanding access to mobile telephone services but also innovating, by creating the functions and applications they can use. Development is thus happening “from the bottom up” and an entire economy, both formal and informal in nature, has come into being to meet people’s needs. Many different actors – private, public, NGOs – are now mobilized.

Operators and manufacturers have successfully changed their economic model and adapted their products and applications to allow access to services at affordable prices. NGOs have in addition created a range of messaging- based services in different sectors. However, the future evolution of mobile telephony is not clear. A range of different approaches will co-exist, from SMS up to full Internet capacity, including experimental initiatives using smart phones and “netbooks”. Falling costs will lead to an increase in the number of phone devices with data receiving capacity. Individuals and companies involved in creating services or applications for development will need to take account of their users’ demographics and incomes, as well as the pricing systems of telecommunication companies in countries where they wish to operate. In this, States and regulating authorities have grasped the crucial role which they must play in promoting an investment-friendly environment with the goal of achieving universal access and stimulating innovation – key factors in achieving a “critical mass” of users.

The advent on the African continent of high-capacity links via submarine cables will change the ground rules and force operators to seek new sources of revenue. The inventiveness that has already been evident in mobile voice telephony will be needed once again if the “mobile divide” (in terms of costs, power supply, and so on) is not to widen.

This report takes stock of developments in this sector, which is crucial to Africa’s economic development, and suggests a number of possible directions it might take.

Download report

(via MobileActive)

15 October 2010

What the developing world can teach us about technology

mobile + africa
“Creativity, Cost-Cutting & Keeping it Simple: what the Developing World can teach us about Technology” is the long title of a short feature story by Anna Leach on Shiny Shiny, a gadget blog, where she reports on a fascinating talk at CityCamp London.

“We’re selling ourselves short if we think the flow of innovation only goes way. There is a lot we can learn back from the developing world about the inventive uses they find for the technology we take for granted.”

Read article

15 October 2010

mobile + africa

mobile + africa
A contingent of Stanford University d.school students recently returned from Kenya, where they spent two weeks working with Nokia Research Africa, and the University of Nairobi, developing health-related mobile applications. The trip was the culmination of months of work in connection with a new class at the d.school, “Designing Liberation Technologies,” which will be offered again in the coming academic year.

“Designing Liberation Technologies” is (at least in its current iteration) an experiment in remote, user-centered design. Starting in April, Stanford d.school students from a diverse array of disciplines – including computer science, medicine, business, law, education – worked with computer science students at the University of Nairobi to identify the design needs of health care providers and low-income mobile phone users in Kenya. The students then developed prototypes of mobile applications to support delivery of health services in urban areas. In August, a group of students travelled to Nairobi to meet with NGO partners, test prototypes, and advance plans for the future.

Read article

1 October 2010

Nokia building loyalty among the bankless

Nokia Money
The Register reports at length on Nokia’s move into Mobile Money.

“For a technology company, Mobile Money is remarkably low-tech. Only the tiniest amount of bandwidth is necessary for a financial transaction, and it doesn’t need to be instant – the store and forward of SMS is perfectly good enough. There are a number of technologies used in Mobile Money, including USSD, SIM toolkit, Java and plain old voice through IVR – which is great for places with an illiterate population. None of these technologies are new. The barriers to Mobile Money are business models and logistics.

So while it might seem that Mobile Money is just another ecosystem in Nokia’s service strategy, look closer and you find that Mobile Money is a peculiarly good fit.”

Read article

18 September 2010

Values in technology design and use: ethnography’s contribution

Tricia Wang
A couple of months ago former Nokia ethnographer Tricia Wang gave a talk at the Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, CA, and she just posted the slideshow and the abstract on her blog.

“My talk today is about how I came into my research at Nokia wanting to answer the question: how can ethnographers contribute to the product design process of a mobile device? Ethnographically grounded research for technology use is a method that aims to reveal users’ values, beliefs, and ideas. Nokia was one of the first mobile companies to concertedly hire ethnographers as part of its design process, In the mid to late nineties, Nokia changed the mobile industry forever by creating affordable, user friendly phones. More than a decade later, the hardware mobile phone market is nearing saturation. With Nokia transitioning from a company that produces hardware to software, how can ethnographically driven research provide strategic insights for this shift?”

Poking around on Tricia’s site, I discovered some more inspiring and excellently written treasures to savour:

The Great Internet Freedom Bluff of Digital Imperialism: thoughts on cyber diplomacy, cargo cult digital activism… and Haystack
The Haystack Affair, like the recent Google-China Saga is just another technology that has been caught in the digital geo-politics of neo-informationalism. Neo-informationalism is the belief that information should function like currency in free-market capitalism—borderless, free from regulation, and mobile. The logic of this rests on an ethical framework that is tied to what Morgan Ames calls “information determinism,” the belief that free and open access to information can create real social change. [...] Neo-informationalist policies, such as the new “internet freedom” foreign policy to ensure free and flowing information, compliment neoliberal practices in corporate welfare to keep markets free and open to the US and all of our allies who benefit from our work. But it’s not free for all when it’s just free for some.

Check also these related posts:

  • Evgeny Morozov: Were Haystack’s Iranian testers at risk?
    Haystack is the Internet’s equivalent of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It is the epitome of everything that is wrong with Washington’s push to promote Internet Freedom without thinking through the consequences and risks involved; thus, the more we learn about the Haystack Affair while it’s still fresh in everyone’s memory, the better.
     
  • Sami Ben Gharbia: The Internet Freedom fallacy and Arab digital activism
    This article focuses on grassroots digital activism in the Arab world and the risks of what seems to be an inevitable collusion with U.S foreign policy and interests. It sums up the most important elements of the conversation I have been having for the last 2 years with many actors involved in defending online free speech and the use of technology for social and political change. While the main focus is Arab digital activism, I have made sure to include similar concerns raised by activists and online free speech advocates from other parts of the world, such as China, Thailand, and Iran.

Three useful perspectives on technology, design, and social change (and countering the ICT4D hype)
As someone who researches the social side of technology, I am constantly trying to find new ways to talk to technologists that technology itself does not create social change, rather it’s how technology is socially embedded in a variety of institutions and cultural contexts. [...] Three resources have been very useful to me lately.