Nimbus Blog, Openness and Transparency, Social Change

Supporting Policy Advisors and Researchers at DFID

Last week, we had the privilege of running a thought-provoking seminar on the use of mobiles in development for policy advisers and researchers at the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Over the last 10 years people have increasingly been finding new and innovative ways to use mobile phone technology to reach and support people in need. Now with over 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions we have a unique and unprecedented opportunity to positively impact people’s lives through the device in their hand.

In a brief overview we looked at the plethora of organisations, both small and large, that are now engaged in M4D (Mobiles for development) activities. From those that are solely donor funded, through those trying to establish a sustainable commercial business model, to global players that see long-term financial benefits of engaging with people at the base of the pyramid (BOP).

Below is a short video clip from the seminar covering the introduction and a brief overview of the M4D landscape.

During the seminar we focused on three key areas; openness and transparency, mobiles and empowerment, and Mobile money. Since the beginning of this year these have probably been the most hotly debated subjects on the international development and ICT4D blogs and discussion forums.

There is no doubt that, given the recent global economic crisis, there is an urgent need for improved openness and transparency in development programmes. During the seminar we discussed how important it is to link donor funding to activities, and most importantly to outcomes. We were able to show attendees how mobile phones are being used to capture real-time data on field activities using location stamped photographs and mobile forms. This data can then be mapped with funding and outcome data to present ‘live’ dashboards that can be accessed online by programme managers and donors, enabling them to make informed decisions.

A recognised definition of empowerment is ‘Empowerment is defined as a person’s capacity to make effective choices: that is, the capacity to transform choices into desired actions and outcomes.’ We discussed how technology can be used both to provide education and information and, even more importantly, through mobile coaching and mentoring, how people can be supported as they explore new actions and outcomes. As a case study for this we were able to highlight the amazing success of the JamiiX and Mxit collaboration in South Africa which has facilitated over 5 million conversations, supporting people through a wide range of issues such as drug abuse, rape, and HIV counselling.

Click below to view a short clip from the seminar on mobiles and empowerment.

Finally we looked at how Mobile Money is transforming the way people think in Kenya and other developing nations. We explored the key enablers for successful countrywide deployments of mobile money solutions. These include;

1)      a migrant population with a need to transfer money from urban to rural areas
2)      limited access to financial services or low banking penetration
3)      a high penetration of mobile phone usage (most importantly, mobile operators need to be trusted brands)
4)      poor infrastructure and security (therefore high risk to carry significant amounts of cash)

Additionally, for the continued growth of Mobile Money and to ensure the maximum benefit is delivered to people in need, governments need to ensure there is interoperability between mobile operators.

We also had time during the afternoon to engage with the DFID policy advisers and researchers to discuss future trends for mobiles in least developed countries (LDC’s) and to look at a framework for successful M4D programme implementations. I will be sharing the output of these two areas in next week’s blog – so watch this space.

Nimbus is an independent consultancy advising on the design and deployment of mobile and web technologies that enhance international development programmes. If you are challenged to make your programmes more effective or you wish to enable them to reach more people, call us now on 0330 330 9813 or e-mail me at


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