Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Technology for Social Impact

Mobile Active 2008 South African NGO NetworkThe Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT) and MobileActive.org will host the MobileActive08 Summit from 13-15 October 2008 at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg. The theme of the event is “Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Technology for Social Impact”.

With more than 350 confirmed participants from over 40 countries, this will be the largest international event to date focusing on this topic and one of the most important ICT4D events to be hosted in Africa in 2008.

Speaking at the end of September 2008 at the United Nations in New York during a high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Hamadoun TourĂ©, announced that worldwide mobile cellular subscribers are likely to reach the 4 billion mark before the end of this year. “The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of ICT and that it is a viable business opportunity”, he stated. “Clearly, ICTs have the potential to act as catalysts to achieve the 2015 targets of the MDGs.”

However, even with ubiquity of access, the challenge to development practitioners and technology experts is how best to adapt and translate growth and innovation in mobile technology in support of specific development challenges. As a result, there is an urgent need to share lessons learned to date and explore the most effective use of this technology.

At MobileActive08, participants will explore how mobile phones are used to advance development work in different parts of the world, assess the current state of knowledge in the use and effectiveness of mobile technology to advance social action, and investigate trends, needs and investment opportunities. Specific attention will be given to the role of mobile technology in health, human rights, economic development, research, advocacy, citizen journalism and democratic participation.

According to David Barnard, Executive Director of SANGONeT, “During the first day and a half of the event more than 60 speakers will share their experiences through a variety of workshops and skill-share sessions, rotating mini-talks, SIMlabs and SIMplaces. The second part of MobileActive08 will be conducted in an ‘open space’ format where participants will delve more deeply into the topics discussed during the first part of the event.”

Some of the key mobile experts that will make presentations at the event include Brian Richardson of Wizzit, Jonathan Donner of Microsoft, Peter Benjamin of Cell-Life, Russell Southwood of Balancing Act and Erik Hersman of Ushahidi.

Go to the MobileActive website for the detailed information about the programme and speakers.

Delegates will include NGO and development practitioners, mobile technologists, researchers studying the use of mobile phones, government officials, and representatives from the international donor community and telecommunications industry.

The MobileActive08 Summit is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Microsoft, Department of Communications, Vodacom, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership, HIVOS, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Ford Foundation and Torque IT.

SANGONeT’s new corporate identity and the new SANGONeT NGO Portal, NGO Pulse, will also be launched during the event.

For additional comments and media accreditation, please contact:

David Barnard, Executive Director
Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT)
Tel: (011) 403-4935 or Cell: 082 870-8968
E-mail: dbarnard@sangonet.org.za

“Linking civil society through ICTs”


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 4: Russell Southwood

Russell SouthwoodRussell Southwood publishes one of Africa’s leading newsletters on technology: The Balancing Act. He’s talk was going to be about tech, wealth and culture. He was inspired John Perry Barlow’s dream of wiring the Internet in Africa as written in this great piece written Wired. Russell referred to what he calls Door Openers which may allow Africa to skip much of the industrial revolution.

The first is what he calls “selling shortage and corruption.” About a decade ago it took so long to get a land line people resorted to bribing officials to get to the front of the queues. Cellphones have removed the need for landlines to a large extent. You can walk into most cellphones shops, buy a cellphone and get a SIM card within minutes.

Russell further described bandwidth as the fuel of the new economy. When you have high costs, you have low volume. And this keeps business out of Africa. When you compare this with low cost airlines, the model changes to low cost, high volume. (In South African we now have three low cost airlines!) Kenya has 32 million people with only 2 million that have bank accounts. And only have half a million can afford broadband. Now you may wonder if there is a demand. An example was given of 650,000 exam results published on the Web and how 220,000 students went online to check their results. There is a single cable that connects Africa to the Internet, the infamous SAT3, controlled exclusively by Telkom in South Africa. The African ISP association has been successful in campaign for the reduction in bandwidth, especially on SAT3. There are some very good precedents e.g. terrestrial radio stations. A decade ago there was only a handful and now there are over 1,500 across Africa.

Remember to subscribe to Russell’s newsletter at The Balancing Act.