Musings

In search of an ICT4D mantra

In many sectors of international development it’s hard to imagine how you’d have much impact if you weren’t out in the field. After all, teachers want to be in-class. Doctors want to be in-clinic. And conservationists want to be in-situ. There’s only so much any of them can do when they’re not. Getting ‘stuck in’ is largely what it’s all about.

Good idea, bad idea or no idea?

For every one of our failures we had spreadsheets that looked awesome
Scott Cook. Founder and Chairman, Intuit

The Cobra’s Heart

“I lived in Africa for several years. I first went there in 1957. Then, over the next forty years, I returned whenever the opportunity arose. I travelled extensively, avoiding official routes, palaces, important personages, and high-level politics. Instead, I opted to hitch rides on passing trucks, wander with nomads through the desert, be the guest of peasants of the tropical savannah.

“Work. Life. Balance”. An interview with Voice America

Over the past few years I’ve given a fair few interviews, and have been grateful for the continued interest and enthusiasm from others for our work. Most interviews have focused on combinations of my time working in Africa, my technology interests, or the evolution and development of FrontlineSMS.

With innovation, less can be more.

If your technology solution turns out to be more complicated than the actual problem you’re trying to solve then you’ve probably fallen into the “over-engineering” trap. The temptation to try to be all things to all people, or to cram in as much functionality as possible, can be the death of many technology-based projects.

Cometh the hour. Cometh the technology.

For NGOs and developers alike, the ICT4D space can be a tough nut to crack. While NGOs generally struggle to find the tools they need to meet their particular needs, developers face the opposite problem – getting their tools into the hands of those who need them the most.

Happiness, and regrets of the dying.

A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

What if Apple worked in ICT4D? Reflections on the possible

“Two weeks ago, I was staying at a working dairy farm sixty kilometers north of Bogotá, Colombia. I was fiddling around with my iPad when one of the kids that worked in the stables came up to me and started staring at it.

What if Apple worked in ICT4D? Reflections on the possible

“Two weeks ago, I was staying at a working dairy farm sixty kilometers north of Bogotá, Colombia. I was fiddling around with my iPad when one of the kids that worked in the stables came up to me and started staring at it.

The never-ending road to self-improvement

“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to”
Alan Keightley

Primates and people: Understanding local needs

Driven by a curiosity and a strong interest in primate conservation, late one night back in December 2001 I arrived in Nigeria to take up my post as Project Manager at a sanctuary in Calabar, Cross River State. The year I spent there – starting exactly ten years ago this month – turned out to be fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.

Unpicking the (offline) mystery of the mask

In an age where you can find answers to almost anything with the click of a mouse, it can come as something of a surprise when what might seem like a simple bit of research comes to an abrupt, premature end.

ICT4D postcards: The story so far

A couple of weeks ago I sent out an open invitation for people to contribute to the “ICT4D Postcards Project“. The idea was to gather a collection of postcards from people working in international development who had a technology theme – or influence – in their work.

Advice for social innovators at heart

For the past two years I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most inspirational, talented social innovators (aka Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows). This year, good friend Erik Hersman and I returned to Camden, Maine to work with the 2011 Class.

ICT4D postcards

“Luxury Travel Stories is about the idea of connecting the world via ‘stories’ in postcard format. A photo with accompanying text no more than what would fit on the back of a postcard”.

The inspiration at the heart of innovation

I couldn’t figure out last night, when I woke at 2am, why Twitter was over capacity. A few minutes later I got the answer. Steve Jobs had passed away. A quick visit to the BBC website confirmed the news. Ashton Kutcher (of all people) seemed to sum the mood up well:

Predicting Africa’s multiple futures

“Amid all the uncertainty surrounding disruptive technologies, managers can always count on one thing: Expert forecasts will always be wrong. It is simply impossible to predict with any useful degree of precision how disruptive products will be used, or how large their markets will be”
“The Innovator’s Dilemma”, Clayton M. Christensen

When in Rome. Or Africa.

Whenever I find myself in front of a group of students, or young people aspiring to work in development, I’m usually asked to share one piece of advice with them. I usually go with this: Get out there while you can and understand the context of the people you aspire to help.

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