Giving Thanks to Ten Digital Development Leaders

10 ICT4D Leaders 200w" sizes=" 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-recalc-dims="1" />Today in the USA it is Thanksgiving, which used to be a day we gave thanks for a bountiful harvest and successful preparations for winter, but now usually means too much food, shopping, and (American) football.I’d like to take us back to this original tradition – of giving thanks – to publicly thank 10 people in digital development who’ve inspired me personally, and I’m sure have inspired others too.10 Inspiring ICT4D LeadersBelow is my list of ICT4D leaders who have inspired me over the years. If you look closely, its not really 10 people. There is no way I could ever make a list that short. Even this one leaves off too many who’ve inspired me along the way.1. Ethan ZuckermanBack in the day, Ethan Zuckerman founded Geekcorps to fill the technology skills gap he saw in Ghana. Like a Peace Corps for geeks, Geekcorps sent technology volunteers to train Africans, and helped develop early skills-transfer models. Fast forward a few years, and there I was, running the GeekCorps program at IESC, my first real ICT4D job. You have Ethan to thank for my presence in your life.I should also thank Sabina Behague for introducing me the idea of  international development as a profession for technologists. She worked on AED LearnLink, one of the early programs to put computers in developing countries, which was the first time I realized I could use my technology skills for good.2. Kristen PetersonWhen working in a small technology startup, you learn every aspect of the business really fast. Kristen Peterson was an awesome boss and mentor at Inveneo, still the best job I’ve ever had. At Inveneo, she taught me how to run a small business and do business development right.She was brave or crazy enough to let me experiment in how I could get Inveneo into USAID proposals, and wow! that was a learning curve. So I should also thank all the people I’ve worked with on USAID proposals – primes, subs, partners, and the like. I’ve learned from each of them how important proposals are – an essay contest with one multi-million dollar winner.3. Erik HersmanNo mention of small business innovation in ICT4D is complete with out Erik Hersman, arguably one of the greatest technology innovators in our field, even if he doesn’t really think of himself as ICT4D. Ushahidi, iHub, BRCK, he can execute and idea like no other. I may not always agree with him, or Ken Banks, but they both gets my attention and respect.Along with Erik and Ken, other innovators like Matt Berg and Kafui Prebbie, are developing new tools and services that you’ll be using soon enough (if you aren’t already). Some days I look with envy at their work, then I remember the small business stress of Inveneo, and I am in awe how easy they make it look.4. Jerry SamYou may think I’m a networker, but I have nothing on Jerry Sam. After I led one Technology Salon in Accra to show him the model, he leveraged the idea into a community force through PenPlusBytes. Now he regularly has government ministers and US Embassy staff as lead discussants in vibrant, regular meetings.Then there is Rachel Sibande, David Madden, and others who’ve started tech hubs around the world to incubate today’s start-ups and tomorrow’s innovators. Their networking is what inspired me to create ICT4Drinks, Fail Festival, ICT4Djobs and yes, even ICTworks, to bring together ICT4D professionals where ever I could find them.5. Neelley HicksNeelley Hicks is unique on this list. Not only is she an ordained minister, she also isn’t a techie, really. She does know how to communicate, and her work with religious groups is inspiring, even to an Atheist like me. She fundamentally understands technology as a communications tool, and brings the rest of us along – secular or religious.She has inspired a group of Communicators in multiple countries around to world to come together as Harper Hill Global to use their religious connections and technology skills to help NGOs and governments better reach and support community development.6. Linda RaftreeI was so inspired by Linda Raftree‘s ability to see the community participation angle (or lack of it) in our work, that we co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, and Kurante together to bring that insight to international development. To this day, I still get nervous when pitching an idea to her, less she point out how I’ve totally forgotten community context or voice.Tony Roberts and Tim Unwin are more moral compasses in our field, reminding me of the power imbalances inherent in our work. And back in the day, the ICT4D Jester (aka Kentaro Toyama) took all of us to task for our foolishness, and helped inspire JadedAid.7. Steve SongI like to think that I come up with radically practical ideas when I am helping write a proposal. I have nothing on Steve Song. His ideas like an undersea cable map or free 2G mobile access for everyone are so brilliantly obvious that once you ponder them, you wonder why you didn’t think of the idea first.Of course, Jonathan Donner on telecenter usage, Ari Katz on libraries, and the late Michael Gurstein on community informatics remind all of us that technology needs to be accessible to everyone for it to have truly transformative impact on development.8. Hoang Bach DaoNow I’ve seen my share of dashboards, but Hoang Bach Dao‘s dashboard for HIV clinics, complete with a “fish tank” of swimming fish that represented real time data literally stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw it. At that moment, I finally realized the true power of PowerBI and other data visualization tools to improve development decisions.Amanda Makulec, Herb Caudill, and others are taking data display into the development mainstream, and we should be thankful for their efforts to give policy makers the tools to make evidence-based policy. If it were up to me, we’d still live in the land of pie charts and line graphs.9. Jonathan MetzgerI bet if we played the Six Degrees game in ICT4D, we could use Jonathan Metzger instead of Kevin Bacon, though I think we’d all connect to Johnathan in 2 or less people. That is the length and depth of Johnathan’s career in this field, starting back in 1989 at Satellife . I think only Gary Garroitt goes back farther – to the 1970s.Along with Johnathan is Pam Riley, Adele Waugaman, John Zoltner, Patty Mechael, Michael Trucano, and many others who inspired and guided my through my years in Washington, DC. Too many to list, but honored to call peers, even though I still feel like an understudy.10. ________Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. It skews to people I’ve met and worked with – a tiny microcosm of the global digital development ecosystem that’s mainly centered around USAID-funded programs and Washington, DC.It doesn’t mention those that have inspired me from afar, like Ory Okolloh and Chris Fabian, or those who’ve left the field like Matthew Kam and Mitul Shah.So I invite you to add your inspirations in the comments or just in your own thanks on this day of Thanksgiving. We are privileged to work with so many great minds and great people. Thank you to all today, and every day.The post Giving Thanks to Ten Digital Development Leaders appeared first on ICTworks.