Nick Martin is President and CEO of TechChange and is the Lead Facilitator for the upcoming course: Mobile Phones for International Development. Class starts Sept. 24. Apply Now!
In the last month, I’ve witnessed an exciting shift in how development in Africa has been treated in the media, especially with regards to mobile phones (Including this excellent post by Ken Banks in BBC). For the first time, we’re seeing the perspective shift from how the US needs to intervene to assist the helpless and needy, to a new frame of what lessons the US and the rest of the world can learn from the many innovations in high tech and mobile technology taking place across the African continent.
Just Saturday afternoon, I found myself checking CNN to see the latest headlines and events from around the world. The top story of the hour, “Seven Ways Mobile Phones have Changed Lives in Africa,” could have been written specifically for our upcoming course on Mobile Phones for International Development by referencing case studies such as M-PESA, the popular mobile money transfer program in Kenya and a case study that we look at extensively in a number of our online courses. I was also pleased to see other projects and organizations mentioned like m-Farm, Ushahidi, Mxit and more– all of whom are already pushing boundaries globally.
There were also references to mHealth initiatives directly relevant to our upcoming course with the mHealth alliance on Mobile Phones for Public Health.One of the organizations specifically mentioned is m-Pedigree, which is the result of Bright Simmons (disclosure: a colleague and International Youth Foundation global fellow) and the work he is doing in Ghana to prevent counterfeit pharmaceuticals with mobile phones.
It’s certainly exciting to see our field getting mainstream attention like this. I’m heading to Ethiopia this week with UPEACE to conduct a workshop, but mainly what I’m looking forward to is an opportunity to meet some of these innovators and see what’s happening first-hand. In Africa and elsewhere, it’s exciting to see the frame shift from “What can we teach?” to “What can we learn from each other?” Stay tuned for a post from the field!