FAILfaire Returns to New York on December 14th!

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Oct 28, 2011

The fourth FAILfaire, this time in New York City on December 14th, will be an evening dedicated to those tech and mobile projects that were designed to have a social impact but instead crashed, burned, and FAILED. FAILfaire NYC is presented by MobileActive.org and hosted by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, with participation from UNICEF's Innovation Unit.

If you do not know about Failfaire, here is some background: Launched in early 2010, there have now been three FAILfaires, events designed to provide a platform for those working in online and mobile technology for social change to openly, honestly (and humorously) discuss our own failures.

As noted in the New York Times’ piece on FAILfaire, “Technology’s potential to bring about social good is widely extolled, but its failures, until now, have rarely been discussed by nonprofits who deploy it.” Well, FAILfaire is changing that, and is doing so in style. The format is informal, the discussions are rich, and the refreshments are adult and, well, refreshing.

Slate.com wrote that FailFaire “...[isn’t] about celebrating failure just for the sake of failure, but about taking lessons from each mistake and using them to create more efficient, economical, and accessible projects that could have a greater effect on a community.” We couldn’t agree more!

To join us, please RSVP here, as the event will fill up quickly.

If you like to be considered as a presenter for the next FAILfaire, go to failfaire.org and submit a note about your failed project and what we can learn from it.

The Impact of Mobile Phones on Profits from Livestock Activities. Evidence from Puno, Peru

Posted by ccarlon on Sep 30, 2011
The Impact of Mobile Phones on Profits from Livestock Activities. Evidence from Puno, Peru data sheet 1680 Views
Barrantes, Roxana
Publication Date: 
May 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Besides the work of Jensen (2007), there is little quantitative evidence on the impact that mobile telephony has had on household welfare. In considering the rural household welfare, the possibility is open of finding impacts of information that is accessed via mobile phone in several markets where rural households are usually inserted: agricultural product markets, agricultural services markets, agricultural byproducts; but also in labor markets that often supplement income diversification strategies of these households.


Using a database collected to measure the impact of mobile telephony in the welfare of rural households in Puno, Peru, this paper seeks to focus attention on the markets for agricultural products and by-products. The aim is to measure the contribution that has the use of mobile telephony in the profits resulting from the development of agricultural activities, using econometric techniques associated with quasi-experimental methods of impact assessment. How much does the mobile phone contribute to agricultural earnings? What is the differential impact of mobile phone use vis-a-vis scale variables such as farm size or the number of cattle, or diversification, as the total number of crops, or vertical integration, as the production of agricultural products, on the results of farming?


We expect to find different impacts depending on the type of use of mobile telephony, ie if used for information to affect the agricultural production function or is used to make marketing decisions. The results can help justify public policy efforts to include mobile telephone service as a basic service as well as the development of specific mobile livelihood services for farmers from the mobile communication technology, yet absent in Latin America.

Harvests of Development in Rural Africa: The Millenium Villages After Three Years

Posted by ccarlon on Sep 20, 2011
Harvests of Development in Rural Africa: The Millenium Villages After Three Years data sheet 265 Views
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Publication Date: 
May 2011
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

At the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, committing nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and address pressing challenges of hunger, gender inequality, illiteracy, and disease. The year 2015 has been affirmed as the deadline for reaching these Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets.


The goal is to show how an integrated approach to community-level development can translate the international MDG agreements into ground-level breakthroughs throughout rural sub-Saharan Africa. Villages are located in deeply impoverished rural areas that were considered hunger hotspots—with at least 20% of children malnourished. Sites were selected to reflect a diversity of agro-ecological zones, representing a range of challenges to income, food production, disease ecology, infrastructure, and health system development.


The Millennium Villages Project is a ten-year initiative spanning two five-year phases. The first phase focuses on achieving quick wins, especially in staple crop production and disease control, and on establishing basic systems for integrated rural development that help communities escape the poverty trap and achieve the MDGs. The Project involves the coordinated community-led delivery of a locally tailored package of scientifically proven interventions for agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure. Over the first five-year phase, interventions are delivered at a modest cost, totaling approximately $120 per capita per year, of which MVP brings about half to complement funds from the host government, the local community, and other partners. The second five-year phase will focus more intensively on commercializing the gains in agriculture and continuing to improve local service delivery systems in a manner that best supports local scale-up.

August Mobile Event Roundup

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Aug 02, 2011

This August has lots of mobile events for everyone from developers, to researchers, to business owners.  Mobile events are happening all over the world this month, so check out the list below to see what's happening near you!

5-7 August MakerFaire (Kumasi, Ghana) Applications are still being accepted for a mini-MakerFaire event in Kumasi, Ghana. Hosted by the International Development Design Summit, the two-day event allows participants to show off their ideas and projects for the ICT world.

18-19 August International m4Ed4Dev Symposium (Bethesda, USA) This USAID event will "focus on potential areas where mobile technology can help achieve education strategy goals with a particular focus in two core areas: literacy and on-demand access to materials, and improved education data for education system strengthening."

19 August All Things Mobile Conference (Denver, USA) This business-oriented event looks at how companies can incorporate mobile applications into their work, and how mobile devices can be used for business.

23-24 August Mobile Entertainment Africa (Cape Town, South Africa) This two-day event is all about entertainment! Different panel discussions cover everything from mobile television, to music delivery systems, to mobile gaming – and how mobiles are changing Africa's approach to entertainment content delivery.

26-28 August Social Dev Chicago (Chicago, USA) Social Dev Camp brings together app and platform developers for a weekend of discussions (on topics such as "Turning Mistakes into Success," "In-App Payments," and "Civic Apps and Open Data") along with a hackathon where developers can collaborate on projects.

Multiple Dates Mobile Monday (worldwide) Mobile Mondays are get togethers for people interested in mobile technology. Local groups host events around the world on different dates, so check out the site to see what's happening near you this month!


1-2 September Apps World Asia (Suntec, Singapore) This conference has workshops and exhibitions where developers can learn new skills and demonstrate multi-platform apps.

Registration is open Tech4Africa (Johannesburg, South Africa) Although this event isn't until 27-28 October, registration is now open for Tech4Africa, a conference that looks at mobile, web, and emerging technology in Africa.

Do you know of any M4D events happening in your area? Let us know in the comments!

Photo via Flickr user Leo Reynolds

A Note on the Availability (and Importance) of Pre-Paid Mobile Data in Africa

Posted by VivianOnano on Jul 12, 2011
A Note on the Availability (and Importance) of Pre-Paid Mobile Data in Africa data sheet 2175 Views
Donovan, Kevin; Donner, Jonathan.
Publication Date: 
Jun 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

We argue that access to prepay data will be as essential to the widespread adoption and use of the mobile internet in developing countries as access to prepay airtime is/was to the adoption of the mobile telephone.  In late 2009, we conducted a desk assessment of the availability of pre-pay (payas-you-go) data from the major operators in 53 African countries. In 36 cases we were able to identify at least one operator in each country which offered pre-pay data, and in 3 cases we could determine that no prepay data was available.  

Information available from operators was vague, incomplete, and hard to obtain, suggesting a threshold in general awareness and enthusiasm on the part of operators may not yet have been crossed. We describe an ongoing follow-up “crowdsourcing” activity underway to fill in information from the remaining 14 countries, and suggest topics for further research, both on the demand and supply sides of the prepaid data equation. 

Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) Ghana

Posted by jasonhahn on Apr 06, 2011
Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) Ghana data sheet 3532 Views

MOTECH in Ghana has developed two interrelated mobile health services:

“Mobile Midwife” application: This service enables pregnant women and their families to receive SMS or voice messages that provide time-specific information about their pregnancy each week in their own language. This information is a mixture of: Alerts and reminders for care seeking (e.g., reminders to go for specific treatments, such as prenatal care or a tetanus vaccination). Actionable information and advice to help deal with challenges during pregnancy (e.g., tips for saving money for transportation to deliver at a health facility, what is needed for a birthing kit, nutrition information). Educational information, including milestones in fetal development, promotion of good health practices, and songs about breastfeeding. Voice messages are delivered in English or local languages. Two languages of the Upper East Region, Kasem and Nakam, were supported for MOTECH’s first implementation, and two languages of central region, Senya and Fante, will be supported in Awutu Senya. SMS messages are all delivered in English.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

The project aims to determine how to use mobile phones to increase the quantity and quality of prenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana, with a goal of improving health outcomes for mothers and their newborns.

Brief description of the project: 

Can information delivered over a mobile phone improve someone’s health? Can it improve the quality of care received in a rural clinic? The Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) initiative in Ghana is a partnership between Ghana Health Service, Grameen Foundation and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project aims to determine how to use mobile phones to increase the quantity and quality of prenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana, with a goal of improving health outcomes for mothers and their newborns. The MOTECH system was launched in July 2010 in the Upper East Region; a replication in Awutu Senya district in Central Region will happen in April 2011. Further opportunities for scale across Ghana will be assessed in the second half of 2011. If successful, it is intended that MOTECH will be launched nationally in Ghana, and that this will become a showcase for replications throughout Africa and the world. The software system used in Ghana is available via OpenSource license and can be used for implementing a wide range of mobile health applications.

Target audience: 

Expecting and New Parents

Detailed Information
Display project in profile: 

Framing M4D: The Utility of Continuity and the Dual Heritage of “Mobiles and Development"

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jan 13, 2011
Framing M4D: The Utility of Continuity and the Dual Heritage of “Mobiles and Development" data sheet 1819 Views
Donner, Jonathan
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Dec 2010
Publication Type: 
Journal article

The paper suggests that research on the role of mobile telephony for socioeconomic development (M4D) draws on two frames. One frame stresses the relative freedom of telephone users to do whatever they choose. The other stresses how technologies and technology-led interventions are embedded in recursive, context specific relationships with user communities. Together these frames support M4D’s “dual heritage”. After detailing current M4D archetypes representing each heritage, the paper introduces a conceptual and practical synthesis, that is, large-scale platforms for distributed, semi-constrained interaction.

This paper considers two examples of such platforms—MXit, South Africa’s mobile social networking service and M-PESA, Kenya’s mobile money transfer system—including both anticipated and unanticipated consequences of operating “at scale” and beyond the confines of a controlled M4D intervention. Finally, this paper introduces implications of the dual heritage and of the rise of hybrid platforms for research and practice.

M-Health Tech Trends 2011: What To Expect

Posted by admin on Jan 11, 2011

What can we expect to see on the technical front in m-health and m-for-development in 2011?  Unleashing the inner geek in all of us, guest contributor Matt Berg has some predictions. This post originally appeared on his blog BuildAfrica.org. It is reposted here with permission.

Commoditization of Mobile Based Data Collection

The People, Projects, and Events That Made Last Year Great (Hint: YOU)

Posted by admin on Jan 04, 2011

Happy New Year from MobileActive.org! In 2010 we saw mobiles go mainstream as non-tech organizations the world over learned about the power of reaching users right through their phones.

From SMS donations in the wake of disasters to mobile health care, from mobile money transfers to mobile organizing, this has been a time of enormous innovation.  Read on for a few of the highlights of 2010 and some thoughts on what's to come in 2011.

Mobiles in the Wake of Disaster

Ten Myths of ICT for International Development: The ICT4D Jester Speaks

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Nov 10, 2010

Today at noon PST, Kentaro Toyama will give a talk from UC Berkeley on Ten Myths of ICT for International Development, a topic dear to our hearts as we continue to demystify mobile technology for social change.

A live broadcast is available here. Questions can be sent via Yahoo IM to username: citrisevents.

The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society summarizes the event here:

The past decade has seen incredible interest in applying information and communication technologies for international development, an endeavor often abbreviated "ICT4D." Can mobile phones be used to improve rural healthcare? How do you design user interfaces for an illiterate migrant worker? What value is technology to a farmer earning $1 a day?

The MobileActive.org Community: What You Said

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 13, 2010

Since MobileActive.org was founded five years ago, this community has grown tremendously.  We wanted to know from you - the insightful, smart, and innovative community - what’s been helpful, what you want and need, and what we should be doing more (or less) of.

With 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide and NGOs large and small adopting mobile tech in their work, and with governments jumping on board as well, this seems to be the year where we collectively broke through an adoption barrier.

In a quick word cloud of responses, mobiles, obviously, were the greatest topic of discussion, but "people," "work," "technology," "information," and "community" made strong showings as well. (We like that people was the second-most used word!)


Three Questions. Many Answers

Our first question focused on where we’ve been, asking: “What are the two most important changes that you have seen in the field of mobile tech for social impact over the last five years?

The MobileActive.org Community: What You Said data sheet 2305 Views
Countries: United States

10+ Ways to Get Involved with MobileActive.org

Posted by anoushrima on Oct 11, 2010

As we continue the MobileActive 5-Year Birthday Celebration & Community Hurrah, here are some ways to interact with and contribute to the community. MobileActive.org is YOU - a network of people using mobile tech for their social change work. It is powered by the contributions of individuals and organizations working across the interdisciplinary world of mobiles for social impact and development, and this website and resources are here to support you in your work.

So, here are 10+ Ways to Get Involved with MobileActive.org:

1. Keep up with the latest: Twitter, Facebook & RSS Feed

Find us on Twitter (@mobileactive) and on Facebook. We regularly distribute news and information about latest resources and information through these channels. Connect with others in the community and share news about events, resources or opportunities that you hear about. Leave your feedback/comments on what resources have been helpful, and what you’d like to see more of.

You can also subscribe to our RSS feed for full and instant gratification of everything we post, including new research which is added to the m-Directory.

2. Read our monthly newsletter

Get the monthly newsletter by signing up! They are fun and easy to read (even on your mobile-device!) and chock-full of useful resources, latest news, and roundups of upcoming events around the world.

Starting this Fall we’ll also be publishing quarterly thematic round-ups dedicated to latest news, research and information on targeted topics.  The first one will be focused on mobile data collection tools and resources. Sign up!

3. Participate in conversations about M4D by joining the MobileActive Discuss list

There are now 700 MobileActives on the Discuss list. They are researchers, practitioners, NGO staff, students, telcom employees, donors, and tech vendors who all have a passion for and an interest in mobile tech for social impact. The group shares ideas and knowledge, answers queries, and posts grants and job opportunities. Click here to join.

4. Comment/give feedback on our content

We want to know what you think. Did a blog post, report, or How-To raise more questions for you as a practitioner, or inspire you to think of other concerns/questions you think your peers should be asking? Have additional information about a given topic? Leave us a comment.

5. Contribute to the Mobile Minute by tagging articles with #mobilemin

You may have noticed our new feature called the Mobile Minute - a quick round-up of interesting stories that have come across our RSS and Twitter feeds.

If you see an article of interest that you think should be incorporated, tag it #mobilemin

Voices From The Community And From You!

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 29, 2010

MobileActive.org turns five this fall. We think that this is a perfect time to highlight the creative and amazing practitioners in the m-4-change field. Our community of developers, organizers, advocates, field staff, researchers, donors, and many more is what makes this peer network so strong and vibrant.

We wanted to hear from you on where the field of 'mobiles for change' has been, where it's going, and how a community like MobileActive.org can help along the way. So we called people around the world who have been in the field for a while to hear their thoughts. 

Marty Kearns (Green Media Toolshed), Brenda Burrell (Kubatana), Bukeni Waruzi (Witness.org), Chris Spence (National Democratic Institute), Karen Doyle Grossman (Mercy Corps), and Ben Rigby (The Extraordinaries) shared their thoughts on three questions:

MobileActive.org is Five Years Old! Time for a Community Hurrah!

Posted by anoushrima on Sep 23, 2010

In late September 2005, a group of 40 innovators and activists who were exploring the socially beneficial applications for mobile phones as more than just a personal communication device, convened in Toronto for a 3-day meeting. 

From that meeting, MobileActive.org was born. 

Today, five years later, MobileActive.org is a growing international digital community of 20,000 highly skilled practitioners, technologists, campaigners and strategists like you.

In 2005 there were just over 1.5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. Today, we have already cleared the 5 billion mark. And thanks to the visionary work of the people in this community, the idea of leveraging mobile technology to improve people’s lives, is at top of mind. 

Use of ICTs among Researchers, Extension Workers and Farmers: Implications for a National Agricultural Extension Policy on ICTs

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Sep 07, 2010
Use of ICTs among Researchers, Extension Workers and Farmers: Implications for a National Agricultural Extension Policy on ICTs data sheet 2297 Views
Agwu A. E; U. C. Uche-Mba and O. M. Akinnagbe
Publication Date: 
Jun 2008
Publication Type: 
Journal article

The study ascertained the level of usage as well as constraints to the use of information communication technologies (ICTs) among major stakeholders in the agricultural development process in Abia and Enugu States of Nigeria. Data for the study were generated from a sample of 110 respondents using structured interview schedule and questionnaire.

Findings indicate that majority (52.5%, 57.5% and 56.7%) of researchers; extension workers and farmers had high, moderate and low knowledge levels of available ICTs, respectively. Out of 24 information communication technologies in use among the respondents, 11 were frequently utilized by researchers, while only 4 and 3 of the facilities were frequently utilized by extension workers and farmers, respectively.

The study revealed major constraints to the use of ICTs to include lack of sufficiently trained computer personnel, lack of confidence in operating modern ICTs, erratic and fluctuating power supply, poor finance, lack of internet access in the rural areas and high cost of ICTs hard and soft wares, among others. The study concludes with the need to have a National Agricultural Extension Policy on the use of ICTs with major emphasis on access, availability and use.

How To Roll Your Own FAILFaire

Posted by anoushrima on Aug 17, 2010

So, you heard about FailFaire (and maybe even read the New York Times article about it). You liked the idea of learning from failure in a not-so-earnest setting and want to have your very own FailFaire, or you think that your organization could benefit from an internal event. Here are some tips for rolling your own.

Caveat: We have now organized two FailFaires (first in NYC, next in DC) for our community of practitioners who work with ICTs and mobiles for international development because that community is our audience. And part of our mission here at MobileActive.org is to help reduce redundancies, build capacity and advance the field. We also happen to work in an area of the NGO sector where failure is not often discussed, least of all honestly.

But the FailFaire concept can work for any field or, maybe just as helpfully, within any organization. (Note, of course, that some of the suggestions listed below will differ for an internal event, rather than a public one like ours.)

The FailFaire name and logo are licensed under a liberal Creative Commons, so feel free to use them. You do not need our permission. For tweeting, blogging and posting event pictures, we have used the hashtag ‚#failfaire. If you are running an event branded as FailFaire, feel free to drop us a line (or leave a comment) to let us know how it went.

Here are some thoughts and tips on how we've approached FailFaires.

1. Start with a lot of personal, old-fashioned, direct outreach for both participants and presenters
Identify those in your network who are more agile, and less bureaucratic and less resistant to talk about and learn from failure. Have many conversations to introduce/warm them up to the this radical new idea long in advance - perhaps before you've even set a date. Explain the concept, the goals, and the format of the event. Gauge whether there are enough supporters who will a) participate, and especially b) present. This process is critical in order to get to #2: You need buy-in, advocates, people who are into it early on.

2. Have the right people in the room
You want people who are there to learn, not to be voyeuristic; there to be constructive, not to be snarky or malevolent. People who genuinely care about their work and want to do better. People who are ok with some irreverence and humor, because failure is hard to talk about without it. This type of event is great for building (or strengthening) community, so  try to keep the audience targeted and relevant to your focus or topic. Promote the event among people you think will get the most out of it - those who value different ways of learning.

Family Planning via Mobile Phones: Proof-of-Concept Testing in India (CycleTel)

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 13, 2010
Family Planning via Mobile Phones: Proof-of-Concept Testing in India (CycleTel) data sheet 2779 Views
Katherine Sarah Lavoie, Victoria H. Jennings, Meredith Puleio, Priya Jha, Rebecka Lundgren
Publication Date: 
Nov 2009
Publication Type: 

Results of proof-of-concept testing for an mHealth solution for reproductive health in Uttar Pradesh, India. The text messaging tool based on FrontlineSMS, is a family planning service that relies on the Standard Day Method system of birth control. This method of birth control depends on the woman's fertility cycles to avoid pregnancy. Women can text the date of their menses and user receives their fertility status. Additionally, women can receive information about other family planning options, and support. Presented are observations on the appropriatenss of the technology from focus group discussions. The authors share the input given by target users in the product and service design. Women tested the solution to give insight on feasibility and design.

Beware the Foreign Expert; Or Why Coded In Country and Local Tech Capacity is the Way to Go

Posted by nlesh on Jul 13, 2010

This guest post is written by Neal Lesh of D-Tree International, and was originally published on the Open Mobile Consortium blog.  MobileActive.org is a founding member of the Open Mobile Consortium. The article is reposted here with Neal's permission.

As fair warning, this post is part rant, part confession, part promotion (see links below!), and part call to action for increased investment in local innovation in low- and middle-income countries.

I spend a good deal of my time raising money, working on budgets, and generally championing open source software designed to be used by health workers in low-income countries.   Most of this ‘eHealth’ software ends up being developed by extremely talented and dedicated software developers from the United States and other wealthy countries. I spend a relatively small portion of my time trying support and strengthen local software development capacity. 

For example, we’re working with a small, all Tanzanian innovation company called ITIDO.  While equally talented and motivated, ITIDO’s staff has less training and, consequently, less expertise than those of the organizations I’m affiliated with. However, it’s hard to shake the feeling that in the long run, Tanzania needs successful ITIDOs more than it needs organizations I’ve helped create.  It seems that a well-functioning ITIDO is more likely to build lasting, relevant, solutions that will actually be used in Tanzania.  

A key challenge is time. We often feel the need to deliver results in a few months.  And, indeed, there is no time to waste in developing and deploying technologies that have the potential to improve desperately needed healthcare.  Given limited funds and the need to deliver quickly, the most efficient approach is almost always to go with highly experienced software developers.  And this becomes more and more true once you start building software with one group of experts.  The people who know the current software best are the ones who can most quickly extend it.  Capacity building takes time.

One approach we advocate is establishing a “Coded in Country” (CIC) label for software, akin to a Fair Trade label for projects. There is ongoing discussion about the best definition of CIC, and if there should be an official certification process, but the original idea was that a software application or module is CIC if at least half of the money goes into local development. CIC nodes will provide capacity strengthening and opportunities for international exposure to talented local developers. The idea has generated a good deal of enthusiasm from many groups, especially those deploying eHealth software for use in Sub-Saharan countries in Africa. 

CIC and other related topics will be discussed during an online panel hosted by GHDonline on the topic of local development of global eHealth software from July 19-30 (sign up now!)

FAILFaire DC is open for registration!

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 02, 2010

We are very pleased to announce FAILFaire DC, in collaboration with the World Bank Institute: Innovation Practice. FAILFaire DC will take place on July 26th at the Bank. We will feature again, as we did in New York, mobile-for-development and other technology-for-development projects that failed.  Join us for lightening talks that focus on the learnings of the projects – and what can be done differently in the future.

We have some presenters already from the Bank and from various NGOs who will be presenting their failures but we encourage you to submit a failure here if you like to be considered for a talk during the event. The format is informal, and we will provide refreshments and drinks. We are looking forward to learning from failure in DC!

Mobile Events in June! Our Monthly Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on May 28, 2010

June is exploding with events focused on mobiles for social change. Look at some of the places where the movers and shakers in the 'mobile world for good' will be gathering:

2 June, New York City, New York, USA: Personal Democracy Forum will host Mobilize Your Cause: A Bootcamp. The half-day event will provide insight into developing an effective mobile campaign, how to build an activist community, and new technologies that are making it easier to use mobiles for social causes. The event is followed by Personal Democracy Forum's two-day conference, (3-4 June) which will focus on exploring technology's impact on technology and government.  MobileActive.org will host the mobile portion of the bootcamp.

Mobile Events in June! Our Monthly Round-Up data sheet 3722 Views
Countries: Canada Kenya United Kingdom United States

Reflections on Learning from Failure from a #FailFaire Attendee

Posted by ithorpe on Apr 16, 2010

On Wednesday evening I was lucky enough to attend the first ever "Failfaire", organized by MobileActive.org where several brave souls agreed to present their failed "Information Technology for Development" projects, explaining why they failed and what they learned from them.

I work on knowledge management in UNICEF, and have a strong interest in improving how we learn from our experience. This event (which was certainly not a failure!) was interesting to our  work from at least two points of view:

1. The lessons learned from the projects themselves

2. The idea for the event itself and whether this might be something we could try ourselves.

There were four presentations during the meeting:

Bradford Frost presented on Mobileimpact.org a project to recycle old cellphones and donate them to Africa.

How to Fail in Mobiles for Development: MobileActive's Definitive Guide to Failure

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 14, 2010

As we here at MobileActive.org have been covering ICT and mobiles for development now for more than five years, we have seen our fair share of failures. For every great project that changes how a community benefits from technology to improve the lives of its people, there seem to be twice as many projects that fail, and end up wasting time, money, and maybe worst, goodwill.

Too often in our field, we talk up our successes, overhype and overestimate the value of our projects, and sweep the failures under the rug. But, if we don’t talk about what didn’t work (and, perhaps more importantly, why it didn’t work), others will keep repeating the same mistakes.

That is why we invented FailFaire, a gathering that is happening tonight in New York City and that we hope will take place in other cities around the world.  FailFaire is a place where it's ok to talk about what didn't work to learn from for the next project using mobiles for social change and development.

Presenting the First-Ever FAILfaire: Join Us!

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Mar 22, 2010

Calling all failures!  On April 14 we're hosting the first FAILfaire featuring a close look at ICT and mobile development projects that have crashed, burned, and simply FAILED.  

While we often focus on highlighting successes and gains in this field, it's no secret that many projects just don't work - some aren't scalable, some aren't sustainable, some can't get around bureaucratic hoops, and many fail due to completely unanticipated barriers. FAILfaire is a platform to openly and honestly discuss failures so that we can learn from what hasn't worked in the past in order to make our future projects stronger and better.   

This is where YOU come in. Have you been a part of a project that flopped? Maybe the project used the wrong technology for its region. Maybe it didn't engage the intended community.  Did not take culture, people, or both into consieration. Or maybe the rollout was too rushed. Whatever the reason, we want to hear from you. 

Presenting the First-Ever FAILfaire: Join Us! data sheet 4316 Views
Countries: United States

Scaling Mobile Services for Development: What Will It Take? A MobileActive.org White Paper

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 11, 2010

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social and economic development in emerging economies have long been a focus of governments, the private sector, and most certainly donors and international development agencies.  Yes, despite all the attention garnered on this field, we are seeing a checkered history of ICTs as a tool for development, with both successes and significant failures littering the landscape.

With the phenomenal growth of mobile technology in the last ten years, the attention of donors, governments, and multi-lateral and international agencies has now turned to the telecommunications sector and mobile technologies as channels to deliver services and products to citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap Released

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 16, 2009

After more than a year's work, the World Wide Web Consortium's Mobile Web for Social Development is releasing its final product: a roadmap that outlines where mobile for social development is today, and will be going in the next few years.

The document is long and dense at times, but highlights a few noteworthy trends and developments.  As with any product developed by committee (and a small committee, in this case - no more than four or five people during the bi-monthly phone calls and drafting process, none of them actual NGO practitioners) this document is lacking specificity and actual relevant use cases, tending to be too esoteric to be useful.

Here are a few highlights of what we liked followed by a discussion of the documents shortcomings.