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Mobile for Development - Is Scale What Matters?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013, 11:30 a.m., Room A/B

Hosted by FrontlineSMS

According to the GSM Assocation (GSMA), there are 3.2 billion unique active mobile subscriptions worldwide. While the ubiquity of mobile phones has undeniable potential in terms of reach and access to support human and economic development, many projects are learning the hard way that mobile isn't simply a magic bullet solution. Mobile technology in and of itself will not lead to development. Nonetheless, initiatives need to take careful consideration of program design for effective adoption and sustainability. There is increasing awareness that technology for development needs to evolve from local entrepreneurship and be founded on the recognition of local needs. Debates in the Mobiles for Development (M4D) sphere will inevitably encounter the question of scale: Is it true that without scale most projects remain experiments with limited real impact or do local initiatives maintain deeper relevance when targeted at a limited audience focused on local populations?
By drawing on best practice and learning from previous mistakes, this session will explore the opportunities mobile communications offer to advance human and economic development. From BBC Media Action’s delivery of mHealth services in India, to Daraja's work in Tanzania to ensure local government responsibility in the delivery of public services, the panel will consider the consequences of mobile telephony for access to health and government initiatives. Reflecting on The Guardian's full time coverage of a development project in the small village of Katine, Uganda and their ongoing interaction with a growing community through The Global Development Professionals' Network, the session will explore how, arguably, the future of media interaction is not digital; it's mobile.

Key questions to be tackled by this panel of journalists, academics, tools providers and practitioners operating in the mobile space will include:

  • What opportunities can mobile communications offer to advance human and economic development?
  • What do the consequences of the growth and evolution of mobile telephony mean for access to health, government and other services, as well as interaction with the media? What best practice or mistakes in using mobile can we learn from?
  • How is mobile technology changing approaches to entrepreneurship, employment and financial sustainability in small and medium-sized businesses and media outlets? How can the use of mobile phones in developing countries help to create new livelihoods or refine business practices?
  • Why should media companies invest in mobile? Will the use of mobile allow new audiences to engage with media content and allow media to better speak truth to power?


Knoblich, Trevor
Project Manager, FrontlineSMS, Washington, D.C., United States


Anyangwe, Eliza
Senior Content Co-ordinator, The Guardian, Global Development Professionals Network, London, United Kingdom

Githaiga, Grace
Researcher with the Media, Empowerment and Democracy in East Africa Research Program and Ph.D. candidate, Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Sugg, Caroline
Head, Advisory & Policy Team, BBC Media Action, London, United Kingdom

Taylor, Ben
Founder and Former Director, Daraja, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Complete workshop on soundcloud:

WS23 - Mobile for Development - Is Scale What Matters?

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