Tag Archives: Ken Banks

National Geographic

3 Nov

During my trip, I found FrontlineSMS to be one of the most innovative and widely used tech-mechanisms for social change. – Especially in Kenya.

Today, a blog post which I wrote about FrontlineSMS, and it’s users has been published on the National Geographic Newswatch blog, curated by Ken Banks, founder of FrontlineSMS and National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

I’m very proud and I’d be delighted if you took a look.

Spreading the word…

19 Apr

Since I started researching this project, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of talk on developing mobile and internet based technologies in the developing world. There’s continuous discussion on ICT4D via social networks. I find it quite hard to keep up! There are big businesses getting involved and world wide NGOs.  And there are so many articles, blogs and stories being written about developments. I found one this week in this month’s Eden magazine, about the rise of apps for social change. (More on that later.)

But where are the projects that are really stepping up social change? I think it’s about time to look at some real examples.

A couple of weeks ago I had a fascinating chat with Ken Banks, the founder of FrontlineSMS. Ken is a great believer in innovating to solve real problems. His blog post on the reluctant innovator is worth a read in this regard. It’s a label he also gives himself. He says:

FrontlineSMS was never planned – and the team behind Ushahidi would likely feel the same. They were simply responding to a crisis in their country. None of us went out looking for something to solve. A problem found us, and we felt compelled to solve it.”

FrontlineSMS is all about disseminating information beyond the bounds of internet coverage. As I have blogged before, there are literally billions of people all over the planet without access to the internet.

Ken also told me about a fantastic project called Question Box based inPune, India. It literally does what it says on the can. It’s a box, with a button, in a village. It’s connected by a simple telephone line to an operator. When someone presses the button, they can ask a question to the operator who looks up the answer online and replies, in the local language.

Rose Schuman from Question Box explains more in this little video.

Making connections, it would seem, doesn’t necessarily need broadband.

Africa online?

10 Apr

Image: Jon Gosier

Africa’s ccTLDs. (Country code top level domains) On the map they’re scaled to represent the number of millions of internet users in each country. 

Before Egypt’s so called ‘Day of Anger’ on the 25th January 2011, when in retaliation to widespread protests, the government shut down the internet, Egypt was number 1. According to internetworldstats.com there were just over 17 million internet users in Egypt in February 2010. (Read more about Egypt and it’s ‘moment of silence’  on Appfrica’s blog )

Other big players are Nigeria and Morocco, numbers 2 and 3 . Kenya and Uganda are also up there at numbers 7 and 9 respectively.

But what about the others, as the map shows there are many of them. In June 2010, Ethiopia had 450 thousand internet users. Only 0.5% of the country’s population. In comparison, 33.4% of Moroccan people were using the internet in December 2009. 

Of course, these figures are changing all the time, and with constantly increasing speed. But huge disparities remain and the reality is that even in countries with higher stats, many people are living without internet. – Difficult for us to grasp, glued to our monitors, blogging and tweeting away.

Connecting people is powerful. So in places that the internet can’t reach, projects like FrontlineSMS see mobile phones as having an important role to play.

Founder and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ken Banks explains…

Video by NationalGeographic. Ken’s blogpost: Mobile as exploration Follow Ken on Twitter

For more on mobiles take a look at this proposal by blogger Erik Hersman on White African