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June 28, 2017

Youth Entrepreneurs and Digital Development

By | Blog, Digital development, Global development, ICT4D, Principles for Digital Development, Sustainable Development Goals, Tech innovations

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) Youth Unconference in Kigali, Rwanda. The Unconference served as a platform for over 100 youths from 10 countries in the DOT network to come together and learn from each other’s experiences on ways to improve the impact of their social enterprises. To say these young people were an inspiration would be an understatement — they were intelligent, civic-minded, and passionate about technology and its ability to improve the economies of their countries.

For example, I met one young man developing sustainably produced menstruation pads, made from shredded banana leaf fiber, that sell for half the cost of normal pads allowing more young girls to stay in school when they otherwise would have to stay home. Another young woman produces and sells solar lamps to communities without power. I also met an entrepreneur who conceptualized a new method for inexpensively producing flour from carrots and other root vegetables that can be made into porridge as a safe solution to mother and child malnutrition.

The Unconference, with the theme of “Create Your Opportunity”, included youth-led workshops which focused on barriers to digital opportunities, and what youth can be doing to address those challenges. Many of these young people highlighted the way gender and culture factors into access and education around technology. More than one workshop discussed the digital gender divide, and discussed the importance of engaging girls in ICT as early as possible — and how to continue encouraging them as they get older. Christelle Kwizera, a panelist and mechanical engineer from Rwanda, put it this way: “When you start in primary school, everything looks normal. There are boys and girls. But when you go to college and engineering school, there are fewer women [and] you start to realize that all of your colleagues are male… You have no role models, so I wanted to return to Rwanda and be that role model.”

Group Photo from DOT Unconference

A group photo from Aisha’s workshop session on barriers for women in ICT.

My own session, which was co-led by an exceptional young woman named Aisha Abdul-Qadir, discussed how young people adopting the Principles of for Digital Development at an early stage can leverage digital technology to start companies, innovate new technologies, and/or improve their community. The Principles can serve as a guide to can help them achieve broader adoption and sustainability for their work. Participants in the session shared challenges they have faced in implementing programs in the past, what digital tools and solutions were available to them at the time, and what resources they wish they had. These insights will help our team at the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) shape new content that will be launched later this year.

It was such an honor to meet these young social entrepreneurs, each at a different stage of their journey. I believe it will be only a few years — if not sooner — until we see the impact they’ve made around the globe.

This blog was originally posted on the Digital Opportunity Trust’s Medium account. View it here.

 Allana Nelson joined the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) in March 2017 as the Program Manager for the Principles for Digital Development on the Insights and Impact team. In this position, she is responsible for promotion, education, and advocacy of the Principles. Prior to joining DIAL, Allana worked at USAID on technology-based solutions to the Ebola response and recovery efforts in West Africa.

 

 

June 23, 2017

New Partners Join DIAL’s Work to Strengthen Core Mobile Services and Aggregation

By | Blog, Digital development, ICT4D, International development

In April 2017, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) organized a workshop with representatives from both the mobile sector as well as the digital service providers (DSPs) in the humanitarian and development space, to understand how the two sectors can work together to leverage core mobile channels to reach underserved populations.

Partnering for MobileMany interesting ideas emerged, ranging from the identification and support of market and non-market incentives to drive commercial participation, to the alignment of capabilities within the mobile sector to better address the needs of the humanitarian and development sector. As follow up, DIAL has begun exploring in greater detail the opportunity for standard, cross-operator APIs to reduce the time to market for digital services using core mobile services.  Concurrently, work has begun to select pilot countries to test ways to aggregate and stimulate mobile demand from DSPs to make it more commercially viable for mobile players.

DIAL believes in a multi-sectoral approach to addressing this problem and is pleased to announce a series of diverse industry partnerships to collaboratively design and test these potential solutions.

  • Africa’s Talking is a leading regional player in the Cloud Platforms as a Service (CPaaS) sector within Sub-Saharan Africa, helping us understand the potential of pay-per-use, API-driven service development for rapid, cross-operator service launch.
  • Cellulant is a Pan-African FinTech company operating a one-stop payments ecosystem that specializes in cross-network payment platforms, underpinning one of the most important use cases in services for the underserved.
  • VotoMobile has developed a cloud-based platform for mobile notifications and surveys, combined with a growing aggregation service of ready-to-use voice and SMS connections across local operators.  This allows partners to connect with and gather feedback from large populations simply and rapidly.
  • WorldVision International has operations in around 100 countries supporting work in health and nutrition, food security, water and sanitation, disaster response and children in crisis; with substantial experience in digital for development and a strong interest in exploring the further potential of core mobile services in achieving its humanitarian goals

DIAL is seeking additional partnerships to contribute to this work, to ensure that solutions tested balance commercial sustainability with social impact.  If you are an NGO or digital service provider with an interest in the use of mobile for reaching the underserved, or if you are a player within the mobile industry with an interest in exploring commercially viable partnerships with the development sector, please let us know!

For further information, please email Kai-Lik Foh, Program Director (Platforms & Services).

Kai-Lik Foh joined the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) in February 2017 as Program Director of the Mobile Network Integration Initiative, aiming to improve the pace and efficiency of service delivery by the development sector through core mobile channels. He works to identify as well as promote innovative solutions in collaboration between the mobile and development sector, to improve access to basic digital services for the underserved. 

 

 

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