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April 10, 2018

DIAL’s Open Source Center on the Road

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The DIAL Open Source Center (OSC) team has been busy scaling up its services since the beginning of the year. Our mission is to convene a vibrant and inclusive community for builders of free and open source software, promoting knowledge sharing, collaboration and co-investment in technology and human capacity to support positive social change in communities around the world. The program provides financial and technical assistance to open source software projects serving the international development and humanitarian response sectors, and so far we’ve extended services to six different software projects, with more to come.

In the coming weeks you’ll hear more about our partner projects and participation in excellent mentorship programs like Google Summer of Code and Outreachy, where talented newcomers will be matched up with mentors to work on the open source projects we support. We’ve also been able to provide direct financial assistance to many of these projects, which we’ll share at the end of this month.

Photo: Michael Downey

The OSC team has also been on the road sharing the Center’s vision and ideas, as well as listening to software project maintainers to better understand their needs.

In February we were in Brussels, Belgium at FOSDEM, the Free & Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting. Arguably the largest open source event on the planet, this free-of-charge, volunteer-led event brings people together from around the world to take over the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) campus for a single intense weekend of knowledge sharing. We were honored to feature the OSC in a talk in the main track, where we spent an hour discussing our vision for more mature and impactful open source projects. Audience members were really interested in sharing interesting open source projects that could be used by international development organizations, as well as making connections between groups already involved in the space but working independently. 

In March we participated in the 9th annual FOSSASIA Summit, a similar volunteer-run event that draws thousands of open source supporters. The event was an excellent chance to tap into the incredible network of innovation throughout South and Southeast Asia. This part of the world is also home to many organizations and individuals using open source for projects to help their communities improve their quality of life, such as Bahmni, a hospital information management system that we’ve supported over the past year. The event was an exciting opportunity to meet with potential partners and interested collaborators closest to those who will benefit from the tools being built and share our ideas to help turbocharge open source software projects. 

Michael Downey speaking at FOSDEM

Looking ahead, we’ll be attending the ICT4D Conference 8-10 May in Lusaka, Zambia. As a co-sponsor of this event, DIAL is excited to bring together all types of people who depend on technology for their international development work. The OSC team is planning an interactive workshop with these key stakeholders to learn more about their success stories, challenges and frustrations. Most importantly, we want to do all we can to improve the communication loop between the builders and the users of open source software. Creating more meaningful, easy-to-use and effective tools is a major key to being better stewards of the resources our world gathers to help everyone become active members of the digital world.

Finally, we’re hiring! The OSC is focused on long-term sustainability for the technology creators, consumers, and funders that we serve. As a result, we’re looking to add an expert to our team to think full-time about important topics like financial models, sustainability of our member projects and the program, and to help share best practices about running effective open source software projects that endure. If this sounds like something you’re passionate about, come join us!

March 12, 2018

What did Mobile World Congress 2018 show us about Creating a Better Future?

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By Rachel Sibande and Danielle Dhillon

At the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) 107,000 visitors from 205 countries gathered to see the latest offerings showcased by the mobile industry and convene around topics such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) – all connected to greater theme of Creating a Better Future. But, how can we create a better future for all by leveraging mobile and technology?

#SDG5 Gender Equality at Mobile World Congress.

Gender Equality

As young women attending MWC for the first time, there were times we felt out of place and aware of being one of the few women in the room, so we want to highlight Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Approximately 24 per cent of attendees and 28 per cent of speakers were female, an increase from 23 per cent and 21 per cent in 2017 respectively. We are proud that the Digital Impact Alliance had representation from five female employees at the event and that Kathy Calvin, the CEO of the United Nations Foundation, was a featured keynote speaker.

In addition to her powerful LinkedIn post and the inspiring day-in-the-life of Kathy Calvin at MWC video, we were struck by her response to the on-stage question “What is the most pressing issue of today?” because there are so many to choose from. “Inequality is at the heart of every countries’ challenges today. Today we have people who are richer or poorer, we have people with fewer rights than others and even something as simple as 200 million fewer women have access to mobile phones.”

While progress is being made, it’s important to remember there’s always more to be done to improve equality, especially as we evaluate how to better use mobile and data for development. In the words of our partner Data2x, “better data from everyone enables better decisions for everyone”.

Better Data

It was an important week for data. DIAL is proud to be an advisory panel member of GSMA’s Big Data for Social Good (BD4SG) initiative, which works towards establishing a holistic framework and approach to analyzing data captured on operators’ networks to help public agencies and NGOs tackle epidemics, natural disasters and environmental crises. At MWC, the BD4SG initiative announced the success of its first wave of trials and shared demonstrations to attendees. The initiative also announced its next phase which will focus on disaster preparedness. DIAL is excited to be working even more closely with GSMA moving forward to scale the use of mobile data for development (and humanitarian) purposes.

DIAL’s Data for Development team also released a paper at Mobile World Congress on the topic of Unlocking MNO Data to Enhance Public Services and Humanitarian Efforts, which provides insights to governments, humanitarian organizations and mobile network operators on the shared value proposition of using mobile data for development (D4D). The paper seeks to address and highlight market implementation experiences to advocate for a more systematic, secure and fully functional D4D ecosystem.

Engage the Government

As part of the Capturing Big Data for Social Good fireside chat, DIAL’s CEO Kate Wilson had the opportunity to sit down with Godfrey Itaye, the Director General of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority.

Mr. Itaye shared of the regulators aspirations in regard to the big data for social good initiatives. He particularly referenced the digital health project in Malawi where DIAL, together with partners Cooper Smith and the Ministry of Health, are leveraging data from Mobile Network Operators, geospatial data and routine health systems data to generate insights and analytics that help understand population densities and migration patterns as they relate to health outcomes such as placement of health facilities.

Kate Wilson and Godfrey Itaye at Mobile World Congress 2018

Unlike cases where rigid regulations have hindered the use of Mobile Network Operator data for such causes, Itaye emphasized the importance of developing dynamic legal and regulatory frameworks that can support the use of data for development. He articulated the multitude of potential that such data for development initiatives would ultimately have in creating social impact across sectors such as health, education, climate change management and urban planning among others.

“As a regulator, we support the use of big data for social good. We believe that; if it is for the good of the common Malawian, it must be supported”.

DIAL sought to hear from Itaye on the concerns the regulator may have regarding the use of MNO data for development initiatives. Itaye, reiterated the importance of adhering to data protection laws and standards.

Itaye ended off with some piece of advice to D4D practitioners:

Do not ignore the regulator in D4D deployments. Engage us, we regulate the Telecomms sector and data is a central part of it. We are partners in development. Let regulators and D4D practitioners avoid working in isolation.

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