Due to the ubiquity of mobile phones in emerging markets, development programs are increasingly designing services for the underserved that leverage the reach of mobile technology. Often, the path toward achieving national scale involves using the mobile channel because no other communication channel is as well understood and prevalent. But while understanding of core mobile channels (e.g., SMS, USSD) is fairly universal, the nuances of each channel’s capabilities and how they can be used specifically within the development and humanitarian sector are less well known, outside of a relatively small community of technically oriented specialists in the NGO sector.
Without a fuller understanding and appreciation of the opportunities and challenges of using these channels, as well as a common understanding of product requirements, implementation of mobile development projects can suffer from expensive delays and cost overruns. These problems can potentially be avoided by having open and honest discussions with the aggregator or mobile network operator about the tradeoffs between requirements, feasibility and affordability.