Fourth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VII). Ken Banks: Making an Impact. The Role of Mobile Phones in the Developing World

By Ismael Peña-López
ICTlogy (ISSN 1886-5208). Issue #72, September 2009


Notes from the Fourth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2009, held in the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, United Kingdom, on September 11-12th, 2009. More notes on this event: ict4d_symposium_2009.

Making an Impact. The Role of Mobile Phones in the Developing World
Ken Banks,

Alan Kay: The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Ken Banks: If you can’t find the perfect job you have to create it.

Mobile adoption by users drives SMS adoption by local NGOs which is increasingly driven by a range of formal and informal economic activity. The increasing pervasiveness of mobile phones has been followed by an according pervasiveness in SMS usage.

Mobile phones give people the chance to get involved in their own development. Traditional development was not participated by the target beneficiaries. Now this have changed as ICTs and mobile phones create plenty of innovation and business opportunities.

The fact that the mobile phone creates business opportunities has been a main driver for development, becoming a revolution in developing countries.

The weird thing being that most of the information — research papers, news, development reports — always speaks of the benefits of mobile phones and SMSs but never about what specific tools were being used to reach those benefits, what was used to provide a specific service, how and what could e.g. other NGOs apply in their own work, etc.


FrontlineSMS uses a desktop PC to send alerts via SMS, being used for health, education, coordination, etc. FrontlineSMS allows for group messaging between health workers, farmers, aid workers, etc.

FrontlineSMS can be used, for instance, to alert about an emergency in real time, even if e-mail does not work and voice communication is just not possible (because of quality of communication infrastructures, cost, etc.)

Why FrontlineSMS work:

  • Local ownership: of tool, of project, of data
  • Builds on local awareness: you don’t lead the project, you just provide the tool to the people that know about their needs and how to solve them
  • Platform is free and works on available hardware
  • Highly replicable and scalable
  • No need for the Internet
  • Easy to use
  • Responds to “their” need (bottom up)


Fourth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2009)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2009) “Fourth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VII). Ken Banks: Making an Impact. The Role of Mobile Phones in the Developing World” In ICTlogy, #72, September 2009. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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ICTlogy Review

  • ISSN 1886-5208


About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.