Stories by Ken Banks

  • Mobiles help put a stop to drug stock-outs

    What I find particularly interesting about the mobile-for-development field is how a disproportionate amount of innovation occurs in the very places where resources and funding are often in shortest supply. Just as mobile payments started off as an indigenous phenomenon long before Vodafone, the British government and Safaricom brought the world M-Pesa, numerous mobile health initiatives start off as innovative, small-scale projects before the bigger players spot their opportunity and attempt to take them to scale. One can only imagine the number that fail and fall by the wayside before they get this far -- Darwin's "survival of the fittest" can be equally applied to the mobile applications world as our own.

  • Weather stations will use mobile infrastructure

    For most of us, not knowing what the weather is going to do might at worst result in a soggy barbecue or a washed-out cricket or football match. For a farmer in the developing world it could result in the loss of an entire harvest which, at best, makes life that much harder or, at worst, brings on financial ruin or considerable human suffering. If enough farmers over a wide geographical area are affected, widespread famine becomes a very real possibility.

  • Searching where Google can't

    We read a lot about the delivery, and popularity, of SMS services such as market prices, health advice and job alerts in developing countries, information there is clearly a need for. Only last week Grameen's AppLab initiative, in conjunction with Google and MTN, launched a suite of SMS services in Uganda. These are the services you'll get to hear most about when you search the Web, trawl the blogosphere and attend various conferences on the subject. It all seems pretty sewn up on the content side -- I mean, what else could people earning a few dollars a day (at most) possibly want?

  • The mobile revolution's hidden cost

    Late last year, the mobile phone industry passed a remarkable milestone, one that not so many years ago it didn't even expect to reach. Media sites and blogs around the world buzzed as the news was announced with equal measures of excitement, amazement and, in some cases, guarded jealousy. We'll never know who it was, or where it was, but on that day someone, somewhere bought a mobile phone and tipped global sales past the three billion mark. "More than half the world's population now own a phone" was a typical headline.

  • Dell, OLPC affordable laptop bout only hurts users

    Anyone with the remotest interest in ICT development will have noticed the battle raging at the "bottom of the pyramid," where competing initiatives have been vying for the hearts, minds and dollars of schoolchildren and education ministries the developing world over. This particular battle is being largely fought by Intel and OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), once partners but now sparring in opposite corners after months of wrangling led to an acrimonious split earlier this year.