Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - ICT and Social Impact

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Wednesday 11 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What are some of the ways in which the huge growth in mobile phones is benefitting people at the BoP?
  2. What are some of key challenges and success factors in rolling out ICT innovations among low-income consumers?
  3. Looking ahead, what are some of big opportunties for large scale impact through ICT?

Panelists include: Paulo Mele, Esoko; Michael Nique and Kai-lik Foh, GSMA; Anna Levy, Frontline SMS; Mike Quinn, ZOONA; Doug Ricket, SVTP.

Editor's Note:

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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Hie everyone I think I am very late.

I work for DAI ( in Mozambique and we have been implementing a data collection system that uses Android and an app designed for our activities. Lots of farmers will also have access to information that is useful to them, we are currently using this at the level of extension officers. 

My opinion on the current topics:


  1. What are some of the ways in which the huge growth in mobile phones is benefitting people at the BoP?
  • Assists the traditional dissemination of information among rural populations (traditional dissemination of information is a force to be reckoned with and not taken lightly)
  • Mobile money has enabled farmers who have little or no access to banking to save and transact, one example we have soya bean farmers that are paid gross of 500 - 2000 dollars for a season's harvest. then have to travel by road (using truck, pickups and lorries) for 50 km with this money in cash.
  1. What are some of key challenges and success factors in rolling out ICT innovations among low-income consumers?
  • There are costs involved in setting up the equipment and training required to make use of mobile devices.



  • Success factor: Affordability of services
  • Accessibility - Increased Rural network coverage (case of Movitel)


For example, in Kenya, Social Impact Lab just launched a program called Payment View, that mimics some apps made for smartphones, and allows micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises manage incoming and outgoing payments through low-tech systems and mobile payments. 

Here's some pictures of the distributor to give everyone a visual. Note the garbage bag full of cash!


In terms of challenges, and again from the health arena, we see a lot of activity and success stories at the pilot stage, but very rarely examples of scaled, sustainable success.  A number of reasons for this, but a key piece of this we think is the lack of a long term sustainable business model involving the mobile sector.  There is also a challenge with true integration with the health sector in terms of financing.

Hi Doug

I think it will inevitably roll out more across more countries but it seems to have take longer elsewhere.

I find it really interesting that despite the technology is there some countries are still struggling. The key to mpesa was the rapid increase of agents, making it easy for people to reach them.

When a company decided to invest in the infrastructure of agents then it will catch on.

That said, there's also lots of opportunities.  The mobile sector, in Africa at least, is beginning to make a strong play to reach out to the rural poor as part of an effort to leverage their infrastructure to the fullest, and various applications involving mobile including mobile agriculture, mobile health and of course mobile money play an important part of this strategy.  From the consumer side, prices are coming down (not as quickly as some would hope!) and familiarity and ubiquity of mobile means that adoption of services is less problematic.

Another challenge that we're seeing is around informed consent, particularly when mobile is used in development or humanitarian projects for larger research objectives. Along the same lines, data integrity questions and awareness differ from country to country and privacy concerns perhaps get less attention than they should when overall project goals are related to benefiting BoP populations

When you think about the mobile operators success in emerging markets, they capitalized on three ingredients: ubiquity of mobile coverage and mobile devices, affordability of prepaid airtime and extensive distribution channels. Challenges are often in the quality of the product/service you're providing and trust of the customers.

Hi Crispim - your project sounds fascinating.  Do the farmers have to pay for the services?  it would be great to learn about the business model, it seems a particular challenge to create business models around transfer of knowledge to smallholder farmers using mobile phones and otherwise, so I am eager to learn more.  

Very true and I would add timeliness too, people have access to needed information on time.

Thanks for sharing, Mike!

Access to electricity can be a major limitation.  Products designed for a western market may not handle power outages well.  That was the motivation for our work on solar chargers and motorcycle-to-phone chargers.

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