The Take Away panel provided an opportunity to draw together and emphasise some of the key points from the day.
Moderator: Fran Perrin, Founder and Director of the Indigo Trust; an organisation that funds technology-driven projects to bring about social change, largely in African countries. The Trust focuses mainly on innovation, transparency and citizen empowerment.
William Perrin, Indigo Trust and Talk About Local (UK): a public service project to give people in deprived or isolated communities an online voice that they own and run. William drew lessons from the Transparency, Accountability and Democracy panel.
Laura Walker Hudson, Director of Operations at FrontlineSMS. Their software is used by health providers and NGOs to gather and manage medical data, pass on health messages and organise care providers. Laura drew lessons from the Health panel.
David Edelstein, Grameen Technology Center: works with mobile phones to promote entrepreneurship, disseminate and collect information, and to provide access to products and services to benefit the poor in the domains of financial services, agriculture and health. David drew lessons from the Finance & Rural Development panel.
Sunil Abraham, Executive Director of the Centre for Internet and Society, which conducts research and policy work around how the internet is shaping society. Sunil drew messages from the Youth & Education panel.
Sameer Padania, CEO of Macroscope, a research, policy and advocacy consultancy working on the future of human rights, media and technology. He drew lessons from the Human Rights panel.
Erik Hersman, Co-Founder of Ushahidi and Nairobi’s ihub, drew messages from the Innovation & Enterprise panel. Ushahidi is a crowdsourcing mapping platform, while ihub is a successful technology and innovation incubator space in the Kenyan capital.
Lessons from the day
- We can’t assume that everybody has access to a smartphone (or, indeed, a feature phone). We can’t afford to think technology is the only answer.
- ‘Swim with the hippos, but swim fast’: Working with big business and government is often a necessary aspect of development work, but this does not mean NGOS and others should not be wary and maintain their distance. Corporate social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are a case in point. They are continuously expanding the scope of citizen engagement and activism, yet sometimes failing to provide adequate protection to their users.
- Funding in-country innovation (local solutions to local problems) and the appropriate technology – be it SMS, web or voice – is a key element of success in any project. Where possible, projects should attempt to take advantage of as many platforms as possible, thereby extending their potential reach and impact.
- Funders and developers need to consider long and hard about the sustainability, scalability and social impact of any intervention they are considering funding. They shouldn’t be afraid of exploring alternative business models.
- There is a need to create safe spaces both on and offline. Any online intervention can only work if it results in offline behaviour change.
- Any funder wanting to fund in this field should be prepared to take risks and invest in people. Like anything else failure is possible, but that failure can be embraced and used to learn.
To see the speaker presentations for yourself, click here to take a look at all the videos from this panel.