Today, roughly six billion of the world’s seven billion people now have a mobile device. Mobiles serve as our personal communication hubs, connection points to the global internet and powerful tools to access information. In many places, inexpensive mobile phones have become invaluable substitutes to traditional information and communications technologies (ICTs) and vastly outnumber computers.
On Sept 26, 2013, FHI 360 co-hosted an all-day event entitled Mobiles! What Have We Learned? Where Are We Going? The gathering brought together over 150 leading practitioners in mobiles for development (M4D). The event itself was co-organized by DAI, Development Gateway, FHI 360, IREX, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Over the past decade, the international development community has worked to harness M4D approaches and technology, resulting in thousands of pilot projects, interventions and public–private partnerships. The goals of these initiatives have ranged from overcoming barriers of resource access, encouraging healthier behaviors and democratizing education to creating bottom-of-the-pyramid markets, to name a few.
At the event, Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt Foundation delivered a keynote summary that illustrated how big technical and social challenges have been addressed, making the achievement of scale more possible than ever. He also noted, however, that cost, compatibility of different technical standards and coordination between organizations continue to create challenges. “We need some wins to show that we can work together,” said Praekelt. “If we can solve email in the 1970s, then we can get rid of the horrible technical silos we have today.”