World Bank

Mobile App Lab in Africa

The World Bank in partnership with Nokia is set to create a mobile application laboratory in Afria in an effort to push innovation in the field, while providing special support to innovative solutions that address the diverse challenges facing Africa. According to Tim Kelly, the lead IT specialist at the World Bank's InfoDev global grant, the world bank hopes to "to increase the competitiveness of innovative enterprises in the mobile content and applications area, and to ensure that locally relevant applications are created to meet growing developing country user demands."

Through the laboratories that will be set up in various host countries, the program will assist local mobile applications entrepreneurs, helping them to start and scale their own business. In particular, the program will feature training and testing laboratories, identification and piloting of potential applications, incubation for startups and potential linkages with operators.

For the time being the laboratories will be situated in select African countries, however, the long term aim of the program is to cover all of sub-saharan africa. We'll update with more about this exciting program in the coming weeks.

Study on Mobile Phones in Education

Last month the World Bank launched an international initiative to study the use and the potential application of mobile phones in education in the developing world. The study, titled "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries", plans to fill gaps in research that has until now focused on: (1) advocacy pieces about how phones *could* be used in education; (2) 'studies' of how phones have been used in a small pilot by one teacher somewhere; or (3) conceptual (often academic) discussions of the potential utility of mobile phones within various learning environments (often drawing on rich existing research into the use of PDAs for learning). (*As reported by the World Bank Development Blog) [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFWk6I2Huvw&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0] [Reader's note: The above YouTube clip showcases the Text2Teach program implemented in the Phillipines and is part of the larger BridgeIT program]

Through this initiative the World Bank plans to play a similar role in mobile education initiatives as it has in other mobile initiatives, namely mobile banking, using its institutional presence to make sense of existing, discreet initiatives and create opportunities for scalability, commercialization and gains in efficiency.

According to the World Bank's Edutech blog, the study intends to accomplish the following:

This study proposes to:

1. Map the existing universe of projects and initiatives exploring the use of mobile phones in education, with a specific attention to developing countries. 2. Map the existing and potential uses of mobile phones in this regard, comparing and contrasting such uses with other ICT devices, relevant to specific education challenges, needs and contexts found in a number of developing countries 3. Document lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area, proposing tentative guidance for policymakers and various stakeholder groups in this fast moving area. 4. Propose a conceptual framework and way forward for further analytical work to aid in the documentation and rigorous impact cost and impact assessment of the use of mobile phones in education.

The study will run through December of 2010. For now, I hope the folks at the World Bank make an effort to explore mobile applications specifically in continued education courses.

Study on Mobile Phones in Education

Last month the World Bank launched an international initiative to study the use and the potential application of mobile phones in education in the developing world. The study, titled "The Use of Mobile Phones in Education in Developing Countries", plans to fill gaps in research that has until now focused on: (1) advocacy pieces about how phones *could* be used in education; (2) 'studies' of how phones have been used in a small pilot by one teacher somewhere; or (3) conceptual (often academic) discussions of the potential utility of mobile phones within various learning environments (often drawing on rich existing research into the use of PDAs for learning). (*As reported by the World Bank Development Blog) [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFWk6I2Huvw&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0] [Reader's note: The above YouTube clip showcases the Text2Teach program implemented in the Phillipines and is part of the larger BridgeIT program]

Through this initiative the World Bank plans to play a similar role in mobile education initiatives as it has in other mobile initiatives, namely mobile banking, using its institutional presence to make sense of existing, discreet initiatives and create opportunities for scalability, commercialization and gains in efficiency.

According to the World Bank's Edutech blog, the study intends to accomplish the following:

This study proposes to:

1. Map the existing universe of projects and initiatives exploring the use of mobile phones in education, with a specific attention to developing countries. 2. Map the existing and potential uses of mobile phones in this regard, comparing and contrasting such uses with other ICT devices, relevant to specific education challenges, needs and contexts found in a number of developing countries 3. Document lessons learned so far from key initiatives in this area, proposing tentative guidance for policymakers and various stakeholder groups in this fast moving area. 4. Propose a conceptual framework and way forward for further analytical work to aid in the documentation and rigorous impact cost and impact assessment of the use of mobile phones in education.

The study will run through December of 2010. For now, I hope the folks at the World Bank make an effort to explore mobile applications specifically in continued education courses.

Random Hacks of Kindness, Courtesy of the World Bank

A man stands on a roof as he awaits rescue in heavy flooding in Taimali, south-eastern Taiwans Taitung county on August 8, 2009 during Typhoon Morakot. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images) Next week the World Bank is teaming up with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and NASA to put on their first Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon, a 3 day programming marathon which aims to  develop software solutions for the challenges associated with natural disasters;  150 Programmers will work with disaster relief experts to identify problems and possible solutions for those living and working in natural disaster environments, taking into account the perspective of victims as well as first responders. 

Water flows past a severely eroded embankment near a damaged bridge that previously linked Pingtung and Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan on August 9, 2009. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

I was in Taipei in August when Typhoon Morakat ripped through southern Taiwan, bringing unpredicted levels of rainfall with deadly effects.  The federal government failed to anticipate the Morakat's threat and was unequipped to respond accordingly.  Consequently, local communities, disaster victims themselves, were the first to respond the event, using limited bootstrapped technologies if any.

No doubt these solutions will be interesting for Taiwan as well as other communities plagued by natural disasters.  If you are interested in suggesting a subject matter expert or a developer or a specific aspect of the challenge, please follow this link. The Hackathon will take place in Moutain View, California on the 11th and 12th of November.