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Ken Banks is an innovator, mentor, anthropologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Founder of kiwanja.net, he devotes himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. His early research resulted in the development of FrontlineSMS, an award-winning text messaging-based field communication system designed to empower grassroots non-profit organisations. He shares exciting stories in "Digital Diversity" about how mobile phones and other appropriate technologies are being used around the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.

Photo Update: How Technology is Reaching Pakistan’s Children with the Polio Vaccine

In our February story – Cell Coverage: Reaching Pakistan’s Children with the Polio Vaccine – Aziz Memon wrote about Rotary‘s work to replace traditional paper reporting of polio, maternal and newborn health data in Pakistan with more accurate and timely mobile phone-based reporting. This new program is being implemented almost entirely by female health workers, many working…

Everyday Problems: Are You Paying Attention?

You shouldn’t need anyone to tell you that there were refugees long before the Syrian crisis brought their horror further into the public consciousness. There was famine before recent announcements of severe food shortages in Yemen, Malawi and Nigeria, too. And, today, with over fifty countries run by dictatorships, oppression isn’t in short supply, either. As…

Solar Power: A Winter Journey

Solar power has long been touted as an answer to the energy needs of rural communities living off-grid across the developing world. Over recent years the technology has advanced rapidly in terms of efficiency and price, finally making it a genuinely viable option, at household level at least. For the very same reasons – including a…

Challenging conventional wisdom in social innovation

There are no shortage of books on social entrepreneurship and innovation, but are they the books young people need? Do we have the right balance between theory and practice, or mechanics and motivation? Whose voice is dominant? What’s wrong with many of the current books on offer that drove me to publish two of my own? Well,…

Cell Coverage: Reaching Pakistan’s Children with the Polio Vaccine

Pakistan is one of only two remaining polio-endemic countries, and extinguishing the virus from every remote region is a considerable challenge. Vaccinators, risking attacks from militants, have to target and track with precision civilians fleeing a warzone in the country’s northwest provinces. One project is using cell phones as part of the polio eradication effort, and…

Kill Or Cure? How Mobile Phones Help Weed Out Counterfeit Drugs

A New York Times Op-Ed last year highlighted the global disparity in access to quality medication. For people in developing countries, counterfeit drugs are a huge problem. In fact, a more recent Washington Post piece refers to the problem of unreliable pharmaceuticals as a global pandemic, amounting to an estimated $75 billion market annually. The…

Playing technology catchup: What conservation might learn from human development

In 2007 a student ecologist walked out across the African savannah, armed with a clipboard and a ballpoint pen. They were off to record evidence of the presence of different grazers in the landscape. In 2012 that same ecologist set off again to monitor the impact of grazers in different habitats. This time though it…

Seeds, Soil and SMS: How Mobiles Promote Resilience Among Small-Scale Farmers in Africa

Despite producing more than 70% of the world’s food, most small-scale farmers live on less than $1 a day. Typically, they lack access to finance, traditional markets and much-needed agricultural products. Not only that, many also live in remote areas without Internet access meaning they have no way to access vital agricultural advice or information, either. In…

How smartphones fill the healthcare gap in Myanmar

On average, a person living in Myanmar (also known as Burma) will live two decades less than someone in the U.S. For Michael Lwin, son of two doctors who came to the United States from Myanmar in the 1970s, this isn’t just a statistic. It’s a deeply unfair consequence of a geographic lottery. A lottery…

How Text Messaging Curbs Infant Mortality in Africa’s Biggest Urban Slum

Almost half of Kenyan mothers do not give birth in a hospital and, thus, receive little professional care or education on basics such as how long to breast feed, what to do in the case of diarrhea and vomiting, or where to go for an emergency. In this issue of Digital Diversity, Cayte Bosler looks…

Want a holistic view of the world of social innovation? Try these four books.

We’re seeing a steady stream of great books hitting the shelves at the moment, each focusing on a different aspect of the technology/social innovation debate. While some offer hardcore theory and research, others offer softer inspiration and advice. One day we’ll have a book which captures and weaves together all four – that would be the ideal…

Why anyone can make the world a better place

Each year, hundreds – if not thousands – of engaged students walk through the doors of schools, colleges and universities around the world eager to learn the art of social change. Classes in social innovation, social entrepreneurship and design thinking, among many others, have become increasingly popular. On the one hand, this might all be…

Crowdfunding Global Health

According to Wikipedia, crowdfunding is “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet”. This relatively new phenomenon has helped bring all manner of products and projects to market, and now global health is joining in. In this installment…

Innovation in the air for one of the oldest public health interventions

When you walk up to a sink in a public restroom, there’s a good chance that you’ll be greeted by a poster reminding you to wash your hands. In this installment of Digital Diversity, Layla McCay – a member of our Media and Research Team – talks more about one of the oldest public health…

Project Daniel: 3D Printing Prosthetic Arms for Children in Sudan

At age 14, Daniel Omar had both his arms blown off by a bomb dropped on his village, and considered his life not worth living. His story is not untypical. In this installment of Digital Diversity, we look at how the Not Impossible Team – after a trip to Sudan Nuba’s Mountains – set up…