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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.

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…

TEDMED: 50 ideas that might just change the face of health around the world

Hundreds of people surged up the steps of the Kennedy Center in Washington DC this month sporting the iconic oversized badges that only meant one thing – time for TEDMED. This famous – and exclusive – conference from the people behind TED Talks is attended by health innovators from all over the world. The aim…

Saving Lives at Birth

Every two minutes a woman dies in childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa, women are 136 times more likely to die than in developed countries. In this latest issue of Digital Diversity, we look at how an annual challenge is helping turn the attention of the world’s smartest innovators to solving one of the world’s greatest problems…

The ‘Eye-Phone’ That Helps Prevent Blindness

In most developing countries the provision of basic healthcare, especially for those living in remote areas, is still a huge challenge for healthcare professionals. In this installment of Digital Diversity, we look at how mobile technology, and one mobile app in particular, is giving those in remote regions of the world access to essential eye care…

Mentoring Refugee Students from Across the World… via Facebook

Today, Facebook is more than just a platform to keep up with family and friends. It is also connecting people with valuable resources, including those willing to help others learn in places where schools don’t exist. In this installment of Digital Diversity, we see how humanitarian organisations are using the power of social media to…

The Secret to Surviving Surgery in a Little Yellow Box

When philosophers muse upon the secret to life, they probably aren’t imagining a little yellow box. And yet, when it comes to surgery, that box can hold the secret to life, and it turns out that the answer is simple: oxygen. Digital Diversity is a series of blog posts from kiwanja.net featuring the many ways…