The Digital Agency for International Development

Counting down to Apticon 2014 – why 'Moving toward mobile'?

By Alex on 26 June 2014

On July 8th, Aptivate and some of our friends and clients will be getting together for an Open Space  with the loose theme of ‘Moving toward mobile’. We thought it might be interesting to share some thoughts on why we chose this theme for this year’s Apticon.

What is Apticon?

Every year Aptivate convenes and facilitates a fun Open Space event, where our entire staff team, plus a few guests, come together to explore topics that we don’t get a chance to during day-to-day business. This year we have opened the event up and have almost 50% external guests, so we are expecting a vibrant and spirited debate! You can also be part of the discussion on Twitter at #apticon .

So why the theme ‘Moving toward mobile’?

Mobile phones dominate our daily lives. From updating our statuses on social media to sending emails from one corner of the globe to the other, it is difficult to imagine life without them. More and more people are becoming connected globally and mobile phone penetration is steadily on the rise.

Aptivate works in the international development sector – and here too, mobile phones are increasingly becoming a mainstream part of supporting and promoting different development agendas. Simultaneously, according to most reports, the costs of mobile devices and data in the Global South are reducing to the point that the majority of the population in most countries now have access to some kind of mobile technology (although there are questions around some of this data, and the extremely poor, especially in rural areas, often remain outside of this mobile revolution).

A few relevant facts and statistics

Increasingly, NGOs are looking to use mobile data collection tools for more efficient monitoring and evaluation; iHubs are proliferating across Africa, giving rise to local technology start-ups producing more and more mobile applications and related products. And of course as more of the population is online through their mobile devices, the opportunities to engage with them for development purposes (health advice, education, farming prices etc.) increases.

Here's a few interesting facts we have come across:

And a few questions…

Beyond the numbers, what does this mean for international development and in particular for people, like Aptivate, using technology for development. This is what we are hoping to explore at Apticon. Some pertinent questions which are relevant to this discussion are framed here:

  • As the world goes Mobile, what does that mean for developers building online systems for use in the global South?
  • How can we build systems that work on mobile, in areas with low bandwidth and intermittent connections that people will want to actually use?
  • How are countries such as Rwanda rolling out health diagnostics to rural areas using mobile phones? Is this a good trend or are there concerns about it?
  • A billion people lack mobile phones, many (especially the extremely poor) remain unconnected, and people with poor literacy remain mostly excluded from the online world – how does the move towards mobile ensure these people are not further excluded and marginalised?
  • iHubs are spreading across Africa, fuelling local development for local needs – what impact might this have and how can NGOs/Tech organisations adapt to support these Southern start-ups?
  • How might increasing Southern production of tablets and cheap mobile phones affect the sector?
  • What negative consequences might the move towards mobile have – for example, to what extent are people, civil society groups and governments in the South able to participate and influence or control the technology affecting their lives?
  • Does the increasing reliance on technology risk exacerbating local or global inequalities, by reinforcing existing power structures and empowering the middle classes?

Why Aptivate..?  Why Apticon..?

Aptivate sits firmly at the intersection of technology, international development and participation. We are increasingly being asked to create mobile tools – such as the low-bandwidth-friendly mobile data collection  system we created for CBM and Mobility India.  At the same time we conduct pieces of research and evaluation such as the World Bank evaluation framework for digital citizen engagement

Our team comprises technical developers, project managers, international development professionals, researchers and evaluators, trainers and facilitators. Combined with our interesting friends and guests (including individual experts and guests from diverse organisations including DFID , INASP , WaterAidKnowledge Point  and others), we expect the discussions to be interesting, wide ranging and fun!

What will come out of them – who knows! That is the nature of a non-prescriptive methodology like Open Space , but given the topic and the guests, we think some exciting ideas, projects or proposals are likely to emerge. Watch this space!

If you would like to join in in the discussions around ‘Moving toward mobile’ online, we will be tweeting and seeking to include input from Twitter participants on the day. So why not start today to get involved in the twitter discussions at #apticon  and watch this space for further blog posts.