21 July 2009

Reaching New Audiences

I have been looking at examples of how different organizations use and guide the use of social media and web 2.0 tools the past day or so.

One issue that has come up repeatedly in discussions (from several organizations who are still "testing the waters" of social media) that I have been involved in is a concern about negative responses, comments, etc.

Just now while actually looking for something else I came across this clip on YouTube about World Food Day 2008.

I like the clip very much ... but there's something else that's more important to see.

The most interesting thing is the comments that come after the clip ... take a look, there's just sixteen, but they are all very positive and many of them indicate that the person(s) has a new awareness of World Food Day as a result of seeing the clip. Not bad :-)

10 July 2009

Improving the Organization's image through knowledge sharing and social networking

Understanding what someone does is an important part of gaining respect for their work.

There is an interesting OpEd piece (“Would you let this girl down?” by Nicholas D. Kristof; thanks to @ithorpe for sharing) in today’s New York Times about the marketing efforts of humanitarian organizations. It is about the ability to connect with people, in particular one-on-one connections, and how this impacts interest in development aid and charitable activities.

The article looks at where the marketing of development organizations faces shortcomings and some possible reasons behind this. It is not as prescriptive about what should be done. Still it is a good (and short) piece, relevant not only to people in the external relations and marketing type work of humanitarian organization, but also to the rest of us in development work.

The idea Kristof put forward fit very well with the currently trending organizational theory of "tribes" and offer an explanation for the success of initiatives like Kiva. What is particularly interesting to me is how the ideas in this article fit with the increasing use of social media (web2.0) tools and a focus on knowledge sharing (KS) in some of the organizations I work with.

Consider, for example, the need for "feel-good rewards" and the personal responsibility factor.

Could we as an organization reach out and stimulate individuals to a higher level of personal responsibility, reinforced by feel-good rewards through the use of social media tools? (Many of these tools were designed to reach people with a one-to-one feeling, even when they are one to many, after all.)

What if we designed a village level project to include one villager or an intermediary (say a village teacher) who was selected and trained to blog once a week about the problem s/he faced in life, what s/eh learned in the project, how s/he acted on that learning at home and the results? What if that blog was translated from the local language into the languages of developed countries, along with pictures or video (made with inexpensive hand held digital equipment)? What if staff Twittered about these new blog posts to their family and friends?

Development organizations will always need the professional, high level marketing and communication efforts that already exist. The time may have come for more, for there to be a concerted effort to ignite the masses into marketing at the grassroots level of the organization. Engage more people on a personal level. Show a direct link, no matter how small, to development interventions and the aid that supported it. Latch on to the personal responsibility factor and provide the feel-good rewards that motivate it to react in a positive manner. Stimulate a thousand individual voices to share these feeling with others, and then as the old American shampoo commercial from the 80s said, “They’ll tell two friends ... and they’ll tell two friends ... and so on, and so on....”

02 June 2009

Will the Future bring Equality or a Greater Divide?

Yesterday I was struck by a thought (that led to a Tweet):
@mongkolroek: brilliant ICT futurist paper http://bit.ly/ipxcF deepens my concern about rural digital divide - will progress be equal?
The report from the first Workshop of the Foresight 2030 series Harnessing the Digital Revolution is a fascinating read and provides a brilliant vision of a knowledge enabled society, with technology and culture in harmony.

So why did this vision leave me more concerned that one might expect? I'm not a Luddite, new technology fascinates me. The issue is that I see a real possibility that any upside from this vision becoming a reality will be more than negated by the disparity and inequity it may cause in the world. Could this report in fact allude an increase in the rural digital divide?

In 1999 Subbiah Arunachalam expressed concerns in "Information Poverty" that the information revolution was actually creating a new form of poverty in the developing world. We still grapple with many of these issues described ten years ago, not only in differences between developed and developing, but also between urban and rural.

There continues to be a serious risk of the rural digital divide increasing. The much vaunted improvements in speed and capacity of technology, and reductions in infrastructure cost do not guarantee access or usability due to many other complex factors. Consider issues such as telecom regulations, pricing structures, literacy and language, individual capacity to utilize a new technology, culture, organisations, physical location, content format, economic poverty, socio-political marginalization, etc.

Without a doubt not everyone would benefit from social and technological advances at the same rate. However, without great forethought it is very likely that there will be groups of individuals who will be excluded from these benefits much longer than others. In the worst case, this exclusion will occur amongst those already the most in need of better access to the world's information and knowledge ... the poor, the food insecure, the marginalized of society.

The future may be brilliant, but we cannot be proud of illuminating one corner if it leaves the rest of the world in even greater darkness.

25 May 2009

Funds for creative ICT in development solutions in Asia-Pacific

The Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF) is taking applications now for their 2010 round of grants. ISIF is a joint initiative between the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Internet Society (ISOC), and the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).

These grants are focused on supporting creative solutions that use digital ICT to benefit development in the Asia-Pacific region. Funding of up to AUD 40,000 per project is available.

Deadline for the grant submission is 31 July 2009, so don't delay.

24 May 2009

Donate Your Used Mobile Phone to Help People

Now here's something really great, a new program called HopePhones that was just launched.

Old phones save lives. Donate yours to a medical clinic in a developing country today.

Not only can you do good with this, it provides a service to you! You have an old phone, you go to their website, print the mailing label - postage paid, put the phone in a box and send it off! How easy is that?

HopePhones uses the value of your old phone to acquire appropriate mobile phones in developing countries. Those phones are placed with community health workers who are part of programs to improve the health and welfare of those who need it most. The HopePhones website has more details about where these phones are helping people live better lives, and how some are working with the FrontlineSMS:Medic platform. Mobile phones are causing a small revolution in rural development, and one of the key areas for impact is in health care due to their ability to transmit information quickly and easily, from anywhere there's a cellular signal. (Some of you will know I am a great believer in the potential of mobile telephony to improve rural livelihoods through my work with the e-Agriculture community.)

Also, you are saving the environment by not throwing your old phone into the trash.

So far the postage paid service is only good within the United States. To any of my friends in Italy or Thailand or elsewhere, if you give me your old phone I will send it in to HopePhones on my next trip to the States. That's the least I can do.

(Why didn't we have examples of initiatives like this at WSIS last week?)

14 May 2009

The "m" term ... where are we going with it?

I find myself struggling with something here, and would love some feedback.

Suddenly I am not so comfortable with all the "m" terms that are starting to pop up, m-banking, m-learning, and in particular m-agriculture. This last one is a relative unknown - the only use I've seen of it up until this week has been by MobileActive (who I have a lot of respect for, by the way). I don't challenge the intent of those using the terms, but wonder if we are doing the correct thing by creating another set of terminology, when even many of the "e" terms still have diffuse definitions.

Also in talking with several people I collaborate with, I find the "m" may indicate a specific focus on the wireless, movable technology. On one hand, if we come to a common understanding that this is the case, then I will be more content. When I read an explaination of m-learning I think this may be the point of using the term. (Considering my own interests and focusing on the specific case of "m-agriculture" I do not find a definition. The closest I have found so far is "m-development", but I am not trying to substitute one for the other.) Yet there is still a part of me that wonders if this terminology isn't more about trending.

I realize that mobile technology is in the forefront of the ICT arsenal at the moment - indeed I've facilitated discussions on the use of mobile technology in rural development, and participate in panels about this next week. However, I really think what is important is the impact on development issues, how processes are modified and enhanced (or new ones created) for better outcomes, not the technology per se.

What do you think? Do we need both "e" and "m" terms to add value to our discussions and work in using ICT for development? When is it important to distinguinsh between technologise, versus the way people use and understand a technology? Am I making a mountian out of a molehill? :-) I would be greatful for any thoughts.

11 May 2009

sawasdee Bangkok, ciao Roma

I'm well behind in my writing (what you can't see is the number of unfinished posts saved as drafts) ... my excuse is that I have changed positions at my job, being offered a great opportunity and some engaging challenges, and with that I've also moved from Bangkok to Rome.

After eleven years in Thailand this is quite a change for me. Thailand had become as much my home as anywhere I have ever lived (in fact, eleven years in Bangkok was longer than I have lived any other single place in my life).

Now that I have started in on my new job I am counting on the skills and knowledge I developed all those years living in Asia, and counting on my network of colleagues and friends to continue being my inspiration, my support, and my teachers. As in turn I hope to extend my vision and bring something back to them.

As I reach out to the Eternal City, the Big Mango is always on my mind.

19 March 2009

Social media's potential for improved impact

Simone Staiger-Rivas, part of the CGIAR's ICT-KM program and ground breaker in knowledge sharing for development, made a presentation on social media at CIAT yesterday. She was kind enough to share the presentation at http://www.slideshare.net/ictkm/

Take a look at the ideas here about how the impact of her organization's activities and research projects, as well as the efforts of individuals can be enhanced through the use of social media. It has already stirred up a discussion on Simone's FaceBook page, which I think is fantastic. I hope the presentation went well at CIAT and that it has many minds now thinking about the possibilities of social media within large, structured organizations!

We need to reprise this presentation for use in my own organization...

@km4dev shared a link earlier today which compliments Simone's presentation: Notes for Non-Profits: Ten Things a Nonprofit Should Do Before Setting Up Social Media. Don't just read the ten points, read the discussion posts below - particularly the discussion on ROI is useful in my opinion. (Hmm ... maybe we in the sprawling international organizations need to have a chat about the concept of ROI. What do you think gang?!) A bit of strategy is always a good thing when embarking on a new venture, and it would help management to understand why some tools are chosen over others and the corresponding resource commitments.

A bright definition for Knowledge Management

Yesterday KM4Dev (@km4dev) pointed out Steve Barth's blog Reflexions with an aptly titled piece on defining knowledge management, "All the right words", which says:

Knowledge Management is the cultivation [and facilitation] of an environment within which people want to share, learn and collaborate leading to individual, team and organisational improvement.

This is a great definition that Steve should be praised for putting out for us to read and ponder. Finally a definition that with a positive spin that doesn't allow us to forget organizational culture , reward systems, individual characteristics/preferences; a definition that preempts the need for discussion on the fact that we cannot manage knowledge (I agree, but we are somewhat stuck with the "KM" term now aren't we?); a definition that KM leads to improvement ... what senior bureaucrat could argue with that?!?

I wonder if others feel the same about this definition? Or would anyone adapt or even completely revise it?

This is an important issue. We in KM may know very well what we do, but are we good enough at the quick sell when it counts? @NancyWhite once referred to being able to explain something convincingly to an important individual who's just stepped into the lift with you before s/he gets out of the lift one minute later.

Tying up loose ends

For some time now I have been bothered by my own inability to organize the increasing number of online networking and sharing tools. It's not that they are not all great in their own right (well at least some of them), but there are days when it's hard to know what's/who's where. Today I found out from @mobileactive (thank you!) about a simple tool called UnHub which allows one to create a single profile and put all the URLs of their various online presences in there. You can list websites, Twitter, blogs, Flickr, RSS, etc. It's simple, easy to use, and I think a very neat little tool. My UnHub is at http://unhub.com/mongkolroek

PS: President Obama is already on UnHub! It is so hard to keep up these days.

19 January 2009

Sharing via Social Media Tools at ShareFair09

For everyone who's interested in following the Knowledge Share Fair, but cannot attend in person, there will be a large contingent of participants using social networking tools to leverage the experience. You can find these two ways:

1) Look at the official Share Fair sites as follows:
The Share Fair blog will also consolidate posts, blips, tweets, etc. from other contributors.

2) Search for the contributions of the many in attendance using the Share Fair tag "sharefair09" or "#sharefair09" on Twitter.

Final preparations are all coming together now! It promises to be a watershed event ;-)

15 January 2009

Sharing Knowedge about Knowledge Sharing for Development

The Knowledge Share Fair for Agricultural Development and Food Security (otherwise known as "Share Fair"), being jointly organized by Bioversity International, the CGIAR ICT-KM program, FAO, IFAD and WFP, will take place next week over three days at FAO Headquarters from 20 to 22 January 2009.

This promises to be a unique, exciting event for the organizers and those in attendance, including me! It is the first time (to my knowledge) that all these international organizations - organizations in which the greatest asset is information and knowledge - will come together to discuss specifically about sharing knowledge, about making knowledge more powerful, more effective, and through this making rural development more successful and sustainable. I'm also very much looking forward to reconnecting with friends and colleagues, meeting some of my virtual collaborators in person for the first time, and expanding my KM4D network!

The Shair Fair will focus on methods, tools, lessons learned, challenges, partnerships, etc. of knowledge sharing, so as to provide practices and learning opportunities that will be of practical benefit to the multi-disciplinary audience. The achievements of projects, programmes and divisions will be presented in light of demonstrating successful knowledge sharing. There will also be special sessions applying new Web2 tools.

There is a great, short video clip on Blip.TV in which Roxana Samii, IFAD, talks about looking forward to this event. Check it out!

I will be taking direct part in four sessions:
  • K for Institutions and Partnerships: "Public-Private Partnerships: Cross-fertilisation of Knowledge"
  • K for Networks and Communities of Practice: "Leveraging Connections among Networks"
  • K for Rural Communication: "Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas"
  • K for Institutions: "Making Networks Work Within Institutions"
and sitting in on many more!

Registration for the Share Fair is already open online. For those who can't be there, keep a look out for posts, blogs, tweets, blips, etc. on the event all next week using the "sharefair09" tag.