Join ARM and Inveneo’s Micro-Data Center Design Challenge to Win $10,000

Group of young people in training course

Looking for a way to change the ICT world? Join Inveneo’s newest competition: to design an ultra-efficient small-scale data center! Inveneo, in partnership with ARM Limited, is launching a solar powered Micro-Data Center Design Challenge, starting today.

Inveneo is looking for engineers, researchers, and students to submit innovative designs. The top prize for the competition is $10,000 and the winning design will be built and deployed in the developing world.

Given the harsh environments present in much of the developing world, designers will need to create a functional micro-data center that can be powered with a solar photovoltaic system, withstand intense heat and humidity, and run completely without access to standard air conditioning.

Candidates will use ARM based solutions to create the “micro-board chassis” design that will use off-the-shelf ARM based processor micro boards (i.e. Raspberry Pi, Banana Pi/Pro, ODROID, etc.). Inveneo has partnered with LeMaker, which is offering a discounted 15 Banana Pro kit that can be used to build a prototype micro-board chassis.

“We envision a new type of blade server enclosure design. The design will use 15 of these new generation microcomputer boards and will be very low energy usage, DC powered, and passively cooled,” says Bruce Baikie, Executive Director of Inveneo. “Just as BackBlaze changed the low end storage market with their open source design, we are planning to revolutionize the low end blade server market with this challenge.”

The contest is open to applicants who are at least 18 years of age, in teams that range from three to seven members. The contest’s panel of judges includes industry experts from Inveneo, ARM, and LeMaker, among others. The top two winning designs will be announced on July 15, 2015. Please note that the winning designs will be considered open source for anyone to use in the future.

If you are interested in entering this design challenge or to find more information, please visit Inveneo’s website or start the application here.

Have questions? Please email Inveneo for more information. Best of luck!


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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New GSMA Report: Mobile Financial Services for the Unbanked

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Today, the GSMA Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) programme releases its 2014 State of the Industry Report on mobile financial services. Published annually, the report provides industry practitioners with insights into the important developments taking place in mobile money, mobile insurance, mobile savings and mobile credit.

The mobile financial services sector continued to expand in 2014, boosted by the creation of more enabling regulatory frameworks in several markets. With 255 mobile money services in operation across 89 countries, mobile money services are now available in over 60% of developing markets. Today, mobile financial services are firmly established in the financial sectors of the majority of the developing world, serving new business areas and enabling a wider range of digital payments.

2014 in particular saw the achievement of key milestones for the industry:

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A Growing & Maturing Industry

The industry is getting smarter about what it takes to prompt mobile money adoption: active mobile money accounts stand at 103 million as of December 2014 (up from 73 million in 2013), and an increasing number of services are reaching scale. 21 services now have more than one million active accounts.

With effective improvements to the quality of agent networks, the mobile money industry is continuing to extend access to financial services beyond the reach of traditional financial institutions. At the end of 2014, there were 2.3 million mobile money outlets globally, 60% of which are active. While this figure masks variance across regions, there has been particularly strong progress in West Africa in 2014.

Interoperability & Ecosystem Development

As competition heats up in markets where mobile money is already available, we’re seeing a growing number of mobile network operators (MNOs) showing interest in interoperability. In 2014, MNOs in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tanzania interconnected their services to allow their customers to send money directly to mobile wallets on other networks, following in the footsteps of MNOs in Indonesia, where interoperability was implemented in 2013.

In terms of transaction volumes, the fastest growth in 2014 occurred in bulk disbursements, bill payments and merchant payments – reflecting an expanding ecosystem of institutional and business users of mobile money. These transactions represented nearly a quarter (23.1%) of all the value processed through mobile money systems globally in December 2014, demonstrating the growing importance of mobile money as a payments channel for goods and services.

Cross-industry partnerships are helping to drive remittances too, both domestically and internationally. The introduction of a new model involving direct wallet-to-wallet cross-border transfers has led to a surge in international remittances via mobile money, and is helping to reduce costs for users. The median cost reported by respondents for sending USD 100 via mobile money is USD 4, less than half the average cost to send money globally via traditional money transfer channels.

Investment Continues in Mobile Money

For investors, industry partners and stakeholders in the financial services industry, this is good news: Mobile money providers are continuing to invest in improving and expanding their services, showing important commitment to the long-horizon investment required by this industry.

In particular, mobile money providers are investing to strengthen their internal capabilities, with the objective of addressing an increasing number of users and transactions. By June 2014, half of all respondents to the survey had either already migrated their platform or planned to do so within the next 12 months. In addition to USSD, STK and IVR, over 60% of mobile money providers have now made their services available through smartphone apps, providing customers with better customer interfaces and meeting demand from a growing market of smartphone users in the developing world.

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Fostering Financial Inclusion

Mobile money continues to transform the way people access financial services: in three-quarters of the markets where mobile money is available, agent outlets outnumber bank branches. Providers are also making efforts to increase the number of users at the bottom of the pyramid and in 2014, the percentage of rural users and of female users increased.

As all of these changes take place within the industry, regulators are increasingly recognising the major role that non-bank providers of mobile money services can play in fostering financial inclusion, and are establishing more enabling regulatory frameworks for the provision of these services. Reforms have been passed in Colombia, India, Kenya and Liberia this year and today, in 47 out of 89 markets where mobile money is available, regulation allows both banks and non-banks to provide mobile money services in a sustainable way.

As the sections in this report reveal, mobile money providers are working hard to increase the quality, reach and sustainability of their services. Through industry-led initiatives, including partnerships with banks and other third parties, providers are enhancing the customer experience and reaching scale to evolve the sector to a new phase of maturity.

The full report is now available for download here. Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing some of the main findings from the report on the MMU blog; stay tuned!

Claire Scharwatt is the Market Engagement Senior Manager for the Mobile Money for the Unbanked programme, and one of the authors of the 2014 State of the Industry Report on Mobile Financial Services.

Photos provided by GSMA


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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Top Takeaways from UNESCO and UN Women’s Mobile Learning Week

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UNESCO and UN Women’s recent Mobile Learning Week conference in Paris was an ICT-focused event that brought together over 1,000 participants from more than 70 countries. As a participant representing Inveneo, I traveled to Paris to determine best practices on using technology to educate and empower girls and women around the world. I was pleased to run into several key ICTworks’ authors at the event, including Linda Raftree and Jim Teicher.

Ms. Raftree made a presentation titled “10 Myths About Mobile Learning and Girls’ Empowerment”, and it made a big impact in the way I thought about how mobiles affect girls. Several of her key myths of mobile ownership included:

  • Cost being the largest barrier to owning a phone (which is not always true due to family pressures or societal norms that prohibit a girl from easily owning a phone)
  • Mobile phones can’t address the real needs of girls (when in reality mobile phones can address important issues such as domestic violence, information for rape victims, and more)
  • Vulnerable girls don’t have access to mobile phones (when in reality a girl may be borrowing a phone from friends, etc.)

I appreciate the insights that Linda Raftree and other speakers offered, and there were many terrific tech-related resources that were promoted for teachers throughout this event. However, the greater focus at the Mobile Learning Week conference should have been how parents could use technology to empower and educate young girls. Parents are a solid backbone to a girl’s education, and I believe that more technological resources need to become more easily available to them.

Technology that parents already own can be better utilized to push a girl’s education further and better prepare them for modern jobs. For example, since mobile phones are widely used in emerging regions, parents should more often utilize text messages about assignments that are due, or they should receive daily or weekly messages on what children are learning while at school. Additionally, teachers should use mobiles more often to communicate to parents what lessons a young girl is currently working on in school.

Engaged parents are vital to the education and empowerment of young girls everywhere, and resources should be made available to them just as often as they are made available to teachers. I hope there is a better balance in the future – one where educational tech tools are brought equally to the hands of teachers and parents to make an even greater impact for young girls around the world.


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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How Can Drones Accelerate Development in Ghana?

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Ghana is making good progress toward achieving accelerated development using ICT. It is time we consider unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to circumvent key developmental challenges and accelerate the socio-economic development of the country.

UAVs do have an image problem from military uses of drones. Yet with improvements in technology and lowering cost, UAVs now have applications in development, with key roles in aerial photography and videos, remote sensing, and automated package delivery in both humanitarian response and long-term change.

Please RSVP now to join the March Technology Salon Accra where we will discuss key questions and issues surrounding the possibilities, prospect and challenges of deploying drones for development in Ghana:

  • What are the prospects of drone technology for Ghana’s development?
  • In what specific areas of Ghana’s developmental framework can drone technology be deployed?
  • What are the challenges and regulatory issues surrounding the application of drones in Ghana
  • What local research and development opportunities exist to support home-grown drone solutions?

Please RSVP now to join us and fly a drone during this Tech Salon session. We’ll have two key thought leaders to guide our discussions and lead a way forward:

Please RSVP now to join them and your esteemed peers at the next Technology Salon Accra. We’ll have hot coffee and catered breakfast treats for a morning rush, but seating is limited. Once we reach our 35-person capacity there will be a waiting list!

Drones for Ghana’s Development
March Technology Salon Accra
8:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Tuesday, March 10th
New Media Hub at PenPlusBytes
No.1 Ostwe Close, Ako Adjei, Osu,
Accra, Ghana (map)
RSVP is Required

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About the Technology Salon

The Technology Salon™ is an intimate, informal, and in person, discussion between information and communication technology experts and international development professionals, with a focus on both:

subscribers
  • technology’s impact on donor-sponsored technical assistance delivery, and
  • private enterprise driven economic development, facilitated by technology.

Our meetings are lively conversations, not boring presentations. Attendance is capped at 35 people – and frank participation with ideas, opinions, and predictions is actively encouraged.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet others motivated to employ technology to solve vexing development problems. Join us today!


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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How Was mBanking Successfully Embraced in Bangladesh?

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Bringing mBanking to Bangladesh has had many bumps along the road. Before introducing mBanking to Bangladesh, 87% of the population didn’t have a bank account even though many individuals were subscribed to a mobile device. These statistics represented a huge untapped market for commercial banks.

Several years back, establishing bank branches across rural area was not an easy option because of the costs and regulatory constraints the central bank (Bangladesh Bank) only granted maximum of 15 new branch-opening licenses each year.

To address the issue, the country inaugurated mBanking services in 2011. Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) and “BRAC Bank Limited” (bKash), enabled millions of banked and unbanked people for different financial services. To get this service individuals had to dial a number for specific service provider (ex: *247# or *322#) from a mobile device, and then they would get different service options on to their mobile screen. By selecting preferable options people could then easily access those services.

There was no need to have an Internet connection to register the mobile number with national ID & user photo to any service provider agent. Within a short amount of time mass amounts of people used this service because it was fast, reliable, and easy to access.

Now in 2015, 19 banks provide mBanking services. Several banks including DBBL, Bangladesh Islamic Bank Ltd, Mercantile Bank Ltd., and BRAC Bank Ltd. has already made strategic alliances with different international money exchanger organizations for receiving remittance from foreign countries.

Existing mBanking Service 

Today a total of 10 banks in Bangladesh are licensed to provide mBanking service, and eight banks have already launched their services. From 2011-2013 there were 442,269 mBanking accounts opened with 9,093 appointed agents. And total value of transactions up to June 2014 has been an astounding $11 billion.

What does modern mBanking service in Bangladesh offer? The services include:

  • Air-Time Top Up – By this service any mobile user can recharge their balance for calls or SMS. To get the service they have to dial specific service provider numbers, select an operator, mention a mobile number, and take several other steps. Within a minute the individual will receive their required balance.
  • Utility & Institutional Payments – People can pay their utility bill or other bills by this service. In addition parents can also pay their children’s school or university tuition fees, and the schools will just charge the individuals an additional fee.
  • Fund Transfer and International Remittance – People can also transfer money from their mobile account to another mobile, but obviously the user has to have sufficient balance in their own mobile account.

Conclusion

Some conventional users don’t felt that they should use it, and they are happy to continue using a traditional banking system. But in a marketing perspective, we can say that those who did not open a mBanking account yet are still potential customers for the future.

mBanking started with the idea to bring the unbanked people under the umbrella of the online banking sector, especially for rural areas as there are not enough physical banking facilities. And this project of doing so has been rather successful. Since Mobile Banking is a new technology in Bangladesh, it needs promotional activities and greater awareness to inform potential customers.

In addition, to make mBanking service sustainable, I’d advise the following:

  • Revise the service charge for facilities
  • All the facilities should be in native language (Bangla) as well as in English
  • Identify rural areas where telecom network is yet not sufficient
  • Introduce a service monitoring team
  • Establish a separate call centre for questions
  • Create a more efficient ICT policy for all banks

Mobile banking has gradually made life easier in Bangladesh, and not only for people in urban areas, but especially those in rural areas. It is a growing service people are learning to trust in over time, and I’m excited to see what the future has to offer.

Written by Mehdi Hasan, a Monbukagakusho Scholar who earned his Master of Science in ICT4D at the Kobe Institute of Computing in Japan. He is a former Software Engineer for BRAC and a former IT Specialist for ICT Policy Evaluation at WHO. You can reach him by email here.


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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Get Certified in 3D Printing for Social Good with TechChange

3d-printing

3D printing is primed to change our physical world. Twenty years after the Internet and cell phones fundamentally changed how humans communicate with each other and exchange information, this new technology is set to revolutionize the way that we make products by bringing factory to the people and ushering in a new era of innovation and creativity in manufacturing.

Already 3D printers have been used to print low-cost soft-tissue prosthetics and medical supplies like customized tracheal valves, umbilical cord clamps, and splints. Efforts are underway to make it possible to print things like solar panels, greenhouses, dental implants, and more.

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The potential of 3D printing to assist in response to global development and humanitarian challenges will increase dramatically as 3D printers become more sophisticated and affordable and a number of patents expire.

Will you be part of this coming revolution, or will you be left behind, like switchboard operators and mimeograph repairmen? Keep your skills sharp, and invest in your career with the first ever online certificate course in 3D Printing for Social Good, offered by TechChange.

Inspired by a thought-provoking IREX Deep Dive on 3D Printing and a webinar with e-NABLE, this four-week online certificate course will explore case studies across a range of sectors from disaster response to health, to agriculture, and energy. It will attempt to address questions like:

  1. Can 3D printing truly provide significant reductions in supply chain time and costs?
  2. How might it be introduced inclusively into communities so as not to augment the digital divide?
  3. How long before it can effectively benefit the world’s most marginalized individuals?

Like all TechChange courses, the online certificate course in 3D Printing for Social Good will provide a unique hands-on learning environment with animated videos, technology demos, practical activities, networking events, immersive simulations and more. This course will also feature:

And you? Only if you sign up now. Space is limited and this course will fill up fast.

3D Printing for Social Good
February 23 – March 20, 2015
Online with TechChange


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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If Digital Freedom is a Myth, How Can We Ethically Provide Access to Cutting-Edge Technology?

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Ethics is an ever-present theme in Development and one which is sometimes overlooked in ICT4D/Technology for Development – a field in which people can sometimes get carried away with the supposed transformational potential of technology. So it is refreshing to arrive at a Technology Salon explicitly setting out to discuss these complex ethical issues.

Lead discussants for the day are Professor Tim Unwin of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation and UNESCO Chair of ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London and Chris Locke, founder of Caribou Digital. Other discussants (Chatham House rules of course) hail from small and large NGOs, mobile operators, academics, broadcasters and a smattering of people from various technology and data focused organisations – an interesting and eclectic mix for this type of debate.

The morning is introduced around four themes, although a lot of the interesting and animated discussion veers pretty broadly away from these, but the below is an attempt to corral the comments back into some semblance of order. Interested in joining the next event? Sign up now!

When does national sovereignty trump digital freedom?

Intriguingly, this theme was mostly turned into a discussion about the concept of digital freedom:

“Digital freedom is a myth. Corporations give things to consumers in exchange for their data, which they then make money from”

Interesting comparisons emerge between this exchange and the Locke/Hobbes ‘social contract’, by which citizens have given up some freedoms in exchange for increased rights and protections. What contract exists between citizens and corporates, what have we exchanged our freedoms for in a world where ISPs known more about their users than most governments do?! And how will this play out in a world where the role and power of the nation-state is in decline?

What about trust though? In some countries people trust their governments and would rather they held data on them than private companies did. In other countries, citizens trust corporations to hold this data more than they do their own governments. With these kind of differences, where is the global debate on digital rights happening?

Responsibility when collecting, using and distributing data

Aside from the normal and well-known issues around data (privacy vs. transparency etc.) a point was brought up about the fact that for some people, a digital/mobile identity is the first official identity they have ever had. This raises concerns around people’s ability to understand the value of their own identity and data, their relationship to it, and the ability of others to use and control and profit from it. Is helping people to understand this a potential role for NGO programs?

More worryingly was the prospect of why many identity programs have failed to scale – what happens to people who previously had no official identity when governments or other vested interests don’t want them to become official, or they themselves are scared to do so..?

As the world increasingly goes ‘digital first’, we are already seeing exclusion of people without the skills or money to access the web. How much worse is this for people who are denied a digital identity to begin with?

Line between supporting civil discourse and seeking regime change

Starting with a discussion of the ‘Cuban Twitter’ scandal, by way of some lengthy debates about what regime change is, and whether it is desirable – or even possible, some consensus appeared to emerge about the fact that media is an amplifier not a disruptor. It amplifies existing voices and discourses, which can result in a variety of outcomes (comparisons are made between the build up to the Arab Spring with the recent Facebook beheadings). Is it possible for the Development sector to channel funding to ensure counter narratives are also being heard?

More interestingly it seems is the idea that we have “lost our innocence” about the use and power of social media. In the post-Snowden world it is beginning to look like “the tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists were right about everything”… The biggest difference between new and old media is simply that we can monitor the hell out of it. But who is doing this, and who should be…

(And while not mentioned, it raises the age-old question of who watches the watchmen… Or these days the less catchy ‘Who monitors and evaluates the data collectors “. Hmm, that needs work!”)

Should humanitarian and development organisations be doing any of this anyway?

Some fascinating ethical debates emerged throughout the day on this theme…

  • How do development and ICT4D programs ensure they are driven by the needs of the poorest and most marginalised, and not just by the needs of business, donors or overseas governments.
  • Is there a way to balance the financial capital (usually external) with the social capital (usually local) when building programs.
  • Is Open Data always good, or does it sometimes just get opened up to business and the rich who have the skills to do something with it?
  • What should an open-data NGO do if it is in, for example, a multi-stakeholder partnership with a private sector company who wants to keep the data private for 18 months, is it better to just stop the program or keep going on their terms?
  • What about NGO data – it’s not just the private sector, charities collect vast amounts of data about their ‘beneficiaries’, and apparently are exempt from the data collection rules that apply to businesses!

This debate comes to a head with musings over whether ICT4D really even exists or whether we now have D4ICT – Development programs to support the ICT industry… Is the reason why most pilots don’t scale up, because they are not intended to, but are meant to use public monies to open up markets for technology firms in developing countries. Food for thought indeed!

Perhaps the most interesting part of the discussion for me, was outside of the key themes but focused on what is the real purpose of ICT4D programs?

We know ICTs can and often do increase inequality (by amplifying existing power and wealth disparity). But the dominant narrative of our time insists that ICTs fuel economic growth and through this will benefit the poor and give them increased access to markets. The discussion becomes a false polarity of “help the poor through technology” or “exclude the poor from technology”. And if by helping the poor, it also appears to help the rich, the middle-classes, big business and multi-nationals, then so be it.

But are there other options that are not up for discussion? Are there more disruptive things that technology could help achieve, or is it just used to give people “a bit” so they also have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

I particularly like the suggestion of asking the question “who benefits most”… Is a program or technology is helping the poorest, great. But if while helping the poorest it is helping the rich and the multi-nationals even more… Is that truly development? Is that ethical? Is that the “Only way”.

Now I really wanted to end this blog there, it’s a powerful statement…

Unfortunately that doesn’t leave room to include Tim’s fantastic comment of “In the future we will all be chipped . . . the only question is who will be chipped first – the rich or the workers” – which I think is a great way of summing up the potential power issues with regards to emerging technologies.

I also thought it’s important in such a polarised to debate to offer at least one positive rallying point. And we had one, yay! ‘Universal Access’. There seems to be no case against this – everyone should have access to information. End of. So why isn’t it happening, what are the vested interests stopping it happen. There is an interesting ethical debate to take place there, and perhaps a rallying cry for the ICT4D sector to get behind?

And interestingly – now could be just the time to do it – the issue of digital ethics is very much in the public eye at the moment, with Labour discussing the need, and an extremely good article in this week’s Observer Tech Monthly (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/dec/08/tech-companies-social-networks-ethics-body-rebuild-trust-users).

It’s a complex area, which needs private and public, tech and non-tech, domestic and international to come together. Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come. Who will start the call to arms to make it happen?

Links mentioned in the session

Matt Haikin is an ICT4D Manager and Consultant with over 20 years experience in web development and Information Systems


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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