Emerging Trends | SDG1
November 15, 2013

Ushering in the m-Powering Development Initiative

By Brahima Sanou

The month of October marked the First Advisory Board meeting for the m-Powering Development Initiative a new initiative launched by BDT. The objective of this initiative is to create a new ecosystem for ICTs and bring a human face to information and communication technologies (ICT) in the developing world. Considering this, I truly believe the potential for m-Powering Development is infinite.

Many might find themselves wondering: what exactly does m-Powering Development mean? The ‘m’ alludes to mobile technology. The real focus of this initiative is to “Empower” people through mobile technology to achieve their aspirations and goals for sustainable development.

In my opinion, it is not fair that in rural and underdeveloped areas women continue to lose their lives during childbirth when technology exists to prevent this. It is not fair that non-communicable diseases continue to persist throughout the world when mobile technology can spread awareness for prevention. It is not fair that a child born today can still be denied a proper education when people elsewhere can have access to the Internet and online resources.

Much is being done to address the social and economic needs of people in the developing world through mobile technology. A clear example of the scope of this technology is the mobile revolution currently sweeping across the developing world. The ease of access to mobile phones, smartphones and handheld devices is helping transform lives, particularly through m-Health, m-Commerce and m-Education.

A 2010 UN report states that mobile phones “are one of the most effective advancements in history to lift people out of poverty”. This statement best indicates how mobile cellular technology is helping improve the socio-economic status of individuals in the developing world and, at the same time, can act as a social anchor, improving living conditions in society, particularly for the most marginalized groups.

Although efforts are being made in the fields of mobile technology, in my opinion more can be done to specifically empower the most vulnerable in rural and developing regions. The purpose of this initiative is not only to avoid duplication among existing initiatives in the mobile sector, but also to examine what is being done, identify gaps or new areas of development and growth, and complement activities by launching successful projects or applications that can be scaled up and replicated to bring real value to society.

Applications and Uses of mobile Technology

Despite the many advances in mobile technology and accessibility, the full potential of this technology is yet to be explored. I am certain that the m-Powering Development Advisory Board can make a real impact towards creating a multi-stakeholder platform for development that will help change lives. The Board Members are eminent personalities with vast experience in their respective fields who have shown a real commitment in the field of mobile technology for development. I am counting on their strategic guidance to identify concrete actions that can be taken and their personal commitment to work together to change lives across the globe.

Under the Chairmanship of Dr Sam Pitroda and supported by Vice Chair Ms Anne Bouverot, the Board has already begun mapping a common way forward and established six Working Groups focused on m-Health, m-Education, m-Sports, m-Commerce, Advocacy and Outreach, and Business Models. With an overall aim to develop solutions and models that feature affordability, scalability and sustainability, the Working Groups have begun defining the content of the initiative and agreed to produce White Papers outlining challenges and existing activities and to survey the landscape in each respective field.

The second meeting of the Advisory Board will take place in six months and will focus on mapping a concrete way forward.

I am extremely proud of the work that has been done so far and look forward to what we can contribute towards achieving the goals of sustainable development. This initiative is of great importance to me personally and I look forward to working with the Board to empower development and deliver solutions that enable people to realize their aspirations for a better life.

For more information on the m-Powering Development Initiative please visit our webpage and tweet us at #BDTInitiatives

By: Brahima Sanou

Mr. Brahima Sanou was elected Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau by the Plenipotentiary Conference, 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico. He took office on 1 January 2011.
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