Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Innovation @ ICT for development sector? What does that really mean?

The ICT sector is moving fast, from ‘incremental innovation’ that involves gradual step by step innovation to ‘radical innovation’ that change the whole ecosystem radically and rapidly.
Unlike other development sectors (human rights, poverty alleviation etc.) ICT4D demands continuous innovation.
The technologies adapted in the sector are originally designed (mostly) for  Western markets. Thus innovation  is required to tweak and package them to match the developing country context where illiteracy, poverty and poor infrastructure dictate the terms.

Tweaking? Packaging? Well, the following example will show how.

Project Name: Agri-clinics (implemented in Sri Lanka, 2005-2006)
Problem answered: Transferring Pest & Disease knowledge to rural farmers, using ICTs.
Where did innovation apply?
1.Define the information access models between state run research institutions and NGOs
2. Design Information Processing Unit to translate the jargon-heavy research knowledge into jargon free simple language
3. Develop information delivery mechanisms via telecentres.

Read the complete article @ i4D online version  or  i4D special issue on eAgriculture by FAO.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

How can we scale up Pilot projects to Sustainable projects?

Never ending pilots? Are you trapped in the common syndrome?

The following 5 steps have worked! This may be a worthwhile insight for you, too.

1. Start - as a donor funded pilot project
     Donor funded projects are valuable seed investments. Use them effectively, with passion and dedication. But seek sustainability (beyond the project cycle) from day one. eg. A telecentre project funded by Microsoft-Unlimited Potential, to set up 12 telecentres in rural Sri Lanka, and train 257 students providing scholarships (2004 - 2007)
2. Extract - the scalable project elements
     Towards the mid-project cycle, observe the successful elements of the project. What element of the project attracts the best attention of the target community? eg. A feasibility study reveals high response from the community for ICT education. That has been extracted for the redesign (2006 - 2007).
3. Redesign them as marketable products and services
    Extract the successful elements out of the project context and redesign them as a seperate product or service. Make them less dependant on the overall project. Repackage them to stand alone. eg. ICT training modules have been redesigned, content improved, national ICT education standards have been adopted  (2007 - 2008)
4. Prototype marketing
    Introduce the product into a pilot market (eg a small segment of the same community) as a fee based service (not free). Educate them as to why charging a fee is required. (They listen). Inform them about your philosophy of social enterprising. (They appreciate it). eg. Pilot marketing of the prototype product as ICT Education services (2008 - 2009).
5. Re-brand and  launch the product on a national scale
    Brand the product as an attractive, value-added product, that may convince the target community (the very same community) to recognise it as a unique product that serves their needs, and worth paying a small fee to buy. eg. The product has been re-branded and launched as Fusion-Education (2010).

Read about the initial project here, and the latest social enterprise here.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Sarvodaya-Fusion; the inspiration for eNovation4D

Our inspiration derives from Sarvodaya-Fusion, the leading ICT for Development charity in Sri Lanka. Dr. Harsha Liyanage (principal consultant of eNovation) has founded Fusion, as a specialised arm of Sarvodaya, the 50 year old world renowned leading charity of Sri Lanka.

Key lessons learned from Fusion includes:

  • how to setup an economically sustainable social-enterprise operation, in a donor dependant larger development context,
  • how to introduce ICTs as socially responsible, economically sound, scalable operations,
  • how to integrate Information Technology and Mobile phone technology to traditional, main stream development (agriculture, micro-finance, poverty alleviation etc),
  • how to nurture multi-stakeholder (corporate, state and NGO) partnerships towards project scalability and sustainability.
  • how to ensure healthy social impact.
eNovation4D continues to work in partnership with Sarvodaya-Fusion in this mutually nurturing journey.


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We are consultants for European organisations working in international development. Specialized in Innovation - Economic Sustainability - Social Impact Assessment in ICT4D and Mobile for Development (M4D) sectors. We have 20 + years of experiences and our clients include UN Agencies, EU, IDRC.

What we can offer you?

Are you involved in International development, introducing Information Communication Technologies and Mobile Phone applications to support disadvantage communities? Are you concerned about effective products and services in this sector, we can help to innovate them. Do you want to see their sustainability beyond funding cycle? We can help converting the project into a social enterprise. Do you want to understand the social impact? We can design a tailor made model to surface the social impact.