I spent the last 3 days in Doha, Qatar to follow the 3rd ICTD conference (ICTD2009).
I was here to organize a panel on mobile Web for Social development (see slides and panelist position papers). The panel went very well, and the different views of the panelists triggered great discussions. I was very lucky to get all these great people on board!
The room was full, and nobody left before the end even if we ate part of the break. That’s a good sign!! Let me thank again David Edelstein from Grameen Foundation, Ken Banks from Kiwanja, Gaetano Borriello from U of Washington, Jesse Moore from GSMA Development Funds and Jonathan Donner from Microsoft Research for accepting my invitation to join this panel.
Concerning the conference, this was probably the best event I attended since long time. There were some interesting talks (see the program) but above all, what makes a good conference is the audience, and I met lots of very interesting people.
It was a real pleasure to meet for the first time Erik Hersman (Ushahidi) and Patrick Meier and have lots of interesting discussions. I’m trying to convince Erik to consider the mobile Web channel for Ushahidi and I was amazed by what Patrick is doing in Sudan.
It was good also to meet again Brenda Burrell (freedom fone) and had time for long discussion. She was in Maputo but we didn’t have that much time to discuss. So it was good to have more time here.
Some talks were very interesting, and I particularly enjoyed the one by Jonathan Donner on the Mobile Use by Micro and Small Enterprises (not online yet afaik).
Out of the great networking, attending this conference, even if very academic, is inspiring. After Maputo and now this one, I’m more and more convinced that voice is a very promising channel, and lots of people are now investigating it. This was confirmed by a discussion I had with Jesse Moore from GSMA Development Fund, and a recent report they released on health.
However, discussing in length with Brenda, there is a lot to do in that domain to show to people how to take the best of VoiceXML and related technologies.
I’m also seeing people investigating more the potential of icons, and I discussed a bit with Anoop Gupta, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, who told me that MS will release a mobile platform for widgets soon.
Two other major points that are related to the Web Foundation:
- there is still lots of people that are not aware of the easiness to develop and deploy mobile applications, being mobile Web, SMS or voice. There is a huge potential in raising awareness in this domain, and disseminate information about existing free tools and how to use them.
- there is potentially a huge amount of human resources available to help in Development. I met many people from universities that explained me that numerous students are really ready to help developing and deploying solutions, helping local NGO to integrate ict tools in their work and so on, similarly to what Josh Nesbit did in Malawi. There is clearly a lack of organization to help connecting local needs and available volunteers, and this is perhaps a domain where the Web foundation could help.
Definetly it was worth the trip!