Friday, September 18, 2009

World Bank workshop provides strong signal for mobile momentum

by Brendan Smith

The momentum for using mobiles to promote development built further as the World Bank hosted a workshop on the use of mobiles for social and economic transformation on Wednesday at its headquarters in Washington. Speakers throughout the day used the opportunity to remind Bank employees, as well as observers watching the live webcast, that while mobiles present a great opportunity to boost development, a lot more needs to be done before the world of mServices reaches critical mass.

Vital Wave Consulting CEO Brooke Partridge kicked the day off with a presentation that laid out the scale of the opportunity provided by the global explosion in mobile and talked about the ways in which the World Bank and others in the development community could support efforts to scale mobile applications, including research that supports the business case for mServices. Senior Consultant Brendan Smith followed later with a talk on the landscape for mobile health applications, and pointed to some of the success factors that could allow the many pilots out in the field reach a level of sustainability that might be a game changer for those without access to quality health care.

Other presenters, from organizations like CGAP, Grameen Foundation, MobileActive and Voxiva, covered areas such as mobiles in education, rural development, governance and banking/payments. The common refrain was one of cautious enthusiasm: mobiles now reach further into the developing world than any other infrastructure and hold huge potential to change lives, but a great deal more coordination on the part of players in the government, NGO and private sector will be required before that potential is realized.

The main event page is at You can watch the recorded webcast at mms://

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