Archive for October, 2008

Nokia Open Studios

October 31, 2008

Great work by Youghee Jung and Jan Chipchase. Download the report here or here if you are at all interested in exploratory design research, design research methodology, user centered design, emerging markets, mobiles and anything else that blows your hair back.

Read the report, highly recommended. Image is from the report.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)


M-PESA, why it works

October 29, 2008

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Nice commentary from Ryan Hahn on Nick Hughes’ (head of Vodafone‘s international mobile payment solutions) talk at CGAP regarding the success of M-PESA, a mobile banking solution

Why it works;

  1. They focused entirely on offering a single service, and doing it well; transferring money between 2 people using a mobile phone.
  2. M-PESA is simple and easy to use and to set up. All a person needs is a Safaricom SIM and National ID/Passport.
  3. No bank account is needed, which immediately allows a large percentage of Kenyans to avoid the difficulty and complexity of using a bank.
  4. Overcoming this hurdle has led to increased user acceptance; over 4 million subscribers.
  5. M-PESA makes its money by charging commissions on money transfers rather than on investing money. Alternative business model.
  6. Vodafone is looking to replicate that success in other markets. Scalable.
  7. Research done by Olga Morawczynski shows that migrant workers are the early adopters who influence other people to use the service.
  8. The value? Time and money is saved by people having to travel long distances to the nearest bank.
  9. 3,500 frontline agents countrywide means even rural communities are benefiting economically.

M-PESA  delivers a simple valuable service using available resources that is understood and accepted.

I know M-PESA has been around for a while, but successful case studies are proven over time.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

The global recession and foreign aid

October 26, 2008

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So, although Africa looks like it might be okay in the immediate future while the rest of the world collapses, there is a possibility that foreign aid will be affected; ‘there is also a danger that foreign aid might decline. But that’s based on two other events. One is that there’s a major recession in the US and Europe, or in the donor countries. And second, whether the spending allocations that governments make will lead to cutbacks in foreign aid.’ Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Africa Region, BBC.

Yes, there is a major recession and it look like promises made by the G8 are not on track, according to the DATA report, 2007, (pdf link).

If there is a dramatic decrease in foreign aid in the near future, now is the time to seriously think about alternatives. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Google news-Africa

October 25, 2008

Lots happening in South Africa. They even have a HIV/TB advice gadget. I prefer the Project M approach, because it targets a much wider audience using mobile phones.  About two-thirds of all people infected with HIV, 22.5 million, live in Sub Saharan Africa according to the Global Health Council, 2007.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Project Masiluleke and Frog

October 25, 2008

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One of the stakeholders/partners in Project Masiluleke is Frog Design, see their take on the project here and have a look at their presentation.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Project Masiluleke

October 25, 2008

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Biggest news this week is the launch of Project Masiluleke, which ’employs mobile phone technologies as a high impact, low cost tool, in the fight against HIV/AIDS and TB in South Africa – and beyond’, Praekelt Foundation.

See coverage from Core77, BBC and Poptech. Great use of the mobile phone as an appropriate means of communication while being culturally sensitive and very importantly, 1 million messages will be sent per day.

I think this project will be  huge success, an important issue is being addressed, a simple, easy to understand solution has been designed by combining the resources of stakeholders, there are measurable benefits for people and communities and the cost of the incoming message is free. Brilliant.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Africa and the credit crisis

October 23, 2008

It looks like most of Africa will not be affected too badly during this period of financial mayhem, reports the BBC, there are even plans to create a free trade zone. Not all news is bad news.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Innovation in Africa tips

October 23, 2008

From Ethan Zuckerman‘s post ‘Innovating from constraint‘:

  1. Innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you’ve got very few resources, you’re forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)
  2. Don’t fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they’re not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.)
  3. Embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.)
  4. Innovate on existing platforms (We’ve got bicycles and mobile phones in Africa, plus lots of metal to weld. Innovate using that stuff, rather than bringing in completely new tech.)
  5. Problems are not always obvious from afar (You really have to live for a while in a society where no one has currency larger than a $1 bill to understand the importance of money via mobile phones.)
  6. What you have matters more than what you lack (If you’ve got a bicycle, consider what you can build based on that, rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck, a metal shop.)
  7. Infrastructure can beget infrastructure (By building mobile phone infrastructure, we may be building power infrastructure for Africa.)

And Amy Smith on rules for design in the developing world:

  1. Try living for a week on $2 a day.
    That’s what my students and I do when I teach my class about international development. It helps them begin to understand the trade-offs that must be made when you have only very limited resources. More broadly, it was in the Peace Corps in Botswana that I learned to carry water on my head, and noticed how heavy the bucket was; and I learned to pound sorghum in to flour and felt the ache in my back. As a designer, I came to understand the importance of technologies that can transport water or grind grain.
  2. Listen to the right people. Okay, so you probably don’t know what it’s like to carry fifty pounds of firewood on your head. Well, don’t pretend that you do. Talk to someone who has done it. I believe that the key to innovation in international development is truly understanding the problem, and using your imagination is not good enough.
  3. Do the hard work needed to find a simple solution. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”—and it is the key to this type of design work.
  4. Create “transparent” technologies, ones that are easily understood by the users, and promote local innovation.
  5. Make it inexpensive. My friend Paul Polak has adapted a famous quote to the following: “Affordability isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” and there’s a lot of truth in that. When you are designing for people who are earning just one or two dollars a day, you need to keep things as cheap as you can and then make it even cheaper!
  6. If you want to make something 10 times cheaper, remove 90 percent of the material.
  7. Provide skills, not just finished technologies. The current revolution in design for developing countries is the notion of co-creation, of teaching the skills necessary to create the solution,
    rather than simply providing the solution. By involving the community throughout the design process, you can help equip people to innovate and contribute to the evolution of the product. Furthermore, they acquire the skills needed to create solutions to a much wider variety of problems. They are empowered.

And Paul Polak via Nextbillion;

  1. go to where the action is
  2. talk to the people who have the problem – and LISTEN to what they have to say
  3. learn everything there is to know about the specific context
  4. think and act big – don’t do anything that can’t reach a million people
  5. think like a child – children have no limit to their thinking
  6. see and do the obvious
  7. if somebody already invented it, you don’t have to
  8. design to critical price targets
  9. design for measurable improvement in the lives of more than a million people
  10. work to practical, three-year plans
  11. keep learning from your customers
  12. stay positive – don’t be distracted by what other people think (if there
    were a need for it, the market would have already created it)

So here are my 7 hints/tips/rules;

  1. Understand by observing the environment, infrastructure, culture and lives of people by being there.
  2. Think creatively: start big, use constraints as a filter and find the simplest solutions.
  3. Increase user acceptance; build on existing platforms, lower costs and beware of radically different ways of doing things.
  4. Deliver value; what are the benefits for people using the end product, does it improve a persons life?
  5. Economic sustainability; provide financial motivation for continued growth over time. Empower people by improving their economic or social status.
  6. Share knowledge and skills to continue the innovative process both to and from people and communities.
  7. Peripheral vision; keep a look out for other challenges or new solutions all the time.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Design thinking for innovation

October 23, 2008

I have always been skeptical about using the word innovation, it seems like one of those word that gets used too often, however, it is easier to understand innovation than design.

Lets looks at some words from Wikipedia.

Design;  ‘Design is used both as a noun and a verb. The term is often tied to the various applied arts and engineering (See design disciplines below). As a verb, “to design” refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component with intention[1]. As a noun, “a design” is used for either the final (solution) plan (e.g. proposal, drawing, model, description) or the result of implementing that plan in the form of the final product of a design process[2]. This classification aside, in its broadest sense no other limitations exist and the final product can be anything from socks and jewellery to graphical user interfaces and charts. Even virtual concepts such as corporate identity and cultural traditions such as celebration of certain holidays[3] are sometimes designed. More recently, processes (in general) have also been treated as products of design, giving new meaning to the term “process design”.’

Which is pretty confusing, then there is design thinking; ‘Design thinking is a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result.[1] Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking is a creative process based around the “building up” of ideas. There are no judgments in design thinking. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation. Outside the box thinking is encouraged in this process since this can often lead to creative solutions.’

And so we end with innovation; ‘The term innovation means a new way of doing something. It may refer to incremental, radical, and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations….
The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better.

So, what is really needed when faced with challenges in Africa, be it education, health, or water is design thinking for innovation, which in plain English means using creative ways to find new solutions which result in positive change.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)

Project H-Hippo roller redesign

October 15, 2008

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As mentioned before, I am really interested in how Project H is going to redesign the Hippo Roller. Looks like they have been doing some user testing and figured out they have to go back to the drawing board.

Some ideas that caught my eye, were localized manufacture and using alternative parts. That said, designing for severe conditions where skilled people are scarce if a product needs repairs, it would be better to minimize the amount of moving parts and simplify the product and its manufacture.

In order for this product to be accepted by people, lowering barriers such as cost and ease of use are critical. Just looking at how difficult it is to pull the roller up a relatively even slope and pouring seems to me that weight and size are the biggest issues here. Perhaps it would be a good idea to determine exactly how much water a family needs, how often they need it and what is the actual value a Hippo Roller delivers versus the difficulty of using it.

Posted by email from Design in Africa (posterous)