Mobiles for Development by Michael Sean Gallagher

General highlights (provided on demand of participants):

The list of all the recorded MobiMOOC webinars can be found here

Presentation on Mobiles for Development (M4D) by Limbanazo Kapindula was given on Wednesday 26 September 2012.
Limbanazo Kapindula from Malawi will describe his work on a few mhealth projects designed to improve access to family planning and children health services. Limbanazo will discuss his use of particular tools in these projects, including FrontlineSMS. The goal of this webinar is to introduce a practical application of M4D towards development needs.
The YouTube video can be viewed here:
For those on mobile

Information on this topic:

Group on mobiles for development (m4d) Michael Sean Gallagher and Limbanazo Kapindula:

I am Michael Gallagher, this week's facilitator (my short bio is at the bottom of this page), and we will be collaborating on Mobiles for Development (M4D) this week. Often mobiles for development (M4D) is seen as a subset of ICT4D, which is technically true but limiting in how we view the potential of mobile technology in developing nations. Mobile technology is quite likely the most ubiquitous form of information technology on the planet (depending on how you define information technology) and it is this ubiquitousness that gives its such transformative power. If everyone or nearly everyone has the technology, it would be foolish to ignore it.

Over the last decade, we have seen countless occasions of self-organizing, self-sustaining communities of interest spring up via mobile devices throughout the developing world and we have seen applications spring up to support this activity. While these are certainly exciting developments (and they are most certainly exciting), there is still a long ways to go to in terms of development.

So during this week, our goals are to introduce you to some background on M4D, work together on developing an idea of what a good M4D project looks like through some case study analysis, and even hear some presentations and ask some questions to some individuals who have effectively use tools like Frontline SMS to leverage mobile technology in their own projects. Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to interact, collaborate, and network with your fellow participants. As a MobiMOOC alumni, I can honestly say I was truly impressed by the level of engagement that existed with this community well after the course officially ended. See your fellow participants as part of a larger professional and learning community and work together as early and often as possible. If you have a chance to go off and work on your own M4D projects together, that would be the ultimate indication of success for this week. So collaborate early and often.

To get started, take a look at this short video I put together as an introduction to Mobiles for Development (M4D). Once you worked through the presentation, go ahead and complete Activity #1 as listed below. That should be enough to get us started. I have provided the presentation below as both a Slideshare (without audio) and a YouTube video (with audio) and as a podcast (just audio).

Below you will find the goals, the questions, and the activities for the week. To make it easy on everyone to get started, go ahead and complete Activity #1 on the discussion board and we can start the discussion from there.

Proposed Goals

  • To introduce current trends in M4D and stimulate discussion
  • To present resource listing of successful and ‘failed’ M4D projects
  • To provide ‘hands-on’ demonstration of M4D tool (Frontline SMS)
  • To provide opportunities for collaboration (in other mobile projects)

Discussion prompts

  • Why bother with M4D in developing nations? Isn't traditional ICT or even a non-technological solution better?
  • How sustainable are these initiatives?
  • How could strategies from M4D efforts assist underserved/underresourced/underprivileged communities in your region?
  • How do you measure success in these projects?


  1. Watch the video or presentation introducing M4D. Disagree with the assumptions made there? Please say so on the discussion board.
  2. Introduce yourself on the discussion board, let us know why you are interested in ICT4D or M4D, and are you interested in collaboration post-course? Also, let us know what areas you would like to work in or are interested in geographically. Remember, there are pockets in developed nations that can be served by these projects, so the geography could just be your hometown.
  3. Wiki resource of M4D efforts (optional). Add mobile applications or services that you have heard of or are interested in. Post them to the discussion board and I will add your choices to the Resources page.
  4. Case study discussion: see below
  5. Watch the introductory FrontlineSMS video (see below) and respond to the prompts on the discussion board.
    1. Limbanazo Kapindula, Lilongwe, Malawi: Using m-Health to Improve Access to Family Planning and Child Health Services in Malawi, an experience from 3 projects. Wednesday, September 26, 12:00 PM (Brussels/Malawi time. Check here to find YOUR corresponding timezones). To join the presentation, click
    2. Sophie Baron, Cambodia, Institut Pasteur du Cambodge: Epidemiologica Surveillance of Human and Animal Diseases

What are we discussing this week?

This week will focus specifically on mobile learning (and mobile applications in general) in developing regions, more commonly referred to as M4D. Mobile technology represents the technology of greatest penetration in the developing world and therefore offers an opportunity for development, an opportunity that many developing nations have been quick to seize. We have seen great ingenuity in mlearning projects in developing regions and these range across the disciplinary spectrum. Since we have but one week to discuss these, the mlearning projects we will highlight this week will be those that generally are responses to developmental needs, namely
  • health
  • agriculture
  • literacy
  • governance
  • banking

However, we are starting to see the genesis of mlearning activity in other areas as well, including higher education and business. Further to this activity is the development of mobile applications and products often designed (or co-designed) in developing nations specifically for the needs of developing nations, a very encouraging trend. Some examples of these include

A presentation will be given later in the week on how to use one of these tools, namely Frontline SMS, for your own mlearning needs. In short, this week will cover the following:
  • M4D background
  • M4D projects: successes and failures
  • M4D resources, applications, and tools
  • M4D calls for collaboration: network early and often

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this week, hopefully you will be able to
  • understand the current state of M4D in developing regions
  • understand the general facets of a successful M4D project
  • use or understand how Frontline SMS could be used for your own mLearning project

Facilitating Participation and Collaboration

In order to involve as many participants as possible, you will find that most of the activities for the week are organized asynchronously, which means that you will be able to adjust your participation according to your schedule. In keeping with the spirit of an open course on mlearning, you will find that all the materials and discussions for the week can be accessed via a mobile device.There will be one synchronous presentation offered for the week, a demonstration on how to use Frontline SMS for your mlearning projects. However, this presentation will also be recorded and made available through the MobiMOOC course site.

As for collaboration, I strongly encourage you to collaborate as often as possible, identify kindred spirits working or interested in related fields, and post calls for collaboration to the discussion board, Twitter, or your blog. You would be surprised how many research projects I have conducted with people I have never physically met. A willingness to collaborate is in the spirit of a MOOC and it is my experience (in the past MobiMOOC and in other online or mobile learning courses) that these collaborations are some of the most fruitful you will ever experience. So, put yourself out there to collaborate. If you have a project in mind and need help, post it to the discussion board or ask for volunteers. You would be surprised how generous your fellow participants can be with their time, enthusiasm, and expertise. I strongly encourage you to follow some relevant threads to learn more about developments in ICT4D and M4D. Adding these Twitter searches to your twitter client should be enough to get started:

Case Studies

Each of these case studies are taken from the excellent service and each represent a different facet of mobile use for development purposes. Please take a moment to choose one or more and read the supporting documentation and respond on the Google Group discussion board. Feel free to use these questions to get you started and create your own and share your experiences!
  • Who is this project serving? How were they not being served by non-mobile projects or services?
  • Is this approach sustainable?
  • Can this project scale?
  • What are the limitations of this approach?
  • What could you apply from this project to projects you are working on or projects in your own country?



My name is Michael Sean Gallagher and I will be facilitating this week’s session on mobile for development (M4D), often considered a subset of the larger ICT4D field. I am currently a doctoral student at the Institute of Education, University of London working on research around developing academic collaborative networks in developing regions based primarily in mobile environments. My doctoral supervisor is Dr. Niall Winters, who conducted this week of activities for the original MobiMOOC in 2011. My research will specifically focus on mobile academic communities of practice in the universities of Zanzibar and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. I am currently based in London, but have worked in the academic and development field in the USA, Africa, Asia, and now the UK for several non-profit organizations. I was a teacher for many years.

More importantly to this MobiMOOC, I was a student/participant on the first MobiMOOC (2011) and so I feel as though I understand some of the potential for this format for mlearning, as well as some of the difficulties that participants face in such a limitless environment. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to say so in the forums or directly to me. Remember, your fellow students are the key to success in open learning. Rely on and help them early and often. I can be contacted (and I encourage you to do so) in whatever social network suits your preference: