For many years, information and communications technology (ICTs) was one of the most fruitful areas for development, as development agencies sought to increase access to the internet and mobile networks. But the past decade has shown that greater attention must now be paid to applications and services—growth will now come from harnessing those networks to solve development problems.
infoDev supports a connectivity agenda through a series of widely-used, authoritative handbooks for ICT regulators, such as the Broadband Strategies Handbook and the ICT Regulation Toolkit. infoDev has also begun to support applications and content—for instance by expanding its network of business incubators to include specific networks focused on technology entrepreneurship, including Mobile Applications Laboratories, Climate Innovation Centers, and Mobile Social Networking hubs. These organizations promote—through mentoring, accesses to testing laboratories, and, sometimes, grant funding—the development of technologies that solve local development problems. mLab East Africa, for example, sponsored a contest in June 2011, where entrepreneurs could pitch their app ideas to an audience of financiers and industry stakeholders.
Winners received financial support and international exposure. The overall winner, MEDKenya, developed a mobile phone app that provides symptom checks and first-aid information via text message.This is just one example of the innovation infoDev promotes and facilitates. Two Mobile Applications Labs (mLabs), one in Kenya and one in South Africa, were established in FY11, with three more on the way. infoDev also launched five Mobile Social Networking hubs in FY11—organizations that organize monthly networking events, talks, and tutoring workshops on app development—and three more are expected in FY12. Several Climate Innovation Centers (CICs) will launch in 2012 – in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and East Asia - to support local entrepreneurship providing clean technology solutions to energy and climate-related issues.