Innovation and best practice in mobile technologies for development
The main lesson extracted by this helpdesk review is exemplified by M-PESA. On the basis of this experience, innovation, if it is to be fostered in mobile technologies in developing countries, requires the presence of three factors:
- a specific and wide market demand for innovation recognised by creative private sector actors taking initiative
- a supportive government coordinating the process, and
- committed board of international donors supporting the innovation in all its phases
The first factor – demand - is present in Kenya, with reference to both health and agriculture, which have therefore been selected here as key areas in which Kenya can expand through mobile technologies. There are various case studies of best practice in these fields. The second lesson is that on the one hand, best practice in m-health seems to leverage crucially on demand, and on the role of the government in facilitating innovation mechanisms. On the other hand, m-agriculture leaves more room for private entrepreneurship, and seems to entail high path-dependence with previous experiences of mobile-based development (the strong interrelation between M-PESA, and the entrepreneurial venture developed under M-Farm, is an example of these dynamics). Therefore, the report concludes with the remark that innovation is cross-sectoral, and maintains this intrinsic feature even when “exported” into the imperfect markets that characterize developing nations.