Archive for April, 2010

Blind Man’s Design

April 28, 2010

The Jester has recently been involved in a number of ICT4D classes. These are all well-meaning courses with respected faculty teaching them. They are also all located in the United States. For anyone hoping to teach practical ICT4D skills, such as design or entrepreneurship, this latter point immediately brings up a question: How does one teach practical ICT4D skills at a university that is inconveniently located thousands of miles from Africa?

In this post, the Jester discusses interventionist projects in which the goal for students is to design or prototype technologies, or to write business plans or grant proposals for new ideas. (Note that this post does not discuss academic ICT4D, in which the goals are to cram student brains with language-obfuscated journal articles and to teach them to spout incoherent jargon. That can be effectively done in a classroom even on Mars.)

As a problem faced by wealthy professors teaching rich kids at elite universities in developed countries, it might not be among the most pressing of issues in development, but since these courses are often the first indoctrination of the next cadre of idealistic changemakers, it seems important to set them off in the right direction.

The wrong direction is to make young impressionable minds design solutions for environments that they don’t know anything about while sitting in first-world classrooms and libraries, and then to pretend that they’ll have learned something useful without actually implementing anything on site. This all-too-frequent exercise in ICT4D design and business classes, is effectively asking students to practice what the Jester calls Blind Man’s Design: Attempting to solve problems one’s never encountered for people one’s never met in places one’s never been to. Blind Man’s Design is a lot like White Man’s Burden – arrogant, misguided, and ineffective in bringing about meaningful learning. Actually, it’s even worse if a lucky good idea comes out of these exercises, because students then learn the wrong lesson – that you can devise good ideas in development without a clue.

The right direction is to ensure some sort of immersive experience, ideally where sincere attempts are made to implement ideas “in the field.” The best designers and the best entrepreneurs have great intuition for their customers. How does a person develop good intuition for an environment she’s unfamiliar with? She spends time in the environment. She gets to know everything she can about it. Most importantly, she feels its vibrations until she can tap the rhythms herself. That can lead to a good gut feel for the “real” problems and for real demand, as well as the myriad constraints that a design has to navigate. There is simply no substitute for good intuition in design, and there’s no substitute for time spent physically in the environment to gain good intuition. Anyone who says there are even reasonable approximations to firsthand experience has a bridge to sell.

In particular, the Jester notes that reading case studies of successful design-for-development doesn’t count as knowledge (even if they’re written by as august an intellect as the Jester!), any more than readers of books about Google have real insight about what it takes to be the next Larry Page. Steve Jobs never took a formal course in design, and Bill Gates never finished college. What they know, they learned directly from their personal interaction with their market. Mathematics students have to do proofs on their own; English literature majors have to read actual literature; budding anthropologists have to spend a couple of years living among the natives – why should ICT4D intervention be any different?

Unfortunately, not every ICT4D course conducted in a wealthy country can afford to send all of their students to a developing country for an immersion experience. There are constraints of money, time, and other classes. Plus, not every student taking such a course will be committed to seeing an intervention through.

The problem is not, the Jester stresses, that someone who’s never been to a poor community could never design something valuable for that community. Exhibit A is the mobile phone, which was more or less fully formed before anyone considered them for poor communities in developing countries, and yet it’s perhaps the most successful ICT4D ever (the Jester believes this fact will hold even until his death). Sometimes, good design for rich human beings has value for poor human beings. No surprise – good design is good design, and poor people are people, too. But, if the goal is to nurture generically good designers, presumably there are generic design courses for that.

No, the problem with Blind Man’s Design in ICT4D courses is that it reinforces the bad habit of rationalizing decisions made in the absence of real data. This is a cardinal sin in development. Better to admit you don’t know and that you’re guessing. The Jester sometimes repeats himself when he worries that people didn’t hear the first time: The problem with Blind Man’s Design in ICT4D courses is that it reinforces the bad habit of rationalizing decisions made in the absence of real data and experience.

Design projects inevitably include phases where faculty and students whittle down brainstormed ideas, discuss them, critique them, or attempt to pick “the best” idea out of a bunch. If done by people unfamiliar with target environments, all this does is to reinforce everyone’s badly formed preconceptions, as the Jester has seen in student competitions where teams defend their Blind Man’s Designs to probing judges whose own credentials in ICT4D intervention are questionable. This is often worse with the brightest students, because bright students are spectacularly good at rationalizing in the absence of data. Inevitably, this kind of interaction teaches people to get attached to their own bad ideas, to become proficient at defending baseless decisions, and to believe that a made-up justification is better than acknowledging, “I don’t know.” That’s how the road to hell gets paved.

Many professors who teach ICT4D courses have had years, if not decades, of formal training in buzzwords like “appropriate,” “contextual,” “ethnographic,” and “human-centered,” all of which place a premium on knowing the customer right down to how many hairs they have on their left pinky knuckle. Many instructors also realize – deep in their hearts, if not in their syllabi – the hypocrisy of having students design solutions for groups they have never even interacted with. Yet, they feel compelled to run these courses – maybe they feel it’s the most they can contribute given their own expertise, station, and the golden handcuffs of academic tenure in a developed country. So, what is a well-intentioned teacher to do in the absence of a healthy travel budget? Here are some practical ideas from the Jester, for what could be done in lieu of a Blind Man’s Design project…

  • Do a project for a local, poor community. Of course, the reality of poverty will be different from place to place, but the methodology of how to go about it, and the experience of unexpected challenges will all apply. Important meta-lessons can be learned. As a bonus, a recurring class can develop an ongoing relationship with local partners. The Jester applauds Keith Edwards at Georgia Tech for going this route.
  • Run a wacky design project or an entrepreneurship project, without a focus on “D.” Again, there are meta-lessons in design and entrepreneurship that are worth gaining through direct attempt, rather than through bookish learning. Tina Seelig of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program has some great ideas along these lines. With some cleverness, they could probably be bent to have a little more of a “D” element. The project goals could be less about revenue and more about positive social impact, for example.
  • Establish ties with development organizations “on the ground” who have need for the kind of skills the course is attempting to teach, and let students do projects for them. The important thing is that the partner organization has enough understanding of the problem context, that it has the ability to provide real direction and feedback. There’s no point in taking on an outsourced design project from an organization that is itself at arm’s length from the problems. Likely, the more the project is specified by the organization, the better – while there will always be room for creative input, well-spec’ed projects are hard to find.
  • Take ideas generated elsewhere, and ask students to come up with questions that they’d have, if they were to undertake the projects themselves. Push them to ask any and all questions. The important thing here is to keep the focus on asking questions, and not on answering them. Any attempt at answering them without firsthand experience will, again, be brittle and empty.
  • If it’s absolutely critical to do a complete design/plan project (the Jester doesn’t understand why it should be, except that some academic tradition demands it), put the emphasis on the degree to which the students arrive at the right kinds of questions, and their strategies for answering them. When they make design decisions, stress that they are only guesses, and that what’s important is that they are explicit that they are guesses. Perhaps allow students to arrive at multiple designs, based on multiple possibilities. Don’t even bother trying to comment on the quality of any answers however they get them (unless it’s through actual trial and error at the location). Ask students to explicitly include words like “tentative” and “preliminary” in the title of their projects and throughout any documents they write. Grade students based on their thoroughness in asking questions, and plans for how to get them answered, as well as their explicit admission of decisions made tentatively and with suboptimal knowledge. Deduct points when they make assumptions they shouldn’t be able to make. Resist the great temptation to articulate judgements about the likelihood of the idea working, even if the idea stinks — the problem is that that then pressures students into trying to come up with good ideas on the basis of poor knowledge, instead of thinking through questions and the plan of attack.

All of these suggestions avoid what the Jester believes to be the big no-nos: to have students design their own ICT4D interventions prior to immersion, to build prototypes or business plans which they then rationalize and justify with nothing other than secondhand information, and possibly to have those projects critiqued and judged by faculty or “experts.” The reality is that no one knows whether something will really work or whether it’ll meet all the constraints until it’s tried in situ, not even when endowed with a spectacular intellect like the Jester’s. Why, then, reinforce such a pretension in class?

Pedagogy of the Professed

April 28, 2010

It’s raining ICT4D classes at universities, particularly in the United States! What used to be no more than a sprinkle of classes across the globe, is spreading quickly. As with ICT4D in general, multiple disciplines are contributing to the downpour. Computer science and engineering departments have ICT4D courses; business schools have social entrepeneurship classes; design schools have design-for-the-other-90% classes; and quite a few departments hold classes examining the activity of ICT4D under all manner of critical lenses.

This might be due to growing interest in global development from people who hadn’t thought about it before. It might be curiosity about ICT from people who have non-ICT development experience. Or, it might be recent ICT4D graduates trying to propagate their intellectual selves from newly gained faculty positions.

In any case, it shows that both students and faculty are eager to get into the game. Despite the Jester’s persnickety remarks, he believes this is a good trend, overall. Certainly, it’s a positive sign that people are interested in something other than building a new iGadget on which to polish their Facebook profiles. (The Jester believes gadget and social-networking fetishes to be a kind of pornography – turn-ons depend on minor variations of the same thing; libidos are the underlying motive force; and people spend all sorts of secret time on them. But, that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

But! It wouldn’t be very jesterly to raise the issue if there weren’t some problems, too. And, oh, how there are problems with ICT4D education! The Jester even considered a name change to the ICT4D Curmudgeon. He decided against it only because he likes jester’s hats. That, and he’s too cheap to pay for another domain name. Instead, he will dump relevant posts in the Teaching ICT4D bin.

Myth 4: There’s a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.

April 8, 2010

In which of the following businesses does Google make a profit…?

     a)      Search
     b)      YouTube
     c)      Maps

If you are a typical Internet user, Google Maps and YouTube are probably not far behind Google Search in their value to you. And, if you’re under 20, there’s a good chance YouTube is among the most frequent sites you visit [i]. With all this usage, and so much value to consumers, you’d imagine that Google is raking in the revenue.

But, Google makes almost all of its revenue from Search. They like to say that their revenue is from advertising, which is true, but it’s mostly advertising on Search. Apart from Search, analysts believe that Google is losing money on YouTube [ii], and probably for Maps, as well. (No one but the folks at Google knows for sure, but the financial analysis and circumstantial evidence is compelling [iii].) In any case, Google isn’t trumpeting their profitability.

Why does the Jester care about Google making a profit? Why should international development care? Well, because if Google – sometimes hailed as the world’s smartest company – can’t break even on products that people love, then there’s not a lot of hope for the rest of us to extract revenue from the world’s poorest people for things they’re not even sure they want (see Myth 3).

Unfortunately, another myth – the myth that there is a “fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” – has caught on wildly in development, and for now it shows no signs of subsiding. People have been taken in by the smooth rhetoric of C. K. Prahalad and gangs of me-too business professors, eager to demonstrate their dubious relevance to the problem of poverty. Even non-profits with good successes behind them seem to have swallowed this nonsense, and have begun a hunt for more profit-oriented solutions. Let’s examine this rhetoric, which the Jester calls the “BOP fallacy.” Like Swiss cheese, it’s full of holes.

First, the claim is that non-private organizations – i.e., governments, non-profit s, and multilaterals – haven’t achieved much in development. Now, on the one hand, this might be true, because the record of development itself is bleak, as William Easterly has noted extensively [iv]. But, the alternative without non-private investments in global development would be far worse. In most countries, the vast majority of education and healthcare costs are taken on by governments – and efforts to privatize these industries have had a poor record. Next, whatever you may believe of the eventual value of the Green Revolution in Asia, over two decades, it flipped countries like India from net importers of food to net exporters. Much of the research and implementation of the Green Revolution was funded in great part by large non-profits like the Rockefeller Foundation, by multilaterals like the World Bank, and India’s own government. And, what about smallpox, still the only human disease to have been systematically eradicated? The credit goes to the World Health Organization and national governments all over the world.

Second, the BOP fallacy says that non-private organizations can’t sustain themselves financially. This is another ridiculous claim. Foundations like the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation were established a hundred years ago, and not only have their coffers not shrunk, they’ve grown over time, with ups and downs due to investment markets. Organizations like the International Red Cross have been around for even longer, and they subsist largely on private donations. In fact, non-profits are amazingly good at sustaining themselves (in some cases, the Jester would even say, too good – once established, non-profits, like most other organizations, want to preserve themselves; no one wants to be out of a job).  

Third, and based on these first two fallacious points, the BOP storyline concludes that only for-profit initiatives can deliver the world of poverty. But, Prahalad himself struggled to find real exemplars of for-profit initiatives to make his point. His book is full of questionable examples. The e-Choupal village information centers are a cost center for ITC, and while they fan the flames of the PR they get from it, the number of centers has remained at 6500 in the six years that I’ve known of them. (Richa Kumar’s financial sensitivity analysis shows that at best, they are just barely breaking even – and she was being kind[v]. In 2004, when I went to visit an e-Choupal center, the sanchalak proudly showed me a PC gathering dust.) The Jaipur Foot, a $20 prosthesis, is given away free by the non-profit society who developed them in India. The Jester believes it’s a great program, but he’s not sure how that story fits into a book subtitled “Eradicating Poverty through Profits.” ICICI Bank has been one of the most persistent in trying to make inroads into poor, rural markets, but as of 2007, they have quietly, but dramatically, curtailed their activities in this area. Most telling is the transfer of Nachiket Mor, who energetically led ICICI’s rural banking initiatives as an executive, to president of the ICICI Foundation for Inclusive Growth. Why a foundation, if he could have made ICICI a fortune while inclusively providing growth opportunities for the poor? (One of the very few credible cases in Prahalad’s book of a self-sustaining organization doing good is the Aravind Eye Hospital, but it would be wrong to suggest they are making anything resembling a “fortune.” In fact, their social impact could be credited to the fact that they are focused primarily on ending blindness and not at all on making a fortune.)

If anyone is making a fortune with the BOP, it’s Prahalad and self-styled BOP consultants. The Jester guesses that BOP conferences outnumber BOP successes, 100 to 1. They make their money by charging gullible companies and serial entrepreneurs the corporate rate. It turns out you can make a fortune off of clueless corporations.

The reality is that it costs a tremendous amount to do business with very poor communities. Poor people live in communities that are harder to reach – they’re less likely to be on a paved road; they often don’t have fixed addresses; in rural areas, they’re more geographically dispersed. Systems that are well-greased for capitalism in rich societies are absent or full of friction in poor communities – identification, bank accounts, credit reports, and so on. And, often, human capital and institutional support is lacking. It’s not trivial to remove these frictions one at a time just with a tweaked business model. As most formal banks in India will tell you, the poverty premium is very real. The last thing you want is to have to set up a branch in every village, with a human teller, so that poor village residents can line up to take 15 minutes each making deposits and withdrawals of $2-3 dollars. Prahalad acknowledges this as the “poverty premium,” but as a stalwart business-school buccaneer, he claims that this difficulty is a huge opportunity. He’s wrong. The poverty premium exists for systematic reasons that are inextricable from poverty. Any business that is really “for profit” will quickly swim upstream where there is less market friction and more disposable income. And any businesses really in it to help, will quickly run into Tracy Kidder’s “mountains beyond mountains” [vi]. In fact, the Jester recommends a change of title for Prahalad, who could have gotten it right with one of two slight tweaks:

  • The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty and Discovering that Compassion is a Greater Treasure than Profits, or perhaps,
  • The Fortune at the Middle of the Pyramid: Eradicating Middle-Class Disposable Income Through Profits.

Combine Myth 3 and Myth 4, and the conclusion you come to is that it is very, very difficult to devise a workable for-profit business model, especially if it’s poor people who are expected to pick up the bill for things that outsiders believe they “need.”

Having said all of the above, the Jester would like to issue some clarification, because his outlandish statements are prone to misinterpretation.

First, everything’s worth a shot. There are, to be sure, thriving businesses whose products actually benefit poor consumers. Soap for handwashing is one. Mobile phone voice calls are another. Er, maybe that’s it. But, except for mobile voice calls, these opportunities don’t add up to the kind of fortune that would excite the global business community. In fact, the story these days in the Bay Area is that venture capitalists don’t want to touch social enterprises – they’ve discovered there’s no money there.

Second, business as a whole, of course, is undoubtedly a driver of national economic development. If you could convince rich serial entrepreneurs to move to sub-Saharan Africa and start locally relevant businesses there, hiring local people, that would be worthwhile. Or, better yet, they could mentor local entrepreneurs to expand their own businesses. Geek Corps is one effort along these lines. The Jester believes in mentoring and building capacity on site.

So, to conclude, if you find that you’re just short of breaking even in an ICT4D project, especially after three years of tweaking and alongside 20 other smart, determined people who are trying something similar, you might want to consider the hard truth: Sometimes, there’s just no business model.

And, that’s why there are governments and non-profits.

[i] See, for example, Whitney, L. (2009) Kids’ search terms: sex, games, rock ‘n’ roll. CNET News, Aug. 11, 2009., retrieved Apr. 3, 2010. Bausch, S. (2006) YouTube US web traffic grows 75 percent week over week, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Nielsen/NetRatings, Jul. 21, 2006., retrieved Apr. 3, 2010.
[ii]Analysts appear to agree that Google isn’t making money on YouTube. For a summary, see… Silversmith, D. (2009) Google losing up to $1.65m a day on YouTube. Internet Evolution, Apr. 14, 2009., retrieved Apr. 3, 2010.
[iii]Analysis similar to those for YouTube don’t seem to have occurred for Google Maps, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that Google is struggling to earn revenue there, too: Lenssen, P. (2009) Which Google apps make money? Google Blogoscoped, Jan. 7, 2009., retrieved Apr. 3, 2010. Darlin, D. (2005) A journey to a thousand maps begins with an open code. The New York Times, Oct. 20, 2005., retrieved Apr. 3, 2010.
[iv] See, for example: Easterly, W. (2001) The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. MIT Press.
[v] Kumar, R. 2004. eChoupals: A Study on the Financial Sustainability of Village Internet Centers in Rural Madhya Pradesh. Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 2, 1 (Sep. 2004), 45-74., retreived Apr. 8, 2010.
[vi] Kidder, T. (2003). Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, New York: Random House.

Myth 3: Needs trump desires.

April 2, 2010

Suppose you received an unexpected bonus of $20,000 right now, which of the following would you be most likely to spend it on?

      a)      Travel and tourism
      b)      A personal assistant for six months
      c)      A new multimedia system or new electronic gadgets

When the Jester asks this question in audiences consisting of university students, faculty, corporate employees, or non-profit/multilateral staff, he finds that most people spend on (a) or (c). A few people – usually multitasking overachievers – say (b).

If your sole goal in life were to increase your income, then (a) and (c) would be considered frivolous expenditures. Instead, you ought to take the personal assistant, and then use the time you gain from not having to do your laundry, answer silly e-mails, make travel plans, etc., to do more productive work. But, of course, your sole goal in life is not just to increase your income.

Well, neither is it for poor people! They have other desires, too, and in many cases, they are more interested in fulfilling those other desires, such as for entertainment, than for so-called needs.

The problem with “needs” is that except for the absolute minimum requirements to eek out survival, they are often a projection of rich observers onto the observed poor. When rich folk visit poor rural villages or poor urban slums, they’re prone to seeing nothing but needs: needs for clean water, needs for toilets, needs for basic healthcare, needs for better education, needs for better employment, needs for information. Casting these things as needs gives them a great urgency, but that urgency is not always felt by poor people themselves, who often have their needs met through poorer-quality alternatives. (Note that the Jester isn’t saying that better-quality options aren’t important; just that the need for them might not be urgently felt.)

If you’re reading this post, you are likely to be wealthy, at least relative to global standards. You’re a lot richer than the over three billion people who are below the World Bank’s poverty line of $2.50 a day, and probably richer than the 80% of the world population living on $5.15 a day, or $1880 a year. [i]

Of course, there are also people who are a lot richer than you. Let’s take, for example, Bill Gates, whose net worth hovers around $50 billion. He probably believes a personal assistant is an absolute need, and in fact, he has a small army who manages his home, his multiple offices, his schedule, and his e-mail. If he applied his own sensibility to the life that you or I lead, he’d assume a personal assistant is an absolute need to get any serious work done. Tourism and multimedia? How frivolous! Among options (a), (b), and (c) above, you ought to choose (b).

But, most of us don’t. We don’t because we have reasonably alternatives to manage our home, our office, our schedule, and our e-mail, although they are probably not nearly as efficient as Bill’s team of personal assistants. We are willing to settle for an alternative that a richer person considers a need, and then spend our disposable income on something fun. And, it’s the same for poor people. They are willing to settle for alternatives — what richer people have are luxuries — and then spend their disposable income on something fun.

For example! Many very poor people happily spend on ring tones, which can cost anywhere from a few cents to a dollar, depending on geography and telecom. Harder to believe are India’s “caller tunes,” where for 30 rupees a month (approx. $0.60), you can substitute the “ring” that people hear when they call you, with the music of your choice. You yourself never hear this music. Local photo shops in India also run a brisk business using Photoshop to matte photos of people against various backgrounds suggestive of Hindu mythology or scenes from Bollywood. These services can easily cost Rs. 200 ($4) per photo, in towns where few people earn above $4 per day. Increasingly, people in poor communities around the world pay a few months’ income to purchase fancy phones. And, in a paper that will appear at CHI 2010, Thomas Smyth and colleagues describe a thriving gray market of peer-to-peer video exchange on mobile phones. Informal businesses download a gigabyte of pirated movies onto mobile phones for Rs. 100-200 ($2-4). (Incidentally, have you ever performed a Bluetooth file exchange between mobile phones? These low-income folks who do P2P file exchange do it routinely. They overcome significant UI challenges to do these activities, unlike all of the poor people whose “needs” for better nutrition we keep trying to shove down their throats.)

In contrast, if you were to ask these very same people to pay $4 a month for health insurance, or $4 a month to send their children to private school, all would think twice, and most would decline. They might feel that the free government clinics are enough, or that the most they would pay for private schooling is $2 a month (typical for many of India’s low-end private schools).

What does this mean for ICT4D?

First, it means that needs are not necessarily NEEDS. Just because you’d be miserable without something, doesn’t mean that everyone is. I once met a man named A. V. M. Sahni, an ex-officer of the Indian Air Force, who began development work in and around Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, after his retirement. He devoted much of his time evangelizing check dams, which are small dams that slow the flow of river water enough to soak local land. The result is that many dry areas can go from one crop a year to two or three. The rest of his time, Sahni would go into villages where check dams had their impact, and help farmers move from one crop to two crops. He told me that the farmers were overjoyed with two crops, but that he met resistance when he tried to go for three. Apparently, the farmers would say, “Who is this old man who has nothing better to do with his life than to push us to work like dogs?!” At two crops, these farmers were lucky to net $800 a year; but that was a boon to them, because it was already double what they used to make.  

Second, results of “needs assessments” should be interpreted properly, and in some cases, thoroughly reconsidered. In theory, needs assessments are conducted to avoid doing things that people don’t want. But, in practice, needs assessments themselves are the worst violators of this dictum. Needs assessments come with built-in biases of the people doing the assessment. The Jester has never heard the following question during a needs assessment interview: “Would you find it desirable to have a liquor store in your neighborhood?” This means that needs assessments often throw out, or neglect to ask altogether, information about what people want beyond development-related issues. Sure, everyone wants better healthcare and better education, but those desires may pale in comparison to the desire for a weekly film showing or a more extravagant wedding ceremony. Why is it important to know this? The Jester is not suggesting that development should cater to everyone’s basest desires, but rather… 

Third, it might be more important to build demand, than to clear the path to access. In ICT4D, projects spend so much effort trying to make it easier to have access to better X, without asking first the question of whether X is, in fact, something people actually desire. Given people have lots of desires, and that important goals in development might not be not be among the top, perhaps the emphasis should be on raising demand. One great story along these lines is about turning sanitation (a “need” that no one really wants) into demand. Over half of Indian households lack a toilet, and this is in spite of many well-funded attempts to get them out there. The failures have all focused on supply: lower costs, subsidies, distribution, etc. Recently, though, the state of Haryana began a “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign. With jingles such as “No loo? No ‘I do’,” the campaign has turned a needs-based issue of sanitation into one of aspiration. Apparently 1.4 million toilets have been built in Haryana over two years, partly as a response to the campaign. One Haryana man says, “I will have to work hard to afford a toilet. We won’t get any bride if we don’t have one now.” [ii] Building demand is often more important than designing the right gadget. Smyth’s paper about mobile video exchange, incidentally, is titled “Where there’s a will…” Of course, social marketing like this should only be undertaken for tried-and-true interventions, like toilets. The worst thing you could do is to raise demand for something that doesn’t work.

Fourth, just because something is a need, doesn’t mean there is a self-sustaining business model waiting to be discovered. See Myth 4.

[i] Shah, Anup. “Poverty Facts and Stats.” Global Issues, Updated: 28 Mar. 2010., retrieved Apr. 2, 2010, based on World Bank Development Indicators, 2008.


[ii] Wax, Emily. In India, new seat of power for women. The Washington Post, Oct. 12, 2009., retrieved Apr. 2, 2010.