#DigitalLunch: Can social innovation bridge the digital divide?

This week’s digitallunch kicks off with an old mate of mine from River Path days Mark Weston… These days he can mostly to be found pumping out policy blogs on health and development… But a couple of years ago, he left the comfort of his high falutin’ desk and spent six months in three of the world’s poorest countries…

An account of his experiences, The Ringtone and the Drum is published in the autumn… Tomorrow we’ll kick off our weekly #DigitalLunch with a conversation on some of the autonomous social innovations he saw there.

At the time, he wrote about the rise of mobile payments in a continent where credit and consumer rights have historically been non existent on River Path’s Global Dashboard blog:

The next big battle in the mobile sphere will be over mobile payments. These are a new thing in Sierra Leone, but Africa is the world leader in this fledgling industry, with Kenya’s M-PESA already boasting 8.5 million subscribers.

Mobile payments are Africa’s version of online transactions. Few people on the continent have bank accounts, let alone regular and secure internet access, but many have phones, and cash. Until recently, if you wanted to get money to someone you couldn’t hand it to in person (and as well as buying and selling goods, Africans with jobs send money to relatives all the time), you either had to send it with a friend (not always secure) or use a professional middleman like Western Union or a bank (expensive and often absent outside the main cities). Mobile payments are both secure and cheap, and they do not rely on the availability of banks.

The #DigitalLunch is to be hosted (ie, given a good wifi connection) by the Big Society Network in a quiet corner of London’s Somerset House… Alan in Belfast should be there to keep us tied to home, and I hope to be joined by a range of guests from around the world…

You can watch it live here (on this thread) from about 1pm BST, or you can pick it up on the fly from my own YouTube live feed… If you want to actually join in you’ll have to come into Google Plus, find me at Gplus.to/MickFealty and ping me a request…

We will do our best to pick up your questions either from Slugger, or the live comment feed at YouTube… But bear with us, we’re still relatively new to this…

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