On Thursday September 26, 2013 GeoPoll attended the Mobiles! What have we learned? Where are we going? Conference in DC (#M4D2013). Around 150 innovators and policy-makers met at the offices of FHI360 to discuss the evolution of using mobile phones for international development.

The event kicked-off with a keynote from Gustav Paekelt asking the room where our mobile moonshot will come from and to focus making things “simple, scalable, affordable, integrated, and social.” The morning consisted of panel on the M4D sector, bookended by lightning talks that reminded us all to keep people in the heart of the work we do.

After lunch, Chris Locke from GSMA tried to answer two questions: “1. What does a sustainable digital economy look like? 2. How does the role of development organizations evolve?” In the process he introduced some new findings from forthcoming research in conjunction with iHub Research (stay tuned!).

The afternoon panel covered financing, from micro-donations to large scale foundation funding, seed venture and to larger-scale capital investment. Inspiring “big ideas” talks from innovators from Congo, Ghana, Kenya and USAID Mobile Solutions concluded the evening.

Some takeaways:

  • Thousands of pilots and projects are great but there is a clear push to move towards products
  • Our efforts need to speak to the purse, not just the heart, of mobile network operators
  • Data is essential for demonstrating impact & mobile helps unlock new ways to capture such data
  • To achieve “scale,” going big in just one country may not be enough


GeoPoll leaves the day having learned loads and making many great contacts. Big thanks to the organizers for the invitation and a job well done!