David J. Grimshaw


Dr David J. Grimshaw was Head of International Programme (New Technologies) with Practical Action and previously a Senior Research Fellow (Emerging Technologies) with the Department for International Development. David is also a Visiting Professor of ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London and a Visiting Professor of Development and Technology at Coventry University. He was on the faculty at Cranfield School of Management, at the University of Leeds and Warwick Business School, University of Warwick. Previously completed research projects include the use of geographical knowledge by business, knowledge exploitation and e-business. He is the author of Bringing Geographical Information Systems into Business, second edition published by John Wiley Inc. (2000) and joint editor of IT in Business: A Manager's Casebook (1999) and Strengthening Rural Livelihoods: The Impact of Information and Communications Technologies in Asia (2011). David has published many papers in academic journals, international conferences and the professional press. Recently completed research includes a systematic review of ICT partnerships in poverty reduction, Connecting the First Mile, and Podcasting in Zimbabwe. He collaborated with the Universities of Sussex, Lancaster, and Durham on an ESRC funded project entitled, Delivering Public Value from New Technologies. Acted as a mentor to the EPSRC funded project on Bridging the Global Digital Divide and he contributed to the Sussex Manifesto process. He ran the first nanodialogue in Zimbabwe in collaboration with Demos and has since engaged in dialogues on nano and water in Peru and Nepal, collaborating with Cambridge University. As an independent consultant David has advised many companies on strategic information systems planning and on geographical information systems. He recently helped to establish a new charity, Science for Humanity, and often contributes to SciDev.Net. He is on the Steering Group of MATTER an organisation who's remit is to enable new technologies to work for all.

Recommended reading: http://practicalaction.org/newtech

Posts by David J.

  • Phones overtake radio in ownership by the poor

    May 31st, 2011

    LirneASIA have just published a report based on survey data in South Asia which concludes that more people at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) own a phone than a radio.   So the traditional channel of knowledge sharing with the poor has now been overtaken by the phone.   Interestingly, most respondents had never heard or used the Internet.   What is the implication for our knowledge sharing work?

    Clearly we need to use a multi-channel approach.   Information in local voices that might have been broadcast or podcast now needs to be supplemented with the mobile phone.   This will increase the reach of our knowledge in both scale and geography.   My hope is that we can work with the m:labs network to develop the mobile channel to our knowledge that currently resides in Practical Answers.

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  • How can M-apps be demand led rather than supply push?

    Helsinki, Finland, Helsinki
    May 31st, 2011

    There is some skepticism about how mobile apps can really reach poor people.   After all surely it is the market that decides what apps are developed and that essentially is a supply push approach.  Also, as noted by some earlier commentators on this blog…many people do not have smartphones.   This second concern is most easily dismissed: the end user may only need a phone capable of SMS messaging services.   The newly launched m-farm service in Kenya relies on this “lowest common denominator” approach: the whole system uses web sites, smartphones, and SMS but the interface with farmers in the field is with SMS.

    The first concern is more serious.   How can we enable m-app development to be demand led?   This is the conversation I have been having here in Helsinki with the leaders of the m:labs for east and southern africa.   My suggestion is that workshops of stakeholders be convened.   At such workshops there would be poor communities, computer software experts, NGO’s, and scientists.   The focus of workshops would be on problems and how solutions might be designed.   The potential business models would also be considered at this early stage.   In this way we may have the opportunity to enable the development of m-apps to genuinely deliver benefits to poor people.

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  • What is the role of innovation in development?

    May 30th, 2011

    “I have a dream that next year productivity will grow by 3%”.   If this had been Martin Luther King’s dream then he would not have been remembered.   So, began a talk by Pekka Himanen who challenged the norm of development narrative resting on the back of economic growth.   He suggested a need for promoting a more dignified life.   How can we have more inclusive growth?

    Finland provides a model that has delivered growth but also greater social inclusion for the people.   Home to such innovation as Linux, Nokia, and “Angry Birds”, Finland invests 4% of GDP in research and development – more than twice the average of developed nations.  How is this done?     “Success is moving from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”

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  • Why is Kenya an Innovation Hub?

    Helsinki, Finland, Helsinki
    May 30th, 2011

    Knowledge and resources…is the answer being given at the Global Forum on Innovation.   At the i-hub in Nairobi people were given mobile phones and created amongst other things m-farm.   A sisal rope machine was developed in East Africa by a local person who is now been given some capacity building to develop his innovation to scale.  

    Is this an example of technology justice?   This raises the issue of who might drive technology justice.  Is there a role for intermediary organisations?   The i-hub and m:lab in Kenya are places where innovation happens…where people can be exposed to non-traditional environments that positively encourages new things.

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  • Global Innovation and the Poor

    Helsinki, Finland, Helsinki
    May 30th, 2011

    The World Bank Group is this week hosting the fourth global forum on innovation in Helsinki.   It is attended by over 600 people from 90 countries.   The discussion at the donor meeting was around the successes and challenges of using ICT to facilitate innovation.   The climate innovation centres were recounted as a key to promoting local innovation.   Practical Action in Kenya has participated in workshops with the first climate innovation centre in Nairobi.  

    Such linkages to local groups is essential to a sustainable approach without which we often have seen a failure of appropriate technology to reach poor people.   Indeed one of the key challenges of innovating with ICTs is to ensure that we don’t increase poverty by creating yet another technology elite.  So it is vital to have inclusive dialogues and to capture the innate innovative capability of local people to solve their own problems.

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  • An Invitation to Participate Online in WSIS Forum Workshop

    May 17th, 2011

    This afternoon in Geneva I will be participating in a workshop about the development impact of stakeholder partnerships in ICT4D.   You are invited to join us via the web.   Please follow the instructions below:

    I am delighted to be able to let you know that Cisco are generously sponsoring the opportunity for anyone to participate in the session on the Development Impact of Multi-stakeholder Partnerships in ICT4D ( http://groups.itu.int/wsis-forum2011/Agenda.aspx?event=event_60) that the Collective is convening from 16.30-18.00 Geneva time (15.30-17.00 UK time) on Tuesday 17th May at the WSIS Forum ( http://groups.itu.int/default.aspx?tabid=856).  Please share this information as widely as possible, so that colleagues across the world can join in our discussions and deliberations.

    To join the online discussion, please use the following information:

    Meeting Number: 608 639 429
    Meeting Password: 123

    To join this meeting (Now from mobile devices!)
    1. Go to https://ciscosales.webex.com/ciscosales/j.php?J=608639429&PW=NYzY4NDE5MjI3
    2. Enter the meeting password: 123
    3. Click “Join Now”.
    4. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

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  • Today is World Information Society Day

    May 17th, 2011

    The UN held a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005 and declared that 17th May would be the World Information Society Day.   This reminds us all of the inequalities in terms of access to knowledge and information that exists in the world. 

    Today I am in Geneva for a follow-up WSIS event and will later be running a workshop on the lessons we can learn from ICT partnerships.  More about the workshop and the report can be found from the ICTD Collective site.

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  • Gadgets old and new unite old and young

    The Underpass, Bickenhill, Solihull B40 1, UK,
    April 13th, 2011

    What do robots, 3D gaming, BBC computers, podcasting, zeer pots and cooking stoves have in common?   Judging by the evidence, albeit anecdotal, at the gadget show live in Birmingham today the answer is there is something about technology that either interests you or it doesn’t.   This doesn’t depend on the age of the technology or the person.   Technology is of interest to a wide group of people, albeit that most were “dads and lads”.  It became clear that a person’s interest in gadgets also gave them insights into the challenges and opportunities posed by introducing technologies into developing countries.   My pre-show scepticism appeared to be unfounded…it was a really worthwhile day: from a personal point of view in terms of the rich conversations I had; and from a professional point of view in terms of the contacts I made.   This is ample demonstration that an organisation like Practical Action sometimes needs to take well judged risks in order to reach audiences that have hitherto appeared uninterested, or unaware of our work.

    Our special 3D glasses were a big hit with kids and all agreed that they gave a 3D view without the aid of electricity – an interesting juxtaposition with the nVidia stand across the aisle where people had to wear special (hi-tech) glasses to see the screen in 3D.   The cooking stove was a big hit with visitors from Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon amongst others.   All were deeply touched by the health hazards from smoke in the home.   The humble mp3 player coupled with a solar charger captured many people’s imagination.   Most people guessed the function of the zeer pot and instantly appreciated the way in which such technologies could be adopted locally.   Those interested in camping wanted a solar lantern for their tent.

    The show was the start of a conversation with a group of people who are fascinated by technology.   Many visitors wanted to take the short questionnaire to determine what kind of geek they are: social, work, collector or uber – if you are interested in joining the geek club more information can be found by following the link.   We need to continue that conversation to ensure that all of humanity can have a choice about the technology they use.   Please join us in that conversation…

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  • Gadgets for you or for all?

    Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
    April 12th, 2011

    The gadget show live at the NEC is expecting 100,000 visitors.   All, no doubt excited by the prospect of ever newer faster, smarter, smaller gadgets that will transform our daily lives.   Or will they?   To truly transform our lives there would have to be some quantum leap in functionality that the gadget could deliver.   But this is unlikely to be the case with most of the gadgets at the show.   Most of the visitors will, I imagine, already have a digital camera, a music player, and a mobile phone.   So will the newly acquired gadget simply be a fashion accessory?

    What would a gadget do for someone living in poverty in a rural area of Nepal or Zimbabwe without access to electricity?   Here a gadget may enable a family to access clean drinking water, irrigate their crops or cook dinner without creating smoke that would damage their health.   The key difference between “them and us” is that for “them” there is often no choice.   There is either no money to buy a gadget or no gadget available.   For “us” the choice is almost too much…overwhelming amounts of gadgets, with varied prices and functions.

    My hope is that those who take an interest in gadgets will pause to think about “them” and ask “how can we make technology choices open to all in the world?”

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  • Using Local Voice to Share Knowledge in Rural Zimbabwe: Digital Extension

    November 30th, 2010

    Stockholm Challenge Finalist 2010

    Our work on podcasting in Zimbabwe has just received global recognition.   The Finalists in the prestigious Stockholm Challenge have been announced today, 1 December 2010.  Our project has been selected by a panel of independent international judges.   More details about our entry can be found on the Stockholm Challenge 2010 website or on the Practical Action site.   Many congratulations to the team in Zimbabwe led by Lawrence Gudza.

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