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IMARK course on Mobile Services for development takes shape

Laureene Reeves Ndagire

Mobile applications (m-apps) in particular for agriculture and rural development, hold significant potential for advancing development, and could provide the most affordable ways for communities of people to  access information, markets, finance, and governance systems previously unavailable to them.

In response to this development within the industry, CTA, FAO and collaborating partners of the Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK) group organised an Expert Consultation on mobile services for development held at Reehorst Hotel, Ede – Wageningen. The main purpose was to devise a curriculum on Mobile Services for Development for organizations in developing countries with the necessary tools and methodologies required to maximise the potential of mobile technologies in making their work more effective.

The consultation brought together experts working in mobile for development and partnering with development agencies, donors, NGOs, communication networks, rural institutions and the academic community.The IMARK group makes e-learning resources freely available at www.imarkgroup.org

The Expert Consultation organized by IMARK and CTA from 23 – 25 June, 2014 on the development of the e-learning curriculum ‘Mobile Services for Development’ was opened by Thierry Doudet, Manager, Knowledge Management and Communications Programme, from CTA.

The learning curriculum on Mobile Information Services for Development aims to provide organizations in developing countries and those working in the field of development with the necessary knowledge, tools and methodologies required to maximize the potential of mobile technologies in making their work more effective.

The learning curriculum will provide knowledge to the target audiences, that will help to create the environment and the conditions for promoting the use of ‘mobile services in development and the design of interventions that make use of mobile services that will help to improve people’s lives at beneficiary level’.

The workshop brought together participants involved with the management of mobile services.  The group reviewed and revised as appropriate a proposed curriculum, and considered which organizations or individuals could best assist in the development of learning materials for the curriculum. The expected outcomes of the workshop were:

1) agreement on the learning objectives of a revised curriculum outline and input for completing the revised curriculum;

2) identified sources of existing training materials, methodologies and software tools relevant to the curriculum;

3) statements of intent from institutions and individuals wishing to participate in developing the curriculum; and

4) the identification of subject experts to provide content.

The expert consultation workshop’s process was a highly interactive event facilitated by Simon Koolwijk. Day 1 was started with a speed dating. Participants introduced themselves shortly, where after they shared three times in pairs what they were bringing and hoping to get from the workshop. Finally they formulated expectations in subgroups of four people each.

On day 2, each subgroup working on a target audience, developed the learning needs based on the activities and sub activities. A caroussel based exchange was organized half way through the group discussions. Participants from each small group visited representatives from another group to gain insight and ideas from their group work but also to provide suggestions.

Day 3 was started with a recap of the previous day, where participants asked each other and responded one by one to questions. This was followed by a session where all learning needs where clustered based on a proposed structure for the curriculum. Federico Sancho presented the key items for the curriculum for consideration. Hereafter, the group was divided into subgroups having representatives from the 3 different target audience working groups from the previous day. They received the learning needs on three different colored papers (based on the three different target audiences) and organized them based on the main learning units. This was followed by a plenary discussion identifying the gaps and new items, that could be added to the curriculum.

Next participants discussed and identified resources persons, who want to be involved and on how they could participate in the curriculum.

The afternoon of day 3 was opened by a Statement of intents session identifying individuals and experts for further developing the curriculum.

Finally small group discussions were held about open ended questions and topics that were raised during the workshop.   The workshop was closed with a final evaluation of the 3-day event.