DAI’s Roggemann: Know Local Mobile Realities Before Designing, Implementing ICT4D Programs

November 16, 2015

As the rate of mobile penetration grows globally, youth-focused local programming will need to account for the nuanced preferences of this mobile-first generation.

In “Technology for Skills Development—Using Gaming, Mobiles, and More,” a featured panel at the 2015 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit in Washington, D.C., DAI’s Kristen Roggemann emphasized that ongoing market research is essential to ensuring that international donors and partners are developing user-centric mobile services for their targeted populations.

“Given how fast access and usage norms change in the markets we are serving, it is crucial to go out and talk to youth about what, how, and why they use technology before investing in specific service development,” said Roggemann, principal mobile solutions specialist on DAI’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Team. Roggemann recently completed such research (photo above) for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Jordan Workforce Development Project.

Global mobile penetration is currently 97 percent, estimates the Ericsson Mobility Report; by 2016 the number of smartphone subscriptions will surpass those for basic phones, and by 2020 more than 70 percent of the world’s population will own a smartphone. Roggemann said the proliferation of smartphones is significantly impacting development practitioners who are seeking to leverage apps, social media, and other smartphone-enabled technologies in programming.

“The user-experience bar is so high for most youth we are trying to reach with mobile services, as their first experience with an app is frequently Facebook,” Roggemann told the audience. “We can’t build poorly designed services and expect them to have traction. This is a discerning customer we are trying to serve.”

Roggemann outlined DAI’s approach to implementing ICT for Development initiatives, which includes a standard five-step process to define the objective, conduct deep market and end-user research, and work to ensure full integration of ICT across programmatic activities so that full return on investment is realized.

“The question is: ‘How do we leverage youths’ instinct to reach for their phone to help achieve development impact?’” she asked the audience. “This is what our work is trying to do.”

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