Mind the Gap
July 29, 2009
Those of you who have travelled around London on the underground will be very familiar with these words …
The “gap” I am talking about here is the one between the global website and the local issue. How can a global website, or a new technology like mobile meet the needs of local communities?
The workshops I ran in South Africa recently highlighted this as one of the key challenges to the success of the Betavine Social Exchange. One comment I recorded was “technology is global, issues are local”. I guess there must have been many an interesting blog on this topic .. but I am new to this area so I cannot point to them. Another comment I recorded from Andre was that technology suddenly arrives in South Africa, or the developing world in general, as it is normally created elsewhere and so the local population have to catch up quick.
It was suggested that organisations like eRiders are springing up to help address this “gap”. If you know of others please comment on this post!
The basic concept behind Betavine Social Exchange is to bring together 2 distinct communities; the local NGO community with their knowledge of issues on the ground, and the global developer community (which includes local developers). So, global solutions meet local problems – or do they?
Ilan Copelyn, who is currently doing some work with Sangonet, has also given me a few ideas on this issue … he wrote:
I see BSX being very active in:-
- Design – being the official forum where techies involved on the Mobile Social Development Solutions (MSDS) can seek advice and share experiences
- Implementation – clearly – though it’s a bit hard to swing in the early stages of a funded project – they would rather you find your own developers, get a quote, pay them and have someone accountable to timelines/milestones.
- Deployment – perhaps in terms of building a community of in country tech. supporters who would like to provide their service? I’m not sure about this…
- Long term operational support – I see a big role for OS developers picking up and extending the lifespan of MSDS. Mobile tech moves rapidly – there’s a very real chance of today’s solution being technologically obsolete in a year or two. Also it is very useful to be able to extend a good app with new features, and with mobiles especially there is the need to keep extending the application to run on more handsets. The cost of this technological risk cannot be bourne by funded projects – it requires indefinite commitments to funding. An open-source community could be ideal for this role.
If the Betavine Social Exchange is to be successful we must find a solution to bridging this “gap”. It may come down to networking and partnerships in order to deliver solutions on the ground. It is clearly the case that solutions are delivered locally, however or whereever they are created.