Crowdfunding’s Potential for the Developing World

A new report, Crowdfunding’s Potential for the Developing World, commissioned by infoDev studies the promise and the risks of crowdfunding as a tool to finance innovation and growth in developing countries. The report, edited by Colin Blackman, also provides an in-depth case study of crowdfunding’s potential in funding clean energy and climate technologies.

Crowdfunding—the practice of raising funds from multiple individuals via the web—first emerged in an organized form in the low-investment environment of 2008, and has quickly grown into a multi-billion dollar industry projected to reach $5 billion this year, channeling funding to hundreds of thousands of ventures globally.

Crowdfunding combines the traditional practice of raising funds from friends, family and community for projects or business launches, with the power of the Internet, mobile technology, and social networks to drive donations and investment. It essentially democratizes financing, putting the decision to fund new ventures in the hands of the communities and customers who would benefit the most.

The revolutionary power of crowdfunding also extends to the realm of international development, the report suggests. Preliminary modeling estimates that the possible market potential for crowdfunding in developing countries could reach up to $96 billion a year over the next 25 years given the right answers to current regulatory, infrastructure and cultural challenges.

In a foreword to the report, AOL co-founder Steve Case highlights crowdfunding’s potential in enabling the “Rise of the Rest,” and calls for further study of appropriate regulation and investor protections.

Organizations such as the World Bank, governments, venture funds, and NGOs are watching crowdfunding closely to see whether it has the potential to solve the “last mile funding problem” faced by many start-up companies.

To assist them in making the most of crowdfunding, the report provides practical guidance via a self-assessment tool, a set of policy recommendations, and suggestions for the World Bank and infoDev to pursue the topic further.

The report also includes a special case study section on climate and clean energy technology addressing the applicability and opportunity of crowdfunding to infoDev’s Climate Innovation Centers.

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Comparing Innovation Performance in the EU and the USA

A report, Comparing Innovation Performance in the EU and the USA: Lessons from Three ICT Sub-Sectors, has been published on the IPTS website.

The report is based on a study carried out by by Colin Blackman and Simon Forge for the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC, European Commission).

The objective of the study was to document the existence of innovation gaps between the EU and its main competitors in specific ICT sub-sectors – namely web services, industrial robotics and display technologies – and to explore the role of government policies in Europe’s future needs for innovation in information and communication technologies (ICT) through a comparison with the USA and Asian countries. Our analysis shows that rather than there being a simple innovation gap with the EU lagging behind the USA, a more nuanced picture emerges in which firms in different countries have strengths in different sub-sectors and in different parts of the value chain. A key lesson from the analysis of the three subsectors is the critical importance of higher education, particularly elite university research, and of local networks as generated by clusters. Governments can also encourage innovation through appropriate intellectual property and competition laws and, more generally, through the development of a business environment conducive to innovation. Finally, Governments can have a very important role through the funding of early-stage innovation.

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Information and Communication Technology is Revolutionizing Development in Africa

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2012 — Information and Communication Technology (ICT) innovations are delivering home-grown solutions in Africa, transforming businesses, and driving entrepreneurship and economic growth, says a joint report published by the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB), with support from the African Union.

Co-edited by Camford Associates’ Colin Blackman, eTransform Africa: The Transformational Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Africa, provides new data on the technological revolution that is taking place in Africa and its transformational impact on the continent’s development. At the start of 2012, there were some 650 million mobile subscriptions, making the African mobile telephony market bigger than either the EU or the United States.  Some 68,000 km of submarine cable and over 615,000 km of national backbone networks have been laid, greatly increasing connectivity across Africa. The Internet bandwidth available to Africa’s one billion citizens has grown 20-fold since 2008.

“The Internet and mobile phones are transforming the development landscape in Africa, injecting new dynamism in key sectors,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region. “The challenge is to scale up these innovations and success stories for greater social and economic impacts across Africa over the next decade.”

The eTransform Africa report emphasizes the need to build a competitive ICT industry to promote innovation, job creation, and boost the export potential of African companies. It identifies best practices in the use of ICT in eight key sectors.  For example:

  • Agriculture: In Kenya, the Kilimo Salama scheme is providing crop insurance for farmers, using the M-PESA payment gateway, helping them to better manage natural hazards such as drought or excessive rainfall.
  • Climate change adaptation: In Malawi, a deforestation project is training local communities to map their villages using GPS devices and empowering them to develop localized adaptation strategies by engaging communities.
  • Financial services: In Senegal, SONATEL (a subsidiary of Orange) is one of the latest operators on the continent to launch a money transfer service that is enabling 200,000 subscribers to send and receive money using mobile phones.
  • Health: In Mali, telemedicine is helping overcome the lack of trained healthcare workers and specialists in rural areas, specifically the IKON Tele-radiology program.

“This report not only sheds light on the path Africa is already on, but also encourages continued creative thinking in how to utilize ICTs to benefit more Africans,” said Gilbert Mbesherubusa, Acting Vice-President Operations, African Development Bank.

The report shows how countries such as Kenya and Senegal are implementing ICT-enabled trade facilitation initiatives, and outlines the key role that Africa’s Regional Economic Communities can play in supporting greater regional integration for boosting economic growth and reducing costs.

eTransform Africa also documents the flowering of technology hubs across Africa – such as iHub and NaiLab in Kenya, Hive CoLab and AppLab in Uganda, Activspaces in Cameroon, BantaLabs in Senegal, Kinu in Tanzania or infoDev’s mLabs in Kenya and South Africa.  These hubs are creating new spaces for collaboration, innovation, training, applications and content development, and for pre-incubation of African firms.

““Africa is rapidly becoming an ICT leader. Innovations that began in Africa – like dual SIM card mobile phones, or using mobile phones for remittance payments – are now spreading across the continent and beyond,” said Tim Kelly, Lead ICT Policy Specialist at the World Bank and an author of the report. “The challenge going forward is to ensure that ICT innovations benefit all Africans, including the poor and vulnerable, and those living in remote areas.”

According to eTransform Africa, the experiences so far offer many useful lessons for African policy makers seeking to maximize the transformational impact of ICTs.  For example:

  • Deployment of ICTs and the development of applications must be rooted in the realities of local circumstance and diversity.
  • Governments have an important part to play in creating the enabling environment in which innovations and investments can flourish while serving as a lead client in adopting new innovations and technologies.
  • Effective use of ICTs will require cross-sectoral collaboration and a multi-stakeholder approach, based on open data and open innovation.
  • Most innovative ICT applications in Africa have been the result of pilot programs.  The report says now is the time for rigorous evaluation, replication and scaling-up of best practices.

eTransform Africa includes more than 20 case studies of ICT transformation in action in Africa, as well as a statistical annex presenting the latest data on mobile and broadband access in African countries.  The study received funding from the AfDB Korean Trust Fund and the World Bank Pfizer Trust Fund. The full report, together with eight sectoral studies, is available online at


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Participation at CPRafrica 2012/CPRsouth7 conference

5-7 September 2012

At the joint CPRafrica 2012 / CPRsouth7 conference in Mauritius, “CONNECTING AFRICA & ASIA: ICT POLICY RESEARCH AND PRACTICE FOR THE GLOBAL SOUTH”, Colin Blackman participated in the pre-conference workshop for young scholars and acted as a discussant.

In the pre-conference workshop, Colin ran a session on Getting selected: Writing abstracts, paper and thesis proposals. For the panel discussion, Colin commented on three papers:

1. Useful and Easy-to-Use Interactive Voice for Emergency Data Exchange -Nuwan Waidyanatha, Manoj Silva, Brenda Burrell, & Tichafara Sigauke  | Policy briefs | Presentation
2. Case study of e-waste management in Kenya: Towards an e-waste management framework – Jecton Tocho & Tim Waema
3. Assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of electronic payment systems in financial institutions. The case of commercial banking sector in Tanzania – Joan Valentine


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Presentation at European Telecom Reform conference

22 March 2012

Colin Blackman gave a presentation on “Spectrum management reform and the role of shared access” at Aalborg University’s Telecom Reform Conference in Copenhagen – “A Quarter Century of Telecom Reform in Europe: Assessing Performance and Prospects”. Powerpoint slides are available here.

The intention is to publish a special issue of info based on the papers at the conference in Spring 2013.

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Report on spectrum sharing for the Commission

February 2012

Colin Blackman was a key member of a team led by SCF Associates Ltd that carried out a major study for the European Commission on the value of spectrum sharing. The final report,Perspectives on the Value of Shared Spectrum Access, provides support for the preparation of an impact assessment to accompany the Commission’s Initiative on the Shared Use of Spectrum (SMART 2011/0017).The aim of the study was to contribute to a better understanding of the socio-economic value of shared spectrum access, including its impact on competition, innovation and investment. It is one of several inputs intended to support the European Commission’s plans to publish a Communication on these issues. The report reflects the views of the authors and the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission.To carry out this assignment SCF Associates Ltd formed a project team of experts comprising Robert Horvitz (Open Spectrum Alliance), and Colin Blackman (Camford Associates) led by Simon Forge (SCF Associates Ltd).

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Publication of the Telecommunications Regulation Handbook

The World Bank has announced the publication of the new edition of the Telecommunications Regulation Handbook, edited by Colin Blackman and co-editor Lara Srivastava. The Handbook can be downloaded from the World Banks’s website for free here.

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Presentation on future telecommunications regulation

Following his work as editor of the Telecommunications Regulation Handbook, to be published by infoDev/the World Bank and the ITU, Colin Blackman was invited to give a presentation with Lara Srivastava on future telecommunications regulation at Webster University, Geneva. A podcast of the presentation is available here.

The talk gives an overview of some of the drivers shaping future regulation, focusing around:

1. Mobile Madness
2. Content, Creativity, Chaos and Crowds
3. Safeguards for Society

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