Shared Knowledge

Mobile Applications for Development – the new ‘Change Agents’ of Mountain Development?

I recently participated as a jury member of the mBillionth Award South Asia, which recognizes mobile innovations for use in development work. The 15-member jury evaluated nearly 300 shortlisted contestants from eight South Asian countries, searching for the most brilliant innovations in mobile technology over the past year. Winners will announced in Delhi in July. 

My two days with the team were spent sharing, learning, discussing, arguing, digging out information and leaving no stones unturned to ensuring that the award was given to the right contestant. The whole process was inclusive, unbiased, and challenging, and it relied on the collective knowledge of the jury. The mobile applications submitted utilized a wide range of ideas and the contestants’ creativity and innovative solutions to solve critical development issues using mobile applications was inspiring. It was clear that mobile applications have matured to the point that they now have the potential to positively impact livelihoods, health, poverty, the environment, governance, tourism, empowerment, and inclusion. 

There were a number of mobile applications that made use of location maps to collect and aggregate information – a strength that ICIMOD’s geo-solution team pioneers on web platforms but could be translated into the mobile arena as well. There were also several mobile crowd sourcing applications, which make use of user-generated content to monitor the environment, empower citizens, collect agricultural market information, and aid in disaster management. One such application had an SMS interface for receiving field reports on water quality in rural villages. This service helped connect villagers equipped with mobiles and field personnel working in remote areas through SMS with a receiver who could convert into regular status reports. Today, people can use mobile technology to express their needs and help themselves. It may be that we need to stop pushing so much data to targets, but empower them to reach to us. 

Our Hindu Kush Himalayan region is well placed to harness and strategically deploy mobile tools for mountain development, particularly for connecting and enabling rural mountain communities where mobile coverage is increasing rapidly. Countries in the region have a growing number of mobile application developers, innovators, and enthusiasts concerned with development. Combined, they could be the new ‘change agents’ of mountain development.

- Sushil Pandey <>

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Editorial Team

Andrea Perlis
Deependra Tandukar
Nira Gurung
Subasana Shrestha
Udayan Mishra