Remarks by Michael Yates, Director of the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, at the Mobile Solutions Development Forum, Asia 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014
Mobile Solutions for Development
USAID RDMA Mission Director Michael Yates addresses the Mobile Development Solutions Forum, Asia 2014 Forum in Bangkok
USAID RDMA Mission Director Michael Yates addresses the Mobile Development Solutions Forum, Asia 2014 Forum in Bangkok
Richard Nyberg/USAID

Good morning!  Welcome to USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia’s (RDMA) first Mobile Solutions for Development Forum! 

I understand we have close to 100 people with us today, with a wide range of backgrounds - USAID staff from around the world, implementing partners, local NGOs and academic institutions, and technology companies. 

And that mix is quite deliberate, as we strongly believe increasing dialogue between the technology and development communities is critical to addressing many of the world’s most challenging problems.

And special congratulations and welcome to our five Mobile Solutions for Development Contest Finalists! 

We all know science and technology are powerful drivers of social and economic change.  Mobile technology is an especially versatile and powerful tool that is changing how we interact with one another, and with our communities, our governments, and the world.

Our USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, has been reorienting USAID to focus more on the transformative power of science, technology, innovation and partnerships (STIP) to improve development outcomes.  And here in RDMA we also have our own Teresa Leonardo effectively encouraging us all to do the same, and broadening our horizons.  Thank you, Teresa!

In response, RDMA and other USAID missions have been increasing integration of these elements (STIP) into our portfolios, including by using mobile and other technologies to 1) accelerate development progress, 2) support research to fill knowledge gaps, and 3) build capacity to strengthen evidence-based decision making.

Capitalizing on power of mobile tech is a key S&T priority for us all.  Mobile phones now found most everywhere, with more than 6 billion subscriptions worldwide; the rate of increase in subscriptions is four times the rate of global population growth!  We would be crazy not to take advantage of the power of this increasingly useful tool, for delivering vital information - and for collecting vital information - even with people in hard-to-reach areas.  This really comes down to helping to connect people to one another and to information, and that can bring greater empowerment.

I’m told the average Smartphone has more computing power than the best desk-top had in 2005.  That’s amazing progress, especially if we look at the accelerating rate of change.  But we also know technology alone solves nothing; in development terms, it is only as important as the problems it is directed towards addressing, and its usefulness must be measured in on-the-ground results.  That’s what we are interested in – not the mobile technologies per se, but rather how they can be used to help achieve better development results – what are the challenges, and the opportunities.

That’s why we’re holding today’s Forum, to bring people together who are already using - or are deeply interested in using - mobile technologies to address the region’s most important development challenges, whether these be in environment, health, livelihoods, or improved transparency and governance.

Today’s Forum also kicks off a four-day mobile tech training for USAID staff that will highlight existing effective mobile tech approaches - including those being used by our contest winners.  We hope this will strengthen people-to-people connections between the development and technology communities, and open a discussion on how we can better harness this very powerful tool.

We also hope this event will also help catalyze stronger partnerships between USAID and the tech community to encourage better development results.  We wish you all very productive discussions today, and a great training event.

Remember, the Voyager I left our solar system with less computing power than today’s smart phones.  We really do now have in our hands - literally – an incredibly powerful tool that can help make the world a better place.  Let’s learn to use it, and use it wisely.

Thank you all, and enjoy your Forum!

Bangkok, Thailand
Issuing Country 

Last updated: January 06, 2014

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