Extendability in Design
We design industry-sponsored mobile applications to become 'extended' for humanitarian use
- and vice versa
NextLab designs and deploys mobile technologies to meet challenges of global significance, mostly within emerging markets. We were pioneers in the ingenious application of cellular phones to improve people’s lives in the developing world, and are now optimistic that new generations of smartphones can have an even greater impact to reduce the friction that suppresses the entrepreneurial energy of millions of individuals across the globe.
Our goals are two-fold:
a) to launch mobile innovation projects that generate business value for our industry partners,
b) to create applications and services that help base of the pyramid (BOP) consumers become full stakeholders of the world’s information and commercial networks.
To achieve this, we develop NextLab technologies under a design principle called “Extendability”. This principle dictates that our platforms’ architecture must be fully functional for its intended environment (i.e. commercial), as well as easily extendable to other environments for which it can be of value (i.e. humanitarian). Thus, as we develop commercial technologies for our industry partners, we integrate insights and functions into an open source humanitarian m-Logistics platform designed to help local communities respond to natural disasters with greater speed, transparency, and efficiency.
This design principle can work in the opposite direction as well: from humanitarian to commercial. Since early 2010, NextLab staff has been developing an m-Logistics platform to be extendable. Estefeta Mexicana, our industry partner, selected a number of modules from the platform, and we successfully adapted and tested them in its Mexico City distribution center last Summer. The company is now in the process of integrating these technologies into their distribution network, and the feedback obtained from this local engagement informs the next version of the NextLab m-Logistics platform, both in its commercial and in its humanitarian applications.
Estafeta and NextLab are now collaborating with ITESM, Mexico's top technical university, to consolidate a working relationship with local humanitarian organizations in order to extend our m-Logistics platform to disaster relief scenarios in a given geographical market.
As we continue to develop customized mobile applications for our industry partners, and to extend them to humaniratian environments, the NextLab m-Logistics platform will continue to grow more robust and address a wider variety of challenges, both commercial and humanitarian.
A short video that explains Extendability can be found here: http://nextlab.mit.edu/partnerwithus/
UPDATE: to download Jhonatan Rotberg’s ‘Extendability in Design’ talk at the inaugural event of the Legatum Fellows Seminar Series, 21 Sep 2010, click here.