Launching Mobile Ventures for the Next Billion Consumers
Period: Spring 2009
Meetings: Tue/Th 2.30-4pm
Units: 3-1-8 (12 H-level units, 6 Engineering Design Points, EDPs)
Class size: Maximum 30 students
Listings: MAS.967, 6.978. This course is also an approved Product-Level subject for meeting Entrepreneurship and Innovation Requirements at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Prerequisites: none for graduate students; permission of instructor for undergrads.
NextLab I is NOT prerequisite for taking NextLab II. Students with both technical and non-technical backgrounds welcome, particularly those with interest in innovation, entrepreneurship and international development.
NextLab II: Launching Mobile Ventures for the Next Billion Consumers is a hands-on technology implementation and business execution course in which students develop high-impact mobile ventures. Such ventures are intended to enable mobile phone applications to scale-up and have widespread social benefit in developing communities and countries worldwide.
Students work in multidisciplinary teams on term-long projects, closely collaborating with project partners, experts in communications technologies and sustainable business models, field practitioners, and with NextLab alumni . Students are expected to leverage technical ingenuity in both mobile and internet technologies together with entrepreneurial zeal in order to implement viable solutions that address social challenges in areas such as health, economic empowerment, education, and civic engagement.
Similar to all NextLab courses, NextLab II’s final class period will be an open event in which all student team projects are presented to the pubic through live demos, poster sessions, and formal presentations. NextLab II students may follow up their projects with Summer travel grants for deployment in target markets.
The main deliverables for the course are:
• A working prototype of scalable mobile technologies application (team effort)
• A venture plan and execution activities for the project’s long-term scalability and impact including entry in competitions, grants, and other opportunities such as MIT IDEAS and $100K Business Plan Competition and others (team effort)
• A research deliverable related to the process of mobile technology and venture incubation. Topics will be selected in the first week of class (individual effort)
• End-of-term live and online presentations of all work performed during the semester (team effort)
Teams with viable projects may obtain funding for travel to target markets in order to obtain the first-hand feedback necessary to prepare their technologies for full fledged deployment into the real world (subject to guidelines and limitations). They will also be encouraged to travel to Mexico City to pitch their venture to top management at América Móvil HQ (the 5th largest mobile carrier in the world) by the end of the semester.
The overarching goal of the NextLab course series is to see its students launch socially beneficial mobile technologies in real world networks as self-sustaining ventures. To achieve this, the course consists of in-class discussions with instructor and guest lectures about live case-studies, as well as a guided process based on both expert and peer reviews.
This course has two main components: a) Technology Implementation (generally on Tuesday), and b) Venture Execution (generally on Thursday). Classes will consist of an 80 min session, twice a week, wherein student teams will present the advancement in relation to set milestones in both the technology and venture and aspects, and subject themselves to class peer and outside expert reviews. Special activities will also be held occasionally during the term.
We welcome students with past work in this area as well as those newly interested in leveraging their skills for international development and mobile applications. Teaching programming is not an objective of this course, although teams will be required to develop a working prototype by the end of the semester. Thus, having programming experience is a plus. However, it is not strictly necessary of all class students, since teams are multidisciplinary, and other real-world experience/skills (i.e. entrepreneurship, financial planning) are key for team success. In the event that the course is oversubscribed, students will be selected based on their personal interest and skills as stated in the online Course Induction Questionnaire in order to achieve the right mix within student teams during the course.
• Social Impact — To understand the social impact that mobile technologies are having in daily life in developing countries, and to chart their possibilities for the future
• Great Apps — To design and develop mobile technologies that are technically appropriate and socially informed in the context of developing countries, so as to enable true and sustainable adoption for the next billion consumers
• Implementing Scalability — To learn to overcome the non-technical barriers (social, educational, industrial, financial) that prevent social mobile technologies from large-scale deployment in commercial networks
• Viable Ventures — A compelling venture plan which some or all of the team could and might actually execute upon
• Empowering the Next Billion — To help shape the vision of how pervasive connectivity can create unprecedented opportunities for empowering the next billion consumers
We integrate both venture execution and prototype development in our team projects. Both of these are an integral part of the course and are expected to be done in teams of three to five students. Each team will schedule a regular project meeting time with team members as well as meeting times with its team advisors and project partners throughout the semester as needed. Because important work for this course will be done during class time, attendance is essential. Students missing a class or meeting should notify their instructors and teammates in advance and make arrangements to make up the work.
Semester-long engagements be selected from a pool comprising of three kinds of projects:
Level 0: projects that are currently at the idea stage, but whose value proposition is sufficiently compelling to be proposed and taken up by a team of MIT students
Level 1: projects that have needs identified, and can be justified by a business plan document or a concrete request from an existing organization
Level 2 projects: those that already have a prototype and the basis for sustainability in the short term
Some projects will be a carry-over from “NextLab I: Designing Mobile Technologies for the Next Billion Users” and some will come from other classes in previous semesters. Students will be able to bring their own mobile for ideas to be proposed to the class provided that they fall within the levels above. The final list of projects, an assortment of projects from all levels, will be presented in the first week of class for students to select their preferences.
As the semester progresses, course staff will help students find potential stakeholders for their technologies and ventures within the Institute (i.e. research groups within the Media Lab, CSAIL, Design Lab, D-lab, Sloan, ESD, etc) as well as outside MIT, in order to help them ensure the long-term viability of their efforts. Course staff will also help students find interest among commercial companies (handset manufacturers, mobile carriers, software firms, etc.) and among non-profits.
Budgets for Teams and NextLab Merit Awards
All teams will be entitled to a limited budget to utilize for assisting them in developing the technology and launching their venture. (The amount will be announced in class.) Additionally, two merit awards will be given to those teams who display outstanding excellence in the categories of technology innovation and venture execution. A third award will be designated by popular vote among current NextLab students and alumni. All NextLab Merit Awards will enable teams to access funds specially designated to help them launch their ventures during the summer and beyond.
Telmex, Latin America’s largest telecoms operator
América Móvil, fifth largest mobile network in the world
Nokia, largest handset manufacturer in the developing world
Bank of America, the largest bank in the United States
IDRC, the International Development Research Center of Canada
• Working prototype: 25% (team grade)
• Venture plan 25% (team grade)
• Incubation platform research deliverable: 25% (individual grade)
• End-of-term live and online presentation of all deliverables developed throughout the semester: 25% (both individual and team grade)
Main e-mail list for the course: nextlabspring2009 [ at ] mit [ dot ] edu. Use it to ask questions or send information of interest to the entire class.
Course staff can be reached at nextlabstaff [ at ] mit [ dot ] edu. Individual mailing lists for each team will be made once the projects are chosen.
Summary presentations for all these readings can be found here.
Planning ICT4D Interventions
1. Richard Heeks, “ICT4D 2.0: The Next Phase of Applying ICT for International Development,” Computer 41, no. 6 (June 2008): 26-33.
2. Jonathan Donner et al., “Stages of Design in Technology for Global Development,” Computer 41, no. 6 (2008): 34-41.
3. MODULE 10B in: Design of Research Instruments by Corlien M. Varkevisser, Indra Pathmanathan and Ann Templeton Brownlee, Designing and Conducting Health Systems Research Projects.
4. CH. 1 and CH. 2 (paying attention to focus groups) in Patricia M. Hudelson, Qualitative research for health programmes, World Health Organization. Division of Mental Health. WHO Doc No.: WHO/MNH/PSF/94.3.
5. Pentland, A., Fletcher, R., Hassan, A.; DakNet: Rethinking Connectivity in Developing Nations, Computer, IEEE Computer Society, Vol. 37, Issue 1, January 2004, p.78-83.
6. Rajesh Veeraraghavan, Naga Yasodhar, and Kentaro Toyama, “Warana Unwired: Replacing PCs with Mobile Phones in a Rural Sugarcane Cooperative,” in the International Conference on Information & Communication Technologies for Development, Bangalore, 2007.
Economic and Social Conditions
7. Anneel G. Karnani, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage (Ross School of Busineess: University of Michigan, April 2007).
8. Robert Jensen, “The Digital Provide: Information (Technology), Market Performance, and Welfare in the South Indian Fisheries Sector,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 122, no. 3, The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2007): 879-924.
9. Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, “The Economic Lives of the Poor,” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 21, no. 1 (February 23, 2007): 141-167.
Technology Survery / ICT Penetration
10. Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication (Berg Publishers, 2006).
Social and Cultural Considerations
11. John C. Caldwell, “Cultural and Social Factors Influencing Mortality Levels in Developing Countries,” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 510, no. 1 (July 1, 1990): 44-59.
12. Robert A. Malkin, “Design of Health Care Technologies for the Developing World,” Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering 9 (July 25, 2007): 567-587.
13. Sonesh Surana et al., “Deploying a Rural Wireless Telemedicine System: Experiences in Sustainability,” Computer 41, no. 6 (2008).
14. Richa Kumar, “eChoupals: A Study on the Financial Sustainability of Village Internet Centers in Rural Madhya Pradesh,” Inf. Technol. Int. Dev. 2, no. 1 (2004): 45-74.
15. Nevin Cohen, “What Works: Grameen Telecom’s Village Phones” (A Digital Dividend Study by the World Resources Institute, June 2001).
16. Tapan Parikh, Kaushik Ghosh, and Apala Chavan, “Design studies for a financial management system for micro-credit groups in rural india,” in Proceedings of the 2003 conference on Universal usability (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: ACM, 2003).
17. Tapan S. Parikh and Edward D. Lazowska, “Designing an architecture for delivering mobile information services to the rural developing world,” in Proceedings of the 15th international conference on World Wide Web (Edinburgh, Scotland: ACM, 2006), 791-800.
18. Indrani Medhi and Kentaro Toyama, “Full-Context Videos for First-Time, Non-Literate PC Users,” in (presented at the CHI, San Jose, CA: ACM, 2007).
19. Madeline Plauché and Udhyakumar Nallasamy, “Speech interfaces for equitable access to information technology,” Information Technologies and International Development 4, no. 1 (2007): 69-86.
20. Indrani Medhi, Aman Sagar, and Kentaro Toyama, “Text-Free User Interfaces for Illiterate and Semiliterate Users,” Information Technologies and International Development 4, no. 1 (October 274): 37-50.
21. Clifford G D, Blaya J A, Hall-Clifford R and Fraser HSF. Medical information systems: A foundation for healthcare technologies in developing countries, BioMedical Engineering OnLine 2008, 7:18. doi:10.1186/1475-925X-7-18
22. Joaquin A Blaya , Sonya S Shin , Martin JA Yagui , Gloria Yale , Carmen Z Suarez , Luis L Asencios , J Peter Cegielski and Hamish SF Fraser. A web-based laboratory information system to improve quality of care of tuberculosis patients in Peru: functional requirements, implementation and usage statistics. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2007, 7:33 doi:10.1186/1472-6947-7-33 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6947/7/33
23. Brian Derenzi et al., “E-imci: improving pediatric health care in low-income countries,” in CHI ’08: Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (ACM, 2008), 753-762.
24. V. Anantraman et al., “Handheld computers for rural healthcare: Experiences from research concept to global operations,” in Proceedings of Development by Design, 1-10.
25. J Sherwani et al., HealthLine: Speech-based Access to Health Information by Low-literate Users (Microsoft Research: Microsoft, August 2007).
26. Fraser HSF, Jazayeri D, Nevil P, Karacaoglu Y, Farmer PE, Lyon E, Smith-Fawzi MK, Leandre F, Choi S, Mukherjee JS. An information system and medical record to support HIV treatment in rural Haiti. British Medical Journal, 2004; 329;1142-1146
27. Szot A, Jacobson F, Munn S, Jazayeri D, Nardell E, Harrison D, Drosten R, Ohno-Machado L, Smeaton LM, Fraser HSF. Diagnostic Accuracy of Chest X-rays Acquired Using a Digital Camera for Low-Cost Teleradiology. Int. J. Med. Inform., 2004; 73(1): 65-73
28. Robert A Malkin TOPICAL REVIEW; Technologies for clinically relevant physiological measurements in developing countries. 2007 Physiol. Meas. 28doi:10.1088/0967-3334/28/8/R01 R57-R63
Mobile Payments and Transactions
29. Neville Wishart, “Micro-Payment Systems and Their Application to Mobile Networks | infoDev.org” (InfoDev, January 2006)
30. The Transformational Potential of M-Transactions, Policy Paper Series (London: Vodafone, Nokia, and Nokia-Siemens Networks, 2007).
31. Leach Jenny, DEEP IMPACT: an investigation of the use of information and communication technologies for teacher education in the global south (Department for International Development, 2005).
32. Matthew Kam et al., “Localized iterative design for language learning in underdeveloped regions: the PACE framework,” in Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (San Jose, California, USA: ACM, 2007), 1097-1106.
33. Worms: Identifying Impacts on Health and Education in the Presence of Treatment Externalities Michael Kremer, Edward Miguel. Poverty Action Lab, MIT, September, 2001
Environment and Other Applications
34. Workshop on ICTs and Environmental Challenges: OECD and Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, National IT and Telecom Agency Eigtveds Pakhus, Copenhagen, Denmark 22-23 May 2008.
1. NextLab technical wiki
2. Li and Knudsen. Beginning J2ME: From Novice to Professional, Third Edition. Published by Apress. Available to MIT students under books 24×7.
3. MIT EPROM course materials.