Tag Archives: Professional Profile

ICT4D Professional Profile: Michael (Mike) McKay

Mike McKay

  • “Occupation: hacker for social justice”- present
  • Works at RTI International
  • Health Informatics Specialist, present
  • Viant, DecisionSoft, and BaobabHealth
  • Attended Claremont McKenna College for Management Engineering and UCLA for Computer Science Engineering
  • Lives in Washington DC
  • He has accounts on: Quora, Flicker, twitter and who knows how many other sites
  • Married, grateful, honored

Mike McKay has worked in an astonishing number of diverse positions in the ICT4D world. His experience includes:

  • RTI International – Washington DC
  • International Development Technologist
  • SocialRange LLC – Washington DC
  • Co-Founder, organization developing mobile applications: embrace open technologies, improve lives, prosper.
  • Dimagi – Washington DC
  • Implementor
  • Qualcomm Wireless Reach Philippines – Tarlac, Philippines
  • Technical Lead, contractor to RTI International
  • World Health Organization – Geneva, Switzerland
  • Consultant
  • Baobab Health Partnership – Lilongwe, Malawi
  • Country Director
  • Social Enterprise Initiative of the Claremont Colleges
  • Member of advisory board – September 2010 – Present
  • TED Alumni
  • Long Beach, CA March 2009
  • • Received high-five from Tim Berners-Lee for using HTTP to fight HIV in Africa.
  • NBC Universal and the Motion Picture Association of America –
  • Oxford, UK / Lilongwe, Malawi
  • Online media consultant, April 2003 – Jan 2006
  • Semanak – California, USA / Oxford, UK
  • Partner, Jan 2003 – Jan 2005
  • DecisionSoft – Oxford, UK
  • Software Engineer, Oct 2001 – Dec 2002

Past these positions, McKay has an extensive list of publication, presentations and related activities. Since a young age McKay has devoted his time and resources to ICT4D applications to improve world health.

Forum Websites he’s a member of:


  • Peek You
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Friendfeed.com
  • Delicious.com
  • Identi.ca
  • Foursquare
  • Brightkite.com
  • Google.com
  • Xanga
  • Blogger
  • Last.fm
  • eBay
  • MySpace
  • Pinterest


  • Picasaweb.google.com
  • Youtube.com
  • Flickr

Miscellaneous- vdomck.org, Amazon.com, gdata.youtube.com

He also has a personal blog, Hactivate, where he writes about his life and technologies.


1 Dir. Edward Scotcher and Mike McKay

S: “What in your opinion is the best way to give exceptional Africans visibility.”

M: “I think blogging is a pretty powerful way of doing it. I found a newspaper article about William Kamkwamba when I was living in Malawi, put it on my blog, and before he knew it he was on a plane to Ted in Uganda and now he has a best selling book because I saw his story in a newspaper article and I put it on my blog! So I think that has a lot of potential to really impact innovators and people doing great stuff on the ground”

Mike McKay – Baobab Health  Dir. Edward Scotcher.

S: “How could sharing ideas in the kind of online-offline format that Africa Gathering’s got help expose talent in Africa further?”

M: “I guess using multiple forms of conversation. It’s really critical to have that face-to-face chance to meet someone and to make a connection or to share a meal with somebody and just talk about the weather or whatever. But to be able to follow them on twitter and start thinking about what their work is or even what they’re doing on a daily basis, I think provides a connection that can lead to friendships that often lead to opportunities to start businesses or organizations together or just collaborate on a new idea that you couldn’t have thought of yourself.”


Ken Banks: Social Innovator and Founder of Frontline SMS

Ken Banks is a technological and social innovator working at the nexus of technology, anthropology and conservation. He founded Kiwanja.net in 2005, an organization dedicated to guiding NGOs in how to appropriately incorporate technology into their missions, working specifically with mobile technologies. He’s been a techie before anything else – learning how to code at 14 he obtained a hobby which, later in life, helped him land more jobs than did his business experience in college. He began doing non-profit work in Zambia after signing up for a volunteer gig as a young man, and subsequently finding that his interests were at home in this part of the world.

Kiwanja, since its inception, has been wildly successful. They have spearheaded projects for huge biodiversity conservation organizations like Flora & Fauna International and UNEP; in addition they’ve partnered up with Grameen Technology Centre. Most notably they developed Frontline SMS, a free open-source software used by a number of non-profits to collect and disseminate information via SMS messaging. Banks believes that the power of mobile phones is “ubiquitous”, hence why he was so geared toward a software that does not require internet connection and is centered around the mobile phone.

Banks has won countless internationally-recognized awards for his efforts since Kiwanja. As of now he spends most of his working time in his home town in England, but travels frequently as a Fellow Faculty of Pop!Tech in Camden, ME, and as a National Geographic “Emerging Explorer”, just to name a few of his most recently-acquired epithets.

What I found particularly interesting, which I’ve mentioned in a previous blog-post, is Banks’ opinion of the message being sent toward “innovators-to-be”. He believes that what they truly want to hear about are the motivations, the greater goals behind the work, and that all too often educators in the field focus too much on the metrics, logistics, etc. While I wonder if this is appropriate, I’m pleased to learn that professionals in the field are not weary of “the big dreams” that young adults have. Usually I hear about how these are generally not well-thought-out, and rightfully so! It was, nevertheless, surprising to me to learn that the first opinion he has of young dreamers is the opposite of jaded.

Some useful links and videos relating to Ken Banks:


Ken Banks Twitter
Ken Banks at Pop!Tech Video

“A Bottle of Beer Inspires Emerging Explorer Ken Banks to Create an Innovative Computer Software Program”

ICT4D Professional Profile: Deborah Elzie

After hearing Deborah Elzie eloquently respond to my question about the White Savior Industrial Complex in class, I wanted to write my thought leader profile on her because it was my first time hearing or seeing any white person in the international development field mention white privilege and furthermore, even acknowledge her role as a white person working in development.  I was even more excited when I realized that she had assigned that specific reading because it was the first time anything related to white supremacy had been brought up by any of my professors at Tulane.  I e-mailed Ms. Elzie one night, and within four hours, I had a response from her with a time that day for a Skype call!  During the interview, Ms. Elzie discussed how she got involved with Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), her current work, and her feelings about the international development field.

While she has been working in Uganda with Tulane as she described in class, she has also been working on community projects founded by local people.  Ms. Elzie began making connections with people in Uganda virtually when she was still in the United States.  Through twitter and volunteering with a team virtually, she formed relationships with people in Uganda and eventually was able to work on Story Spaces in Uganda, with the founder and other Ugandan members of the team. She claims to be most engaged with mobile phones since she is working on four mobile phone projects; one for physicians and community health workers to help with difficult pregnancies, another in a competition, and two fun apps related to language and sports.  Even so, she explains that twitter has been crucial in communicating with others and in the sharing of ideas.

Ms. Elzie brings up how hard it has been as a woman working in technology.  Because she does more “front-end design, user interface, and graphic design and…[her] whole background in educational psychology and the cognitive piece…[she] thinks a lot about those interactions” when thinking about how hard it is in the United States for a woman (Elzie).  She feels as though Uganda has given her more opportunities than she would ever get in the United States because she has started later in life and isn’t a young MIT graduate.  She says, “I have found it easier to build relationships with African techies and mobile programmers than I have with US folks” (Elzie).

As an international development worker in the field, Ms. Elzie recommends people to have “practical experience somewhere on the ground in another culture even if it’s not a foreign culture abroad” in order to be prepared for the “inner personal communication skills” needed for working in another cultural world.  Additionally, she believes people need to come with the mindset that they will be working with others and learning from one another, not just the development worker coming in as the expert.  People should have “some knowledge of what you’re walking into instead of just walking off the plane and saying, ‘here, look at my great tool’” (Elzie).  On the academic side, she hopes for students to learn through more scenario-based exercises in the classroom and work as a team member with organizations abroad started by local people, rather than outsiders.  She thinks it’s definitely possible for development to become more locally driven, and has real hope for this generation.

I think Deborah Elzie is a really great example of a woman working in international development who is cognizant of her white privilege and the important role that the community should take in leading development projects.  I find her really inspiring and I encourage others to look into her work or contact her.  She’s really great!

Also, here is what our professor has written about her!

ICT4D Professional Profile: Iqbal Quadir

Ibal Quadir may be a prominent thought leader in the world of ICT4D, but he came from humble origins. In his TED talk, Quadir tells a story from his youth in Bangladesh. One day, after his family was driven to live in a remote rural village of Bangladesh by war, one of his younger siblings became sick and he was sent out to fetch medicine. Young Iqbar walked ten miles to the next town, only to find that the doctor was not in and was forced to return empty handed.  That experience had a profound affect on him. To this day, he imagines how much time would have been saved, if he only had access a phone to call the doctor. It led him to his current development mantra ‘connectivity is productivity’

Quadir was educated in the United States at Swarthmore and Wharton, where he studied finance and engineering. Early on, he worked for several banks in New York and consulted for the World Bank, but he soon began to explore a path in development. His thinking differed drastically from the of the World Bank. He came to strongly oppose foreign aid in favor of tactics that put development in the hands of the people. He became interested in the democratizing effects of technology in developing countries; especially in the application of mobile phones.

In 1996, he teamed up with GrameenBank in Bangladesh to offer phones that could be purchased with microloans to entrepreneurs in rural villages. In this program, entrepreneurs would buy a “village phone.” They would then charge their neighbors for its usage, until they could repay their loan and eventually profit. Today, the Tech Horizon Report puts the phone as an important emerging technology, but when Quadir first proposed this plan, it was called radical. According to Quadir’s theory, it would improve everyone’s connectivity, and therefore, productivity. Today, GrameenPhone is Bangladesh’s largest telephone company. The project is in more than 25,000 villages, reaching over 100 million people.

Currently, he works at MIT as the director of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, which he himself founded. This center promotes bottom-up entrepreneurship in the developing world. In addition, he also founded the Anwarul Quadir Foundation to support innovative technological development solutions in Bangladesh. He shares his ideas through lecturing, special engagements like TED talks and journals like the MIT journal Innovations that he co-founded. He has been profiled by and has written for magazines like The Economist, Boston Globe, Financial Times and The New York Times. Quadir also spoke on CBC, CNN and PBS. He preaches to the new generation of I-Dev thinkers, the necessity of including and engaging all people in economics and politics as well a empowering people to become actors in their own development.

ICT4D Thought Leader Profile: Gisli Olaffson

With over twenty-five years of experience in the IT industry and almost twenty years in Disaster management, Gisli Olaffson is an expert in his field, combining ICTs with emergency response. He specializes in the use of technology to solve some of the most challenging collaboration issues within the field of disaster response; and is currently the Emergency Response Director of NetHope, a collaboration of thirty-four NGOs that work together under one umbrella to address the world’s most pressing issues through ICT innovation and development.

Gisli has had an extensive career in both the fields of computer science and disaster management leading up to where he is today. He has held computer tech positions at Xerox Corporation and Microsoft. In addition, Gisli is also an active member of the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC), where he is on stand-by to immediately deploy anywhere in the world to coordinate first response operations for the international community when disaster strikes.

If you can think of a recent disaster, Gisli has most likely been there. More recently, he has participated in disaster field missions in response to the floods in Ghana and Pakistan, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, Hurricane Ike in Texas, the Horn of Africa Famine, and earthquakes in West Sumatra, Haiti, Japan, and China. He led the ICE-SAR team in the Haiti earthquake response.  His team was among the first to arrive on the scene – just two hours after the disaster. In addition to his disaster work, Gisli is the CEO and founder of Gridland.net, a consultant company focusing on .net and related technologies; as well as the CTO and co-founder of ITmobile.net, a small startup focusing on convergence of software and mobile technologies. Gisli boasts an impressive knowledge of languages, speaking English, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, and German.

Gisli attributes his inspiration to the local people who are there during the disaster, step up to start the rescue efforts, and continue to work even after the international response teams have left. He says, it’s often not the people with the “big titles,” but the low level workers that are the ones making things happen. He would like to see more of those people – the kind of leaders that step up and do the real work making a difference out in the field. You can find Gisli online on his blog, “Dealing with Disasters,” his Twitter, and his LinkedIn. Gisli currently resides in Geneva, Switzerland with his family.

ICT4D Professional Profile: Riyaz Bachani

The ICT4D thought leader that I profiled is Riyaz Bachani.  Mr. Bachani was educated at MIT, where he was involved with the schools IT consulting team, as well as their Network Security Team.  Upon graduation, Mr. Bachani returned to Kenya to work with Kenya Data Networks, in which he worked to design and implement the largest national wireless high-speed data network in the country.  Currently this network is being used by all major banks, ISPs and corporate offices in Kenya.  After this project, Mr. Bachani worked with Terracom Ltd, in which he managed the acquisition of the Rwandan National Telecommunications company.  Currently, Mr. Bachani is the CTO with Wananchi Group in Kenya.  In his current position he works to design and implement a cable triple play network, which provides television, internet and voice services to its users.  The service, known as Zuku, is the first of its kind in Africa.

Mr. Bachani is also a co-founder of Skunkworks, a group that works to untie ICT driven minds in Kenya.  This service works to create discussion among its members, as well as providing information about ICTs as well as opportunities and event for those interested.  Along with this, Mr. Bachani is an adviser at iHub.  iHub is located in Nairobi and provides a space and resources for technology driven individuals to experiment, conglomerate and develop new technologies.

Riyaz Bachani’s current project with the Wananchi Group is the development of a “Wazi Wi-Fi” pilot program.  In this system, a wireless network is purchased by a company or organization housed in a public area, such as a mall or airport.  Two wireless networks are set up, a private one for employees to use, and a public one for use on customers wireless devices.  A trial of the service is offered for free, after which users can purchase access on either a daily or monthly basis.  The revenue generated on selling the wi-fi then reduces the costs for the business that purchased the service.  The pilot program, located in a mall in Nairobi, has already seen great success and a large customer base.  It will be interesting to see how this develops, and learn more about the role the private market can take in ICT4D.  I have included a video in which Mr. Bachani describes the program.

ICT4D Professional Profile: Wayan Vota

Wayan Vota is a senior director at Inveneo who maintains a few different ICT4D blogs and websites: Wayan Dot Com, ICTWorks, Educational Technology Debate, Technology Salon, OLPC News and Belly Button Window. Wayan has worked in a lot of different ICT4D sectors but now works in education. He focuses a lot of OLPC and the different benefits and flaws of the project.
Wayan is really involved in social media. He tweets frequently and likes to use social media to aid in his presentations and speeches at conferences. For example, for ICISTS-KAIST, he asked his blog readers to submit links, topics, articles, etc. to him for his discussion about the digital divide. He asked them to submit their suggestions via Twitter using #ICISTS.  He also uses social media frequently to run Technology Salon and to interact with the ICT4D community.
Wayan had three suggestions for securing a job in ICT4D: start making contacts, go on informational interviews and blog about ICT4D. I’ve always known that making contacts/networking is essential to securing a job, and blogging obviously helps you to become more well-known. However I had never heard of informational interviews and didn’t realize that it was something that people did often. I think it sounds really helpful and might try it in the future.