“An Ecosystem of Empowerment” - Interview with Osama Manzar

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“An Ecosystem of Empowerment” - Interview with Osama Manzar

If one is not empowered, it is difficult to make oneself heard. The prestigious, annual mBillionth award for mobile innovators recognizes people across South Asia who show exceptional courage and leadership in minimizing the digital divide and advocating empowerment through mobile devices and contents. All will be on display at the mBillionth Award Ceremony on 21st July in New Delhi.

WSA: What led you to get active on the idea of mBillionth Award?

Osama Manzar:About three years back we realized that the mobile has been really making a serious impact on the general mass of the country. Considering that we focus on how digital tools can be empowering tools for the masses, we thought it is better that we focus exclusively on how mobiles can change our life, how mobiles can be motivated to impact the masses and how mobiles can be seen as innovative tools to reach to the masses. We are an oral society by nature, and mobile by nature is an oral tool since the inception of mBillionth award three years ago.

Who are the major change makers in the Mobile & Telecom Domain in the South Asian region?

I feel the biggest change makers in the mobile and telecom domain are the social sector, NGOs or the social organizations and the government organizations. I

am finding that they are the real innovative users of mobiles, power of mobile, mobile applications, either in the form of apps, SMS, IVR or customized MIS applications, m-banking, or something like that. For example the entire NREG is extremely successful in using mobiles with biometrics attached to it, to make sure that the payment goes to the person who has done the job rather than somebody else. So I see a great hold for the mobile to serve our country to the grass roots level through NGOs and the government sectors. However, we need that innovation to take the shape of its standardizations. At the moment a lot of innovations are happening in different corners of the country and they are great applications, but somehow they are not being standardized. Hence, what we see in next couple of years that will take place.

How do nominees and society profit from the award?

Because it is not just an award, but a platform which identifies the best innovations. If you come to mBillionth award it’s not only about applying as a nominee. It is an empowering initiative – that's why we called it an Ecosystem. Because it is an ecosystem of empowerment, an ecosystem to identify the practices, it is an ecosystem for mentoring, it is an ecosystem for funding, it is an ecosystem for cross exchange of ideas and platforms with each other. For mBillionth this one of the strongest feeders of the innovative ideas to the government organization - how they can use our application and service provider and mobile content creators who can serve the various mission note projects or various other projects of government.

What are the plans of upcoming years about taking this initiative to next level?

Well, the long term plan for mBillionth award is to consolidate this platform as a very strong corpus-based funding and mentoring organization, where the focus is more towards empowering innovative ideas which can empower the local masses and local needs of the rural market. We have more than 100 of the best practices collected in the last three years with 1200 ideas. And we are trying to see how this entire ecosystem can use these 1200 ideas and reach to the larger numbers of entrepreneurs and larger number of people in rural areas using government and other NGOs as a platform to make sure that the mobile can become the tool of empowerment for the information-poor society of our poor country.

Osama Manzar is a convert social entrepreneur spearheading the mission to overcome the information barrier between India’s rural sector, and the so-called developed society. Manzar is e-Content Expert for India for World Summit Award (WSA), Grand Jury Member and member of Board of Directors. More...

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