Development 2.0

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(Musing on the margins of a Web 2.0 conference...)

So, if Web 2.0 is meant to be the era of the long-tail, mass-customisation and the wisdom of the crowds, let's imagine, just for fun, what the big players in the Development 2.0 world could look like:

• the ultimate search engine for development data (maps, images, news, you name it). NGOs, financial institutions and universities open up their archives to be indexed by this powerful search engine. Development professionals and the public at large are proactively encouraged to build their own mashups. Imagine, for instance, combining Google maps with crime data, just like Chicago Crime does, to help police authorities and citizens in developing countries.

• a place where demand and offer for the long tail of development products meet. Aid agencies, financial institutions, NGOs, entrepreneurs, individuals put on offer their development products. Governments, communities and individuals in developing countries bid on them. They can also opt to pick and choose features from the various "sellers" (say, e.g. some technical assistance from SIDA with a microloan from Grameen Bank and, why not, advisory services from IFC) to customise the products to their needs. Like GlobalGiving and Kiva - except the poor are the buyers, not the sellers.

• a SecondLife for development practitioners and aid recipients, a place where donors and recipients collaborate to build a virtual version of a project which meets the needs of both, and then implement it. Or, perhaps, a "database of aspirations" where communities in developing countries can virtually imagine their ideal life, and sponsors can finance its implementation.

• a place for, say, rural communities or members of a supply chain to connect with each other. Social network mapping software, mashed-up with Google Maps, provides a way for the various actors to visualise their networks. See here (pdf) for an example of how visualising networks can build capacity in rural communities, or here for a (still clunky) application of social mapping to socially responsible investment.

• a place where members of the development community (including aid recipients) collaborate to find common definitions for terms such as "technical assistance", "capacity building" and "monitoring and evaluation". We're not getting rid of aid jargon any time soon, so we may as well speak the same language.

Okay, enough daydreaming… time to get back to the Development 1.0 world. But if you enjoyed the fantasy game, please add your ideas below.

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