The Web4Dev conference  is celebrating its 6th year of existence by convening in Brasilia, Brazil, a prominent country office for UNESCO . The conference opens up with frustrated attendees scrambling to get an internet connection at Brasilia’s Hotel Grand Bittar . This is immediately followed by discussions highlighting the similar challenges faced by web programs in developing countries: sparse wireless networks, unreliable and low-bandwidth connectivity, and expensive rates when you do find a mediocre connection. This is a major obstacle and perhaps not addressed enough in an agenda that focuses on using the web to achieve the Millennium Development Goals .
Joel Selanikio, Director of DataDyne  is the keynote speaker on Thursday morning. He begins by introducing DataDyne’s flagship data collection product, EpiSurveyor , and comparing it to gmail as a transformative, web-based product with
- Simple user experience design
- Free access online
- Scaled product development for user input on mobile platforms
DataDyne’s initial development was funded by the United Nations Foundation  and the Vodafone Foundation . Currently, the product is being used by 1300+ people, 128+ countries, 130+ NGOs, 100+ universities, and 10+ UN agencies and governments. As Dr. Selanikio notes, the World Bank has used the product to collect information and data about the reform of the judiciary system in Argentina. He wraps up the presentation by encouraging further rapid expansion in use of the product, with the caveat that it is best applied when users have experience in statistics and epidemiology.
In light of the internet connection limitations at this venue, I truly admire Datadyne, a Washington-based organization, for continuing to address the web accessibility challenges faced in developing countries with applicable solutions that can help us reach the MDGs.
Update: Watch Joel's presentation  compliments of IPTV Cultura.