What does mobile banking have to do with K12 education reform?

This last week I heard an interesting presentation on mobile banking and the differences in the implementation of an effort in Kenya vs Ghana. Kenya is in East Africa and Ghana is in West Africa but the two countries have roughly the same GDP but different cultures.  Stephen Rea, a researcher at UC Irvine studied the diffusion of mobile banking in Kenya.  He shared the findings of a  paper by Sibel Kusimba in which he did a network analysis of how mobile banking took off in Kenya.  The two main findings as described by Rea:

  • Social infrastructure matters more than you realize.
  • Strategic partnerships and social networks are conditions of possibility.

We’ve been finding this to be true in schools too.  Work by Alan Daly and others confirm that the denser the networks, the easier it is to scale innovations and the more likelihood for success.  It’s not always about the technology (the what) but the “how” and our ability to meet people where they are.  This has been our philosophy in supporting Teacher2Teacher, an online network that is teacher-lead and a safe place for teachers to share innovations.  Edward Mabaya said about the work in Kenya: “It’s easy to get carried away by technologies but they’re only as useful as the problems they solve.” Funny how much we have in common with mobile banking efforts in Africa.