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Ken Banks


Ken, founder of kiwanja.net, devotes himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change. He has spent the last two decades working on projects in Africa. His early research resulted in the development of FrontlineSMS, an award-winning text-message communication system today powering thousands of social change projects in more than 150 countries around the world.

Following a management transition at FrontlineSMS in mid-2012, Ken has focused on a new project, Means of Exchange, which looks at how people can use everyday technologies to democratize opportunities for economic self-sufficiency, rebuild local community and promote a return to local resource use.

Graduating from Sussex University with honors in social anthropology with development studies, Ken was awarded a Stanford University Reuters Digital Vision Fellowship in 2006 and named a Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow in 2008. In 2009, he was named a laureate of the Tech Awards, an international program that honors innovators globally who apply technology to benefit humanity. He was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in May 2010 and an Ashoka Fellow in 2011. He received the 2011 Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest. That summer, he won the Curry Stone Design Prize for his pioneering work with FrontlineSMS and was selected a member of the U.K. Prime Minister's delegation to Africa. In 2012, the Cambridge business community presented Ken with a "Special Achievement Award" for his work as a social entrepreneur. Later that year, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2013, he was nominated for the TED Prize.

Ken represents Sussex University as their Ambassador for International Development, and is a founding member of the British Government Department for International Development’s “Digital Advisory Board.” In addition, Ken mentors early-stage entrepreneurs through Pop!Tech and the Unreasonable Institute and seasoned entrepreneurs in the Ashoka network.

Ken is also recognized for his writing and blogging on Africa, technology and innovation. CNN, the BBC and the Guardian have published his work online. He has also written for the print edition of Wired Magazine, and has had guest chapters published in collaborative books. In late 2013, he published his first book. The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator is an edited volume on social innovation with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. When he is not working, Ken spends much of his time being bossed around by his young son, Henry, and twins Madeleine and Oliver.

Connect with Ken online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ken.banks

Instagram: https://instagram.com/kiwanja/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kiwanja

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kiwanja

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