International Development Design Summit (IDDS), Pakistan Lahore 2016

Earlier this year, I got a chance to attend International Development Design Summit (IDDS) in Lahore, Pakistan.

IDDS is an intense, hands-on design experience that brings together people for all over the world to create technology and enterprises that improve the lives of people living in poverty.

IDDS Lahore was a two-week summit that hosted 30 participants from 15 countries and its aim was to focus on ICT solutions to challenges in local Pakistan communities.

I worked with other participants on 6 different teams to develop scalable Information Communication Technology (ICT) for challenges around Health, Education, Arts and Agriculture. During the two weeks of design, we worked on the projects using a design process comprised of the following phases:

With this road map in place, we followed a well-planned strategy that involved learning about various skills to prepare us for possible implementations for the projects we were expected to work on. Since the projects were user-centered we had to learn about our stakeholders and even carried site visits to meet with them to get primary data about the situation on the ground. From the data gathered we were able to go through the following process to come up with the design solutions.

The Design Process

Skills Building:

This activity majorly involved getting to know about skills that were expected to come in handy during the design process. It gave us some insights on the kinds of technology that we could leverage on when implementing the solutions. The skills included: SMS (Rapid Pro SMS), Arduino, Data Mapping, Basic circuit Dimmable LED light, Joule Thief

Working with the Stakeholders:

We worked to identify all possible stakeholders, and figured out how their interests, influence and importance would contribute to the success of the project. The next step was to plan state clearly on how these stakeholders will be involved in the design process and at what stages.

Information Gathering:

In projects teams, we made at least two site visits to communities that are directly affected by the challenges. After few interviews, observation and playing the part of the end user to understand the actual process, we were able to gather more than enough primary data about the situation on the ground.

Customer Profiles Creation and Design Review:

A customer profile is a specific description of how the target persona conducts his activities or specific task to overcome the challenge to be solved. Again in project teams each participant used the information gathered earlier to share his/her experience at the field with the rest of the team members. Documentation of these experiences was done at the same time. Another interesting session involved visualizing (Inform of maps) all stages of the product from creation to use and all stakeholders involved. This is called the value chain of the product.

Idea Generation:

The part that most participants felt it was the most interesting. This process involved a brainstorming and brain writing activities, where everyone is allowed to think of any good or absurd ideas on what they think can be the solution to the challenge without any constraints. At the end of the session, we categorized different approaches in groups of their similarities.

Concept Selection and Business Modeling:

 Concept selection activity involved evaluation of the different idea categories with the aim of trying to figure out the most ideal and viable approach for our design solution. User requirements gathered from the site was one of the key ingredients used in the selection process. Other important metrics that were under consideration included affordability, usability and sustainability.

A business model includes two key elements; that is, how the value for the business will be created (Value = Benefits — Price) and how it will be captured (Profits = Revenue — Cost).

Business modeling involves coming up with value and profit proposition for the product. One of the best approaches is to use value proposition canvas (by Alex Osterwalder) to help understand the needs of your target customers and why the customers would use your product.

Wire Framing the Solution:

Wire framing allows designers to define the information flow or system work flow of the design. Information flow helps in planning the layout according to how end users are expected to use the product. In our case, we used detailed sketches to simulate this process. A good wire framing example would be one that my team worked as illustrated below- by designed Shehzil.

Building Solutions:

Building solutions means two things; one working on a technical implementation of the designs, and two proving that the viability of the concept. The technical implementation involved designing prototypes for the projects. It took almost two days to do this because most designs were for software products and thus we followed agile product development cycle. It involved several iterations of product development right from design to implementation (Coding for the software solutions)

Collecting Feedback:

The prototypes were now operational and now it was time for yet another site visit! The purpose of this site visit was to test the prototype with target communities to test several things one; user expectation and acceptability of the solution, two if it meets the intended need and lastly if it adds value to them.

This was one of the most important parts of the design because from the feedback we were able to know which aspects of the solution was a success or failure.

Design with Constraints:

The constraints here refer to the following metrics:

  • Sustainability
  • Affordability
  • Usability
  • Design for failure

And by design for failure means making separate modules for consumable or wearable paths that can easily be replaced. For instance for software products it may involve builds a system or application that can run on various devices or browsers.

The Projects


Challenge: Women entrepreneurs in Punjab struggle with maintaining a profitable business due to an in-transparent and saturated market.

Gap: Lack of market information, Low technology penetration, Social boundaries

Solution: An on-demand SMS service that provides contact details of selected shop owners nearby. This allows enhanced sale opportunities by providing relevant market information to the Women entrepreneurs.

The women entrepreneur sends a keyword to a short code or dedicated mobile number and gets a responds with contact details of the possible shop owners.

Read more on Empowering women through WeSMS


Challenge: Teachers of English in government schools find it challenging to engage students enough to enable mastery of the subject;

causing students to depend on academies for extra tuition.

Solution: An android mobile application that supports the teacher in managing multiple classes, and increasing student engagement in the classroom by using audio speakers.

This is so that the students can achieve mastery of the subject without depending on academies. It also helps the teacher to increase the efficiency in marking large numbers of quiz sheets by just scanning the exam paper and send it for making.

Keeps track of individual student and group performance and gives feedback to the teacher.

Automatic SMS Attendance Programe (ASAP)

Challenge: Teachers are teaching 6–8 periods a day in a class of 60–80 students, along with jobs at academies as well as household responsibilities, which leaves them with minimal time for administration tasks. One of the time consuming task is contacting parents individually when students are absent.

Gap: The communication between Parents and Teachers is non-existent. The credibility of attendance data is a challenge for policy makers

There have been several instances where Parents are not aware if their kids skipped school

Solution: A mobile application that uses the QR code technology to scan student name and ID then the parents receives an alert message confirming that their student has attended school or is absent.


Challenge: Distance and cultural issues make it difficult for Women Livestock Extension Workers to access suppliers leading to frequent disruptions in livestock medicinal supplies.

Gap: Poor communication link between WLEWs, WLEWs Cluster Head and suppliers

Solution: mobile application that aggregates demand by helping WLEWs to access consistent timely supplies thus leading to better quality in animal health care delivery.

WLEWs Cluster Head who is the end user gets supply for suppliers, creates Wish-list and sends broadcast message to all WLEWs in the contact list. The WLEWs receive SMS Broadcast and responds. Cluster Head keeps the records and aggregates demand & bulk delivery.


Challenge: Delays that result to mothers dying from birth complications before they get to hospitals. The delays are as a result of slow Decision-Making process, transportation and access healthcare services.

Gap: Information gap between parents and doctors and fathers are not engaged and empowered on how they can contribute to saving lives of their family members but they are also the decision makers.

Solution: An IVR system that eliminates a major delay that causes preventable maternal or child death or complications.

It helps mothers get access to health care services and get fathers involved via fathers’ hotline in case of emergencies or delays caused by traffic and distance to the hospitals. The hotline system also provides information about nearest health centers thus help quicken decision making process.

Asan Raster

valuable time Lady Health Workers (LHWs) can spend providing essential health services to expectant mothers and families they support.

Solution: To address this issue a USSD-based tracking system was built for

LHWs to identify households in need of vaccinations, plan needed visits, and record streamlined immunization data.

The solution does not only increase the efficiency of campaign activities, allowing LHWs more time to provide frontline primary health services, it will also enable more reliable and timely data on polio immunization coverage, allowing directed efforts in the areas that need more attention.

The Community

My Project Team

I worked together with very amazing guys (Simon, Ali, Hermes and Shehzil ) from other countries. You can follow the following links to read what Simon(idds-prototyping-pakistan) and Hermes (on-pakistan-and-human-centered-design)shared about their experiences. I liked the diversity of the team because it really helped us to view the project from different perspectives, hence sharing interesting ideas.

we had one engineer, two designers who were very funny and I must thank them for keeping the team alive, one entrepreneur- with whom I had to catch up with most of the time when he was talking because he was doing it very fast and finally the techie person, guess who? Me. Oh no, one member is missing! The super cool photo lady- she didn’t study photography though, but her role was to guide us to the right direction during the design, Debbie our project team lead.

IDDS Lahore Family

So! There they are. I have used almost all the words that describe amazing people I don’t have one for them. But it was nice spending time and working with them. It’s from them that I learned a lot about their cultures, professional backgrounds and the kinds of projects they have worked on to imapct the world that we are living to day in. Who knew that black rise existed?, just so you know, I tested it, all the way from Thailand!

Pakistan Community

Few Urdu vocabularies I carried home.

Hi — Salam!

Yes — Haan

No — Naheen

Goodbye — Al Wida

????? — Shukria, This is for you to find out what it means.

Did you know that the name Pakistan means ‘land of the pure’ in Persian and Urdu, and that is the 6th largest nation of the world containing one of the oldest civilizations in history? And yes you are right; I’m standing right on top of one :)

It’s one of the few countries that have a desert (Thar), experiences snow and is bordered with a sea. I love the place not to forgetting to mention the amazing spicy food- I always made sure I had water to drink after talking several spoons of food.

The people are social, and one thing that I discovered is that it is a very busy, fast developing country, they are business people.

Cool facts about Pakistan

They too, just like Kenya (MPESA) have implemented a mobile money transfer service by the name easypaisa, sounds almost like Swahili. I heard that the Arabs are the originators of Swahili, is it true?. News has it that Uber plans to launch its business in Pakistan, sounds cool.

Pakistan constitute the 3rd highest users of the website In terms of the number of people who are internet users in a given country, Pakistan is ranked 19 globally.

And more photos :) Taken during one of our site visits

Any question? Please let me know.


References: IDDS Lahore curriculum and presentations