Technology Empowering U.S. Diplomacy and Development

Mobile in Developing Countries - Panelist Bios

Mobile in Developing Countries - Panelist Bios

Mobile phone usage is soaring in underdeveloped areas of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Locales that were once off the grid entirely have newfound connectivity, but exploiting mobile’s full potential in these regions poses major challenges. Constraints such as cost, low bandwidth, limited internet connectivity and uneven distribution of access to mobile phones require the Department of State and other U.S. government agencies abroad to rethink and adapt their mobile strategies to impact foreign citizens. This panel will focus on the directions mobile technology is heading in developing countries and how foreign policy professionals can remain best positioned to take advantage of these new developments.


Larissa Fast, USAID

Larissa is a AAAS Fellow with the U.S. Global Development Lab's Digital Inclusion team. She is also Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution at the Kroc Institute and Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and a faculty fellow at Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute. Fast is a scholar and practitioner, working at the intersection between research, policy, and practice related to humanitarianism, conflict, violence and peacebuilding.

Dr. Fast is an expert on the causes of and responses to violence against conflict interveners, such as aid workers and peacebuilders. She has published extensively on the topic in both academic and policy-focused formats. Her book, Aid in Danger: The Perils and Promise of Humanitarianism (2014, University of Pennsylvania Press) explores and critiques humanitarianism through the lens of narratives about violence against aid workers and aid agency responses to the violence.Fast has published her research in the European Journal of International Relations, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, and Disasters as well as with the Berghof Centre for Conflict Transformation and Save the Children ( In 2008, Fast co-founded the Aid in Danger project ( and the Security in Numbers Database (SiND), a dataset tracking threats to and incidents of violence against aid workers and aid delivery.

She and her co-authors have published on their findings with Insecurity Insight, the European Interagency Security Forum, and the SMI at the Geneva Center for Security Policy. In addition to this work, Fast has written on monitoring and evaluating conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Her research has been funded by the Swiss Development Corporation, the United States Institute of Peace, and the US Agency for International Development.

Outside of her academic responsibilities, Fast has consulted and worked for aid agencies and other international organizations, primarily in North America and Africa. She worked on capacity-building projects for Catholic Relief Services in West Africa, co-wrote a training manual on peacebuilding for Caritas Internationalis, and has lectured or trained individuals on conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and humanitarianism in Rwanda, Georgia and North America. Fast has designed and facilitated dialogue processes for non-governmental organizations and universities.

Dr. Fast received her PhD from George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She is also a member of numerous professional associations, including the International Studies Association, International Association of Humanitarian Studies, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association for Conflict Resolution, and the American Sociological Association.



Patricia Kabra, Public Diplomacy Fellow, George Washington University

Patricia Kabra is a Senior Foreign Service Officer with 20 years of service in the Middle East and the Department of State in Washington, DC. She has been posted overseas as a Public Diplomacy Officer in Damascus, Jerusalem, Doha, Tunis and Cairo. In Washington, she served as Deputy Director for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the near Eastern Affairs Bureau at the Department of State. Throughout her career, she has managed strategy for public diplomacy and public affairs, including press activities; strategic messaging; cultural and educational exchanges; projects and grants. Her most recent position before joining IPDGC as a Public Diplomacy Fellow for the 2014-15 academic year was at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo where she served as the Public Affairs Counselor.

In addition to government service, Dr. Kabra previously taught History, Philosophy, Humanities, Sociology, English, and Islamic Studies to undergraduate students at Woodbury University in Burbank, Calif. and the Los Angeles Community College system.

Patricia Kabra holds a Ph.D from the University of California Los Angeles in the History of the Middle East; an M.A. from Pennsylvania State University in the History of the Middle East and Africa; and B.A. from Penn State in Philosophy and Fine Arts. She speaks fluent Arabic and French.


Nick Martin (@ncmart)TechChange

Nick Martin is an educator, technologist, and social entrepreneur. He is the founder and president of TechChange, a Washington DC-based organization that has developed a unique, scalable, and interactive model for technology training in social change. To date, TechChange has prepared over 4,000 alumni from over 100 countries to apply technology effectively and appropriately in response to global challenges.  TechChange has also worked with a number of organizations including the World Bank, USAID, State Department and the UN Foundation to deliver custom online and hybrid courses to audiences around the world. The TechChanage model for technology training in international development has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Economist, Fast Company, PBS NewsHour and more.

Nick has received several awards and fellowships for his contributions to education, technology and social change including: the PopTech Social Innovation Fellowship (2013), the International Youth Foundation's Global Fellowship (2009) and the Society for International Development’s Rice Award for an outstanding young innovator in international development under the age of 32 (2014 Runner-up).

He is also an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University Elliott School where he teaches graduate courses on Technology for Crisis Response and Mobile Phones for International Development. Nick received his BA with honors from Swarthmore College and holds an MA in Peace Education from the United Nations mandated University for Peace (UPEACE).

Sean McDonald (@FrontlineSMS), CEO,  FrontlineSMS

Sean Martin McDonald is the CEO of FrontlineSMS. FrontlineSMS was named the #1 Technology NGO in 2013 by the Global Journal and is one of the world’s most popular professional messaging tools. Sean also founded the Capture the Ocean and the FrontlineSMS:Legal Projects. Sean leads product development, strategic vision, and business development for FrontlineSMS.

Sean has worked in and written about the connections between international development, data, technology, political communications, conflict resolution, and legal services for the last 10 years. He is a Trustee of the Awesome Foundation DC and an affiliate with Harvard University's Berkman Center. Sean is an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative, Digital Democracy,, ECPAT USA, the Law Without Walls Program, TechChange, and UNDP.

Sean is a lawyer, barred in New York. He holds a J.D. and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Magazine Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Will Sullivan (@Journerdism)Broadcasting Board of Governors

Will Sullivan is the Director of Mobile for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, leading strategy, design and development for mobile news and language training products in 61 languages for a weekly total audience of 206 million people in more than 100 countries. He was previously the Director of Mobile News for Lee Enterprises, a Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow at the University of Missouri, Interactive Director of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a Board Member and Secretary for the Online News Association Board of Directors. His work has won recognition from organizations including the GSMA, Appy A​wards, Online News Association, Society for News Design and National Press Photographer Association and he was selected by Editor and Publisher magazine as one of the “25 under 35” innovative young media leaders. Projects he created have twice been declared finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and twice been named to Editor and Publisher's annual list of "10 That Do It Right.”


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