As new technologies such as mobile phones impact peoples’ daily lives, interest into their potential is also growing. In this research paper we aim to identify and explore how a particular research approach, in this instance, ethnographic futures research (EFR), can be utilized for future predictions of mobiles phones in social development activities in developing countries. The paper describes the process and offers reasoning for utilizing this approach. By undertaking this research, the benefits are that academics will learn of an approach that will allow the study of and understanding social development activities achieved by novel mobile applications. For practitioners, such research offers the potential of obtaining a rich, simple and clearer understanding of mobile application development. By obtaining such an understanding, regions around the globe can be targeted and diffusion strategies leading to increasing mobile phone users will occur. By applying EFR it is concluded that there is definitely a need for a different way of thinking about how mobile phone services should be created and deployed to marginalized communities to avoid the unsustainable models used for the initial tele‐center deployments over a decade ago.