Lend a support to enable smallholder farmers in rural Ghana access IT & financial services

Farmerline recently launched a 30-day Kiva campaign to raise a $100,000 loan to connect 6,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana to financial services, market information, weather forecasts and quality inputs. We need your help to reach our goal today July 18 in a few hours!

In 2016, we launched our first campaign with Kiva and were able to raise $50,000 to connect 1,000 smallholder farmers to high quality and affordable farm inputs at 20 – 30% below market price. We want to extend our reach!

As a supporter and friend of Farmerline, your contribution would go a long way! As little as $25 would ensure a supply of farmer inputs for a month at a 1 – 2 acre farm, while a $75 loan would ensure a rice or vegetable farmer has input supply for four months and is able to focus on ensuring consistent quality yield.

To learn more about our Kiva campaign and become a lender, visit Farmerline Kiva campaign.

Click the video below to hear from a few of the farmers we serve!

 

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Lend a support to enable smallholder farmers in rural Ghana access IT & financial services
was published on 18.07.2018 by Worlali Senyo. It files under global, sub saharan africa
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2018 IFIP WG 9.4 and an Interactive Workshop about Sexual Harassment via Mobile Phones

In the heart of the beautiful Tirana, the capital of the surprising modern and dynamic Albania, the IFIP WG 9.4 conference took place. I was invited to present my work and also co-chair with Tim Unwin a paper and demo session regarding Equality and Safety issues with Digital Innovations. Tim and I wanted to mix up the session a bit to try out something unusual.

Before the conference, we started to discuss the issue of sexual harassment via mobile phones, after I read his blog post concerning the findings of their research. I proposed a, as we call it now, flawed solution to the problem. I designed a simple mobile application to register sexual harassers and warn victims. I wanted to start a discussion. Quite quickly all the drawbacks of potential abuse, legal implications, data management/ownership, etc arose. So, we got stuck in finding a good solution to empower victims of sexual harassment (via mobile phones) in developing countries.

We then decided to bring the topic to the table of the conference and use the participants to brainstorm for other and foremost better solutions. The goal was to break my programmed engineering thinking and use the diverse minds of our demo and paper session track to come up with something much better. The goal was not a technology, but anything which could empower the victims. The topic was intentionally set very broad to not limit the flow of ideas. This was also challenging, since there were no boundaries and many questions arose during the brainstorming. Furthermore, solving this complex in just workshop is unrealistic, but we were willing to try our best.
We formed groups, I introduced the concept of the Brainwriting-Pool (see our IFIP workshop slides for an explanation) and we tried to generate as many ideas as possible. We only had 45 minutes to discuss and brainstorm together. While some groups kept stuck in great discussions, others were quite productive and proposed many ideas of what we could do. One of the participants opened her heart and shared her story of harassment via mobile phones, which gave us a much better understanding of the topic. This once more showed the importance of including the targeted user group in the design process. Of course, we did not solve the issue in the 45 minutes, but many key points and ideas were stated. Ideas were put out to

  • create an anonyms social network for victims to connect with others and find help.
  • To visualize the harassment to show that this is a big issue and to illustrate that victims are not alone.
  • Make it easier for victims to defend themselves by offering information material on how to legally fight back. Illustrate the rights of every person.
  • When harassed by mobile phones, then the harassment is actually documented by call logs and text messages. This offers a new way of using this as a prove of harassment against the harasser and visualize the attack.
  • Translate sexual rights and women rights into pictograms and make them accessible to everyone.
  • Better illustrate that sexual harassment is not the fault of the victim and that they have a right to dignity.
  • Create mobile awareness campaigns.
  • Provide a quick help by offering options to victims to protect themselves.
  • A place where victims can share their story anonymously. To make it first possible to talk about the incident in a safe environment and also help others to understand that they are not the only ones going through such a difficult time.
  • Provide call centres with no charges and ensure anonymity.
  • A self-defence Drone you can launch to film your harasser and document the incident.
  • Better offer statistics about incidents to trigger a discussion and create awareness.
  • A “one button click” to connect one victim to another to reach out for help and understanding.
  • Create a SMS based one/two-way communication with empowering and motivating messages. Also offer a smart phone application.
  • Implement a general filter to block harassment content entirely form your platform. Have a “Right to delete” content on the Internet.

Many more issues, problems and ideas were discussed and mentioned. The possibilities and challenges are there, the sensitive topic of sexual harassment is too often ignored and our workshop underlined that we need to put a spotlight on this issue. ICT can do good, but also too often bad. It is our responsibility to also discuss the dark side of the technologies we promote and to be aware that ICTs are not always shiny and golden.

All of this was possible due to Kutoma Wakunuma and Sirkku Männikkö Barbutiu who also presented their profound work in our track. They agreed beforehand to shorten their presentations to give us the stage to carry out our workshop. I would like to again express my gratitude and recommend reading their valuable contributions:

Kutoma Wakunuma: Hey women can play dirty too! Social media Building and Construction – A tale of empowerment in the developing world

Sirkku Männikkö Barbutiu: A Facebook Account of Ones Own

I would also like to thank Endrit, the conference chair, who gave us the opportunity and a big thank you to Tim, for supporting me in my work.

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2018 IFIP WG 9.4 and an Interactive Workshop about Sexual Harassment via Mobile Phones
was published on 09.07.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under eastern and central europe, global
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Junior Camp Zion College – Anloga

The Junior Camp Ghana Program is a career mentoring series in high schools in Ghana. It is run by the GhanaThink Foundation.

The program allows industries and persons to share their stories, experiences and knowledge with students in second cycle institutions i.e. Senior High Schools (SHS).

It also connects students with mentors who provide their wisdom about their areas of expertise, management, leadership skills, career success factors, industry insights, communication skills. Through the program students are inspired to match similar career goals, concentration, career fields etc.

Junior Camp Zion College was held on the 30th of June 2018 and started with an opening prayer lead by one of the students.

Harry Akligoh, the Volta lead for Junior Camp Ghana took over to talk about the program and the purpose of our gathering.
The mentors then introduced themselves and what they do.

I was opportuned to lead a session on:

1. Why learn programming
2. Opportunities available
3. How to become a successful developer
4. Why acquiring a digital skill is essential in today’s era.
5. My experience / story

Noah introducing himself at #JCZionCollege

Other sessions lead by mentors includes:

1. Techpreneur – Dakey James Sewornu

2. Education and Entrepreneurship – Courage Christson Tetteh

3. Legal Education – Elorm Ashiagbor

4. Finance and Accounting – Cryspin Kavaarpuo

5. Sexual and reproductive health and volunteerism – Ekissi Victor

6. Creativity and Innovative thinking – Harry Akligoh

7. Healthcare and Sciences – Precious Adade

Mentors at Junior Camp Zion College

The assistant headmaster was pleased to have us around impact the students.

At the end of it all, we proposed to the school that we want to set-up an ICT club/society to equip the students with digital skills.

During our mentoring session we realized a lot of students are having interest in programming, IOT, animations, graphic designing etc but don’t have the exposé hence the need to have a community to spark that interest.

The mind blowing ideas from the students needs support to make them a reality.

In the years to come great developers will start coming up from Zion College in Angloga and also partaking in competitions.

Upcoming female developers

The assistant headmaster was so excited to hear this laudable idea and can’t wait to have this club on campus.

Our hope is to commence the club when school resumes next academic year.

It’s my dream to also see other High schools in Ghana exposing their students to technology.

The program ended with both participants sharing what they’ve learnt and also the mentors sharing their experiences with the students.

Indeed, Living Tomorrow’s Career Today.

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Junior Camp Zion College – Anloga
was published on 01.07.2018 by Noah Alorwu. It files under sub saharan africa
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ICT4D Lecture at Vienna University of Technology

I got invited to give a talk about ICT4D in a lecture called Beyond the Desktop due to my affiliation to the Vienna University of Technology. The lecture covers a broad spectrum of technology applications and aims at design thinking. It targets Master students who combine in their studies software engineering, user interface design and user experience design. The goal of the lecture is to also look beyond the usual software applications and illustrate other exiting fields such as wearable technologies, ambiguous computing and also this semester for the first time ICT4D. Beyond the Desktop aims at:

  • Employing and acquiring skills in user interfaces beyond the traditional Desktop.
  • Getting to know various technologies to solve problems in this field.
  • To be able to understand and apply principles in design and evaluation according to HCI fundamentals for future mobile applications.
  • Prototyping new kinds of actions between humans and computers

In my guest lecture I will give a broad overview of what ICT4D is and where it originates. I will illustrate some ICT4D projects in the field and also focus on past failed projects to show the misperception of ICT4D. Followed then by a presentation of our ICT4DMZ project and my experience form India, since both projects were implemented in cooperation with INSO and DECO, the hosting research groups.

If you are interested in a dialogue about ICT4D, then feel free to join me:

Venue
GM4 Knoller
Hoftrakt, Stiege IV, 2. Obergeschoß
Getreidemarkt 9, 1060 Wien
Directions in German

Time: 14.06.2018, 16:00 – 17:30

Language: English

See you there!

Lecture at TU Vienna

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ICT4D Lecture at Vienna University of Technology
was published on 07.06.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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Learning to code: Programming with Pocket Code

Margarete is in close contact with our friends at the TU Graz who work on several tools for students. They developed Pocket Code, a mobile Android application to teach programming on the phone itself. You can create Android apps on an Android Device by simply putting blocks of code together. The principle is similar to Scratch, which in contrary only works on desktop devices. Wonderful concept and definitely worth to check out! They also develop iMoox a MOOC software and recently started to offer their content in English language. They offer now a new course where you can learn more about Pocket Code, check it out here.

The target group are children aged from 12-14 years, but also for teachers who would like to introduce programming in their classrooms.

Course content

With the help of Pocket Code, particularly children will gain initial experience with programming. A simple and visual user interface enables a playful implementation of your own ideas.
The course is designed for children and young people (age group 10-14 years) as well as teachers of all subjects.
The main content includes creating your own games, interactive animations and apps with Pocket Code.
It is up to the children whether they take the course on their own or together with their parents.

Learning goals

Participants of the course are able to implement their own ideas with the help of Pocket Code. At the end of the course the following objectives should be achieved:• I can handle objects
• I can work with the different commands of Pocket Code
• I can solve problems using Pocket Code
• I can create my own program and save it as an app
• I can download and modify another program

Prerequisites

As it is a course for beginners, no special previous knowledge is required.
• Start date 04.06.2018
• 5 week(s)3 hour(s)/week

Register Now!

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Learning to code: Programming with Pocket Code
was published on 26.05.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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Mobile Learning Week 2018

Mobile Learning Week is UNESCO’s flagship ICT in education event. Digital skills are critical for jobs and social inclusion in a universality connected world – an estimated 95% of the global population living in an area covered by at least a basic 2 G mobile cellular network [MLW Concept Note].

MLWs provide a platform to share and expand knowledge, innovations and good practices in mobile learning on an international base. It is an excellent event for exchanging knowledge about achievements in skills targeted to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). The conference is co-organized by UNESCO and International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for ICT.
Topic of the 8th MLW, scheduled from 26-30 March 2018 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris was “Skills for a connected world”, focussing on digital skills and competencies for a connected economy and society.

Presenters for the 17 workshops were selected from a wide range of international organizations, NGOs, governmental agencies, research, projects and digital skills development programmes. While Margarete participated in former MLWs, this year she was accompanied by Paul Spiesberger. Furthermore, Margarete was invited to participate in workshop-presentation together with Prof. Mohamed Ally from Athabasca University, topic: “Developing Females and Teachers’ Digital Skills in Ghana”. She reported our project implemented from 2012 -2014, pointing out the very successful follow up developments organised by students participated in our workshops. It is important to note that girls represented quite often the majority of participants in our workshops. This can also be observed when looking at their blogs, videos and photos. The outcome of our engagement in Ghana shows that inequalities and gender divides can decreased with similar activities in digital skills programs.

Download Margarete’s presentation here.

Included in Margarete’s presentation was also a follow up project of former participants. In cooperation with Django Girls ICT4D.at’s former workshop participants organize workshops on programming in Python, especially tailored for women. Attendees don’t need any previous knowledge about programming and there is no age limitation. Coaches, speakers or organizers are volunteers; one female and one male tutor are former participants in the project presented. Additional activities were organized as Barcamps, workshops for students of nearby schools etc. Read more here.

Margarete and Paul took their chance to discuss possibilities with experts from UNESCO (Steve Vosloo) and representatives from all over the world for future projects in partnership with ICT4d.at. They gained insights in outstanding projects and programs in various countries. Discussions about successful and independent activities of students brought up new visions and ideas, how the group in Ghana could be encouraged for further developments on a larger scale.

Next to Margarete also other outstanding project were presented eKitabu which “Delivers accessible digital content for quality education” and Room7 – a network for coding schools, are two great examples. We also discovered a very successful project from Brazil, Laboratoria, which trains “Female tech talent from Latin America to the world”.

Adapting MOOCs for local demands seems to be a promising option. ICT4D.at will continue with cooperation and work on this issue to increase the chance for youth in Ghana to develop digital skills independently. Visions are continuously discussed via Skype with of the Mobile learning Society. Together we continue to inform our readers about further activities in Ghana.

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Mobile Learning Week 2018
was published on 08.05.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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IFIP WG 9.4 Euro 2018 Conference

We would like to emphasize the next 2018 IFIP WG 9.4 European Regional Conference on the Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries in Tirana, Albania from the 22nd to 24th June 2018. The conference is organized by Organised by IFIP WG 9.4, the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway University of London and the European University of Tirana. They recently opened their call for papers and the first deadline is approaching:

Abstract Submission Deadline: 20 March 2018

This year’s theme is Digital Innovation for Sustainable Development and they are particularly interested in submissions related to innovation agility, indigenous innovation in developing countries and digital innovation for sustainable development. However, they are soliciting submissions across the full range of topics of interest to IFIP Working Group 9.4 in the broad areas of technology and sustainable international development, focusing but not limited to the following areas:

  1. Digital innovations for poverty and inequality reduction
  2. Technology-enhanced education
  3. Equality and human rights
  4. Digital technologies and forced international migration
  5. Technology, automation and decent work
  6. International business and economic growth
  7. Sustainable and innovative cities and communities
  8. Responsible consumption and production
  9. Digital governance, peace and justice
  10. ICT4D in South-East Europe

The organizers are eager to encourage as many people as possible from Europe and elsewhere to contribute and offer papers. So don’t miss out this chance to hand in your work or simply participate to take an active role in the ICT4D movement.

ifip conference logos

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IFIP WG 9.4 Euro 2018 Conference
was published on 05.03.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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Holistic development and multi-stakeholder engagement with a pinch of systems theory; a recipe for acknowledging complexity

 

A day like today 10 years ago I decided to quit my job in IBM. I no longer wanted to wake up every morning and work 10 hours to make someone in the US richer and richer. I had volunteered in Peru and Mozambique during the summer holidays and I knew I wanted to work in development. I had however witnessed how private companies can influence policies, move governments and transform the lives of people in developed and developing countries, and it was that sweet spot between development and the private sector that was most appealing to me.

Luckily for me, the development industry has undergone a profound change over the last decade and has moved closer to that sweet spot. Old funding models and narrow focused interventions are no longer the norm. Donors are increasingly requesting Public Private Partnerships where private companies need to provide co-funding for the implementation of a program. Nowadays development objectives (including a theory of change) and business model design (including pricing) are two sections of the same project proposal. An agricultural program now needs to put women equity at its heart, focus on nutrition and food security while achieving economic, social, technological and environmental sustainability. This holistic approach can promote transformational and long lasting change, but it is also much more complex to develop, manage and evaluate than “old school” donor funded programs.

Having managed a small component of a multi-country (14) multi-million (24) multi-partner (40) program that aimed to integrate agriculture and nutrition goals using mobile phones, while attempting to demonstrate ‘impacts at scale’ and value for money, I can tell you: getting to the end goal is not a walk in the park. While I was still involved in the program I was approached by a researcher from Ottawa University, interested in analyzing this complex program using a systems approach to understand the relationship between its numerous sub-components and its different development goals. The result was an academic paper that has recently been published in Food Security (Springer), which will hopefully influence donors and academia to revisit their approach to complex development programs and to ensure that the sweet spot between development and businesses becomes sweeter in the years to come.

 

Here I leave you the abstract and a link to the paper.

International development programming is increasingly integrating agriculture and nutrition goals, while attempting to demonstrate ‘impacts at scale’ and value for money. These multiple goals create complexities, both from a conceptual viewpoint and a more operational perspective. This article uses systems theory to examine the mobile Nutrition program (mNutrition), which aims to improve nutrition, food security and livelihoods for rural women and children, through mobile phone-based information services.  The paper specifically uses mNutrition’s work in Malawi as a case study. The systems approach reveals that, as a complex system with numerous sub-components and tensions among different goals, the mNutrition program tended to minimize connections between its sub-systems (such as content development and mobile service development processes) in order to speed up movement towards the global planned outcomes. We argue that this is likely to have multiple impacts on outcomes, including on overall effectiveness and the relevance and sustainability of the mobile message content.

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Holistic development and multi-stakeholder engagement with a pinch of systems theory; a recipe for acknowledging complexity
was published on 27.02.2018 by Alvaro Valverde. It files under global, sub saharan africa
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foreverloops – making music with gears

Is it a game? Is it an application? Is it an instrument? A tool maybe? … Well everyone of these answers might be right.
Another question: What is the connection between gears and music?
In this case the answer is simple: foreverloops.

The interface of foreverloops

In September i met Ulrich from foreverloops at the “Play Austria” fair in Vienna. After talking to several exhibitors and game developers, after hours of playing i felt the need to end my visit. One last game caught my eye, at least it seemed to be a game at the first glance. It was the beginning of a really nice half hour of playing and talking to Ulrich, one of two programmers of foreverloops. We decided to stay in contact for a potential workshop.

This workshop took place last week in the Kulturzentrum of “Flucht nach Vorn” in Vienna. We invited young refugees to participate and to spend a few hours of playful beat producing together. Our friend and ICT4D.at member Chloé was also part of the fun. The setting reminded me of a LAN party: One big table with laptops, concentrated facial expressions, headphones. Ulrich and i gave a short introduction about the functions and features. It only took us a few minutes to explain the basics. When you try out foreverloops yourself you know why: It is by all means playful and it is of utmost fun to discover the variety of beats and possibilities on your own. After the first hour we already saw quite complex gear systems on each screen. Ulrich showed some tricks during a coffee break for the participants to dig even deeper into the world of drum’n’gears (might this become the newest genre in the pop music industry?).
What particularly fascinates me of foreverloops is that you can build very complex gear systems with totally simple methods. The concept of loops and adding sound sample after sound sample works almost immediately without reading a handbook or playing an annoying tutorial. You can create very short loops but it is also possible to build really big pieces of music that go on for hours and hours before looping for the first time. Ulrich said that even he doesn’t know by far all the possibilities of this gear system. Fascinating!
Another cool feature is that you can produce even visuals in an intuitive way. Just use video or picture samples out of the sample library. Or use your own music and video pieces. A true source of neverending inspiration for hobby and professional musicians. As well as a potential tool to do awesome live art performances… I admit it…i became a real fan boy.

In the end we presented the brand new creations with a projector and quite powerful speakers. It was great to hear and see all those different audiovisual pieces: Some sounded happy, some dark, some fast, some slow…in a feedback round we discovered that people can use foreverloops as a powerful way to express feelings or dreams. And we all agreed that it is just fun to play with gears to make music.

Thank you Ulrich and Marlene from foreverloops! You brought a wonderful new tool into this world. I hope many will discover your work in the future.

You can get foreverloops via Steam:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/725610/foreverloops/

Or take a look at the youtube channel first:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWZcM997e6oae9iGfJu2lOw

Have fun!

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foreverloops – making music with gears
was published on 18.12.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under Europe
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Digital Education in Ghana

Margarete Grimus’s work over the past years was hosted by the official TU Graz blog. Her engagement as a lecturer and expert in mobile learning and the success of the project in Ghana is summarized. She recently graduated with a PhD from the TU Graz and the university proudly shares her work in one of their blog posts. Her efforts is therefore highly recognized and it is stunning to see the impact and results of her work. We are very proud to have her as a member, but see yourself and read the blog post in English language here or German language here.

Margarete in Ghana

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Digital Education in Ghana
was published on 07.12.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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