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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Erase all kittens! – spending quality time at the European Youth Award Festival 2017

I am no newbie to the EYA. Four years ago Paul, me and two friends of us won the Award in the category “Go Green” with our App/Game Woody. So i already knew the organising team and over the years we kept contact. I was a juror in 2016 for the first time and it was so much fun that i was looking forward to do it again this year…

In my last post i talked about our network as a small and stable yet dynamic family. I can find many of these qualities in the community of the EYA. Although in a different way. It is large and shrill and posh and everyone seems to be busy being the next big Start-Up CEO. In an interesting workshop, conducted by two wonderful friends from Syria, my group amongst others noticed that we all lack a significant resource: Time. For ourselves.
I want to compare the well organised and tight festival program with a river steadily and strongly flowing. Sometimes you can find people floating next to you at the same velocity. I had many such encounters throughout the last two days. And although it sounds stressful, in fact it has always been energetic and pleasurable. As well interesting and demanding. Personal background stories mixed up with social business models. Example: My dear friend Attila and i just met again after one year and had to catch up in a 10 minute coffee break which ended up having a conversation about how the factor “efficiency” can affect design in a very negative way. When the bell rang we were still standing in line for coffee but almost forgot the river running towards the next workshop.

In the afternoon the winning teams presented their projects to the jury and the festival audience. After last year’s experience i knew in advance that our mission to choose the overall winner would not be easy. The rules for each contestant: exactly 3 minutes of presentation time and 3 minutes of Q&A by the jury. 17 projects and about 2 hours later we were all pretty much filled up with inspiring ideas … and we were exhausted. The contestants were free to spend a nice evening in Graz. For the jury the work just started at that point. At around 11pm and after a we discussed the presentations and projects we finally elected the overall winner.

The winning teams and the moderators of the EYA 2017

“Erase All Kittens” confused with it’s name but also won the hearts of many people in the jury and the audience immediately. As they state on their website: “E.A.K. is a revolutionary, online game that provides kids aged 8-14 with knowledge of both computational thinking and professional coding languages, to effectively prepare them for 21st Century degrees and careers.” Not only it was clearly the most innovative project but it was also the best presentation: I had no struggle at all to understand the concept and their goals within the 3 minutes (almost no questions needed). It amazes me how the team combines the logic process of coding with the ease of playing a fun game about kittens.

Here are the winning teams of the 9 different categories.

Erase All Kittens is the EYA overall winner 2017

In a big evening ceremony on the next day the winning teams were honored by officials and celebrated themselves afterwards. We all know how important partying and dancing is. Sometimes it feels like shaking of the weights of hard work. Especially after so many hours of conceptualizing, creating, designing, coding, calculating, marketing etc. I congratulate and thank the teams and the organisers for making it once more a special experience!

The European Youth Award is a wonderful source of inspiration and gives insights into the young social entrepreneur and start-up scene. At ICT4D.at it is nice and helpful to be part of this international network. I talked to several people about our work as an NGO and there might emerge collaborations in the future. What i definitely know though is that i will be happy to spend some quality time at the EYA again next year.

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Erase all kittens! – spending quality time at the European Youth Award Festival 2017
was published on 03.12.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under eastern and central europe, Europe, global, middle east and north africa
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“Digital Innovation with Impact on Society”

Big words for a small NGO. Aren’t they? I am sure at some points we are innovators. Even big ones. And so yesterday i had the honor of representing ICT4D.at the UNIDO General Conference 2017. Before i go any deeper: This was definitely an interesting experience and it startet right at the entrance when the severe security measures reminded me of the international importance of the UNO. After receiving my badge i took a look around and was amazed by all the people from all over the world being busy keeping the nations united… And all this right in the middle of the well-known and cosy suburbs of Kaisermühlen in Vienna – surreal somehow…

 

The setting was simple: A round table, 4 panellists, 1 moderator and a small but interested audience. We were asked to talk about our work, our projects and our achievements. Our statements were followed by two questions:

  • Which problems are you solving?
  • How is it impacting society?

In our Vision Meeting recently we asked ourselves who we are and who we want to be as an NGO. And i also asked the other members: “What should i tell those guys at the UNO?…” And the coclusion was to go there without pressure and present ICT4D.at as what it is: A small and very precious family network. We don’t have many members but we support each other in a sustainable way. Once connections are established they are taken care of by our members in Austria and the World.
As it is stated on our website we believe in the empowerement of people through ICT. During my preparation for the event I went through former posts and weblinks and noted a few things:

  • tech will just support and is not the key to success – thinking of our Nimble-project online platforms have always supported the organising process in efficient and effective ways and therefore take some pressure of us so we can focus on our team relationships
  • if it’s not broken don’t fix it – we work not only as a team but also as friends and it feels like a family – it has always been like that in our NGO and we are happy to keep it that way
  • opportunities are endless for good programmers – with code people can create wonderful things, no matter were they live and the barrier to get access to crucial technology is relatively low – a wonderful example are Django Girls

So looking back at the two questions above i have an opinionated conclusion: We are solving our own problems by working on the problems in the world. Sometimes the entire world is small and ends at our front doors, sometimes it seems to have no ending. We are a stable yet dynamic group cause everyone can bring in ideas that will be reviewed and supported and we dont have to climb steep hierarchies within our NGO. Yet it amazes me that we collaborate globally. Thanks to ICT. We connect dots around the world for our impact on society.

Happy and thankful for the opportunity and experience i go on with my work by representing ICT4D.at the European Youth Award Festival in Graz this weekend as a jury member. Wuhuuu! Stay tuned…

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“Digital Innovation with Impact on Society”
was published on 30.11.2017 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under Europe, global
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Vision Meeting 2017 – Floating High Up The Wall

Reflecting on who we are and what we do is the essence of our small NGO. We question but also celebrate ourselves in our annual Vision Meeting. Organised by Bella, we hiked up the Gutensteiner Alpen to the Hubertushaus, a small cottage 946 meters above the sea level. We split up into two groups, since our newest members can not climb yet and we then united up the small mountain. After a nice hike, we warmed up a bit with soup to then start working. Florian prepared a schedule and we discussed the following topics:

  • mICT4DMZ – missed opportunity and reflection on failed funding
  • Ghana – Noah and his Django Girls, a Nook for Keta and future plans
  • Nimble – Georg’s and Chloé’s workbench project in cooperation with “Flucht Nach Vorne
  • ECDL for refugees in cooperation with Engineers Without Borders
  • Margarete’s Do-It-Yourself MOOCs for Ghana
  • India and new opportunities.

Furthermore, we talked about what we do and who we are. Questions were asked on how we can combine families with our NGO and how can we work on our projects while working in our jobs. Florian asked, What’s good about ICT4D.at? And everyone had a different answer, from the formal business context and opportunities to occasions to simply meet and have fun. But we also talked about things we dislike and we have to change. Acquiring new members, general orientation and not happening weekly Skype calls were debated. Many discussion but in overall we love what we do and concluded that we’re fine how we are; if it’s not broken don’t fix it.

We also had our annual election of a new chairwoman/man and vice chairwoman/man. Myself got elected as chairman and I feel honoured by the votes of my colleagues. Georg Steinfelder was elected as vice-chairman and I am happy to have a reliable partner next to me. We are looking forward to serve another year as representatives of our organization.

 

 

 

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Vision Meeting 2017 – Floating High Up The Wall
was published on 23.11.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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Django Girls Ho Workshop 2017

Programming is a skill you can use all around the globe to empower anyone to do almost anything. Noah, our youngest member is more than aware of opportunity and he is deeply engaged in empowering his female colleges in web programming courses. Django Girls Ho was the first ever IT workshop that involved ladies from Ho Volta Region and its environs in Ghana.

He is part of the organizing team and was so kind to invite Margarte Grimus and me for a call during the event. Margarete shared her expertise in mobile learning and underlined the importance of self learning. I was sharing my past as a programmer, why am I am a programmer, why I think that this skill is future proof and can change the world – if used for the common good. We were both stunned by the motivation of these young women and can only congratulate Noah and his team. You can read more about the event here and support is always welcome.

I would say that the beautiful Key Takeaways summarize best the mindset of the event:

  1. You should never stop learning, because to be a programmer, you need to be dedicated.
  2. Opportunities are endless when you’re good at programming.
  3. You should use the knowledge you have acquired here to help other people.
  4. You should always work in groups. That’s what make great programmers.

Django Girls

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Django Girls Ho Workshop 2017
was published on 02.11.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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THE NIMBLE DAYS BLOW THEIR FIRST CANDLE

A year ago, our NGO ICT4D.at – Austrian Network for Information and Communication Technologies for Development – launched the workshop The Nimble Building Days in collaboration with the Austrian Red Cross (Wiener Rotes Kreuz – Flüchtlingshilfe). The event took place at the Kurierhaus, a 4,000 m2 refugee center in the city center of Vienna. We had a limited budget and three days to realize the embellishment of the refugee center, supported by motivated participants, the intensive use of Peer-to-Peer and other donation platforms. Therefore, the use of these digital platforms had a central role in our approach, combining solidarity, eco-responsibility (second-hand, DIY, …) with the constraint of limiting costs. Our aim was to sensitize the political sphere and the Red Cross to the financial benefits of such approach where a limited budget and the desire for a sizeable operation have encouraged us to find other ways. We considered the city as an immense source of materials, more accessible and affordable, newly visible through these online platforms. Digital tools free up creativity while contributing to making us citizens and professionals more responsible, more concerned about their environment and the project conditions. But most of all, the operation was an undeniable human success.

 

 

A year after, 2 other operations of different scales have been conducted still in collaboration by the Red Cross Vienna. Here are some pictures of the last project in Altmannsdorfer Straße (Vienna) in its final stage. Members of ICT4D.at, refugees, friends and volunteers have been working together to transform the courtyard into a a playful gr  een space for the residents of the center. Elements of our first project have also found a second life such as the “Kurierhaus Green Sofas” made out of unused Emergency bed and which have survived the whole winter. We hope that they will last for a little while. Furthermore, part of the ground floor had also been turned into a new social and educational hotspot during a previous Nimble Building Days event.

You made a wonderful job guys and happy birthday to TEAM NIMBLE! A new project including a maker space for refugees is on the way and we are always open for new collaborations and sharing ideas.

Enregistrer

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THE NIMBLE DAYS BLOW THEIR FIRST CANDLE
was published on 23.07.2017 by Chloé Zimmermann. It files under Europe
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Guest Lecture 07.06.2017 – International Development Cooperation at TU Wien

We got invited by Jakob Lederer from the Institute for Water Quality, Resource and Waste Management to present our work and projects at the Vienna University of Technology due to our engagement in Mozambique and our connection to INSO, the Research Group for Industrial Software. We will deliver a guest lecture as part of the Course Transfer of Environmental Technologies to Developing Countries. In the past we worked in cooperation with the UEM and INSO within our ICT4DMZ project and we will share our experience. We will try to give a short glimpse of the topic ICT4D in general, will then talk about our ICT4DMZ project – what happened and what are our future plans and then further talk about our Team Nimble. Paul will represent our association and INSO, since he is involved in both organisations, so don’t miss it:

International Development Cooperation at TU Wien
Wednesday 07.06.2017, 15:30-17:00 at TU Wien
(Seminarraum 384, Gußhausstraße 27-29, Stiege I, 4. Stock)

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Guest Lecture 07.06.2017 – International Development Cooperation at TU Wien
was published on 05.06.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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