Much more than an app developers camp…

Ohrid is located on the shore of a big lake with crystal clear water in the south west of Macedonia. It bears a diverse ecological system and is millions of years old. The UNESCO accepted Lake Ohrid as Natural World Heritage Site. Tiny fish tickle your body when you keep still for a while. It is a holiday paradise and i wonder why i’ve never heard of it before.

There we met last weekend to choose the 3 winning projects of an international app development project called mYouth 2.0 which provides space for youth that is already in the field of new technologies in order to develop further their potentials and ideas.

4 participants from Asia, 4 from Africa and 4 from Europe pitched in front of a 12 member expert jury.
The jury chose one winner of each continent.
The 3 winners are invited to the European Youth Award festival in Graz in November 2018.

 

photo (c) Mladiinfo

It took me several days to write this recap. Why? Cause it was such a valuable experience that i didn’t want to cut it down to a few words. Nor would some pictures show what really fascinated me about this event. I’ll give it a shot…

We spent 5 days together. More than 30 people from 3 different continents: East African Region (Kenya and Tanzania), West African Region (Senegal and Ghana), North Asian Region (Vietnam and Hong Kong) and South Asian Region (Singapore and Philippines) as well as the European Region that involves Poland, Germany, Austria, Macedonia and Romania  – I thought of justing naming a few exemplary countries but it is so impressive if you make yourself aware of this diversity. Just being in the middle of this vibrant community was already worth travelling to Ohrid. I felt an excitement that i experience seldomly these days. A feeling that there is a vibrant and positive world beneath frightening news and fascist governments. That there are people who are actually making a change by helping their local communities and therefore bringing valuable ideas to the global society.

And the contestants do exactly that. Some of them experienced hard times in their young lifes and decided to protect people in the future from those experiences. Some of them observe problems in their communites and decide to do something about it. Some have a smart idea and want to develop it further. They get creative and use mobile technologies to help for example pupils who want to learn more about the world but simply don’t have learning material. Or to make dental service affordable for people who can’t rely on a health care system. Or to give an effective tool to people who want to make music but have no idea where to start – Spoiler: Those are the winners 😉

Jurying and choosing those 3 winning projects was tough. Many of the presentations where very convincing, several of the pitches where brillant, all of the projects are worth to be supported. It took us hours to discuss and decide. Sometimes i ask myself if competitions like this one are just wrong when all of them deserve to win. But then again it is a big boost for your motivation if you strive towards a goal.

The competion itself tough was just one aspect of the whole event. We coached the contestants and their projects and we learned a lot from them as well. So it was in fact a win-win situation. And we had time to spare. Some of the most interesting and deepest conversations emerge while you have lunch together or enjoy the sunset on a hill in Ohrid.

There would be so much more to say about the event, about technological aspects, about how important a proper design process is for an app project and so on but i think i already implied what was most important for me:
People from different cultures, of various ages, with different backgrounds came together in a peaceful, respectful and joyful way. We worked together, supported each other and simply had fun. It was organised by a careful and dedicated team (thanks so much Mladiinfo!). Jumping into this intercultural experience was one of the best things i did recently.

To be fair: It was an almost perfect setting and it is not easy to organise such intercultural events. But i think you can scale it down to your daily life as well. Even short contacts between persons with different cultural backgrounds can be interesting and authentic if you kick yourself in the butt and step our of your comfort zone. Give it a try! You won’t be disappointed. And it doen’t matter if you speak the same language or not.


Much more than an app developers camp…
was published on 30.09.2018 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under east africa, east asia, eastern and central europe, Europe, global, middle east and north africa, south asia
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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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“Images FOR Africa” hits 10.000 pieces

We are proud to announce that our flickr group Images FOR Africa reached 10.000 pieces some days ago. From the Images FOR Africa description:

We want to collect ‘Images of Africa’ that are ‘free to use’ according to a Creative Commons License: Social documentary, structures, public transport, village life, poverty, nature, wildlife … everything!

There is no special purpose other than spreading/providing Africa related, CC licensed photos in media:

so they can be used free of charge by e.g.:
– Africa related NGOs/NPOS to do proper media-work,
– local business initiatives for their web presence,
– upcoming journalists,
– …

We took this round lot of 10.000 and created a flickr gallery where we curate the best picks from the group. Based on this beautiful sample we are looking forward to print some shots and try to organize an exhibition.

Click on the image to get to the gallery:

Just a short remark on the group: A lot of people add their images ‘blind’ and don’t license the images as “creative commons” before they post to the group. We assume that these flickr users at least read the group rules but don’t know about creative commons and want to support the cause anyway.

If you want to use the picture for some purpose, just write the user who shot it. Describe what you will use it for and reference to the group rules. If the user is not ok with it, we will have to remove the picture from our group pool. Just send a message to our flickr account in that case.

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“Images FOR Africa” hits 10.000 pieces
was published on 21.02.2010 by Florian Sturm. It files under east africa, middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
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Interview with Jacob Korenblum from Souktel

It’s already been a few months ago that we had the chance to interview Jacob Korenblum, the co-founder of Souktel, at the MobileActive08 conference in Johannesburg. Souktel is an outstanding SMS-based job seeking service developed in Palestine. The project emerged from an urgent need for a job seeking platform, as there were no similar governmental services available and newspapers are rare and expensive. At the time the project started access to Internet was still a problem for people in Palestine and Souktel therefore decided to develop their application for mobile phones.

Job seekers can simply create a profile by answering a couple of questions through SMS. The profiles are then matched against current job offers. At the time we recorded the interview about 5000 job seekers used the service every month and about 40 people a month were matched with a job, internship or training opportunities.

In the interview below Jacob Korenblum gives a great 5-minutes summary of Souktel’s services and current activities.

Also check out MobileActive’s excellent blog post about Souktel.

This is the 12th interview from our MobileActive08 video podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

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Interview with Jacob Korenblum from Souktel
was published on 09.02.2009 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under middle east and north africa
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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 2

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

Notes from Saturdays AfrikaCamp Vienna. Overview of the sessions can be viewed at the AfrikaCamp wiki.

Session 4 and 5 were our presentations, so I didn’t note down anything.

The platform ICT4D.at – who we are, what we do – Martin Konzett, Florian Sturm

ICT4D.at – UZI, the movie – Anders Bolin

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Business driven Philantropy – Business development platform

Big problem: poverty – can it be eliminated?

Businesses have to help

  • philantropy is not the same as charity

Solution:

  • social entrepreneurship
  • philantro-capitalism – business driven philosophy
  • microfinancing – really works

Example: Maya One

  • network of partners
  • spending 3% of profit to an NGO
  • school projects for child laborers
  • reward: partners help each other
  • cyclic

I have to admit that I didn’t really get the concept of this business driven philantropy – how is it different than just donating a certain percentage of the profit for a good cause just for marketing reasons? Maybe somebody can comment on that?

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OpenStreetMap – Helge Fahrnberger

There is no proper street map of Burkina Faso. The ones that exist are not accurate and quite expensive.

Solution:

  • crowd-sourcing mapping of the world
  • OpenStreetMap
  • CC licensed version of Google Maps
  • these maps can also be used for commercial reasons

Helges plan:

  • creation of a digital street map of Ouagadougou (capital)
  • donation to printing services there

Ouagadougou is currently not really present in Google Maps, but almost fully covered in OSM

Consequences:

  • it is very easy to create maps for any country
  • these maps are available for free
  • local people can map their city

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HandyÖkonomie in Afrika – Christoph Chorherr

How is money on mobile phones created?

At the ITHUBA project:

  • until now there is no internet because the cables are always stolen
  • but everybody has a mobile phone

Here there are ATMs all around, but how do you pay when there are no ATMs?

-> Mobile Banking

Mobile phone companies see a business there and support this development

  • a virtual currency is created
  • prepaid airtime
  • without interest
  • it is not possible to accumulate money, it would lose its value
  • economic theory: Schwundgeld

Money is transferred over wide distances this way

  • e.g. in Tanzania parents transfer money to their children this way
  • Kenya: M-Pesa

What would happen if a mobile phone company stopped its business?

  • all the airtime would lose its value
  • lacking trust

Nokia has a strong focus on driving forward these development

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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 2
was published on 02.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 1

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

After attending AfrikaCamp Vienna yesterday, I want to share my notes on some of the sessions. As there were parallel sessions and we had two presentations, I couldn’t attend all of them. There is also the AfrikaCamp wiki on barcamp.at where the sessions are listed.

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HIV AIDS und Human Rights AdvocacyFlorian Schirg

Florian talked about his experiences when doing his civil service in Cameroon at a hospital.

Although the work there was quite rewarding and interesting for him, generally it is hard to motivate local people want to work there, as the connectivity in the area is quite bad and it is hard to get access to a mobile phone network or the internet. The only doctor working there right now is Austrian. The next internet connection is a one day travel away.

Now an Northern American church organization wants to install an ERP system there, to make processes more efficient.

Florian raised the question if this project would make any sense taking into account that

  • there are not enough employees
  • there are no local people capable of maintaining the system
  • electricity is not constantly available

and asked for input from the audience.

The subsequent comments from the audience were mainly critical towards the lacking communication between the Northern American sponsors and the local church and hospital. Most people agreed that the project was bound to fail and the approach not to involve local people was ignorant and antiquated.

Another remark was that enhanced connectivity would motivate more people to go there. With mobile network coverage and internet connection people wouldn’t feel as far away any more.

Organization in Vorarlberg: http://www.kamerunpartner.com
Church: http://www.oseelc.org/
Blog: http://florian.nomadlife.org/

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Peak oil und Afrika – Michael Cerveny

Peak oil: the climax in oil production followed by a constant decline and a sharp raise of the oil price – what are the effects on Africa?

Energy is the most important resource in the world, especially oil can cover the worldwide consumption. The production of oil will have its peak some time between 2010 and 2030 which will cause a sudden scarceness and result in a price explosion. This will definitely change the world, how will it affect different societies?

Consequences in Austria:

  • everything will become more expensive, especially energy-intense products and food
  • standard family:
  • about 3000€ additional costs for heating per year
  • 700€ more for fuel per year

How will it affect Africa?

Comments from the audience:

Agriculture in Africa is not that energy-intensive, it’s more labour-intensive. That’s why maybe the peak-oil will affect Africa less than other regions of the world.

Most of the African countries would have enough production to sustain themselves without imports. If the countries manage to organize the work efficiently and build up an active market, they would not be dependent on foreign countries so much any more. Inner-African trade is also important.

Right now the agricultural market in many countries of Africa is destroayed through subsidized imports from Western countries. Raising costs for industrial agriculture could correct this imbalance.

In many African countries the Western lifestyle serves as an ideal for a lot of people. So people here have the obligation to change their behaviour before demanding changes from others.

It is substantial to foster education, but on the other hand also production in these countries. NGOs often don’t invest, but donate. This does not help to develop a healthy economy.

Video cast from Christoph Chorherr interviewing Michael Cerveny.

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Web 2.0 für große NGOs – Björn Stockleben

New donation-platforms such as Betterplace or Kiva offer their users a very personal connection to development assistance projects. For big NGOs this project-based approach is not practical as projects are organized at different levels of the organization. So the existing platforms are not used by big NGOs. How can they overcome this dilemma?

Björn suggested a cetral approach for a donations-platform, where all the organizations can upload their projects. To offer an enhanced persoalization, the project desctiptions could be accessed through an API and made visible depending on where they are integrated.

Comments from the audience:

Do NGOs even want that? Is there a demand for this type of platform?

It is important to identify oneself with the NGO and the project as donator. There is no sense for NGOs to compete with 1000 others for donators, if they cannot offer a personal connection to the projects.

Decentralization is vital, every NGO can create their own network with the tools which are already there (e.g. Facebook, …).

NGOs do not have the interest to create a network, when it comes to surviving, the aims are put behind.
-> This is not true, there are a lot of networks such as Globale Verantwortung or Ökobüro. Networking takes place in the exchange of experience, when it comes to donations every NGO works on its own.

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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 1
was published on 01.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
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Africa and the Boom in Mobile Phone Subscription

Again I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful during writing my thesis.

This time I will introduce the paper “Transforming Recent Gains In The Digital Divide Into Digital Opportunities: Africa And The Boom In Mobile Phone Subscription” from 2006. Based on recent developments it sums up the potential impact of the mobile phone on African society and economy. It was written by Peter A. Kwaku Kyem and Peter Kweku LeMaire (Central Connecticut State University, USA) for an issue of the online available journal “The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries” (EJISDC).

In the following a short summary of the paper:

In the past years mobile phone subscriptions, fixed lines and internet access have increased in Africa quicker than in any other region on earth.  The questions are now if this technological boost can be used for socioeconomic improvements and if, without accompanying measures, it is enough to raise the living standard.

Digital divide:

The gap results from socio-economic differences in the world that in turn affect their access to digital information. The digital divide thus reflects existing economic divisions in the world.“- from Dzidonu, C.K. (2001) – The Socio-Economic Development Implications of the Digital Divide within the context of African Countries

The digital divide was until 2004 decreased and the access to ICTs in developing countries is now catching up with the western world. A substantial task is now, not to focus just on the physical presence of the ICTs, but to have a clear vision of their use.

The mobile phone is unique in Africa, as it serves as the main communication device now and can take many hurdles, which conventional ICTs did not. Therefore it is the main ICT nowadays available (= becoming ubiquitous) and has a high economic potential.

Direct economic benefits:

  • microenterprises
  • outsourcing from developed countries is through ICTs possible
  • market information for rural and poor areas
  • organization and information – substitute for travels and person-to-person communication
  • improved banking services through M-banking

Socio-cultural impacts of mobile phones:

  • belonging to a communication network rahter than to a place
  • strengthen democracy (protests, elections)
  • status symbol
  • mixing of private and public life
  • increased sense of security

Other potential uses and impacts of mobile phones in Africa

  • improved health services
  • improved education
  • e-government

But overall, adoptions of the technology must come with improvements in other infrastructure areas, otherwise there will be no impact. Furthermore governments need to adapt appropriate ICT policies.

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Although the paper doesn’t come up with the most surprising answers, it gives a good overview of the potentials of mobile phones in Africa. I think the main conclusions are still valid though a lot has happened in those two years since the paper was written. For the whole paper I may refer to EJISDC.

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Africa and the Boom in Mobile Phone Subscription
was published on 08.12.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
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