News from our Keta project after a week course

As already announced, since 6 September our member Margarete Grimus is in Ghana and holding the in-service training for teachers in digital media skills in public schools in Ghana at Keta Senior High Technical School since a week already.

Now here’s a short sum up of what she writes about how everything is going:

The course is running alright, we start every day at 8 AM until 1 PM officially – but so far we never stopped before 1:30 PM. […] There are plenty of computers in the computer room, but only 5 are working and they regrettably have viruses. Also, we don’t have access to internet. I bought an own internet stick myself on the first day and I’m using that one. There are 12 participants of the course with very different levels of skills, but the spirit is very good. […]

From next week on we’ll only start at 3 PM because regular school is commencing.The fact that we don’t have internet is quite a constraint in the course contents. Also I cant use the questionnaire I developed upfront. What’s very good is that two thirds of the participants have their own laptops with them. […]

It’s also very interesting to find out about the didactical aspects, which I find very important. There’s something new coming to my mind every day. […] The participants have a portfolio where they are summing up down every day what they learned and everybody is very interested and motivated. […]

We also have some pictures of Margarete at the school and with her hosts which you see above.

So, let’s hope internet will be available this week and that there’s a lot going forward at the course!

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News from our Keta project after a week course
was published on 16.09.2012 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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Delayed start for our ICT training for teachers in Ghana

Because of a medical issue we regrettably had to postpone our in-service training for teachers in digital media skills in public schools in Ghana. Due to our initial plan the course should have started already, but we had to delay the start for two weeks. We’ve been in touch with everybody and have our man Gameli Adzahoon on the spot, so everything is sorted out.

Margarete Grimus will be in Ghana now from 6 September on and will probably split the course on two parts – but Margarete and the participants will plan for this when she’s there.

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Delayed start for our ICT training for teachers in Ghana
was published on 28.08.2012 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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New project: Academic Partnership with Vienna University of Technology and University Maputo

Another new project of ICT4D.at has already started officially and will be running for a while now.

It’s a partnership with the Vienna University of Technology and the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo – Mozambique (UEM) and the official title is

Strengthening universities’ capacities for improved access, use and application of ICT for social development and economic growth in Mozambique“.

The project is funded by the APPEAR-program of the Austrian Development Agency and we’re very happy about that! It officially started this July and will go on for two years until June 2014.

Here’s an abstract about the project objectives from the application:

This proposed project is designed to strengthen capacity and infrastructure at the partner institution, the Department of Mathematics and Informatics of the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), while Vienna University of Technology (TUW) in Austria will provide specialist competency as a research partner in this effort. The not-for-profit organisation ICT4D.at will support as a subcontractor of TUW. The expected results are a higher quality of education offered by the department of Mathematics and Informatics at UEM and a strengthening of the research capacities to produce research outputs of relevance to the Mozambique strategic economic sectors for rural development and poverty reduction. The improvement of the information technology programmes and infrastructure, coupled with a sustainable research partnership between UEM and TUW, is the main development goal to be achieved by the establishment of this project, so that the practical results can be made sustainable for the process of teaching, research and contribution to the Mozambican private sector, civil sector and economy as a whole.

The project supports the thematic focus of this call with four specific objectives. […]

Improving university infrastructure to provide the basis for a high quality study programme and research activities” […]

Developing educational programmes by improving the quality of teaching, learning, research and gender equality” […]

Establishing a sustainable partnership between UEM & TUW to collaborate on projects and research outputs relevant to the needs of the university and strategic economic sectors in Mozambique for rural development and poverty reduction with ICT” […]

Enhancing the local intellectual property transfer office at UEM to guarantee the application of research findings to the society and economy, leading to sustainable social development and economic growth after the project period

It’s an ambitious project and we have a motivated project team with Prof. Mosse, Prof. Shindyapin and Ms. Mara from UEM, Prof. Grechenig and Paul Pöltner from TUW and ICT4D.at members Joanna Knueppel, Isabella Wagner, Margarete Grimus, Fritz Grabo and myself, Florian Sturm.

We’ll start a project blog shortly where we will post updates and preliminary results of the project. When it’s ready we’ll make an announcement here. Of course we’ll also cross-post relevant content on this blog.

Right now we are mainly planning the first visits to Mozambique – Isabella Wagner will write the first main report on the spot and later, together with Paul Pöltner and Prof. Grechenig and UEM officials there will be the first big in-person meeting in Maputo.

We’re excited that this project – our biggest so far – has started now and we’re looking forward to a fruitful partnership with UEM and TUW! Hopefully our contribution will help UEM to make better use of the countries ICT capacity and let the people of Mozambique benefit.

If you know about any initiatives in Mozambique and especially around Maputo making use of ICT please let us know – either in the comments, on Twitter or write us a mail. Thanks!

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New project: Academic Partnership with Vienna University of Technology and University Maputo
was published on 17.08.2012 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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New project: In-service training for teachers in digital media skills in public schools in Ghana

We’re proud to announce a new project, which will already start in about two weeks time!

Our members Margarete Grimus and Worlali Senyo have joined up with Gameli Adzaho and Charles Amega-Selorm in Ghana to provide an In-service training for teachers in digital media skills for teaching and learning in public schools in Ghana. The one-month course will already begin in two weeks and will take place at Keta Senior High Technical School. Margarete Grimus, who has extensive knowledge in teaching and adult education in ICT will hold the course and meet with several people on the spot to explore possibilities for further projects in this sector.

The main objective of this pilot project is to equip 15 teachers in public schools with skills in internet research and presentation to support their teaching and learning and ultimately extend it across public schools in Ghana.

I think it’s good timing for our project to start now as Ghana has expressed their intentions to use ICT in education a while ago already and confirmed so lately. We hope that the pilot picks up and want to enable the 15 participants to pass on their knowledge to their colleagues – literally teaching the teachers.

Specifically, the project will:

  • train teachers how to use computers for the learning in classroom for teaching, lesson notes preparation, and for general research
  • provide teachers with skills to use the internet as a resource to improve their teaching (e.g. how to access it, integrating it in class teaching to improve learning, internet literacy and internet safety)
  • guide teachers to identify good practice for Maths and Science teaching (in Junior and Senior High schools)
  • acquire presentation skills as a way to enhance their lesson delivery to improve learning outcomes in the classroom
  • introduce basic skills in research and statistics for evaluation of class/school-projects and scientific writing [from the project proposal]

To hear Gameli Adzaho talk in more detail about the project, check out this link to Coders4Africa Podcast.

We’ll keep you posted on the project and upload news and pictures here as soon as it has started.

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New project: In-service training for teachers in digital media skills in public schools in Ghana
was published on 08.08.2012 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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German article – Learning for a Responsible Life with a Global Horizon: Education Projects in Africa

Last month, at the international conference “Interactive and Competence-Orientated Education” in Brussels our member Margarete Grimus presented her article about education in Africa with a focus on ICT. The article is in German, the title “Lernen für ein verantwortliches Leben im globalen Horizont: Bildungsprojekte in Afrika” approximately translates to “Learning for a Responsible Life with a Global Horizon: Education Projects in Africa”.

I took the liberty to translate the abstract to English:

The development of the internet has opened perspectives in Africa in the last century which have been hampered by under-developed infrastructure before. The World Wide Web (WWW) can constitute a meaningful contribution to an increase in education standards – if lectureres know the potentials, have the necessary carefulness in dealing with ICTs and implements this in class. Education processes aim at the acquisition of knowledge, skills and approaches, digital literacy is a substantial part of education.

The different weight which is put on sectors such as gender or AIDS in the “first world” and in developing countries is extending experiences in both worlds. Insights in the education scene in Sub Sahara Africa are given with examples of the teacher education in Kano (Nigeria), health education in Cape Town (South Africa) and teacher education in Ghana.

So here you can download the article of Margarete Grimus. Here’s also the presentation slides she used:

Here’s the link for citation:

Grimus, Margarete. Lernen für ein verantwortliches Leben im globalen Horizont: Bildungsprojekte in Afrika. In: Holz, Oliver; Seebauer, Renate (Hrsg.): Interaktiver und kompetenzorientierter Unterricht. Interactive and Competence-Orientated Education. Verlag Dr. Kovac. Hamburg. S. 124-148 (ISBN: 978-3-8300-6422-0)

Thanks a lot to Margarete for providing this, it’s a very interesting read – especially having in mind our own projects.

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German article – Learning for a Responsible Life with a Global Horizon: Education Projects in Africa
was published on 19.06.2012 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Leveraging Information and Communication Technology for the Base Of the Pyramid

Despite possibilities of scaling projects with technology, many technology-based initiatives in social and economic development have failed to make it past early pilot stages or grow to scale. This study by Hystra, in collaboration with Ashoka and TNO, examines what successful ventures within four sectors can teach us about models for scaling Information and Communications Technology (ICT) -based applications and projects aimed at reaching bottom-of-the-pyramid customers (referred to as Base of the Pyramid in the report). The researchers focused specifically on these sectors: education, health, agricultural services, and financial services.

What Did the Study Review?

Initially considering 280 projects as promising models, researchers found that over half were not worth researching because projects lacked sustainability or replicatibility. Many of the projects were dead pilot projects or were small with no sign of the possibility or intent of scaling in size or reach.

From there, researchers homed in on 16 groundbreaking cases. These projects had reached scale (defined as having 10,000 clients or more) or had the potential to do so. All projects were assessed against three criteria: Is the solution solving the (specified) problem? Is the project economically viable? Is the project scalable and replicable? The researchers grouped projects into specific clusters based on business model type. All projects researched were value-added or market-based, because of the researchers’ belief that such models increase project sustainability and client investment in the project.

The models that the researchers looked at varied. For instance, researchers asked whether end-users accessed the technology themselves as opposed to being delivered trough an intermediary.

What did the Researchers Find?

Technology for development is a young and dynamic field. And, with many new fields, especially in the area of social change, the rhetoric doesn’t measure up to the reality of impact for many projects.

Researchers found, not surprisingly, that many projects turn out not to be sustainable and that those that have reached some semblance of scale are rare. Many ICT4D projects, being donor-funded and donor-driven, are also short-lived and lack an identified, economically viable revenue stream. Additionally, the impact of ICT4D projects is hard to single out and measure. Researchers also found that there are various degrees of financial viability across the education, health, financial and agricultural services sectors studied. The most viable cases could be found in the finance and agricultural services sectors.

The paper goes into great detail about findings, with a chapter dedicated to each business model and sector, detailing different types of capital for different models, pros and cons of models, challenges facing each, and strategies for scaling. The paper also analyzes the state of the education, health, agricultural services, and financial services sectors.

Highlights include:

  • Education – while demand is growing for ICT support, without governments procuring the technology, it remains to be seen if there is sufficient purchasing power at the BoP to support technology education services.
  • Health – mHealth has the highest proportion of dead pilot programs, especially programs that were grant-funded.
  • Agricultural services – some of the largest projects are in this sector, some serving millions of people. The most viable of these over the longer term link individuals with income generation.
  • Financial services – by far, the most mature and viable sector with some great successes, according to the research.

What Makes Successful Project?

With this detailed analysis, the researchers were abe to point to some characteristics of successful projects. These include, understandably, a focus on the end-users ability to pay, a project structure that could adjust through trial and error, an ability to capture a large share of customer’s mind and wallet (often through related services), and varied revenue stream through a wide-range of services.

The authors also described key challenges encountered by many projects in the four areas investigated: Conflicting and confusing policy frameworks to work through (e.g. telecom and health policies), a lack of understanding of local needs and demands, as well as a lack of technical and sectoral expertise; and inability to find adequate capitalization.  Technology, especially when a project is growing, remains an issue as well. Similarly, many of the social entrepreneurs who began a venture lack solid IT expertise.

Some Conclusions

The authors aptly note, that while an entrepreneurial spirit is needed to start successful services, the ability to work with other across sectors is needed for scaling projects to include partnering the public, private and civic spheres. The paper further provides several recommendations. These include, not surprisingly, a solid focus on problem-driven approaches and a bottom-up, customer-centric world view. The authors also recommend supporting existing entrepreneurs, promoting cross-sector synergies, and removing specific barriers to scale. The paper ends with the warning that efforts must be made to reach those who as of yet do not have access to mobiles to minimize the likelihood of further excluding already marginalized populations.

Source: Mobileactive
More details and the full report Click here.

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Leveraging Information and Communication Technology for the Base Of the Pyramid
was published on 24.10.2011 by Worlali Senyo. It files under global
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AfrikaCamp Graz November 2011

Just a small pointer to an interesting event in Graz, Austria on November 26:

AfrikaCamp Graz will bring together people interested in Africa and IT to talk about projects, ideas and generally to network. We’ll definitely be there and maybe present lessons learned from our Zanzicode project or our upcoming project in Ghana.

It’s the second AfrikaCamp in Austria, the first took place in Vienna in 2009 and we did some coverage here on our blog – AfrikaCamp Vienna Aftermath.

So, if you’re in Austria at that time, make sure to join the AfrikaCamp.

What: AfrikaCamp Graz 2011

When: 26. November 2011

Where: Graz, exact location will be announced at the AfrikaCamp page

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AfrikaCamp Graz November 2011
was published on 14.09.2011 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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ICTD2010 – final conference summary

At last, we have now finished screening and post-producing a lot of material we gathered at ICTD2010 in December – the biggest ICT4D / ICTD conference in 2010 – and proudly present to you the final summary of the conference.

On the ICT4D.at Youtube channel you can see interviews and summaries of specific sessions and the four days of ICTD2010.

In the mean time the call for papers for ICTD2012 in Atlanta has already been released. Also there’s already an ICTD2012 Twitter account for upcoming news.

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ICTD2010 – final conference summary
was published on 21.03.2011 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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A human right?

Alexander from the Austrian Piratenpartei pointed me to an interesting project called “Buy This Satellite” where ahumanright.org with the help of a consortium of organisations, amongst others the Bertelsmann Foundation, Deutsche Telekom Laboratories or the What Took You So Long Foundation is trying to finance the purchase of a communication satellite to provide internet

Here’s the Tedx talk of the project‘s CEO, Kostas Grammatis.

Sounds interesting to me, also as I’m generally very impressed by Sugata Mitra’s and William Kamkwamba’s stories.

Still, as much as I’m a technology enthusiast, internet access can only be one part of the puzzle for improving the lives of impoverished people around the world. I suggest watching this presentation by Kentaro Toyama for more technology-critical and challenging thoughts.

However, I like the concept and it’s an exciting new way to think about things – just crowdfunding the purchase of a whole communication satellite. I just hope the organizers have a more general approach in mind than just moving this satellite around and waiting for things to happen.

Clicking links and stumbling further I also encountered the other projects of Palomar5 and they’re also definitely worth a read.

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A human right?
was published on 08.02.2011 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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ICTD2010 – resume

ICTD2010 is over now and we’re happy we were there, joined the organizers and got a very special view from behind the curtains on the conference. We are still publishing interviews and are planning for an extensive wrap up of the whole four days, but as the impressions are still fresh it’s time for me to write a very personal resume on what I’ve seen and heard there, and what I think is relevant for the ICT4D field as a whole.

Interdisciplinary research field vs. Mainstreaming ICT4D

What I really liked at ICTD2010 was that there were sessions and workshops covering many different topics. Different sector-specific viewpoints on ICT4D were all invited to the conference. There were tracks on health, microfinance, environment, gender, open source and many more.

The conference organisers identified this openness to other disciplines as the main reason why there were so many people wanting to participate. They event had to close their online registration early as a result of this big demand. Approximately 580 people registered it to the conference in the end.

Naturally, this diversity led to interesting discussions and fruitful exchange (as far as I can judge). To me it seemed to be a consensus at ICTD2010 to view ICT4D as an interdisciplinary research field on its own.

This of course opposes the view of several donor organisations who want to mainstream ICT4D in their general development efforts (here Richard Heek’s case against mainstreaming ICTs in development). In the Donor Voices session at the conference this tendency was underlined once more, especially by representatives of the Swiss, Canadian and German development cooperation.

It remains to be seen how this will develop.

Practitioners vs. Researchers

A topic which was addressed at several sessions at ICTD2010 was the gap between ICT4D practitioners and researchers.

At the conference, therefore people with both backgrounds were invited and already in the opening panel of the first day, Tim Unwin challenged five renowned practitioners to share their views and to “tell us (the researchers) what they think we should be doing”. Responses called for “focus more on people’s needs”, “more critical thinking”, “make sure community ownership” , “not focus too much on technology and tools”, “a directory of organizations working and researching in the field”, “justification to be able to work in ICT4D” or “research on the regional contextual differences”. See a wrap up of the Opening Panel: Practitioners Perspectives here.

Generally at the conference many people stated that practitioners and researchers should find an appropriate language to share their expertise, so they can simplify life for each other. Furthermore the need for better documented projects as well as more engagement of researchers in the field was raised.

Sharing failure

An improvement which Anriette Esterhuysen identified in an interview we held with her was that “people are more willing now to talk about their failed projects”. Also, as is stated in the WWW foundation blog:

there were quite a few papers presenting failed initiatives. Failure can be as instructive as success. But as academic disciplines grow up, they become competitive for promotion and funding, and failure becomes shame.

This also fits with other recent initiatives to motivate people in ICT4D projects to publish their failure as well as their success (for example Mobileactive.org’s Failfare intitiative), as it’s people’s lives ICT4D projects are dealing with and repeating mistakes can have severe impacts.

Technology-driven vs. looking at the individual people’s needs

A very interesting sentence relating to this dilemma came from ICTD2010 programme chair Kentaro Toyama. Having swapped his position at Microsoft Research to the University of Berkeley recently, I asked him which differences between the two he noted in the approach to ICT4D. What he said was, that actually these different approaches to ICT4D drove him in the first place to take the position in Berkeley. At Microsoft Research he said, he was too much constrained to technology, which he considered not to be helpful in many cases (the complete interview with Kentaro Toyama here).

Many other voices also repeated the claim that “technology is not a silver bullet” and the need to look at the individual people’s needs. Kiss Abraham states in an interview we led with him that the focus on technology is de-humanizing the whole ICT4D debate and that much more research on the individual people’s needs and the changes technology brings to them is required. Ineke Buskens states in the same interview that researchers should keep in mind that real people with a purpose are behind all the research (complete interview with Ineke Buskens and Kiss Abraham here).

With our poster about “Stories from the Field: Mobile Phone Usage and its Impact on People’s Lives in East Africa” we were also addressed by a lot of interested people who said they were waiting for more research on such an individual level.

North and South

At ICTD2010 great focus was laid on bringing together researchers from “North” and “South”, to get away from the often-criticized approach to research FOR the target group, but not WITH them.

Furthermore, a very critical approach towards development was expressed. One very catchy quote on this topic was Geoff Walsham saying that development is not a final state, but we all are developing and that there is no need to consider countries of the “North” more developed than countries of the “South” (full length interview to be uploaded).

A novelty at ICTD2010 was the introduction of a Spanish track on the first day which was well attended. Dorothea Kleine said in our interview (full length interview to be uploaded) that conversations about ICT4D should be carried forward by different groups of people in different languages and that she hopes for more participation in languages other than English for future conferences.

Also Ineke Buskens tried to include French and Arabic speaking people in the ICTD2010 pre-confernce platform by translating several sent in texts to these languages.

Related to this, as was quoted by Whiteafrican and Afronline, the lack of ICT4D research by Africans was addressed. One paper (“ICTD Research by Africans: Origins, Interests, and Impact“) even specifically topicized the contributions of African researchers to the ICT4D debate. You can watch our interview with one of the authors – Paul Plantinga – at the ICT4D.at Youtube channel.

The decision to host the next ICTD conference in the Global North (Georgia Tech) was therefore heavily disputed and by some people regarded as a missed opportunity to bring ICT4D research back to the local, affected people. It must be stated though, that Georgia Tech obviously was the only university with a formal bid for ICTD2012, so the decision cannot be regarded as politically motivated.

Most of this is not new

An interesting and maybe worrying fact about the topics above, which I identified as substantial at the conference is that most of them are not new or just recently found out about.

We’ve all heard of that before, at conferences and events, in papers or news articles. As Tim Unwin states in our interview (part 2): “One of the things that probably sadden me most about the field is how little it has changed. We’re hearing much the same things we’ve heard for 3, 4, 5 years.”

Maybe the ICT4D field is still immature as is stated on the WWW foundation blog, maybe it is picking up slowly, or maybe the real decision makers – which are primarily the donors I would guess – don’t agree to the majority’s solution to the above mentioned topics as of yet. The “Voices of the donors” session at ICTD2010 suggests otherwise, but I’m curious if these “old” challenges will be resolved and new challenges will be identified until the next ICTD conference 2012, or if we’ll still be stuck with the current ones.

Comments on my musings are most welcome, for more and detailed information on ICTD2010 check the official conference page, Ismaels notes and the ICT4D.at Youtube channel.

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ICTD2010 – resume
was published on 23.12.2010 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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