Impressions of the 2012 EU-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT

From November 28-29 ICT4D.at was participating at the 2012 EU-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT in Lisbon, Portugal and successfully presenting the ICT4D.MZ project to the community of experts, researchers, business people and policy makers in the context of ICT and EU-African partnerships.

ICT4D.at @ 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT

ICT4D.at @ 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT

The hashtag for the event was and we covered the main panels and discussions live via our Twitterfeed. The steady stream of acronyms, abbreviations and ICT lingo fits nicely in the limited microblogging format and it was a good way to make sense of all the information coming up. The twitterwall behind the speakers’ panel was good for grasping the main talking points, but a bit of a distraction when presented during an ongoing session. It also functioned as an indirect Q&A-session for the audience to bring up issues not covered in the session. Thus the meta-reality feedback loop was complete.

The informative Welcoming speeches included talks by Commissioners from both the African and the European Union (Moctar Yedaly and Zoran Stančič). A Keynote Address by Ilari Patrick Lindy from the World Bank Institute draw our attention to an interesting study on eTransformation of ICT in Africa. Harry De Backer from the EEAS (European External Action Service) was giving an overview in how ICT funding has changed in the recent years.

EU-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT - Group Picture

EU-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT – Group Picture

We were happy to find out about other innovative projects in the field, such as the KINU Hub in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania co-founded by Catherinerose Barrett and the *iHub in Nairobi, Kenya presented by Jessica Colaço. Furthermore we were happy to meet Walter Mayer from ProGIS Software, an expert in Geo-information system and Felipe Batista from ARCTEL-CPLP, the Association of Communication and Telecommunication Regulators in the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. We can also proudly report, that we have witnessed the official launch of the UbuntuNet Alliance and Africa-Connect.

The whole event was executed flawlessly by the very welcoming hosts, a rich experience and a overall nice time in the beautiful city of Lisboa. Obrigada! Obrigado!

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Impressions of the 2012 EU-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT
was published on 05.12.2012 by Isabella Wagner. It files under global
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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: 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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Using ICTs in schools with no electricity

interacting with a whiteboard (in front of a blackboard) in Senegal

One persistent criticism that I hear of educational technology projects in many places — and especially in Africa — is that ‘there are too many pilot projects’. ‘What we really need’, or so the lament usually continues, ‘are things thatscale‘. While I don’t necessarily agree that more pilot projects are not useful — to the contrary, I have in the past explored why we need more (not fewer) ICT4D pilot projects in education — few would argue that we shouldn’t be focused on finding ‘solutions’ that ‘scale’.
One challenge that many groups find when trying to scale educational technology projects is that they often begin by working with relatively well-resourced schools in or near urban areas, seeking to establish proof-of-concept that something specific works (e.g. a technology, an approach to teacher training) before taking on the greater challenges of working in, for example, rural schools that are off-the-grid and which have few (if any) qualified teachers. It should perhaps not be so surprising that what works in the first set of schools may not work quite so well in the second set.
There are other groups who choose to start with the most difficult environments first, figuring that (1) that is where the need is greatest; and (2) if a model or approach works there, it might have a better chance of working (most) everywhere.
I am regularly contacted by groups who seek to work in such environments, but only rarely hear back from them with reports about what they are actually learning about working successfully in such environments (I do unfortunately hear a lot about failure), and how they are changing their approach or model as a result. One organization I have heard back from recently in this regard was Cybersmart Africa, a group I had initially learned about because of its innovative use of nylon sheets, PVC pipe, and a modified Nintendo Wii remote to assemble low cost interactive whiteboards for use in schools in Senegal. Cybersmart Africa works exclusively in schools with classrooms with very poor physical infrastructure (including those with no or very limited electricity). “If this is the reality for 80% of schools in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we need to scale ICT use for education, why base what you are doing on what 10-20% of the privileged have?” asks Cybersmart Africa founder Jim Teicher.
(Another example of an approach designed to work in very difficult environments is so-called interactive radio instruction; this has been shown to scale well in many places, but, for a variety of reasons, has often proved to be difficult to sustain. One Mouse Per Child, which has also been profiled on the World Bank EduTech blog previously, is another.)
Many of the Western NGOs and firms with whom I speak who are interested in ‘working in a developing country’ start with a very high level or high concept approach, figuring essentially that, if the strategy is largely correct, the details will follow. (Indigenous groups and international NGOs with long experience ‘on the ground’ usually know better, of course.) Such groups can become frustrated when they discover that it is often an accumulation of ‘small details’ that ensure their particular approach or model does not work. It is better to walk than curse the road, or so the saying goes in Wolof, one of the languages used in Senegal, and this is an approach that the Cybersmart team seems to be following. When speaking recently with Teicher, one of the most encouraging things I found was that he first wanted to share information not about grand theories about what *might* work, but rather about a lot of the ‘little things’ they have been learning about what *doesn’t* work, and about how iterating (and iterating, and iterating!) has been key to their ability to learn and make changes to their approach to methodically improve what they are doing. Things like:
  • If you are off-the-grid and need to use batteries, don’t used lead car batteries, which can cause big problems if/when they tip over, even if they are commonly available. Use sealed AGM batteries instead.
  • Let’s be honest: In most cases, there are too few computers in a school for too manystudents, and it is difficult to integrate their use into normal instruction.  Don’t make things more difficult by segregating computers into their own special rooms (e.g. computer labs). Instead, take the technology to the teachers and students where they are currently teaching and learning — in the classroom itself — and use tools like projectors and interactive whiteboards that impact as many students as possible at one time.  (While you’re at it, be prepared to spend more on teacher training and support than on the technology itself.)
And:
  • Given a choice (and there is a choice more often that you might think!), always search for local products (or, barring that, products that can be assembled locally) instead of immediately looking to import goods from abroad — this can be key to keeping costs down and keeping your supply chain as local as possible. This approach applies as much to the PVC material that they use for the portable ‘interactive whiteboards’ that they have assembled as to lesson plans, which are developed locally.
Sounds simple, you might say, to which I would say: you are exactly right.
moving a low-cost portable interactive whiteboard -- over rocks and sand -- between classrooms
Now, it is not my place or intention to do so here to ‘endorse’ the work of any particular organization (I’ll note parenthetically that World Bank has not supported this particular project in the past — although USAID has).
Rather, it is to highlight an approach which begins by working in the most challenging environments and not simply taking a model that worked successfully in Paris or Pretoria and assuming that, with some small modifications here and there, it will work everywhere. That’s common sense, you might say, and I would certainly agree. But, if the parade of groups who (seek to) pass through our offices here at the World Bank demo’ing their wares are any indication, and the many stalled projects I visit around the world are in any way representative, too often ‘common sense solutions’ are discarded in favor of what’s ‘new and exciting’. While funding what’s new and exciting may be fashionable for donors (should I be surprised that every other project proposal I seem to come across these days seems to include the use of mobile phones in some way?), in the end that it is usually the most practical solutions that find traction with teachers and students over time.
More information (short videos):
  • Here’s a short promotional video from Cybersmart Africa showing off its work. (A hint: watch it first with the sound off to focus on what classrooms in participating pilot schools actually look like)
  • Here are some interviews with school leaders (don’t turn the sound down on this one!) and a short explanation of how text messages (SMS) are being used in conjunction with low cost interactive whiteboards to support teachers.
  • Cybersmart has also posted 17 student-made videos, put together as a result of a special ‘digital storytelling’ initiative it sponsored. The idea here was first to gain the confidence and support of parents and community leaders by extend traditional storytelling customs into the digital realm, before moving on to other things. The result: 17 portraits of contemporary village life in Senegal.
Note: The image used at the top of this blog post (“interacting with a whiteboard (in front of a blackboard) in Senegal”) comes courtesy of Cybersmart Africa.  The second image (“moving a low-cost interactive whiteboard — over rocks and sand — between classrooms”) is taken from a screen capture of the ‘Snapshot – Cybersmart Africa’ video on YouTube.  Both are used with permission of the rights holder.

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Using ICTs in schools with no electricity
was published on 17.11.2011 by Worlali Senyo. It files under east africa, global, sub saharan africa
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Notes of IT for Climate-Smart Development

Notes of the Global ICT Department event IT for Climate-Smart Development: “Not Your Grandfather’s Bank” at the Social Development Forum on January 20.

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We don’t have solutions for climate change and as there are very many stakeholders it is hard to agree on a solution

Global ICT department addresses this issue from the policy angle, but there have to be business models for private investments as well

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Frank Rijsberman, Director Program of Google.org

Managing climate risk in the cloud

“Innovating for good” – 1% equity spent to innovation

Climate change is impacting people in poor countries

  • Sea level rise in Holland and Bangladesh is the same
  • But Bangladesh is impacted quite more

Information scarcity increases climate change vulnerability

  • acquiring information
  • disseminating information
  • enabling

Examples where Google.org is involved:

(more…)

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Notes of IT for Climate-Smart Development
was published on 20.01.2010 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Suame magazine & SMIDO

Suame Magazine is an artisanal engineering cluster on an area of over 50 km² in the city of Kumasi, Ghana. It emerged in the 1930s and constantly increased in size in the following years – being one of the largest industrial areas in Africa by now. Over 200 000 people live there and approximately 12 000 businesses are located at Suame magazine mostly gathered around the automotive sector – doing car repairs and sale of spare parts amongst other things. Most of the businesses are very small and specialised – part of the private informal sector.

SMIDO is the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organization which was founded in 2006 as a development institution for Suame Magazine. It is an umbrella organization for the associations in Suame Magazine and serves as an interface for the public and private sector. After focusing primarily on advocacy in the beginning, it now also offers ICT trainings for the craftsmen in the area and tries to foster business development.

The people who take the courses at SMIDO are mostly highly specialised workers with long experience in their field – repairing cars, producing custom-made parts, … – but who have not used ICTs before. The benefits the workers gain from learning ICTs are twofold:

Business benefits: As the shops mostly employ few workers and have a manageable stock of customers, keeping books on the computer, printing and communication via internet can help them save time, money and create networks with other colleagues – exchanging knowledge and even creating supply chains. SMIDO provides these trainings and for completing a training, the workers get certificates which are highly valuable when dealing with company customers.

Continuing education: As new cars are almost exclusively managed by microchips and generally cars have become more and more high-tech, the mechanics need training in dealing with these new kinds of car-repair-techniques. SMIDO is therefore searching for large companies in the automotive sector or companies with large stocks of cars to partner with – working together on providing specialised trainings. This would create a win-win situation by providing the companies with capable mechanics for their cars and the workers with increased income and possibilities for continuing education.

When SMIDO started providing trainings, there were only 2% of the workers at Suame Magazine using ICTs, now SMIDO has already trained 100 people and they are looking for possibilities to scale up. With a business plan at hand and a large number of skilled personnel this is an organization which I would love to invest in – if I would be an investor, or an automotive company. On the other hand, such a commitment would benefit the population at Suame Magazine, increasing the safety level at work (also an objective of SMIDO) and providing better income possibilities.

So, maybe there’s somebody interested out there. There’s large potential so I’m curious what will happen.

Some members of the SMIDO team

Some members of the SMIDO team

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Suame magazine & SMIDO
was published on 09.09.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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Announcement: Stammtisch #3

As we successfully survived two previous “Stammtisch” events plus the release party of our movie Hello Africa, we want to continue this series EVERY FIRST FRIDAY of a MONTH in Vienna, Austria and of course vie internet worldwide, open for everybody in the area of ICTs that wants to get to know us, wants to talk about own projects or just wants to have a nice evening with like-minded people.

One of our big aims when we created this platform was not only to provide information about ICT4D topics, but also to establish real life contact between interested and commited people.

It’s not institutional, it’s not even a barcamp so don’t be shy, we are happy to meet you. Bring your own cold drinks, since this is appreciated by the management of the venue.

What: ICT4D.at Stammtisch #3

Where: Museumsquartier Vienna, Meeting point right in the middle of HOF1 (Haupthof); We will hold up a banner, so you can’t miss us … Later on we may recline to one of the bars.

When: Friday, 7th August 2009, 19:00

See you there!

RSVP via: and/or

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Announcement: Stammtisch #3
was published on 02.08.2009 by Martin Konzett. It files under eastern and central europe
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Don Bosco School Sunyani

It’s now already a week that I arrived here in Kumasi for my internship at Kwame Nkrumah University and after some travelling and getting used to this environment I go on blogging here.

One of the things I did last week was to visit some fellow Austrians employed at a project in Sunyani – Don Bosco Vocational Technical Institute. It’s a school project by the Salesians with support of the Austrian organization Jugend eine Welt sending national servants (Zivildiener) there.

Initially the school focused on traditional education for financially disadvantaged students, but two years ago a computer class was started which turned out to be quite a success story.

In the first year the students are taught basic skills such as disassembling and assembling computers, installing Windows and Microsoft Office. Finally they have to do an exam and are awarded the ICDL certificate. In the second year they learn how to set up their own network.

These skills enable many of the graduates to get a job or start an own business. One example is Martin Kwarteng (here with pastor Paolo), who is still working for the school as system adminstrator after he finished the course last year. He orders parts of computers in Accra and sells the assembled ones.

Also some of the students work now as teachers at the school. One of them is Isaac Fokou who would be eager to get more in-depth education in ICTs, but one big problem for him and the other students is that although they are highly skilled, they only have the school certificate which proves what they are capable of. International certificates which are often demanded by employers – such as a CISCO Network Certificate – are much too expensive.

What’s also interesting about the project is that there are also classes on handicraft and the students and workers at the school start now to create school buildings themselves and provide services to surrounding villages. The workers dig clay and form bricks, there is a carpentry and a workshop for metal works – especiall wielding. Also the students learn how to grow and harvest crops, there are also grainfields on the area.

I like the project, it focuses on sustainability and creates employment possiblities for the students. The school tries to be as self-sufficient as possible all the teachers except in the IT-class are Ghanaians. With their workshop facilities they could also provide assistance to small industrial activities in the area.

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Don Bosco School Sunyani
was published on 23.07.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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Paper: Strengthening citizen agency through ICT: an extrapolation for Eastern Africa

This is the summary of the paper “Strengthening citizen agency through ICT: an extrapolation for Eastern Africa” by Giacomo Zanello and Paul Maassen

It deals with ICT in support to citizen agency which includes to involve & inform communities and interact with and influence authorities

The paper focuses on what is already happening and where the potentials lie – how can active citizens interact with society & authorities with the use of ICT tools

The geographical area covered is Eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda)

The research is based on an open questionnaire by Hivos

Key questions:

  • Which conditions enable citizen agency in developing countries?
  • How can ICT support citizen agency in order to influence the authorities?
  • Based on technological projections, how will ICT support the efficiency and effectiveness of citizen agency in 5 years time?

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Summary:

Civil society: seen as essential actor for promoting democracy in developing countries

Citizen agency: broader definition of civil society including NGOs, labour & student unions, …

The main reason why new ICT can help citizen agency

  • Bi- (or multi-) directional tools
  • Real time

The two main uses of ICT

  • Information and monitoring of authorities
  • Organize citizen actions

Examples for information and monitoring

  • Ushahidi: crowd-sourcing information on incidents and violence
  • Bunge SMS: tool to report to members of the parliament about the actions of the local government
  • Behind the mask: communication initiative for LGBTI activists
  • Global Voices Online: participatory news platform for developing countries
  • Mzalendo.com: volunteer run project to keep an eye on the Kenyan parliament
  • Jamiiforums.com: East African platform for debates on various issues

Examples for organization

  • Dgroups.org: provides groups working in international development with email lists and webspace
  • Tactical Tech: international NGO providing human rights advocates with consultancy, tools, trainings & toolkits to increase the impact of their campaigns
  • FrontlineSMS: free software to turn a mobile with a modem into a communications hub
  • Nabuur: links online volunteers with local communities

Generally there is a big and vibrant civil society in East Africa and ICTs have huge potentials to assist these initiatives to reach their aim

It is no longer a question of technology – as technology is already there – but imagination, adaptability and time

The key is not complex devices, but usable and easy to understand technology – therefore it is important to focus on grass roots development instead of importing solutions

The prerequisites for a spread of ICTs in the next 5 years are

  • Energy – there is a need for alternative sources of energy such as solar power
  • Connectivity – the forecast in this study predicts a rise to about 70% coverage in Eastern Africa
  • Literacy – easy to use systems, voice command and local languages in applications can overcome the current problems
  • Income – new devices will cost less and be therefore better affordable

Another vital prerequisite is the need to find out about the desired use of ICTs for East African citizens – technology has to address the needs of the people

Therefore an interdisciplinary approach including anthropology would be useful

As seen above, for democracy and transparency ICTs have large potentials – including citizen journalism or election watch

The challenges of ICT in the near future are twofold

  • Networking between people with similar goals and for sharing experiences on a national or even global level
  • Give voice for global leaders and visionaries to give them visibility and connectivity

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The original article Strengthening citizen agency through ICT: an extrapolation for Eastern Africa

I think the article is a good overview over the issues of civil society initiatives in East Africa in particular and the conclusions and predictions of it can even be extended to a larger geographical area.

It is once again underlined that real innovation always comes from bottom-up and ICT can release huge potentials when meeting the needs of the people.

I also definitely support the call for more interdisciplinary research on the ground to find out the real needs of the people – combined with collaborating with grass roots initiatives and empowering people by giving them possibilities to access to the world and connect with like-minded people.

I feel like the international research scene has given up the top-down approach already a while ago – but still there are way too many projects out there preaching not fitting imported solutions to citizens in developing countries and driving them into dependence of Western assistance.

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Paper: Strengthening citizen agency through ICT: an extrapolation for Eastern Africa
was published on 17.06.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under east africa
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ICTs for Women’s Empowerment

Notes from the World Bank workshop “ICTs for Women’s Empowerment” in Washington.

Detailed CVs of the speakers

Samia Melhem, Senior Operations Officer

ICTs are a great equalizer, they allow people to reach places and profit from services they would have never profited without them

Promoting women employment is also an economic factor – doing things differently – e.g. women project leaders, women teachers, …

also in IT policy making – diversity and variety makes decision more successful

they have also different information needs than men – but more men are producing (internet) content

Nilufar Ahmad, Senior Gender Specialist

why is gender important in the infrastructure sector?

  • Sri Lanka – cybercafes have turned into “young men’s” club, where women don’t go to
  • they don’t feel comfortable
  • solution: cybercafe in a temple, women could use it
  • would not be possible in Pakistan of Afghanistan

in infrastructure projects such effects should be kept in mind

women and men don’t have the same power, they don’t have the same needs

Claudia Morrell, CEO, Multinational Development of Women in Technology

strong focus on access when discussing gender inequalities

for women there are barriers in access – you have to ask what the barriers are to address them

literacy is important – do you speak the language the content is in? is there localized content?

women know what content might be interesting for women

women know what design is fitting for women

another key point: access to leadership, women are often excluded from careers

NGO capacity – who drives big, important issues forward in the developing world, where the civil society is not as strong as in the Western World?

Nistha Sinha, Economist, PRMGE

Gender is an important topic

solid evidence base is vital for policy recommendations

it’s important to know your data source and what it tells you

Q & A

how do you think should international organizations address ICT and gender problems connected to people being victims of the international crisis – shouldn’t be saving them from dying be a bigger issue?

  • of course surviving is more important, but ICT literacy can also be a big benefit in such a situation; any infrastructure can help save the population – streets, watter supply, as well as ICT – providing possibility to get a job

there is not enough data right now about indicators concerning gender – or does the panel know about a indicator framework? or is anybody working on that?

  • there is no universal framework the World Bank has adopted
  • figuring out the indicators is important and is still lacking
  • it’s also vital to know what to do with the indicators – how to use them

why is there not enough support on security in the context of projects? is there a thought ensuring security so that the work becomes sustainable?

  • of course security is a substantial issue and needs to be looked after; generally projects in the development context need to shift their focus towards sustainability which also involves security

recommendation: number one issue for global corporation currently is (out)sourcing and finding the perfect workforce for their needs, so inject the private sector business with your views that women in ICTs have large potentials; what is the communication with the private sector to assist and collaborate on the topic?

  • demand for it is increasing – also in developing countries, see example of India
  • the comment is valuable and maybe it is possible to create a set of advice what to put in the report to address these topics

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ICTs for Women’s Empowerment
was published on 16.06.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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