Africa Gathering – Talks 3

Notes from the talks of Africa Gathering taking place in London, England on 25 April.


Nick Short – University of London Veterinary College
How mobile technology is being used to improve veterinary services in East Africa

Healthy animals for healthy people & vice versa

Founded VetAid 70 humanitarian health works

people got mobile phones in the past 20 years

What can be done?

  • Using GPS enabled Androis phones
  • feedback location based data (disease, mortailty, vaccination, climate, status)
  • relevance to wider community


  • Push out updates into the community
  • Location based relevance – adapt to languages
  • Context sensitive
  • Podcasts and Videocasts – possible to hear and see what’s happening
  • New web 2.0 communities

Appropriate technologies & solutions for all

Q & A:

Online collaborative community – does the use of mobiles mean you don’t have to wait for landlines?

  • Mobile phone is only 160 characters,

Interacting with students on the ground – in what extent did you use also with the local knowledge?

  • It’s hard to tap the knowledge and make it available – but we try to, we learn as much from them as they from us.


Niall Winters & Kevin Walker – London Knowledge Lab
Village e-Science for Life: Participatory Design of ICT for Rural Agricultural Villages in Kenya

Knowledge Lab: partners with University of Nairobi & several English

Aim: Enable rural communities in sub-sharan Africa to use andvanced digital technology to improve agricultural practices and literacy levels

Research in Kenya – initial findings

  • many people used computers
  • few have heard of email
  • very few knew English
  • farmers need information
  • farmers and schools like to take photos to publicise their successes & problems


  • mobile resource kit for farmers & schools
  • provision of training using the devices
  • making results public

Next solution

  • Wireless sensor network to monitor humidity, …

Findings so far

  • ownership issues
  • traditional expectations / non-traditional approach
  • sustainability – business model required
  • flexibility / adaptivity

Background – research methodology:


  • western assumption
  • not appropriate for LDCs

Social studies of science

Why did the aforementioned project work?

  • Value to the community
  • Ownership and access by community
  • Potential for adaption
  • provide a role for the community in use and maintenance -> sustainability
  • no unnecessary complications

Q & A:

It’s hard to do perticipatory on the ground for people who don’t speak the langauge – we got somebody who went don there for us – “participatory design from a distance”

Which devices are there out in the field?

– Macbook, existing devices, open source software


Alex Petroff – Working Villages International
Building Pease in Eastern Congo – A Village of Hope

Often small change in Congo get overwhelmed because even if it’s a really good idea, the other problems are way too big

New approaches necessary who do not repeat the errors of the past

Focusing on widespread small-scale ownership

Adam Smith: small farmers made Britain wealthy

Congo: affected by “Africa’s First World War”

Started a project in a very poor region after the war – no technology at all available

  • Improved in agriculture, diversity of vegetables
  • Growing techniques are new

Upscaling was possible – 20 villages, 100 farmers with all different types of crops

“Grow everything you need” – the community has more commodities, no trade with foreign markets – back to autarcy

Now: Ox-program because fuel is too expensive – tractors have generally been a failure in Africa

  • biogas digester -> power supply

three new exiting technologes:

  • firewood – bad for environment; solar ovens haven’t worked -> earth ovens powered by solar power (Scheffler oven)
  • solar powered heating
  • kerosin lamps – bad for environment -> LED light bulbs

Right now – payroll of all the people working there is coming from local revenues, not anymore from the US

Q & A:

What did you do to motivate to do that?

  • Had the same question in the beginning? Bottom-up is not always working – you must have leadership & a plan. E.g. Bolivia: they get the money from the government, but they don’t have a vision what do with it. Furthermore there’s a necessity of startup capital.

Scale & land ownership – who owns the land the project is taking place?

  • In the beginning it was a company town model. Over time the farmers get land & a house free of charge. the project takes place on small farms – and the land is owned by the community, they can’t sell it, they can just give it back to the community.


Simon Berry –
An amazing story that shows how the convening power of the internet can turn the head of a global brand… and get them to act.

Video: You can buy coke everywhere – but 1 in 5 children dies from dehydration & diarrhea before the age of 5 – so we want to use Cola’s distribution network to get these children access to medication

Everywhere you are – you will be eventually asked if you want a Coca Cola

In the same area 25% children die before turning 5 years of very basic diseases

Idea: Let’s deliver oral rehydration sources (ORS) via Coke crates and also spread the information about these devices

Launched different campaigns on different platforms to gather people for that cause

Facebook groups

  • started to grow
  • within three days unknown people started to join

IPM blog – users can suggest items to go on the program on Saturday on BBC

Getting back to Facebook and making people call Coca Cola

Met with head of Corporate Social Responsibility of Coca Cola

  • 2 results: they were going to do some purely economic research
  • how about a progress report on the blog?
  • Creating three blog posts


  • FlickR groups was created
  • Blog was created – platform for discussion, fertile place
  • Impressive social media response
  • Application to Goole 10 to the 100
  • Video was created by community in 4 days

Anyone with an idea can do it

Trip to Tanzania with Cola people to review the situation

  • own prototype for medicine box “aidpod”
  • starting discussions with distributors about the prototype
  • good response

In the mean time a lot of support by traditional organizations & the community is still growing

Just last Tuesday: Coca Cola said YES to trial of the prototype, at least they are planning for that

to be continued …

Join the Facebook group!

Q & A:

Exisitning channels should be used for distribution – isn’t Coca Cola getting a lot of publicity too? What for do they need Coca Cola anyway?

  • Facts are: 20 years ago you could get Coca Cola anywhere – in the mean time we have failed to address the issue of child mortality. Frankly I don’t mind if Coce sells more, if the issue of child mortality is resolved.

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Africa Gathering – Talks 3
was published on 25.04.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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  1. » Blog Archive » Africa Gathering London - Aftermath Says:

    […] I really like the idea and think it’s absolutely worth supporting. He presented at the first Africa Gathering earlier this […]