Introduction to ICT4D – Online Guest Lecture at the TU Wien 2021

As a member of the research group INSO at the TU Wien (Vienna University of Technologies) I am once a year invited to give an introduction to ICT4D. The research group for Industrial Software (INSO) deals with the study of development and maintenance of software systems in practice. The presentation will be a part of their Beyond the Desktop lecture.
I will introduce participants to ICT4D, discuss projects & past research and I will give an overview of our activities at We are currently looking for students who are interested in participating in our projects or to start writing a thesis in the field of ICT4D.

For the second time due to the Covid-19 outbreak will the lecture be available via an online conference. Everyone is welcome to tune in:

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 17:05 – 19:00 (CET Vienna time zone)
Join via Zoom by clicking here:

The lecture will be in English language. See you there!

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Introduction to ICT4D – Online Guest Lecture at the TU Wien 2021
was published on 22.03.2021 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under global
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Building a SMS Based and Server-less Volunteer Conversation App for Civil Societies in Uganda

Many civil societies in Uganda have volunteers across the country. The volunteers are integrated into local communities and, among other activities, act as disaster reporters. Disasters include floods, landslides, disease outbreaks, hailstorms, accidents, and others. The current solution for disaster reports includes a web formula and a lot of communication between different levels of management hierarchy.

In many cases, existing web formulas cannot be used by the volunteers directly because of missing access to smartphones and/or the internet. Days can pass until information travels from volunteers to their regional manager and gets passed on to the head-quarter’s management. Even worse, communication is not only slow but information is sometimes lost. Therefore, faster and more direct communication would enable headquarters to act faster and more precisely on disasters.


My colleague Marlon Alagoda and myself Philipp Moser kicked-off the project in March 2020 together with Paul Spiesberger and Christoph Wimmer from the INSO, TU Vienna who established the connection to one of the local civil societies. This collaboration is a direct result of’s engagement with the Austrian Red Cross and their engagement within the Skybird Programme. Our goal was to enable our new partner to act faster and more precisely on disasters.

To achieve this, we built an Android app that acts as a chatbot with an SMS interface. Volunteers are able to file disaster reports via SMS and managers can aggregate, filter, and view disaster reports. Furthermore, volunteers do not need an internet connection. Only the smartphone that hosts the app, must be connected to the internet. If a volunteer wants to start a conversation with the Volunteer Conversation App in order to file a report, he or she just sends an SMS to the smartphone. The content of the message could be: “Hi, my name is John and I want to report a flood.” Afterwards follow-up questions are sent to the volunteer until the report is fully collected.

All volunteers have the phone number of the smartphone that hosts the application. They can file a report by sending an SMS to that one phone. The smartphone transfers the input from the SMS to Dialogflow and gets the follow up questions from the same service, which are then sent back to the volunteer. All data is stored locally on the smartphone and can be exported to Google Drive. Everyone who has access to the Google Drive folder can access the data. Branch managers could also have access to the data and use their own tools to process it.  However, “live” alerts can only be seen on the smartphone itself.

Left: Phone of volunteer reporting; Right: the report in the application.

This idea is not new and many other SMS/text based services such as U-Report are already out there. Nevertheless, for us the biggest advantage of our solution is that there are no custom servers required to run our text based chat bot in comparison with other solutions (e.g. U-Report). Our goal is that anyone who wants to run a text based SMS chat bot to collect data from a group of people will just have to download our application to start the service and we are currently working on this vision.

Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, if you are working in the same direction, see an opportunity for collaboration or/and know similar projects we could team up with. The application is not yet publicly available, but we develop our application as an open source project. We encourage you to check out the code base, file bugs/requests and contribute to the project.

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Building a SMS Based and Server-less Volunteer Conversation App for Civil Societies in Uganda
was published on 11.02.2021 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under east africa, Europe
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Technology and Education for the most Marginalised Post-COVID-19

A girl is taking a selfy while another girl is watching a video on a computer.
Image by the EdTech Hub

2020 has been a rough year. Everyone was impacted by the current global pandemic, many lost their beloved ones and an end to the crisis is still not yet in sight. As always, the ones who got most impacted by the crisis are the most marginalised in our communities. Millions lost their jobs with often no social safety net and the pandemic has disproportionately affected women workers [1]. Children and young adults were also profoundly impacted by the pandemic. The Wold Bank estimates that school closures due to COVID-19 have left over a billion students out of school. This results in a loss of 0.6 years of schooling adjusted for quality, bringing down the effective years of basic schooling that children achieve during their schooling life from 7.9 years to 7.3 years [2].

ICTs were prised as the solution and home schooling became the norm. This surfaced once more the darker sides of ICTs and how they amplify inequalities rather then reduce them. Students from privileged backgrounds could continue their education from home while having access to high-speed internet and their own devices, but many others were not so lucky. It is estimated that the pandemic threatens to push 72 million more children into learning poverty – meaning that they are unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10 [3]. Many teachers, parents and students were not prepared for this shift into the online world. Teachers and parents (mostly women) are truly, under many others, the heroes of this crisis. All of this also impacted my life and work:

  1. My humble try to learn the French language was interrupted and my language course was moved online. My professor simply said that she does not know on how to teach online and ended the course. I was lucky to find another group I could join. In the end this was not a problem, since I have a computer and internet at home, but it illustrated the unpreparedness of the education system.
  2. My Indian students were not so lucky. I was teaching computer science at an university in South-India. The course is a mix of online and offline hands-on programming – so there should not have been a problem, since I was already teaching online. But since the university was closed and all students went home, more than half of them lost their access to a computer. Fig. 1 illustrates the responses to questions I conducted at the beginning of the lock-down to find out if I can continue the course. 17 out of 25 responded and half of them have no computer at home. Back then I decided that I will pause the course, because I thought that the university will again open soon. This was a tough call, I did not want to exclude the students with no computers, but therefore I also had to end the training for those who could have continued.
Diagram of how many of my Indian students have a computer at home. Less than 50 have one at home.
Fig. 1 – Do you have a computer at home?

Guidance for governments on the use of digital technologies in education

Back then I discussed with Tim Unwin the global developments in education due to COVID-19 and he told me that he is currently in progress of starting a new report. He was so kind to accept my request to join his team, since I was eager to work on the topic: Technology and Education for the most marginalised Post-COVID-19. We started working and I joined the core team:

  • Alicja Pawluczuk (UNU Institute in Macau)
  • Azra Naseem (Aga Khan University, Pakistan)
  • Christopher Yoo (Univeristy of Pennsylvania, USA)
  • Mohamed Shareef (Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Maldives)
  • Paul Spiesberger (Chair of, Co-Head of BRIC at INSOTU Wien, Austria)
  • Paul West (Creative Commons Chapter, South Africa)
  • Tim Unwin (UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, UK)

We also had a distinguished panel of advisors and support from the EdTech Hub. The report was funded by DFID (now FCDO) and the World Bank through their EdTech Hub. The aim was to create a report for governments to advise them on how to use technologies in their education systems. Not in short terms, but rather post COVID-19 to prepare for the next catastrophe and make our education systems more resilient in the long run. Back then we saw many ICT education implementations done in haste and not thought through. For us the most important was a clear focus on the most marginalized to counter inequalities and an easy read for higher government officials in the form of two pager guidance notes.

Our work began in June 2020 and drew largely on an extensive consultation process to identify the main priorities on which our report should concentrate. We worked with groups from Civil Society and International Organisations, the Private Sector, Governments, UN Agencies and Academics, as well as regional consultations from Africa, Asia/Pacific/Middle East and the Americas to help shape our recommended priorities [4].

Tim orchestrated in 9 thematic online session discussions and the creation of mindmaps. We tried to support him as best as possible. In total, 43 women and 44 men from 34 countries contributed to our thoughts in crafting the report and guidance notes. You can find all mindmaps here licenced under the Creative Commons CC BY Licence.

Example of a mindmap from one of the online sessions.
Example of a mindmap from one of the online sessions.

These mind-maps can be summarised in the word map below prepared by myself, which represents the frequency of words included in all of these mind-maps.

Out of the consultations, we found that there are five things that a government must do once a holistic vision has been crafted that is committed to using digital technologies to create a resilient education system that provides education and learning for all [5]:

  1. Create a whole society approach that delivers equity in education.
  2. Enable access for all to digital technologies by providing resilient funded infrastructures for learning, funded by Central Government rather than Ministries of Education.
  3. Be context-specific at all times, especially in terms of the technologies used in education and the content crafted for learners.
  4. Ensure that appropriate pedagogies are used in the practices of teaching and learning.
  5. Use digital technologies wisely and safely.

The report consists of 3 acts [5]:

  1. Act One is intended primarily for the most senior government officials and contains a summary of the report’s approach and main recommendations. 
  2. Act Two provides the detailed exposition, arguments and evidence upon which these recommendations are based, and is intended primarily for those in government who are charged with implementing them. 
  3. Act Three contains 14 Guidance Notes which provide succinct advice on delivering important distinct aspects of the overall report.

I had the honour to contribute to Guidance Note 3: Digital technologies and girls’ education. Georg Steinfelder and I then also worked on creating an audio track of the guideline, you can listen to it here.

The report launched on the December 18, 2020 and I am proud that I could contribute to its creation. I encourage you to read and discuss our results. You find the the report here at its official website and you can read more about the creation here.

It is somewhat a contradiction that I spent half of 2020 in my apartment and still did not find the time to write about this report earlier. I wish for 2021 that this reports gets into the hands of many decision makers around the globe, that we together defeat this virus once and for all and that I will find more time to share work that is as inspiring as this report. I am grateful to Tim and my team colleagues for giving me this opportunity and wish all of you a Happy New 2021!

[1] UN News, “Hard times forecast for global job recovery in 2020, warns UN labour agency chief”,
[2] World Bank Group on Education, “Simulating the Potential Impacts of the COVID-19 School Closures on Schooling and Learning Outcomes: A set of Global Estimates”, June 2020
[3] World Bank Press Release, “Pandemic Threatens to Push 72 Million More Children into Learning Poverty—World Bank outlines a New Vision to ensure that every child learns, everywhere”, December 2, 2020
[4] UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, “Technology and Education for the most marginalised Post-COVID-19”,
[5] EdTech Hub, “Education for the most marginalised post‑COVID-19, Guidance for governments on the use of digital technologies in education”,

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Technology and Education for the most Marginalised Post-COVID-19
was published on 03.01.2021 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under global
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RISE, INSO & – A Strategic Partnership

Over the last years we implemented several projects and initiatives with the Vienna University of Technology and the Research Industry Software Engineering GmbH (RISE). Our biggest and longest collaboration was within the ICT4DMZ project where INSO, the research group for Industrial Software was our scientific partner. I work with RISE as a mobile software developer and am the co-head of BRIC, a research group at INSO where I regularly teach and conduct my research in the context of ICT4D. Other members also have connections to INSO or RISE and back in 2008 two out of three founding members were part of INSO.

Our shared story goes way back to our roots and recently we once more started a new project. This time RISE, as a software company, takes over the part of developing software within this collaboration. We as do develop and maintain small open source software projects, but we do not have the resources to implement large scale software project. Most of our members contribute to our cause in their spare time and everyone who already developed software knows that it takes serious efforts to go live and have happy users. Furthermore, also does not want to professionally develop software. We see our engagement within the ICT4D movement, we have insights, we connect, we plan & support others, we teach & reflect on the wise use of technologies for the most marginalized. We do not develop software, we develop the ideas behind the technology in respect of its context and foremost implications.

In the last couple of months we as RISE, INSO and decided to take the next step and formalize our partnership. We signed a strategic partnership where RISE & INSO will support our engagement. We continue with having INSO as our designated scientific partner and RISE as our preferred software development associate. Our triangle of research, software development and ICT4D simply got stronger while we still maintain our freedom and openness to collaborate with others. We deeply thank RISE & INSO and are grateful for their support. These are exciting times for us, we are growing, expanding and new opportunities are ahead! Reach out to us if you would like to know more or are interested in joining

Logos of RISE, INSO and

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RISE, INSO & – A Strategic Partnership
was published on 24.10.2020 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under global
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No Comments AddThis Feed Button and TEQtogether online workshop: Changing men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women and technology

May 26, 2020 · 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm BST register here. and TEQtogether present an online workshop that aims to help men rethink what more they can do to help empower women in and through digital technologies. In the past partnered up with TEQtogether to work together to change men’s attitudes about women and technology.

Join Professor Tim Unwin,  Dr Elizabeth Quaglia. Dr Chux Daniels and Paul Spiesberger on May 26, 2020 · 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm BST for an online workshop about Changing men’s attitudes and behaviours towards women and technology.

Find further information here and do not to forget to register in advance since spaces are limited.

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was published on 13.05.2020 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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ICT4D Online Guest Lecture at the TU Wien

As a member of the research group INSO at the TU Wien (Vienna University of Technologies) I am once a year invited to give an introduction to ICT4D. The research group for Industrial Software (INSO) deals with the study of development and maintenance of software systems in practice. The presentation will be a part of their Beyond the Desktop lecture.
I will give an introduction to ICT4D, discuss projects & past research with the students and I will give them an overview of our activities & projects at We are currently looking for students who are interested in participating in our projects or to start writing a thesis in the field of ICT4D.

For the first time due to the Covid-19 outbreak will the lecture be available via an online stream. Everyone is welcome to tune in:

Thursday, 23th April 2020, 17:00 – 19:00 (Vienna time zone)
Join via Zoom by clicking here:

The lecture will be in English language.

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ICT4D Online Guest Lecture at the TU Wien
was published on 21.04.2020 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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The Skybird Programme: Innovation and partnerships in WASH for improved living conditions in East Africa

Over the last year we established a partnership with the Austrian Red Cross to team up in one of their current projects called Skybird funded by the Austrian Development Agency. The Austrian Red Cross together with its partners embarked on a 5-years regional WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) capacity strengthening programme in East Africa. It is the overall aim of The Skybird Programme to contribute to improved living conditions – including health, environment and livelihood – in East Africa through increased innovation, strengthened capacities and partnerships of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) movement in WASH and related fields to enable more gender sensitive and effective WASH service delivery.

The Skybird Logo

Geographic program priorities: The Skybird Programme targets the East African region, with specific focus on Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somalia and Uganda:

Map of the geographic programme priorities

Technical WASH knowledge was provided by representatives of the national WASH teams as well as through Austrian Red Cross WASH advisor Magdalena Bäuerl. Another key activity in the project is the implementation of micro-projects awarded to WASH priority branches of Ethiopia and Uganda Red Cross Society as well as other selected Red Cross National Societies in East Africa to foster innovation and collaboration. Although primarily WASH focused, the micro-projects will also explore the following related topics:

  1. Gender, diversity and inclusion
  2. Food security, nutrition and livelihood
  3. Digitalisation
  4. Cash Transfer Programs (CTP) and marked-based interventions
  5. Urban WASH
  6. Climate change and green energy
  7. Community engagement and accountability

Two workshops in Uganda and Ethiopia were implemented between the 11th and 20th February 2020. They invited national and international specialists for each of the related topics. We,, represented by myself (Paul) were covering the digitalisation part. The specialists had the task to bring in new aspects and ideas into the Red Cross to break their patterns and think a bit outside of the box. The two workshops were split into two phases and Red Cross members from all over the country gathered in their respective capital city to participate in the workshop.

Workshop in Ethiopia (by @chriskloyber)

Phase 1

Phase 1 was focusing on defining problems in the regions where the Red Cross is active. It was quite interesting to hear Red Cross workers describe first hand problems people in Uganda and Ethiopia face, since they work on the front lines every day. The problems range from

  • Food shortage & nutrition
  • Lack of income, inefficient agricultural techniques & tools
  • Unreliable weather conditions, floods & climate crises
  • School dropouts – especially young women caused by a lack of sanitary pads
  • HIV/Aids infections
  • Deforestation
  • Illiteracy
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Lack of toilets/latrines
  • Minor citizen rights
  • Gender inequality
  • High crime rates & rape
  • Soil infertility
  • Lack of fresh drinking water
  • Single mothers with no support
  • Alcohol & drug abuse
  • Informal settlements with no legal validity
  • Domestic violence on a daily basis.

Christian Kloyber then guided the participants through a Process of Design Thinking. Each local Red Cross branch chose one of their most pressing problems and started to generate ideas on how to tackle them. Tools as negative thinking or brain-writing pool were introduced to the participates and many ideas were generated. This was also the moment where the specialists stepped in. We were moving from table to table to bring in our expertise. I tried to spice up the ideas with ICT4D approaches and proposed technologies to support their cause and ideas. This was quite challenging, since many of them rarely thought of using ICTs as a tool in their daily work. Some already got in touch with application such as Kobo or mobile money, but never thought of going beyond. I talked with them about data can empower communities and how for instance Ushahidi is visualizing citizen activism, how iWalkFreely is fighting against woman harassment, weather forecasts via SMS can change the way farmers work and how Farmerline is supporting them via mobile technologies. How health workers use decision trees on mobile phones to pre-diagnose diseases, how voice based mobile phone games can educate the illiterate and how mobile saving groups / micro financing apps can empower women to be more independent. Over the first 2 days we developed first ideas on how to tackle their problems.

The working groups from the different regions in Uganda focused on the following aspects:

  • IGANGA: improve hygiene and sanitation through mobilizing communities through sensitization and setting-up sanitation facilities.
  • MOROTO: manage waste through community engagement in green energy and setting-up waste management centre.
  • KAMPALA SOUTH: Capacity building for entrepreneurs through waste management through collecting waste for recycling and reselling as well as starting gulper businesses and using a phone app to sell products.
  • LIRA: communal farming and family farming through mechanization of agriculture, collectively purchasing modern tools, involving the entire household to increase production and promoting digitalization to ease access for market information as well as promoting family incentives to motivate them and encourage trading in farming unions.
  • NTUNGAMO: equipping single mothers with the right knowledge to be assertive through sensitization campaigns about dangers of female pregnancy and the importance of keeping girls in schools as well as empowering single mother.
Red Cross participants in Kampala with their trainers

Working groups from Ethiopia ended the first 2 days with the following set of ideas:

  • SOUTH OMO: introduce alternative source of energy, easily accessible, avoid deforestation (forest is source of energy and income); provide alternative forms of energy including solar and stoves or Wonderbags; ecotourism; diversifying income generating activities e.g. bee keeping, poultry.
  • ADDIS: focus area are non-official settlements of refugees. Different type of payment system for post or pre-paid using mobile system to afford water, engage the private sector to be attracted to the area and provide information on the location of the service provider; use of mobile money; pipeline extension.
  • BENISHANGUL: feedback mechanism and information for the public regarding (water) services. The community needs to be able to access information and file complaints; Show why something is still broken – show where the spare part currently is e.g. DHL tracking and causal change; advocacy for the water user committee so that they start working.
  • BAHIR DAR: market area with a lack of hygiene facilities – combine a latrine with some source of income e.g. coffee shop so that the latrine can afford income; use of biogas; also add shower services; linked to next level of disposal treatment;
  • WEST ARSI: introduce and promote energy saving stoves and biogas, promote gender equity. Provide agricultural inputs, establish and maintain water infrastructure.
Red Cross participants, specialists and their trainers in Addis Abeba

Phase 2

The last two days were headed by Michaela Pichler. Since more than 12 years Michaela is developing, writing and implementing international project with the Austrian Red Cross. She shared her profound knowledge and experience with the participants over a 2 days workshop in a very joyful and fun manner. She took the results/ideas from the first 2 days and guided the participant to order them in a structured way.

We started to frame our overall goal and went back to the problem statements. What is the thing we are working on and what is the overall goal each group has? After our overall goal was set, we moved on to define our specific objective(s) – so how are we contributing with our idea to the overall goal? We described our expected results and which activities are necessary to achieve these results to contribute to a specific objective and the overall goal. This structured path gave the participants good tools to plan, describe, evaluate and reflect on their ideas. On the last day we discussed logframes and how indicators help to determine what progress has been made towards achieving the objectives in the logframe.

All the training on creative thinking and on the development of a proper project application had a deeper purpose than just an improved future project application writing. The actual goal was to prepare the participants for Phase3 in the Skypbird project where they will have to apply the tools they learned in Phase 1 & 2.

Phase 3

We are currently in March 2020 and therefore in the middle of Phase 3. Red Cross members in East Africa are now starting to compete against each other in a competition for the best micro-project ideas. They will have to find problems in their area of action, find creative solutions and then write them down in form of a project application. Phase 1 & 2 prepared them with the tools they need to do so. The competition will happen within the Red Cross only. Over the next couple of weeks the Skybird organizers in collaboration with their specialists will review the project proposals and choose the best applications. The winners will get a budget to pilot their ideas and implement their project. I am very exited about the ideas coming in and we are looking forward to review and continue working with the Austrian Red Cross in Eastern Africa.

Icons, logos and picture credits: Austrian Red Cross

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The Skybird Programme: Innovation and partnerships in WASH for improved living conditions in East Africa
was published on 12.03.2020 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under east africa
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Introduction to ICT4D at TU Wien

Tomorrow I will give a shot introduction to ICT4D at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). I got invited by the Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation to contribute to a round of guest lectures of TU researches who implemented in the past related “Projects in Development Aid”. I will talk about our ICT4DMZ project, a current project in India and as well as give an overall introduction to ICT4D.

I will also not be alone, since I invited Christoph Derndorfer to take over the part about OLPC. He is the editor of OLPC News and will share with us his lessons learnt from over a decade of OLPC. You shouldn’t miss that!

Venue: Freihausgebäude (Wiedner Hauptstr. 8) – grüner Bereich, 2. OG, Raumnummer: DA02F16
Date & Time: 17.12 2019, 18:00

Everyone is invited to join the discussion.

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Introduction to ICT4D at TU Wien
was published on 16.12.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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2019 Vision Meeting

Two weeks ago we had our 2019 Vision Meeting and General Assembly in Linz. We sat down for two days to re-shift the direction of our NGO and reflect on the past year. Many new challenges arose in the past and new opportunities are ahead. After 10 years, we decided to revamp our legal framework, since we would like to update it to our changed needs and visions. We will do so in an internal and open discussion to all members. We are very happy to welcome Sanja as our newest member. Current and past project were put on the agenda and we used the time to work on some pressuring tasks. Sometimes working physically in the same room has some benefits overall. It was an intensive work-weekend, besides all the fun, discussions, drinks and, lets just call it “team building”.

We also covered the legal requirements for an Austrian NGO and I presented the 2019 budget, which was accepted by all the attending members. Furthermore, Georg was re-elected as the vice-chairman and myself was re-elected as the chairman of (6 in favour, 0 against, 2 abstain). We both would like to express our gratitude for the trust they put in us and we hope that we will be able to live up to their expectations. Bella and Florian were accepted by all attending members as the new internal financial accountants/auditors.

We are planning new projects and are looking forward to continue working together. If you would like to be part of our small group of engaged people, then please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are open to anyone with any skills and you can simple tune-in to one of our calls.

Members of at the Vision Meeting
Left to right: Álvaro, Florian, Bella, Georg, Sanja, Paul & Chloé

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2019 Vision Meeting
was published on 15.10.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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YES We Care 2! Kick-Off and first Study Trip

We recently started to work with mladiinfo from Macedonia, Risky Businesses from Romania and YoungAfrica from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia on our YES We Care 2 – Youth Empowerment through Social Entrepreneurship. We support our partners with our ICT know-how and contribute with our experiences from the field. The overall goal is to map social entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia and offer them trainings, networking and guidance to further grow their businesses. ICT plays a vial role in establishing a successful business and needs to take local realities such as limited resources and different interface into consideration. Read more here about the current project and find here more information about the past first project implementation.

Yes We Care 2 Banner

Kick-Off in Harare

We started the project with a kick-off event in Harare, Zimbabwe where the consortium met for the first time in person. We discussed and planned the upcoming studies visits in the three African countries and how we will succeed in the implementation. The meeting was a lot of fun, surfaced many challenges within our planning and brought us all closer together.

First Study Trip to Beira in Mozambique

For the last few days the city of Beira in Mozambique was our working place. Although “working” is not quite the right term. It was a mix of study visits, cultural networking and enjoying the country. In total it was quite intense, we were visiting a lot of places, met a lot of interesting people and promising NGOs – even the mayor of the town gave us an official welcome.

Our goal within the project was to find local social entrepreneurs to invite them to a training session in Macedonia next year. Our project “YES We Care 2” aims to give those motivated people and their ideas an educational boost and a network to reach out to potential sponsors.

Yet it was not easy to find social entrepreneurs in the local scene since the term is relatively unknown in Mozambique. There might be already several well running businesses which fulfil the criteria of a social entrepreneurship but they are not on the radar of our local partner. Speaking of which: Our study visits and trips around Beira were organised by Young Africa Mozambique. They run a training centre in Beira and in Dondo, a nearby spot in the country side, where they provide education, vocational trainings and many other courses with very practical aspects for young students. In different franchises the students learn to become bike mechanics, farmers, electricians, cooks etc.

Young Africa introduced us to those franchises and we got more than a glimpse on the social impact of the organisation. They also arranged visits with local government officials and businesses and other NGOs. One of the first meetings was with the mayor of the town. Sitting in the mayor’s office, presenting our project, taking pictures – all that gave our trip a very official start and we felt honoured to be invited. The mayor mentioned that we need to try prawns and that supporting young citizens might be even more important after the big cyclone earlier this year.

We were very impressed by the rather quick recovery of the city. The damage of the cyclone is still visible in many places (e.g. many of the roofs are still gone) although the citizens did a great job in rebuilding the structures. As always, the ones who suffer the most are the poor inhabitants. And there are a lot. We passed by many slums when we were going around by car and it gave us yet another reminder how privileged we are to travel around the globe, sleeping in clean beds and having regular meals.

Our discussion cycled daily around the circumstances these people are living in. The question is: How can we help the motivated entrepreneurs and project leaders in the most sustainable way? We cannot solve their problems, but only support them in helping themselves. For us, it is obvious that we can achieve that by establishing strong networks which last longer than our short trips and most importantly providing tools to them to help themselves. Start a business, create jobs and rebuild the city.

The diverse members of our group were also quite colourful and it was a pleasure to work with all of them: Mhlonipeni from Zimbabwe, Constance from Mozambique, Shemo and Lulesa from Macedonia, Robert from Romania, Eric from Belgium, Paul and Georg from Austria. Finding topics to talk about wasn’t hard. Politics, cultural habits, sharing ideas and telling jokes only scratch the surface. There were always funny cultural differences and language barriers. We spent hours trying to bridge those gaps. Trying to count in the different languages was maybe the most hilarious part.

In the end, we shook a lot of hands, built up networks, led very interesting conversations and discussions about social entrepreneurship and how to improve the situation for young entrepreneurs in Beira.

One good example was 3R Mozambique. They create a clean environment for current and future generations through the transformation of the waste. Furthermore, 3R provide integrated waste management services for medium and large organizations and build waste treatment infrastructure across Mozambique.

We also met Baisikeli who import second-hand bikes from Denmark supported by their sponsor. They repair the bikes, sell them in local shops and promote eco-friendly transport in Beira. If this wasn’t already enough, they work with Young Africa in Beira to train young students to become bike mechanics and also create bikes for handicapped people. Many still loose their ability to walk due to a still existing mine problem in the surrounding area. Recently they also built bikes with a pizza oven included, they plan start new businesses with mobile pizza bikes!

We also used the opportunity to connect with local universities. Paul met colleague from the Universidade Zambeze. The local public university which suffered badly from the cyclone. Almost all of their computers were destroyed and they now face the challenge to teach computer science for 500 students with only 20 computers. We talked about how we can support them and explored possible collaborations.

Overall, we simply had a lot of fun. Mozambicans are very friendly people and we are very grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the Mozambican culture. Therefore, we want to thank Young Africa and our project partners for the wonderful collaboration: Mladiinfo and Risky Business.

Written by: Paul Spiesberger and Georg Steinfelder

Yes We Care 2 Partners

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YES We Care 2! Kick-Off and first Study Trip
was published on 16.07.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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