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.

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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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Guest Lecture at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, Mozambique

I got lucky to be part of the delegation we sent to Mozambique to participate in the YES We Care 2 project. We implemented our project in Beira and a blog post will soon be published about our work there.

Several years ago, I was teaching in Maputo at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) within our ICT4DMZ project. I worked with students from the DMI and gave a one semester course about Android development. I managed to add a few days to my stay here in Mozambique and stopped by the UEM to visit old friends and connect again with the department. I offered to give a guest lecture at the DMI for Master students and I chose to give them once again an introduction to Android programming. Five years have passed since my last Android lecture at the DMI and the way I would now implement a modern Android application fundamentally changed since then.

I am big fan of practical teaching. So I only had 11 slides prepared, which were mostly about who I am, what I do and why I was here. I prefer to simply programmed live in front of the students and explain the code and why I implement it in a certain way. That might be a bit risky, but also gives me the chance to fix bugs and errors in front of the students, since they will probably also encounter the same in the future. I tried to cover the latest standards and illustrate how I would now start a new Android project. I covered the following in my lecture:

  • GIT and GitHub – because I would never start a project without it
  • Project setup and overall architecture of an Android Studio project
  • Jetpack Navigation – single Activity architecture and Fragments
  • Data Binding – Interaction with UI Elements
  • ViewModel and LifeCycle Handling

The lecture was well accepted, although hard to follow, since I only scratched the surface of all these topics in only 2,5 hours. This was intended, since I wanted to show them the tools they should use, give them a direction where to look and then at the end simply remember what is out there. So if they start a new Android project in the future, they then should think: “oh yeah right, there is something called Jetpack Navigation, ViewModels and Databinding… and I should probably use GIT to organize my work”. For the rest, they will have to teach it themselves, which is in my opinion the best way to learn programming anyway.

You can find my Android project I created during the lecture here on GitHub. Feedback is more than welcome.

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Guest Lecture at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, Mozambique
was published on 09.07.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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Special Sponsor of PyCon Africa 2019

Last year we celebrated our 10th year anniversary with a party at Schikaneder in Vienna. It was a wonderful evening and we used the opportunity to collect donations for Noah and his engagement in Ghana. He recently joined the team who is organizing this year’s PyCon Africa 2019. The organising team of PyCon Africa 2019 includes experienced Python community conference organisers from Africa and Europe. Between them they have run multiple international conferences, including PyCons in Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, United Kingdom as well as several editions of DjangoCon Europe. The conference will happen 6th-10th August 2019 in Accra and will be the first-ever pan-African meeting of the Python programming community. Get your tickets here!

We are proud to be listed a Special Sponsor of the PyCon Africa 2019 and are happy to support their great work with our humble contribution. They are still looking for support, so please do not hesitate to donate as well.

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Special Sponsor of PyCon Africa 2019
was published on 22.06.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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Lend a support to enable smallholder farmers in rural Ghana access IT & financial services

Farmerline recently launched a 30-day Kiva campaign to raise a $100,000 loan to connect 6,000 smallholder farmers in Ghana to financial services, market information, weather forecasts and quality inputs. We need your help to reach our goal today July 18 in a few hours!

In 2016, we launched our first campaign with Kiva and were able to raise $50,000 to connect 1,000 smallholder farmers to high quality and affordable farm inputs at 20 – 30% below market price. We want to extend our reach!

As a supporter and friend of Farmerline, your contribution would go a long way! As little as $25 would ensure a supply of farmer inputs for a month at a 1 – 2 acre farm, while a $75 loan would ensure a rice or vegetable farmer has input supply for four months and is able to focus on ensuring consistent quality yield.

To learn more about our Kiva campaign and become a lender, visit Farmerline Kiva campaign.

Click the video below to hear from a few of the farmers we serve!

 





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Lend a support to enable smallholder farmers in rural Ghana access IT & financial services
was published on 18.07.2018 by Worlali Senyo. It files under global, sub saharan africa
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Junior Camp Zion College – Anloga

The Junior Camp Ghana Program is a career mentoring series in high schools in Ghana. It is run by the GhanaThink Foundation.

The program allows industries and persons to share their stories, experiences and knowledge with students in second cycle institutions i.e. Senior High Schools (SHS).

It also connects students with mentors who provide their wisdom about their areas of expertise, management, leadership skills, career success factors, industry insights, communication skills. Through the program students are inspired to match similar career goals, concentration, career fields etc.

Junior Camp Zion College was held on the 30th of June 2018 and started with an opening prayer lead by one of the students.

Harry Akligoh, the Volta lead for Junior Camp Ghana took over to talk about the program and the purpose of our gathering.
The mentors then introduced themselves and what they do.

I was opportuned to lead a session on:

1. Why learn programming
2. Opportunities available
3. How to become a successful developer
4. Why acquiring a digital skill is essential in today’s era.
5. My experience / story

Noah introducing himself at #JCZionCollege

Other sessions lead by mentors includes:

1. Techpreneur – Dakey James Sewornu

2. Education and Entrepreneurship – Courage Christson Tetteh

3. Legal Education – Elorm Ashiagbor

4. Finance and Accounting – Cryspin Kavaarpuo

5. Sexual and reproductive health and volunteerism – Ekissi Victor

6. Creativity and Innovative thinking – Harry Akligoh

7. Healthcare and Sciences – Precious Adade

Mentors at Junior Camp Zion College

The assistant headmaster was pleased to have us around impact the students.

At the end of it all, we proposed to the school that we want to set-up an ICT club/society to equip the students with digital skills.

During our mentoring session we realized a lot of students are having interest in programming, IOT, animations, graphic designing etc but don’t have the exposé hence the need to have a community to spark that interest.

The mind blowing ideas from the students needs support to make them a reality.

In the years to come great developers will start coming up from Zion College in Angloga and also partaking in competitions.

Upcoming female developers

The assistant headmaster was so excited to hear this laudable idea and can’t wait to have this club on campus.

Our hope is to commence the club when school resumes next academic year.

It’s my dream to also see other High schools in Ghana exposing their students to technology.

The program ended with both participants sharing what they’ve learnt and also the mentors sharing their experiences with the students.

Indeed, Living Tomorrow’s Career Today.





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Junior Camp Zion College – Anloga
was published on 01.07.2018 by Noah Alorwu. It files under sub saharan africa
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Holistic development and multi-stakeholder engagement with a pinch of systems theory; a recipe for acknowledging complexity

 

A day like today 10 years ago I decided to quit my job in IBM. I no longer wanted to wake up every morning and work 10 hours to make someone in the US richer and richer. I had volunteered in Peru and Mozambique during the summer holidays and I knew I wanted to work in development. I had however witnessed how private companies can influence policies, move governments and transform the lives of people in developed and developing countries, and it was that sweet spot between development and the private sector that was most appealing to me.

Luckily for me, the development industry has undergone a profound change over the last decade and has moved closer to that sweet spot. Old funding models and narrow focused interventions are no longer the norm. Donors are increasingly requesting Public Private Partnerships where private companies need to provide co-funding for the implementation of a program. Nowadays development objectives (including a theory of change) and business model design (including pricing) are two sections of the same project proposal. An agricultural program now needs to put women equity at its heart, focus on nutrition and food security while achieving economic, social, technological and environmental sustainability. This holistic approach can promote transformational and long lasting change, but it is also much more complex to develop, manage and evaluate than “old school” donor funded programs.

Having managed a small component of a multi-country (14) multi-million (24) multi-partner (40) program that aimed to integrate agriculture and nutrition goals using mobile phones, while attempting to demonstrate ‘impacts at scale’ and value for money, I can tell you: getting to the end goal is not a walk in the park. While I was still involved in the program I was approached by a researcher from Ottawa University, interested in analyzing this complex program using a systems approach to understand the relationship between its numerous sub-components and its different development goals. The result was an academic paper that has recently been published in Food Security (Springer), which will hopefully influence donors and academia to revisit their approach to complex development programs and to ensure that the sweet spot between development and businesses becomes sweeter in the years to come.

 

Here I leave you the abstract and a link to the paper.

International development programming is increasingly integrating agriculture and nutrition goals, while attempting to demonstrate ‘impacts at scale’ and value for money. These multiple goals create complexities, both from a conceptual viewpoint and a more operational perspective. This article uses systems theory to examine the mobile Nutrition program (mNutrition), which aims to improve nutrition, food security and livelihoods for rural women and children, through mobile phone-based information services.  The paper specifically uses mNutrition’s work in Malawi as a case study. The systems approach reveals that, as a complex system with numerous sub-components and tensions among different goals, the mNutrition program tended to minimize connections between its sub-systems (such as content development and mobile service development processes) in order to speed up movement towards the global planned outcomes. We argue that this is likely to have multiple impacts on outcomes, including on overall effectiveness and the relevance and sustainability of the mobile message content.





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Holistic development and multi-stakeholder engagement with a pinch of systems theory; a recipe for acknowledging complexity
was published on 27.02.2018 by Alvaro Valverde. It files under global, sub saharan africa
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Digital Education in Ghana

Margarete Grimus’s work over the past years was hosted by the official TU Graz blog. Her engagement as a lecturer and expert in mobile learning and the success of the project in Ghana is summarized. She recently graduated with a PhD from the TU Graz and the university proudly shares her work in one of their blog posts. Her efforts is therefore highly recognized and it is stunning to see the impact and results of her work. We are very proud to have her as a member, but see yourself and read the blog post in English language here or German language here.

Margarete in Ghana





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Digital Education in Ghana
was published on 07.12.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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Django Girls Ho Workshop 2017

Programming is a skill you can use all around the globe to empower anyone to do almost anything. Noah, our youngest member is more than aware of opportunity and he is deeply engaged in empowering his female colleges in web programming courses. Django Girls Ho was the first ever IT workshop that involved ladies from Ho Volta Region and its environs in Ghana.

He is part of the organizing team and was so kind to invite Margarte Grimus and me for a call during the event. Margarete shared her expertise in mobile learning and underlined the importance of self learning. I was sharing my past as a programmer, why am I am a programmer, why I think that this skill is future proof and can change the world – if used for the common good. We were both stunned by the motivation of these young women and can only congratulate Noah and his team. You can read more about the event here and support is always welcome.

I would say that the beautiful Key Takeaways summarize best the mindset of the event:

  1. You should never stop learning, because to be a programmer, you need to be dedicated.
  2. Opportunities are endless when you’re good at programming.
  3. You should use the knowledge you have acquired here to help other people.
  4. You should always work in groups. That’s what make great programmers.

Django Girls





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Django Girls Ho Workshop 2017
was published on 02.11.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under sub saharan africa
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Consequences of Mobile ICT4D Constraints

A Research Study on Information and Communication Technologies for Development: Mobile Phones & Empowerment

The past two years I worked on my Master’s Thesis which was part of our ICT4DMZ project in Mozambique. I had the pleasure to work with local students and develop an Android application with them. FindUEM is an application which helps students to find PIOs (Point of Interest) at their campus, you can download it from the Play Store. During my stay I conducted my research on if this Android application is usable by the students. Not in terms of usability, but rather if they have access to the technology. So I conducted a survey regarding students’ mobile hardware and on how they use their phones. Back then, only one third was capable of using the Android application regarding hardware and Internet connectivity. So I started to develop a concept of a SMS based FindUEM, which grants access to everyone in possession of a mobile phone. During my research SMSSync was published, which does similar a things and underlines the importance of my research. Out of 451 students, only one did not have a mobile phone. This shows once again the exceptional potential of mobile hardware in the field of ICT4D. My work got recently published as a book and you can buy it here. If you want to know me about this topic, then do not hesitate to drop me a mail or comment below.

The abstract

This book analyses and challenges the fast and dynamic movement of new mobile technologies, particularly in developing countries like Mozambique. The work places itself in the research field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development. The focus lies in the context of mobile technologies in developing countries and on how people can access information on these devices properly. An Android prototype application designed to navigate people around the campus was developed in a lecture with Mozambican students at the Maputo Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. A survey carried out as part of the research indicated that the Android application is not accessible to certain students due to a lack of technology and connectivity. Therefore, an alternative SMS based interface is introduced to meet the criteria of Human Computer Interaction for Development and Universal Design. The new solution uses already existing and cheap infrastructure, focuses on low-end hardware, works along with future-proof alternatives and does, in comparison with the Android application, not exclude potential users.

 

Book Cover - Consequences of Mobile ICT4D Constraints – a Case Study of Mozambique





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Consequences of Mobile ICT4D Constraints
was published on 25.03.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under east africa, sub saharan africa
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What is the link between mobile value-added services and unpaid care work?

picture-from-rct

In 2016 nearly 70% of the bottom fifth of the population in developing countries owned a mobile phone, meaning that the poorest households are more likely to have access to mobiles than toilets or even clean water[1]. This breathtaking reality offers a clear opportunity to use available technologies to increase the outreach and efficiency of specific development interventions. Both donors and civil society organisations (CSOs) are wary of the opportunities and challenges associated with using ICTs in a development context, and much effort has been placed on developing commercially viable and sustainable mobile services for agriculture, health and nutrition over the last few years. However, ICTs are only one piece in a bigger system and sometimes we need to step back a bit to discover how a programme is having an unexpected negative impact in the very same people it is trying to benefit.

My name is Alvaro Valverde and until recently I was working with Oxfam as Private Sector Adviser (ICTs). My work included leading two programmes that used mobile phones to advance Oxfam’s work on livelihoods and women empowerment. One of the programmes was mNutrition, which aims to improve nutrition, food security and livelihoods for people living in poverty in 13 countries, especially women and children, through increased scale and sustainability of mobile based nutrition-sensitive information services on health (mHealth) and agriculture (mAgri). The second programme was Women’s Economic Empowerment and Care (WE-Care), my role focused on the use of ICTs for building evidence for influencing change on unpaid care work (e.g. cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children) in Malawi.

The mNutrition programme in Malawi developed SMS and IVR services for agriculture and health in collaboration with Airtel, the government of Malawi and local content partners. The service arm concentrated on creating commercially viable services, while the content arm focused on developing scientific based behavioural change information and messages. In parallel, the WE-Care programme implemented three research methodologies to gather evidence on the current distribution of unpaid care work in Malawi and on the impact that access to mNutrition services and content had in the re-distribution and reduction of unpaid care work for women smallholder farmers in the country.

Through participatory action research the WE-Care programme identified the current challenges and unequal distribution of care related activities at the household level in Malawi. This research was followed by a household survey, where detailed data was gathered using mobile phones from almost 600 households. The findings from both methodologies supported the idea that women in Malawi have an extremely busy daily schedule, as they carry out the vast majority of care related activities within their households, apart from also engaging in income generating activities.

The third methodology was a Randomised Control Trial (RCT), which aimed to understand the impact that access to mNutrition services had on the allocation of time to unpaid care work. Participants in the treatment group received a total of 24 SMS on their mobile phones (health, agriculture and food preparation messages) while those in the control group received a total of 12 messages containing interesting facts and seasonal greetings. The findings from the RCT revealed that the mNutrition programme was having an unexpected impact on the lives of the participants: users of the services prioritized the application of those messages directly related to income-generating activities during the first two months of receiving the information, to the detriment of messages directly linked to health and food practices; this increase in the time allocated to productive work also resulted in a reduction of sleep hours and time dedicated to personal care, as well as a higher perception of the occurrence of domestic violence by participants in the treatment group.

While it is worth taking into account the short period of time in which the RCT took place, these results point to higher calorie consumption by the participants (more time spent in the field and less sleep hours) and no increase in calorie intake, which could result in a potential reduction of the nutrition levels of the beneficiaries in the short term. This would directly challenge the overall goal of the mNutrition programme and even its sustainability in the long term. These findings were used to create a set of recommendations for the redesign of the mNutrition programme and also to inform the development of future ICT4D programmes that target poor women living in developing countries. Read the complete research and recommendations here.

There are three main things I have learned from this experience: women in developing countries have an extremely busy daily schedule and successful behaviour change can only happen if women’s time constraints are taken into account from the onset of a programme; more research is needed to better understand what works and what doesn’t when using ICTs in a developing context, particularly for mobile based information services that aim to promote behavioural change; and ICT4D programmes should not be developed in isolation, but rather linked to ongoing development interventions and existing sources of information.

 

[1] http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/896971468194972881/pdf/102725-PUB-Replacement-PUBLIC.pdf





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What is the link between mobile value-added services and unpaid care work?
was published on 07.12.2016 by Alvaro Valverde. It files under sub saharan africa
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