oneVillageFoundation Ghana

The oneVillageFoundation is an international foundation aiming at promoting the use of

Information Communication Technology (ICT) to address World Urgent Issues, by providing a platform for an integrated approach to sustainable development” [from the oneVilageFoundation homepage]

It was founded in the US and currently operates also in Ghana, Nigeria and Taiwan.

Recently me and ICT4D.at fellow Worlali Senyo went to Winneba, Ghana, to meet the people behind oneVillageFoundation Ghana and to look at their projects.

Winneba is the main base of the oneVillageFoundation in Ghana, they have a building with offices and computer rooms there. Jacob Odame and Kafui Prebbie welcomed us and gave a short presentation of the projects which oneVillageFoundation is currently supporting, and the objectives of oneVillageFoundation Ghana in general.

In Winneba the foundation provides computer classes, an internet cafe, acts as local partner for appropriate technology company Inveneo and has a NComputing sample solution set up. The latter two help a lot in their efforts to give consulting for other organizations who want to introduce ICT solutions.

The computer room is built with the already mentioned NComputing device, a tiny and almost no energy consuming device which allows to split up the computing power of one PC to up to four workplaces – with monitor, mouse and keyboard each. This basically allows everyone to open up an internet cafe or easily equip a computer room with low equipment and energy costs. Due to the low power consumption it’s also possible to easily implement a backup power source as well as to minimize the cooling efforts – things which are of critical importance in a country like Ghana.

Another way the organization serves the surrounding communities is by sharing their internet conection with them. This is done with the German software Freifunk which allows to easily create large mesh networks by utilizing antennas and commonly available routers. This way only one participant of the network has to offer the conncetion to the intenet to make everybody profit. The same works in some cities in Austria with the initiative Funkfeuer.

oneVillageFoundation Ghana is also part of several international projects, such as the Wireless Africa initiative aiming at promoting Community Owned Information Networks or the EU-initiated Digital World Forum focusing on the use of ICT to leverage economic development in Africa and Latin America.

After a short walk through oneVillageFoundation’s facilities we had a discussion on how to get cheap internet to as many people as possible in Ghana – also mentioning several former UNDP efforts, the recent foundation of the Ghana Network Operators Group (ghNOG) which is a “forum for the exchange of technical information to ensure stability of the Internet Services in Ghana” and the Ghana Connect initiative.

It was inspiring to see the innovative and highly appropriate installations oneVillageFoundation implemented. Also I am curious if their solutions will spread over Ghana in the future, increasing internet access by simple means. Thumbs up for Kafui, Jacob and their co-workers who do a good job serving a lot of people.

If you want to know more about them and their projects check out the oneVillageFoundation homepage or the oneVillageFoundation blog.

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oneVillageFoundation Ghana
was published on 23.09.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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IDDS – inside view

Due to me being in Kumasi and our planned screening of our movie Hello Africa (a movie on mobile phone culture in Tanzania) at Maker Faire Africa next weekend in Accra, I got in contact with some of the guys of International Development Design Summit which will present their prototypes at the Maker Faire.

Yesterday I showed up at their place to take some photos, watch them work at the prototypes and find out a bit about the problems which emerged.

Most of the teams focus on problems which need a more engineering-type solution, but one team is into ICTs and I was taking a closer look at them. The team is very multicultural and multidisciplinary – consisting of Evan from the US who is into mobile phones and ICTs, Vaibhav from India who is also into ICTs, Mensah from Ghana working for the Methodist church, Paulina from Guatemale studying industrial design and Dr. Hiwagaba from Uganda who studied medicine.

The challenge the team sought to solve was “baby health care” – assuring that babies can be weighed and measured easily by nurses on the countryside and that the data is kept track of.

The solution they came up with was a device that weighs the baby with pressure sensors, measures the height by a infrared-sensor connected to a measuring tape. After measuring, the data is pre-formatted and senr via a connected modem as sms-message to the database. There the data can be saved and analysed. It’s really easy to use and very practical. The prototype – as all other prototypes of the other teams – is currently undergoing refinement and redesign according to the feedback of potential real users from the Ghanian countryside.

I also looked at some of the projects of the other teams – and after a while I became really euphoric about the amazingly creative and innovative solutions the people from IDDS found for their challenges.

  • Project team “energy production” designed a device which creates electricity from copper, salt water, plastic bottles, aluminium waste and some other things – actually a low tech battery. They already used it to power electric light and a radio.
  • Project team “water purification” designed a device which adds always the exact amount of chloride to water to make it drinkable.
  • Project team “chloride production” redesigned a bike to use it to create hydrochloride from other – available – chemicals. They are working together with team “water purification” to create a feasible all-in-one solution for water purification.
  • Project team “refridgerator” designed a device which keeps a constant temperature of 18° and absorps gases causing fruits and vegtables to rot faster.
  • Project team “plastic waste reduction” designed a device that creates a material which can be used for creating rooftops, raincoats and for several other purposes.

In my opinion all these devices have enormous revolutionary potential – what if you could produce energy from waste and clean water with everyday tools which are already around?

So on Monday the finished prototypes will be presented publically at the KNUST museum and I will be there – really curious on seeing the prototypes in action and observing the ones I didn’t see this time – there are 12 project teams after all.

Also check out Nialls blog – the official IDDS blog, it has far more details and pictures.

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IDDS – inside view
was published on 07.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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International Development Design Summit

Just a quick point to an exciting project which is currently taking place here around Kumasi and at KNUST – International Development Design Summit.

It’s an initiative by MIT (MIT press on IDDS) to drive capacity building in developing countries, but also to provide students with real-life experience and a forum to discuss issues. The students work together with other students and practitioners here in the wider area of Kumasi and try to find applicable solutions for every day problems of the people in rural areas of Ghana.

One project is for example built around the problem of making water drinkable with chlorides – and how to produce these chlorides with the help of available tools – such as a bike, in that case. Another projects deals with easy methods of rice-destoning – which would rural farmers enable to compete better with big companies.

The project is really good covered in various blog – IDDS official blog in as good source, also pointing to other blogs. The results of the projects will be presented at Maker Faire Africa (IDDS at Maker Faire Africa), really looking forward to seeing that.

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International Development Design Summit
was published on 28.07.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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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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Greetings from London

Just a short update from London – today we flew here to attend Africa Gathering tomorrow.

Today we already went for dinner with Africa Gathering organizer Ed Scotcher, Erik Hersman, David McQueen and several other interesting people, it was a really great evening and food at Ethiopian restaurant Lalibela was superb.

I’m really looking forward to meet the people at the event tomorrow – around 200 according to the organizers. Martin will also have a speech and present the new trailer of Hello Africa. It can be viewed on Youtube (Hello Africa Trailer II) and according to editor Anders Bolin it looks best in HQ mode.

More tomorrow, we’ll keep you updated.

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Greetings from London
was published on 25.04.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Village Pay Phone Project

As I am basically finished writing my Master thesis (hopefully my supervisor thinks like that too), I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful.

This first on is “Village Pay Phones and Poverty Reduction: Insights from a Grameen Bank Initiative in Bangladesh” and is actually a classic.  It was written by Abdul Bayes (Professor of Economics, Jahangimagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh), Joachim von Braun (Director at the Center for Development Research, Bonn, Germany) and Rasheda Akhter (Researcher, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh) in 1999 for the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn.

I deals with the impact of the Village Pay Phone project of the Grameen Bank on the social and economic situation in the villages in Bangladesh where the project was implemented.

In the following a short summary of the paper:

The situation in Bangladesh 1999:

Village Pay Phone Lady - picture taken from Jeevs Sinclair

Village Pay Phone Lady - picture taken by Jeevs Sinclair

  • 80% of the population live in rural areas
  • 47% of the population live below the poverty line
  • Overall there is only few basic infrastructure

The telecom sector in Bangladesh:

  • 0.26 fixed lines per 100 people
  • Calls are expensive
  • Only 20% of calls are completed successfully
  • There are many complaints

Mobile phone operators entered the market some years ago and leapfrogged the fixed-line subscriptions almost immediately. The reason for this was also the competition between seven operators.

Village Pay Phones:

  • Based on an idea of the Grameen Bank
  • Provide mobile phones to the rural poor
  • Four international partners built an NGO and acquired the license for GSM
  • VPPs were only given to women with certain attributes
  • Call fees and the overall procedure were fixed

Phone owners were usually found to be poorer but socially more conscient than the phone users. Most of the people that made phone calls were non-poor (three-quarters) and male (two-third). Problems were for a lot of users the low connection quality which resulted in a wish for lower rates

The effects of Village Pay Phones:

Economic effects:

  • The VPP owners  gain a net profit of ~270 which accounts for about 1/5 to 1/4 of total income
  • The profit was mostly spent to installment payments, education and saving
  • The alternatives for VPPs would have involved transport costs
  • The consumer surplus is therefore quite high and for the poor it is higher than the not-poor
  • Farmers gain more money because they know about market prices
  • Supply of goods became smoother as the market can be better analysed with more information
  • Foreign exchange has been made more transparent
  • Livestock keepers are better informed of possible diseases and how to cure them
  • Poverty was reduced and people have more to eat
  • Dealing with disasters was made easier due to more communication

Socio-cultural effects:

  • Empowerment of women – more decisions are taken by women alone, mobility was raised
  • The owners of VPPs gain higher social status
  • Phone owners have more knowledge and confidence

.

So overall it can be said, that the whole project was a big success story and this guy has really earned his Nobel Prize. For the whole article I may refer to Google Scholar.

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Village Pay Phone Project
was published on 28.11.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under south asia
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Voice services

Although many high end projects have been launched in the field of ICT4D, most of the people still can be reached through established media such as radio, television or the basic mobile phone functions – SMS and voice calls. Therefore it doesn’t surprise me that some of the most successful projects in ICT4D (FrontlineSMS, Ushahidi, Tradenet, …) rely on these basic features (mostly SMS) for the front end.

An idea of mine which appeared in the course of writing my thesis was to provide updated information from the internet on a telephone number. Me and my colleagues David Hauer and Andreas Hornich wrote the prototype NoisR which uses the service Podlinez for this purpose. Right now, my colleagues work on expanding this prototype with some new features, I’m curious what will be the outcome.

Recently I’ve come across several other projects with a quite similar approach – to provide information from the internet in an audible representation accessible by phone. Or to just provide functionality of the internet for people without internet and computer.

One project was just recently launched by fellow blogger Drew CogbillPigeon.

In his own words:

“Pigeon is a social network that you access through a phone call.  Pigeon gives you one voice message that lasts one minute to tell your world what’s up.  You can think of your Pigeon message as a voice status update, an audio micro-blog, or space for citizen journalism.”

He even uploaded a short video on youtube to demonstrate the functions and now invites everybody to try out the service. Several tools which work quite alike are listed in another blog post of his.

Another service I have an eye on already a while, is Mosoko. It tries to provide functions similar to Craigslist, only by voice.

I really think these projects have potential, also keeping in mind the high rates of illiteracy in lesser developed countries which inhibit access to information represented in written form. Furthermore, as already mentioned, the access to mobile phones is increasingly given, whereas the access to computers and internet is not – I am wondering if there are also successful initiatives which combine the internet with radio, which is an even more popular ICT.

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Voice services
was published on 20.11.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Leaving on a jet plane…

Today my colleagues Martin Konzett, Martin Tomitsch and Anders Bolin left to Southern Africa for their big film project on mobile phone usage in Africa.

First they will attend the conference MobileActive08, then travel through various southern African countries to gather material.

Subsequently, the material will be put online under a CC license, reviewed, and in the end the resulting film will be promoted by Anders and his UZI-magazine.

So I hope in the next 6 weeks we will get more or less frequent updates on their experiences and also some pictures.

Wish you all the best and a great experience!

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Leaving on a jet plane…
was published on 11.10.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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Google does things

When browsing through ICT4D news today I several times came across Google investments or projects so I thought I’ll present some of those in short. Hat tip to PSDBlog for pointing.

Google partners with HSBC Bank and the Liberty Global cable company in this project, trying to provide internet access for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on the whole world with a network of satellites.

From their homepage:

At O3b Networks, our mission is to make the Internet accessible and affordable to everyone on the planet. We will enrich lives and ensure equal and fair access to information through ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity to the world’s content and applications. … The Internet has become the world’s information exchange and everyone should have the opportunity to be participating. [homepage]

Lovely claim and great idea – but there’s also criticism as the founder and CEO already had some bad experiences with trying to bring internet to Africa.

Link to a NY Times about the project article here.

  • Putting news paper archives online

From the NY Times again:

Google has begun scanning microfilm from some newspapers’ historic archives to make them searchable online, first through Google News and eventually on the papers’ own Web sites, the company said Monday. [snippet from here]

This means that maybe soon the archives of newspapers are searchable on the web for free. This is great in the context of ICT4D, as in lesser developed countries often there exist few facilities to search for information – and free information in the internet is accessible at least for some people. Just referring to the discussion about Open Access.

As widely covered, Google launched their own web browser these days. Now I found an interesting blog post on Herald Tribune, claiming that Chrome is particuarly applicable for internet access in lesser developed countries, due to its focus on the web as the platform.

Think about computer users in the developing world. Many use Internet cafes rather than having computers in their homes, and those cafes typically don’t have the latest machines. Their models run with slower processors and clogged connections on smaller screens. For them, a slimmed-down browser could be a godsend: fewer images to load, less drive space used and the convenience of those Web-based applications. [from here]

As I didn’t read so much about Chrome yet, I wasn’t aware of that, but in generally I support the idea.

Every device which gives the user the possibility to store, process or provide data on another platform than the own slow and unreliable one, is lowering the barrier to access this data.

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Google does things
was published on 12.09.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Interesting Projects: Kiva

Through this blog post at Next Billion, a site

about how business drives positive social and environmental change in low-income communities [from here]

I recently found out about the project Kiva.

It’s a social network where everyone can login and basically start start giving microcredits to people all over the world.

The idea of microcredits is a Nobel-Prize winning form of giving credits to the poorest of the poor to enable them to change their living conditions. They are required to have a business plan to get the loan and sometimes they even have to attend business seminars, so that they can start to run a sustainable business.

The interest rate is not very high and through the initial project of Muhammad Yunus helped a lot of people in Bangladesh to free themselves from extreme poverty.

Now there have appeared several institution who give microcredits, but often the capital is missing.

Kiva solves this problem by democratizing the capital giving, allowing everyone to invest in a new business. It is possible to view the profiles of the entrepreneurs in lesser developed countries over the Kiva platform and to track their forthcomings.

Here is a link to an interview with the founder of Kiva – Premal Shah, he explains the idea very comprehensive. Watching it made me want to contribute to the idea myself.

This one is another article about Kiva in Newsweek. It displays the idea on the example of Dan Zuckerman, who lives in Tajikistan and gives microcredits there. Furthermore it’s about how Wikis make his work easier, connecting him with other people working with Kiva-loans.

Go ICT4D! Go Web 2.0!

Check it out

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Interesting Projects: Kiva
was published on 11.09.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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