Archive | April, 2011

Applab connecting Uganda

20 Apr

Original video: Applab, Grameen Foundation

Grameen Foundation work with communities in the developing world, increasing access to technology and micro-finance initiatives, aiming to help people make their way out of poverty.

Like Question Box , when it comes to connecting people, Applab‘s philosophy is a simple one. Community knowledge workers work with farmers, bridging the gaps that can’t yet be connected by the internet. Farmer’s questions get answers. Knowledge is shared.

Their flickr page and blog are also worth a look.

Advertisement

Spreading the word…

19 Apr

Since I started researching this project, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of talk on developing mobile and internet based technologies in the developing world. There’s continuous discussion on ICT4D via social networks. I find it quite hard to keep up! There are big businesses getting involved and world wide NGOs.  And there are so many articles, blogs and stories being written about developments. I found one this week in this month’s Eden magazine, about the rise of apps for social change. (More on that later.)

But where are the projects that are really stepping up social change? I think it’s about time to look at some real examples.

A couple of weeks ago I had a fascinating chat with Ken Banks, the founder of FrontlineSMS. Ken is a great believer in innovating to solve real problems. His blog post on the reluctant innovator is worth a read in this regard. It’s a label he also gives himself. He says:

FrontlineSMS was never planned – and the team behind Ushahidi would likely feel the same. They were simply responding to a crisis in their country. None of us went out looking for something to solve. A problem found us, and we felt compelled to solve it.”

FrontlineSMS is all about disseminating information beyond the bounds of internet coverage. As I have blogged before, there are literally billions of people all over the planet without access to the internet.

Ken also told me about a fantastic project called Question Box based inPune, India. It literally does what it says on the can. It’s a box, with a button, in a village. It’s connected by a simple telephone line to an operator. When someone presses the button, they can ask a question to the operator who looks up the answer online and replies, in the local language.

Rose Schuman from Question Box explains more in this little video.

Making connections, it would seem, doesn’t necessarily need broadband.

Connecting Ethiopia

17 Apr

http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/player/player.swf?config=http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/econfig.php?key=745740d4e8c771e011e1

Ethiotube: Linking Ethiopian farming communities to export markets

Connections are being made between producers in Africa and the international market all over the continent. So it’s probably not suprising that things are moving fast in Ethiopia too, like the video shows. Forging these connections is important when 85% of Ethiopians rely on small scale, ‘back yard’ style agriculture for their income.

It’s especially significant considering the other side of agriculture in the country. Something that that Guardian article you can read by clicking on the link above talks about. Agriculture is also big business in Ethiopia. The government have sold huge swathes of land to national and foreign investors looking to grow food cheaply. Berhanu Kebede (Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UK) writes…

“The key is to achieve balance. Commercial farms tend to become hubs that link smallholders to value chains and help spread knowledge and best practice to other farms. So the debate is not about big versus small. We will continue to support commercially viable small farms, which offer increased food supplies, jobs and incomes in both the farm and non-farm economy. This will help Ethiopia achieve wider economic development and prosperity.”

In Ethiopia, mobile technology and agirculture have yet to collide in a big way. I hope to keep looking at the reasons behind this. But you can certainly see from the video that there’s great potential for their use in developing agriculture in the country.

Which leads me to me and an update on my research. I’m currently eagerly searching for ICT4D projects in Ethiopia, and also concentrating on discerning what exactly the situation is there now in regards to NGOs administering support. Still coming across fascinating projects every day via Twitter and a host of new followee’s. Just a shame they’re not in Ethiopia!

Apologies for the video being a little bit melodramatic. Nice to see some shots of Addis Ababa though..which actually, while I’m at it, is not an ancient city like the video sort-of suggests. Addis Ababa is little over one hundred years old. The name itself means ‘New Flower’ in Amharic

…Not that I wish to be pedantic!

Farming in Africa: 4 Sources

17 Apr

Four sites for more videos on farming in Africa.

(In no particular order…)

1. Send A Cow on Vimeo My tip (tap) Take a look at ‘How to make a Tip-tap ‘

2. FARM-Africa’s Youtube channel Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken!

3. Heifer International on Vimeo Basket making in Senegal, making it look easy.

4. Gates Foundation: Videos  A lovely video on Maria’s sweet potatos in Tanzania

Why agriculture?

17 Apr

linkTV: Meeting Food Needs – Solutions from Africa

70% of the population of Sub-Sahran Africa are employed in agriculture. 80% of Uganda’s population of 31 million are involved in agriculture and as you can see from this list, agriculture in Ethiopia provides a whole host of valuable exports. The Gates Foundation has lots of similar facts and figures, all of which emphasise how important agirculture is to the economies of many developing countries, in particular African countries.

In accordance with an African Union programme, many African governments are investing more money into strengthening agriculture. But there is still work to be done.

There’s the problem of waste shown in linkTV’s video above. There’s also the plight of the ‘Middleman’ who take a share of the money that would otherwise go to the food producers. There are cultural aspects too. In Ethiopia I saw farmers driving huge herds of skinny cows along the road. I was told that these farmers see the size of their herd as more valuable than the productivity of the individual cow. Even though a smaller herd of better nourished, productive cows would really be far more cost efficient.

These are some of the reasons why agriculture is being targeted by the mobile market. As Danielle Nierenberg says huge numbers of farmers have access to mobile phones. If information can be distributed via them and farmers can connect to each other using them it could have global implications.

MobileActive.org: Mobile phones in rural development and agriculture

Africa online?

10 Apr

Image: Jon Gosier

Africa’s ccTLDs. (Country code top level domains) On the map they’re scaled to represent the number of millions of internet users in each country. 

Before Egypt’s so called ‘Day of Anger’ on the 25th January 2011, when in retaliation to widespread protests, the government shut down the internet, Egypt was number 1. According to internetworldstats.com there were just over 17 million internet users in Egypt in February 2010. (Read more about Egypt and it’s ‘moment of silence’  on Appfrica’s blog )

Other big players are Nigeria and Morocco, numbers 2 and 3 . Kenya and Uganda are also up there at numbers 7 and 9 respectively.

But what about the others, as the map shows there are many of them. In June 2010, Ethiopia had 450 thousand internet users. Only 0.5% of the country’s population. In comparison, 33.4% of Moroccan people were using the internet in December 2009. 

Of course, these figures are changing all the time, and with constantly increasing speed. But huge disparities remain and the reality is that even in countries with higher stats, many people are living without internet. – Difficult for us to grasp, glued to our monitors, blogging and tweeting away.

Connecting people is powerful. So in places that the internet can’t reach, projects like FrontlineSMS see mobile phones as having an important role to play.

Founder and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ken Banks explains…

Video by NationalGeographic. Ken’s blogpost: Mobile as exploration Follow Ken on Twitter

For more on mobiles take a look at this proposal by blogger Erik Hersman on White African

The bottom billions…

8 Apr

Today I came across this little video, made by VocalPress ( @vocalpress ) As you can see they’ve got some exciting plans for the next few years aiming to share information with people that don’t have access to the internet. And what a great video. Simple is beautiful!

It’s a fact. In the developed world we take the internet for granted. But the reality is we’re in a minority. Only 30% of the world’s population have access to the internet. And many amongst these people would not be computer literate enough to use the internet.

Now compare this to what we know about mobile phones in Africa for instance. (A beautiful graphic isn’t it.) Mobile phones are the obvious link to the billions of people that don’t have access to the internet and the information that the internet makes available. Important information about health, money, education and natural disasters.

There are so projects many across the world which are using mobiles. They’re working for change and progress in all of these areas and many many more. Just pop the tag #ICT4D into Twitter (ICT4D = Information & communication technologies for development) and you’ll get a bit of an idea of the scale we’re talking.

It’s projects that are thinking along these lines that my documentary will be following. It’s all very exciting. Keep checking back and I’ll be taking a look at some of them in more detail.

In the meantime, there was a fab online symposium on Twitter today. Take a look at the Small Media Initiative, or search the tag #SMS2011 and keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for more.