Nov 19, 2007
On the 27th of October I started my first day on the job as Officer Knowledge Sharing for Zambia and Ghana. Not in the office...
On the 27th of October I started my first day on the job as Officer Knowledge Sharing for Zambia and Ghana. Not in the office in The Hague, but in Lusaka Zambia. Which was a perfect start, because it was not only an introduction to IICD in Zambia, but a return for me as well. I lived for three years in Zambia, until December 2006.
Olaf introduced me at almost all the Lusaka based projects and in the 4 days in Lusaka we had a busy schedule. We visited in a short time 2 of the 4 Health projects, 3 of the education projects and 5 of the livelihood projects. Especially the trips to Chawama Youth project (in one of the Lusaka compounds) and ZARI (Zambian Agriculture Research Institute, just outside Lusaka).
I also was introduced to the Zambian Project node core team, where we discussed on the plans of 2008. But a main focus for my introduction was with e-brain the Zambian ICT network. I met the board and the office manager of the network, who could introduce me to the way they work, there 3rd quarter report and the plans for 2008.
During this week, there was also a Dutch consultant (John) in Lusaka (from one of the IICD partners, Altran). He worked with one of the partners in Zambia, OPPAZ (Organic Producers & Processors Association Zambia) to define the requirements for the design of an Internal Control System (ICS). The internal inspectors of OPPAZ could use the ICS system to assess the farmers, who are in the Organic certification process. They can do this in the field, together with the farmer, using a handheld computer and send this to a central database with GPRS. This system would be vital in the certification process of small scale organic farmer and will be piloted in 3 districts (Chongwe, Mpongwe and Mongu).
So all in all an interesting, busy first week where I could see what IICD is doing on the ground and where I could met most of the people in Zambia with who I will work.
Officer Knowledge Sharing Zambia and Ghana
Nov 12, 2007
As I am usually mostly working from the hotel or inner-city project headquarters when in Ecuador, paying a visit to a local s...
As I am usually mostly working from the hotel or inner-city project headquarters when in Ecuador, paying a visit to a local site of one of our project partners is both interesting and a pleasure… even if it means that you’d have to get up at 4:15 in the morning to be picked op by our partners who runs the IICD supported CAMARI project.
The original plan was a two-day up-country visit to two communities that the project partner is active in. Unfortunately, one of the sites turned out not to have any connection, as they apparently forgot to pay for their electricity and had to go and fix this on the day of our visit. At least it was good to hear that connectivity problems are not only related to thunderstorms, bad equipment or political turmoil…
The adjusted plan therefore included one site about 4,5 hours from Quito. One of the persons responsible for the project and I talked about pets, favourite music and sports and of course the project itself in order to keep awake. In the meantime, scenes familiar from many Ecuador coffee table books unfolded: a sunrise over huge snow-capped volcanoes, indigenous women dressed in bright purple ponchos and black skirts and lazily grazing alpacas on the side of the road.
We passed a village with a large statue covered in different colours of bathroom tiles. “Do you know what that is?”, the partner asked. As I did not want to insult anyone, I did not dare say that the thing looked like a huge popsicle to me. “It’s a popsicle!” he said, “people here really love their ice cream.”
We arrived at the partner organisation’s office in the late morning (the project partner we work with again works with local partners in different communities). This local partner is responsible for getting certain amounts of produce, all carefully planned out on large hand-written boards, from the communities’ farmers and handicraft (wo)men to the selling point in Quito. Additionally, the information centre gives information on prices for the local produce. All tested ways to increase income of local producers and improve their decision-making on where, when and what to sell.
This was the theory. Walking around the community and talking to users of the projects I not only found out that the theory seemed to work (also proved by the encouraging evaluation data that had been coming in from the projects’ users for the last two years now), but that there was much more to it. In the first place: I probably had never before seen such an industrious village in my life! In a 2,5 hour walk I met cheese makers, sausage makers, mushroom dryers, furniture builders, football producers, nougat makers, chocolate makers, workers from the thread-factory and a group of women that knit sweaters from the thread produced in the factory. All of these micro businesses use the same communications network originally installed for the info centre for a nominal fee, which in turn helps coving a part of the info centre’s cost. The cheese factory communicates with surrounding communities that produce part of the cheese that they distribute all over the country. The chocolate factory sends e-mails back and forth about orders and packaging with Italian buyers.
The sheer existence of the info centre has over time sparked many of these initiatives. They are currently preparing to set up a VOIP-telephone, to compete with commercial (expensive and low quality) telephone provider Porta. And a Virtual Aula has been set up to provide all community members with internet access in an internet café setting. Contrary to international trends, the activity and communication possibilities have actually resulted in people moving into the community, rather than out of it, towards the city.
Talking to one of the “community economy”-founders, an Italian priest who has been in the village for over 35 years, it became clear that the effect of the network goes much further even. When asked about the most substantial changes for the community, he became really enthusiastic. Instead of elaborating on economic success or export, he talked about how the project opened up surrounding communities, till recent almost completely shut from the outside world. How young people there were seeing new possibilities, talking online with their friends in other communities. That, claimed the priest, was what was amazing about the new technology.
Every day, behind my desk in The Hague, I’m busy with the impact of our programmes: the statistics, the percentages, the lessons learned. The real life impact as seen in the community will probably always be impossible to capture….
Mr. Paul is running a telecentre in Katesh, in the north-east of Tanzania. His telecentre provides computer training, the onl...
Mr. Paul is running a telecentre in Katesh, in the north-east of Tanzania. His telecentre provides computer training, the only one in the region. His customers need information from the internet, like market price information. But the internet has not yet reached Katesh. Mr. Paul is planning to have an internet connection and an email address soon, but he needs information on how to go about it.
I met Mr. Paul last week in Mwanza. He was one of the participants of the first Tanzanian Telecentre Network workshop. Together with many others, I have been planning this workshop for months. Meeting Mr. Paul made again clear to me why a telecentre network is needed. All participants came with questions and all came with answers on: How to improve their services to the community?. Where to get ICT support? Telecentre puzzles were solved in the workshop and its grapevines. Still many need to be solved. By sharing and by joining forces.
In a speed geek session, every telecentre presented its approach to provide services to the community in a sustainable way. Some provide market price information to farmers; others provide computer courses to students, women, elderly, disabled, helping them to get a job. Some provide a community radio to inform the villages on burning issues like HIV-AIDS prevention, others provide library services. Some are entirely financed by the community; others share their internet connection with nearby schools. Some use VSAT connections; others have switched to recently available broadband. The telecentre leaders advised Mr Paul on all the available options.
Through a mapping exercise, the telecentres present were indicated on a Google Earth map. Mr. Paul found out that other telecentres actually were not that far away from him! He now knows who he can contact for support.
Then, after two days of workshopping, it is 4pm. It has been an exhausting day; participants discussed a vision, mission, objectives and organisational structure of their network, and made extensive use of the left part of their brains.
Would there still be anything wise to do, apart from calling it a day? Yes. Let’s use the right part of the brain and create a logo for the network! I was amazed by the sudden energy and creativity burst and tried to grasp it in a picture: the designers, including Mr. Paul standing in the middle, present the winning logo.
Mr. Paul went back to Katesh, connected to a whole new network of colleagues through his mobile. With confidence he told me that the internet connection will soon follow.