Jan 28, 2010
Earlier this year Radio La Luna in Ecuador surprised us with the great documentary “Memorias de Quito”, a very interesti...
Earlier this year Radio La Luna in Ecuador surprised us with the great documentary “Memorias de Quito”, a very interesting proposal on recovering the collective memories marked by social and racial differences. La Luna is more than a radio station; it is a grassroots communication centre. In November, when I visited them, they were very enthusiastic to show me their computer lab, a 24-seat room based on thin client technology, NComputing. The seats are arranged in a “U” shape and in the centre a screen projector. Funds and knowledge were scarce, thus they had to use all the means available to make it happen.
Mauricio Velasco, project manager, told me they had to break down a wall between two offices to make a larger room. The furniture is simple, "we hired an electrician to set the cables, all the rest we do it by ourselves."
He said it was cheaper to buy the small black boxes (the clients) in US, so they imported them. The LCD screens, keyboards and mouse were bought locally. They couldn’t afford a real server thus they fed up a tower PC with extra RAM memory and powerful processors. Initially they had planned to run everything with open source software, the server as well as the clients. They couldn’t make the server work with Ubuntu, it seems they missed some drivers. So they switched to MS server. The clients do run Open Office, Gimp and Skype (is not open source but it is free).
Then they started the test period. Would so many seats work with the “server”? Could they Skype? Would the USB sticks work? Their approach was very empirical, they tested different scenarios and when they found problems they went to the online forums and tried to find similar problems other people had encounter and how they solved them.
This has been a whole learning experience, at the beginning they didn’t know much about thin client technology. But the whole process of selecting the equipment (choosing for the L-series that allows audio in/out and a USB port), designing the space u-shape in place of rows, installing the system and testing the performance, contacting the technicians from the national network (InfoDesarrollo) or searching in the web for answers. All this process, including the frustrations, generates ownership and embedding.
Not all is solved and a consultancy from the local NComputing provider will check on the setting and look at some bugs. But this is a minor thing.
Congratulations Radio La Luna!
Sep 04, 2009
Davy, from SEND foundation, would pick me up on Saturday morning 1st August at 06.00 and he was there on the dot. In clean w...
Davy, from SEND foundation, would pick me up on Saturday morning 1st August at 06.00 and he was there on the dot. In clean white he thought that we would only go to Salaga to visit the field office. You could see the flooding along the road. In Salaga we picked up Wumpini, the senior officer of SEND at Salaga, to visit three farmer communities who tested a solar charger for mobile phones in the ECAMIC project. In February A-Solar, a Dutch company, donated 5 solar chargers to test in Ghana in 5 farmer groups.
ECAMIC is a project where farmers have access to market information through a mixture of channels: notice boards, field staff and mobile phone. All these communities have no access to electricity, although in one community the electricity cable was passing the village! The first community was a very big community with 700 families. 25 of them participated in the SEND farm cooperative. The ECAMIC project provided them with 2 subsidized phones, but now already 20 of them have phones. Mobile phones are booming in the Kalende community, but there is no electricity. No one else has solar power and there are no phone shops where they can buy credits. They are 6 km from Salaga, where everything is available, but that consumes a lot of time and commercial charging is expensive. The solar charger was a huge success. But it was not enough to even charge the phones in the group. With sunny weather the charger could charge 3 phones a day, with clouds only 2.
They would like to charge 30 a day. Now they have seen the advantages of phones all of them would like to have one. They not only use it for accessing market information, but all their crops (yams, maize, ground nuts, vegetables, etc) are in the system. If market traders visit the village they have a better negotiating position. They also have contact with market traders in Accra and Kumasi by phone.
The phone is also used to contact people in Salaga to bring goods if they will come to the village or to contact relatives in case of a funeral. The other two communities were smaller. Sogon 1 and Bondando had groups of 20 farm families. In both groups there were 8 phones. They both would like to be able to charge 6 phones a day and more phones for the group for a subsidized rate. All three groups would like to set up a small shop to charge mobiles. They would also charge other phones in the community for a small fee for the benefit of the cooperative, though the small chargers more are meant for personal use than for commercial use. But all have seen the benefits of the mobile phone and the impact it can make on their lives.
Aug 26, 2008
Time to visit Jamaica. It seems a long time since I was Manager of the Jamaica Country Programme, back in 2004. I got to know...
Time to visit Jamaica. It seems a long time since I was Manager of the Jamaica Country Programme, back in 2004. I got to know Jamaica as a beautiful island, with spicy food and spicy people. I cycled around the island, walked the Blue Mountain, famous for its coffee, and drank cocktails once stirred by Tom Cruise at the Blue Lagoon, and gained a price in moving to the groove of Dance Hall. Off course in all assisted by my colleague Denise Clarke. I learned that indeed all Jamaicans are creative and full of ideas. I also learned that implementation of ideas in Jamaica is a complete other ball game: less practised. This resulted in many project ideas, with few implemented.
Now back in 2008, some good surprises were waiting. First, yes o yes, the Agriculture Business Information System (ABIS) project by the Rural Agriculture Development Agency (RADA), an executive agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, providing farmers with production and market information through, is in full swing. Since I left, over 100,000 - or 40% of the total - farmers have been registered in the database, and increasingly production details are updated www.abisjamaica.com.jm. Recently, extension officers are equipped with Blackberries to collect data in the field. The database will serve to inform extension officers and farmers on better production methods, what fertilizers to use where, and so on. Also, as the number of participating farmers has grown so fast, it can provide insights in production and assist in better forecasting of national production and movements in the markets. This is really nice, particularly now also the Jamaican agriculture sector needs to boost local production to counteract the sharp price rise in imported food products.
Second surprise is that the old project team of an ambitious education project started in 2000 is now spear heading a national million programme that introduces ICT in all secondary schools in Jamaica, under auspices of the Ministry of Telecommunication and the Ministry of Education. The initial pilot project, the Instructional Technology Institute , was started to develop interactive learning materials by three leading educational institutions in Jamaica. At that time, the project could not fully flourish lacking experience in this complex area, and with insufficient awareness yet in the Ministry of Education. This has changed now, in a meeting with Minister of Education and the national network ICT4D Jamaica, it became clear that the government is now fully into ICT for education. Nice to find out that the pilot project did generate a group of experts in the field, now leading this national programme. Director Avrill Crawford, former director of ITI. tells us: “Currently in Jamaica, while voice telephony has achieved practical universal access, there is relatively low demand for access to data and data-related services due to the relatively low level of education. This is a major hurdle to the creation of a knowledge-based society, critical to global competitiveness. The Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce (MITEC) is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Youth to implementing the e-Learning Project in grades 7-11 in all approx. 165 high schools in Jamaica and utilizing information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the teaching and learning processes and improve the level of passes in the school-leaving examinations”.
As for the IICD support, we work with national ICT4D Jamaica network, focusing on knowledge sharing and policy influencing. They have become a vibrant and recognised network in Jamaica, and have been able to find co-sponsors of the network, one being the Heart Trust/NTA , the national teacher training organisation in Jamaica. Heart Trust/NTA supports with office space and partial time of the network coordinator. Apart from a very professional website, the network published a connectivity study and case study booklet .(They also achieved funding for an ICT-supported community centre project focused on literacy training of drop outs with highly interactive teaching materials. Another interesting activity is the ICT policy course developed for practitioners.
Well, as you can see, much is achieved by the partners in their own Jamaican way. Good thing of this is that it provides some time to enjoy the other good ol'Jmacian live. I could not visit the Blue Lagoon, but in order not to forget my good local experiences, I did find time to spend an evening at Strawberry Hill, owned by Blackwell, famous producer of Bob and Bono…
Feb 08, 2008
It is not easy to give a training on Web 2.0 tools for development, when the internet connection is slower than Sylvestre’s ...
It is not easy to give a training on Web 2.0 tools for development, when the internet connection is slower than Sylvestre’s 2CV and power cuts paralyse the whole network. It is a daily reality in Ouagadougou nowadays. Whereas the internet connection in most countries is getting faster, the connection in Burkina is getting even slower.
Still, Mohamed Ag Acharom of Afriklinks managed to inspire more than thirty members of Burkina NTIC, the IICD supported national ICT4D network in Burkina Faso. He was invited by IICD to follow a web 2.0 course at the international conference Web2forDev in Rome in September. Since the national ICT4D networks in Mali and Burkina Faso had Web 2.0 training high on their priority list, IICD asked Mohamed to train both networks in Bamako and Ouagadougou.
Burkina NTIC made a film on Burkina blogs, which served as a perfect kick-off for the training. Participant Ibaranté Momo, manager of the Telecentre ADEN in Gaoua, commented: ‘I have always wanted to publish on the web, but I did not know how. Now I have seen the film on Burkina blogs, I want to know how to start my own blog.’
Apart from creating a blog, participants discovered how to use free, online tools to share bookmarks, documents, photos and videos, and to make free, online phone calls. Mohamed: ‘This is how you can create a wiki, for example titled ‘The Slow Connection’.’
Blogs captured the attention of the participants. Burkinabe bloggers in the film receive up to 2000 visitors per month. The blog provides ‘an exit door’ according to one blogger. They get reactions from all over the world, especially from the Burkinabe Diaspora. For them, blogs are a way to stay up to date and get unorthodox views on the developments in their home country. If the internet connection allows for it, the blogosphere will soon be besieged by Burkinabe blogs.
Participant Herman Ouedraogo, here with his grandmother in front of her house.
He now knows how to share this picture with the world using flickr.
Oct 29, 2007
More than 10 years of experience in applying information and communication technologies (ICT) to education, healthcare, gover...
More than 10 years of experience in applying information and communication technologies (ICT) to education, healthcare, governance and livelihoods in developing countries taught us that modern ICT make a difference and helps to improve the quality of life of people in developing countries. Still, one of the problems to overcome for successful implementation of ICT is connectivity. That is why looking for innovative solutions to ensure connectivity is an important aspect of our work.
It was at the eChallenges Conference in The Hague that my colleagues and I hoped to meet potential partners to help us solve this connectivity problem. This annual Conference, which took place from the 26 – 28 of October brings together research institutions, private and public sector partners to stimulate innovative information and communication solutions. To encourage innovative partnerships, the European Commission has set up a fund, CORDIS, for research activities that focus on specific problems, like for example healthcare improvement or citizen partnership.
Being responsible for representing IICD at the exhibition I was full of hope that I would encounter a lot of interesting people with challenging ideas about ICT-innovations that would make a real difference. And I did! Truly innovative solutions were presented for example on health checks at a distance which could be of use for elderly or disabled people who have difficulties getting out of the house. Or solutions to increase citizen involvement. But I could not stop thinking whether all these innovative solutions would really make a difference. Some technical solutions seem to be developed just for the sake of coming up with something different, something new instead of meeting a real need.
Like the digitisation of the pen; isn’t that just re-inventing something that already exists, but than packaging it into an electronic device that competes with, in this specific case, track changes within Word? I don’t know, but it made me feel sad. There are some real problems going on, like people who have no access to education or markets to sell their products or are unable to voice their needs. We need to get these people connected. We need to give them access to information and enable them to communicate. They don’t need gadgets. They need real innovative solutions to help them overcome the digital gap.
So let’s not talk about innovation just for innovations’ sake, but let’s talk about innovation to solve real problems.