Top 10 most innovative companies in Africa – Part I

Africa is full of innovation. Whether it is a startup, or a multinational company, Africa is bursting with potential when it comes to innovation in the fields of technology, applications, education and the ICT sector. According to fastcompany.com, the latest list of the top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Africa has been revealed.

Eneza Education

For providing kids in rural Africa with a virtual tutor. The Kenyan startup, co-founded by two former members of Nairobi’s iHub community, creates educational content that kids in low-income rural areas can access on low-end cell phones. Through its “virtual classroom,” students between the ages of 11 and 18 can study subjects including math, science, and English, and take any of its 2,000 quizzes and more than 16,000 questions, with the option of a mini lesson if they score below 50%—all for the equivalent of 50 U.S. cents a month.

They can also search Wikipedia by sending a text message, or ask teachers questions and receive a response within an hour. Teachers can also assign homework through the platform and receive reports on student performance. By the end of 2014, Eneza had more than 375,000 users across Kenya, up from 143,000 the previous year, including in northeastern Kenya. It hopes to reach more than 1 million students in rural Africa this year, and 50 million in the next five years in at least 10 different African countries. Its focus will be on what it calls “the very end of the last mile”—students who have dropped out of school, girls in extremely impoverished areas, and children who can’t attend school due to conflict.

Konga

For facilitating e-commerce in Africa. Having raised around $100 million in investment since it launched in 2012, Konga has the potential to become an African e-commerce behemoth. But that’s not exactly what founder Sim Shagaya has in mind. “We don’t want to be Goliath,” he says. “We think the future in Africa belongs to a small army of Davids.” Konga, in other words, doesn’t want to be another e-commerce company, but enable other businesses to do e-commerce.

Since opening up Konga Marketplace to small and medium-size businesses via its SellerHQ marketplace in 2014, more than 10,000 traders have registered on the site, according to the company. Konga, whose revenue grew 450% from 2013 to 2014, also launched its private logistics company KExpress last year, after its third-party courier partners were unable to cope with the thousands of daily orders the site generated. In its own version of Black Friday, dubbed “Yakata,” sales passed $3.5 million, up 1,440% from its inaugural year of 2013. Konga plans to begin expanding into other sub-Saharan African countries in 2015, and raised more than $40 million in its latest financing round in October.

iROKOtv

For changing the economics of Nollywood. As one of the first African video-on-demand companies to stream Nigerian Nollywood movies legally, iROKOtv has shown investors the potential of an industry that accounts for around 1.4% of GDP in Africa’s biggest economy. But iROKOtv isn’t just popular with Africans: Only 11% of its subscribers are in Africa, and it has subscribers in 172 countries.

Last year, iROKOtv began widening its appeal further by introducing Hollywood and Bollywood movies, telenovelas, and Korean soaps onto its platform—moves that, in fact, are geared toward increasing its subscription base in Africa, where people love international entertainment. And a streaming service is far more affordable there: Pay-TV subscriptions can cost up to $40 a month, but an iROKOtv subscription in Nigeria costs about $3.50 a month. The bet seemed to have paid off, with the company recording a 457% growth in subscriptions in Africa in 2014.

Ubongo

For inspiring a generation of digital learners. On Ubongo Kids, an educational cartoon broadcast daily on Tanzanian national TV, young viewers are encouraged to “tumia ubongo” (use your brain) through problem-solving activities, such as finding a new home for thousands of rats or beating a monkey at jump rope. Edutainment startup Ubongo launched the show in January 2014 and grew its reach to 1.4 million weekly viewers in Tanzania in just a year. The half-hour show, which is broadcast in the Kiswahili language and available in 1 million more households in east Africa, teaches primary school math and science topics.

Children can use basic mobile phones to answer multiple-choice questions via SMS and receive feedback from their favorite cartoon characters. “The demand is huge. We can’t keep up,” says cofounder and CEO Nisha Ligon. “The big complaint we get from viewers is that the show isn’t long enough.” An independent study commissioned by Ubongo last year showed that students who watched the show once a month for six months had significantly better numeracy scores than classmates who watched an alternative noneducational cartoon.

Leti Arts

For redefining entertainment in Africa. As one of the few interactive media studios in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana’s Leti Arts is delivering entertainment content in largely unexplored genres. The startup develops mobile games and digital comics influenced by African history and folklore.

The company hopes a new generation of African kids will obsess over its superheroes rather than Western ones, and plans to develop Africa’s Legends into a broader franchise encompassing merchandise, animation, feature films, and theme parks. Leti Arts has also created games and apps for clients such as Microsoft, Intel, and Vodafone. It developed a civic-education game during Kenya’s 2012 elections and a training game for nurses and midwives simulating real-life health emergencies. It’s currently in the early stages of developing additional games with NGO partners in health and education.

 

Original source: itnewsafrica

Photo credit: RudolfSimon

Four ways 3D printing promotes social change

3D Printers can produce extraordinary results, their only limit is the imagination of the one who uses them. From the medical science to education, passing through the new dimensions of personalization and repairing of objects, the possibilities to take advantage of this technology are numerous.

Canalys – the society monitoring the evolutions of the phenomenon – has estimated for the industry a 500% growth in the last 5 years and sustains that it will be worth more than 16,2 billions of dollars within 2018. Numbers like these introduce the possibility that 3D printers will be a changing element for large scale production, making this technology the leader of a possible industrial revolution.

There are many different ways to use 3D printers. Among these, at least four could change our lives as we know them now.

1) Support and improvement of learning in STEM education processes

STEM education is a way of teaching which considers the acquisition of concepts through the use of abilities and knowledge in real life situations. Particularly STEM is an acronym corresponding to science, technology, engineering, math. The speed and low costs marking out 3D printers offer the possibility to better the learning process making it faster and more engaging. Students exercise through the planning of prototypes and models, acquiring knowledge and abilities without being aware of it. In Pasadena, California, a school has bought a printer, experimenting in this way collaboration processes and creativity which take place between students and teachers, also thanks to the characteristics of 3D printing.

2)New dimensions of repairing and personalization

This technology is not only a low cost solution when it comes to learning, but it’s also really useful when it comes to repairing or personalizing objects. In fact, for the most of the world the possibility to reach, for example, a hardware store within 200 miles is a luxury. Right now there’s no idea on how and how much 3D printers can implement the ability of people to adapt to reality or find different solutions to face it. It’s anyways possible to observe how people can bring a significative help in case of difficulty.

3) A new sector within the medical and prosthetic field. 

How we may imagine, one of the most common areas of use for 3D printer is medicine, with the creation of objects like medical devices and specific prosthesis. These ones are particularly enhanced by the use of these devices.

4) A turning point in manufacturing industry 

With the use of 3D printers, manufacturing industry – especially at small scale – is moving, becoming more competitive. In fact, adding to the typical flexibility and quality of small industry, the cut-down of costs and the growth of quality raw material an industry model significantly competing with the large scale one comes up.

Every day new 3D printers and new materials are conceived, analyzed, studied and, finally, created. The change is continuous and challenging, the possibilities endless.

50 minutes of working of a 3D printer in 50 seconds

Source: 4 ways 3D printing is promoting Social Change

Let’s meet the ICT4D champions of the future

by Serena Carta

Successful oversight of ICT4D projects requires ‘ICT4D champions’ who possess a combination of technical competencies (e.g. information systems skills) and contextual competencies (e.g. development skills). Such a combination is, as yet, rarely found. This has resulted in a high project failure rate, and a recognition of training need.

ICTs for Development MSc, The University of Manchester

24 people, 12 men and 12 women, 16 countries (from Italy to Australia, from Est Africa to Bolivia), 4 continents. Half of them is between 24 and 29 years old. They mainly work in the non profit and aid development sector, focused on education and new technologies. They are the participants of the online ICT4D course began last week.

The excitement is high, the expectations too; since the beginning of February the Google Plus community – where they can meet, share ideas and experiences – is dynamic. Patricia comes from Malawi, where she works as communication officer at UbuntuNet Alliance, the regional Research and Education Networking organization for Eastern and Southern Africa (NRENs): its mission is to secure affordable broadband and efficient ICTs access and usage for African NRENs and their associated communities of practice. “I hope to learn new ways of communicating research related activities using ICTs and to share with our community what is possible with ICTs – she writes in the G+ community – The global nature of the group presents more exciting networking and knowledge sharing opportunities, I am excited and I am eager to contribute what I can too”.

Patricia is one of the 15 applicants who got the full scholarship for attending the course, selected among almost 300 applications coming from all over the world. The group shares a strong motivation and a remarkable competence about ICT4D sector. Amos is from Ghana and he works with Farmerline as the head of the Field Impact team: “I promote voice messaging technology and the use of ICT in agriculture with the smallholder farmers, conducting research and evaluating the impact of technology on the farmers and others”. Agneska from Poland has a 10 years experience in the topic of Internet and new technologies: her main focus was child online safety, ensuring that children and young people enjoy positive experience when using new technologies. Jean Paul co-founded in Burundi a youth organization called Burundi Youth Training Centre aiming to contribute in enhancing digital skills among youths. Nune Srinivasa Rao is a social development professional coming from India, where he has been involved in designing and developing IT tools for agriculture, primary education and financial literacy.

We strongly believe that to use and apply technology in a concrete, popular, indigenous, ethical and sustainable way we need to build bridges between the North and the South by sharing knowledge. This is the reason why we are creating a special section on our website where we want to publish the bios and contacts of our ICT4D champions and leaders. We hope you will find this section useful to design your future projects and enlarge your network of development practitioners and specialists!

7 mobile apps for humanitarians

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous around the world, and many aid workers rely on them when traveling even to the most remote areas. Smartphone applications, too, have become more popular — and although they may not solve development challenges on their own, their use can facilitate relief work when used properly.

Article from Devex.com

Here are several apps geared toward humanitarians:

Aid Worker Safety
Available for Android 2.2 or later (English) and iOS 4.3 or later (French) devices

Touted as the “first safety and security application for humanitarian workers,” this app hosts safety and security guidelines, country profiles and operational tools for safety audits, among other things.

CrisisSignal
Available for Android 2.3 or later devices

CrisisSignal promises real-time updates on the state of cellular and Wi-Fi networks during and after emergencies.

Global Emergency Overview
Available for Android 2.2 or later and iOS 5.0.1 or later devices

Global Emergency Overview provides a weekly update on major disasters, with the goal of informing humanitarian decision-makers.

Humanitarian Kiosk
Available for Android 4.0 or later and iOS 6.0 or later devices

Developed by the United Nations, the app promises real-time humanitarian-related information from emergencies worldwide, even when you go offline.

iGDACS
Available for iOS 4.3 or later devices

This app from the European Commission is designed to “tap the abundant information about disasters available from people who actually experience them.”

Natural Disaster Monitor
Available for Android 3.0 or later devices

The Android clone of iGDACS taps information published by the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System so users can monitor natural disasters worldwide through a color-coded alert system: green, orange and red.

Relief Central
Available for Android 2.2 or later and iOS 5.0 or later devices

Through the app, relief workers, first responders and others serving in emergency relief situations get access to news from various aid groups, travel health advice such as vaccinations, and disaster assessment and response information.

 

Photo credit: Russell Watkins

How mapping can help defeat the Ebola virus

Over time, technological tools for emergency services have evolved. Particularly, digital mapping plays an increasingly important role in helping people in charge of managing humanitarian crises and their operations.

Some months ago, doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reviewed existing tools and skills to deal with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. MSP then decided to send an expert cartographer of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Guinea to support international and local medical teams fighting the epidemic.

The case study written by Timo Luege, the MSF officer sent to Guinea, helps to understand if it was the right approach to deal with the emergency. Some points of interest in the report by Timo Luege:

  • Many of the areas close to the border of Guinea and Sierra Leone never had been mapped before. For this reason, differences were easy to spot.
  • Despite being in a remote area, the GIS officer had an internet connection which was enough to obtain support. This, in turn, allowed the OpenStreetMap community volunteers to make a direct contribution, and this whole experience is an evidence of how crowdsourcing can help respond to the humanitarian crisis.
  • The officer, as well as his local staff on the ground were able to provide enough information for the mapping to be done remotely. It is important to notice that, without remote support, Timo Luege could not have produced actual accurate maps. On the other hand, without the GIS technician on the ground much of the mapped data would have no meaning. In fact, it takes local knowledge to know whether a building is a school, a hospital or a police station. On top of it, assigning the correct names to the villages is as important as mapping the streets. And for this, too, we need people on the ground.
  • Because MSF chose formats and tools that encourage and require sharing, many of these maps will add value to both the community and its local government. They will also help other humanitarian organizations and development cooperation to work in the area. That is to say, these results will provide sustained benefits.

The whole study can be downloaded from: GIS Support for the MSF Ebola response in Guinea in 2014

Source: TechChange

#connectBurundi: how to build a participatory online map

Historically, maps help with getting a sense of direction. The Seruka centre of Bujumbura in Burundi chose crowdmapping, that is, the reliance on citizen collaboration in order to plan new action strategies for the prevention of GBV (gender-based violence). How is the mapping moving along?

By Serena Carta, Bujumbura

An initial introductory meeting with the Seruka managers was held, to clarify the features and possible uses of participatory online mapping tool. A working group from the Center – a dozen people including nurses, psychologists, doctors, communicators and educators – met to discuss what should be included in the map and what use to make of it.

The result of this brainstorm is shown here:

mappa-burundi

 

Why do we need a map?

First of all, the Seruka staff tried to identify the goals and aims. Broadly speaking, crowdmapping is a methodology that allows the collection of information from people scattered over the territory, which are then displayed on the online map. In a single look, you get the overview of the phenomenon at any given time. Examples of how the gathered data can be used are, reporting and advocacy activities (Harassmap, Egypt), intervention strategy planning (Crowdmapping Mirafiori Sud, Italy), emergency response (Healthmap Ebola), and mobilizing citizens and strengthen community (Community Safety Network, Georgia). The Seruka staff to focus on planning future activities. Therefore, the purpose behind the mapping is to create a new channel of communication able to facilitate, via SMS, the connection with the Centre and allow for critical information to be used to know how, where and from to focus new services on. At the moment, those in need of contact with the Seruka Center actually drop by or make toll-free calls. The staff hopes to encourage and facilitate the interaction with both new users or stakeholders.

What data shall we collect?

Complaints about GBV episodes, unpunished cases (most victims do not denounce the injurer in fear of retaliation), harassment in public place (schools and hospitals in particular), prostitution (a phenomenon on the raise due to emigration from the countryside).

Also requests for information (many just need more information, others are possible volunteers, students who write dissertations on the subject, youngsters coming to the Center inquiring about sexual education). Care shall be given to eliciting feedback on the quality of the service received.

Who do we engage?

Victims and witnesses alike (the community, neighbor, a family member). The service will then be ported nation wide, although awareness raising campaigns will be started in the three provinces in which Seruka is more active (Bujumbura Mairie, Cibitoke and Muramvya).

What technology do we use?

– First and second generation mobile phones for sending SMS or voice messages

– Smartphone for internet service

– Software for managing messages (Frontline SMS)

– Software for viewing an online map information (Ushahidi-Crowdmap)

– USB Modem

– Internet connection

Challenges

1. Victim privacy and the networking of sensitive information could be used against the victims.

2. how many people will respond? Until we actually start the project, it will not be known, given Burundi low digitalization of Burundi (World Bank data tell us that 1.3% of Burundians uses the internet and 25% had a subscription to a mobile phone). Past experiences tell us that raising awareness of what is available to make their voices heard requires a consistent investment on the so-called e-capability.

3. how will the Seruka center respond to sharing information? In the long run, will the project be sustainable?


This consultancy stemmed from the “Projet pilote de decentralisation des services de prise en charge des violences sexuelles dans 3 provinces du Burundi” (ref. BU _ EU/2014/CNP/07) CCM NGO-initiated Collaborative Medical Committee – thanks to the support of the European Union.

#connectBurundi: let’s get it started!

I am travelling to Burundi for 34 days to apply  ICT to a project  raising awareness about gender violence and caring for its victims, along with the CCM (MedicalCollaboration Committee) NGO  from Turin. We are departing, amahoro to all of you.

[By Serena Carta, from ICT4dev]

They say that Burundi is an enchanted and tormented country. For one, the hospitality and kindness of its people find its roots on the shores of the great Lake Tanganyika where its green hills remind me of Monferrato’s and Switzerland’s  to others. On the other hand, the history of Burundi accounts for a close past of war and destruction (1993-2005 civil war) and a very turbulent present (President Pierre Nkurunziza ready to push his third, unconstitutional, mandate).

The “heart of Africa” is slightly less than 28 thousand km ² large. In Inkirundi (the local language), the word amahoro means peace and is used as a greeting. Forced to reckon with numbers and indices, Burundi  ranks among the poorest in the world, according to the global hunger Index, developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute. In fact, Burundi ranks first among countries with  alarming levels of hunger.

We will be travelling to Bujumbura, the country capital,  in a few hours. We – that is to say me and Fabrizio Furchì – are sent by the  ONG 2.0 to work together with folks from CCM and the Seruka Center for the incoming 34 days. Both CCM and the Seruka Center have worked in these setting for many years, mainly in the fields of awareness and information about gender-based violence in local communities, and  caring for the victims through the provision of health, legal and social services.

The goal of our journey is to support the Seruka staff in creating a website featuring stories and activities, and launching an online participatory mapping process (modeled after Harassmap), to stimulate the circulation of information on the phenomenon of violence.

We are armed with PCs, phones, camera, Moleskine, pens, articles, reports, and above all stories and suggestions that, in recent months, so many people shared with us. We want to say a big thank you to: Iside Baldini, who  led to the CCM research on gender-based violence in Burundi; Paolo Brunello, ICT4D expert and great connoisseur of the country;Viviana Brun and the CISV NGO staff that started its activities from Burundi back in 1973.

We are ready! Follow us on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vps. Search the #connectBurundi.

Amahoro!

 

 


Advice realized within “Projet pilote de décentralisation des services de prise en charge des violences sexuelles dans 3 provinces du Burundi” (ref. BU _ UE /2014/ CNP/07) developed by ong CCM – Comitato Collaborazione Medica thanks to the aid of the European Union. 

Open development: sci-fi or opportunity?

«It is indeed hard to pick a good definition for this term. However, open development is a reality already, and many more opportunities are yet to be discovered». So what does open cooperation means in the context of the development? Pelle Aardema, a Dutch “technology evangelist” for nonprofits will explain just that as he is among the organizers of the Open development camp taking place in Amsterdam next October.

[Serena Carta – from the ICT4dev column]

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When cooperation is done via SMS

«Text to change helps NGOs to launch social campaigns and collect data via SMS, track a project and evaluate its impact through mobile phones, and share information with thousands of people.» In the heart of Amsterdam Vps met Hajo van Beijma, founder of Text to change, social enterprise using mobiles to serve international cooperation.

[By Serena Carta, from ICT4dev]

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The future of ICT: universal, sustainable, open

«To my knowledge, no information technology process has been a success, so far.» Tim Unwin – a very well-known top notch ICT4D guru – enjoyed being provocative during a symposium at VU University in Amsterdam on May 16th. The meeting gathered information scientists, anthropologists, and political scientists so that they could reflect upon the role of ICT in development, now and in the future. The following is a recap of the major interventions.

[By Serena Carta – from the ICT4dev column]

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