mHealth and humanitarian mapping: a brand new learning format

New topics and a new methodology is allowing people to study everywhere and at their learning pace. Compared to the “traditional” formula used, with live streaming lessons and pre scheduled sessions, followed by exercises to be carried out autonomously between one session and the other, we have now launched a new blended formula that combines the advantages of e-learning without losing the added value of the direct relationship with the lecturer. The two new training courses proposed are dedicated to the use of GIS for Humanitarian Mapping and the use of mobile technologies in the health sector, mHealth for International Cooperation.

by Anna Filippucci

For more than 10 years, at Ong 2.0 we have developed an online training methodology based on the direct exchange between lecturers and participants. Over the years, this approach has been applied to over 20 courses and has allowed over 1100 participants to successfully be trained on various topics related to International Development Cooperation and Digital Communication for Non-profit organizations.

Alongside this methodology, this year we have decided to develop a new training path that integrates the advantages of e-learning with the essential direct relationship with teachers. It’s a whole new format, able to better respond to the needs of an audience that is gradually becoming wider and more international. The new course is based on asynchronous learning that allows more flexible management of time and provides a test system to evaluate progress.

A new learning formula that better fits the needs of professionals

Greater flexibility in terms of time is essential especially for aid workers, who need to combined different time zones and work duties and that, in the past, were struggling in respecting fixed scheduling and learning pace.

Topics themselves have been selected for professionals who need to acquire practical and advanced skills on specific tools. The online courses offer the possibility of experimenting with some “open” tools ready to be used in the field.

Moreover, two live workshops ensure direct interaction between lecturers and course participants for clarifying questions, share experiences and work on practical examples and challenges experienced by the participants.

What the lecturers say about this new approach to online learning

Giuliano Ramat, one of the lecturers of the GIS Open Tools for Humanitarian Mapping, explains: “the course aims to provide participants with information about the most important open source tools concerning Humanitarian Mapping mainly focusing on the Openstreetmap products, working groups and experiences.” 

Paola Fava, head of mHealth for International Cooperation, describes her course as “the opportunity to get a general overview of the use of mhealth in developing contexts. Its applications in the health sector are the most varied: from health surveys, to remote monitoring, to educational applications and to disease detection systems, to name just a few. The course therefore provides examples and case studies in this regard to stimulate the use of these technologies to improve and integrate new health projects “.

Regarding the new course format, Ramat states that ” the adopted e-learning formula makes participants free to attend lessons at any time they want and the division of the classic 90 minutes lesson into smaller “chapters” of 30 minutes each increases the capacity of concentration on “smaller” but well-defined topics.”

Paola Fava confirms: “flexibility and the possibility to manage our own time are key requirements nowadays, that’s why I believe this type of ‘formula’ matches people’s needs and time availability compared to more traditional webinars. However, both confirm the importance and value of the moments of interaction between lecturers and participants: “connection with the lecturer or other students is however granted by the moodle forum as well as some live sessions”.

Why English? According to Ramat, “English being the language mainly used in international cooperation, professionals who intend to work in the sector must necessarily get used to the idea of interacting with colleagues in a foreign language. In this regard, the opportunity to immediately acquire sector-specific English-speaking terminology is certainly an advantage for future workers“.

In this regard, Paola Fava concludes, “the idea is to reach a broader audience and I believe that the English language fits more into this purpose. We also had requests from previous people attending similar courses and found the Italian language a possible limit. Furthermore, the topic is related to a sector that has seen a growing interest particularly outside the Italian context and with field experiences in foreign countries where the English language is widely spread”.

COVID-FREE anti-epidemic participatory toolkit

How the African countries are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic? A participatory initiative is collecting experiences from the continent.

by Ron Salaj

COVID-FREE is an online participatory toolkit and a collective collection of best practices and bottom-up actions developed by local communities in the African continent in order to contain the spread of epidemics. It is an idea of Taxibroussestudio in partnership with Le Resau. The main goal of the toolkit is the dissemination of simple, creative, economic and tested solutions so as to expand the defense opportunities from outbreaks, especially in the most disadvantaged communities.

The toolkit is structured into four main pillars:

  1. Local Actions which includes various initiatives at community level, helping to maintain the hygiene and support citizens in the fight against the Covid-19. Examples vary from models of Street handwashing in Nigeria where in the city of Onitsha area some street traders reconverted their business in handwashing along the main roads or near the markets to “Portable washing sinks in Rwanda” which have been designed by Rwanda government as preventive action and have been distributed in bus stations and in the main markets.
  2. Information and Awareness is the second pillar which collects numerous initiatives and programs to raise awareness on epidemic and to spread useful informations with innovative or creative languages. For example, “Kenya Covid-19 Tracker” is a platform – developed by Map Kibera, with the support of Ushahidi – that tracks cases of COVID19 in Kibera and other parts of the country.  Another interesting example includes the “Diagnos-Me”, an android app which helps to quickly detect the main symptoms of Coronavirus. It’s still under development with the support of Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Health.
  3. Tech & Innovation pillar provides information about “Made in Africa” innovative and hi-tech solutions developed by individuals, startups or organizations, such as “Fab-Lab Ouaga Protections”, developed by WakatLab in Ouaga, which includes a protective masks and 3D printed components for breathing machines.
  4. Policies & Planning is the last pillar, offering a selection of effective anti-epidemic institutional actions and policies or practices related to land and urban planning. In Zimbabwe, for example, the Ministry of Health launched “Hey Zimbabwe!” whatsapp service, which is a tool to stay up to date with the latest official health information from Ministry of Health of Zimbabwe, and share information responsibly. It just takes to text “Hi” to the dedicated Whatsapp number to start a conversation and receive useful informations.

All the initiatives and actions are also mapped out in the map, indicating also the geo-location of the initiatives. The platform welcome contributions by others, in order to populate further the platform with other initiatives and make it thus more rich and useful for the communities around the world who are struggling against Covid-19.

For more information, please visit their platform at https://www.covidfree-toolkit.org/

ISF: the theme of sustainable technology is crucial in Africa

The third edition of the Informatici Senza Frontiere Festival was held in Rovereto between the 17th and 19th of October. This festival is aimed at stimulating the dialogue around the social impact of new technologies. The second day opened with the meeting ‘The African Youth dreams and challenges: what can technology do?’. Among the speakers there was Maurizio Bertoldi, ISF Africa coordinator. We talked with him about the ISF activity and discussed the impact of digital technologies in Africa.

by  Luca Indemini (translation by Agnese Glauda)

Maurizio Bertoldi, besides coordinating the projects of Informatici Senza Frontiere in Africa, is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Sinapto. A company offering technological counselling. The African context is surely very different from the Western one. There are challenges and specific problems. Therefore, it is necessary to be able to adapt and target interventions, not to waste resources and in order to maximize the impacts.

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Maurizio Bertoldi, where should we start?

The main theme is sustainable technology both in the Western world and (even more) in Africa.

” The damages brought by unsustainable technology are visible to anyone. For instance, I think about the mines in Congo, where they extract Coltan. Coltan is essential for the production of smartphones. Advanced technology has a very high toll, which is often paid in Africa. Nonetheless, there are some alternatives, such as the Fairphone, the sustainable smartphone that cares about who produces it and the impact on the planet.”

“Another big issue is linked to hardware disposal, which creates landfills in Ghana and Bangladesh. Less evident, but not less challenging, is the software impact. Are Bitcoin and blockchain sustainable from an energy standpoint in Africa? Informatici Senza Frontiere works to inform the population about the advantages of digital technology. Firstly, it is a universal language. If I learn the Java programming language, it is the same in New York, India and Africa. This is a very ‘disruptive’ aspect of digital technology. Furthermore, the Internet allows me to be everywhere, anywhere, at any time. These are all opportunities to take advantage of, but in an ethical, conscious and sustainable way.”

Due to the lack of primary resources, should we question whether bridging the digital divide should really be a priority in Africa. Or, should we rather consider this a primary need?

“Sometimes, we hear comments such as: “ they do not have food and you worry about bringing technology” but this logic does not hold up.”

Technology does not solve specific problems. Instead, it is an enabling factor to face many challenges.

“The open source software Open Hospital is a good example. It is used to manage hospital activities in Uganda and in many other African hospitals. Open source software is fundamental to create inclusive access to technological solutions, at least on an economic level. Then, there is certainly a need for competences, but that can be easily fixed. It is important to stimulate the collaboration among different organisations, to create solutions that can be replicated in other countries.”

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Open Hospital Platform in a hospital in Somaliland

“Moreover, the average population age in Africa is very low. The youth is willing to get involved, even if they often take the wrong direction. Nowadays, everyone wants to be a programmer, risking to become the exploited working class of the new millennium. We try to promote youth entrepreneurship, by promoting digital technologies. There are many interesting examples in the agritech sector, the logistic sector or the mobile app sector. In Addis Ababa only, there are five competing car sharing services, similar to Uber.”

How does Informatici Senza Frontiere place itself in this context?

“ISF aims at creating partnerships with local associations, institutions and organizations such as Cuamm, together with the Comboni missionaries. Everywhere where an IT project is necessary. We analyse the needs, draft a project and implement it working together with volunteers or aid workers.”

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“Our intervention is based on three pillars. First of all, training. We create digital classrooms and train mainly the teachers to facilitate the knowledge transfer. Then, we have projects in the health sector, digitizing the infrastructures. Finally, we provide counselling for public administration and universities. Our goal is to guide choices, so to avoid waste”.

Where is ISF active in Africa?

“We are active especially in Eastern Africa: Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania. But also Somaliland, Sudan, Kenya. Whereas in the west, we have projects in Cameroon and Senegal. About ten countries overall.”

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Saint Luke Hospital in Wolisso, the first paperless hospital in Ethiopia

If you had to choose an exemplary case among your African projects, which one would you choose ?

“For sure the Saint Luke Hospital in Wolisso, Ethiopia. It is a perfect example of the way we work. We collaborated with Cuamm and contributed to make it the first entirely paperless hospital in the area.”

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In conclusion, could you tell us something about the Informatici Senza Frontiere Festival. What does it stand for ?

“Now, it is a well established event. This is the third edition. In the beginning, we used to organize two annual assemblies: an internal one and a second one aiming to create a moment for exchanging opinions with the public. We bet on Open Source and networks are, for us, not just the ones made of cables.

Three years ago we decided to turn the second annual assembly into a real festival, targeting especially to youth and schools. It is a moment to take stock of the situation and share technological, robotic and AI knowledge, without forgetting an ethical and sustainable approach. Basically, the message that we want to bring across is that technology is a tool to improve results. It does not solve problems by its own but it helps facing them more efficiently. For instance, it can help manage hospitals and schools better.”

From threat to resource: Precious Plastic gives new life to plastic

A hands-on approach, an ‘open’ mindset and a master’s thesis. These are the elements that brought Precious Plastic to life. Precious Plastic is a global community which connects hundreds of people working to find a solution to plastic pollution. Knowledge, tools and techniques are shared online for free. This allows everyone to enter the community and to give their contribution. Thus, Precious Plastic is still growing and has recently expanded to the African continent, after projects coming from the U.S.A., Europe and South East Asia.

by Luca Indemini (translation by Agnese Glauda)

The Precious Plastic project was created by Dave Hakkens, a Dutch young man. He designed a machine to recycle plastic at home while working on his master’s thesis.

Now, he has come a long way from the first model. In fact, four machines were designed four and the instructions are available for free on his website, together with video tutorials. Hence, users can build them independently and the costs are between 100 and 300 euros.

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The four recycling machines designed by Precious Plastic

Firstly, there is the Shredder Machine, which breaks down the plastics in very small pieces, easy to work with. Then, there is the Extrusion Machine, which transforms residuals in threads (useful, for instance, in 3D printing). The most advanced is the Injection Machine, which creates very specific items, with molds, in a short amount of time. Lastly, we find the Compression Machine, which creates larger items.

Only the products created through the recycling process can be a source of profit.

Joining the community is quick and simple. You only need to access the website and register on the map. In the beginning, the members were mainly FabLab, makers and geeks. Lately, also various organizations have joined, including training institutions and NGOs working in developing countries.

During the past six years, the community has grown considerably along with the ideas and shared experiences. This is what defines the project’s ‘open’ mindset.

Precious plastic in Africa

About thirty users with different backgrounds have joined the Precious Plastic initiative in the African continent. Some projects are less advanced, with the main goal to raise awareness regarding waste recycling. Others are already experienced businesses.

One of the most interesting projects is the Koun social enterprise, set in Casablanca, Morocco. The Precious Plastic website defines Koun as the ‘true recycling heroes’. A youth group collects the plastic waste to transform it into new items for the growing Moroccan middle class, searching for beautiful and ethical products. Stools, handbags, mugs, lamps, chandeliers and many more.

Up-cycling principles inspire Koun’s philosophy. In fact, up-cycling is the art of transforming waste into items worth more than the original. Koun collects raw materials directly from factories, schools and Casablanca associations. Then, turns waste into original products. The project has a positive social impact as it employs young disadvantaged people. Five of them work under the supervision of Mohamed, the foreman.

A different situation is found in Yoff near Dakar in Senegal, where Precious Plastic found its way to the hostel ViaVia. The hostel built three machines that cut, melt and press plastic into products, such as plates and bracelets. Karen, Jens, Masha, Jitse and Yehbonne, five Belgian students from the University of Leuven started this program. The AFD (Academics for Development) supported them while they volunteered during their summer vacations.

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The main venue of Precious Plastic in Africa

This was a first step but it has already proven quite successful. Many people from Dakar and the neighboring regions have expressed their interest towards the project and wish to build similar machines to fight plastic pollution.

Instead, in Kisii, Kenya, Precious Plastic started as a pilot project between 2017 and 2018. In that case, the UN-Habitat (UN program concerned with sustainable urbanization) invited Precious Plastic to create a plastic recycling workshop.

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The venue of Precious Plastic in Kisii, Kenya

The project had two main goals: to solve plastic pollution and counter youth unemployment. Currently, the Kiisi workshop employs 11 people. Additionally, it is especially in trying to educate the local population on pollution, through clean-up events in the area. Finally, the Precious Plastic machines turn plastic into bright coloured vases and plates.

Up until now, the project worked on a small scale. However, if the good results are confirmed, UN-Habitat is hoping to create new workshops in the region and in the whole country.

Hello Tractor, the sharing economy of Sub-Saharan African agriculture

Hello Tractor is an ag-tech company founded in 2014 in Nigeria. Its goal is to connect tractor owners with small farmers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The way is doing so is through an agricultural equipment rental app. The Hello Tractor platform allows farmers to request the service of a specific tractor. In exchange, the owners can check the tractor use, through remote tracking and virtual monitoring.

by Luca Indemini (translation by Agnese Glauda)

Africa is the region of the world where agricultural productivity is largely stagnant. Although it employs 65% of the continent population. One of the main causes is the low level of mechanization. In fact, 90% of the land is farmed manually or with the support of animals. By doing so, farmers are often living in extreme poverty, even though, in the last decade, billions have been invested by development organisations.

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Across Sub-Saharan Africa, 220 million farmers live on less than two dollars a day. Many of them struggle to produce enough food to feed their families and sustain their livelihoods. Tractors and other farm equipment are expensive and financing is almost non-existent.

“However, I realized that if farmers are able to have access to tractors, that’s as good as owning one.” – stated Jehiel Oliver, Hello Tractor CEO, interviewed by Disruptor Daily. “This was the rationale behind the establishment of Hello Tractor”.

How does Hello Tractor work?

Hello Tractor uses an IoT (Internet of Things) solution to reduce risks and improve transparency in the tractor sector. To do so, it offers equal access to tractors to the smaller farmers.

The core of the project is a low-cost monitoring device that can be installed on any tractor. This tool is very resistant to continuous use and extreme weather conditions. In addition, the device is equipped with an international SIM card, which allows Hello Tractor to connect to the cloud and share relevant data. If there is no connection, it can store data locally. Thus, tractor owners can monitor their tractor position, activity and need of maintenance through the app Tractor Owner.

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Hello Tractor interface for Owner and Booking Agent

The app represents the link between tractor owners and farmers. It allows farmers to select the real-time most convenient tractors. Moreover, a Booking Agent App has been created in order to facilitate the connection between farmers and tractors owners. Booking Agents are important mediators. They know well the local community well and they can use their knowledge to educate farmers and make them more familiar with mechanization techniques. Moreover, when aggregating different community needs, they find out that a sufficiently large area of ​​land is involved, the agent sends the request to the nearby owners of tractors.

Artificial Intelligence and blockchain in agriculture

Since moving its first steps, Hello Tractor has been used for 75% of the commercial tractors exchange in Nigeria. Additionally, it expanded over the national markets of Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In the beginning of 2019, Hello Tractor established a new important partnership with IBM Research. Together they will develop advanced agricultural data analysis and decision tools, using Artificial Intelligence and blockchain. This service aims at supporting Hello Tractor activities by providing useful and timely information to help farmers improve their production. The platform uses a digital ledger and machine learning to capture, track and share data, useful for both farmers and tractor owners

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Machine learning will help predict crops results. These combined with the advanced analysis and blockchain, can be used to assign a credit score to loans. Meteorological data, provided by The Weather Company, satellite data and tractor IoT data will be incorporated into the app. This will help small farmers to make better decisions on when to plant, what to plant, which fertilizer to use.

Furthermore, machine learning and sensors will be of help for the tractors owners to manage their maintenance and future use, based on the historical and meteorological data, as well as remote sensing.

Where am I? Journey to the origins of geolocation

One of the oldest and most difficult problems that human beings have always had since their presence on earth is figuring out their exact position.

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Technology for development and the rights

Focsiv, and Impact Accri Hub organized a roundtable discussion in Trieste to talk about ICT and international cooperation.

The link between digital technologies and international cooperation is the theme of the roundtable entitled “ICTD4 – technology for development and rights” taking place November 14 to 18 in Impact Hub in Trieste.

ONG 2.0 is behind the organization of this initiative, within the ONG 2.0 framework. Silvia Pochettino, journalist and founder of ONG 2.0 will be there along with Marco Zennaro, researcher at the International Centre for theoretical physics Abdus Salam in Trieste, where he studies Telecommunications in developing countries. Gildas Guiella, Burkina Faso, founder of Ouagalab first Burkinabé fablab will be present via a remote connection. Tech Jjiguène, Senegal, will also intervene from remote, founder of a women-run hub sensitizing Senegalese women on technology and discrimination.

The main purpose of the meeting is to understand the role and potential of technology for development without ever losing sight of the importance of connection players coming from fields as distant as ICT and international cooperation.
Admission is free, but registration required.

For information: http://bit.ly/1wOwKND

Donate data for a good cause

Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies know a lot about us. The reason that accounts for that is, we leave our data in exchange for free services. Therefore, they know what we buy, what movies we watch, what we like, how we manage our relationships, where we live, and the like. All of this is valuable information that entrepreneurs exploit to earn money with our consent. Why not using this “wealth” for a good cause, then?

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Scientists without borders for co-operation

computer-scientist

Changing the world with data analysis is an initiative of Jake Porway, scientist in the R&D department of the New York Times, who combines non-profit and statistics in the service of humanity. And yet he is not the only one promoting this sort of “laboratory volunteerism”.

by Donata Columbro

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