Posts

Open Data Collection for a better governance

In the last years, a great hype has surrounded open data. This has been possible due to the fact that, recently, great attention has been given to open data movement and the open-source philosophy. The aim of these tendencies is to collect and provide a large amount of data for free. Big datasets can represent an important contribution to a large number of subjects: policy-makers but also the public, private,nonprofit sectors and the development aid sector. This is why we have talked with Georges Labrèche, lecturer of the module “ICT for data collection” organised by Ong 2.0 and starting on the 24th of November.

By Federico Rivara

Sometimes, it seems that there is a discrepancy between the amount of data available (“a lot of data”) and the real use of them. Even more, actors who should exploit the availability of large information generally do not have the tools and the knowledge to get access to them. Why? Georges Labrèche, the founder of Open Data Kosovo, provide us with some insights about how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can make an important contribution to data collection.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaamfaaaajdyxowy5ntm3ltbmy2etngq4ny1iodczlty1mdkxmdg2mzdimw“The starting point is that any researcher, at any level, needs to prove or disprove a hypothesis. A lack of data can undermine this intention. Often, data are available and potential beneficiaries are not aware of it. It is not about having a technical expertise or possess a lot of data. It is about having the proper means to get access to the data – that can be relatively easy – and know where to look and ask in order to work with them“. Looking in the proper space means knowing the people, the community that is involved in the sector you work in. For any sector, there will be a community experienced, fascinated and able to provide support with respect to specific fields of interest.

For instance, those interested in geo-mapping or who need a mapping support have to be aware of the community behind  OpenStreetMap, YouthMappers and also Humanitarian Open Street Map that are some reference points. Similarly, those involved and interested in data journalism can follow these four ways to interact with the data journalism community. Even more, at a political level, OpeningParliament let civic organisations share and discover experiences and good practices led in real contexts. “All of these realities can lead to a better governance and entail more transparency”.

Moreover, “especially in the academic sphere people are highly willing to provide their support and improve technical skills through practical experiences demanded by external actors such as public institutions”. Often, there is a gap, a weak communication, between institutions and motivated communities. This explains why “there is a need for good education and awareness about digital technologies projected to a good governance”. Georges, with a background in software engineering and international relations, can perfectly observe these dynamics.

Open Data Kosovo goes in this direction. On one hand, local action makes possible the engagement of youth with digital technologies to be applied in real projects in collaboration with institutions. On the other hand, consultancy activities also for international subjects such as NGOs can enlarge the  network of the people involved. Both can create great opportunities especially for young people but also set up platforms where everybody can participate such as this one, launched by Amnesty International to scan villages under risk of attack in Darfur.

There are some certainties. Data are available and means to collect them do exist. Tools and procedures to collect them will be the focus of the sessions taught by Georges Labrèche in the two coming weeks within the online interactive course ICT Innovations for Development. Kick-off session on the 24th of November, fourth and final meeting on the 5th of December.

 Below, the TED talk by Tim Berners-Lee: The year open data went worldwide

10 best practices to reach communities in complex emergencies

You arrive at Bangui airport in the Central African Republic (CAR) from headquarters, you switch on your smartphone to tell your family and colleagues that you’ve arrived and nothing happens: “there is no network”, said Jean-Luc Mootoosamy, Programme Manager for CAR for the media development organisation Foundation Hirondelle. “One of the closest elements to us here, our phones, doesn’t work. It is the first reality check.”

by Jacobo Quintanilla

Read more

ICT Innovations for Development: here are the scholarships winners

We have officially concluded the process of Scholarship Awards by delivering 23 Scholarships to bright talents across the world (surprise, surprise – three scholarships more than planned!) that will attend the long-term online course “ICT Innovations for Development”. The scholarships are made possible thanks to the generous support of Fondazione Cariplo and Compagnia di San Paolo within the framework of the project “Innovation for Development”. The selection of 23 candidates who received the Scholarship Award has been a tough job for the Selection Committee, considering the tremendous high amount of applications received – 448 in total. And, today we are immensely happy to announce the winners of the Scholarship Award.
Read more

ICT Innovations for Development: a new long-term online course

ICT Innovations for Development is a certified long-term online course, with renowned international lecturers, seed-funding opportunities and 20 scholarships – are you ready to put your educational growth at another level?

Read more

The phone besides the hoe. How ICTs are changing the agriculture

Today, 5 billion people use mobile phones and the total number of subscription is 7.4 billion. Moreover, almost 3.5 billion people are connected to the internet and this number is not expected to stop soon.
Agriculture represents one of the most affected sectors. For instance, farmers use mobile devices to know prices, products and also information to manage properly their resources. This is essential to reduce the transaction costs.

by Federico Rivara

Regarding this topic, we have interviewed Simone Sala, a consultant at the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) and lecturer of the module ICTs for Agriculture and Environment within the course ICT Innovations for Development organised by Ong 2.0.

simone_sala_bangladeshSimone works for a division of the FAO which aims at developing and suggesting communication techniques supposed to ease the dialogue amongst various actors in rural contexts. “This is necessary in order to, for example, facilitate the collaboration between smallholders and government agencies”, he explains. Very recently, coincidently with the G20 held in Hangzhou, China, FAO, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have teamed up to create a platform over ICTs regarding the sustainable agriculture development.

The dialogue amongst different actors and the information flows”, as Sala says, “makes often the difference to the results of a project”. He tells us how a project over the water resources in Lebanon became more efficient once his team better understood  how to use the communication technologies. During the first stage of the project, the team was too focused on the technology transfer, without a deep analysis of the local context. Talking more about the available means with the actors involved improved the project that today can go on.

“If the information is well spread and accessible”, Sala says “a large number of users can be reached”. An example comes from Ethiopia and its Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency. The 8028 Hotline service, based on a simple technology such as the telephone, allows thousands of farmers to get advice and information about agriculture practices by means of SMS or interactive voice response. Launched in July 2014, the agency registered 7.3 million phone calls made by 1.2 million registered people.

According to Sala, in the light of his experiences, “some dynamics – within the agricultural context – occur in African countries as well as in Italy. A common problem is indeed represented by the access to technologies which might lead market diversification. Moreover, today farms are, on average, small. This implies that farmers are unable to afford technological investments. A state intervention could reduce these barriers”.

However, other actors can allow more access to technological innovations.

Farm Radio International represents an example. “The radio is one of the main information channels for the smallholders in rural areas”. This organisation, based in Canada, has developed a network that consists of 500 radio partners. Today, it works in 38 African countries and aims to give voice to smallholders so that the radio can spread information which comes directly from them and reach other farmers with similar problems and needs.

Moreover, Digital Green.  This non-profit organisation has thought to make videos in which the protagonists are the farmers themselves. The “actors” show their agricultural practices to the viewers who are farmers as well. In the video below it is possible to see how the communication  by means of video can be more simple because the video makers and viewers belong to the same community.

Finally, Ignitia. This social enterprise, based in Sweden, has been the first actor willing to make weather models specific for the tropical areas. Thanks to them, it is possible to know precise weather forecasts for very specific regions. The unpredictability of the weather is one of the main problems for farmers, especially in countries where they cannot count on weather stations. Today Ignitia is present in Western Africa, 80,000 farmers have been involved (2015) and they declare a forecast precision close to 84%.

“A large number of tools is available and every day more of them are launched”, Sala claims “people who work in the development sector need to know them. More importantly, aid workers have to understand which instruments is the best in a specific context”.

This is why Simone will be teaching his module within the course ICT Innovations for Development. The module consists four meetings (first lesson on the 11th of November) in which he will discuss ICTs for agriculture, information channel and data sets, main actors in these sectors, applications, case studies, exercises and so on.

Photo credit: MedSpring and Flickr

RapidSMS: an example of mhealth application

Mhealth tools can be deployed with many functionalities, such as: data collection, point of care, logistics, remote monitoring, treatment adherence, education awareness, training, and disease tracking. Read more

Welcome to the mHealth Blog

Hello everybody! My name is Paola Fava, I am a business developer and co­founder of Gnucoop, an IT cooperative that provides software solutions to support not for profit organisations (i.e.: NGOs, UN Agencies, etc…) in managing their information systems, from data collection to data visualization and analysis. I would like to thank ONG2.0 for giving Gnucoop the possibility to use this space to share with you some interesting facts, information or talks about mHealth, mHealth tools, presentation of case studies and user’s

So, let’s start blogging!

We start with some basic information… what is mHealth? First of all, we need to understand what an health system is. An Health system is a combination of structures, processes and resources required to deliver healthcare to the population. Therefore, this system needs financing mechanisms, well trained and paid workforce, reliable information and well ­maintained facilities to guarantee a good service to patients.

Where does the mHealth come in then?

Well, in some contexts those requirements are not totally fulfilled. Particularly when reliable information is missing, it is very difficult to monitor the spread of diseases, understand if patients’ conditions are properly diagnosed or if proper treatments are given, just to mention a few… here is where mHealth can play a very important role.

According to WHO, Mobile Health (m­Health) is the “Provision of health services and information via mobile and wireless technologies. mHealth includes mobile phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), tablets, mobile applications and wireless medical devices“.

mHealth has the potential to address and overcome challenges such as:

  • Disparities in access to health services, helping remote communities to also connect and avail of health services;
  • Inadequacies of the health infrastructure, supporting in monitoring the quality of health posts and health centers;
  • Shortage of human resources for health, by empowering health promoters and spreading educational messages.

Let’s start with a first example of mhealth tool: the MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action) project.

MAMA is an SMS system developed through a public private partnership between USAID, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Foundation and BabyCenter. It supports programs delivering maternal health information to pregnant women by SMS. The messages are built around key health behaviors and interventions which evidence shows can improve health outcomes. The messages blend healthcare with child development information, so mothers are motivated to get the right care at the right time for themselves and their children. These include antenatal care, nutrition, vaccination, oral rehydration, and use of insecticide­ treated bed nets.

Since 2011, the system has reached 2 millions people among women families and caregivers living in remote communities in Bangladesh, South Africa, India and Nigeria. MAMA messages empower women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

Talk soon about another mhealth tool or case study.

 

Originally written by Paola Fava
Photo Credits: Educational text messages to new mothers save lives

 

From non-techie to ICT4D enthusiast

posted by guest writer Patricia Mtungila

 

I first heard of the term ICT4D in May 2014 during the TERENA Networking Conference that I was privileged to attend in Dublin, Ireland in 2014. One of the participants there mentioned that he was studying ICT4D and it seemed like total Greek to me. I was a not a technical person. At that time ICT related issues were very new to me as I had just started working as Communications Officer for UbuntuNet Alliance, a regional organization of people involved in managing and using high speed data networks.

It was this desire to learn all that I could learn about my job and about ICT and Internet issues that lead me to apply for the Technological Innovation for Social Change in the Global South offered by ONG 2.O. So, when I was offered the scholarship in February 2015, I was thrilled. Despite the fact that I had no idea what the course would entail, I knew that this was the Course that would make me to better understand ICTs and to be innovative and stellar in my job as Communications Officer for the Alliance.

Like any worthwhile venture, challenges tend to present themselves. My biggest challenge was a caution by colleagues that the slow and unreliable Internet in Malawi would not be able to support five months of training via webinars! My dream of becoming ICT4D savvy was about to end as mere cloud in the Malawian sky. I decided to die trying and pursue the ICT4D Course anyway. And like most girls from Southern Africa my biggest challenge turned out to be really a battle of courage and confidence, a battle in the mind.

Five months later, precisely today, June 28, I have received my certificate from our ICT4D Course Coordinator Serena Carta. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and I hope it would not be cliché to say: thank you ONG 2.0. Thank you for taking me from a state of not knowing the meaning of ICT4D, or never having being part of a webinar to a present state of being able to practically assess and establish the innovation needs of my organization and to present a clear roadmap to efficiency is a wonder. I really do wonder if there is another course out there that could do this.

I am by no means fully knowledgeable on all that there is to know about emerging and present appropriate technology but I have a sustainable understanding of what it is that development organizations should avoid in implementing projects to promote agriculture, health, democracy and even learning. Through the theoretical modules, I have acquired the gut or indeed skill to design monitor and evaluate development projects that can use different technology from the radio, basic phones and smart phones, to the Internet and web-based platforms such as COMCARE to the technology that is still treading along ethical lines like the drones or unmanned vehicles.

Through practical sessions with tech leaders and facilitators like Paola Fava and Maurizio Bricola who have implemented very successful and practical ICT4D projects, I have gained practical skills in designing ICT4D projects. It has been inspiring to see Projects by these innovators that are revolutionizing the public health sector in my country, from a death trap to a sphere of hope and a leader in e-health and m-health innovation in the region.

I know, now, that ICT4D have real life impact. To learn text messages enabled by the application TextiT are helping save expectant mothers by reminding them of antenatal visits is inspiring. I am inspired by these new technologies that are saving the lives of women and babies in my nation because I personally can count the number of women that I knew who died in childbirth or due to preventable maternal related issues.

Now, from studying this course, I can categorically state that ICTs are channel for attaining development. Practical would be for development organizations not to shun these new technology but to consider them as potential accelerators for their efforts. Innovatively leveraging on these technologies is the principle. For the “tech-thirsty” organizations that are salivating to be the first to apply the newest and fastest tech in the game, remember that “ICTs are not an end in themselves”, as others have already said.

So be it a Project using drones or the feature phones that I am faced with managing, I am passionate and confident to know that I can manage it for the greater good thanks to this online Course in Innovation and ICT4D in the Global South. It has been a win-all situation for me. I would recommend that more people from the developing world should attain this Course in the soonest. On the other hand, I am not waiting for the future to share my newly found cause, my journey to illuminating my nation, Malawi, and the Africa region to the world of innovation and ICT4D has already started.

 

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

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

Portfolio Items