Category Archives: Africa

Skoll World Forum:(2) internet, mobile technology and cross-cultural communication

Herorat

Each panellist was asked to give three “takeaways”.

Ami Dar – Idealist.org

He said they now have 74,000 NGOs signed up in 200 countries. 60,000 visitors every day. They send out (automated) 100,000 emails every night. I really liked his philosophical approach.

1. good intentions are hard and difficult to realise

He gave the example of an organisation called Apopo who train rats to sniff out landmines – why can’t we have these rats everywhere? Apparently also different diseases smell differently. Organisations, people and institutions have intentions – not always expressed. Herorat

2. There are no mechanisms for ideas to travel to reach all places they need to reach.

3. We are all divided – good ideas travel slowly.

Katrin Verclas of MobileActive.org asked everyone to turn their cell phones on.

There are 3.5 bn mobile phones in the world. 50% tipping point in 2009.One person in the room admitted to not having a phone.

Three takeways –

1. We are all connected.

2. A new word … phatic.

Is this building social capital in a way that we haven’t seen before – gesellschaft to gemeinschaft?

3. Katrin talked about a few examples of using mobiles and sms in diaster relief , in Tibet, in conflict resolution, connecting people with Aids and made a plea for more projects to move beyond the pilot phase. Environmental sensing in Ghana /Accra. Giving mobile phones to taxi drivers to take environmental soundings and mapping data. Partipatory science, extreme crowdsourcing. People were told which areas to avoid due to bad pollution.

Another project in Nigeria, Learning about Living, using two kids mobile game and sexual health info project – huge taboo issues. Ask a question, give an answer.

Victor D’Allant – Social Edge.

Talked about the development of Social Edge. ‘Telling stories – storytelling is opening up to the rest of the community and for us all to learn from mistakes. Then we went onto podcasts.

“Cross cultural stories a lot of social entrepreneurs don’t use English as their first language. Didn’t want to create two classes of citizens on the internet. So we also did print out of the podcasts and now video.

“Then we moved onto sharing stories…..Itunes. Social Edge doing well in itunes.

Working with Santa Clara university – can apply online to join incubator. Three business excercises. Open processes live – 100 people make it to first excercise, 70 to second then very difficult.

Then thee was some general discussion about what is the point of one-way stories..that made me chip in! There aren’t really any one way stories if you have an audience at all. The human brain is hardwired to follow narrative. The question is is your story good enough to enable another person to take some kind of action?

Discussion about how mobiles can be used for bad and good. How do we stop the bad? Katrin says we don’t – mobiles used for all sorts of activism – rumours, and counterbalance in Sierra leone – – could update and validate what was happening in Kenya. Ethics and the media is interesting. That could be a whole other panel…

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Filed under Africa, conferences, mobile, Skoll, social enterprise, social entrepreneurs

Nata Village Blog

Pledger Curt Hopkins alerted me recently to the Nata Village Blog, and put Jon Rawlinson in touch with us at MW.

Jon and I finally met this week and he told me how his travels in Africa, videoblogging along the way have changed his life.

Stopping off in a remote village in Botswana he chanced across a US peace corps worker who had set up home in Nata Village. With his travelling companian he chucked in his plans for a comfortable night at the lodge to visit the village and stay closer to the ground. The visit and people he met changed a lot and Jon has since set up a blog for the Nata Village project and Melody Jenkins’ many projects educating locals about HIV and setting up a clinic there.

Currently in London, Jon is looking for ways of using his considerable video shooting and editing skills to contribute more. Have immediately snapped him up as a mentor. But what did hearten me was to find that he has scoured this blog and has now been in touch with Kiva.org (see previous post) and it’s CEO Matt Flannery , and will be visiting them in San Francisco mid August to offer his help.

You can read about the two Microsoft Fellow’s findings (see previous blog post) here, or on Matt’s blog.

Without describing our whole conversation – all my old documentary making tendencies came pouring out as we discussed the power of narrative and the kind of storytelling video is good at. He is off too to meet Current TV who if they have any sense, will snap him up. Hmmm, got me thinking. Given they pay $500 per video used maybe I should take it up again to fund Mentoring Worldwide!

Glad our blog is working. Come September, following a real holiday, I hope others will want to start co-blogging here, and we work together to get our trial/ proof of conept up and running for real.

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Filed under Africa, communities, mentees, mentors, microfinance, non profits, pledger

serendipity – Kiva and Life in Africa

Friday June 2nd (apologies, blog is so out of synch). I am preparing to meet Fiona Ramsay of Kiva in San Francisco. Researching the organisation I find , on their front page no less, a description of Life In Africa…the project run by Christina Jordan …one of our pledgers! Something is definately going right. Christina is a pledger active in the Omidyar Network (and we have quite a few people from the Omidyar Network community who did pledge). She is also an Ashoka Fellow living in Uganda.

Fiona desicribes the groundbreaking work that Kiva is doing. Barely a year old they are winning plaudits, and pioneering an effective peer-to-peer microfinance organisation which as Fiona diplomatically puts it is “deceptively complex”. I leave inspired and with a new sense of how mentoring could make a difference. Perhaps not directly with entrepreneurs on the ground, but with the newer and smaller Micro Finance Institutions who report on the projects, write journals and suggest the entrepreneurs to Kiva. They have a great model and we will talk again. If you are interested in Microfinance I strongly encourage to take a look at their work and get involved.They have two interns blogging from Africa at present, and their founder, Matthew Flannery blogs at Social Edge.

Back in London I book a call with Christina. Life In Africa has potentially six mentees for us. I hear about the project, but also am immensly encouraged to ask for help. The time is coming and we’ll soon have a framework that people can volunteer into. I listen too , this time in the Omidyar Network, to her amazing efforts to work with the best of internet and computer providers in the area (Kampala and Gulu) BushNet and Inveneo and realise that while the solutions may be out there, getting people on the ground to join up the dots is still unbelievably hard, and patience, courage and perseverence are the name of the game. She has two Microsoft Fellows visiting to learn about the project and the difficulties and needs in the area of connectivity. Sounds fascinating.

It somehow did not seem so suprising when I called Fiona today a month after the conversation with Christina to find the same Microsoft Fellows about to report their findings to Kiva, tomorrow.

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Filed under Africa, mentees, microfinance, non profits, pledger, trial

old media is the new new media

the netsquared session on the developing world was fascinating. It contrasted two approaches to thinking about connectivity – one in India the other in Africa.

Partha Pratim Sarka from Bytes For All talked about how the telecentre network in India was being used in creative and ingenious ways far beyond the humble telephone call. In fact they were also being used to email and to blog – by sending an email from a telecentre to a blog blogging became possible in an area of minimal connectivity. This really demonstrated (to me, at least) the underlying cultural practises of sharing, collaboration, harnessing collective intelligence and peer to peer communication in a world where technology is not owned, but shared. There are 600,000 telecentres around India and the Mission 2007 is to develop a training commons for grassroots connectivity and learning.

David Barnard of Sangonet presented a very different picture. While he mentioned that of a population of 850 million people in Africa 85 million had moble phones (1 in 10!) , he concentrated on the benefits of broadband and suggested no progress would be made until Africa was all internet connected. At only 2.6% internet penetration this suggests a way to go. While he pointed to various examples of innovation in connectivity he concentrated on the necessity of deregulation. It’s true the cost of telecoms in Sub Saharan Africa is way too high – I think he is missing some signs of innovation and hope in the mobile phone area. After all it is quite possible the fixed line will not be a necessary staging post.

For me the interest was in the contrast of the presentations. One very bottom up, one pretty top down. It is true the intrastructure in India is considered to be better. Partha told us that there is a complete fibre optic network connecting the train stations of India. People took a long time to realise that could be used for other things, but they did!

At some point the immoderator asked “what can web 2.0 do the for the developing world?” It seemed to me it was the wrong question. More interesting to think about what can the developing world do for web 2.0? Invent, invent invent!

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Filed under Africa, conferences, India, Story