mfioretti: ict4d*

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  1. The idea: Documentation is often lacking in parts of Africa, leading to land disputes because it isn't clear who owns the land. Even when there are records, sometimes they have been tampered with. A record that cannot be deleted, using something called blockchain, could be used to prevent these disputes. Blockchain is a method of recording data - a digital ledger of transactions, agreements, contracts - anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified. What makes a big difference is that this ledger isn't stored in one place, it's distributed across several, hundreds or even thousands of computers around the world. Everyone in the network can have access to an up-to-date version of the ledger. So it can be an open, transparent auditable and verifiable record of any transaction.

    The application: Cybersecurity company WISeKey is using blockchain technology for the land registry in Rwanda.

    What happened in 2017: WISeKey announced a partnership with Microsoft to support the Rwandan government in adopting blockchain technology, reports technology news site Cryptovest.

    What can we expect for 2018: The first step in adopting blockchain in Rwanda is digitising the Rwanda Land Registry, iAfrikan tech blog reports. The company is opening a blockchain Centre of Excellence in Rwanda, reports the New Times, which could go as far as developing a Rwandan cryptocurrency, similar to Bitcoin.
    Outsourcing IT work to Africa
    Image copyright Getty Images

    The idea: The world has a scarcity of software developers. Meanwhile, Africa has a growing young population. Training software developers in Africa who US and European firms can hire taps into that human capital.

    The application: Andela is a startup company that trains developers in Nigeria and hires them out to global tech companies. The original idea was to teach people a practical skill and then use the money they make to pay for their education, Iyin Aboyeji, one of the founders of Andela, explained to the Starta podcast.

    What happened in 2017: In October Andela raised $40m in funding, reports TechCrunch. The previous year it had raised $24m from Mark Zuckerberg, reports Forbes.

    What can we expect for 2018: There are rumours that it is going to open up in Egypt according to iAfrikan.
    Making it easier to pay for things
    Image copyright Getty Images

    The idea: Many people across Africa don't have bank accounts. Mobile money - sending money via your phone - has already proved a very successful alternative to cash. Africa has become the global leader in mobile money with more than 100 million people having mobile money accounts in 2016, according to McKinsey research. Mobile financial services now include credit, insurance, and cross-border remittances. The problem is that there are too many different systems which do not always work with each other. This means lots of people in Africa can't pay for products online.

    The application: Flutterwave is one of the new innovations coming through. It makes it easier for banks and businesses to process payments across Africa. It lets customers pay in their local currencies and allows people to send money from the US to a mobile money wallet, charging sellers a small service fee, which it shares with banks.

    What happened in 2017: In the first quarter of 2017 Flutterwave processed $444m in transactions across Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, it told BBC. From the start the company has processed more than $1.2bn in payments across 10 million transactions, reports CNN. The company received $10m of funding from the US this year, CNN adds.

    What can we expect for 2018: The new funding will be used "to hire more talent, build out our global operations and fuel rapid expansion of our organization across Africa," Flutterwave says. With that, it hopes that more people in Africa can buy things they are not currently able to pay for, like on online retailer Amazon. As the firm's boss Iyinoluwa Aboyeji puts it: "If we are successful, we might just inspire a new generation of Africans to flip the question from: 'What more can the world do for Africa?' to 'What more can Africa do for the world?'".
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  2. My contention with Cranz's story is that it doesn't talk about how these devices are impacting people's lives, hence missing the big picture. I believe that it doesn't necessarily matter if our smartphones aren't going to get any smarter. The first-generation Moto G, from a few years ago, can also help you quickly get information from the Web, and it can also allow you to book a cab using Uber app, and do pretty much everything that you do on a flagship smartphone. As Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson pointed out last month, the next "second smartphone revolution" could enhance the lives of millions of people in places such as Asia, where most of the population still doesn't have a smartphone. When you look at that, it becomes unnecessary to talk about the top-of-the-line specs and the rate at which these smartphones are receiving incremental improvements. The vast majority of people in the emerging world are in a desperate need of a bare-bone smartphone that allows them to make phone calls, even if it doesn't do it in a "redefined" fashion, and works with speeds that don't blow them away, a couple of things that I think we are taking for granted. Wilson wrote:
    The first 2.5bn smartphones brought us Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, WhatsApp, Kik, Venmo, Duolingo, and most importantly, drove the big web apps to build world class mobile apps and move their userbases from web to mobile. But, if you stare at the top 200 non-game mobile apps in the US (and most of the western hemisphere) you will see that the list doesn't look that different than the top 200 websites. The mobile revolution from 2007 to 2015 in the west was more about how we accessed the internet than what apps we used, with some notable and important exceptions. The next 2.5bn people to adopt smartphones may turn out to be a different story. They will mostly live outside the developed and wealthy parts of the world and they will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all -- from the web or from the offline world. I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like. Stuff that matters a bit more than seeing where you friends had a fun time last night or what it looks like when you faceswap with your sister.
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  3. Ben and his colleagues founded the Maji Matone (water drops) programme in rural Tanzania in 2010. The aim of their programme was to encourage citizens to put pressure on their local authorities to maintain and repair broken-down water pumps by using mobile phones. Using a simple SMS-message local communities were asked to report on the state of their water supply to the authorities. Local radio stations were simultaneously informed and followed-up the action the local water authorities would take in response to the text message.

    The programme received a lot of attention nationally as well as internationally before it had even started. Unfortunately, the anticipated success did not come after the initial pilot phase of the project. The team had anticipated more than 3,000 text messages but received only 53! After Ben and his colleagues overcame their disappointment, they decided to actively investigate what went wrong.

    They found the following reasons for failure:

    Political reasons: The relationship between local communities and authorities is sensitively balanced in Tanzania and citizens are reluctant to report on their government.
    Gender-specific reasons: Water collection is generally the responsibility of women and children who often do not have access to a mobile phone
    Lack of electricity and limited mobile network coverage
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  4. Open source 3-D printing of OSAT is gaining traction as groups like Re:3D (makers of the Gigabot) have sponsored contests to encourage designers to think about using 3D printers for social good, Michigan Tech sponsored the 3D printers for peace contest, the Plastic Bank, Techfortrade and the Ethical Filament Foundation are developing a new social economy for recycled 3D printer filament and Tekla Lab sponsored a contest to make open source lab equipment.
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  5. Young aspiring entrepreneurs from East Africa developed ICT applications targeting agriculture. The winners and some best participants are currently being incubated and coached in partner ICT innovation centers to fine-tune their products, their business strategies and prepare the roll-out of the applications.

    From 11 to 12 July 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya, CTA will organize a workshop to review the process of this acclaimed and innovative experience, its results, promote the young entrepreneurs and their products, discuss modalities for improvement, replication and scale-up of this activity in other ACP regions.

    Participants will include representatives of ICT and agriculture ministries, representatives of the ICT hubs, teams of young entrepreneurs and mentors involved, as well as other development stakeholders, including those who contributed to the conception of the activity. In total, about 30 participants will attend it. They will come from African, Caribbean, Pacific regions and Europe.
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  6. In our headlong rush to try and provide computing devices for every student, and with Nicholas Negroponte asking if we would suppose that children share pencils, I wonder just why we believe we need to have a 1:1 ratio of technology tools per student. To Negroponte’s point, yes, there are many schools where children must share pencils, or pencil supply is by parental purchase only, resigning some students to share pencils as a normal course of their school day.

    If we are still working to support educational systems to provide the basics, like even teachers or pencils, might we also dial back our expectations of ICT investments? What exactly is wrong with using low-cost projectors so an entire class can learn from one computer?

    Teacher vs. Student ICT

    Or what about starting with ICT infrastructure for teacher professional development and school administration? In fact, isn’t the low-hanging fruit of ICT4E getting teachers to post grades, get support, and even simply report on attendance levels through mobile phones a great advancement in many countries? Just paying teachers regularly and on time via mobile money would arguably increase learning outcomes as much as laptop deployments.

    School level educational management systems, reporting real-time data up to national administrators and out to classroom teachers, would revolutionize education and reveal the great flaws in current practices faster and more transparently that student-centered technology.

    Not as flashy or exciting, for sure, but I argue, much, much more effective than one anything per child.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2014-05-02)
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  7. Open data is creating opportunities for governments to work more efficiently and effectively, for citizens to engage with government and take a more active role in communities, for activists to support their advocacy efforts with facts, for entrepreneurs to bring new products and services to market, and for the bulk of us to be able to make everyday decisions.

    On the entrepreneurial side, the World Bank's Open Finances team has been exploring the commercial value of open data, and looking for opportunities to support entrepreneurs. These goals are achievable thanks to governments who have fostered innovation around public data by taking the step to open it. What happens when governments haven't yet opened public data? Is it possible for entrepreneurs to take advantage of open data where it does not exist?

    The answer to this sounds a lot like "yes." The opportunity, however, may be more in the data collection and liberation than in simply the consumption.

    Open data helps beat traffic in Lagos

    1. Beat traffic between bus stops
    In Nigeria, Tsaboin's Traffic Talk platform crowdsources motorist traffic reports (a la Waze) based on traffic conditions surrounding bus stops in Lagos. Traffic Talk enables users to check their home timeline (a timeline consisting of the bus stops and individuals they are subscribed to), or a general update (which contains every traffic detail from every bus stop). In the absence of an official government feed, the 'crowd' can help each other make 'smarter' traffic decisions. Tsaboin then offers its API (free) for reuse, creating opportunities for others to innovate around the traffic data collected. How's that for open data?
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  8. Educational technology will continue to be implemented incrementally in many parts of the developing world. More rapid uptake and success are unlikely to occur unless five items are addressed – power, Internet connectivity and bandwidth, quality teacher training, respect and better pay for teachers, and the sustainability of implementations.

    1. Electrical Power

    It is a fact: you need power to run technological devices and until power is widely available, reliable, and affordable for many in Africa and elsewhere, educational technology uptake will be slow. About 70% of those living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have easy access to electrical power. Even if people could not afford to purchase various electronic gadgets, access to power as noted above, would improve their lives because they would be able to read after dark and would be healthier as they would not be exposed to fumes caused by burning fossil fuels and plant matter.

    While conducting an extensive workshop for an international organization at the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) in Kenya, we discussed how we could minimize the cost of delivering distance educational materials. One suggestion that was well-received was to reduce the size of the print, therefore less ink and paper would be used. On the surface the suggestion was brilliant until I closed the window blinds, and said, let’s take a print module with an 8 or 10-point font and see how easy it would be to read via a kerosene lamp and a candle. Material containing small-point fonts and serifs were difficult or impossible to read under low light conditions. Thus, one may save ink and paper by using these fonts, but the materials would be unreadable 12 hours each day when it is dark in many tropical countries.
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  9. The focus on products is almost certainly because investors and the public flock to product companies like bees to honey. Maybe this a byproduct of Silicon Valley’s obsession with gadgets and apps, where we take our developed distribution channels for granted. And while very little is sexy about running a supply chain and distribution company, there is plenty sexy about building an interesting product, even if it doesn’t actually reach the intended customer or give them what they need and want.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2014-03-28)
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  10. Eliodomestico is a solar household still for the developing countries
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