Africa

A smart low-cost housing ecosystem for the city of Lagos - submit your solution

Lagos (Nigeria) is seeking to develop communities by creating a service-based, low-cost housing ecosystem based on innovative design, technology and services to fill the housing gap of 5m units. The capital city of Nigeria is inviting companies worldwide to submit their solutions before 17th February to the Living Labs Global Award 2012.

Submissions to the Award are free of charge and the winner of the Lagos category will be invited to pilot the solution in the city, with full support from local stakeholders to evaluate the solution before a full-scale roll-out.

Last year, by winning the Living Labs Global Award, company Urbiotica managed to see a pilot implementation of its Smart Waste Sensors in Barcelona after winning the Living Labs Global Award 2010.

This year, Lagos - the most populated city in Africa and one of the world’s 10 largest megacities - has joined the 2012 edition of the Living Labs Global Award seeking mass smart and low-cost housing units to tackle some of the most strategic and imperative issues of this sector (more information here).

How to submit:

Entries can be submitted online on www.llga.org until 17th February.

International juries will evaluate the entries and provide a shortlist of the top 100 showcases on 5th March. Winners will be announced on 2nd May 2012 at the Award Ceremony during the networking Rio Summit on Service Innovation in Cities, for which all participants are invited.

About the Living Labs Global Award 2012:

Living Labs Global, a non-profit association promoting innovative solutions in cities around the world, is organising the 2012 edition of the Living Labs Global Award in cooperation with the cities of Barcelona, Birmingham, Caceres, Cape Town, Coventry, Derry~Londonderry, Eindhoven, Fukuoka, Glasgow, Guadalajara, Hamburg, Lagos, Lavasa, Kristiansand, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Rome-Lazio, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Santiago de Chile and Terrassa.

Together with these 21 cities, the Living Labs Global Award 2012 aims to provide a market opportunity to innovative solutions with the aim of helping over 110 million citizens in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe.

For more information:

Email: media@livinglabs-global.com

Tel.: +34 93 1855110

www.llga.org Twitter: @LivingLabsAward Facebook: www.facebook.com/llga2012

Cape Town Announces Hybrid Venture Capital Fund with Living Labs Global Award Winner PoweredbyVC

Cape Town today publicly announced its partnership with PoweredbyVC, a venture fund manager and winner of the Living Labs Global Award 2011 to create a hybrid venture capital fund to support social entrepreneurship in the city and all of Africa. The City is to assist a venture capital fund manager, PoweredbyVC, to implement its programme that was selected winner of the Living Labs Global Award 2011. 11 global cities, including Cape Town, called for innovative strategies to address major socio-economic issues through this global process in which PoweredbyVC was selected as one of 11 winners from 245 entries from around the globe.

“Our City’s economic growth model supports high-growth entrepreneurs who can benefit from venture capital. These are the employers of tomorrow. They provide real business solutions and ensure healthy returns to investors. With its billion people, Africa is the world newest untapped market and Cape Town is the knowledge and innovation gateway to the continent,” says Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning as she handed over the Living Labs Global Award 2011 to PoweredbyVC.

According to Eben van Heerden, CEO of PoweredbyVC, their concept is a new ‘hybrid’ venture capital funding model that combines the proven best practices of a traditional venture capital fund with a new 'business cultivator' funding system for a sustainable impact on innovation, job creation and growth. This second generation venture capital fund will combine funding, business angel investment, incubation and entrepreneurship development initiatives into a structured ecosystem to the benefit of emerging entrepreneurs and providers of funding alike.

 

Cape Town Announces Hybrid Venture Capital Fund with Living Labs Global Award Winner PoweredbyVC

Cape Town today publicly announced its partnership with PoweredbyVC, a venture fund manager and winner of the Living Labs Global Award 2011 to create a hybrid venture capital fund to support social entrepreneurship in the city and all of Africa. The City is to assist a venture capital fund manager, PoweredbyVC, to implement its programme that was selected winner of the Living Labs Global Award 2011. 11 global cities, including Cape Town, called for innovative strategies to address major socio-economic issues through this global process in which PoweredbyVC was selected as one of 11 winners from 245 entries from around the globe.

“Our City’s economic growth model supports high-growth entrepreneurs who can benefit from venture capital. These are the employers of tomorrow. They provide real business solutions and ensure healthy returns to investors. With its billion people, Africa is the world newest untapped market and Cape Town is the knowledge and innovation gateway to the continent,” says Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning as she handed over the Living Labs Global Award 2011 to PoweredbyVC.

According to Eben van Heerden, CEO of PoweredbyVC, their concept is a new ‘hybrid’ venture capital funding model that combines the proven best practices of a traditional venture capital fund with a new 'business cultivator' funding system for a sustainable impact on innovation, job creation and growth. This second generation venture capital fund will combine funding, business angel investment, incubation and entrepreneurship development initiatives into a structured ecosystem to the benefit of emerging entrepreneurs and providers of funding alike.

 

Eight Cities Announce Winners to Solve Major Urban Challenges at LLGA2011

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei announce the winners of the Living Labs Global Award 2011.

The Award presented the major challenges faced by these cities in the coming years, to which 245 companies from 30 countries responded by presenting their solutions. With rapidly growing populations, budget pressures due to the financial crisis and increasing international competition for investment, talent and tourists cities are looking for innovative approaches to remain competitive. Cities represent a major, yet complex market, spending an annual EUR 3.5 trillion in public procurement alone

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei have announced eight winning solutions that were selected by 45 international users out of 245 submissions from 30 countries. Winning solutions will now be piloted in the participating cities, to evaluate their impact to meet the challenges.

In a unique global effort, eight cities joined forces with Living Labs Global to present their pressing challenges to the global business and technology community.

Challenges put forward by cities include the need to provide more efficient and sustainable urban services such as lighting using latest LED technologies; to rethink city services in the light of open data and apps developed by interest groups; to overcome media piracy undermining native film industries through digital distribution systems; or the need to provide financing and support to social entrepreneurs in African cities. The winning solutions are:

City of Barcelona: Citysolver, by Bitcarrier

City of Cape Town:  Venture Capital Cultivator Fund, by PoweredbyVC

City of Eindhoven: Integral Solution for Urban Infrastructures (SIIUR), by bdigital

City of Lagos: Eggup | Sell your films while preventing piracy, by Eggup.com

City of San Francisco: Open Data as a Platform for Citizen Service Delivery, by Socrata Inc.

City of Sant Cugat: Smart Parking for Smart Urban Living, by Worldsensing

City of Stockholm: Spotscout, by Spotscout Inc.

City of Taipei: A+ Care: Smart Autonomous TeleHealth Care Service, by Netown

Winners were announced after an international two-round jury process under auspices of Living Labs Global, a non-profit association based in Copenhagen working with 40 cities and 450 companies around the world to promote service innovation in cities.

The Award Ceremony was attended by 200 participants from 20 countries in Stockholm as part of the Stockholm Summit for Service Innovation in Cities.

The Living Labs Global Award 2011 is a unique global process providing full accountability in the evaluation through independent experts. The Award was carried out in partnership with Oracle Corporation, Farglory and supporting organisations from around the world.

About the Living Labs Global Award

Living Labs Global is a non-profit association based in Copenhagen (Denmark), working with 40 cities and 450 companies and research centres in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas with a mission to open the market for service innovation in cities and overcoming key technology, organisation and trade barriers.

The Living Labs Global Award is an annual process over 8 months in which cities present their challenges and provide guidance to the business and technology community on future investment plans and needs. Solution providers respond by submitting existing technologies as entries for evaluation by an international jury.

Follow results and the upcoming Living Labs Global Award 2012 on Twitter. Facts: More than 557,000 local governments provide services to more than 50% of the world’s population with an annual spending of 3.5 Trillion Euros per year. New technologies can radically improve transport and mobility systems, access to finance, media distribution, social services and other key areas of urban life.

Eight Cities Announce Winners to Solve Major Urban Challenges at LLGA2011

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei announce the winners of the Living Labs Global Award 2011.

The Award presented the major challenges faced by these cities in the coming years, to which 245 companies from 30 countries responded by presenting their solutions. With rapidly growing populations, budget pressures due to the financial crisis and increasing international competition for investment, talent and tourists cities are looking for innovative approaches to remain competitive. Cities represent a major, yet complex market, spending an annual EUR 3.5 trillion in public procurement alone

The cities of Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat, Stockholm and Taipei have announced eight winning solutions that were selected by 45 international users out of 245 submissions from 30 countries. Winning solutions will now be piloted in the participating cities, to evaluate their impact to meet the challenges.

In a unique global effort, eight cities joined forces with Living Labs Global to present their pressing challenges to the global business and technology community.

Challenges put forward by cities include the need to provide more efficient and sustainable urban services such as lighting using latest LED technologies; to rethink city services in the light of open data and apps developed by interest groups; to overcome media piracy undermining native film industries through digital distribution systems; or the need to provide financing and support to social entrepreneurs in African cities. The winning solutions are:

City of Barcelona: Citysolver, by Bitcarrier

City of Cape Town:  Venture Capital Cultivator Fund, by PoweredbyVC

City of Eindhoven: Integral Solution for Urban Infrastructures (SIIUR), by bdigital

City of Lagos: Eggup | Sell your films while preventing piracy, by Eggup.com

City of San Francisco: Open Data as a Platform for Citizen Service Delivery, by Socrata Inc.

City of Sant Cugat: Smart Parking for Smart Urban Living, by Worldsensing

City of Stockholm: Spotscout, by Spotscout Inc.

City of Taipei: A+ Care: Smart Autonomous TeleHealth Care Service, by Netown

Winners were announced after an international two-round jury process under auspices of Living Labs Global, a non-profit association based in Copenhagen working with 40 cities and 450 companies around the world to promote service innovation in cities.

The Award Ceremony was attended by 200 participants from 20 countries in Stockholm as part of the Stockholm Summit for Service Innovation in Cities.

The Living Labs Global Award 2011 is a unique global process providing full accountability in the evaluation through independent experts. The Award was carried out in partnership with Oracle Corporation, Farglory and supporting organisations from around the world.

About the Living Labs Global Award

Living Labs Global is a non-profit association based in Copenhagen (Denmark), working with 40 cities and 450 companies and research centres in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas with a mission to open the market for service innovation in cities and overcoming key technology, organisation and trade barriers.

The Living Labs Global Award is an annual process over 8 months in which cities present their challenges and provide guidance to the business and technology community on future investment plans and needs. Solution providers respond by submitting existing technologies as entries for evaluation by an international jury.

Follow results and the upcoming Living Labs Global Award 2012 on Twitter. Facts: More than 557,000 local governments provide services to more than 50% of the world’s population with an annual spending of 3.5 Trillion Euros per year. New technologies can radically improve transport and mobility systems, access to finance, media distribution, social services and other key areas of urban life.

Mobile Services Forecast

It seems like every day we hear more about the endless development possibilities offered by mobile technology beyond the basics of connectivity and communication. “The Economist” recently offered a good round-up of some of the most innovative and clever new services being offered. Rather than complicated applications for expensive smartphones, these initiatives focus on offering solutions for everyday problems in poorer countries where cheap mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular.As the article points out, even in poorer countries about two thirds of the population usually have access to a mobile phone. This has sparked a rise in mobile services for cheaper phones that go beyond simple voice calling and texting, similar to the boom in mobile application development with the growing popularity of smartphones in wealthier countries. Though the article is quick to point out that the number of people actually using these services is still relatively small: “even among young people in South-East Asia (a tech-friendly lot) only 8% had used more than “voice-services” according to a poll by LIRNEasia [a think tank in Sri Lanka].”

Still, many of these services are growing their user base and given the convenience—and sometimes lifesaving—services they provide, it’s easy to see why. Here are a few of the mobile services that caught our eye: --mPedigree: Currently offered in Ghana and Nigeria, where the fake-drug trade is a concern, this service allows users to text a serial number on the packaging of their medicine and receive a response in seconds indicating whether or not it’s genuine and safe. Not only does the service have the potential to save lives, it’s also free for users; pharmaceutical companies foot the bill in the interest of stopping counterfeiters. --Dialog Tradenet: Among the many mobile trading platforms being offered, Dialog allows farmers in Sri Lanka to check prices and text in offers. Farmer’s Friend is a similar service being offered in Uganda. Though many of the earliest trading platforms focused on agriculture, newer services are beginning to branch out, some offering job listings or selling tickets to sporting and cultural events over the phone. --M-PESA: Founded in Kenya in 2007, this service allows users to pay for bills or receive their salaries through a mobile phone. In a region—Sub-Saharan Africa—where it’s more common to have a cell phone than a bank account, M-PESA currently has 13 million users. Similar services are already being offered in upwards of 40 countries.

Of course, this kind of mobile service development faces various challenges, a few of which the article highlights—bad regulation, bureaucracy, overreliance on donor money, no path towards growth. But, under the right circumstances, it’s the kind of mobile development that could eventually change lives in poorer countries.

Lagos: Will Service Innovation Secure the Future of Nollywood?

As part of our series of articles published in partnership with the Living Labs Global Award, Cluster.eu has just posted its very interesting Q&A on how to protect Nollywood's growth from video piracy, with Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, Commissioner for Science and Technology of the State of Lagos, and Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet for Society of Banglaore. Living Labs Global Award Lagos 2011 Nollywood Piracy DVD Media Streaming

Read the Article on Cluster.eu

Lagos: Will Service Innovation Secure the Future of Nollywood?

As part of our series of articles published in partnership with the Living Labs Global Award, Cluster.eu has just posted its very interesting Q&A on how to protect Nollywood's growth from video piracy, with Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, Commissioner for Science and Technology of the State of Lagos, and Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet for Society of Banglaore. Living Labs Global Award Lagos 2011 Nollywood Piracy DVD Media Streaming

Read the Article on Cluster.eu

Cycling and Community Development in Africa

Check out these great initiatives in Africa: Ride 4 A Woman, One Street’s Social Bike Business Program, and Global Cycle Solutions. The mission of Ride 4 A Woman is “to economically and socially empower local women in the closest communities surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.”  The project raises money by renting bicycles to tourists as well as giving tours in the national park.  As a bicycle-focused company, they also promote the independence of Ugandan women by providing them with a bicycle and teaching them bicycle-related skills, saving them valuable travel time. Global Cycle Solutions (GCS) would pair well with the Ride 4 A Woman program, though it is focused in Tanzania.  GCS has developed a series of tool adapters that enhance the capability of bicycles, making them increasingly relevant to developing country settings.  Current tools include a corn sheller and a mobile phone charger.

Lastly, One Street – an Arizona-based non-profit attempting to serve organizations who seek to increase bicycling, walking, transit and social equity.  Through their Social Bike Business program, they’ve partnered with Ride 4 A Woman to “break through barriers to women riding bicycles and learning mechanical skills.”

While these programs are not as tech-focused as some of the other initiatives we highlight, they are providing simple technologies to developing countries where bicycling can significantly increase marginal productivity.  And, with the ubiquity of mobile technology in these regions, perhaps some solutions developed for these areas will be translatable to the developed world as well.

-Terra Curtis

MicroPlace, Micro-loans in South Africa

Returning to the subject of micro-finance, the theme of the Cape Town category in the 2011 Living Labs Global Award, I’d like to mention another organization that is already facilitating micro-loans through their website platform. MicroPlace.org is a broker owned by Ebay and specializes in micro-loans to organizations. As opposed to Kiva, which offers the opportunity to lend directly to individual borrowers, MicroPlace connects lenders with larger groups, which can vary from a collection of entrepeneurs and low-income workers, to community development organizations and geographic-specific lending organizations. Most of the lending opportunities listed at MicroPlace explain that the lender will actually be investing in a security issued by another organization (usually a non-profit specializing in micro-finance, like the Calvert Institution) and that “your investment may be used to backfill funds that have already been disbursed to this project.” The interest and principal, then, is eventually paid back to the lender by the particular non-profit.

The minimum investment at MicroPlace is $20, though the website platform allows you to enter an amount of your choosing. Like Kiva, MicroPlace also offers pictures of the locals in need of funds and involved in the project, and a brief description of the difficulties facing the particular region and the details of the project at hand, so the lender has a sense of where their investment is going.

MicroPlace is mentioned as a good “group” investing option in this article on micro-finance and the credit crunch from The Wall Street Journal. Ashwini Narayanan, MicroPlace’s general manager, is quoted as saying the average loan per user is $1,700, but that some lenders have given as much as $250,000, and can earn between 1% and 3% on their investment per year.

Also, as a parting note, Grameen Bank founder and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus--often referred to as the “father of microfinance”--is now facing charges of defamation in his home country of Bangladesh for remarks he made to a journalist in 2007. Nobody really expects the charges to stick, but the investigation points to a larger issue, what some people are calling a “personal grudge” being pursued by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, who’s been on rocky terms with Yunus ever since his brief foray into politics after winning the Nobel prize. Tom Cropper writing in the Guardian has a good wrap up of the situation here, claiming that the personal attacks, “could prove highly damaging not only for Yunus, but also the concept of business as a force for social good, particularly relating to microfinance.” Cropper goes so far as to say that “The future of the entire sector hangs very much in the balance,” pointing to an increased incidence of farmer suicides in India, politicians urging borrowers to default on repayments, and the

Focus on Africa

Continuing on the theme of the Labs Global Award 2011 categories, this week I’d like to highlight a couple of ventures related to African entrepreneurs. By now, I think everyone’s heard of and perhaps been involved in Kiva.org, the micro-lending organization that seeks to “connect people…for the sake of alleviating poverty.”  According to their website, Kiva organizes an average of one loan every ten seconds, with a repayment rate of almost 99%.  Their success is also reflected by the fact that, on average, on Kiva user makes 6.46 loans, meaning users are very happy with the service and willing to loan repeatedly.  Readers interested in Africa specifically (especially for readers in Cape Town where an initiative has been started focusing on finding micro-lenders) should look at Kiva’s extensive list of Field Partners, here. I also came across an organization called JamiiBora (“good families”), which is the largest micro-lending institution in Kenya (as of 2007; see this excellent New York Times article).  JamiiBora is using a mobile phone-based system which allows loan recipients in rural areas to receive payments, make payments, and do other business electronically.  They no longer have to go to urban areas to get access to more formal banking arrangements or ATMs.  The company also recruits its staff from members who were once loan recipients – a great model for sustainability.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwXMJUe4XcI&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Lastly, I wanted to call your attention to a recently-released database of social enterprises called iuMAP.  It is an initial attempt at cataloguing these businesses in order to aid investors, entrepreneurs, and others in connecting and learning from one another.  It was created by Allyu, an organization focus on “putting social enterprise on the map.”  IuMAP has about 450 “bottom of the pyramid” organizations catalogued currently, in addition to various related information and resources.  Another useful tool for identifying African-focused social enterprises.

-Terra Curtis

Focus on Africa

Continuing on the theme of the Labs Global Award 2011 categories, this week I’d like to highlight a couple of ventures related to African entrepreneurs. By now, I think everyone’s heard of and perhaps been involved in Kiva.org, the micro-lending organization that seeks to “connect people…for the sake of alleviating poverty.”  According to their website, Kiva organizes an average of one loan every ten seconds, with a repayment rate of almost 99%.  Their success is also reflected by the fact that, on average, on Kiva user makes 6.46 loans, meaning users are very happy with the service and willing to loan repeatedly.  Readers interested in Africa specifically (especially for readers in Cape Town where an initiative has been started focusing on finding micro-lenders) should look at Kiva’s extensive list of Field Partners, here. I also came across an organization called JamiiBora (“good families”), which is the largest micro-lending institution in Kenya (as of 2007; see this excellent New York Times article).  JamiiBora is using a mobile phone-based system which allows loan recipients in rural areas to receive payments, make payments, and do other business electronically.  They no longer have to go to urban areas to get access to more formal banking arrangements or ATMs.  The company also recruits its staff from members who were once loan recipients – a great model for sustainability.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwXMJUe4XcI&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Lastly, I wanted to call your attention to a recently-released database of social enterprises called iuMAP.  It is an initial attempt at cataloguing these businesses in order to aid investors, entrepreneurs, and others in connecting and learning from one another.  It was created by Allyu, an organization focus on “putting social enterprise on the map.”  IuMAP has about 450 “bottom of the pyramid” organizations catalogued currently, in addition to various related information and resources.  Another useful tool for identifying African-focused social enterprises.

-Terra Curtis

Eight Global Cities Launch Technology Award to Help 40 Million Citizens

Eight global cities from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America join us in a challenge to find innovative solutions to major societal problems by opening competition among international solution-, technology- and service providers. The eight winners of the Living Labs Global Showcase Award will be invited to pilot their solutions in these cities, proving the effectiveness of new solutions and offering a first step for innovative providers to enter new markets. http://www.livinglabs-global.com/flash/awards2011.swf

The participating cities, representing 40 million citizens from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia call for solutions that can solve some of their most pressing challenges:

  • Automation of Urban Services
  • Intelligent Urban Lighting Solutions for Social Interaction & Orientation
  • Venture finance for millions of African entrepreneurs
  • Sustainable Initiative on Intellectual Property Protection
  • Creating the Next Generation of Government
  • Solutions for digitally enabled accessible ecoCities
  • Intelligent Transport Solutions
  • Smart solutions for 10,000 Smart Houses, 16 Green Communities, 1 Eco-City

Oracle Corporation and Asia’s Farglory have been named as corporate partners for the 2011 Living Labs Global Award. Submissions follow the format of the Living Labs Global Showcase and can be submitted for free until the 28th of February 2011. A shortlist of the top 40 Showcases will be presented by the international juries on March 21st 2011. Winners will be announced at the Award Ceremony on May 12th 2011 at the Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities.

Behind each Category lies the commitment of a city to pilot the winning showcase, with full institutional support to evaluate the impact the solution can have on reaching the community’s objectives.

Connecting cities: a Cluster.eu interview with Sascha Haselmayer

Cluster.eu, a great online and published magazine, gave me some challenging questions about our book "Connected Cities: Your 256 Billion Euro Dividend". Read it here - Connecting cities: an interview with Sascha Haselmayer.

Pesinet: Micro-Insurance for Child Health Services in Mali

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=6832695&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

Flash animation from Anne Roos-Weil on Vimeo.

A nonprofit organization called Pesinet is using mobile phones and a basic java application to change the way that children are treated within the healthcare system in Mali. Though the system is basic enough--healthcare agents provide weekly checkups on children and relay the weekly results through a java-enabled application on their mobile phone to a doctor who then reviews the results--- it's strikes at the core barriers which prevent children from receiving healthcare provision in a timely fashion; The organizations founder, Ann Roos-Weil, identifies the three core barriers as: 1) access to healthcare, in many rural areas in Mali families simply do not have access to healthcare resources. 2) family finances, often times the cost of healthcare itself is prohibitively expensive. 3) An attitude towards healthcare and illness itself, often times families in Mali delay treatment until the illness is extremely advanced. As Roos-Weil puts it in rather stark terms: "In Sub-Sahara Africa you have a very, very high child mortality rate. […] In Mali, where our project is based, one child out of five dies before the age of five. What we realized is that they’re mostly dying because they don’t go to the doctor or the healthcare center early enough."

Creatively enough, the Roos-Weil's solution was to devise a system which addressed each barrier individually. Through the Pesinet program, healthcare agents visit villages on a weekly basis and report on the health of a child to a trained physician through their mobile phones. Moreover, the Pesinet system provides a micro-insurance program in which a family pays a monthly 1 euro fee to participate. In effect this covers the cost of the healthcare agents visit, a visit to the doctor if it is deemed necessary and half the cost of medication should any be prescribed. Lastly, the weekly healthcare agent visits prevent families from waiting too long in the case that a child falls violently ill.

Mobile phones have enabled the program to reach many more children than would have otherwise been possible. According to Roos-Weil "What we found useful in mobile technology is mostly a case of efficiency in the way health workers do their work. Because basically, while using mobile technology you can ensure that the agent is having proximity to families, so she can do the home-based check-up while seeing a lot of children in a short time, which allows the doctor to follow up on a great number of children. Mobile technology, in our case, […] allows a model whereby we can touch a great volume of children while using just one doctor."

To learn more about Pesinet, click here.

Pesinet: Micro-Insurance for Child Health Services in Mali

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=6832695&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

Flash animation from Anne Roos-Weil on Vimeo.

A nonprofit organization called Pesinet is using mobile phones and a basic java application to change the way that children are treated within the healthcare system in Mali. Though the system is basic enough--healthcare agents provide weekly checkups on children and relay the weekly results through a java-enabled application on their mobile phone to a doctor who then reviews the results--- it's strikes at the core barriers which prevent children from receiving healthcare provision in a timely fashion; The organizations founder, Ann Roos-Weil, identifies the three core barriers as: 1) access to healthcare, in many rural areas in Mali families simply do not have access to healthcare resources. 2) family finances, often times the cost of healthcare itself is prohibitively expensive. 3) An attitude towards healthcare and illness itself, often times families in Mali delay treatment until the illness is extremely advanced. As Roos-Weil puts it in rather stark terms: "In Sub-Sahara Africa you have a very, very high child mortality rate. […] In Mali, where our project is based, one child out of five dies before the age of five. What we realized is that they’re mostly dying because they don’t go to the doctor or the healthcare center early enough."

Creatively enough, the Roos-Weil's solution was to devise a system which addressed each barrier individually. Through the Pesinet program, healthcare agents visit villages on a weekly basis and report on the health of a child to a trained physician through their mobile phones. Moreover, the Pesinet system provides a micro-insurance program in which a family pays a monthly 1 euro fee to participate. In effect this covers the cost of the healthcare agents visit, a visit to the doctor if it is deemed necessary and half the cost of medication should any be prescribed. Lastly, the weekly healthcare agent visits prevent families from waiting too long in the case that a child falls violently ill.

Mobile phones have enabled the program to reach many more children than would have otherwise been possible. According to Roos-Weil "What we found useful in mobile technology is mostly a case of efficiency in the way health workers do their work. Because basically, while using mobile technology you can ensure that the agent is having proximity to families, so she can do the home-based check-up while seeing a lot of children in a short time, which allows the doctor to follow up on a great number of children. Mobile technology, in our case, […] allows a model whereby we can touch a great volume of children while using just one doctor."

To learn more about Pesinet, click here.

Mobile Phone Growth Puts African continent in Limelight

Last month the world welcome its 5 billionth mobile phone subscriber. A closer look at the numbers and growth behind this milestone revealed something a lot of us have been observing for a while: Africa's mobile market is growing at an unprecedented rate. While the continent only lay claim to some 16 million subscribers in 2000, they are now home to half a billion subscribers. Underlying this surge is a trend toward using data services more than voice calls. A study that was released by Ericsson in December of last year indicates that the use of data services will only continue to grow---over the last two years it has grown by 280 percent and this figure is projected to double annually over the next five years. Africa's lack of established first generation telecommunication infrastructure makes it ripe for continued mobile phone growth. This reality coupled with coupled with the development in mobile phone technology such as the 3G network which will enable deployment of advanced applications such as video conferencing, mobile TV services and tele-medicine that require high speed connections, the uptake of mobile phone technology is expected to increase exponentially.

Cell Phones Help Bring Basic Sanitation to Africa

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJ3PBeOZ5Q&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xd0d0d0&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1] It is predicted that by 2015, 2.7 billion people will lack access to sanitation---this is an especially disheartening figure if you consider that, today, more people have access to mobile phones than toilets. Optimistically, however, a number of innovators around the world are attempting to use this new found access to technology to address the growing sanitation crisis. One such organization, Nuru International, is using google platforms and nokia phones to increase sanitation and access in Kuria, Kenya.

By registering a Kenyan web domain name and creating and using google apps and GPRS-enabled handsets, Nuru International has created easy and reliable channels for information flow between the organization's staff members and the farmers with whom they are working. The phones are used for data-collection to document sanitation sites within the city. Moreover, team members use the camera phone to take photos, creating a comprehensive visual backlog to each sites activities and evolution.

Watch the video above to learn how this cheap technology is helping Nuru improve upon its own best practices.

Mobilizing Education, Africa

mobileed_AFRICA In anticipation of the upcoming 5th annual conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training in Zambia at the end of the month, the online news portal eLearning AFria published an insightful interview with John Traxler, a leading thinker and proponent of mobile learning globally.

For the purpose of this post, I have included the most compelling sections of the interview below:

eLa: How far has mLearning actually come? John Traxler: Mobile learning across the world is facing challenges of breaking through from short-term pilots and trials to deployment that is large-scale, sustained, and sustainable, and is equitable, accessible, and inclusive. It has been possible to achieve some of these goals individually, but has proven far more difficult to achieve them in combination. Further progress will depend on rigorous and appropriate evaluation that talks to different stakeholders, for example, education ministry officials, commercial technologists, donors and teachers, and maybe learners in terms of the language, values, and priorities that are specific to them.

Of course, every country is different, and so mobile learning in South Africa is different from mobile learning in Kenya - two countries where I'm familiar with mobile projects. Each situation is different, so – for example - degree students at the University of Pretoria, primary teachers in Kenya and small-scale organic farmers in Kenya will all have some similarities, but, of course, differences also exist. Perhaps in these examples we should look at how we make links with agricultural extension workers, teacher trainers, or university lecturers globally and look for a matrix of mobile learning across countries and specialisms.

eLa: What are your findings so far? John Traxler: The project in Kenya using SMS to support in-service teacher training is now undergoing large-scale trials with thousands of primary teachers in districts across the country. I am now also involved in the early stages of another project, also in Kenya, but this time with BioVision and Avallain, to explore using mobile phones alongside web-based resources to support sustainable organic farming. I have had the chance to reflect on some of the possible lessons learnt. My experiences, however, have not led to lessons but to questions. Let me name some of them:

How do we strike a balance between short-term outcomes and benefits on the one hand and sustainability and maintainability on the other; and how do we define realistic and achievable exit strategies for our projects?

How do we transfer and generalise what we learn; how do we decide what to scale up and what to throw away?

How do we devise effective and appropriate evaluation and monitoring procedures; how do we uncover ‘soft outcomes’ and ‘distance travelled’ in unfamiliar cultures and classrooms?

How do we strike a balance between development, implementation, and delivery on the one hand and disseminating and networking on the other; and how do we strike a balance between informal or local practice and attempts at influencing policy at a higher level?

How do we reduce one ‘digital divide’ without creating or increasing others?

How do we know what to try to change and what to try to preserve when working with local, official, or traditional systems and institutions?

These issues may be generic and probably not limited to eLearning, and so further contact with the growing ICT4DEV may help us reach sensible, sensitive and robust systems for using technology to support, enhance, and deliver learning in Africa.

Interested readers may find a transcript from the complete interview here

Mobile App Developers in Africa

This week John Sutter has an interesting piece on CNN.com which teases out mobile app developers formidable contributions to solving some of Africans biggest problems. Sutter focuses on the problem of opaque markets in information while discussing the common experience facing the average farmer in Africa---farmers rarely reap the benefit of high market prices as they are hedged out by a profiteering middleman. Without access to information about market prices, farmers often find themselves without the tools or the gumption to demand more money for their offering. For mobile developers, however, the fix was easy---just create a simple, straightforward application for exchanging market information via the mobile phone. At the end of April, farmers in Kenya will benefit from just such an innovation. Through, a text message-based system that lets farmers send questions to a computer, a machine will match up farmers' queries with a database of information about local dairy markets -- and then spit answers back in 140 characters or less. Thus, ensuring that farmers get their fair share.

What's brilliant and novel about such applications is that they are simple, accessible and affordable. Most are funcitonal on the average phone and can be downloaded for less than $25 --which is pretty Exciting.