#BlogCamp14

Friday, 31 October 2014

Celebrating the Heroes of Youth Entrepreneurship at BarCamp Kumasi 2014 #bcksi

If you're around Kumasi this weekend, please join GhanaThink and its partners for the fifth BarCamp Kumasi at KNUST. Find more details and info on how to register on the poster below.

BarCamp Kumasi 2014 is the 38th barcamp to be held in Ghana #bcksi
Want to know more? Read this blog post by MIghTy African

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

BarCamp Ho and the Quest for Scientific and Entrepreneurial Thinking in Ghana #bcho

Mentoring session ongoing at BarCamp Ho 2014
Last Saturday, 25th October, I joined other change makers at the University of Health and Allied Sciences for the fourth BarCamp Ho. This was my first barcamp in over a year, so I was really excited to have been part of the event. Here are Storify highlights of what transpired. 


After an initial hesitation, I accepted to 'mentor' some attendees (many of them university or senior high school students) on "education and research", drawing on experiences in science education and postgraduate studies. Upon reflection, since many of the attendees asked the same questions, perhaps, a breakout session on the topic would have been more appropriate. Also, it would have been nice to pick everyone's brain on what can be done to improve the quality of research in Ghana, and to increase its role in policy making. This is very important since science provides tools to fix our day-to-day challenges. A more robust research regime in West African would see regional challenges such as ebola, small arms, and energy shortage, handled with greater efficiency than is currently done.

The above submission ties in well with the overall theme of this year's BarCamp Ho: "re-educating ourselves for the new entrepreneurial world", although not immediately apparent. Most of the day's discussions centred on creating business ventures and new instructional/coaching models to raise entrepreneurial champions. While these propositions are rightly in place, it is equally important to extend our conception of entrepreneurial thought to disrupting education and advancing scientific research. Innovation on these frontiers do not only require increased scientific knowledge but also technical aptitude to analyse society's problems and to design and implement solutions to tackle them. Clearly, there is an urgent need to liaise with government, businesses, and the larger society to adopt research as a critical tool for development. The achievement of this feat requires entrepreneurial acumen on a scale similar to what pertains in the business context. Our long-term challenge, therefore, is to create educational opportunities that would enhance the inculcation of critical skills among learners at various educational levels. In the short-term, government must invest more in science education and research. The current situation where less than 0.5% of GDP is allocated to science and technology in Ghana is not only shocking but shameful.
Re-educating ourselves for the new entrepreneurial world requires raising leaders in politics, business and communication, to create revenue-generating projects and to position our country in a favourable light in the global milieu. Just as important is the task to increase the quality of science education and the level of scientific thinking in the general population. We need to build the right environment for scientific research that would lead to inventions and innovations. Also, we need to encourage a maker culture through collaborations between our universities, research institutes and informal makers. I am sure someone said this at the barcamp: "what are we going to market when we do not produce much?"

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Discussing Entrepreneurial Education and Remembering Eli Aidam at BarCamp Ho 2014

I've not written any posts on this blog or elsewhere online in a while because I was busy with the dissertation phase of my masters degree. I learnt a lot over the past year, especially from working on my final project. I am thankful for successfully completing the course.    

BarCamp Ho 2014 is upon us; this is Volta region's fourth barcamp since the first event in 2011. Find details about this year's event in the flyer below. 


We're dedicating this year's barcamp to the memory of Eli Aidam, our colleague from GhanaThink who tragically passed on earlier this year. 

Eli Aidam: Youth leader- GhanaThink, CCY, etc [Credit: Elvis Bomassah]
Eli, Eric Nii Tackie Tawiah, Bless Nkegbe and myself held the initial meeting at the Ghana Tourist Board Office [Eric's workplace] in October 2011, to plan the first BarCamp Ho. Back then, I quietly admired Eli's pragmatism, resourcefulness, and extensive networking skills. Eli then moved on to become the 'engine' of the Ho barcamps in later years. He was  a true connector, and this came to bear in his work with Centre for Creative Youth, a youth-led initiative focused on nurturing the creative talent of the youth for social change. When Ghana Decides was looking for partners for youth engagement, and later social media training, towards the 2012 elections, Eli was instrumental in bringing CCY on board. We remember Eli for his dreams, hard work, and selflessness, But, perhaps more importantly, we would remember him for being our friend.

So join us at the University of Health and Allied Sciences this Saturday 25th October to map out creative ways of personal development to aid youth to function in an increasingly entrepreneurial world, while we remember a dear colleague who exemplified that philosophy. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Exploring Youthful Innovations to Transform Agriculture in Africa via #AfricaDayAgric Chat

The African Union (AU) observes its founding date, 25th May, as "Africa Day" every year. This is a national holiday in many African countries set aside to reflect on how far we have come in pursuit of continental unity and various aspects of life. Earlier, the AU declared 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, and the diaspora team of GhanaThink Foundation saw this as the perfect opportunity to engage youth on their role in transforming the agricultural sector.

Yesterday a Google + hangout discussion hosted by the team explored the challenges, innovations and opportunities in the African agricultural sector. The event, hosted by Jemila Abdulai and Kirstie Kwarteng featured youth panellists drawn from research, business, ICT and other contexts within the agricultural space. Joining the discussion were David Aduama, Alloysius Attah, Acheampong Atta Boateng, Edison Gbenga, Dr Joy Odimegwu, Sidney Rockson and Worlali Senyo. Their rich insights were shared with viewers in various parts of the world through the Diaspora Camp YouTube channel. You can follow what was discussed through the video below:


Inputs were made into conversation by the wider online community via the #AfricaDayAgric hashtag on Twitter and other social media platforms. The moderators masterfully increased interactivity by highlighting core points made and questions asked by the Twitter audience. A summary of the Twitter conversation is also available through the GhanaThink Storify account, thanks to Ato Ulzen-Appiah.

I left the discussion thinking of: (i) the role of education in giving youth skills and making agriculture attractive and (ii) strategies needed to withstand the negative effects of climate change on agriculture. If you have any thoughts on these, kindly drop a comment and let's discuss.

The #AfricaDayAgric chat is part of the new DiasporaCamp Online series, and hopefully we would have conversations on other topics of importance to African youth, home and abroad. What topics do you think need to be explored?

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Citizen Science Approach to Research: Report from GW4 Workshop, Bath

Source: thinkprogress.org
The idea of harnessing the collective or community input for a project is quite appealing to my African mind. Grassroots involvement fosters group ownership and often leads to better results. Movements such as GhanaThink, BloggingGhana and Enactus ride on the numbers and efforts of its members. When applied to science, public participation aids data collection and organisation, research design, and facilitates greater understanding of scientific phenomena. The active involvement of volunteers or "lay people" in the scientific enterprise, "citizen science", is a fast-growing paradigm in the scientific community and has the same essence as open source, open data and civic participation movements. It has wide applications ranging from social science research, through ecological studies, to unravelling the mysteries of the wider universe. I recently had the fortune to be part of a citizen science workshop organised by the United Kingdom's GW4 Universities at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, (BRLSI).
We were welcomed by Dr Helen Featherstone of University of Exeter who gave a brief intro of the day's activities. Dr Robert Simpson from University of Oxford, in the first presentation, gave an overview for the need and benefits of citizen science, drawing examples from the Zooniverse project.
He made an interesting point on validating crowdsource data- data contributed by the most accurate and least accurate volunteers are equally important because of the consistency. Thus you can tell whether the data coming in is accurate or inaccurate.

Dr Erinma Ochu from the University of Manchester then explored the topic from a social science perspective, with examples from the Sunflower Experiment and other projects. Here's a key point she made:
One of my favourite parts of the day was the structured networking session where the participants interacted about how they use citizen science in their work. In short three minute spells, I learnt briefly about projects such as mathMETicsIfOnly, and BodyTrack.

Next was a panel on citizen science case-studies featuring Lisa Austin (Bath, IfOnly), Alexander Todd (Exeter, CliMathNet), Dr Emma Rich (Bath, Citizen Journalism), Dr Jaap Velthuis (Bristol, HiSparc), and Dr Sarah Perkins (Cardiff, Project Splatter).

Panel discussion on GW4 citizen science projects
After the round-table, we broke for lunch amidst networking, followed by the breakout sessions. The breakouts focused on recruiting citizen scientists, methodological approaches and ethics. I was in the methodological approaches/ethics group and some of the issues raised include data ownership, blurring the line between academic and activist, limitations of institutional review processes, and citizen science governance.

Some useful technological and web resources for citizen science researchers were also shared among the group. Some of the less popular ones include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Storify, University Wiki pages, Open Street Map, Google tools (Maps, Apps, etc), Carto DB (for visualisation), Ushahidi (for crowdmapping) and Github (for open source code). 

I learnt a lot from what researchers are doing in the GW4 universities and other institutions. More than that, I enjoyed the brilliant opportunity to interact with the brains behind some really interesting citizen science projects. Hopefully we can do more with the larger public to piece together the puzzle that is life and derive better solutions for our pressing problems. Meanwhile, the conversation continues on Twitter via #GW4CS.