Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Suffering at the Mercy of Water

We all know how important water is in our daily lives. We use water to cook food, rehydrate our bodies, keep our bodies clean and so on. Water also plays important roles in both natural and man-made systems. Simply, water is life.

However, many people across the world are also suffering from water-related problems in many ways. In this post I'll try to highlight some of the issues surrounding the availability and use of water in our world today.

Water shortage

Many people, especially those in urban and peri-urban areas of the developing world, have limited or no access to water on a daily basis. Some of them have to travel long distances, and also expend high amounts of financial resources, in order to get water for everyday life. What beats my imagination is the fact that countries that have many natural water sources, such as Ghana fall into this category. The situation causes significant stress to workers, students and visitors wherever it exists.

Water-related illnesses

There are many illnesses related to water. Off the top of my mind, I can recall Guinea Worm Disease (GWD), onchocerciasis (river blindness), bilharzia, malaria, cholera, typhoid fever and water poisoning. The list is endless. Health conditions propagated by water, apart from causing harm and distress to families, also result in massive reduction in the productivity of its victims. This consequently leads to lower incomes for families, attendant with huge socio-economic costs.

Water accidents

Accidents are fall-outs of human's activities on water bodies, especially travelling and sports. Almost everyone is familiar with the classic story of the Titanic. But in modern times, accidents such as the M.V. Joola accident in Senegal in 2002 have captured the world's attention. Here's also statistics on various boating accidents in California. Recklessness, disrespect for regulations, lack of appropriate equipment and sheer hard-luck are some of the causes of incidents of this nature.

Natural disasters

The new wave of climate change that has swept the world has brought in its wake many water-related natural disasters. The news are full of stories of floods, droughts, sea erosion and tsunamis. What these disasters do is to rob people of their property, loved ones as well as their means of livelihood. There is also an increase in the spread of various contagious diseases as a result of these conditions. An interesting observation is that water-related problems are often aggravated during other natural disasters whose primal causes have nothing to do with water. The recent Haitian earthquake is a case in point.

So, it is quite obvious that although water is essential for our survival on the planet, some natural and man-made factors have combined to make us suffer from this natural resource. This has created the situation whereby, although water is life, it has become sickness, suffering and even death for large swathes of the world's population. In order to help turn things around, it's important for us to arm ourselves with requisite information. The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has more detailed information here. Let us all get on board to save the masses from suffering at the mercy of water.

PS: This belated blog post is part of GhanaBlogging's participation in this year's World Water Day, which was held yesterday. Cheers Jemila!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

TEDxYouthInspire 2010 Press Release

Here's a press release from the organising team of TEDxYouthInspire 2010. Take time to read and enjoy, as you brace yourselves for this exciting African youth-focused conference


Inaugural TEDxYouthInspire will bring together those with "A Good Head & a Good Heart"

Accra, Ghana, March 15, 2010 – On Saturday, April 10, 2010, from 8:00AM – 6PM GMT, the inaugural TEDxYouthInspire conference will be held at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of
Excellence in ICT in Accra, Ghana. The free one-day event, a first for young African visionaries ages 14-25, will welcome a host of youth speakers, a Ghanaian dance ensemble and an Academy Award-nominated short film.

Organized along the theme "A Good Head & a Good Heart", taken from Nelson Mandela's 1995 autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, TEDxYouthInspire will exhibit how radical thought and integrity of spirit combine to create unlimited possibilities for a brighter future. "The outpouring of support for TEDxYouthInspire exemplifies the need for more events like this for young people," says Raquel Wilson, event curator, "As our speaker line-up suggests, youth everywhere are ready to solidify their contributions towards making the world a better place." TEDxYouthInspire welcomes the following speakers to give the talks of their lives:

Iyinoluwa E. Aboyeji, 18, a Nigerian teenager with a passion for philosophy, global politics and economics, is President of the Board for University of Waterloo publication Imprint. Using his weekly column "E is for Error" to discuss development and post secondary education, he aspires to be a tenured professor by age 25.

The Asanti Dance Theatre is a dynamic ensemble that combines traditional, contemporary and freestyle dancing along with drumming. Founded in 2003, the group raises awareness of prominent issues facing West Africa and is dedicated to developing and preserving the cultural heritage of Ghana.

Yawa Hansen-Quao, 26, is a women's empowerment activist and firmly advocates that "one cannot love an Africa one does not know." Believing that women must play a central role in spurring economic and social advancement in Africa, Yawa supports travel as a tool to "transform people without permission".

Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah is the host of radio station Joy FM's Super Morning Show.

Mac-Jordan Holdbrookes-Degadjor, 25, a social media activist, is passionate about Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), youth empowerment and ending poverty through education. With three blogs to his credit, he often writes about global events, social entrepreneurship, traveling and how it feels to be a geek in Ghana.

Shirley Osei-Mensah, 18, is an Internet entrepreneur and student at Keystone National High School. Unable to attend a regular classroom, she takes all coursework online and uses her web exposure to inspire others, provide tips about entrepreneurship and advise on earning an income online.

Esi Yankah, 25, is founder and president of The Africa Mentor Network and creative director for Yankah and Associates. Cautious to always live a life that is cheerful and purposeful, she does not believe that entrepreneurs are an extraordinary breed of people; rather, as she explains, "We just back our faith with action."

Google Ghana Country Manager Estelle Akofio-Sowah will host TEDxYouthInspire.

TEDxYouthInspire is sold out; however, a live web steam of the event will be available online at www.tedxyouthinspire.org. Individual and corporate sponsorship packages are still available. Additional information about TEDxYouthInspire can be found by visiting www.tedxyouthinspire.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tedxyouthinspir
or Facebook at www.facebook.com/tedxyouthinspire.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

GhanaGTUG Holds First Meeting

I was privileged to be part of the very first meeting of Ghana Google Technology Users Group (GhanaGTUG) held last Friday, 5th March, at the yet-to-be-inaugurated offices of Google Ghana. GhanaGTUG is a group of Ghanaian software developers and technology enthusiasts who actively use Google products. Present at the meet-up were the founding members of GhanaGTUG and staff of the new Google Ghana office. The programme lasted for approximately one hour and was excellent in terms of its educative and social value.

The meeting was kick started by Jojoo Imbeah, organiser of the event, who informed the gathering that the idea of forming a GTUG in Ghana was conceived during Google technology breakout sessions at BarCamp Ghana 2009. He also went on to mention the advantages of using Google technology, pointing out that Google technology helps developers and users to make and save money.

Google Ghana's Office Lead, Estelle Akofio-Sowah was the next to speak. In her submission Estelle said that Google's main goal in Sub-Saharan Africa, consistent with its mission of acquiring, reorganizing and presenting all of the world's information, is to get as many people as possible online. She explained further that the company intends to achieve its objective by ensuring the availability or relevant content, easy access to gadgets and the Internet and the development of a wide array of products that are useful in every facet of daily life and business. She stressed that the company does not have any immediate financial intention in relation to its operations in this part of the world. Estelle, who was very excited about the formation of GhanaGTUG, called for the formation of more GTUGs throughout the country and promised to work in close collaboration with the group and other stakeholders in Ghana's Internet industry. She stated that the Google Ghana office is open to ideas from GhanaGTUG, and other groups , and called for their support, feedback and ideas so that Google can deliver more to meet their technology needs.

There were also few demonstrations and technical presentations to round up activities for the day. A short video that explained what GTUGs do was shown. This was followed by a presentation on mobile development for the Android platform by Ushahidi developer Henry Addo. Finally, Richard Ngamita, a Googler originally from the Nairobi office, gave a detailed presentation on various Google products and developer resources such as Map Maker, App Engine, API and Local Business Center (LBC). Richard emphasised the obvious advantages of these products to Africa as they are free or very affordable.

After Richard's presentation, there were presentations of Google souvenirs to lucky attendees. This was followed by refreshment which was kindly sponsored by Google. Participants took the opportunity to meet new people, discuss projects they are working on and to generally interact among themselves.

Overall, the event was a great success thanks to the efforts of the organising team , coordinated by the tireless Joojo Imbeah, all those who attended and Google Ghana. Please also check out tweets from various attendees.