Wednesday, 29 September 2010

BarCamp Accra is on Saturday!

The much awaited BarCamp Accra 2010 is finally here and I'm really excited about it. BarCamp Accra will be hosted by MEST this Saturday, 2nd October. This year's event themed, "creating wealth and employment in a challenging environment", is aimed at strengthening the capacities of Accra's young people to translate environmental difficulties into business opportunities.

One novelty of BarCamp Accra is Start-up Bazaar, an exhibition of products and services of registered start-ups, with emphasis on core competences that they can offer to other young companies at very affordable rates. This is a really ingenious way of harnessing the collective power of some of Accra's young entrepreneurs.

We're really blessed to have quality speakers and panelists for Saturday:Yoofi Grant (Databank), Estelle Akofio-Sowah (Google), Richard Anim (Richard Anim and Associates), Eve Andersson (Google), Esi Ansah (Ashesi University and Axis Human Capital), Derrydean Dadzie (DreamOval), Emmanuel Dogbevi (Ghana Business News) and Esi Cleland (AfroChic). Check out their profiles at the event website.

There's something else to be excited about!

Mawuli Sikanku of Tutamee has designed a wonderful Accra-themed flyer for BarCamp. Over a Google map of Accra, he's spelt out clearly the main focus of BarCamp Accra: youth, Accra, entrepreneurship and innovation. Check it out for yourself!

Finally, the BarCamp Accra team has released a Video rallying everybody in Accra to be part of a day of idea-sharing, discussions and fun!

From my last check, there are only 33 tickets left on eventbrite, so if you've not registered please do so now.

Learn more about BarCamp Accra 2010:


See you there!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Open Source and Global Health Unconference Held in Accra

Last week, from 20th to 24th September, a special unconference, aimed at improving the deployment of Health Informations Systems (HIS) in West Africa, using open source technology, was hosted in Ghana. I first learnt about the conference through a post on Intra Health Intenational's website. This is a great example of how technology can be applied to a pertinent area of development. The training was held at Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in InformationCommunication Technology (AITI-KACE).

What happened at the Unconference?

Assessment of the need to use local adaptations of technology in healthcare

Training in the deployment and customisation of open source tools for healthcare

Formation of a regional collaborative network

Reading through the reports coming in from the event, I got the impression that it was well attended and very educative. Hopefully, we'll see some improvements in the area of information management in healthcare as this is crucial to the overall progress of the healthcare system itself. Big thanks to West African Health Organization (WAHO), WHO, the University of Oslo, Health Metrics Network (HMN) and the CapacityPlus project for putting this together.
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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Man-on-the-Street View on the Progress of the MDGs Part II

Yesterday, I reviewed the first three goals of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from a lay man's perspective. Here's my analysis of the rest of the goals:

4. Reduce child mortality
From what I've read in the news and some reports, global under-five mortality has reduced significantly over the past 10 years. Child health campaigners herald a dramatic dip in deaths caused by measles for example. I agree that this achievement must be applauded, but a close look around one's environment reveal some disparities. Reduction in child mortality appears to be the preserve of a few countries. There are also obvious demographic gaps in the rate of progress- child mortality is improving in urban centres while the same rate of progress is not happening in rural areas. Further, even in urban communities, there are great disparities between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.

5. Improve maternal health
More women are having access to antenatal and postnatal clinics; this is bringing maternal mortality down and boosting the overall well being of pregnant women and lactating mothers. What is questionable however is whether these women have the quality care that they deserve. I say this because the numbers of doctors, nurses and public health workers lag behind that of an escalating global population. There is very little emphasis on the quality of health of new mothers compared with the urgency attached to keeping them alive. Another problem is the increasing rate of unsafe abortions and poor family planning practices, a situation the medical system is failing to resolve due to obvious differences with local cultures of many developing nations. This oft-ignored point must be addressed by health policy thinkers when they're formulating strategies to improve maternal health.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
The global fight against infectious diseases has achieved mixed results. For example, parts of sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a decline in HIV/AIDs infection whilst Eastern Europe is reported to be experiencing a resurgence. Anti-retroviral drugs are also out of the reach of poor people in many countries. Progress in rolling back malaria worldwide has also been reported to improve, but the long queues at rural health centres indicate that more needs to be done. Many children still present at clinics with the most complicated forms of cerebral malaria, resulting in death. The fight against malaria must now take an innovative twist. There must also be a careful watch of the global pandemic situation as mutating forms of old bugs re-emerge to wreck havoc on the human species. I don't get the feeling that we're being cautious enough.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability
There's no gainsaying that the survival of future human generations on the planet depends on how sustainably we exploit the environment's resources. Climate science remains controversial, and even when certain facts are proven, global appear to lack the political will to take decisions for the overall good of the planet. The inconclusive climate change talks, COP 15, held in Denmark recently is a case in point. Back home in Ghana, there's a lot of work to be done on the environment. Our cities remain littered with rubbish from polythene bags, while our forests are getting depleted by the day. While we have not mastered dealing with the environmental requirements of our mining industry, our nascent oil and gas industry presents a new challenge.

8. Develop a global partnership for development
There seems to be lot of interest worldwide in the affairs of developing countries now more than ever. In 2005, in Gleneagles, Scotland, leaders of the G-8 countries came out with Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) to implement the call for canceling debt owed by poor nations. There have been other aid schemes all aimed at taking advantage of the international infrastructure to bring development to developing countries. Does the man on the street feel the impact of all the donor money coming to Africa? No! It has been argued that unfavourable conditionalities, corruption and mismanagement erode aid money as quickly as it comes. In spite of incessant calls for more trade globally, the markets of the developed world remain difficult to penetrate, due to extremely demanding regulations. The rules of global engagement are heavily tipped in the favour of the big guns such that smaller nations feel voiceless and have no sense of real power. If we are to guide international relations in a way so as to engender development, poor countries too must be given a voice in matters of global community!

To sum it all up, the statistics may point to some success in the attainment of the UN's MDGs. While this is noteworthy, what should concern world leaders is how these statistics reflect in the lives of everyday people. As it stands, it looks like more has to be done than is currently thought
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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

A Man-on-the-Street View on the Progress of the MDGs

Yesterday, I missed out on TEDxAccra, one of the TEDxChange events being organised worldwide to mark the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I followed TEDxAccra through tweets from Oluniyi, Daisy, MacJordan and a few other people who were present at the event. While waiting for reviews from the event's attendees, I'd like to share my man-on-the-street views on the MDGs.

So what are the Millennium Development Goals?
The MDGs are eight broad goals, to be reached by 2015, set by the United Nations (UN), to address the issues of poverty, illiteracy, poor quality of health, gender inequality and environmental degradation a global scale. Each goal has set targets as well as indicators for measuring progress. Former UN Chief Mr Kofi Annan, writing in yesterday's issue of Ghana's most popular newspaper, The Daily Graphic, sums up the importance of these eight goals thus:
There is no doubt that the eight Millennium Development Goals and their framework of accountability have served the world well. They have not only provided a much-needed sense of direction to national plans and international cooperation-they have also delivered measurable results. we have seen primary school enrollment rates double in Ethiopia and Tanzania and countries like Malawi and Algeria transform themselves from food importers to food exporters.
Have they really impacted significantly on the man on the street?
Let's go through the goals one-by-one to find out:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
The working definition of poor is living on less than a dollar a day, making this goal seem trivial. But that is not the case. Wars in areas such as Darfur, Sudan, Somalia and other parts of Africa have ensured that no real progress has been made in the area of poverty reduction. Even in countries such as Ghana, where statistics have been showcased to indicate phenomenal success in poverty reduction, massive graduate unemployment abounds. How can there be development when those who are supposed to develop into leadership positions are themselves wallowing in the quagmire of unemployment and hence poverty.

2. Achieve universal primary education
As indicated by Mr Annan's submission primary education is now more widely available to more children than before. In Ghana, introduction of programmes such as Capitation Grant, School Feeding, distribution of free school uniforms and books, among others, has incentivised many children to come knocking on school doors. But is high school attendance at the basic level the only answer to combating the looming threat of illiteracy? What consideration is being given to the quality of teaching in schools? Specifically, what is being done about primary 6 pupils who are unable to make simple sentences in the English Language or are learning ICT without access to even the most basic devices? Is only primary education enough for the youth of developing countries?

3. Promote gender equality and empower women
Female enrollment in educational institutions has been increasing steadily, with women enjoying preference over men, in what is called "affirmative action", for admissions to higher educational institutions. In this way, women are now better equipped for good-paying jobs that will enable them to contribute greatly to their family's upkeep. However, in Ghana and many developing nations, women are still largely at the backstage when it comes to political leadership, although the mass media has been vociferous about the merits of electing female leaders. There's also not much to be said for violence against women as this unfortunate incidence keeps rearing its ugly head in our country's families.

To Be Continued...

What do you know about the MDGs? Do you think some progress has been made with respect to their implementation? What should be done in order to speed up their implementation? Should they be scrapped completely? Speak your mind!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Press Release for Software Freedom Day 2010

This press release below is from AITI-KACE concerning the upcoming Software Freedom Day Celebrations in Ghana

Celebrating Software Freedom Day 2010 in Ghana!

We are proud to announce that the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE) in collaboration with the FLOSSInclude Project will again be hosting a special event on Saturday, September 18th under the theme “Knowing the alternative software solutions”. The venue for this year's celebrations is the AITI-KACE premises and the time is 9:30 – 15:00. This is the biggest international celebration and outreach event for Software Freedom globally involving hundreds of teams from all around the world.

In an increasingly digital age, more and more of our everyday experiences depend upon software. Software influences how we interact with each other, enjoy different media, get paid, and even navigate our roads. Software underpins our very way of life, our basic freedoms such as freedom of association, freedom of thought, freedom of choice and much more, yet many people do not realize the importance and influence of software and other technologies on their lives.

What do we mean by Software Freedom? Software Freedom is about a technology future that we can trust, that is sustainable, and that doesn't negatively impact on the basic human freedoms we take for granted. For instance, spyware is a software that monitors what we listen to, our banking details and who we email. This software can be installed on our computers without our knowledge. Proprietary data formats can mean lockout to accessing your own information! Software Freedom can be maintained by transparent systems (such as Free and Open Source Software - FOSS) that are based on open, secure and sustainable standards including data formats and communications protocols.

Software Freedom Day is a yearly celebration of Software Freedom and why it is important; our purpose is public education about these important issues which we believe will eventually ensure that all barriers to the use and deployment of software are eliminated.

The AITI-KACE and its partners have been celebrating Software Freedom Day for a number of year and we have had many members of the general public and IT Community participate through the doors. We would like those that have attended or are attending for the first time to bring a friend along. Share with us the possibilities. Come and see demonstrations of open source software to suit just about every usage that you might think of. Take home some ideas, and CDs/DVDs full of software that you can use straight away.

People in the Eastern Region of Ghana can also join the Computer Science Department at the Koforidua Polytechnic to celebrate the day.

AITI-KACE is located near Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), adjacent to the Council of State Building on 2nd Avenue, Ridge, Accra.

Members of the media are invited to cover the event.

Contacts : Fred Yeboah - Tel 0302 679542-4 or e-mail:
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Monday, 13 September 2010

Nandimobile: Ghana Start-up Empowering Connections Through Mobile Phones

The business climate in Africa is plagued with complaints about poor customer service. While frustrated customers rave and rant about how inattentive their service providers are, the concerned companies themselves are often overwhelmed with the headache of attending to the massive demands of their demanding customers.

A few companies are attempting to solve this problem, but one that has captivated my attention recently is Nandimoblile ltd, emerging from the start-up incubator of the Meltwater Group.
Nandimobile’s objective is to leverage the high global mobile penetration rates to create mobile customer service technology that enables businesses to connect to their customers through their mobile phones and easily engage, inform and manage their customer relationships.
Their first product, NandiClient, takes advantage of the rising global trend of increasing adoption of mobile and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications in business settings. It deploys a powerful two-way system-Gripeline to receive customer feedback and Infoline to deliver marketing information.

From their website:
Nandiclient is an on-demand software as a service suite, which provides businesses with effective tools for delivering customer support and information services to mobile phones of customers via SMS and WAP channels.
NandiClient has been tested to handle registration and feedback for major events like TEDxYouthInspire and BarCamp Accra. African companies wishing to improve their customer relations should definitely go for NandiClient because of its simple yet efficient solution, and the well-rounded team of young entrepreneurs behind it.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Update on Barcamps in Ghana

We're going to have a whole season of bar camps in Ghana this year, as two regional barcamps will be held in addition to the traditional BarCamp Ghana event.

BarCamp Kumasi 2010

The barcamp train will make its first stop in the garden city on the campus of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) on 18th September, 2010. Deliberations will be held under the theme: "Collaboration-the key for opportunity and development." Registration is ongoing, do well to register, and keep yourself updated by following @barcampkumasi on Twitter and liking the BarCamp Kumasi page on Facebook. Read the full press release from the BarCamp Kumasi team.

BarCamp Accra 2010

The Accra regional barcamp, attempts to address the nagging twin problems of poverty and unemployment in Ghana, is appropriately themed "Creating wealth and employment in a challenging environment." Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, MEST, will be hosts on 2nd October. Here's a press statement from the organising team. However, for real time updates on developments, like the BarCamp Accra fan page on Facebook and follow @barcampaccra on Twitter. Don't forget to register!

BarCamp Ghana 2010
A grand BarCamp Ghana event will round off the two regional events, and hopefully ride on the momentum that'll be generated by BarCamp Kumasi and BarCamp Accra. Theme, venue and date are yet to be announced. For more information follow @barcampghana on Twitter or join the BarCamp Ghana Facebook Page.