Monday, December 31, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Botanic Gardens Conservation International

BGCI was founded in 1987 to link botanic gardens as a co-operating global network for effective plant conservation. It now links over 2500 institutions in over 120 countries, all working together to preserve and promote plant diversity for people and the planet.

It includes several gardens in Africa including Kenya, and links to the African Botanic Gardens Network

Julia Willison is head of education. is a related project and includes many educational resources.


The mission of AfricanClimate@Home is to develop more accurate climate models of specific regions in Africa. This will serve as a basis for understanding how the climate will change in the future so that measures designed to alleviate the adverse effects of climate change can be implemented. World Community Grid's tremendous computing power will be used to understand and reduce the uncertainty with which climate processes are simulated over Africa.

See also Africa@home

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nokia support in Nairobi

Mobile phone maker, Nokia, Monday announced the opening of four care service centres in Nairobi to offer after-sales support to its customers. more

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Global Neighbour Network

"NABUUR links you directly with people around the world who need your assistance now. All you need is a computer, a little free time, and the desire to make a difference."

Local communities tell people what they need and online volunteers dedicate time to trying to help them achieve their aims. There are a number of projects in Kenya and some of them are related to water issues.

It is not clear to what extent this approach has been successful.

Reflect and ICT Project

This DFID-funded project is exploring potential applications of ICTs for poor and marginalised people, linking to existing Reflect groups in Uganda, Burundi and India.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Big Picture: The digital gap

'Only 4% of Africans have access to the internet. They pay the most in the world, around $250-300 a month, for the slowest connection speeds.'

'Interfaces are being written in a number of African languages, but even the clearest instructions in Wolof or Yoruba as to how to use Windows presume a fair degree of literacy.'

from The Economist.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Invest in Africa

'Booming stock markets, bustling city centres, huge reserves of natural resources and soaring economic growth. Welcome to the new Africa. '

'Some of the best value companies are in Kenya, where Nairobi is a fast-growing business hub for East Africa.'

Details here.

Open Architecture Challenge

Empower the youth of Mukuru Kwa Njenga, an informal slum settlement of 250,000, to connect with other youth and create positive change in their community by building a technology media lab and library.

Details here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Electricity in Africa: The dark continent

Few Africans in rural areas have access to electricity. Connecting them to national grids will be slow and expensive. Yet Lilliputian windmills, water mills, solar panels and biomass furnaces could have a big collective impact. The cost of lighting a shack takes 10% of income in the poorest households and the kerosene lamps are highly polluting. In response, the World Bank has rolled out “Lighting Africa”, an ambitious effort to get 250m of the poorest Africans on clean-energy lighting by 2030....

Aggreko, a company based in Scotland, is the world's biggest supplier of temporary electricity in the shape of back-up generators. It meets up to 50% of Uganda's power needs, and 10% of those of Kenya and Tanzania....

Other remedies for Africa's power shortages are more familiar but just as urgent: more efficient appliances, such as LED lighting

Source: Economist

What can you do? Give the gift of light.

Big picture: Agriculture grows in appeal

Global commodity prices have been rising to record highs, and some predict the beginning of a 20-year bull market driven by increasing world popularion, the changing diets of developed countries, and demand for biofuels. This according to the Financial Times.

High prices are also driven by shortages in supply, according to the Economist. 'After recent glitches to wheat supplies in North America and Europe, hopes were riding on the Australian crop, due for harvest by December, to help fill a gap in global demand. The hopes now seem forlorn.' Australia, one of the world's biggest wheat exporters, is in its worst drought in a century.

Climate change? One Aussie farmer is quoted stopped believing in it, 'because it hasn't rained in eight years.'

Katine: Improving income generating opportunities

Guardian series on development project in agricultural African village, includes information about dry land farming [video | article], good examples of dissemination/stories, and a comprehensive plan. Also good examples of maps.


Bicycle + DC motor + inverter. Details here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Teachers Talking Kenya

Teachers Talking Kenya is a project that brings together a group of rural school teachers in the Kangundo district to use the internet and learn on Friday evenings. The initial project was enabled by CAWD (virtual campus CAWDNET) and the Commonwealth of Learning.

For more see the Teachers Talking Blog

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Datawind Pocketsurfer 2 to provide near=broadband speed internet access anywhere in the world in a small device, for one time fee of £180. On-board GPS. Well reviewed (in Financial Times.) Downsides: No audio or video, some usability problems. The price includes 20 hours/month in UK only; abroad costs aditional £6/mo., though this is expected to go down. Details here.

Emerging journalism

Journalism training is booming in the developing world. David Okwemba of Kenya's The Nation newspaper also helps train journalists. For community-generated podcasts (esp. in Kambu for the radio station) we have envisioned community members conducting interviews and making stories.

Economist story here.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Safaricom - Bamba Net - GPRS Modem Service

Safaricom Bamba Net (GPRS modem 3G?) 

- 700 mb a month for 2000 KSh 
- Set-up and cost of modem 6000 KSh
(1 pound = +/- 135 KSh see exchange rate )

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Open source mobile phone platform

Mobile phones, currently closed and self limited, will rival broadband computers. When based on Open standards, they will deliver ubiquitous computing and vanish.

Ubiquitous computing means more than computing wherever you wander: It means knowing the locale, weaving seamlessly into the local fabric, and vanishing.

OpenMoko is an open source, Linux-based mobile phone software platform. Read more here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New MP3/4 players, Podcasts & Practical Action

Liz reported on an interesting talk at DSA presenting work Practical Action are doing with cheap MP3 players in an Animal Health Programme.  They are using Pencil Technologies low-cost MP3 player and bluetooth social software.  Practical Action have previously done interesting work with podcasts to support rural communities in Peru.

Another MP3/4 player of interest but rather too expensive is the wind-up device from Eco Media

nGOmobile - The Competition

A competition to win a complete kit to run NGO SMS campaigns. 

"nGOmobile is a text message-based competition aimed exclusively and unashamedly at grassroots non-profit organisations working for positive social and environmental change throughout the developing world. Behind the scenes, these unsung heroes of the NGO community battle against the daily realities of life in a developing country, where it can take all day to fulfil the simplest task. These people don’t lack passion and commitment. They lack tools and resources. We’re here to change all that. Every year, nGOmobile will enable four worthy winners to leapfrog the mobile technology barrier

The competition wants to encourage NGOs to think more about how mobile technology could be applied in their work. If you need inspiration, there are plenty of examples in the kiwanja Mobile Database

NGOs from developing countries are invited to submit a short proposal outlining how text messaging could make their job easier. The ideas don’t need to be rocket science, or even earth-shatteringly original. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest, easiest and most obvious. We should know - most of ours have been!"

What we are looking for is impact - a clear indication that winning an amazing prize, and gaining access to mobile technology, would revolutionise your work and turn mission impossible into mission accomplished"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Country Wins UK Support in War On Air Freighted Food

The battle to protect Kenyan suppliers of organic produce in their biggest market is heating up with the UK government and UN agency ITC throwing their weight behind developing world growers. more

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Health Check for Microfinance Banks

When one thinks about Microfinance Banking, it is vital that the players (in this case the owners of the MF Banks) are not absorbed in get-rich-quick schemes, but in developing people and their current pecuniary grade. Opinion piece

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Culture Radio

In Sierra Leone, devices like TVs or PCs are out of reach for most of the people. However, an old functional radio can be found in almost every home. With “Culture Radio”, Shelter for Africa intends to reach everyone interested in getting a basic school education.


The Computing Station is an ultra-low-power, affordable and fully functional desktop computer designed for use in rural locations such as schools, clinics, field offices, community centers and Internet cafes.

Workshop on Ubiquitous Sustainability: Technologies for Green Values

Workshop in Conjunction with the Ninth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp 2007)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Flood, famine and mobile phones

Technology is altering humanitarian work and now 'the first people on the ground are often computer geeks'. Donors can track shipments, workers on the ground can coordinate with each other, messages can be more easily sent to communities.

This has implications for non-emergency aid. 'The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation draws vast detailed maps showing who is vulnerable to food shortages (“poverty mapping”).' Computers can keep public health records and identify early-warning signs.

Mukuru lets people in the developed world send cash and fuel to developing countries (soon to include Kenya).

Complete story here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


A soil moisture sensor in each plant sends information to an Arduino board which then passes the information to a ZigBee network. An XPort is used to send data via PHP to a mySQL database and to Asterisk, which drives the phone calls.

The code on the chip averages the data and makes decisions about when a phone call request should be sent. There are set thresholds, unique to each plant, for minimum and maximum soil moisture.

The moisture sensor circuit is based on Forrest Mims. Read more here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Indian Water Portal

"The India Water Portal is an open, inclusive, web-based platform for sharing water management knowledge amongst practitioners and the general public."

It includes multimedia training clips, video stories, case study, etc... to assist in training and sharing of knowledge about water management.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Called (or competing with) 4G technology or wireless broadband, it could theoretically provide up to 50km (31mi.) range, 70Mbps (shared)/268Mbps (peak); in practice it will probably provide only 2 to 4 Mbps. The first products certified in Jan. 2006; backed by Intel, Nokia, Motorola and others.

Service has already been rolled out in some US cities; 100 cities are expected to be covered next year (by Sprint Nextel).


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Second Workshop on Speech in Mobile and Pervasive Environments

Matt Jones from VeSeL partner project StoryBank will be the invited speaker at this workshop in Singapore, September 9, 2007, part of ACM Mobile HCI 07.

Traditionally, voice-based applications have been accessed using unintelligent telephone devices through Voice Browsers that reside on the server. The proliferation of pervasive devices and the increase in their processing capabilities, client-side speech processing is emerging as a viable alternative. As in SiMPE 2006, we will further explore the various possibilities and issues that arise while enabling speech processing on resource-constrained, possibly mobile devices.

In particular, this year's theme will be SiMPE for developing regions.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Making Kenya the ICT Hub of Africa

"Digital Village Enterprises

Digital Villages are ICT facilities established to take ICT to the rural areas for economic and social development. They will provide a suite of e-services to the public via computers connected to the internet, digital cameras, printers fax machines and other communication infrastructure. There will be three types of Digital Village facilities:

Digital Schools – educational ICT facility with minimum of 5 to 10 PCs established and managed by primary and secondary schools with support from KTCIP, constituency development funds (CDF), and other public and private sector organizations. Minimum – one in each location.

Digital Kiosks – commercial ICT facility with minimum 1 to 5 PCs established and managed by entrepreneurs either individually or groups with support from KTCIP, youth and women development funds, microfinance institutions, and other investors. Minimum – one in each constituency.

Digital Centres – development ICT facility with minimum 10 to 20 PCs established and managed by community based organizations (CBOs), faith based organizations (FBOs), co-operatives, public and private sector organizations with support from KTCIP and development partners. Minimum – one in each district."

For more...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


"Gamos is a small but influential company working with the social factors surrounding development interventions, organisational development, technology use and transfer."

See reports on:
- mobile phone use
- water
- energy
- ICT use
- agriculture

Monday, July 09, 2007

AfriGadget - Inspirational!

A blog reporting great stuff happening in Africa - "Gadgets for Africa: Solving everyday problems with African ingenuity" - AfriGadget

William Kamkwamba's Malawi Windmill Blog

Inspiring and ongoing story of a young man's self-built windmill for home energy in Malawi. He learnt how from a book borrowed from the local library (read about it here).

Farming Solutions - the Future of Agriculture

"Farming Solutions brings examples of successful, environmentally responsible farming systems to life from all over the world, illustrating how farmers can protect the environment while at the same time increasing food supply where it is most needed." For more...

Several success stories from Kenya, e.g. bucket drip irrigation in Maragwa, harvesting water in Turkana.

Friday, July 06, 2007

People's school for water literacy

The rain centre is a school with 28 examples of rain water harvesting used as a community water managment education centre in India (newspaper article).

Bambara Groundnut

"Scientists at the UK’s University of Nottingham believe Bambara Groundnut, a legume related to the Cow Pea, may well be the future of vegetable protein in countries with particularly dry climates. " (video story , dissemination web )

I wonder what happened to this?

Sunday, June 24, 2007 is an online community and a wiki for sharing ideas on how to use mobile communications for social and environmental benefits.

" was created with support from Nokia and Vodafone, but belongs to the growing global network of individuals and organizations that use this virtual gathering place to communicate - and collaborate.

The idea for came from Ndidi Nwuneli, founder and CEO of LEAP Africa, a Nigerian NGO dedicated to nurturing a new generation of African leaders.

"Groups like ours would really benefit from a resource that shows us how to use mobile technology to carry out our work more effectively," said Ndidi at a Nokia stakeholder event of NGO and corporate leaders. was created in response to Ndidi’s request.˝

Includes sections on Education & Environment

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Big picture: Kenya

This recent article provides a good overview of the current state of Kenya.


Anthropology is commonly used in HCI (for example by Bonnie Nardi). Here is an example of its use re: mobile phones.

Kenyan blogs

Kenyan Pundit
Mental Acrobatics
Steve Ntwiga Mugiri

White African

Interesting blog by a white guy who grew up in Kenya and Sudan, with some good info on technology, mobile and otherwise.

What Does Africa Need Most: Technology or Aid?

Interesting article on the recent TED conference in Tanzania. Normally stands for 'technology, entertainment, design' but in this case should be 'technology, education, development' or similar.


Part of the DEEP project, eRanger is a mobile multimedia classroom

Hole in the Wall

Here is a description of this project, which introduced ICT into an Indian village in an interesting way.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Google Hires First African Employee

"Joseph Mucheru has been named the new site lead for Google Kenya. This was whispered to be happening, but at today’s Google lunch at TEDGlobal the..." more

See also - Plans For Google Kenya Kick Into High Gear


"NGO-in-a-box provides bespoke box-sets of tools and materials aggregated around specific themes... an inter-related set of tools, materials and guides around a given theme or in relation to a specific region."

Example boxes include:

  • Audio Video Edition ... a compilation of tools for NGOs, activists, independent media and community groups with particular emphasis on their application in transition or developing countries where broadband internet access and computing power are often limited.
  • Open Publishing Edition ... a toolkit of free and open source software, tutorials and guides for producing, publishing and distributing content... aimed at small to medium sized non-profits
  • Mobile phone box coming soon... see mobile advocacy toolkit wiki

Friday, June 08, 2007

Les usages ruraux de l'internet

French initiative has rural communities setting up their own wifi networks.

Beyond the technical aspects, this solution brings some interesting side effects. The RAN Group notes that its members became more involved in the social life of their areas. The network requires regular meetings to plan periodic maintenance operations. The decision to establish their own Internet service has required the RAN Group to contact municipalities, negotiate with local farmers to plant antennas in fields, calculate costs with potential new members, share technical information among the different RAN members of several regions, etc. In this way, the network generates social links instead of isolating people.

From this article.

Precision Agriculture

NASA initiative extols the benefits of remote sensing, mapping, satellite imagery for improving crop yields, reducing fertilizer use, keeping records, increasing profits, reducing pollution.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Radio hardware

Ramsey FM30B - Digital FM Stereo Transmitter Kit This looks to have 25mW; a diode could be cut to get full power, or there is another more powerful version.

Other sources:
Broadcast Warehouse, Progressive Concepts and PCS Electronics

WiFi with mileage

Intel Research working on long-range wifi using standard hardware. Details here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Data to audio

Given the prominence of radio, and literacy levels, in the communities we're working with, this article may be of interest. Listen to your crops grow?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Mobiles and market prices

For many years, anecdotes have abounded about the ways in which mobile phones promote more efficient markets and encourage economic activity. One particularly popular tale is that of the fisherman who is able to call several nearby markets from his boat to establish where his catch will fetch the highest price.

A new paper, described here, fills in the details of this story.

Drying up and flooding out

Temperatures in Africa are expected to increase by at least 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It places Kenya in the area most at risk from climate change.

Mount Kenya, near Kiangwachi (one of the villages VeSeL is working with) may disappear as its glaciers melt; only 7 of the 18 recorded in 1900 still remain.

The World Meteorological Organisation says that the collection of weather data in Africa has gotten worse as many of the automatic weather stations it helped set up have fallen into disrepair.

Source: Economist story, 12 May 2007

African e-schools initiative

African children do better with digital details an initiative by New Partnership for Africa's Development, supported by various technology companies, announced at e-Learning Africa conference.

Nature's Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being

This report provides a new approach to integrating spatial data on poverty and ecosystems in Kenya. It is endorsed by five Permanent Secretaries in Kenya and with a Foreword by Wangari Maathai (recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize).

Science and Development Network

Web site: News, views and information about science, technology and the developing world

Mobiles and Development

Report from recent UK workshop on this topic.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

ICT & agriculture publication

ICT Update has special issues and relevant information on agriculture, technology, climate change, etc.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A billion trees

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai joins a campaign to plant trees to offset climate change - which especially affects African countries like her native Kenya. "In Kenya for example, if the Government directs every farmer to plant 25 trees in every acre of land, our forest cover would increase from the current 1.7 per cent to 10 per cent which is the globally accepted minimum." Full story here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kiva - one on one loans

A kind of peer-to-peer method of microloans. See specifically this farmer in Kiambu (north of Nairobi).

Eduvision at e-Learning Africa

Presentation Wednesday, May 30, 9.00 – 10.45 by Eduvision at e-learning Africa.

Eduvision is now run as a commercial company (see Bridgeworks) whose aim is to assist developing countries improve their education systems by providing appropriate information technology tools for the classroom. See previous posts on Eduvision.

Pilot project using digital satellite radio to distribute content to e-Slates was funded by BioVision who are also involved in farmer information infonet-biovision project.

Intel Classmate PC & Content for South Africa

The Classmate PC, Intel's "competitor" for the OLPC laptop.

Intel's 'skoool', multimedia content for Mathematics and Science learning in SA.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Growing Maize is Not What It Used to Be

This article discusses the economic aspects of growing maize.

Most Kenyan farmers still have faith in maize - so much so that 90 percent of them regularly invest in this crop. About 75 percent of Kenya's farmers are small-scale producers, and more than 70 percent of farmers are women

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been controversial in the Kenyan maize sector.

3G coming to Kenya

See this article for the latest on the telecom's plans for fibre optic lines and 3G connectivity.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Biofuels: Think Outside The Barrel

Google TechTalks March 29, 2006 - Vinod Khosla, visited Google to deliver a tech talk about the emergence of ethanol as a viable, market ready, and competitive source of renewable energy.

Mobile in Africa: doing HCI Differently in the Developing World

Gary Marsden, Google Tech Talks May 4, 2007

"Using Case studies and examples, this talk looks at the challenges of applying standard HCI techniques in a developing world context. We look at how HCI can have a fantastic impact on communities in the developing world, but there is still some way to go in understanding how HCI can best benefit the developing world."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sensor network companies

Arch Rock
Dust Networks
Millenial Net
Ranch Systems - agricultural monitoring (primarily to vinyards). Monitor wind, water, soil temp to manage frost, disease, pests
Riga Development

Source: Economist special report on wireless telecoms: A world of connections, 28 Apr 07.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Participatory Methods in Development

Just some links to literature about participatory development projects and other relevant areas:

International Institute for Environment and Development - Journals about participation, The Gatekeeper - "highlight key topics in the field of sustainable agriculture and resource management" - e.g. Demystifying Facilitation in Participatory Development

Research Information Ltd - Appropriate Technology, International Pest Control, Outlooks on Pest Management, Participatory Learning and Action journals.

Village Information Centres, Pondicherry (India) beep report
Measures of Impact of Science and Technology in India: Agriculture and Rural Development from M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF)

Monday, May 14, 2007


Really interesting Finnish and South African project in Mobile Education.
Amongst other things it involves a mobile ed resource kit for schools, multimedia messaging and wikis for an audio encyclopedia delivered to mobile phones, etc...

Go on read more at MobilED

Sunday, May 13, 2007

VeSeL partners on Google Maps

Location of VeSeL partners on Google Maps.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Arduino is an inexpensive and open source hardware prototyping environment. It can take input from any number of sensors, and output to devices, actuators, computers, etc.

A new Bluetooth module is just out - this is Class 1 Bluetooth, with range of about 100 meters (versus 10m for normal Bluetooth). Up to 7 devices can connect via Bluetooth; this can be extended with one of several hacks such as a 'scatternet' in which one device bridges two networks; or by automatically connecting and disconnecting.

Telit makes a GSM modem module which provides onboard mobile telephony. With an audio chip it could make phone calls; it has a microphone input. So effectively you could build your own mobile phone if you want to. It can also do SMS, email and FTP, has an embedded TCP/IP stack, and Python interpreter.

Arduino is also working on an embedded web server on the board, so you can check and set inputs and outputs to a remote module from a web page.

A ZigBee module is also under development.

Pure Data is a free and open source visual programming environment (like Max/MSP) for which a graphical Arduino programmer has been written.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Kenyan farming - historical perspective

This article by agriculture expert Eusebius J Mukhwana contains a good summary of the current problems, challenges and opportunities for Kenyan farmers, with historical perspective.

New projects halted in Kenya secondary schools

In preparation for abolishing fees, beginning Jan. 2008. This initiative by Kenya's president has been backed financially by the IMF. Read more here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


EurepGap regulates agriculture grown in developing countries for the EU.

Radio scripts

Developing Countries Farm Radio Network includes scripts and other resources for rural radio. We have proposed having students/communities create these, and podcast them or broadcast using a low-power FM transmitter.

Solar power links

Free DIY small solar panel & light

Boiling Point household energy journal contains numerous articles on solar (and other low cost power), and on Kenya

Nairobi solar startups:
Kibera Community Youth Project

Other end of the spectrum:
PowerFilm - rollable and foldable (and pricey) PV panels
Laptop chargers

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Asterisk VOIP gateway

Asterisk is an open source telephony system. It can be installed on any server, take incoming calls and do various things with them, such as route them internationally via VOIP, record audio, perform messaging functions, and interface with web servers.

Here is an asterisk to skype gateway. This means that phone calls made to the asterisk server can be routed internationally via skype. Conversely, contact with the server via skype could be routed to local phones.

Here is a method of podcasting vis Asterisk. Audio podcasts can be recorded by making a phone call, or by uploading files. They can be listened to by making a phone call, or by accessing audio files on the server.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Kenyan agro exports v. carbon miles

Kenyan cut flowers make up 32% Of the EU market, 90% of cut roses to the UK market, according to this story. Kenya supplies all of the green beans bought by UK supermarket chain Marks & Spencer, and 75% of runner beans.

However, due to concern about 'air miles', UK retailers have begun labeling produce flown in with an airplane sticker (though have not reduced imports). A study is cited, however, that Kenyan produce produces less carbon than European, because of the year-round sunshine in the former, vs. greenhouse-grown produce in the latter.

An NGO charges big Kenyan flower produces of worker exploitation and exposure to poisonous chemicals.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

sensors -> mobile phone

Mobile phone network looks like the best communication option for sending/receiving data in a remote location. This page describes interfacing a microcontroller with a Nokia phone. A challenge, however, would be keeping a battery charged via solar panel. Power requirements for the microcontroller/sensors will be low (~5V) and may be able to run off of the same panel used by the phone; microcontrollers can usually withstand up to 12VDC. Heat of course would be an issue...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Kew camera captures climate change

See BBC story here about a timelapse camera at Kew Gardens, London, which captures images over the long term which help to show evidence of climate change. Such a device could be solar powered, but would require continuous access to the Internet, or intermittent access with an image cache.

Friday, April 20, 2007

GIS mapping of Kenya schools

The project involves recording the names of the schools, their locations (latitudes and longitudes), and their primary physical features. This information will be integrated with attribute data including school enrollment, number of teachers, and the school's educational resources, which will be collected in the field. When the location data is merged with attribute data and other demographic information, it will assist policy makers in obtaining answers to questions such as, Where are new schools needed now and in the future? Where are educational facilities limited or duplicated? Where are new teachers needed? Where is in-service training needed? Where is the nearest location where students can obtain elementary or secondary education? Where is significant population growth or decline expected?


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Technology 4 Social Change

A few links that may be worth following:

NetSquared - "Remixing the web for social change - Our mission is to spur responsible adoption of social web tools by social benefit organizations. There's a whole new generation of online tools available – tools that make it easier than ever before to collaborate, share information and mobilize support." NetSquared are brining together funders, thinkers, tech experts and social change projects at their 2007 conference.

Fahamu - "Networks for social justice - Fahamu has a vision of the world where people organise to emancipate themselves from all forms of oppression, recognise their social responsibilities, respect each other’s differences, and realise their full potential." Publishers of Pambazuka - weekly forum for social justice in Africa.

Mobiles4Good - who we mentioned before. n independent Kenyan company called Mobile for Good Kenya. - "A project designed to use mobile phone technology to help alleviate poverty and improve the lives of people in the developing world. It delivers vital health, employment and community content via SMS on mobile phones in order to inform and empower disadvantaged individuals."

Monday, April 16, 2007

MIT project in Rural Thailand

I was trying to find out more about and MIT project in rural Thailand the David Cavallo referred to in his Keynote at CAL 07. I couldn't find much online but this extract from ICT and Community Building in Rural Areas of Thailand seems to refer to the project and contains some guidelines about developing rural telecentres and making them sustainable. Also see Cavallo's thesis and Project Lighthouse in Logo newsletter.

"Another notable project was initiated and run by a joint-effort between Thailand and MIT (the Suksa-Pattana Foundation and the Thaicom Foundation). The project is located at a village called Ban Sam Kha in Lampang Province, about 100 km. South of Chiangmai. The project aimed at empowering the people in the community through project-based learning experience or the constructionism approach. At Ban Sam Kha School, practical working programs were tried with students and their parents. A number of workshops took place at Ban Sam Kha to solve the biggest problems of the community: their debts. Once knowing what is going on, the behaviour of the villagers changed rapidly. It was discovered that the total debts of all families combined were more than 18 million baht. Through a simple classification scheme, the debts were grouped by their financial costs and their relationship to the productivities, an amazing new knowledge was learned together. The villagers changed their behaviors quickly in order to get rid of less-performing and high-interest loans. At this moment, the villagers are trained to keep records of their income and expense, with the simple accounting tool training given to school kids at school. Parents are encouraged to join the evening classes to learn about computers where the kids are their teacher! The school has about 15 computers to teach students.

Developing telecenters and make them sustainable turned out to be harder and slower than originally planned, but this is not entirely unexpected. Here are a few things which we learned:

• Get to know the community well before putting ICT into the location
• Always encourage them to understand the linkage between ICT and their daily business
• Let them plan on what and how to do things by themselves. We only ask them relevant questions, which would help making decision.
• Send young staff or student volunteers to learn from the community and document their work.
• Never over-invest in the hardware/equipment as this will affect the sustainability of the centers, but never under-invest in putting a lot of attention to the learning process and technology adoption of the community.
• The winning telecenters are those where the machines are used heavily, and the main users are children. One way of inducing the adults to be literate about PCs is to ask the children to help.
• Always keep records of the users and income for analysis.
• Seek outside help to create useful software, information and news which are relevant to the community. Government agencies and universities are the main producers of the relevant contents such as farm prices, weather forecast/warning, and other knowledge. By enhancing the information quality, communities can learn more about the values of their telecenters."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Travel Awardsto Support New International Links

The British Council awards support new links between 'early stage' researchers in the UK and other countries (Appropriate research areas include ICT and Climate Change).


Namibian Technology and Education initiative (advised by The Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative gesci). Identified as exemplar by Astrid Dufborg (director of gesci) at CAL 07.

Google joins the technology push into sub-Saharan Africa

Guardian article about Google's interests and moves into Sub Saharan Africa


...are one of Kenya's highest sources of foreign exchange. In July 2007 Kenya Flower Council launched a campaign in the UK called 'Grown under the sun' to inform UK customers that 'purchasing fresh Kenyan produce helps sustain livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farming communities in Kenya who depend on trade with Britain' More details here.

An older article here.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

World Bank approves Sh8 Billion for Internet in Kenya

The World Bank has earmarked and agreed on $165 million (Sh12 billion) in financing for Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar for high-speed Internet connections.

Kenya is the largest beneficiary, getting about Sh8 billion under the proposed Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme for East and Southern Africa.


Friday, March 23, 2007

A life in the Peace Corps: Public health volunteer in Kenya

Not directly relevant and located in the Rift Valley, but contains some interesting insights, particularly on arid lands and Kenya from an outsider's perspective. Full story here.

Govt initiates 8 irrigation projects in Eastern

The government has initiated eight irrigation projects in Eastern province for enhanced food and cash crop production, an Assistant Minister for Agriculture Patrick Muiruri has said.

[Story from the government and not too many details, but full story from KBC here]

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mobile Phones in Kenya

I'm really trying to find out about handset costs in Kenya and phone & GPRS data plan packages - in the process I found the following:

MIT Mobile Phone Programming course at UON

Safaricom Price Plans
Celtel Price Plans
Safaricom SMS2Email
Safaricom Pocket office - mobile email solution
Safaricom Mobile Office
Celtel - Mobile Business - affordable connection to the Internet
Safaricom current phone deals

Mobile Africa - News about mobile phones in Africa

ESRC/DFID funding scheme

The Department for International Development (DFID) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have formed a strategic partnership to provide a joint funding scheme. This scheme aims to enhance the quality and impact of social science research addressing the key international development goal of reducing poverty amongst the poorest countries and peoples of the world. The scheme will fund world class scientific research on issues relating to economic development and quality of life in less developed countries with the potential for impact on policy and practice for poverty reduction.

Deadline 5 June 2007


RAFT - Renewable Energies, Agriculture/Aquaculture Assemblies, Fresh water production and Trade/technology)

RAFT - Project Africa aims to 'get our projects and plans to the general public as well as government officials, other N.G.Os and people who have access, influence and financial capital'

Plans include:
- Growing and processing Jatropha (RAFT - Biodiesel programme)
- Renewable Energy and Fresh Water Development

RAFT has several members in Kenya

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Google Apps at UoN

Google has made available free applications to 50,000 students, through Kenya Education Network (KENET). See story here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

ICT4D Book and Education Resource

Draft chapters from ICT4D book and educational resources.

CHI 07 UCD and ID Workshop

User Centered Design and International Development - CHI 2007 Workshop
Saturday April 28th, 2007 - San Jose, California, USA
Accepted Papers

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Biofuel - Jatropha - Kambu?

Given local interest in Jatropha for biomass in Kambu the European Biofuel Summit might be of interest (Madrid, 17th & 18th April).

Partners at this conference include:
- The Jatropha Website which has numerous resources on how to grow, process, market Jatropha oil etc... It also links to conferences for experts and others, e.g. Expert Seminar on Jatropha curcas, agronomy and genetics 26-28 March, National Jatropha Conference, Arusha, Tanzania 3/4 april 2006 .
- ASK - Access to Sustainable Knowledge which provides access to 'knowledge' and 'experts' in a variety of areas including water. This is part of Sustainable Alternatives Network which 'offers easy access to experts, case studies, planning tools, and finance sources all around the world' and connects 'you to free information and expertise, and helps you profit from earth-friendly solutions that are right for your industry'.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

UNESCO publishes survey on ethical implications of emerging technologies

"What are the ethical implications of the semantic web, biometrics, radio-frequency identification, location-based services, mesh and ubiquitous networking, grid computing and other new computing technologies? A study just released by UNESCO analyses likely consequences of different technological choices." From UNESCO news

UNESCO survey.pdf

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Arid Lands and Sustainable Communities Trust

"Arid Lands a UK charity enabling disadvantaged and low-income ‘common interest groups’ to tackle their urban and rural environmental, health and educational challenges through their own practical action. In particular we support the growing of nutritional vegetables and fruit and the conservation and renewal of local soil, water, fodder, fuelwood and rangeland resources, both in the UK and overseas."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Global E-schools and Communities Initiative

GESCI was started by the United Nations ICT task force. It aims at an integrated, end-to-end system which includes content and support. The initiative is well on its way to meet its goal of three to four 'impactful partnerships' with national/regional initiatives, launching in Bolivia, Namibia, Ghana and India. In each case, GESCI consults with government ministry on an ICT and education strategy, projecting long-term costs and providing computer, internet access and 'quality content'. They do not fund these large-scale initiatives, and in each case have yet to raise any funds.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Growing energy solutions

D1 Oils plc is a UK-based global producer of biodiesel. We are building a global supply chain and network that is sustainable and delivers value from “earth-to-engine”. Our operations cover agronomy, refining and trading. We are pioneering the science, planting and production of inedible vegetable oils; we design, build, own, operate and market biodiesel refineries; and we source, transport and trade seeds and seedlings, seedcake, crude vegetable oils and biodiesel. Our vision is to be the world’s leading biodiesel business.

Safaricom Launches World's First Mobile Money Service

The East African Standard (Nairobi)
March 6, 2007
Posted to the web March 6, 2007

By Tom Mogusu
Millions of mobile subscribers without bank accounts can now make simple financial transactions from their phones.

This follows Tuesday's launch of M-Pesa, a low-cost money transfer system from Safaricom.

The revolutionary service promises to turn your mobile phone into a bank account, cash machine, debit card and money transfer vehicle.

All you need is a new generation SIM card, available for free from the mobile operator. Users will be able to send money to all mobile phones - including those connected to rival operators - and receive money from other Safaricom subscribers.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

DFID-ESRC Joint Scheme - Third Call

The Department for International Development (DFID) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) are pleased to announce the third call of the joint ESRC-DFID scheme. Launched in August 2005, this £13 million joint research grants scheme aims to fund world class scientific research on issues relating to economic development and quality of life in less developed countries with the potential for impact on policy and practice for poverty reduction. To this end, both sponsors wish to invite applications from researchers based in recognised higher education institutions, research organisations or organisations with a credible research capacity in both the UK, and also worldwide.

Further information here

The deadline for applications is 4pm UK time on 5th June 2007. Important Reminder: Any UK and non-UK applicant(s) and their institutions intending to apply to the third call must register with the Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S).

If you and your research organisation are already registered for Je-S, electronic applications can be accessed via the central Je-S web site here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mobile AR in education

Details here about a US project involving augmented reality on handheld devices.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The VillagePDA

Perhaps interesting that this project appears to be dead....

The first sub-$25 PDA is about to be "road-tested" by the fishing community of Kenya’s Lake Victoria. A partnership between Environmental Liaison Centre International (ELCI) and the PDA’s creators, MediaSolv, the trial is seeking to address issues such as over-fishing in the lake. Vasee Nesiah of MediaSolv describes what they are setting out to achieve."

Full news item

Grid Computing & Brain Drain - UNESCO

Note this initiative does not appear to include Kenya.

"UNESCO and Hewlett-Packard have launched a joint project to help reduce brain drain in Africa by providing grid computing* technology to universities in Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe. I.S.G. Mudenge, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, took part in the launch of the “Piloting Solutions for Reversing Brain Drain into Brain Gain for Africa” project, at UNESCO Headquarters on 20 November. " - from UNESCO portal

EduVision E-Learning System

"The EduVision E-Learning System (EELS) is an end-to end content management system that can efficiently distribute educational material in real-time to anywhere on the African continent....

...Pupils will access the material via a simplified tablet computer, or eSlate, which will be wirelessly connected to their school’s BaseStation, a unit that downloads content from satellite radio."

Quick guide to low-cost computing devices and initiatives for the developing world

A short inventory of known projects related to 'low cost ICT devices for the developing world'.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

International Council for Open & Distance Education

"ICDE - the global organization for flexible learning and teaching, status within UNESCO as the NGO with formal consultive relations in distance and on-line education."

"An important aim of ICDE is to promote intercultural co-operation and understanding through flexible learning and teaching throughout the world."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bao / Mancala

For interest only, this article about a long-distance version of this East African game.

Environmental XML

described here, "enabling people to tag and share remote realtime environmental data." I have met Usman Haque who developed this, and he is located in London, in case we would like to contact him.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Computers for Schools Kenya

Article in Business Week.

I do not necessarily agree with the thinking that children must learn basic email and productivity applications. Because technology changes so quickly, I think they can 'leapfrog' some developing countries by using such old technologies in innovative ways, as well as by using newer technologies such as mobile phones. In my previous experience, we have tried to do a lot with simple, inexpensive and older technologies. For example, you only need a very basic PC (running Windows 95) and no Internet connection, in order to configure a microcontroller which can interface with sensors and other devices.

The UK has spent a lot of money getting PCs into every school, but the real innovation is needed in pedagogy and the ways that technology is used. Specifically, focusing on computing as a (widely applicable) process, not on computers per se. 'Exploding' a PC by distributing input and output devices, using sensors and other devices, turns a physical space into an information space. I hope this is one thing we can bring to this project.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

EU FP7 IST Africa

IST-Africa 2007 conference Advance Programme available

Framework Programme 7 Workshops - IST-Africa in collaboration with HAGRID is organising three FP7 Workshops in Tanzania (02 March), Mozambique (05 March) and Botswana (09 March) in relation to FP7-ICT-2007-1 - ICT Call 1, which closes on 08 May 2007.

More information

2nd EuroAfrica-ICT Concertation Meeting 8 March 2007, Brussels, Belgium

Europe – Africa Synergies on ICT - Strengthening Collaborative Networks 9 March 2007,

EuroAfrica-ICT Awareness Workshops
21-22 March 2007, Dakar, Senegal
28 - 29 March 2007, Pretoria, South Africa

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

World Agroforestry Centre - Eastern & Central Africa

"The ECA programme of the World Agroforestry Centre is a regional agroforestry research network that aims at improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers and other users of tree products, and that strengthens national programs through collaborative research, education and development programs.

Since its inception, the program has developed a wide range of agroforestry technologies that are being used by thousands of farmers. Additionally, the program has developed methods and tools that can help characterize land use problems, recommend appropriate interventions, catalyse wide-scale dissemination and assess impact. "

Example Publication "Adding Value - improving capacity and linking institutions and professions for promoting synergy between farmer's producttion, value addition and marketing"

Kenya Seeds for Life

The KENYA - Seeds for Life Project

Aim: to enhance ex situ conservation and sustainable utilisation of plant genetic resources indigenous to Kenya. Kenya's land area consists of about 80% arid and semi-arid lands and the project will focus on the conservation of plants from these areas. To achieve the objective of the project, partners have identified 4 key outputs expected over the next 3 years.

1. The strengthening of Kenyan capacity to conserve plant genetic resources - through the provision of equipment and technical and academic training programmes.

2. The conservation of seed collections of priority plant species using appropriate and improved methods

3. The generation and dissemination of appropriate scientific information to aid the conservation of Kenyan biological diversity

4. The identification and consideration of the current status and the potential benefit of on-farm utilisation of indigenous plants.

"Excellent Development" in Mtito Andei

Excellent Development is a UK/Kenya NGO working with community based organisations in and around Mtito Andei district. They have a development process that looks at water supplies, food production, health & income. There are a number of short documentary films about this work that may or may not be of use educationally.

Monday, February 12, 2007



... aims to be a kind of eBay for agricultural products, in various African countries (though not Kenya as yet). Buyers and sellers send a text message from mobile phone which then goes to the site and is sent to all subscribers in four languages. The service is free - to be supported by targeted ads in the text messages; in other words it will sell your details to advertisers...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Upcoming education/technology events in Africa

E-Learning Africa
28-30 May, Nairobi

IST Africa
9-11 May, Maputo, Mozambique

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture have a number of resources relating to agriculture in semi-arid regions. They are also partners in the Gardens for Life programme which is potentially interesting for school linking project work.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Bloomsbury International Development Centre

We should keep an eye (google) on The Bloomsbury International Development Centre due to launch early 2007 this is a collaboration between:
- Birkbeck
- Institute of Education
- London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- Royal Veterinary College
- School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
- School of Pharmacy

which aims to:
- facilitate high quality and relevant interdisciplinary research between staff of the various colleges and other partners
- develop new teaching programmes, with a focus on postgraduate and continuing education
- inform national and international policies on development by generating and synthesizing appropriate evidence and working with policymakers to promote linkages between research, policy, and practice
- build capacity in low- and middle-income countries to address the needs of partner higher education and research institutions, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and government departments

Friday, January 19, 2007

From Matatu to the Masai via mobile

The BBC Newsnight report on mobile phone usage in Kenya (story - video). "Newsnight Geek Week 2.0 - Mobile phones in Africa are helping to provide better services, economic growth and even democratic rights."

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) have developed a number of online agricultural education resources which may be of use. These include a variety of Moodle courses on, for example Agricultural Research in Dry Areas.

TESSA - Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

The TESSA project website is now up. "TESSA is a research and development programme creating 'open content' multimedia resources and course design guidance for teachers and teacher educators in Sub-Saharan Africa." This could be useful for content for any educational work.