Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Net Effect: Neighborhood Watch
By Elizabeth Dickinson
Published in: Foreign Policy, January/February 2009

“For years, creating an effective means of alerting the world to brewing conflicts has been the dream of humanitarians.
When a rush of violence broke out last January after Kenya’s presidential election, many wondered why it was so unexpected. Electoral rigging set off the attacks, but surely tensions simmered before. Could Kenya have seen the outburst coming and perhaps done something to prevent it?

Prediction, at least, was possible—and Web-based nonprofit Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony”) did just that. Funded by grants and individual donations, Ushahidi had already developed software that allowed any mobile-phone user in Kenya to report incidents of community tension. “[T]here were a lot of rumors going around way before the violence,” says Ushahidi’s founder, Ory Okolloh.

Okolloh’s group operates one of a growing number of conflict early warning systems that are springing up online. They work because they are simple and fast. An Ushahidi user, for example, sends details of turmoil by text or posts directly to ushahidi.com. Once a local NGO verifies the account, the incident gets entered into the Ushahidi database and plotted on a map, tagged with a description of the event and with space for pictures and video. In Kenya, reports of violence were texted back to local leaders, who could mediate community conflict. International observers could monitor the reports, too.

For years, creating an effective means of alerting the world to brewing conflicts has been the dream of humanitarians. The African Union has been intent on creating its own system since the early 1990s. But none of the ideas was Internet-based. As the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies put it, Web-based approaches “would have been patently inappropriate for an organization that only recently achieved a moderate level of external e-mail connectivity.”

With Ushahidi, information is available within minutes, and Okolloh says censorship isn’t a problem because governments “are more interested in what’s in newspapers than what’s online.” Kenya was the first testing ground, and now Ushahidi is jumping into other conflict countries as well. As of November, the group was already receiving an average of four reports a day from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This growing breadth could make Ushahidi something like the Wikipedia of conflicts, wrote Harvard researchers Joshua Goldstein and Juliana Rotich in a recent paper. “They are tools that allow cooperation on a massive scale.” Ushahidi hopes to become a history worth contributing to. “

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The World Health Organization believes that 25% of the medicines sold around the developing world are inauthentic copies containing little or no active ingredients. Medication like this increases the resistance of pathogens to first-line medication and in many cases causes fatality.

But what if a mother caring for her sick child who needs a prescription drug in rural Ghana, could determine by a quick SMS/text-message via her cellphone that the prescription drug she intends to purchase is safe for her child and not a fake?

mPedigree, a Ghanaian start-up, is working to make this a reality throughout Africa. I recently met one of the founders, Bright Simons, a dynamic, young social entrepreneur from Ghana, who is on a mission to find partners and investors and spread the word about mPedigree. If mPedigree is able to forge the public-private partnerships necessary between governments, the pharmaceutical industries, and telecom giants, this technology may well become a revolutionary force in bringing access to safe drugs to people across the developing world.

Read about mPedigree’s approach and Bright’s efforts in this interview with him in June 2008:
MPedigree: Combating Counterfeit Drugs

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Kate Jongbloed (Canada): 
Working with CAPAIDS in Ethiopi
(September 2006-July 2007)

The Organization: 
Canada-Africa Partnership on AIDS (CAPAIDS) provides resources to grassroots community-based organizations that  are on the front lines in the battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa

The Project: 
Microeconomic empowerment for HIV-affected orphans


Slipping between two corrugated iron walls, down a narrow pathway, I entered the two-room house of Makeda Girma*. I met with Makeda as part of my internship with a non-profit organization in Ethiopia working to combat HIV/AIDS. At 18, Makeda had been responsible for her 4 year-old daughter and her younger brother and sister since her mother died of AIDS three years ago.

The project provided vocational training and start-up capital to 340 adolescent orphans who were guardians to their younger siblings since the death of their parents due to AIDS-related illnesses. Implemented by four local HIV/AIDS service organizations in Ethiopia and Uganda, the two-year project was supported by CAPAIDS, a small Canadian NGO.

As an undergraduate International Development Studies student, I joined the project to fulfill the work-experience component of my degree and conduct field research for my thesis. Coming from an academic program that was very critical of development, my expectation was that I’d have very little to contribute and that the experience would be one for learning rather than doing. I was very conscious of not trying to “fix” or “help”. (more…)

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By Gretchen Lees
April 5, 2008

“About six months into his 2005 Peace Corps service in Senegal, San Diego resident Steve Bolinger helped spearhead a gardening program for the infectious disease ward of a local hospital. The goal was to teach patients, many of them HIV positive, the skills to grow their own food and help supplement the hospital food supply. After seeing the impact, Bolinger made plans to replicate the program once out of the Peace Corps. He recruited a friend, Sarah Koch, a rural health extension agent he met in the Peace Corps, who often volunteered at the original garden in Dakar. They launched Development in Gardening after discovering a lack of gardening outreach programs.” Read more…

Find out more on their website Development in Gardening

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