Ory’s Video on TED.com

crossposted on the Ushahidi blog

Ory Okolloh is not only a blogger, founder of Mzalendo.com, co-founder of Ushahidi and colleague, she is also an inspiration to all of us. Below is the video of her talk at TEDGlobal 2007 – Arusha Tanzania.

The making of an African Activist

Ory, we are sambazaing this whether you want to hide or not 🙂

Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life

Deadline for this is March 31st.
“The Womenâ??s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) invites nominations for its 15th annual prize for womenâ??s creativity in rural life, honouring creative and courageous women and womenâ??s organisations working to improve the quality of life in rural communities around the world.”
The nominations guidelines are posted on the WWSF site, do look through and nominate someone you know that deserves the award. For African organizations the prize is $3000 and for laureates its $500.

Hat tip Solana!

Something that might be of interest to US and Canada readers with teens in the house…
“HERO is looking for 20 students (ages 16-19) from across the US and Canada to be selected as 2008 HERO Youth Ambassadors. Students chosen will travel to Africa in 2008. The deadline to apply for HERO is March 1, 2008.”
More information on the program can be found on the BeingGirl website.

Solar traffic lights in Capetown + Other news bits

Via Carbon Copy
Capetown is using solar powered traffic lights to buttress it from expected power cuts. As Rory points out, its a great start to making solar power more commonplace. I would love to see pictures of the traffic lights…this is a blatant hint to our South African friends at WebAddicts. Implementation of solar tech such as this makes so much sense, here’s hoping more countries see the example and follow suit. Just imagine a whole street in (_______insert African country of your choice) with solar powered streetlights. Warms your heart yeah?

In case you have not heard, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has been appointed as managing director of the world bank! For brevity’s sake, i will just say that her appointment is laudable, in part because it signals a new direction for the world bank and how it views developing countries. Please watch the talk she gave at TED Global in Arusha to see how she tied together the issues of aid, trade and African self-determinism. I hope she will be given a chance to reshape the terms of world bank’s relationship to the developing world in a way that is beneficial to Africa, and continues to shape Africa’s next chapter “A healthy, smiling, beautiful Africa”.

Speaking of the world bank and its policies in Africa, according to the Guardian, the world bank is accused of razing congo forests, thereby endangering the pygmies. I feel a bit bad using the word pygmy, because they have names that I would much rather use such as ‘The Lega’. Several years ago i went to the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas city for an exhibition named ‘The Art of the Lega’. It was an eye opener for me because the explanations for the pieces gave me a glimpse into their society. One of the tenets i remember was the idea of peace as a fabric of society; the Lega people have a pacifist culture which was expressed in the way they chose to fashion tools – with smooth edges, eschewing sharp points. Since that exhibition and when reading stories about the Congo war and its adverse effects on the people there, I wonder if we need to rethink how we address a community that we know little about other than their stature. Stepping back to the story about the world bank making recommendations to the DRC govt about industrial logging being beneficial to the DRC, did anyone listen to the local community about how best the forest can be used to truly benefit people?

For more on Art of the Lega, the companion book to the exhibition is available on Amazon.

Blogher – Mini Digest

There were so many sessions, so much information, that i wish we had a blogging hazmat team like Ethan recommends, to do a ‘harambee’ (working together) type deal where we cover different bits of the conference.
A quick intro of the other co-panelists on the ‘Women Across the World’ session.
Georgia of Caribbean Free Radio took photos
Snidga Sen is a journalist and contributing editor on the Blogher website where you can read her entries (she covers Asia).
Amira Al Husseini, is a contributing author for Global voices, and also blogs as ‘Silly Bahraini Girl‘.
The session is interactive, therefore powerpoint presentations were discouraged.
Mea Culpa: During the session i inadvertently referred to Kenya as having had democracy since 2000, i did clarify that the Moi Regime ended in 2000 and Kenya had experienced some noticeable economic growth. This was in response to a question by Georgia as to the reason behind Kenya being seen as a success story. Sssembonge was kind enough to point this out, Just to clarify, Kenya has had democracy since its independence in 1963, and the specifics on democracy from wikipedia

“The election held in 1988 saw the advent of the mlolongo (queuing) system where voters were supposed to line up behind their favoured candidates instead of secret ballot. This was seen as the climax of a very undemocratic regime and it led to widespread agitation for constitutional reform. Several contentious clauses, including the one allowing only one political party were changed in the following years. In democratic, multiparty elections in 1992 and 1997, Daniel arap Moi won re-election. In 2002, Moi was constitutionally barred from running, and Mwai Kǐbakǐ, running for the opposition coalition “National Rainbow Coalition” â?? NARC, was elected President. The elections, judged free and fair by local and international observers, marked a turning point in Kenya’s democratic evolution.”

Ok, now that i got that off my chest, let me point towards some wonderful bloggers and tidbits from my notes at the conference. The session on ‘Professional blogging, Art and Commerce’
What i found pertinent in this session was the issue of licensing content and how we as bloggers use content licensed by others. Specifically sites that have ads could be considered commercial sites, thus technically they should not use content from bloggers who have explicitly stated that their content or images be used only for non-commercial use. This is a bit of a minefield if you have your own domain and you are trying to make a decision as to whether or not to carry ads on your site. Does it dilute your ‘voice’ on the net? Should you incorporate if you are making money from blogging? These are some of the questions that were posed, and you can read more about that from the coverage by Anne Marie Nichols.

I slipped away from this session (not that it wasn’t interesting) and attended part of the session ‘politics of inclusion and exclusion in online communities’. As bloggers, sometimes we encounter trolls or even some purely hateful people. How do you deal with such? Do you find that it is easier to blog anonymously and have a gender-neutral blog name? What freedom or lack thereof is there in blogging anonymously or with your name attached to everything you say? Live blog entry is available here. I got to meet Valencia who participated in the panel; her blog is http://whyblackwomenareangry.blogspot.com/. I particularly liked her recommendation to turn negative comments (including from white supremacists) into a positive lesson for those involved.

Quick note: Visit Lynne D Johnson, very cool website and an even cooler blogger and writer! (Hint, she writes for FastCompany.com and other major publications)

Last but not least, at the keynote breakfast on saturday, i was formulating talking points for the session, but still listening to the discussion about ‘What Humans do with artificial intelligence’. This was just superb! The awesome women talking to Elisa Camahort were:
Esther Dyson She has been described as one of the most powerful women in computing.
Annalee Newitz, – She is a technologist and writes for Wired Mag (I read that thing instead of Cosmo, so pardon me for being so psyched to meet her!)
Rashmi Sinha CEO of Slideshare.
The main takeaway for me from this keynote breakfast was “Embrace your geek”. At times women (including me) tend to play down our penchant for all things geek, because of many reasons, be it cultural, social…whatever. Basically plough on with whatever interests you and ignore the detractors(if any) so if you like robots, or feel entirely comfortable dealing with NP problems, completely adore Carl Sagan or whatever it may be, embrace it and keep doing your thing.

Speaking of geek – Visit Beth Kanter, and see her work with Cambodian bloggers (Cloggers) and don’t forget to download her guide ‘How to cost and fund ICT’

Thanks again to KP, my fellow co-panelists mentioned above, Kui (she was also involved with BlogHer in 2005, when we were talking of sending a representative from the Kenyan sphere) Blogher was awesome. In time I am confident we can put together something like this in Africa. (We shall talk!), and thank you dear reader for reading all this. I will be back to my solar and renewable energy posts soon.

BlogHer Conference – Live blog links

A live blog coverage of the session i participated in is available here,

“… when people talk about africa they talk about poverty but africa would like to say there is a lot of growth and a lot of expertise in africa – linux chicks africa – (Jen says how do we connect linux chicks with the women Jen saw in africa) – have africa speakers talk about changing africa – african solutions for african problems – Ted Talks – TRADE with africans – partner and work with Africans support their ideas – trade, trade, trade – money and capital in the hands of women has a transformative power.”

I then attended the multimedia lab for video –
Editing video for web tips keep an eye on the main blogher site for more entries.

BlogHer Conference – Women and blogging

I was fortunate to attend one of the sessions today at the BlogHer conference in Chicago (Thanks KenyanPundit!) BlogHer brings together women bloggers to talk, share, learn and network.
You can follow along with the bloggers writing, taking pictures, and uploading videos by visiting the event site for live blog URLs.
The session was on how to use the internet to support your cause. It was titled “Getting it on(line) for a cause part 2” Raising consciousness.
Rochelle Robinson -online campaign strategist had a wonderful presentation which you can have a look at here. Its a must read for anyone with a cause – Its concise, specific and has some great examples of how tech can be used effectively. One such example she pointed to is Hollaback. Women had gotten tired of street harassment, so they took pictures of their harassers and wrote about it on the blog.

Green LA girl was next with a great idea of using del.icio.us for a cause. What she and another blogger were able to do was to collect and tag information relating to the starbucks challenge. The idea was to challenge people who visit starbucks to specifically ask for fair trade coffee since starbucks had stated they would be selling fair trade coffee at every location. Turns out it was a promise that was easier said than done…Green LA girl and others were able to prove that it was not the case in all locations. The information they gathered was used by another blogger to create a google map of the locations where people had reported succcess in getting a cup of fair trade coffee and locations where they werent so successful. Read more about the challenge here and the google map is here. It might be a great idea for tracking the elections in Kenya, tagging information regarding constituencies and perhaps mapping it onto Mzalendo‘s growing database of information. Just a thought…either way get tagging!

I will be participating on a panel tomorrow with Georgia Popplewell of Global Voices! and Amira Al Hussaini. 🙂 I will carry the laptop and do a post after we are done with that.

TED Global Day 2 – The Risk Takers

Florence Seriki: An African woman in computing. Omatek is the first African computing company.

She switched from Chemical engineering to computing where she started by selling hardware and training professionals in Nigeria. Keep doing what you are doing she says. In 1988 Omatek was incorporated and soon her company became a premier partner with Compaq and IBM [>$7mil in sales]. In 1991, she visited Asia she saw the supply chain and noticed the Chinese tech was developed in house. She came back to Nigeria, started Omatek Computers. Despite the ‘clone’ tag attached to her company, she ploughed on. People used to call the Chinese copy cats, see where those companies are now.

The idea of ‘designing down’ does not sit well with Florence, she believes that African computers can be made locally and at high quality. Buying computers for resale can get challenging because of minimum orders to the tune of $700,000. This is a major stumbling block and thus the imperative is for Africans to create their own supply chains.

Challenge 2: Financing from banks who do not see the opportunity.
Challenge 3: Electricity problem in Nigeria. This ties back to the talk by Idris Mohammed that the next big opportunity is in providing power in Africa.

– Lots of SME’s can help with bridging the digital divide.

– Continued Govt support for locally made products.

She took the risk of starting the business and well…what a trailblazer for all women!

ALIEUH CONTEH – Founder of Vodafone Congo

–govt was not helpful at all when it comes to licensing, it was a challenge. besides the lack of infrastructure, it cost so much in capital expenditure. The metaphor would be ‘getting stuck in the mud’ figuratively and literally since the trucks would get stuck in the mud and things were just harder to get going.
He put forth all his savings and built the network over the years, even as the war continued. He had to negotiate with the govt and the rebels. CWN Started out with 30,000 subscribers and grew to 3 million subscribers growing by 1.5 to 2 million a year. Current valuation of the company is $1.5 Billion.

Ainea Kinaro – 3 minute talk on Organic Waste – The ignored Resource. He showed pictures of the Human waste is being collected into huge systems to produce methane gas. The other by product is fertilizer which is used in rwandan coffee farms. He reviewed the benefits of using renewable energy, especially something as abundant as human waste.

You can find more over at Ethans’ my battery is done for.

Opinion: Spoke shortly with Tom Rielly the Director of TED partnerships. “TEDGlobal is the kind of conference Africa deserves” Indeed!

Majora Carter – Environmental Activism

Video of Majora Carter at TED

What an inspiration! Yes, i have a soaked kleenex after watching this. Hey, I am not the only one!.

More info on Majora Carter’s Sustainable Bronx projects such as the green roof and the south bronx greenway, please click on the image below.

Why the spate of posts featuring TED speakers you might ask? I decided to watch most if not all of the podcasts available on itunes (for free!) In preparation for TED Global. I have also been looking through KP’s live blogging posts of TED2006 here, and here. I am excited and very much looking forward to meeting the rest of the bloggers, technologists, writers and economists at TED Global. If Bono comes, i cannot promise that i wont drool and fill this blog with pictures of him – Fair warning 🙂
PS: The TED website has been redesigned, check it out…

Use of Solar Vs Kerosene in cameroon

This is an article from Cameroon by Sylvestre Tetchiada, reporting on solar energy use for rural electrification. Interesting stats. Not entirely clear on whether actual use of solar has ‘muscled’ out kerosene, 60% of the 17 million population still use kerosene, what percentage or what stats point to the ‘muscling’ out of kerosene by Solar any increase in the last couple of years? If so by how much? I do realize that getting specific data on stuff like this can be problematic, so please pardon my ‘reading between the lines’. It is still a very good article, it points to the benefits of solar vs kerosene use – No smoke in the eyes of teachers grading papers at night, better quality of life, and the myriad uses of solar. Good stuff. The other good thing pointed out in the piece is the transfer of knowledge from the notable Barefoot College in India. This is the classic ‘showing someone how to fish’ rather than giving someone the fish which they will eat for a day. It is also an example of good use of aid money from UNDP – the training and involvement of women in this program.

Solar power is not without its own costs. “In our country, you need on average 500 to 1,000 dollars to equip a home (with solar electricity systems), and most do not have the money,” Yves Ngouala, an economist based in Yaoundé, told IPS.

But, this hasn’t stopped the Association for the Support and Assistance of Women (Association pour l’appui et le soutien à la femme, ASAFE), an NGO based in the economic hub of Douala, from sending four women to India for six months’ training in solar power technology.

The women were briefed at the Barefoot College, an organisation founded in 1972 to equip rural people with various skills, which has branched out across India.

“The women we sent to train in the technique of solar powerâ?¦will return to electrify 100 houses each in their respective villages, where inhabitants made use of kerosene and wood for cooking and heating until now,” says ASAFE President Gisèle Ytamben.

It will be interesting to find out how the program goes. Obviously i am biased here but you know if women are involved…It will surely be something successful.

The Cameroon government has some catching up to do, by eliminating import duties on solar panels just like Kenya did June last year.
Thank you Whis for sending me the story.