Monthly Archives: March 2008

Earth Hour 2008: Spread the word, dine in candlelight tonight

It’s Lights out for Sydney’s famous skyline on On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m. for Earth Hour.

On 4/29/2008 millions of people in some of the world’s biggest cities will unite to switch off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – all in an effort to send a powerful global message on the need to collectively take action on global warming. The shutdown began Saturday in Sydney, where the Opera House and Harbour Bridge went dark along with hundreds of homes and businesses.

The Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, the Ghirardelli Square sign and office towers throughout San Francisco will go dark for an hour – some restaurants also plan to turn off exterior lights and offer candlelight dinners.

Do your part, join the cause, spread the word …

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Engineering the end of hunger with Jock Brandis

“It makes their work less tedious and increases productivity up to 50 times,” says Brandis. “One machine will work for an entire village, so when we’re talking about 100 machines, we’re not talking about 100 families — we’re talking about 100 villages.”

– Jock Brandis, Full Belly Project

Jock Brandis is the inventor of the Sustainable Peanut Sheller. Jock was on a trip to Mali to fix a small village’s water treatment system where he witnessed the women’s bleeding hands from shelling peanuts all day. He made a mental note and set out to search for a sustainable peanut sheller that would not only mechanize this process but improve the efficiency of the women. Coffee and peanuts out of the husk are 6 times more valuable than in the husk making a significant difference in the revenues the farmers can earn. Brandis’ simple machine can be build by local craftsmen for $28 of locally available material. Brandis refuses to patent the machine and calls it his gift to the world.

CNN did a great portrait on Jock and is available here @ CNN Heroes: Peanut farmers get a big hand from simple device

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An innovative use of to track disaster restoration

The biggest challenge after any calamity, esp. the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina is how to track, manage and report on what resources are needed and where. Generally all the resources pool at the very begining but due to poor management and miss-allocation the volunteers dwindle away.

Broadmoor a town in Parish county, Louisiana was was one such working community devastated by Hurricane Katrnia. For months the residents waited for federal help on reconstruction – the final straw came when the city decided to pass a legislation to bulldoze the remaining houses to build a park. This was a wake up call for the residents who decided to rebuild their community on their own terms.

The tipping point in their grassroot efforts came when they decided to experiment with Salesforce, an enterprise level customer-relationship-management software. With this tool, the Broadmoor Development Corp was able to better coordinate volunteer activities, funds, and bring a high level of visibility to the process. An interview on NPR notes:

Salesforce was built for salespeople, but Roark and his army of college interns have repurposed it so he can catalog the needs of Broadmoor’s 2,400 homes and the 7,000 residents who lived here before Katrina.

With this database, Roark can explain to donors what they’re getting for their money. Donors appreciate that. And, Roark says, it also helps him satisfy the human needs of volunteers, who want to do more than paint a stranger’s house.

Software allows us to build for efficiency, communicate better, and strengthen existing communities. This is an excellent example of where an innovative community leveraged an existing tool to meet their needs.

You can hear more about this on NPR at Database Key in Restoring New Orleans

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Google East African Gadget Competition

Title: ‘Compete to build a Gadget’

Registration Date: Registration opens February 25th; the deadline is March 17th.

Who is it open to: This competition is open to university students across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda,Rwanda, Burundi, and Ethiopia.


Participating students will have approximately four months to design and build functioning Google Gadgets either solo or in teams of two.

The competition will provide an opportunity for students to apply theoretical knowledge in a practical, hands-on way, and that a number of the resulting Gadgets will feature regionally-useful content.

Further Details at:

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