Sometimes the most elegant solutions are also the simplest ones. I was reading about a fantastic radio program in the Indian State of Bihar that aims to provide basic English language to primary school students in a bid to improve the literacy levels from the current 47% to the national average of nearly 65%. The program called “English is fun’ is broadcast in half-hour segments, four days a week, and reaches seven million students attending 65,000 primary schools in all the 38 districts of the state.
According to the BBC, the state government is encouraged by the positive response from the kids and teachers, and has decided to take the program a step further and set up independent community radio stations at some schools for broadcasting lessons.
What is so encouraging about the project is that it looks for the lowest common denominator to solve a large scale problem. Always, make it a point support local Public Radio. My my local station KQED.org . You can read more about National Public Radio (NPR) and its history in America here
Read more about the Bihar Education Project here
The Bihar Education Project is a collaboration with a US-based organisation, the Education Development Center, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to boost primary education in the country.
Today on June 22 from 11am – 1pm a good number of Africa minded individuals from different professional backgrounds met to offer their thoughts on technology and Africa at the beautiful Stanford Golf Course.
The event was sponsored by the SF Bay Area IPN and was titled, “Africa: The Next Asia?” It was kicked off by a panel discussion featuring Aleem Walji from Google‘s Africa Initiatives, Leila Chirayath – founder of Samasource, Arathi Ravichandran of Vipani , and Joseph Nganga, an expert in energy innovation and Board member of Carolina for Kibera . Topics explored were Africa’s steps in development; opportunities and obstacles to sustainable prosperity; to what extent should Africa mirror what we see in Asia?; and what are the challenges and/or potential benefits of following this road?
The Panel was kindly moderated by Ellen Leanse, who is a Bay Area Business Strategist, and Author. She works with early-stage and established companies to accelerate business growth through innovative business, marketing, and product strategies. Ellen also actively supports education and micro-finance organizations in East Africa, and she is currently writing a book based on recent experiences in Kenya.
Here were some excellent notes via twitter for the event from @tylerwillis captured via summize :
Realtime results for #ipn:africa
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa if 60% of your budget comes from the world, how much accountability do you reall have to voters? about 11 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa making budget allocations publicly accessible took bribery/theft cost down from 70cents/$ to less than 10c/$ about 11 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa accountability is easy, it’s dollars. If we promote sustainability we can let markets ensure accountability. about 11 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa we need a simple, scalable solution for power supply to places completely off the grid. about 12 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
tylerwillis: #ipn:africa energy opportunities are plentiful in africa, but attracting the amount of startup capital needed is hard. about 12 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet
Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending an event titled “Africa: The Next Development Miracle?” The lecture was hosted by the World Affairs Council Peninsula Chapter, and the speaker was Prof. Jeremy Weinstein, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University and Director of the Center for African Studies.
The primary question for the evening was whether Africa will be the next development miracle or should we be prepared for continuing instability, violence, and economic stagnation? Also, what should the United States’ policies be?
Professor Weinstein presented his list of “Policies for the Next president” which I found interesting and felt summed up his lecture well:
- Security is a prerequisite to sustained growth (based upon the Copenhagen Consensus)
- Recognizing the critical role of institutions especially domestically driven institutions
- Encouraging experimentation with different models for development
- Using aid to support reform (such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation which has been a center piece of the Bush Africa policy)
- Providing assistance to where we know it works (HIV, malaria, water, education)
- Prepare for major disasters and shocks perhaps as a consequence of climate change
- Make Globalization work (not just trade but migration, property rights and the subsidization of appropriate essential technology)
While the jury is still out on what measures are best to encourage positive growth in Africa, the need for better policy to support thriving economies in Africa cannot be disputed.
There is still an unrelenting flow of disturbing headlines, soaring food prices and shortages, continued violence in Darfur, stolen elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Nevertheless the overall picture is far more positive. Africa is observing positive economic growth; democracy is on the rise; and great progress is being made in the fight against disease, as hundreds of thousands of Africans now have access to life-saving anti-retro viral treatment.
What policies have worked for your country and what policies and/or initiatives should the next U.S President support ?
Apple announces that the iPhone 3G will be available in 70 countries by the end of 2008 including 15 African Countries. The 3G version of this innovative phone, opens up the possibilities to numerous interesting applications. The iPhone 3G has a GPS antenae allowing location based reporting, promises to be a developer platform allowing widgets for blogging, and comes preinstalled with a host of useful applications.
While many have questioned whether Africa has the network capacity to support such a phone or if such a phone is even affordable, the general response has been positive. Jan Chipchase, a prominent user-research at Nokia compares the penetration of cellphone in Africa to “just-in-time” management – a theory employed successfully by Japanese auto maker Toyota to introduce efficiencies into the system. He gives examples of how cellphones have freed up labor, made business more efficient and improved the overall quality of life in rural africa.
The iPhone is a step in a positive direction. A prominent Africa- tech blogger Eric Hersman of WhiteAfrican, forecasts on his blog that “The data networks will become stronger to support it, and local developers will start building for apps”. Although most will not be able to afford the iPhone in Africa, many will – and these early adopters will drive the demand for better phones and applications for the African market. After all it took about 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to sell worldwide, the second billion sold in four years, and the third billion sold in two.
The World Health Organization says nearly 500 million people get infected with malaria each year, and nearly three million, mostly children, die. Areas around the world facing the greatest risk, shown reddish brown, harbor some of the world’s poorest people. Map: Berkeley National Lab
One low-technology method to prevent malaria deaths is to deliver malaria nets. Grassroots campaigns like Nothing but Nets help to save lives by preventing malaria. Keep on sending nets and saving lives.
“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
- Early intervention by high profile negotiators and pressure from world leaders is key to resolving conflicts (incl. President Bush who played a critical role through his envoy Condoleezza Rice)
- A free media and technology are vital to a transparent democratic process
- Democracy matters in Africa
So finally there was some agreement on the road to PEACE for Kenya …
After 2 months of bitter violence and intense drama, Kenyans turned a corner — from Power-Grabbing to Power-Sharing, old-guard Mwai Kibaki and opposition aspirant Raila Odinga decided to bury the hatchet on February 28.
Interestingly enough, all credit goes to Mr. Kofi Annan who brought Kenya back from the brink of anarchy and despair. Annan, it seems understood how critical Kenya is to regional stability and the U.N mission in Africa — Kenya is a hub for peacekeepers to Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and is a key port for most of East and Central Africa. In the past, he has come under heavy criticism for the U.N’s lethargic response to Darfur and was determined not to let this one get away. To honor the ex-UN chief and to show their gratitude Rangers at the Ol Choro Oirogua Conservancy in the Maasai Mara reserve named their new-born rhinoceros Kofi Annan .
Kenyan’s all agree that this is a fragile peace and a number of concrete steps need to take place for there to be a lasting solution – nevertheless a new constitution diluting the powers of the president is a reasonable start.
On a lighter note, there are delayed New Years celebrations all throughout the Kenyan capital as most residents felt that their new year was tarnished by the unrest and had nothing to celebrate.