iDISC - the infoDev Incubator Support Center

The infoDev Incubator Support Center - iDISC - provides hands-on and practical information for incubators and other business development organizations using ICT to facilitate entrepreneurship and new business creation in the developing world. It is also a place where members of the Network can tell their stories and link up with similar organizations.

On iDISC you can find:
  • A “How to” section with guidelines for starting an incubator, selecting clients, managing and financing an incubator, monitoring and evaluation, and engaging partners.
  • An overview of our 5 regional networks and activities across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe & Central Asia, Latin America & the Caribbean, and Middle East & Northern Africa.
  • An iDisc Network Member Directory that allows you to search and locate incubators across the regions, and to search facts & figures within the global network.
  • Network members' Success Stories and Tools that tell us about the impact of business incubation on business start-ups and tools that can be shared among network members to implement best practices.
  • Presentations and documents from workshops and specific research themes.
  • Information on upcoming events, such as infoDev regional workshops as well as local seminars and symposiums.

This virtual networking and knowledge-sharing platform has its origins in infoDev’s Incubator Initiative, which started in 2002 to support organizations promoting ICT-enabled innovation and entrepreneurship in developing countries.


So how did you spend your Saturday evening?

I'm fortunate. I live next to the beach, which is obviously very enjoyable. And just occasionally it throws in a few surprises.

At about 7.00pm last night I was walking back from the supermarket with two plastic bags (yes - we still use those here) filled with groceries, got into the parking lot of the flats where I live and I noticed all these baby turtles going the wrong way - away from the sea towards the road. So I put all my groceries in one plastic bag to empty the other one, then used it to put the baby turtles in as I caught them. I must have collected about 50 of them and thought I had got the lot. So I walked the 20 metres on the path alongside the flats to the beach and the sea, waded in a bit and released them all.

Photograph by Scott RobinsonThen I came back to collect my other bag to go upstairs to my flat. But the baby turtles had other ideas. There were more of them, all scuttling across the car park in the wrong direction. So I collected that lot, probably about 30 to 40 of them, and then took those down to the sea. Came back and - guess what - there were more of them - so I gathered those up and took them down to the sea to join their brothers and sisters.

On my last trip back I couldn't see any more, so I dashed upstairs to take the groceries in and change into something more suitable for turtle catching (though I'm not sure that turtles are very fashion conscious). Then back down to see if there were any more.

How many eggs do these things lay And the mother just left them all for me to look after. Phew!!! Pretty irresponsible parenting if you ask me.

Apparently, after hatching, the turtles are confused by the lights and head towards them instead of down the beach to the sea. An understandable mistake.

Well, on my return I found that a neighbour had noticed the turtles' plight and decided to join me in scooping them up. But now we were only catching a few late developers or stragglers. So two more trips with about 10 turtles and we reckoned we'd got the lot. So we decided to call it a night. And what a night!!

What's all this got to do with ICT? Absolutely nothing. But it explains why I didn't write the usual blog last night


Project Masiluleke: Using mobiles to tackle HIV/AIDS

South Africa has more HIV positive citizens than any country in the world. In some provinces, more than 40% of the population is infected. Yet only 2% of South Africans have ever been tested for HIV. Testing and anti-retrovirals are now available in all parts of the country. And yet, of those who are HIV positive, a mere 10% are receiving anti-retroviral therapy – leaving 90% untreated, infectious and likely to die.

HIV/AIDS carries a huge social stigma in South Africa, preventing many from getting tested or pursuing treatment, and there is wide-spread misinformation about how the disease is contracted.

Project Masiluleke seeks to harnesses the power of mobile technology to address these issues. Here is a video about the Project.

Meaning ‘hope’ and ‘warm counsel’ in Zulu, Project Masiluleke brings together a coalition of world-class partners – including iTeach, the Praekelt Foundation, frog design, Nokia Siemens Networks and the National Geographic Society. The first phase was launched on October 1, 2008, when a text message was sent to 1 million phones – the largest-ever use of mobile messaging to address HIV.

The key elements and stages of Project Masiluleke include:

“Please Call Me” x 1 Million x 365 - messages broadcast in the unused space of “Please Call Me” (PCM) text messages – a special, free form of SMS text widely used in South Africa and across the continent. Trained operators provide callers with accurate healthcare information, counseling and referrals to local testing clinics.

TxtAlert - a system of text messaging to remind patients of scheduled clinic visits to help ensure they adhere to ARV regimens.

HIV Self-Testing with Mobile Support - The project partners are actively exploring a low cost HIV self-testing with mobile counseling support. Analogous to a pregnancy test, these distributed diagnostics would provide a free, private and reliable way for anyone to take the critical first step of knowing his or her status, with high-quality information provided via mobile device.


JISC Web2Practice Guides

This blog constantly refers to Web2.0 software and tools, and how important they are for sharing, publishing, collaborating and communicating. If you are thinking of using Web2.0 software and tools. JISC provides a quick start with their JISC Web2Practice Guides.

Each guide consists of a short animated video explaining the key concepts, supported by a more in-depth printable overview of the topic, covering the potential uses, risks and how to get started.

The guides and the resources used to create them can be downloaded, modified and shared for teaching, staff development or other purposes permitted by the creative commons licence. More details are on the downloads page.

The web2practice project aims to help people enhance their working practice by understanding the potential of web2.0 tools. Rather than providing a HowTo guide to using these tools, the project seeks to motivate people to explore the tools for themselves.

Web2practice guides have been created for the following topics:

  • Social Media
  • RSS
  • Collaborative Writing
  • Podcasting
  • Microblogging

Further topics are planned, including Social Bookmarking and Digital Identity.

Here is a slidecast that introduces the web2practice project. It was originally presented at the "JISC conference 09: Opening Digital Doors".


Pan African Observatory on ICTs in Education

The wonderful thing about social software is that it enables everyone to have a voice, to publish, and everyone to participate. As researchers and educators, our participation in the processes of change enables us to shape, share and collaboratively build development knowledge. And it is incredibly important that this knowledge is open and freely available to researchers everywhere so that everyone can use it and build on it.

The aim of the PanAf Observatory is to better understand how the integration of ICT can enhance the quality of teaching and learning in Africa. In its initial phase, energy and investment will be focused on the development of an open Observatory for researchers and practitioners in the field to collect and share data. Whilst not wanting to distract energy from this excellent aim, I do feel that the site could be improved by providing a more interesting landing page.

The PanAf Observatory is an open knowledge-sharing resource for research on the pedagogical integration of ICT. Three search functions are available: Simple Search — which allows you to view indicators from institutions in a single country, Advanced Search — which allows you to compare indicators in different institutions and countries, and Summary Search — which allows you to browse a mapping of ICT in education summaries from the institutions and countries participating in the project.

You are highly encouraged to leave a comment, or suggest modifications to any indicator by clicking on the associated icons throughout the Observatory.

The site says that it is also easy to add and modify data on the Observatory - all you need is an identifier and password to log in. To sign up, you contact info@observatoiretic.org. I guess this is to try to avoid spammers, but an online form would have been better.

This PanAf Observatory project is grounded in multi-institutional partnership, with a focus on tertiary level research institutions, attached to universities, in the participating countries. The partner countries will work under the scientific and technical coordination of ERNWACA (Educational Research Network for West And Central Africa), and the Université de Montréal. Consult ERNWACA's PanAfrican Research Agenda on the Pedagogical Integration of ICTs web portal for more details. The PanAf Observatory has external partner organisations including infoDev and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.


Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa

Education research should influence the evolution of educational systems. The "Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa" ERNWACA ("Réseau Ouest et Centre Africain de Recherche en Education" ROCARE) was created to increase research capacity, strengthen collaboration among researchers and practitioners, and promote African expertise on education so as to positively impact educational practices and policies.

The strategic objectives of ERNWACA are to:
• Build national and regional research and policy evaluation capacity.
• Improve the quality and pertinence of research for practitioners and decision-makers.
• Disseminate findings to stimulate public dialogue and advocacy,
• Strengthen Ernwaca as a sustainable regional institution.

One of the methods it is using to achieve these objectives is through a Virtual Library of the Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa. The library of the ERNWACA provides access to many works and publications relating to research in education in West and Central Africa.

The Educational Research Network for West and Central Africa ERNWACA's mission is the promotion of African expertise in order to influence the educational practices and policies positively. Education is one of the engines of the transformation and competitiveness in Africa where research in education must drive the development of education systems.


Public domain EPUB downloads on Google Books

I was very excited about Google's decison to put books online some years ago. It looked like another major step forward for the open access movement - which I support whole-heartedly, as most of you will know by now :-).

Then the process stopped - three years ago, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and a handful of authors and publishers filed a class action lawsuit against Google Books.

Google settled this lawsuit in October last year. It will still take some time for this to come into effect (maybe another couple of years) but I'm sure Google already has stuff lined up to come available immediately the court agrees.
In the meantime, Google Books are making "public domain" material available in a variety of forms:

Try doing a search for [Hamlet] on Google Books. The first few results you'll get are "Full View" books — which means you can read the full text. And, because the book is in the public domain, you can also download a copy of Hamlet in PDF form.

You'll be able to download these and over one million public domain books from Google Books in an additional format - EPUB - a free and open industry standard for electronic books. It's supported by a wide variety of applications, so once you download a book, you'll be able to read it on any device or through any reading application that supports the format. That means that people will be able to access public domain works that Google digitized from libraries around the world in more ways, including some that haven't even been built or imagined yet.

They founded Google Books on the premise that anyone, anywhere, anytime should have the tools to explore the great works of history and culture. Google began digitizing these books because they thought it was important for people to be able to find and read them, and they want them to be able to do so anywhere — not just when they happen to be at a computer. This feature takes Google one step closer towards realizing that goal by helping support open standards that enable people to access these books in more places, on more devices and through more applications.

To find out more, check out the post on the Google Books blog.


Information Literacy Resources Directory

Gone are those days when so many of us (mistakenly) believed that information literacy was about getting to know the card catalogue in a library. Given the daily deluge of information to which we are all subjected, information literacy has taken on the importance it has always deserved but rarely been afforded. To make it possible for lecturers, teachers and librarians to teach these important skills, rather than each re-inventing the wheel, it makes good sense to share resources and materials.

The Information Literacy Section of the International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA) has created a database to record information literacy materials from different parts of the world, on behalf of UNESCO. The result is the Information Literacy Resources Directory.

The contents of the Information Literacy Resources Directory, which are of course searchable, include:

  • Conferences on the subject
  • International actions, meetings, programs
  • Listservs - Discussion lists
  • Weblogs
  • Websites devoted to information literacy

IL Products for users
  • Advocacy toolkits
  • Assessment / Evaluation tools
  • Credit courses
  • Know how materials
  • Library tours
  • Tests of IL competencies/skills
  • Tutorials for citizens
  • Tutorials on how to use specific information resources
  • Workshop/Hands on experience

  • Associations and professional bodies
  • Information literacy training organizations
  • International organizations with IL related work
  • Research projects / Research centers

  • Guidelines for information literacy
  • IL monographs of international coverage or impact
  • Other publications of international relevance
  • Serials (Journals)
  • Specific guidelines for key programs
  • Thesis of international relevance
  • Translations of key international documents

Training the trainers
  • Courses
  • Distant certificates/degrees
  • IL institutes/immersion programs
  • Web-based courses for training the trainers
  • Workshop/Hands on experience

Librarians, educators and information professionals are invited to participate. If you have developed information literacy materials and would like to share them with the world community, please submit the required data.


ICTs for agricultural livelihoods

A new book by IICD "ICTs for agricultural livelihoods" describes experiences and achievements of the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and its partners with using ICT to enhance agricultural livelihoods through thirty-five projects over six years in nine countries in Africa and Latin America. This booklet is part of a series of reports on the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in various sectors.

The study is intended to provide guidance to organisations working in the agriculture sector. It is particularly meant for policymakers, ICT practitioners and donor agencies. Expectations of the potential of ICT to reduce global poverty and contribute to realising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are high, but the evidence base needs strengthening. With this study IICD hopes to contribute to a joint understanding of the use of ICT in support of agricultural development and rural poverty alleviation.

Analysis of the impact of IICD-supported projects indicates that ICTs can contribute to achieving the first Millennium Development Goal to ‘eradicate extreme hunger and poverty by raising the income of small-scale farmers and strengthening the agriculture sector. Overall, ICTs contribute to better access to prices, markets and production information.

Click here to download the booklet as a PDF file (1.3 MB).


African universities face new Internet challenges

African universities are facing a new digital challenge - it is no longer access to the Internet that is the problem - it is its use, according to Jonathan Harle, programme officer for the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

In his report "Digital resources for research: a review of access and use in African universities" he explained that "With infrastructure and facilities steadily improving … addressing the use of, rather than access to, electronic resources should perhaps receive greater attention".

"Users must be given the skills to identify and locate what they need for their work," writes Harle. He says the ability of African scholars to publish and contribute information is critical to redressing the prevailing imbalance, where Africa is a consumer but not a contributor of information and knowledge. Although bandwidth and slow connections continue to be a problem, priority should now be given to training staff, particularly in ICT and web skills.