Having worked with youth to establish One Stop Youth Centres in Kampala, Uganda, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Nairobi, Kenya, and Kigali, Rwanda, I have seen the power of mobile phones both to convene people as well as disseminate important information. What I find really exciting is to see how quickly and to what success mobile phones are being adopted in the health field, especially around the prevention of HIV/AIDS, an issue so important to youth in this region.
Here are four posts from the last 24 hours on mobile phones and health from the Urban Health blog of USAID:
- Mobile learning for HIV/AIDS healthcare in peri-urban clinics
- Mobile phone-based interventions India
- Mobile direct observation treatment for tuberculosis patients
- Uganda – Challenges in Using Mobile Phones for Data Collection
Posted in Africa
, Mobile Phones
Tags: East Africa
, Health care
, Mobile phone
, One Stop Youth Resource Centres
Usahidi - Mapping the world one SMS at a time
I have been struggling to get my head around Usahidi, the Swahili for “witness” or “testimony.”
I knew it was created during the post-election violence in Kenya in early 2008. I had many friends who went through that terrible time, and felt equally horrified and powerless.
Posted in #oilspill
, Oil disaster
, Crisis Management
, Erik Hersman
, map kibera
, Text messaging
, Urban Planning
I am going to go out on a limb here and state that I think Mikel Maron and his crew of openstreetmap people are some of the leading experts globally in understanding how technology – specifically spatial technology – can be used in the developing world.
Why you ask? Why them? Well, because they aren’t at 10,000 feet, nor 5,000 feet, or even 500 feet — they are at ground zero. Yes, they passionately believes in technology, Mikel is a self-described techno nerd, but he, like many of the others involved in openstreetmaps movement, are on the ground seeing how technology ACTUALLY works, not how we would love it to, or how we report it to our funders to get more money, or how it works for just enough time for our research to be done (read about the hole-in-the-wall project in his blog post).
I wrote a management-nerdy blog post a while back on one of the projects they were involved in — mapkibera — and if you get past all the graphs my main message was that the people in the project were asking the right questions — basically — how can this project be sustainable past the initial “wow” phase. The answer to this question is quite simple, and one not often followed by aid agencies — the answer is “LIVE THERE”. Yup, be there, not in a hotel, or the UN compound, or the ex-pat enclave, but actually in the place you are working at. Find out where all the gnarly bits are, and then maybe it will be successful — or at least have a better chance. Parallel and just as important is WORK with the people that live there. Seems self explanatory … but something that is not always done.
And, that is what Mikel and his crew have done with mapkibera. They came for 6 months, and have stayed for a year+. They engaged the community in an asset based approach – a la John Mcknight’s Asset Based Community Development – and had the people map their community — and community which heretofore had no community accessible maps. The mapping was done on a platform developed in Kenya after the post-election violence of a couple years ago called Usahidi (you can as well read my yet unpublished blog post on this).
So, this all being said, the following blog outlines the questions he and they are asking, the possibilities and the possible pitfalls. I’ll shut up and let him speak … (but read my bolded bits to see where I think he nails it bang on) .. ok .. i will really shut up now. Promise …
Posted in Africa
Tags: Asset Based Community Development
, map kibera
, Mikel Maron
, Non-governmental organization
The following is (my first!!) guest blog from two quite cool people – Kevina Power and Ron Harris (aka Os12). I will leave it at that and let them explain the rest …
Guest Blogger: Kevina Power
It was late fall 2005 when we left Kenya for South Africa to host 2 World Urban Cafes (WUCs); one during the 1st African Hip Hop Summit, and one during the monthly Black Sunday event in Soweto. As I write this lots of memories are flooding back… WUCs, Hip Hop, Friends, Soweto… it all feels like a dream, a damn good dream.
First let me explain some background; how did we end up in Kenya? South Africa? To many other places far far away? Well, back then, when I was considering working with Doug on the World Urban Forum project of the Environmental Youth Alliance, I remember him trying to explain his vision to me… it was on a napkin I think, sitting in some cafeteria in downtown Vancouver. If you know Doug, you know he speaks from a place where he calls ‘the bleeding edge’ and indeed this World Urban Café plan of his was certainly that. You see, UN Habitat, the UN agency charged with ‘improving the lives of slum dwellers’ was going to host their 3rd Session of the World Urban Forum in our city, VanCity, the next year.
When Doug asked to meet with me, I thought it would be just another long lunch with Doug, talking about our lives, our city, our vision for the future. Little did I know that this lunch would change me forever. Jumping forward, about 8 months later, here I am, living in Nairobi, Kenya, a place I had not even knew existed a year before, working with UN Habitat and the Environmental Youth Alliance on the World Urban Forum, specifically implementing this WUC Concept in the lead up to the 2006 Conference in Vancouver.
Posted in Africa
, Hip Hop
, Emmanuele Jal
, Hip Hop
, south africa
, word urban forum
, world urban cafe
, world urban forum
This is a repost from the Polis blog with my comments (my comments first, polis blog From Kodak to the Mobile Phone below):
Thank you for this post. I think that the mobile generation with their ever more powerful mobile technologies are changing how we view, analyze and plan our cities. I work with youth in East Africa, and i have found that through the use of mobile phones, which are now prolific throughout the region, we have been able to not only capture images, both still and in video, but use these images to tell the rarely heard story of some of the poorest of the poor. (An example of such a project is http://mobilemovement.tv/)
I have as well found that “photovoice” is an excellent way to allow people to “map” their communities. I have used this technique with youth in North America, through the Growing up in Cities project , and more recently through work with UN-HABITAT on their community mapping project (you can check out a story a wrote for them titled Bridging the Digital Divide .
Posted in Africa
, Growing up in Cities
, polis. mapkibera
Reflecting in a Funky café I
Istanbul, August 8, 2010
Lee-Anne and I were both lucky enough to get a few hours of wandering around Istanbul, Turkey before we began working on the conference we were invited to speak at. Though we were on about 4 hours sleep, we had a great, yet slow, time. Here are some photos.
Reflecting in a Funky Café II
Let all toilets be happy toilets
Though it isn’t sexy, toilets and sanitation are key to the physical and mental health of a community. This has been driven home to me countless times.
When I was working on the HABITATJam, a 2-day online preparatory forum sponsored by UN-HABITAT and IBM leading up to the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006, toilets and sanitation were a much talked about subject. The 70 Actionable Ideas follow-up report to this forum identified some best practices in this area such as the concept of Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) in slums which is a system that separates human waste, provides sanitation services at low cost to poor inhabitants, and recovers waste for reuse in agriculture.
More concretely i learned of the practicalities of toilets in Kibera with a youth group there. They were showing me some of the work they had been doing in creating a recycling centre (great CBC documentary); but they as well showed me the newly built toilet blocks that were built their. They were going to be run as a business, kept clean, and most importantly safe and open to all. (Sammy if you are reading this maybe you can give a quick update on how they are going).
I as well was lucky to be present at a presentation by David Kuria, a social entrepreneur, architect and Ashoka Fellow from Kenya. He is working to bring “toilet malls” to downtown Nairobi. He is passionate about the issue:
…the first thing you see, beautiful thing, is a toilet. When you come to the city of Nairobi, you’ll be shocked. And the next thing you’ll be asking is what is this? It’s a public toilet. We are putting toilet monuments just to try and bring back the importance to our people of public convenience and public toilets.
You can hear an interview with Kuria, or read the transcript.
Lastly, an article came out recently through the USAID Urban Health Updates blog regarding the social side of public toilets, specifically as places where violence is perpetrated on women. Horrific stuff. With slums now being one of the fastest growing forms of human settlements globally, all efforts must be made to provide these basic needs to people. For humanity sake.
Kenya’s slum women risk health to avoid violence
via Urban Health Updates
Posted in Africa
, Urban Planning
, soweto youth group
Most rappers would be considered a sell out if they let their song be used by Coke. Not K’naan.
“I have a lot of friends who are from either side, Mos Def and those guys who are in the conscious lane. I know other friends who are in the make-money lane. But for me, I see myself as someone who can speak to both audiences,” he said. “That to me is important, to never claim a position too smart for the listener. I think it’s important to reach everybody.” (read the complete CNN article Somali rapper bucks hip-hop code of violence). His interview with CNN as well demonstrates the basic humbleness of the guy.
I first got to know of K’naan when i was organizing the youth program for the World Urban Forum in 2006. What I learned was that he was both a principled artist and a pretty good businessman. He never did play at the WUF (unfortunate, as we had a great lineup and over 5000 people attending), but one of the EYAers organizing the WUF, Kevina Power, and a EYAer turned Hip Hop blogger/writer Tara Henley helped out on an amazing concert tour in Joburg and Soweto. (I don’t have many regrets in my life, but not attending this was one of them).
K'naan in Soweto, June 2005
I later was able to briefly connect with him at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (of all places) as part of my volunteer work on the media committee. Again, blown away by the guy and his amazing music and poetry. This is a photo I took of him playing on the mainstage (with the mountains in background … surreal).
K'naan in Vancouver
What moved me about his Wavin Flag was the strong shout out (like my hip hop lingo?) to youth in Africa:
So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day
It’s not far away, so for now we say
When I get older, I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom, just like a Waving Flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back
So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say, love is the way
Love is the answer, that’s what they say,
But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us
Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers
I love the in your face realism of his message – yes, we are proud; yes, we will move forward to a promised future; but damn the struggle is hard. Funny enough, this verse is not repeated in the official Coke song. I guess Coke isn’t THAT radical.
He has an earlier song (In the Beginning) that speaks to this message of the struggle – it is really beautiful and quite moving spoken word:
It’s better to light a candle than to curse the dark
In the eyes of the youth there are question marks
Freedom for the mind and soul
We don’t see them
See them for their worth at all
That’s why we lead them
Lead them to these wars and what is it we feed them
Feed them our impurities and who it is we treat them
Treat them like the enemy humanity will need them
Need them like the blood we spill and where freedom
Freedom for the hearts we fill
They hunger for the love we give
But we cheat them
The cops beat them when all he wants is his freedom
So they defeat them
Whatever spirit he’s got
And they teach them that the rest of the world don’t need him
And he believes it’s a disease that he’s heathen
Put up your fists if all you want is freedom
You really have to listen to the song to get the full impact.
It is amazing to see that someone from such a background as his can hit it out of the park the way he has. Gives me some hope for the future.
ps. for those die-hards, here is Wavin Flag … one more time.