SwahiliBox Takes Shape

M-Power’s mission to connect Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, to the global grid is taking shape!   Thanks to a collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya, space has now been secured for a community driven technology hub – SwahiliBox.  Meet the team…

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Forecasting, Farming and Food

Often when reporting back on projects we’ve funded, we summarise a nicely edited report from our grantee. The reports are useful and provide us with a wealth of information on what works or doesn’t. But sometimes that means we don’t get to hear from the people on the ground – the farmers, patients or health workers who are the intended beneficiaries of our funding. Weather forecasting company, Ignitia, have gone some way to redress that by providing us with the testimonies of farmers using their service. The quotes below gives a flavour of some of the benefits and recipients of their services. To read more about the original grant we awarded them, have a look at this blog post. Continue reading

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Mapping Uganda with Fruits of Thought

A few months ago we announced we had awarded Fruits of Thought a second grant towards their digital mapping work with Ugandan universities. A few months on and we have been catching up with the FoT team on how the project has gone. They have held a total of seven mapping events with more than 190 participants who together have helped to map previously un(der)mapped areas around their universities and learned how to use GPS devices and OpenStreetMap in the process. The photos below give a flavour of their activities:

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Connecting Moroccan Citizens with their Members of Parliament: Nouabook.ma

The following blog post was kindly prepared by Hind Kabaj & Andrew G. Mandelbaum.

When in June 2014 SimSim-Participation Citoyenne launched the beta version of Nouabook.ma, Morocco’s first electronic platform for citizen-parliamentary engagement, the public reaction was mixed. Would members of Parliament (MPs) respond to citizens’ questions? Would citizens even care to ask questions of their MPs? According to a recent poll, just 7 percent of Moroccans feel represented in Parliament. Doubts that a platform to encourage dialogue between citizens and MPs were justified.

We are pleased to report that, slowly but surely, both citizens and MPs are making good on the opportunity provided by Nouabook to engage in constructive dialogue. To date, Nouabook has received more than 160 questions from Moroccan citizens and residents. Of the 72 questions currently published on the site, MPs have responded to 30, for a response rate of over 40 percent. We expect this figure to increase as many of these questions are fewer than two weeks old. While Nouabook began with 11 participating MPs, the site now boasts a growing community of 24 MPs (including 12 women) from 8 political parties.

Part of the initiative’s recent success is attributable to a spate of media coverage. On a recent Saturday, Morocco’s most widely read Arabic news outlet, Hespress, published an article about Nouabook. As a result, over 4000 individuals flocked to the site, posting more than 40 questions in a single weekend. A few days later, the official television station 2M reported on the project (see around minute 25:45) during its news show about the Moroccan Parliament.

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Nouabook staff on the 2M program مجلة البرلمان.

To ensure the fluidity of questions and answers, Nouabook staff have adopted several key practices. We have realized that MPs are unlikely to respond to questions that do not pertain to their committee assignments. Consequently, we often ask citizens to re-submit their questions accordingly (and most happily oblige). In addition, we have taken to limiting the number of questions that any individual MP receives during each month. Most MPs do not have any staff support, so answering citizen questions can be a significant time strain. Continue reading

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Grant awarded to Daraja

Twanga Swali team with Simon Mkina (seated with specs), Daraja's Executive DirectorMany people are familiar with the Question and Answer or Notes & Queries sections of newspapers, in which readers pose a question that has been troubling them and others write in with the answers. Often, the questions relate to relatively trivial matters such as the origin of a phrase or questions of etiquette. In Tanzania, however, Daraja have been using their newspaper to ask more serious questions and seek meaningful answers. Their Twanga Swali (Shoot the Question) project gives citizens in rural Tanzania a chance to ask questions of their leaders and be heard in the Daraja Letu newspaper. Using an SMS system, readers can text their questions on governance, accountability and expenditure, to which the Daraja team will seek answers from the relevant leaders. The answers are then published (and sometimes broadcast on radio) so that all citizens have the chance to read them and decide for themselves whether the answer is satisfactory. Indigo is delighted to be supporting the project with a grant of £14,790, which will be used to purchase  special code, collect questions and answers and publish them. In this phase of the project, Daraja will especially seek out questions and answers on water, education and health – three priority areas identified by the communities where Daraja works. Continue reading

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How translation makes a difference in managing the Ebola outbreak

 

The following post was kindly prepared by Indigo grantee, Translators without Borders.

The current Ebola outbreak has highlighted the importance of communicating with communities in languages that they understand. For Translators without Borders there is no doubt that this crisis is one of language. The populations of the three most affected countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, speak over 90 languages. Only a minority (approximately 20%) of those populations speaks English or French. For example, in Sierra Leone, although the official language is English, a greater proportion of the population speaks Krio, Mende and Themne, particularly in rural areas.

Needless to say that the Ebola-related material provided by aid agencies, which is most of the time in English or French, is not particularly helpful for the most affected populations. Information in the wrong language is not information at all as it cannot be understood by a majority of the population and it leads to an important knowledge gap about the deadly disease. In a survey published in September, UNICEF found that in Sierra Leone, 30% believed Ebola was transmitted via mosquitos and another 30% believed it was an airborne disease.  Continue reading

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Grant awarded to CEW-IT Uganda

Although we might not always appreciate it, local and national governments have a huge influence over our levels of satisfaction, happiness and general wellbeing. Service delivery – whether in the transport sector, health service or education system – plays a crucial part in our everyday lives. Of course, as with any system, things can and do go wrong. While it perhaps used to be the case that a citizen needed to know which council department or government ministry to write to and then had to hope that their letter would reach a sympathetic ear, mobile and web technology have transformed the ways in which citizens can now interact with their government. Complaints can now be lodged in minutes, rather than weeks. Real-time analytics and feedback platforms can generate almost instantaneous data on the state of service delivery and the numbers of outstanding complaints or issues to be resolved. Such platforms can also allow organisations and individuals to monitor the performance of one department or council against another. Continue reading

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