During a trip to Cameroon in March, I came across a couple of interesting organisations, which are starting to take advantage of technology to stimulate social change.
iVission are an impressive local NGO working on a range of ICT projects aimed at empowering people to stimulate social change. They run Techno-holidays which have involved training over 50 000 youth on ICT and the internet, with a focus on how to utilise tech for social change. The course structure included a focus on E-health, E-government, preventing cyber-crime, online broadcasting, e-commerce, digital mapping, education/teaching, governance, online fundraising and monitoring employees.
They are also mobilizing citizen journalists to foster accountability in the management of Cameroon’s water system though ICT through mapping and citizen reporting of water point problems and delivering reports to local authorities and NGOs to address these problems. A further project aims to digitise Cameroonian laws, create videos which help explain these laws in layman terms, provide online legal advice and host discussion forums. They also run a Cyber Safety Programme, net squared and training in ICT skills for University drop outs.
Plan Cameroon is running a fascinating digital mapping project which has involved training 300 youth to map their local area and collect crucial information on key services including schools, health centres, roads and water points. The detailed data (for example teacher to student ratios, number of desks in classrooms, number of positive malaria tests, drug availability) is used for project planning and as a starting point to mobilise communities to advocate for changes in their community. I liked the way that their project combines sufficient offline training, awareness raising and community mobilisation with an appropriate online component to generate impact. They are also testing the possibility of using Ushahidi to report on incidences of child violence.
AMIS is a small local CBO that is using FrontlineSMS to provide farmers with market information and other relevant agricultural information by SMS. Farmers and buyers put in a code to request information relevant to their crop and locality. A few hundred people use their system at present, which is being piloted in a single divison (Fako) in Cameroon’s South West region. Their strength lies in ensuring they have a strong offline presence. They believe this is crucial in order to engage farmers who are often initially reluctant to adopt new technologies, but later realise their benefits with sufficient support.
It will be interesting to see how some of these initiatives progress, as they explore how tech can tackle challenges in rural communities and how people can be empowered to use tech to stimulate social change at a grassroots level.