Eric Morrow, founder of Maendeleo Foundation in Kampala and Seattle is a true hero, and here’s why:

Using three solar panels, a battery, ten folding chairs, five tables, fifteen Intel-powered Classmate PCs and two teachers in a small van his foundation sets up Mobile Solar Computer Classrooms (MSCC). It’s been in operation in rural Uganda for two years now and has the purpose of teaching pupils and teachers IT and computer skills.

Here is what the eLearning Africa blog says about Eric’s MSCC:

A new MSCC is already touring through Uganda. Using funds from the grant Maendeleo recently received from Intel’s Inspire-Empower challenge, the Foundation was able to put together a second MSCC that will serve rural areas in the same way as the original MSCC. With the grant, they have also been able to upgrade the original MSCC that they had (to run with fifteen computers). They are now also in the process of buying land and building an Advanced Training Centre, where they intend to give further individual training during school breaks to students who show potential and interest in working in the ICT industry.

You can also watch YouTube videos about the Maendeleo project.

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Digital pens (like this Nokia Digital Pen SU-1B) may be nothing new to the world you live in, but here in Africa we’re not always on the forefront of digital technology. But sometimes we are.

I was extremely happy to read this post from the eLearning Africa newsportal explaining that doctors in Tanzania are being issued with digital pens to make sure medical records are safe and secure:

In many hospitals throughout the world, it is still standard practice for doctors and nurses to keep handwritten patient files; this is also the case in Africa. However, these files can easily get lost, and if patient data have to be transferred from one medical institution to another, the files can take a long time to arrive. Digital documents that can be shared and stored easily could go a long way to combating such problems. To help remedy this situation, at the beginning of January 2010, the IT managers of several hospitals in Tanzania began gearing themselves up to test a new ‘digital pen’; one that can convert doctor’s handwriting into a compact, easy-to-archive digital file.

I like the simplicity of the idea – all doctors will know how to use a pen, even if they cannot use a computer and the digital pen uses familiar technology to introduce you to more advanced technology. Clever!

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Learning with ‘e’s posted about an inspiring young Mobile Technology Evangelist called Jessica Colaco (she’s also a Researcher, TED Global 2009 Fellow and one of the top 40 women in Kenya under 40) and the projects she’s been apart of in Kenya:

M-PESA (Pensa is Swahili for money) which enables users to exchange money without the need to either go to a bank or hold an account. Tangaza is a voice based transmission service – you can update your Facebook or Twitter status through voice recordings on your mobile phone. Several other recently created apps were also demonstrated, including fish tracking devices and other tools designed to help people gain information on the move about education, health and agriculture. M-Kulima for example, can enable farmers to store and retrieve information about milk sales prices and purchase dates, where previously they would have had to try to remember each transaction.

There is also M-Guide for tourists. Take a photo of an unfamiliar bird or animal in the game reserve and your mobile phone sends the picture to a server. The server sends back via SMS a description of the animal – there are some obvious educational applications to that one.
The last part of Steve’s post holds the most truth

because Africans have been largely passed over by the first few waves of technology, they are now only just beginning to be creative with their first computing device – their mobile phones – and therefore seeing opportunities to innovate which the Western industrialised nations cannot see.

I think Africans use mobile phones in the most creative ways because we don’t have readily available and cheap internet connections.

Ellyssa Kroski over at the Library Journal wrote an interesting article on using SMS’es as a reference tool for libraries.

I especially liked this part:

Offering this type of mobile service makes sense for libraries at this stage—it seems the next step in the evolution of library services.

In South Africa, internet connectivity is very limited (and mostly very expensive as well) and an SMS reference system would be very practical indeed.

Welcome to my newest endeavor!

Hopefully this blog will:

  • keep you up to date on what’s going on with academic publishing in Africa/South Africa (think calls for papers, conferences etc)
  • keep you informed about what’s happening in libraries in Africa/South Africa (if it happens and I hear about it, so will you!)
  • remind you that not everyone thinks like you (young people, older people and even older people all think and work differently – so prepare to broaden your mind!)
  • keep you entertained! (I would never read a boring blog, so why should you?)

I’m sure the path will be filled with broken links, un-upload-able pictures, typos and entries that won’t always resonate with you – but I’m just as sure there will be more than enough interesting stories, fascinating people and good times to make up for that!

So buckle up and enjoy the ride!