iLab Activities in 2012

Special events

–      Carter Center Mental Health Training – January 2012 – The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program aims to improve functioning in people with mental illnesses in the most populous counties of Liberia. At iLab, Dr. Ellen Zegura of Georgia Tech University and the Carter Center conducted trainings for mental health nurses on using online tools to enhance and expedite their work in health facilities outside of the capital.

–      IT for Small Businesses – February, March, August 2012. iLab hosted beginner and intermediate trainings for micro and small businesses through a collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Division (MSME).

  • Intro course: The intro course covered: setting up an email account; email etiquette; how to use the internet to research prices, competitors and customers; marketing via Facebook; how to use Open Office tools for basic expenses and sales.
  • Intermediate course: The intermediate course covered: overview of design software for creating logos, business cards and fliers; free and open source accounting software; using Google Map Maker to put businesses on the map.
  • Logo and branding using free design software: iLab’s marketing intern, Shira Kaminsky of UMASS Boston, offered a training in logo design and branding for small business entrepreneurs via the Ministry of Commerce’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Division in August. These entrepreneurs learned how to use the free design software, Scribus and create templates for their own business cards, brochures and logos – work they usually can’t afford to pay others to do on their behalf. Read about it here:

–      Python programming for Liberia – June-August 2012 – iLab’s digital media and programming intern, Allan Martell of Georgia Tech University, hosted three months of Python programming courses at iLab this summer. These courses, the first offering of Python in Liberia, were also made possible by Georgia Tech that provided free self-guided online lessons in Python and also interviewed students to get a sense of the courses’ relevance to their lives. Read more here:

–      Intermediate Website creation – July, August 2012 – This course offers a more advanced look at WordPress: plugins, css, html, themes, how to create engaging content for the site, and most especially to learn an environment in which they can work while outside of iLab – i.e. the installation of web servers, LAMP, WAMP and XAMPP.

–      Intro to Video Production – July-August 2012 – Also led by iLab’s digital media intern, this course taught students how to create a 30-second production (“teaser”) about an idea, project or subject working in groups. Students had backgrounds in journalism, filmmaking, video or other storytelling genres.

–      Pitch Salon – August 2012 – Blair Glencorse, co-founder of the Accountability Lab, started Pitch Salons in DC earlier this year; they are a cross between speed-networking and public talks by handpicked innovators who think about more than just the bottom line – social entrepreneurs, thought leaders and change-makers. Pitchers give an “elevator pitch” for an organization, cause or idea that is engaging, accessible to an informed listener and has the potential to change the world for the better, and the room of listeners includes potential mentors, investors and interested peers. iLab and Blair created Liberia’s first Pitch Salon highlighting innovators such as a local filmmaker, an entrepreneur starting the country’s first recycling and composting center, youth hip-hop dancing to fundraise for a youth center, a local journalist seeking to share the voices of Liberians living in the most remote regions, and much more. It was a huge success with a big turnout and promising partnerships formed during the breakout networking session. Read more:

–      Film screening – August 2012 – iLab hosted the first screening of the locally directed film, “Jina of Putu Mountain.” The feature-length film, directed by Divine Key Anderson, was followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker as well as cast and crew. The film was made on, as the director called it, “a non-budget”, costing a total of only 250 USD to create the film largely due to iLab’s lending library of camera equipment.

–      Social media for musicians – October 2012 – This course, offered specifically to local musicians, introduced popular and free social media tools Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for Liberian artists to promote themselves online. Read more:

–      JPC computer training – November 2012 – The Justice and Peace Commission hosted trainings for their own staff at iLab in computer basics and how to conduct their work online.

–      Girls-Only mapping party – December 2012 – in partnership with, iLab hosted a girls-only mapping party to introduce young women to such online tools as Google MapMaker. This event also included a G+ Hangout with a former winner of the Anita Borg Scholarship, given to young women who are seeking higher education in computer science and tech-related fields.

–      Carter Center’s IT for mental health training – December 2012 – The Carter Center hosted trainings at iLab for recent nursing students conducting mental health work in the field using new technologies to track patients’ progress.

–      Dr. Ellen Zegura’s guest lecture – December 2012 – Dr. Zegura of the Georgia Institute for Technology in the United States held a public lecture about her research concerning the development of wide-area Internet networking services and mobile wireless networking.


Recurring trainings

–      Social media for social change – This training introduces the popular and free social media tools Tumblr and Twitter. This training has been offered five times, often for specific groups such as human rights journalists, journalism students, and soon for public relations officers in key ministries.

–      Mastering the Internet course– This course covers the history of the internet, how to use the internet for research and education purposes, as well as email etiquette and tenets of professional correspondence. This training has been offered eight times in 2012, both for the general public and for target audiences such as teenagers, young women, and soon for secondary and higher education instructors.

–      Intro to quick-start website creation – This course provides in-depth training in how to create and maintain a free WordPress website. This course has been offered four times in 2012 and will soon be offered specifically for IT personnel at INGOs, CSOs and also businesses seeking to improve their online presence.

–      Intro to FOSS – this course offers an introduction to free and open source software with a focus on versions of Linux OS especially Ubuntu, installation and desktop management. This course was offered eleven times in 2012.

–      Intermediate FOSS – This course builds on the introductory course and focuses more on the administrative aspects of Ubuntu OS such as the terminal, installing applications and more. This course was offered six times in 2012.

–      TED nights – TED nights at iLab feature 5-6 TED talks, often grouped thematically. This event has been offered thirteen times in 2012.

–      Mapping parties  – This event invites Liberians to add their favorite video club, cook shop, and neighborhood streets to Google’s Liberia map using Map Maker. A tutorial in Map Maker is offered before every mapping party. This event has been offered thirteen times in 2012.

–      Movie nights – Movie nights feature films that inspire discussion and make us think critically about our lives; documentary films with an IT or Africa-related theme are often shown.  This event has been offered ten times since first introduced in June 2012.


New partnerships and latest developments

–      Accountability Lab – The Accountability Lab is an INGO that acts as a catalyst to make power-holders responsible in the developing world, particularly around issues of corruption and transparency in higher education. In Liberia, AL has decided to pilot an anonymous SMS-based reporting system, the TELL project, for college students at a local polytechnic institute to determine what kinds of corruption-related issues are taking place on campus, issues that can then inform stakeholders at the school to directly respond to students concerns and challenges. iLab has partnered with AL to create the SMS reporting system, using android phones and apps, and to oversee the implementation of the pilot in the fall semester.

–      SPARK + Lonestar partnership – The Dutch development organization, SPARK (, has partnered with iLab to host a business plan competition for IT entrepreneurs over the course of the next four to six months. With a grant from Lonestar, Liberia’s largest telecommunications company, SPARK will select ten final applicants with the most promising business plans and then provide guidance on all aspects of executing a successful business model. iLab will offer access to mentors around the world working in similar fields of interest to the final applicants and will facilitate discussions and learning sessions between them. iLab will also host two sets of trainings for the applicants focusing on tools and concepts that are relevant to their specifics areas of interest. Liberia’s IT sector is under-resourced with little national investment, thus the competition serves to motivate aspiring techies to take their ideas to the next level, with a final prize of a $10,000 loan and ongoing mentorship from SPARK in business relations.

–      UMASS Boston + Academics Without Borders – UMASS Boston plans to begin hosting its first remote learning class for Liberians in international development via iLab. Starting in late September, Dr. Michael Keating will begin a six-session class for 15 Liberian professionals ranging from ministerial staff to business owners that covers the same material as Dr. Keating’s graduate course at UMASS.

–      Lonestar Volunteer program – Liberia’s largest operator, Lonestar (of MTN), will be placing 12 of its staff as co-facilitators in two of iLab’s upcoming trainings on social media and researching via the internet. This partnership is part of Lonestar’s annual volunteer program; as a result of this collaboration, Lonestar has asked iLab to submit an application for funding from the operator’s new charitable foundation.

–      iPod Touch for tracking land disputes – Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) contracted iLab in March and April to host a series of trainings for NRC staff. These staff were recently provided iPod Touches to more fully document ongoing land disputes and resolution techniques throughout Liberia; iLab trained these mediators in how to use the iPods for gathering and sharing a variety of information related to their work.

–      Liberia Scout Association – At the urging of UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) Human Rights colleagues, Ushahidi Liberia staff trained Scout Association members (as in the Girl and Boy Scouts) how to use FrontlineSMS to track the activity of courts across Liberia. This pilot project, a collaboration between the UN Volunteers and the Scouts, was conducted for a month during which time Scouts from all counties texted into Scout HQ about whether or not courts were open at appointed times and properly staffed. Ushahidi Liberia also presented the importance of using crowdsourcing and free, open source technologies at an annual Scout meeting in August.  

–      Microsoft donation – In July, Microsoft donated 30 computer software licenses to iLab, making all the labs’ computers equipped with both Windows and Linux OS. This enables iLab to offer more paid services for those clients seeking training in or related to Microsoft products.

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