An Excerpt from iLab’s March 2014 Visiting Expert – Jukka Heinonen

Scrum is a management framework that follows agile software development principles. When the iLab’s Country Director, Teemu Ropponen, suggested me that I should visit iLab to share some of the software development knowledge accumulated over the years, I didn’t need much time to consider. It sounded so exciting that I couldn’t resist.

After the initial excitement, I started to think about what would be the most valuable lessons I could share. I really didn’t know much about Liberia and my trip would be my first real visit in the continent of Africa. As I am a software development professional, teaching some programming language seemed the obvious choice. But even though I started as a software developer, my coding skills have become a bit rusty as I have had more managerial roles recently. On the other hand, I’ve learned that even though the coding skills of individuals are at the very core of software development, the efforts are wasted or not effective if the what should be done and how it is done questions are not addressed. As the ‘just start coding, ask later’ approach is a common pitfall everywhere I know, probably the same applies in Liberia, I figured, and that formed the core for my lectures.

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iLab supports local & international organisations to celebrate 2014 International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day TED Show

As part of activities marking International Women’s Day (8th March), iLab partnered with  the Ministry of Gender and Development and the United Nations Mission In Liberia to host the International Women’s Day TED show for girls. A special TED talk featuring prominent women; Michelle Obama (America’s First Lady) and Leymah Gbowee (Nobel prize winner). TED is a platform for ideas worth spreading. Started in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, TED today shares ideas from a broad spectrum — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independent TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. To learn more about TED, visit their website.

We had presence of The Assistant Minister, Ministry of Gender and development; Hon Magdalene Dagoseh who gave the opening remarks of the event and encouraged the student to take control of their futures by acquiring education.

Hon Magdalene Dagoseh giving an opening remark

 

Both TED talks discussions were moderated by two prominent Liberian females. TED talk 1. Michelle Obama “Please for education was moderated by Barkue Tubman while TED talk 2. Leyman Gbowee ” Unlocking the intelligence, passion and greatness of girls. The discussions included, questions and answers and comments from both the students, moderators and officials in attendance.

 

Barkue Tubman moderating the dialogue.

Munah Youngblood Moderating the dialogue

The students with the prominent women

 

Nobel Peace Prize Forum Google+ hangout connected classrooms

Uniting Distant Stars (UDS) and iLab Liberia co-hosted The Google+ hangout connected classroom.  We had about 50 students from primary level such as Russ Wood Christian Academy, various high schools, and University of Liberia. The program was about two hours long and started at 9:30AM (CST) in Minnesota, which was 3:30PM (GMT) in Liberia.

The featured speaker for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum (NPPF) youth festival morning session was Liberia’s 2011 Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, who has presented several times to Minnesotan youth. This is NPPF’s first year of using Google+ Hangout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Leymah’s TED talk, about four students from Minnesota were able to ask her questions. A Liberian scholar from Russ Wood, Ishmael, represented his peers by asking her a question. He asked; “How can Liberian youth become peace builders?”.

The events were successful and we were overwhelmed by the number of students that participated actively in both events. We hope to continuously help local and international organisations to make possible such important events available to the youths of Liberia.

IT project management and web/mobile development trainings at iLab in March!

iLab has a very special program coming up in March – targeting especially web/mobile/software developers and entrepreneurs. We have  a visiting expert, Jukka Heinonen, from Finland visiting iLab from Feb 27 to March 25. The detailed times for trainings are being worked out,  training descriptions below.


Introduction to Software Project Management  - March 5th-11th, 1:30PM – 3:30PM
“Work smart on the right things at the right time – as a team.” This training provides a high-level understanding on different aspects of software projects. Intended to give ideas on what to take into account when planning to implement a piece of software, bigger or smaller. This training is meant for IT entrepreneurs, software or web developers, project managers and others who manage or implement projects.

Agile software development using Scrum – March 10th- 14th , 4:00PM – 6:00PM
“Avoid the pitfalls of software projects that go nowhere – harness the power of Agile development and learn to use Scrum” This training introduces participants to agile software development and the Scrum project management methodology. An overview training describes how successful software development is managed with Scrum. After this training the audience should understand the principles Scrum to start experimenting and learning more. Participants should have some experience in (software development) projects, as developers, testers, project managers or customers. Preferably the have participated in the Introduction to Software Project management training.

Scrum test run- March 19th- 21st, 1:30PM- 3:30PM
Length from two to four sessions.
Try out the Scrum method for real – and get expert assistance to help you out. This intensive training helps you practice the Scrum methodology taught in the training “Agile development with Scrum“ – so you can manage software or website development projects effectively. Meant for participants of the “Agile development with Scrum” – training.

Introduction to Mobile software development – March 17th- 21st, 4:30PM- 6:30PM
The opportunity for mobile technologies in Liberia is huge – so how to get started? This training is intended to give an introduction the mobile software development landscape – different operating systems, what is required to build and run software on them. What can be done with mobile technologies and what technology to use? What is a good mobile application or mobile service idea – and how can it be refined?
This is not a programming course. Instead, this is intended to be a starter package for developers, entrepreneurs and business owners considering mobile applications.
Provides a great opportunity for networking with mobile tech enthusiasts!


About Jukka Heinonen

Mr. Jukka Heinonen, M.Sc. Technology, is a  Finnish software development professional with over 15 years of experience in software development, from startups to international  IT  corporations. He has been in teams developing software ranging from small bleeding edge proof-of-concept mobile applications to globally used software and systems. Tens of thousands of people have used software in which Jukka has been involved. His specialties include software project management, agile development methodologies, Scrum and mobile applications and systems.

Get in touch with us now – and help spread the word!

The iLab team!

iLab’s statistics in 2013!

Wow! We couldn’t believe it. With all of our donors, collaborators, partners and users on board, we’ve hit a milestone we didn’t even dream about when starting iLab back in May, 2011: we have served 1,280+ people in 2013 alone.

 

Trainings

 

  • Intermediate Branding and advertisement course
  • Quick start Website Creation for Institutions
  • Structure Query Training Language (SQL) Training
  • Social Media for women/Social Media for Social Change
  • Introduction to Ubuntu
  • Intro Mastering the Internet
  • Intermediate Ubuntu
  • Social Media for Transparency and Accountability
  • Mobile Technologies for Transparency and Accountability
  • Python Programming Language
  • Intermediate Python Programming
  • Physical Computing
  • Photography
  • (and some of these special courses for women only)

Courses offered in 2013

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“Connecting with Digital Innovation in Africa through Social Media”

 hosted by GIZ  in Nairobi, Kenya

GIZ idea behind this workshop with African hubs was to network with pioneers

m:lab East Africa

and practitioners, to share experiences, create new ideas and discover opportunities in Africa which will eventually help promote international cooperations for sustainable development.

The event brought together a dozen of African hubs including,  iLab Liberia of Liberia, iHub of Kenya, ActivSpaces of Cameroon, Klab of Rwanda, RLABS of South Africa, iLabAfrica of  Kenya, icecairo of Egypt, Wennovation Hub of Nigeria, BongoHive of Zambia, iceaddis of Ethiopia and of course our AfriLabs.

iHub

In attendance were representatives from the KAIPTC of Ghana and a hosts of GIZ representatives from  head offices in Germany and other African Countries.

During the workshop, we had the opportunity to visit Hubs, (iHub, M:Lab, iLabAfrica, Ushahidi) Incubators like(Nailab & iBizAfrica), and Strathmore University which houses the Safaricom Academy, iBizAfrica and iLabAfrica.

The Impact of hubs:

  • Develop skills

    iLab Africa

  • Create jobs
  • Serve as implementing partner for both governments and development cooperations
  • Serve as a focal point for the  community
  • Identify skills and bring them together under one roof where their potentials can be utilized effectively not only on the national scene, but globally as well.
  • Help with local development since it creates local linkages

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Supporting Implementation of the Open Government Partnership in Liberia with High and Low Tech: Knowmore LIB

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By: Blair Glencorse and Teemu Ropponen.

This post has also been submitted for the OGP blog.

 

Liberia has made some impressive reforms to support open government since it signed the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2005. The government has put in place a host of bodies focused on transparency and accountability, including the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC). It was also the first African state to comply with Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) rules governing natural resources and the first West African country to pass a Freedom of Information Act.

 

Against a variety of measures- including the World Bank’s Governance Indicators, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and the Open Budget Index- Liberia has exhibited steady progress. The recent 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance showed Liberia to have made greater governance gains than any other African country since 2000.

 

In practice, however, legal frameworks and bureaucratic mandates have been difficult to implement, and organizations have been hard to manage. Liberia remains an extremely demanding context, at the central-level with serious challenges in terms of incentive structures, rule of law, capacity, infrastructure and resources. Moreover, information is difficult to obtain and data remains stove-piped; while for citizens it is still tremendously time-consuming and exhausting to navigate formal governance systems according to the written rules.

 

This problem begins with an absence of information in a form Liberians can understand and use to ensure the transparency and accountability of government. It is encouraging, therefore, that the Johnson Sirleaf administration- through the Open Government Partnership- has committed, among other reforms, to the development of a citizen website and an open data portal.

 

The Accountability Lab and iLab Liberia are supporting these commitments through Knowmore LIB (“Knowmore” is a knowledgeable person in Liberian English; “LIB” is a local nickname for Liberia)- a project to assess, find, collect and visualize information and datasets on key government services. The team is working with the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) to build a dual purpose website to function as an open data hub and as a government navigation portal to help citizens understand and use government services more effectively.

 

In a context like Liberia, however, high tech approaches are simply not enough when internet penetration and education levels are low. We are also bridging the digital and literacy divide creatively through an off-line campaign using popular chalk billboards to convey this information to citizens in language and illustrations they understand. Recently, we ran a series including pictures and explanations of road signs and rules- and had everyone from passersby to policemen asking for further information.

 

Additionally, we are beginning to train government, media, and civil society organizations on data journalism and data visualization and the benefits and uses of open government and open data initiatives. In conjunction, the Accountability Lab has formed a Liberian Art Collective to begin painting murals with accountability and open government messages around Monrovia; and is supporting community radio shows to discuss government revenue and spending information in local languages.

 

Information can be transparent in Liberia but is often mismanaged or difficult to navigate. Knowmore LIB is a collaborative effort across civil society and government in Liberia to ensure that information can be used by Liberians to make their government more open, accountable and responsive to citizens.

 

Blair Glencorse is Executive Director of the Accountability Lab. You can follow the Lab on Twitter @accountlab. Teemu Ropponen is Country Director of iLab Liberia. You can follow iLab Liberia on Twitter @iLabLiberia

 

iLab’s October 2013 summary updates: A busy but successful month…

Offering free trainings in contextually relevant ICTs that are open to the public. Also hosts tech events and serves as a meet-up space for a range of tech enthusiasts and professionals.

Though busy, this month’s events and training were exciting and interactive. Having 5 events, 4 trainings and 18 co-working days:

 

TED (Technology Entertainment & Design) Talks - TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference and TED Global. We screened these talks for all to watch, enjoy and be motivated! 20 persons were in attendance…

 

Careers in ICT Workshop for students –  Here we taught 15 amazing students from various institutions all they need to know about ICT; possible career paths and what it takes to get there.

 

Mastering the Internet for high school students – After 5 days of dedicated training, 6 students from different high schools were awarded with certificates of outstanding performance. They were introduced to the wonders of the internet as an educational tool and a way to explore what they are passionate about.

High School Students with their certificates

 

Movie night - With 31 attendees, we featured films that inspires discussion and make us think critically about our lives. The featured movie is “Stand and Deliver” - Jaime Escalante (best actor Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos) employed at an inner-city high school where kids are all but expected to fail, Escalante challenges his math students to strive for better things — like acing the AP Calculus test. Despite the obstacles in their lives — including pregnancy, drugs and unsupportive parents – the classmates accomplish their goal, thanks to Mr. Escalante’s untiring support. The real Jaime Escalante, inspiration for the book Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, helped hundreds of underprivileged students pass the AP exam during his career.

 

Workshop on Open Knowledge, Open data and Open Government in Liberia  Ways were explored on how to use technology creatively to make Government information easily understandable for citizens.

 

 

Intermediate Mastering the Internet – An advanced training on how to use the internet as an educational tool for your interest with the aim of making you an expert online. We had 12 persons who took part in this training, but only 8 could come on the certification day.

Intermediate Mastering the Internet Certification

 

Social Media for Social Change – Here we introduced the popular and free social media tools to 10 participants.

Social Media Certification

 

ICT for Small Business – 12 Entrepreneurs are trained on how to effectively and efficiently run their business using Twitter, GnuCash & Google Drive. The training will run till the 4th of November.

Training session- ICT for small business

 

 Mapping Party – 28 persons were present to add their favorite places on the Google map.

We had a workshop on Early Warning and Early Response LERN Improvement with 20 persons in attendance.

We also hosted the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Government of Liberia in collaboration with Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) on the  Governance Architecture project. The kick-off of a project in which iLab will train and give technical support to the TWG using Ms Visio to do process modeling for Ministries, Agencies and Commissions of the republic of Liberia.

 

Our regular co-working hours that is free and open to the public was open for 18 days with a minimum of 15 persons  using our facility each day.

 

Thanks,

 

Lucy & Luther

iLab + LINGO forum Capacity Development for LINGO Member organisations

We are currently conducting a training, having 8 persons from Liberian International Non-Governmental Organizations (LINGO) registered, they are taught data curation (file management) and LibreOffice Writer & Calc. Training will last for 2 weeks, 2 hrs daily, after which they will be certified with a certificate of achievement.

The participants are professional Liberians who work for various iNGOs in Liberia. Though they have knowledge on Microsoft Suite acquired in the work place or by self; we decided to go in-depth in order to build their ICT skills using Free & Open source Application software like LibreOffice Writer & Calc the LibreOffice Word processor and spreadsheet components respectively.

 

Open government and Freedom of Information in Liberia – more than a Hollywood dream?

I am sitting at the University of Liberia campus, watching Erin Brockovich, the Hollywood movie. As it demonstrates the uses of the Freedom of information act in the US to uncover environmental damage by a chemical company, it is a demonstrative prelude to a distinguished Freedom of Information/Access to Information panel, moderated by Dep. Min. Tweah with US visitors from Department of Justice and The Carter Center, the Liberian Independent Information Commissioner, and former Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism  – one of many events  lined up before the Right to Know day, on September 28, 2013.

 

Liberia has had the Freedom information Act in place for three years now and is one of the few countries in  Africa to have such legislation. The Independent Information Commission is one of its kind in Africa. BUT, things are not always so sweet. In a recent CEMESP study, only one of 92 FOIA requests resulted in a full, positive disclosure of information.

 

This is not to say a lot has been done. The Government of Liberia (GoL) has committed to greater transparency and, after years of instability, Liberians now have the opportunity to become more aware of what to expect and demand from government.

 

For example:

  • The government passed the Freedom of Information Act in 2010 (the first in West Africa);
  • has worked to pass a Procurement and Contracting Act in 2009 requiring GoL contracts or projects to be executed on a competitive basis;
  • has put in place an Open Budget Process to provide the public with information on the government’s spending; and
  • adhered to the Extractive Industries Transparency through the EITI Act.

 

 

In fact, Liberia has recently joined the Open Government Partnership (the OGP, an international initiative that aims to build concrete commitments from governments relating to transparency), and its action plan in this regard was endorsed by the Cabinet in July, 2013.

 

 

Despite all of this however, information is not easy to obtain or understand in Liberia. Accessing information in person at Liberia’s ministries can be a significant challenge. And as mentioned, the FOIA enforcement is not as effective as it could be.

 

iLab is proposing and looking forward to working on making information available to citizens in two ways:

 

  1. One citizen-centric place for knowledge that answers questions ordinary citizens have – how do I get a passport, how do I register a business, how do traffic lights work (yes, they are new in Liberia and no, people do not understand how it works)
  2. An open data portal, that gathers data assets (like statistics, demographic information, geographic information) into one place

Why open data? Martin Tisne recently wrote about it. Open data not only creates transparency, it can drive service innovation. Transparency, on the other hand, can lead to efficiency and improved citizen participation. Definitely goals worth striving for!

 

In time, information and data about Liberia should be as readily and easily available, as the Swiss portal https://www.ch.ch/en/, just recently launched at the OKCon conference.  A great example how a government website can be simple but elegant – and above all, informative for citizens.

 

Impossible to do in Africa? No. This information is and should be available. Examples of data portals, even in difficult contexts, can be found – for example in the Edo state in Nigeria http://data.edostate.gov.ng/ . “It won’t work here in Liberia” is no answer.

 

However, at the same time, not all good initiatives succeed, and it is important to learn from those. For example, the great efforts in Tanzania did not succeed as well as expected because it was difficult to get people to participate. At the same time, one of the end goals of transparency is to increase people’s participation – but it’s a long road there in many of the developing countries. Think big – but don’t expect too much right away.

 

In Liberia, it is important not forget those who do not have access to the internet. It s absolutely vital to make use of other media- print, radio, and even creative arts. One unique Liberian media is the Daily Talk, which has even attracted international attention. The principle is easy – chalkboard, sign and a location that attracts a crowd. There is no reason why this could not and should not be taken into communities.

 

So, a reason to be optimistic about the future of open government in Liberia? Sure – but it will take a lot of time and a collaborative effort between the various civil society organizations AND the  government to do it right! It’s a long way to a Hollywood ending.

 

At iLab, open government is one of the key themes we are passionate about and focusing on in 2013-2014. Would you like to partner with us? Contact us for more information.

 

 

 

iLab participates in the first Atrocity Prevention Workshop of the Early Warning Early Response Working Group of Liberia

I was fortunate to have represented iLab Liberia at the first ever Atrocity Prevention Workshop of the Early Warning & Early Response (EWER) Working Group organised by the Peacebuilding Office in partnership with Peace Direct, a UK based organization which aims to support local action against conflict. The EWER Working Group is comprised of civil society organizations, government agencies, UN agencies and other international partners working on issues of peace building and conflict prevention.
This three days (September 5-7, 2013) interactive workshop held at the county office of National Elections Commissions in Buchanan city, Grand Bassa County, taught participants ways to develop community based approach to atrocity prevention. The facilitator,  Roland Clarke also drilled participants through a series of sessions that will help them create a link between Atrocity Prevention and Local First, a development approach that looks first for the capacity within countries before bringing in external expertise and resources.
In conflict zones worldwide, local people are building peace, stopping violence, saving live and healing their own communities. I believe that if the “Local First” approach can be employ by the Government, International NGOs, and other peace and development actors, the local heroes (ordinary Liberians) can play a pivotal role in sustaining the peace that the Liberian society currently enjoys.
Luther D. Jeke
Training Director
*iLab_Liberia