Message to friends of the iLab on the Ebola situation – we’re limiting public events – let’s fight this disease!

Dear friends of the iLab,

I am sure we are all aware of the emergency situation getting more and more serious –  and are all gravely concerned. Please read through this message.


iLab limiting its activities

For the safety of iLab staff and iLab users (and in reference to the government’s regulations on public gatherings), we are sorry to inform you that all our public events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Your health is more important!

We are currently still operating, but taking a number of precautions to ensure the safety of everyone. We continually seek the advice of various Liberian and international authorities and act accordingly.

What you can do to help in your community

  • ACT POSITIVELY!
  • STAY SAFE – wash your hands, do not touch sick or dead people
  • DON’T PANIC – act with concern and safety, do not spread information that you do not know for sure
  • LISTEN TO THE RADIO – constantly
  • GET THE ESSENTIAL NUMBERS ON PAPER! – hotlines, health facilities, police, family, etc
  • RESPECT – health workers, those who are sick, authorities – and your fellow human beings!

 

 

 

SPREAD YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE TO OTHERS!


Numbers to calls for help or questions relating to Ebola

Ministry of Health and Social Welfare: 1333 (LoneStar) or 4455 (Cellcom)

UNICEF: 0886-520581 or 0886-374733

Radio Stations

  • UNMIL Radio – 91.5 FM
  • Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) – 99.9 FM
  • Voice FM – 102.7 FM

We will be posting announcements, sending SMS’s to our user base and doing other things. DON’T BE FOOLED BY FALSE INFORMATION AND RUMORS!


STAY SAFE!

 

The iLab staff

Girls in ICT- A Program Funded by WeTech Seed Fund Grant

Last year we had a program on Girls in ICT, a Google RISE program, for girls in high school or those who have recently left high school.

 

This year, there’s another opportunity for women & girls everywhere to become creators - and not just consumers – of tomorrow’s innovations. It is vital to expand access to Computer Science Education through programs that inspire, engage, and retain top talent.

 

iLab is one of the African institutions being funded through WeTech Seed Fund for Women & Girls in Africa.

The courses to be offered are:

  • Introductory ICT for small business
  • Website creation course, using open source tools
  • Introduction to Python Programming – already started
  • Intermediate Python Programming
The program will run from July to September.

3 Interns at the iLab for the month of July

With the yearn to get a sense as to what it feels like to work in a professional environment, and to learn from the staff of iLab and their users in order to help develop their initiatives; these three young fellows applied for a one month internship at iLab.

 

 

Daniel Welsh
Intern at iLab
daniel@ilabliberia.org
@danwelsh

Daniel is an intern from Canada for the month of July 2014. He will be working under mentorship of all members of iLab trying to spread his foundation on IT and business skills while working in a professional environment. He is very excited to be here and plans on working on website development, building a iLab user database, and filming a new updated video about iLab’s story in Liberia. Continue reading

Summer teaching blog 2 – Michael Madaio

It’s hard to believe that it’s already July, and the first month of trainings is completed!
In that time, our Beginner’s Approach to Computer Programming (Python) course and our Digital Video Production course both came to an end. We held a course showcase last Friday night (June 27th) for both of those courses, to award the completion certificates to the students, and to show off all of the great work they did to members of the community.

 

We had several students from the Python Programming course show off their completed songs they wrote with the EarSketch software. It was really cool to see my students presenting their work to an audience and explaining the programming concepts that went into the music they wrote. Plus, all of their music was great, and the audience was almost out of their seats dancing!

 

We also had many students in our Digital Video Production course show off their final videos, which were small local news packages, reporting on issues that they felt were important to them in Monrovia. Citizen journalism is a powerful tool for empowering local citizens to speak out and raise awareness for issues that individuals feel are urgent and important, not just issues that get covered by the radio or television news programs or newspapers. Our students, having gone through the course, are now able to film, edit, and write scripts reporting on issues of importance to them. We want to recognize and thank the Accountability Lab for attending and offering some great feedback, and we encourage people to check out the film festival they will be having, and the film courses for social accountability that they offer as well.

 

Stay tuned, and we will be posting our students’ songs and news videos on our iLab Liberia site, so keep an eye out for those!

 

In addition to our course showcase, I gave a guest lecture last week on Coding as a Creative Practice, in which I talked about the ways to develop effective problem-solving techniques for programming through learning to code creatively. There are many different platforms for using code to participate in creative practices, some of which we are using here at the iLab, such as using music to learn to program Python, as in EarSketch, and using graphic visualization to learn the Java programming language, as in Processing, a class we are offering in July, beginning this week. The turnout was incredible, with more than 50 people packed in tight, on a rainy night, too! Thanks so much to everyone who came out, and I hope to see you all at the next Lecture night, on Wednesday, July 16th.

 

 

Looking ahead, we are in the middle of a Physical Computing course, which uses the Arduino microprocessor to teach about hardware circuits and the software programs that control them. So far, we’ve learned how to control the voltage across the circuit using buttons, potentiometers (or, small dials), and light sensors, and displayed that in the form of LED’s turning on or off, or brighter or darker. Next week, in our final week of that course, the students will be making projects to solve problems they have in their home, or to make things easier or comfortable for them. The end result isn’t the goal, but the process of conceptualizing how to solve a particular problem using hardware and software input and output controls is important, and will translate to other forms of repair, hacking, and problem-solving.

 

If you’re interested, join us on Wednesday, July 16th, for a lecture I’m giving on Hacking, Tinkering, and the Maker Movement, which will be followed by demonstrations and explanations of the students’ projects. Hope you can join us! See the Events page for more information.

 

Finally, the last 2 courses that I’m teaching here have begun: an Intermediate Programming class, using the Processing software to teach the Java language, which should be a lot of fun, and a Beginner Programming for Women course, using EarSketch to write music, using the Python programming language. I’m excited to work with the students, and we will be having a final course showcase to show off both of their work on Friday, July 25th. Feel free to follow along on the individual course pages, under the Resource tab of the iLab site, though it’s of course not a complete substitute for being in the course.

 

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading!

 

Michael Madaio
Georgia Institute of Technology
@mmadaio

Mobile Data collection: The Liberian experience

Mobile data collection is a new way of conducting enumerations, surveys, etc using mobile devices with various mobile technologies.

 These technologies come with a lot of advantages from easy collection, analysis, collaboration to disseminating data in real time onward to finding a unique way to curate and organize data directly from the field, helping to reduce the time it takes to complete survey by improving data integrity and accuracy.

There are a lot of mobile data collection tools, proprietary and open source alike in used nowadays, each with it’s unique functionality; from mapping, curating, analyzing, collaborating data, to real time collection.

IMG_0071.jpeg

The System

Our implementation methodology uses formhub instead of ODK Aggregate which wasn’t conducive for our reporting structure. We chose to use formhub as server and Open Data Kit Collect  Android app to render and handle the forms on the mobile devices.

Continue reading

Innovative mobile service for gathering reports from citizens about road conditions in Liberia launched by Ministry of Public Works

The GIZ/Transport Sector, a department of the German International Cooperation (GIZ) in Liberia recently contracted us to implement one of the first mobile services for citizens engagement for use by the Ministry of Public Works, Republic of Liberia. The project implements and pilots a text message based service for a) citizen reporting of abnormalities in road construction projects and b) the communication of starting road construction projects. This will improve citizen awareness of Ministry of Public Works (MPW) /road construction and maintenance projects in the pilot regions and facilitate monitoring of road construction site work.

 

The new technology or service dubbed Ministry of Public Works and GIZ/Transport Sector Mobile Services for Government to Citizens – Citizens to Government Communications and Engagement Project (G2C2G) affords road users and residents within the targeted counties mentioned supra to make inquiry about the status of on- going road works on various segments of the road from Red Light to Ganta in Nimba County and obtain an instant feedback. The new technology or service also allows road users and residents along the stretch of road to be fed with information concerning on – going road works on various segments of the road with no cost to road users and residents.

 

The road users and residents within Montserrado, Margibi, Bong, and Nimba Counties respectively desirous of subscribing to and using this new service or technology should simply make use of the service by sending a simple text message.

To report an issue on the roads TO Ministry of Public Works, send a text message to 7623 FREE of charge whether a LoneStar Cell MTN or Cellcom GSM subscriber.

 

Also to subscribe to the service to get regular updates FROM Ministry of Public Works, send the message JOIN to 7623.

 

This service or new technology was realized owing to enormous support from the German International Cooperation (GIZ) to the Ministry of Public Works and utilizing the services of Liberia’s leading GSM providers LoneStar Cell MTN and Cellcom.

 

The Formal launch ceremonies in Margibi and Bong Counties:

 

A team consisting of representatives from all three partner entities GIZ, Ministry of Public Works and iLab officially launched the service last month. The official launching ceremonies of the service took place in two counties with scores of well meaning Liberians in attendance. The launches took place on May 19 at 11:00am at the Administration Building in Kakata, Margibi County with over fifty participants ranging from local authorities, civil society organisations, schools, religious institutions, International NGOs to local residents in attendance while the launch in Bong Country took place at the Gbarnga Administration Building in Gbarnga, Bong County with over eighty (80) participants in attendance as well. Continue reading

2014 Summer Teaching Blog #1 – Michael Madaio

Hi everyone, I’m Michael Madaio, a graduate student in the Digital Media program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and I will be spending the next two months teaching several courses at the iLab.

 

 

 

I’ve been here a little over a week, and I’m loving my experience so far. Everyone at the iLab has been very welcoming, and very supportive in helping the trainings get up and running. I’m starting to try some traditional Liberian food, and I can’t wait to explore more of the area.

 

The courses I’m instructing right now are:

  • Introduction to Python Programming
  • Digital Video Productions class, and
  • Open Source Learning.

The course pages for all of these are listed under the Resource tab on this site if you’d like to take a more in-depth look.

 

 

 

The Python Programming course is using a software called EarSketch, which was developed by a research group at Georgia Tech, and uses music composition and remixing to teach programming fundamentals. After 2 days of classes, the students have already written their first functioning program, and have seen how to create music using a few short lines of code.

 

Next, the Video Production class has been very interesting, and is a nice mixture of analyzing videos and “reading” them to understand the kinds of shots used and how the filmmakers created the effects that they did, and then the actual practice of recording and filming videos that they will create and edit themselves. In the first week, we have watched and analyzed some commercials, some Public Service Announcements, some news broadcasts, and even a clip from a James Bond movie, and the students are already becoming very astute observers of filmmaking techniques. Our first short exercise was something called the Door Project, where the students have to shoot 30 seconds worth of footage to create a short, suspenseful scene involving a door. The trick is that they can’t add music or dialogue, and they aren’t able to edit the clips, so they have to create suspense through what they choose to show, and how they choose to show it.

Continue reading

iLab Support Girls in ICT day and the Launch of the Adolescent Girls Resource Center in Liberia.

“The most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human capital and talent –- the skills, education and productivity of its workforce. Women account for one-half of the potential talent base of the world.” – A study conducted by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union).

In celebration of the Girls in ICT day, the Adolescent Girls Unit (AGU) of the MInistry of Gender and Development (MoGD) organized an event for adolescent girls in Liberia. The event consisted of presentations, focal group discussions and the official launching ceremony of the Girls Resource Center at the  MoGD.

 iLab’s Country Director – Teemu Ropponen gave an inspirational speech and also talked about iLab Girls in ICT program, importance of female being involved with ICT related careers and significance of the day. The girls were encouraged to take part in one or more of the girl’s courses offered at iLab.
     
World Bank representative from Washington DC lauded the Min. for their efforts toward the subject and officially launched the Adolescent Girls Resource Center which is situated in the Ministry and is open to all Liberian girls to learn computer, doing school work and research. The resource center consists of five computers, a printer and internet connectivity and other reading materials. The project is funded by the World Bank.
Although many women are working in the lower level of the ICT workforce, they account for very few of the strategic and executive positions. We at iLab encourage girls and young women to prepare themselves for a career in ICT and inform parents, teachers and other stakeholders on why preparing for a career in ICTs is good for women and girls, good for business and good for societies.

Helping Liberians to make sense of data; iLab’s first Introduction to data visualization course

 

It’s the age of Big Data. But what, exactly, do we do with all this information? Do you work with surveys, demographic information, evaluation data, test scores or observation data? What questions are you looking to answer, and what story are you trying to tell with your data?

The world is filled with lots of information; learning to make sense of it all helps us to gain perspective and make decisions. Making Sense of Data is intended for anybody who works with data on a daily basis, such as students, teachers, journalists, and small business owners, and who wants to learn more about how to apply that information to practical problems.

Come take part in the course starting on the 23rd of April. Knowledge of statistics or experience with programming is not required.

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.

  Continue reading