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 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

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.


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

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!