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.

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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.

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!

“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.


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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Tools for modern-day storytellers: social media for Liberia’s aspiring journalists

In an effort to bring technology to a growing community of Liberian journalists, iLab recently offered a course exploring online collaborative platforms. This course, Social Media for Social Change, is one of iLab’s ongoing and most popular courses that, in this case, was customized for 14 members of the Journalists for Human Rights Liberia Student Chapter. This training introduces platforms for easily publishing articles, document storage and virtual collaboration among Liberia’s aspiring journalists.

Cross-section of participants

In our interactions with iLab users, we’ve found that most people spend their online time using Facebook and emailing; very few are taking advantage of other information sharing tools. For this reason, we highlighted the following tools for our classroom of journalists:

  • TumblrFor journalists weve met at iLab, the most important function of a website is to share their stories, images and create a body of work for others to see. Blogging tools like WordPress, while useful, focus more on the sites design whereas our users are seeking to upload content quickly and easily. Tumblrs features make it clear and simple how to upload a variety of content with a unique, preset theme.


  • Google Plus This social platform is an alternative to Facebook that, in the Liberian context, is more often used for professional collaboration via Hangouts or simultaneous editing of a shared document. iLab users find it engaging and also a productive tool for group work and info sharing outside of the lab.


  • Participants receive certificates at the end

    TwitterAs I always say,a journalist without a Twitter account is half-informed.Even in a setting like Liberia where slow connection speeds make it difficult to use Twitter, it is undoubtedly the fastest way to share ones own work and to stay abreast with events both within Liberia and around the world. Even if Liberian journalists only get to use Twitter periodically depending on their internet connection, it is critical for them to have a voice in the Twittersphere where Liberians are under-represented. With the ACE fiber-optic cable recently landed in-country and soon to be distributed, Liberia will soon have access to high-speed internet and these journalists will be ready to take advantage of tools like Twitter right away.


We’re excited to Hangout, Tweet and Tumble with these talented storytellers; here are a couple of all-stars to follow: @flozeezee, @AlVarneyRogers. In our efforts to support aspiring and professional journalists, we welcome suggestions about online and offline platforms/tools that you have found useful. Please share with us so we can continue growing Liberia’s online community of storytellers.

Via iLab, Liberian Journalist Presents at New York Film Festival on Global Human Rights

Tetee Gebro is a Liberian Journalist reporting for New Narratives and working with SkyFm, a local radio station here in Monrovia.


Recently, Tetee reported on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on her radio show. This report brought about a huge outcry in Liberia among both the traditional people and human rights activists with diverse opinions on the topic.


Because of her coverage, Tetee was asked to appear on a panel at New York Film Festival on Global Human Rights. This was a glorious opportunity for Tetee and Liberia’s entire journalism community.


In order to participate in the panel, Tetee was to appear virtually via Internet, but because of Liberia’s lacking telecommunication infrastructure and slow Internet connection, it appeared almost impossible for this opportunity to become a reality.


As Tetee’s organizers tried to find a place with reliable internet service and an evironment that could afford her to appear by video over Skype, iLab Liberia was the only public resource center in Liberia that could provide Tetee with the resources to participate in the panel discussion.

We were immediately contacted and as usual, we invited Tetee and her local organizers to a meeting to understand the nature of the event and to ensure that all Tetee could required to make this event possible could be available..



iLab prepared a computer running Skype and a projector with and adequate bandwidth just sufficient to ensure uninterrupted video and voice transmissions. With the help of iLab, Tetee was able to successfully attend and presented at the Firm Festival. See more about Tetee’s presentation at the Film Festival here.


iLab is the only technology hub in Liberia that offers free technological opportunities that could not otherwise be found in this country. With the lab’s popularity spreading, we are moving to a larger space this month so we can better accommodate users’ needs and interests. We are always looking for potential funders who would like to see Tetee and other Liberians given the resources that iLab has to offer; contact us if you would like to contribute to iLab’s future and that of Liberia!





iLab’s Social Media training: its significance to Liberians

On the 26th of March we certified 17 persons after they successfully completed the social media training at iLab. This was the second social media training held at iLab for non-journalists. Previous social media trainings held at iLab had been exclusively for journalists from various local media institutions.


This 5 day course had one session each that lasted for three hours. Those certified included local IT Professionals and students of various Liberian universities. We covered social media tools like Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ and FronlineSMS.


As a way of showing the practical use of tools taught in the training, it was required of all participants to start their own Tumblr, Twitter and Google+ accounts. Some of the tumblr blogs started during the training were Gabriel Leoanard’s Fredrick Horace’s and Roosevelt Sackor’s


What makes iLab’s social media training significant to Liberia? There have never been any computer institution or tech lab in Liberia offering training in social media. We have also realized that Liberians have spent the last decade reading other people’s articles, stories and advertisements online; even stories about Liberia online are often told by ex-pats who live here. The participants saw the training as a new means through which their untold stories could be read and seen.


With such an eye opening training, we believe Liberians can now get online and contribute stories about all happenings in Liberia.


Luther D. Jeke

Training Director



iLab’s FOSS training: why it matters in Liberia

At iLab Liberia we have had a series of Introduction to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) trainings over the last 9 months. During the trainings we cover the definitions of Linux Operating System derivatives, how to install the Ubuntu 10.10 Operating System, desktop and basic features operations and also introduce participants to Apache web server and Open DNS. I recently led my first Intro FOSS training at iLab, and it got me thinking about the significance of sharing FOSS in Liberia.


What makes iLab’s Intro FOSS training unique? Firstly, there is no other computer school or tech lab in Liberia offering any training in FOSS. This FOSS training is iLab’s most popular training because most Liberians have a growing interest in learning new skills and especially a new operating system like Ubuntu that is free, open source, and virus-free. This training is a dream come true for most Liberians because they have been using pirated copies of Windows OS for most of their lives as computer users; these pirated OS’s easily corrupt their computers and make basic computer use extremely frustrating.

Proprietary software like the Windows OS is very expensive and it is very difficult to get a genuine copy in Liberia. We have repeatedly conducted this training at iLab because we have heard participants’ testimonies that learning and using the Ubuntu OS has improved the performance of their computers, made their computers virus-free, and also given them an edge over other techies and computer users.


Before iLab began offering these trainings, Windows Operating System was the only OS used in Liberia. During FOSS trainings, we frequently face the challenge that FOSS is a whole new subject in Liberia and we have to spend ample time explaining the concept of FOSS and getting participants to comfortably use an alternative to the familiar Windows OS. It is our dream at iLab that Liberians will develop more interest in learning and using free and open source software to enhance their work and computer user experience instead of using pirated copies of proprietary software that tends to crash after a few months.


Want to see our FOSS manual? Click here


Luther D. Jeke

Training Director

*iLab Liberia

Ubuntu WiFi drivers on ThinkPad E520s

Recently iLab acquired 18 new computers to expand our lab. To prepare them for use at iLab I installed a fresh copy of Unbuntu 10.10 on them, but the WiFi drivers didn’t work. At first I tried a lot of different methods, I was able to get a break through the second day of troubleshooting. However, because I used a lot of different methods, I sincerely did not know which one installed the driver, whether it was the combination of all the methods, or just one.


After a while, I decided trying each method and restarting after every method, this way I could know exactly which one got it installed. After few hours of using this solution pattern, I was able to grasped the exact method. Among the many methods I tried, were installing Ndiswrapper to enable me install the windows driver, but that didn’t worked, I updated a lot of repos, but it still didn’t help. I extracted different driver files and compiled them, but that didn’t also worked, editing some system files which didn’t as well, in addition to other methods that I attempted. Finally, I got a link that instructed me to simple used the below lines, and whoops that is serving as my key now! It works well and has released me of the stress I encountered with the wireless driver issue:


sudo apt-get update
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lexical/hwe-wireless
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install rtl8192ce-dkms
sudo apt-get update
sudo reboot


Anyone encountering similar problem with Thinkpad Edge E520 on Ubuntu 10.10 (32 bit) Desktop Editon can use this to get it working.


iLab Small Business training

iLab Liberia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, hosted a four-day training for small business entrepreneurs.


The training ran from February 13th to 16th, and brought together twelve participants from diverse businesses, covering the following topics:

Day-1: Created Gmail accounts for business transactions with lessons in email etiquette, as well as how to write professional work-related emails.

Day-2: Introduction to navigating the internet and how to use search engines for researching one’s business needs.

Day-3: Created a Facebook business page for marketing and advertisement purposes.

Day-4: Created Google spreadsheet to manage and track finances, then export to Excel or Open Office.

The participants took a final test on the last day, and certificates were awarded. For those who made below a 70% on the exam but participated fully in the course, a “certificate for participation” was awarded; participants who scored a 70% or higher received certificates for “completion and outstanding achievement.”

Since participants are certificated at the end of every training, we have resolved to accompany every training with a final exam to determine what level of certification participants receive.



Prior to this training, many of the participants lacked the necessary skills in computing their business management and so the training served as a boost to enhance their ability to effectively transact businesses using computers and the requisite online tools.

To date, iLab has not conducted evaluations of potential participants before a training. However, we have noticed in recent trainings that some participants do not possess the requisite skills needed to benefit from the training; although most of our trainings start at the beginner level, some participants have never before used a computer or opened a web browser. To tackle this problem, we will implement a pre-test for those who register for upcoming trainings.



The Small Business training afforded participants to learn ways they can advertise their businesses online and further use the internet to connect to Suppliers, Competitors and Customers in a more secure way.

With the growing number of interests in our trainings and participant obtaining jobs solely from what they learned from ilab, it is evident that our services to the public is breeding the tech community in Liberia in a positive way.


Lesson Learn moving forward

We have realized that computing training is needed in almost every section of the Liberian society, while it is true that we have been offering free trainings for the public, it is evident that specific training for targeted groups that applies directly to their career is needed. With the success of the small business Intro-level training, we are confident of looking forward to more customized courses for diverse disciplines.