How can iLab improve: fantastic learnings and crazy ideas from our users at 2013 Midyear feedback forum

Another exciting forum with lots of feedback from our clients! With over 50 persons in attendance, we had a mid year feedback forum on the 17th day of July. In the past six months we’ve had various training:

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

We work for you for the benefit of Liberia and iLab users, we value all ideas no matter how small or grand, We will value all ideas, not everything will be possible. We change our operations based on feedback just like how our Saturday co-working hours started after we got user feedback. The goal of the mid-year feedback forum is to get feedback from our users: what has been great, what could be improved or done differently.

We got feedback on training:

 

  • More courses should be offered (eg. Networking and A+)
  • Provision of more training materials
  • Saturdays should be included in the days of training.

We also got feed back on Public events:

 

  • We should invite local guest speakers ( Liberian citizen).
  • We should have TED Talk nights only on fridays
  • We should allow at least ten minutes of discussion after every TED night

          

Guest blog post: AshCon team from Ashesi University in Ghana compliments iLab

We are a team of three students from Ashesi University in Ghana, implementing AshCon at Ricks Institute. AshCon is an off-line e-learning platform that serves high-quality educational material to students and teachers without the need for an Internet connection. To learn more about AshCon, you can visit our blog. As part of our project, we had to find and download additional educational materials, however our Internet connection was too slow. Kpetermeni Siakor, our team leader had been mentioning iLab even before we left Ghana and said that they would be able to help us. Kpetermeni is actually one of the first employees of iLab. We then contacted iLab for them to allow us to use their facility and their Internet connection and they agreed.

Our first day in iLab was really joyous, Kpetermeni was really happy to see his former colleagues and friends Anthony, Carter and Luther again. We also got to meet Teemu Ropponen the country director who was going for a meeting outside. We had the chance to meet Teemu earlier during our first week in Liberia; he was invited to the AJEN summer camp organized by Ashesi University at Ricks Institute to tell the participants about iLab and how they could benefit from it. After all the excitement settled, Anthony Kamah gave us a tour of iLab and helped us setup. Mr. Kamah was very kind and helpful. Later on, we had to temporarily move to the kitchen so as not to disrupt iLab’s activities. We were so comfortable in the kitchen that we decided to stay there and make it our workspace for the following days.

Our stay in iLab was very fruitful. During the day, we would search for creative commons educational material and save the links in a download manager. Considering the volume of our download, it was preferable not to download during the day to avoid slowing the internet for everyone else. Before leaving in the evening, we would launch the downloads. This way we ensured not to monopolize the internet connection considering the volume of our downloads.

During our time at iLab, we got a glimpse of some of their activities: co-working hours, TED talk night, python for girls, social media for social change and a lot of other events.

Ladies in ICT- Social Media

Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

As more and more young Liberians log on and use social media, technology is becoming an important source of change in the country, Liberia has seen an explosion in the use of online and mobile technology, particularly social media platforms like Facebook.

Much of the criticism of social media are about its exclusiveness as most sites do not allow the transfer of information from one to another, disparity of information available, issues with trustworthiness and reliability of information presented, concentration, ownership of media content, and the meaning of interactions created by social media. However, it is also argued that social media has positive effects such as allowing the democratization of the internet while also allowing individuals to advertise themselves and form friendships.

Most people associate social media with positive outcomes, yet this is not always the case. Due to the increase in social media websites, there seems to be a positive correlation between the usage of such media with cyber bullying, online sexual predators and the decrease in face-to-face interactions. Social media may expose children to images of alcohol, tobacco, and sexual behavior.

At ILab Liberia we are presently training 15 ladies on social media, discussing how individuals and small organisations can use social media to promote equality and good community relations. The various social media sites used  for the training at iLab are: Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. and Google+ It will run for five days, 2 hours each day.

Information for Girls/Certification evening.

An interactive evening with the Ladies in ICT on the 3rd day of July with over 30 beautiful ladies in attendance… they were introduced to the courses (Python Programming for girls, Social media for change, ICT for small business and lots more) that will be offered in this month of July. We got feedback from the ladies on how we could serve them better and they are eager to learn; Database Management, Web Designing, Computer Hardware, and Networking. I’m glad they yearn to be in the IT sector..:)

Information evening with the Ladies.

Certificates were also awarded to those that completed and performed well in some of the courses (“Mastering the Internet” and “Python Programming for Girls”) offered in the month of June so as to encourage the others.

The Ladies with their certificates

Exciting insights from eLearning Africa 2013!

I had the privilege recently to represent iLab  at the eLearning Africa 2013, which was the 8th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training held in beautiful Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

 

ELearning Africa 2013 brought together 1480 participants from 65 countries gather in Windhoek for three days of learning, knowledge exchange and networking. The Continent’s largest gathering of eLearning and ICT-supported education and training professionals, eLearning Africa brought together over 300 speakers from across Africa and the world to explore the latest innovations and issues in the fields of technology and education.

 

Getting me to Namibia to attend eLA 2013 was bit of a hassle because I needed to get a  visa for South Africa in Accra, Ghana then get the Namibian visa in Pretoria, South Africa, but the dynamic and hardworking team of iLab applied all efforts and time to make that happen.

 

There were two major missions in sight as headed out to Namibia.

 

1. To represent iLab Liberia at the second gathering of the Afrilabs, a Pre-eLA 2013 conference workshop (Technology Innovation Hubs in Africa: Creating Opportunities for Peer Learning and Knowledge Exchange), which was organised and sponsored by GIZ.

 

2. To attend the actual eLA 2013 conference.

 

Africa now has several innovation hubs. iLab and these other hubs serve as business incubators, meeting places for the local IT-community and points of knowledge exchange. Although there are different types of spaces, but we all represent powerful opportunities for social innovation and community empowerment. A common challenge for many of our spaces is creating a sustainable business model that enables us to work independently and plan for the future. This pre-conference event was intended to strengthen the co-operation between individual hubs, as well as GIZ and Afrilabs.

During the first half of the pre-conference workshop, as hub managers / employees, we were asked to share our experiences on community building strategies, connecting members and enabling peer learning in our hubs. We were also asked to present our different business models and approaches to attain independence and sustainability. Additionally, during the second half of the pre-conference workshop, we were given a task to develop a toolbox that would include ideas for replicable income streams and ways to implement them. The essence of developing the toolbox was to find ways to give answers to the question: How can all activities, including community building, help build sustainable replicable environments for local empowerment?

 

Way forward/ Action Points (Opportunities) emerging from the pre-conference workshop + bar camp.

  • We should work on the Intellectual Property (IP) and legal challenges.

  • Build strong mentorship structures.

  • Successfully embrace virtual incubation.

  • Collaborate with our governments with the involvement of Development Funding Agencies (DFA’s) in technology development for example laying their own internet cables like Kenya did to cut the costs, subsidizing ICT equipment etc.

  • We need to be supplementing some of our government’s agenda’s if we are to tap in some of their support. We should also categorize the investors for example, donors, government, foundations, business angles among others.

  • We can only get good external funding if our activities clearly define “what is a hub?” in terms of what we do, the kind partnerships we are looking for, and most importantly the success stories we produce.

  • We categorized our revenue models into the activities that our hubs were good at and we highlighted;

    • Desk rental services

    • Donors, seed funders

    • Technology Philanthropists like the Geek Development Fund & Savanah Fund in Namibia

    • Banks, Small SME loans, Partners e.g. GIZ, CCL, Universities, Google, Dell, Microsoft

    • Consultancy and ISP partnership e.g. iHub in Kenya.

    • Local entrepreneurs e.g. Private Sector Federation, Rwanda Development Board.

  • Work on Hub profiles:

  • Statement of path to sustainability – develop prototypes of revenues models that can guide new hub entrants.

  • Shared amplification of AfriLabs using the Media Machine as double edged sword for example news channels, news papers, magazines, T.V and Radio shows but being conscious about cons international media. Hub managers should blog about their Hub activities and community activities.

    Key Points about growing our hub communities:

    We should have activities that are tagged to the community challenges and keep the hub open to society. It doesn’t have to be techie’s only. (Jessica-iHub, Kenya). Have events running frequently and ensure to make them practical. Something that will keep the participants engaged all throughout the entire activity. (Mohammad-Ice Cairo). Have a good set of planners (events management at the hub). Have a web platform for continuous communication between the community, event facilitators and the hub management as well.

    We got a representative from ECOWAS in one of the Bar Camps, his remarks were: Ministries wanted to work with youth that were good at content development for example youth entrepreneurs, developers of animations that reflect the true value of the African Continent.

 

 

At the conference, I had the opportunity to attend the followings:

 

1. The opening plenary: Learning and Innovation: In the Cloud and on the Ground with a Spirit of Ubuntu which chaired by Honorable Minister Joel Kaapanda, Minister of Information and Communication Technologies, Republic of Namibia.

 

2. Promoting Innovation in Africa Through Free and Open Source Technology. This session chaired by John Matogo, Strathmore University, Kenya, Geraldine de Bastion, Germany and Joris Komen, FOSSFA, Namibia. The speakers shared their past five years experience of using free and open source software to create learning environments, as well as business opportunities in Africa.

 

3. Technology Innovation Hubs in Africa: This interactive session focused on how many of the innovation hubs in Africa go beyond start-up incubation and are actively supporting peer learning, community engagement and education. Finding sustainable ways to finance hubs and how can individual hubs network and cooperate. I actually served as on of the panelists during this session.

 

 

4. eLearning Africa Debate: Innovation and sustainable; which is more important for education in Africa? Participants were given the chance along with the panelists to point out if priority for education in Africa be Innovation or sustainability. In the end, the house that believes that more emphasis should be placed on Innovation won the debate.

 

As stated by the organizers, I do concur that ELearning Africa conferences are the key networking events for ICT-enhance education and training in Africa. It is a must those who want to develop multinational and cross-industry contacts and partnerships, as well as enhance their knowledge, expertise and abilities. The hub for first-hand information and real-life examples of how ICT advances the cause of education for all in Africa. Decision makers and practitioners from the education, business and government sectors, with 80% coming from Africa. And amazingly the conference is accompanied by extensive and exhibition and demonstrations.

 

Overall, eLA 2013 was a great learning and networking experience for me and I also found some time to have fun and explore beautiful Windhoek.

 

eLearning Africa 2014 will be held in Kampala, Uganda from May 28th -30th.

 

 

Thanks,

 

Luther D. Jeke

Director of Training

iLab Liberia

 

 

 

 

 

Experts online!

 Another ICT course for the ladies!…”Mastering the Internet”, part of the Google RISE program- Girls in ICT this summer (June – August). Over eighty ladies registered for the course but only 15 (fifteen) were selected for the training based on their scores in the pretest given. The training will last two hours everyday for five days (24th June – 28th June), after which they will be certified. Having Luther Jeke as the trainer, they are taught how to use the Internet like professionals; How to determine site credibility, Web browser vocabularies, ways to refine a search, tips for searching on line, and so much more.

 

 Training the ladies on how to be “Experts On line”.

Zane hands over…

The intern from  New Georgia Tech University had his last class on Python with the Ladies today. We had so many sad faces with me inclusive:(  Zane, it was so nice having you teach us so much on Python, Physical Computing, Photography and more…

So, Carter and Luther will continue with the Python class for Ladies on Friday as Zane leaves for New Georgia.

We wish you a safe trip back home to your family hoping to see you next summer.

Google RISE program – “Girls in ICT”

iLab’s Girls in ICT program

  • Is meant mainly for girls in high school or those who have recently left high school/starting university.
  • Is free to participants.
  • You can take one or more courses.
  • Lasts June- August.
  • Even has an international element to it – with Ugandan, Kenyan and South African collaboration!

The different trainings offered are:

  • Mastering the Internet.
  • Introduction to Social media.
  • Introduction to Python Programming.
  • Intermediate Python Programming.

       

The ICT for girls at iLab started with a two days ICT Careers workshop with over 40 (forty) beautiful ladies in attendance. Two representatives from Google (Roxanna and Nana) were there to speak to the ladies and you know what?…. the ladies were indeed motivated. .

iLab June events and trainings announced – ICT For Girls as the key theme

Hello everyone!

 

iLab’s public trainings and events for June are now posted online and ready for registration. See http://ilabliberia.org/events/. In addition to some of the usual recurring events and trainings, there are plenty of new topics for courses and events, including:

  • ICT careers workshop, Mastering the internet and Python programming – targeted for Girls
  • Open government, Freedom of information and transparency
  • Entrepreneurship – ICT for small businesses and startups
  • More technical programming and physical computing courses

It’s a busy and exciting month with the key theme being ICT and girls. If you are a programmer (or a photographer!), this is also a good month to visit iLab and say hi to our fantastic intern Zane Cochran, who is steering a number of classes to do remarkable things!

 

Don’t see what you like? Make a suggestion. Note also that we also provide organizations with
• Customized trainings for your organization
• Customized solutions for your ICT systems development and services
• Facilities for hosting events or accessing technology (space/equipment for hire)

 

Hope to see you soon at iLab!
Coming up in July: ICT4Girls, programming courses, data visualizations, open government…

Kate, we miss you plenty-o!

It has been and emotional time here at iLab lately as Kate Cummings, the warm and inspirational co-founder and director of iLab has been transitioning out of Liberia. As the new incoming director, I have greatly enjoyed the three weeks that we have been able to work face-to-face – getting to know iLab and its users, collaborators and donors.

 

On March 22, Friday, tens of people gathered at iLab for a chance to meet and talk together before Kate was set to leave. It turned out to be a very emotional evening, during which we had plenty of laughs and what seemed like a river of tears shed. A great many testimonies were spoken out by the fine people from the various organizations we’ve had the pleasure of working with. For me, it was a very important and insightful evening  as I was witnessing first-hand the accounts of people describing the impact iLab has had on them or their organizations. Many memorable moments from the last years – from 2010 and 11 onwards were shared, reminding us of the hard work Ushahidi, iLab and all their users have done in the past.

 

 

Luckily we, the staff had a few more days together before Kate’s departure – delayed due to circumstance until March 29. We were also fortunate to have the other co-founder John Etherton join us for two weeks, meaning that the staff had a good chance to exchange knowledge, pick up some new skills and all in all work as a team together, face-to-face.  We also had a chance to spend some time together just talking about personal matters as well as naturally exchanging some farewell and welcoming gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of the collaborators were asking how to be in touch with Kate in the future. Rest assured, she will be keeping eyes on iLab as she is on the Board of Directors of iLab and formally the Treasurer of iLab International. She can still be reached at kate@ilabliberia.org.

 

We, the remaining staff of iLab in Liberia, wish Kate all the best in future challenges. We are certain that whatever paths she decides to take up, she will be successful and make a great impact, just as here in Liberia. Meanwhile, we are motivated to keep fulfilling the mission of iLab Liberia and are very much looking forward to Kate’s next visit here to see how things have evolved since. Let’s make sure she is proud of us!

 

Deep bow of respect and a thank you once again, Kate.