Liberia IT Revolution Project

C:\Users\William R. Dennis II\Downloads\COLOR LOGO.jpg   The Liberia IT Revolution Project is a two-year initiative to boost the IT ecosystem in Liberia, particularly by nurturing and motivating start-ups to identify creative solutions in mobile and internet technologies, software and web development and link them to market opportunities. The project strengthens the Liberian IT sector, creates a vibrant entrepreneurial culture amongst IT businesses and entrepreneurs, increases the growth potential for businesses.

The project contributes to economic development and (youth) employment in Liberia by

  • Supporting existing small businesses to grow and generate new jobs ,and

  • Introducing the IT sector as an opportunity for entrepreneurship development in Liberia.

The project targets existing IT businesses, university graduates and senior graduates, with a passion for entrepreneurship in technology. We are looking for participants that have the ambition and skills to energize the Liberian IT scene – businesses, non-profits and government. You are welcome to the inspiring events, trainings and other activities in areas such as:

  • Entrepreneurship development (IT Awareness Workshops, Business Skills Trainings, Entrepreneurship Stimulation Workshops)

  • Business development (Business Skills Trainings, Business Plan Competition, Pitching Sessions, Matchmaking Events, Access to Finance, Advisory Board Services)

  • Technology skills (Mobile & Web Technology Trainings, Product Development Trainings,  Innovation Workshops)

As Liberia continues to the road of recovery for economic stability, infrastructure, reforms and education, IT plays a pivotal role in transforming the culture towards a connected and innovative society – the IT services sector is vital across nearly all sectors of business.

Watch out for more info on social media, internet, radio and newspapers! Sign up now to receive regular newsletters and invitations to activities! Sign up at http://bit.do/LiberiaIT-register and join the Liberian IT Revolution Community today!!

The project is brought to you by iLab Liberia, Business Start-up Center (BSC) Monrovia and SPARK, and is supported by Swedish International Development Aid (SIDA) and Mercy Corps.

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Liberia IT Revolution Project Manager

Terms of Reference: LITR Project Manager

Commitment: 46-hours/week; 6 months with possibility for extension
Location: Monrovia, Liberia
Compensation: salary commensurate with experience
Reports to: iLab’s Managing Director

iLab Liberia is a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing a collaborative and open learning environment as well as free trainings in information and communication technologies (ICTs). iLab’s mission is to assist IT enthusiasts and professionals as well as organizations and institutions in their efforts to more readily share information using ICTs. iLab staff offer trainings in open source tools and systems because they promote interactive communities and shared ownership. iLab works closely with open government initiatives to promote transparency and the freedom of information in Liberia; the lab also serves as an incubator for IT entrepreneurs striving to start tech businesses.

Since the Ebola outbreak, iLab has been providing technical assistance to a range of Ebola response actors, including: the government’s emergency call center and dispatch unit; contact tracers; case investigation teams and burial teams. In the fight against Ebola, iLab’s partners include the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, SIDA and GiZ among others.

JOB PURPOSE

In addition to free ICT trainings, engagement in the Ebola response, and continuing to build an interactive community around open source technologies, iLab is part of the three-year Liberia IT Revolution (LITR) Project. In collaboration with SPARK and BSC, the LITR project strengthens Liberia’s ICT ecosystem by identifying innovative business proposals, assessing their market potential, and incubating IT startups that harness mobile technologies with the potential to contribute to economic development and provide new employment opportunities in Liberia.

The LITR Project Manager will be responsible for coordinating with the project partners (SPARK and BSC) to ensure that all deliverables are being met at each stage of the project’s life cycle.

ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS

In close collaboration with the Director of Training and the Managing Director, the Project Manager will supervise each phase of the project, beginning by hosting awareness workshops for potential candidates, identifying strong entrepreneurial candidates to be interviewed, and designing then delivering trainings for selected participants that range from technical skills-building to branding & market research for new businesses. The Project Manager will also liaise with partners to ensure monitoring and evaluation practices are capturing the project’s outputs and outcomes towards its final goal. Engage in report writing as needed, to document project successes and challenges.

SUCCESS FACTORS
The successful Project Manager will be a skillful teacher and collaborative leader who is passionate about supporting aspiring entrepreneurs in Liberia. This Project Manager is organized and thoughtful in planning each stage of the project in partnership with BSC and SPARK; the Manager is pro-active when engaging with partners, participants, and other stakeholders. The Manager has the demonstrated ability to see a project from its start through to completion, with an ability to deliver on activities and objectives that steadily lead towards the project’s goal. In reviewing applicants we will be seeking a demonstrated record of assuming management responsibility and coordinating a range of actors to reach a common goal.
Successful iLab team members are committed to teamwork and accountability, thrive in a dynamic and evolving workplace (much like a start-up), and prioritize clear written and verbal communication.

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE:

• Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in relevant field such as management, social science, computer science
• 1-3 years demonstrated success coordinating or managing development projects
• Experience implementing long-term projects, and in partnership with other NGOs
• High level of initiative to innovate and lead
• Excellent written, verbal communication and organization skills
• Generosity of spirit, sensitivity/diplomacy, and willingness to be a team player
• Commitment to empowering aspiring technologists and business owners
• Strong logistical management skills;
• Flexibility and ability to handle multiple tasks at one time in time-sensitive manner;
• Comfort working with a casual but high-performing team
• High degree of English fluency required

Application deadline: January 30, 2015 (qualified candidates interviewed on rolling basis)

Soft-copy applications should be sent to: hiring@ilabliberia.org,

For hard copies:
Carter Draper, Acting Country Director
iLab Liberia
16th Street, Seaview Compound, Suite 5
Sinkor, Monrovia

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.

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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

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

 

Great to be back in LIB!

Celebrating the 10 years of peace, debating about the challenges of the development of the nation, seeing the technology enthusiasm and opportunities in iLab users everyday…it’s great to be back in LIB! Here’s a few thoughts just after being in the country – back home in Monrovia – after holidays.

 

In my native country, Finland, the summertime is slow – people are on holidays, and for over a month not much happens – with the exception of travel and tourism industries. One might expect the same here in LIB, since it’s rainy season, but far from it –we’re action packed!

Even CNN was in Liberia – they got a chance to see the action at iLab, here is the packed house for Mapping party – 60+ people in 2 labs.

 

Just before I left on holidays, we at iLab were happy to reach record attendances in June of this year. Further, in July we had over 200 visits just during our co-working hours – a huge increase.  We’re in the midst of crunching the numbers and will have some analysis on those sometime soon.

 

One of the more novel things for us at iLab is our project on mobile data collection for tracking and monitoring beneficiaries of a child labor prevention project. We are looking at various open-source technology solutions and mobile devices – and defining and assessing technologies for developing  a system for our client and their field force – people in some 30 communities in three counties.  We’re excited – stay tuned for more info.

 

Seems a lot is happening with e-learning right now – lots in interest gained. When Kpetermeni Siakor had his guest lecture on e-learning and the so-called MOOCs – the house was absolutely packed, with some 78 enthusiasts crammed in to listen! We’re talking with several organisations regarding how iLab could facilitate the adoption of the masses of material that are out there.

 

I had a chance to discuss with several youth initiatives and with some staff from the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It is so great listening to the youth in their teens or early twenties asking for iLab support in their initiatives to utilize technology in new interesting ways – for example, how to disseminate text messages among the nearly 200 national volunteers. What was great to hear was that the idea for the project came from a participant in our mobile technologies for transparency and accountability -training!

 

At Samuel K. Doe stadium / Ministry of Youth and Sports

At Samuel K. Doe stadium / Ministry of Youth and Sports – explaining to 185 national volunteers how mobile technology could make their life easier,

Now just last weekend Liberia was celebrating 10 years of peace – no small feat – since its gruesome 14-year long civil war. Of course it is absolutely a great path to be on, even with its challenges. It was naturally disappointing to find Liberia (once again) as one of the most corrupt countries in the world – 10 years after the war, this really is one of the key challenges. On a related matter, equally puzzling and alarming Is the current battle between the media and some government-affiliated persons, relating to investigative journalism.  It seems there is quite a bit to do on the topic of open government and transparency, one of the themes at iLab this year. While the problems are certainly not solved just by technology, we are looking at increasing transparency by using ICTs intelligently. We look forward to working with both civil society organizations as well as government entities like the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism. Getting government and the citizens to communicate and meaningfully engage will be a long, fascinating journey.

 

Wow, that’s a lot I’ve mentioned – but it’s not even nearly all! Right now we need to make sure we finish delivering what we’ve promised to our donors: our Girls in ICT –program is going strong – an intermediate Python class is just about to start. We continue to work on open government and transparency. We are thrilled to be a part of the IT business plan competition initiative that has been going on and are very much looking forward to supporting the new businesses as entrepreneurship remains one of our key themes. And we will not be forgetting the use of Ushahidi – essentially the reason iLab was started in the first place – to track incidents of conflict or violence all over Liberia, as a part of the Early Warning Early Response working group – 20 or so organizations led by the Peacebuilding office. We just trained 19 volunteers from the Interreligious council and continue to expand our conflict  reporter base.

The future programmers who attended Introduction to Python busy during a workshop on how can the internediate class be even better.

 

All these promising initiatives need further support for continuation next year. With an internet access of 2.8% and mobile penetration of 42% in Liberia, iLab and similar entities have got a lot of work to do – lot of trainings, lot of organizing events,  lot of talking…and lots of negotiations with donors.

 

However, all this is buzzing activity gives us immense amounts of optimism. There is nothing like the energy of people who have learned new skills and who are ready set their imagination free. There is a huge amount of this energy right now in LIB – so let’s keep it rolling!

 

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

          

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

African tech and innovation hubs, let’s work together to make the Next Big Thing come out of Africa

There are A LOT of interesting things happening in the innovations, entrepreneurship and ICT fields in Africa. I had the privilege of representing  iLab Liberia at a meeting of the Afrilabs network of tech & innovation hubs in Africa last weekend, as a pre-event to the Global Innovation Lounge of the re:publica conference, in Berlin, going on this week. There were all in all about a dozen African labs present and meeting for the very first time.

 

Africa is not one story or one market. However, the choir of our voices can be louder together. As later mentioned by one of our hosts, GIZ’s Christian Gmelin, having Erik Hersman open up the huge re:publica digital media conference with a keynote “Innovating Africa”  turns the typical setup to a new direction – it was not the West talking about Africa and spreading there but rather a story of how Africans innovate at all levels of the society. Hersman presented some of the developments in Africa, highlighting that ideas and innovations come from the edge, from outfits and the disruptors – this means that we need to be on the lookout to learn from anyone – and the powerholder corporations, beware! And right now, there is a lot happening in Africa – and there are now more efforts to work collaboratively across the continent

 

So what’s in it for iLab?

 

The meeting and the conference were energizers, eye-openers and door-openers.

 

First, it was absolutely great to feel the energy amongst peers – all the hubs have a community of their own – but now there is also a network of hubs that makes us stronger, as we the users of the labs are getting to…well, thousands, if not perhaps already tens of thousands! And that makes for a powerful feeling of doing things together, around the continent.

 

Secondly, discussing with peers and hearing and seeing the stories at each of the places was – in addition to being entertaining – very thought-provoking and a learning experience.

 

Some of the key trends and developments that we discussed included:

 

-          Hubs moving up in the value-creation chain, i.e. moving gradually from being tech and coworking centers to being incubation and accelerator hubs, places that coach and develop companies (of course, not everyone has to be like that. At iLab, we are not quite yet at a phase where 5 or 10 startups could be incubated at iLab – but we are moving towards a pre-incubation phase, having various events and programs in place that encourage entrepreneurs to work together and it won’t be long before we have the first set of companies working out of iLab.

 

-          Hubs thinking about sustainable funding and business models – how hubs generate all or a substantial portion of their income by their own activities in a moderate time. As for iLab, this year’s budget is not fully covered by grants – we are looking to generate as much as 15-25% of our budget through various paid services.

-          It’s certainly not just “traditional IT” that these tech and innovation hubs are embracing: hubs that foster social innovations, physical computing and hacking/making and green technology had some of the most creative things happening. ILab is just starting out and experimenting on physical computing (Starting next week!) but already knowing that some of the other hubs have, there are great possibilities to learn

 

Thirdly,  the Afrilabs meeting and the joint Global Innovation Lounge at re:publica was a about initiating new contacts and collaborations – both in terms of collaboration between the various hubs on the continent, but also between hubs and donors, venture capitalists, academics and so on. We started our first collaboration with Hive Colab in Uganda, regarding Girls in ICT and more specifically Girls in Programming.

 

Pictures? Oh yeah, hub manager from around the world in action

Workshopping at Supermarkt. It used to be an abandoned Supermarket in a run-down area. Now several spaces in the area have been taken over by creative industry professionals and the areas has revived as well. It’s a great place for co-working and doing workshops.

 

Springtime in Berlin, very pleasurable weather. Whenever doing groupwork, most preferred to talk outside. The sun is good for creative thinking!

 

Some of the results from the first day: how do we make Afrilabs, the network of African tech and innovation hubs as success story.

 

The second day: after getting a few more into the city, the hubs briefly presented themselves, some of their unique features and challenges – to launch workshops on the most mentioned topics.

 

Topics of the second day.

 

The hubs that were present at the event.

 

The Global Innovation Lounge is not about flashy corporate style, but rather business and innovations coming from the grassroots. We demonstrated this feel by “hacking and making” our area at the conference – with inexpensive materials and a big heart. Jay Cousins from ICECairo leading the pack.

 

So…we all got our handmade pillows made.

 

Erik Hersman delivering the keynote: “Innovating Africa” and claiming that the statmakers got it all wrong – patent statistics are not really the way to define where innovations are happening.

 

This is what an early phase innovation might look like – a DIY 13-phase security system.

 

From a VERY early proto to a crowdfunding capable production version – the BRCK from Ushahidi

 

The crowd was gathering at the Lounge, it was busy most of the time

 

African hubs and their managers.