What’s Sierra Leone Like Almost One Year After the Ebola Virus Hit?

  1. Posted by Inveneo on April 20, 2015 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Relief

    Inveneo team member Eric Zan serves as a Senior Field Engineer in the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI). He recently explained his thoughts on the ERCI Project and the difference it has been making in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone. Read his story below on what country is like now almost one year after the virus hit.

    1. What is Sierra Leone like one year after the Ebola virus hit?
    Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

    Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

    “Although I haven’t been in Sierra Leone throughout the entire crisis, I can see that Sierra Leone used to be a place where ‘doors were closing’ in almost all areas for the residents. What I mean is that there were serious limits on migration, how much people moved, and where people congregated. In addition, several businesses left Sierra Leone which drastically affected opportunities for individuals. The overall economic landscape was hurt from this, and often people had to change their jobs. And even if you did not contract the Ebola virus your life was still drastically altered.

    Today, humanitarian organizations of Sierra Leone are transitioning to more of a “recovery” mode. Ebola is still active there, but it is concentrated in different provinces. Priorities are changing theses days since many regions are not experiencing new patients and are devoting their resources to the economic and social recovery. Not surprisingly communities have experienced different levels of fallout from all this. However, through it all, communication is the biggest factor we are concerned with and it was good to see local communities having trust in the global community.”

    1. What were your daily activities in the ERCI project?
    Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.

    Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.

    “It was constantly different because every day presented new challenges. In general I was the logistics coordinator and helped direct the Field Team on where they could go.

    • I made sure there was a way to gather details and share them with the team about where to go and when to take precautions.
    • I would liaise with our project partners in order to come up with a plan for integrating our equipment into their core network.
    • Also, I’d discuss how to build out each tower in a coordinated way, how to ensure bandwidth strength, and how to monitor the network.

    Those items were the “big picture” parts to my day-to-day activities. But they add up when working in a crowded and limited-resource environment.”

    1. How is the ERCI project making a difference?

    “First, the Internet will help main hubs coordinate with their field offices because a lot of decision making and resource allocation happens in the capital. Before getting an Internet connection, main offices sometimes had to wait days or weeks to get information about what was going on in the rural areas. By then it’s often too late to respond to the key needs in an efficient way. Second, the organizations can get data back almost instantly. This communication helps them coordinate with other organizations which overall helps paints the big picture for everybody.

    Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

    Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo

    As a last note, the Internet generally helps people and organizations be more efficient in their missions, whatever their mission is. This may include having more time for projects, less need for travel, and better cost-effective strategies.”

    1. What precautionary health measures did you and your team take while in Sierra Leone?

    “The health measures were mainly based on behavioral changes; they were all behavioral-based policies that we established for the team to follow. The ABCs meant Avoid Body Contact at all times. We were taking our temperatures at least twice a day, and we worked alongside a health a safety member from NetHope from their Icelandic Search and Rescue Team. Also, communication was important and people checked in with me. We also had a group chat on Skype going, and I was constantly coordinating with others in case someone needed to go to the hospital or wasn’t feeling well.”

    1. In your opinion, what ICTs would be the most effective in stopping Ebola from spreading?

    “Although many people have mobile phones in Sierra Leone, they may not always be the entire solution. For example, mobile phones are not reliable to transfer large amounts of data. Instead, what is needed is a reliable Internet link and a better system for gathering and aggregating data in an automated way.

    Another important part is the building of local capacity. Training is very important and it must be coordinated with local support and knowledge. Information should be made available to communities and more members of an organization’s team, too, and not necessarily to just the Project Coordinator.

    Over the last few months I’ve realized that those living in Sierra Leone are incredibly resilient people, and they have so much that they are already offering. Combining these skills with ICT has the potential to play a significant role in bringing an end to this tragic Ebola crisis.”

    Be Inveneo’s Next Summer Intern! Projects Include ICT4D, Research, and M&E

    1. Posted by Inveneo on April 20, 2015 in the categories: Education, Events

      Inveneo is accepting applications for four (4) summer internship positions to assist in research, program management, engineering, and ICT4D development.

      SummerInternsDeadline May, 25th, 2015

      This internship program is an international development initiative, with the objective of using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to foster education, social integration, and economic growth. The principal development impacts are anticipated to be:

      1) Empowerment of the rural poor, women, and youth through increased and affordable access to information and communication tools,

      2) More effective and citizen/student centered education programs,

      3) Developed leadership and skills in ICT,

      4) Employment creation within the ICT industry, ICT-enabled services development, and enhanced competitiveness of user industries and services.

      It is the second year of Inveneo’s Internship program focused on ICT and the emerging regions of the world. Inveneo is unique in its scope and approach to connecting those who need it most, with ICT4D work carried out in over 30 countries including in Oceania, Haiti, and across Sub-Saharan Africa. 

      Internship Description

      The 2015 Summer Inveneo Internship will cover four initiatives:

      1) To research region-specific educational content for education and climate change-focused projects (Research)

      2) To provide organizational and administrative support to existing Inveneo programs and projects (IT)

      3) To support and review qualified micro-data center challenge submissions for technical feasibility (Engineering)

      4) To develop new M&E approach for existing Inveneo projects (ICT4D)

      These positions will require the interns to be self-driven, with the ability to work independently. Interns will be required to gather, analyze, and transform data into informational reports with specific findings and recommendations.

      The position will be based in Inveneo’s San Francisco, CA offices. Inveneo is open to accepting part-time and full-time interns for the summer.

      Qualifications

      • A strong academic record
      • Prior experience working with qualitative and quantitative data
      • Proven ability in research and analytical skills
      • Strong oral and written communication skills in English and/or French
      • Exceptional organizational and administrative capabilities
      • Ability to work effectively independently and within a team environment
      • Excellent interpersonal skills and a demonstrated ability to work in a multicultural environment

      Application Details

      To apply for this Internship, please send a 2 page writing sample of original research work, cover letter, and resume/CV to Inveneo’s Media Manager Jana Melpolder, and include “Summer Internship” in the subject line.

      Selected candidates will be contacted by email to schedule a phone interview.

      Deadline for applications is May 25, 2015. Best of luck!

      Inveneo Partners with Protocase on the Solar Powered Micro-Data Center Design Contest

      1. Posted by Inveneo on March 30, 2015 in the categories: News

        Inveneo has partnered with Protocase on the ARM Ltd. solar powered Micro-Data Center Design Challenge. The top prize for the competition is $10,000 and the winning design will be built and deployed in the developing world.

        To support the challenge, Protocase will be providing resources such as its free 3D design software and guidance on designing electronic enclosures, and will precision-fabricate the top designs.

        protocase logo_big-2Inveneo is seeking students, engineers, researchers, and innovators to submit their design of a solar powered micro-data center. Given the harsh environments present in much of the developing world, designers will need to create a functional micro-data center that can be powered with a solar photovoltaic system, withstand intense heat and humidity, and run completely without access to standard air conditioning.

        Candidates will use ARM based solutions to create the “micro-board chassis” design that will use off-the-shelf ARM based processor micro boards (i.e. Raspberry Pi, Banana Pi/Pro, ODROID, etc.). Inveneo has partnered with LeMaker, which is offering a discounted 15 Banana Pro kit that can be used to build a prototype micro-board chassis.

        “We are excited to have Protocase as a partner as its CAD software will help innovators design their submission,” says Bruce Baikie, Executive Director of Inveneo. “Even more exciting is that they will be building the winning designs.”

        The contest is open to applicants who are at least 18 years of age, in teams that range from three to seven members. The contest’s panel of judges includes industry experts from Inveneo, ARM, and LeMaker, among others. The top two winning designs will be announced on July 15, 2015.

        If you are interested in entering this design challenge or to find more information, please visit this page.

        Protocase: Engineers and designers throughout North America and the world recognize Protocase as a world-class facility that manufactures custom electronic enclosures, sheet metal parts, machined parts and components in two to three days, with no minimum orders. In addition to offering its own free downloadable 3D design software, Protocase works with customers in science, engineering and innovation to fine-tune their designs to their exact needs before all aspects of the product’s manufacturing is completed within the company’s cutting-edge production facility.

        Inveneo Launches ARM Micro-Data Center Design Challenge 2015

        1. Posted by Inveneo on March 11, 2015 in the categories: Events, External, Press

          March 11, 2015 San Francisco, CA - Inveneo, in partnership with ARM Limited, will launch a solar powered Micro-Data Center Design Challenge, starting on March 11th, 2015. The top prize for the competition is $10,000 and the winning design will be built and deployed in the developing world.

          Group of young people in training courseInveneo is seeking students, engineers, researchers, and innovators to submit their design of a solar powered micro-data center. Given the harsh environments present in much of the developing world, designers will need to create a functional micro-data center that can be powered with a solar photovoltaic system, withstand intense heat and humidity, and run completely without access to standard air conditioning.

          Candidates will use ARM based solutions to create the “micro-board chassis” design that will use off-the-shelf ARM based processor micro boards (i.e. Raspberry Pi, Banana Pi/Pro, ODROID, etc.). Inveneo has partnered with LeMaker, which is offering a discounted 15 Banana Pro kit that can be used to build a prototype micro-board chassis.

          “We envision a new type of blade server enclosure design. The design will use 15 of these new generation microcomputer boards and will be very low energy usage, DC powered, and passively cooled,” says Bruce Baikie, Executive Director of Inveneo. “Just as BackBlaze changed the low end storage market with their open source design, we are planning to revolutionize the low end blade server market with this challenge.”

          The contest is open to applicants who are at least 18 years of age, in teams that range from three to seven members. The contest’s panel of judges includes industry experts from Inveneo, ARM, and LeMaker, among others. The top two winning designs will be announced on July 15, 2015.

          If you are interested in entering this design challenge or to find more information, please visit http://www.inveneo.org/designchallenge

          Inveneo is a San Francisco-based 501(c)(3) non-profit social enterprise that designs and delivers sustainable computing and better access to broadband Internet to those who need it most in the developing world. Inveneo enables organizations working in developing areas to better serve people in need. Our team works to transform lives through access to education, healthcare, economic opportunity and relief. Inveneo and its partners have delivered projects in 31 countries and are impacting the lives of over 3 million people in some of the poorest and most challenging regions in the developing world.

          For More Information Contact:

          Jana Melpolder
          Media Manager
          (814) 490-0114
          jmelpolder@inveneo.org
          Twitter: @JanaMelpolder

          Top Takeaways from UNESCO and UN Women’s Mobile Learning Week

          1. Posted by Inveneo on March 9, 2015 in the categories: Education, News

            UNESCO and UN Women’s recent Mobile Learning Week conference in Paris was an ICT-focused event that brought together over 1,000 participants from more than 70 countries. As a participant representing Inveneo, Media Manager Jana Melpolder traveled to Paris to determine best practices on using technology to educate and empower girls and women around the world. She was pleased to run into several key ICTworks’ authors at the event, including Linda Raftree and Jim Teicher.

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            Ms. Raftree made a presentation titled “10 Myths About Mobile Learning and Girls’ Empowerment”, and it made a big impact in the way she thought about how mobiles affect girls. Several of her key myths of mobile ownership included:

            • Cost being the largest barrier to owning a phone (which is not always true due to family pressures or societal norms that prohibit a girl from easily owning a phone)
            • Mobile phones can’t address the real needs of girls (when in reality mobile phones can address important issues such as domestic violence, information for rape victims, and more)
            • Vulnerable girls don’t have access to mobile phones (when in reality a girl may be borrowing a phone from friends, etc.)

            Ms. Melpolder appreciate the insights that Linda Raftree and other speakers offered, and there were many terrific tech-related resources that were promoted for teachers throughout this event. However, the greater focus at the Mobile Learning Week conference should have been how parents could use technology to empower and educate young girls. Parents are a solid backbone to a girl’s education, and she believes that more technological resources need to become more easily available to them.

            Technology that parents already own can be better utilized to push a girl’s education further and better prepare them for modern jobs. For example, since mobile phones are widely used in emerging regions, parents should more often utilize text messages about assignments that are due, or they should receive daily or weekly messages on what children are learning while at school. Additionally, teachers should use mobiles more often to communicate to parents what lessons a young girl is currently working on in school.

            Engaged parents are vital to the education and empowerment of young girls everywhere, and resources should be made available to them just as often as they are made available to teachers. She hopes there is a better balance in the future – one where educational tech tools are brought equally to the hands of teachers and parents to make an even greater impact for young girls around the world.

            Photo Highlights from UN Women and UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week

            1. Posted by Inveneo on March 2, 2015 in the categories: News

              UNESCO and UN Women recently held their Mobile Learning Week conference in Paris. Located at the UNESCO headquarters, which is quite close to the Eiffel Tower, the event brought together around 1,000 participants from over 70 countries. Individuals gathered together to discuss how technology is being used to help women and girls gain access to quality education, better job opportunities, and an equal share to ICT tools.

              Inveneo’s Media Manager Jana Melpolder traveled to Paris to represent both ICTworks and Inveneo at the event. She was able to meet (in person) the ICTworks writers Linda Raftree and Jim Teicher, in addition to many other inspiring ICT figures. Check out a few of the best photos below from the week-long conference!

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              Mobile Learning Week was hosted by UNESCO and UN Women.

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              Outside the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. 

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              A panel discussing equitable access on the second day of Mobile Learning Week.

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              The main UNESCO office located in Paris.

              MLW2015No7

              Inveneo’s exhibition booth that was showcased during Mobile Learning Week.

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              UNESCO is celebrating its 70th anniversary throughout 2015.

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              A final panel of speakers moderated by ICTworks’ author Linda Raftree (far left). The panel discussed gender sensitive content and pedagogy.

              Inveneo Showcases Work at UN Women and UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week

              1. Posted by Inveneo on March 1, 2015 in the categories: Events

                Jana Melpolder, Inveneo’s Media Manager, recently attended the UNESCO and UN Women’s Mobile Learning Week conference held in Paris.

                unesco-mobile-learning-week

                Mobile technology is increasingly becoming a valuable tool that educators around the world are using within their classrooms. When teachers use innovative tools such as a Raspberry Pi, tablets, and mobiles, they can combine them with an offline digital library, such as World Possible’s RACHEL-Pi.

                What’s the end result? An incredible wealth of information, lesson plans, educational videos, and articles that can be accessed without the need for a reliable Internet connection.

                IMG_20150225_121821_479This solution of creating an offline digital library was the main technological solution that Inveneo offered at the recent UNESCO and UN Women conference called Mobile Learning Week. Taking place in Paris, the event was held to connect organizations together that work to improve the status of women and girls through the use of education and technology. With Inveneo’s experience of 10 years working to connect those who need it most, Inveneo was on board to exhibit its work at the conference.

                Jana Melpolder, Inveneo’s Media Manager, led the initiative to attend the conference. She created a display table which exhibited Inveneo’s ICT projects and technological solutions that are offered around the world. Inveneo’s exhibit table, shown below, showcased the team’s ICT projects with a main focus on Haiti, Uganda, and Sierra Leone. Ms. Melpolder also brought a Raspberry Pi, RACHEL-Pi, Asus laptop, Google Nexus 7 tablet, and Surtab tablet to give an example of what an offline digital library looks like and what it can do for classrooms around the world. Overall she was thrilled to meet so many inspiring representatives at the event who came from great organizations like UN Women, Butterfly Works, and 42 Education.

                Ms. Melpolder organizes Inveneo’s ever-increasing and dynamic online presence. She previously volunteered with UNICEF USA, where she provided editorial direction to its web team and created its online newsletter for the northwest region of the United States. She is passionate about bringing human rights issues to the forefront through media and technology in the developing world, and she has reported on development programs from several countries including Bolivia, Ghana, Thailand and India. Her writing has been published on the World Vision, Beliefnet, and Twitter blogs. Jana’s educational background includes a B.A. in Anthropology from West Virginia University and a Master of International Development from the University of Pittsburgh.

                 

                How Will Inveneo Monitor 100 Internet Sites in the Future?

                1. Posted by Inveneo on February 10, 2015 in the categories: News

                  Inveneo has been incredibly busy this past month gearing up to create 25 distribution points that will connect 100 sites with solid, reliable Internet connectivity. As part of the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) project, these new Internet connections will be used by Ebola medical centers or NGOs in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.

                  Once these connections are made, how will they be managed? Inveneo is already well underway to answer this question: by creating a NOC (Network Operations Center) that will be located in Accra, Ghana.

                  Our Inveneo Certified ICT Partner in Accra is TechAide, and this past month our team member Bob Marsh travelled to Accra to begin preliminary training for TechAide technicians who will eventually run the NOC. Kafui Prebbie, the current CEO of TechAide, brought several team members to be part of the training: Selassie Anku, TechAide’s main backup engineer, Courage Anku, its primary NOC engineer, and Godfred Prebbie, TechAide’s CTO.

                  BobNocTraining1TechAide’s engineers and Bob Marsh spent the first day of training focusing on the theoretical and organizational aspects of the Ebola Response program and the hardware configurations that are deployed in the field. The participants worked on exercises with Ubiquiti equipment, concentrating on how to resolve issues. Eventually Inveneo and TechAide will be using a set of sophisticated cloud-based software tools to manage the NOC.

                  The engineer’s next steps are to read all the elements of the curriculum materials from the training to further their learning. Bob Marsh was excited to see the enthusiasm of the participants, and our current joint effort is to the make sure the NOC is fully operational by March 4th, 2015. In addition, Inveneo’s Project Engineer Eric Zan will be traveling to Accra in mid-February in order to offer more NOC training before he joins other Inveneo workers in Sierra Leone. Inveneo’s Samuel Perales will also provide follow-on operational training and coaching when he returns to Accra from Sierra Leone in early March.

                  The NOC has been created to offer our 100 newly connected sites:

                  1. Monitoring performance to see if there is a problem.
                  2. Responding quickly to a reported problem. This may be fast enough that users in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea will not be aware of any issue.
                  3. Diagnosis and dispatching after a problem is reported. Those working at the NOC will figure out if they can fix the issues remotely or not. If they are unable to fix it from Accra, they will contact the Inveneo ICIP that is geographically closest to the problem.

                  The NOC in Accra, Ghana will constantly monitor all connected sites. For three months after the NOC launches, TechAide workers will work 8 hour shifts and 6 days a week to ensure any problems are quickly dealt with and Internet access is maintained. We certainly applaud all the hard work and time that they will be putting in! Many thanks to TechAide for their partnership and the great work they are doing to keep an eye on the ERCI program’s 100 Internet-connection locations!

                  BobNocTraining2

                  Inveneo Begins Internet Connectivity Training in Sierra Leone

                  1. Posted by Inveneo on February 3, 2015 in the categories: News

                    As part of the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) project that Inveneo is doing with other partners, the next step is underway – training local technicians in Sierra Leone.

                    The Inveneo team has been on the ground in West Africa for several weeks now, and they recently started training the Inveneo Certified ICT Partner (ICIP) “Damsel Business Centre” on building Internet service for medical centers in Sierra Leone! To kick off this training, Damsel representatives have been meeting with Inveneo throughout this first week in February to go through a tower climbing safety course.

                    ICIPTrainingSierraLeone

                    Inveneo’s Director of Field Operations Samuel Perales leads training and discussion with employees from Damsel Business Centre, an ICT business in Sierra Leone.

                    The training participants include Inveneo’s Director of Field Operations Samuel Perales, Inveneo’s Senior Field Engineers Sean Burgoyne, Matt Hulse, and Eric Kuhnke, and finally Inveneo’s ICIP partner Damsel from Sierra Leone. Damsel’s Director Eugene Tani-Luke brought with him five technicians to also take part in the training. Although representatives from AirTel and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) were invited, they were unable to make it.

                    After the climbing training is completed the team will continue with preparations and logistics for the first Internet connectivity site. Inveneo’s current goal is to start the first Internet installation by Monday, February 9th.

                    As Inveneo has been helping Damsel on safety throughout this training, they have been taking safety measures of their own. The men are washing their hands with bleach water, and when they enter a hotel nearby, a hotel staff member will take their temperatures on a regular basis. As positive as it is that Ebola infection rates have been going down, Inveneo is leaving no room for its team or its partnering teams to become sick in the process. In addition, NetHope has supplied the team with two Icelandic medics who may travel with them.

                    Inveneo’s Samuel Perales feels that this ICIP training process is just the beginning of a vital project that will make a big impact in Sierra Leone. He notes that Internet connectivity is always important and an issue for any humanitarian organization, no matter if they work in immediate relief or long-term development. He notes that the ERCI project is no different – connectivity will remain an important tool for years to come as communities rebuild from the devastating effects of the illness. The Inveneo team and its ICIP will continue to work long and hard to make connectivity available for those in need it most in order to make as big an impact as possible.

                    The Inveneo engineers have been very happy with the collaboration of this combined effort. The teamwork between NetHope, the ETC, and more has made an incredible difference in getting this project off the ground. Mr. Perales explains further, “One thing that’s been really nice is the collaboration between the ETC, NetHope, Inveneo, and Ericsson Response…we’re all out in the field, we’re all supporting each other, and we like to say that ‘There are no lines between us.’ That camaraderie is showing through as we continue to build our dedicated team.”

                    Internship Opening for Spring Computer Science Initiatives: ICT4D – Offline Digital Library and Content

                    1. Posted by Inveneo on January 28, 2015 in the categories: Jobs, News

                      Inveneo is accepting applications for a spring internship position to assist in creating an Offline Digital Library Project targeted for small Pacific island schools.

                      Deadline March 15th, 2014

                      InternshipPhotoThis internship program is an international development initiative, with the objective of using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to foster education in primary schools.

                      The principal development impacts are anticipated to be:

                      1) Empowerment of the rural schools and youth through increased and affordable access to information and communication tools

                      2) Developed leadership and skills in ICT4D

                      2015 marks the second year of Inveneo’s internship program focused on ICT and the emerging regions of the world. Inveneo is unique in its scope and approach to connecting those who need it most, with ICT4D work carried out in over 30 countries including in Oceania, Haiti, and across Sub-Saharan Africa.

                      Internship Description

                      The main work would be focused on improvement to the Rachel Pi server to meet project needs in the Pacific Islands, specifically in the Philippines, Micronesia, and Vanuatu.

                      Key areas of focus are:

                      1. Porting Rachel Pi software (linux based) from Raspberry Pi hardware to Banana Pi hardware
                      2. Web-based interface for Rachel Pi to add new content
                      3. Program for easy creation of micro SD card with new content by non-computer science people
                      4. Captive portal feature added to Rachel Pi server OS/Web interface

                      The position will be based in Inveneo’s San Francisco, CA office. The goal will be about four hours per week at the Inveneo office in San Francisco.

                      Qualifications:

                      A strong academic record with a minimum of 3.0 GPA

                      Proven ability in Linux and web server skills

                      Ability to work effectively independently

                      Application Details

                      To apply for this internship, please send a cover letter and resume/CV to Inveneo’s Media Manager Jana Melpolder, and include “Spring Internship” in the subject line.

                      Selected candidates will be contacted by email to schedule a phone interview.

                      Deadline for applications is March 15, 2014. Good luck!