Inveneo Dr. Laura Hosman Archives

Students Make Innovative Educational ICT Program for Micronesia

  1. Posted by Inveneo on June 12, 2015 in the categories: News

Longtime Inveneo friend and colleague Dr. Laura Hosman has led her students this past semester on an exciting digital library project at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. One of the project’s leaders, Cecillia Tran, is a 5th year Liberal Arts Engineering Studies Major, and she recently spoke with Inveneo to give an explanation of the ICT project. She has been inspired by how people can make a powerful impact just by using older technology in inventive ways. Read the interview below.

  1. Inveneo: What is the SPELL Project?

SPELL stands for Solar Powered Educational Learning Library. Students in the Federated States of Micronesia as well as Vanuatu have no access to Internet or electricity in their schools. Our solution was to create and donate 50 solar-powered mini servers, pre-loaded with educational content, that could be connected to any WiFi enabled device through a WiFi dongle. The educational content our team curated onto an SD card was based through extensive research of what levels of education were needed on the islands. Some of the materials used were various Khan Academy videos on subject matters such as math, writing, and science. Due to a recent typhoon, we also decided to upload weather related content so students are better prepared if another accident were to happen.

SPELL Students and Dr. Laura Hosman

Dr. Laura Hosman (left) with several of her students working on the SPELL project.

  1. Since the Banana Pis are going to Chuuk, will the educational content be in English, Chuukese, or another language?

The educational content will be in English, since students are required to learn English in the classroom. However, there will be some content that is in Chuukese.

  1. What is the role that students play within the SPELL Project?

We divided into four teams. There is a contents and deployment team who are responsible for researching and curating the educational materials that is put on the SD card. There is a design team responsible for creating the outer shell for the mini-server itself so that there is a protective casing and an attached solar panel to power the server. We also have a SPOT team (systems performance optimization team) that is responsible for testing and configuring the Banana Pi (mini server) and WiFi dongle. And also, we have a promotions team that is responsible for the marketing and branding of the project. We even created a website and logo for the team.

  1. How will this project made a difference in Micronesia?

This project will give students who don’t have access to Internet or electricity a new way to receive their education. They will have the chance to be able to interact with electronic devices that many of us are fortunate enough to have easy access to. Our contents team is working very hard to provide a good, substantial amount of information and educational materials that would be helpful. The platform could possibly open their minds and eyes like never before.

  1. What lessons have you learned from this project?

I think we learned a lot of real world skills, especially teamwork; our class was composed of students from many different backgrounds of education. For example, we have many liberal arts and engineering studies majors, as well as electrical engineering, computer science, journalism, graphic communication, and political science. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and have seen many different perspectives as we’ve moved along through different parts of the project. We also learned that projects will not always go as planned. We have hit many bumps in the road and have had to change directions, but it was a good experience for all of us. We managed to work our way through them. Finally, we learned a lot about Chuuk and the islands, what educational access they have, and how we can make a difference. That’s what excited me about this class: this project really could make a difference and we could reach out to people who are in need. It’s exciting to be a part of a project that would go beyond the classroom and make a tangible difference that matters in the world.

  1. What can the ICT community learn from SPELL’s experience?

I think it’s amazing what a difference a small group of 15 people can make. We were donated 50 Banana Pi brand units, given as part of LeMaker’s non-profit educational program. We turned them into a powerful educational tool that we believe could make a real difference in Chuuk students’ lives, as well as other countries, that may not have Internet access or electricity in their schools.

The ICT community should be aware that anything can make a difference. Products that one may think is outdated can be turned into something incredible that would help people. Sometimes it’s the small but innovative changes that can make a big impact.

Top ICT4D Hardware Challenges Webinar Powerpoint Presentation

  1. Posted by Inveneo on September 24, 2014 in the categories: Events, Relief, User Machine

Our Executive Director, Bruce Baikie, recently co-presented at the Engineering for Change webinar on September 24th, 2014. Along with Dr. Laura Hosman, Assistant Professor at Cal Poly in California, he discussed Inveneo’s recent findings on the top ICT4D hardware challenges throughout the world, particularly in emerging markets.

Check out their entire webinar presentation here. If you were able to join in on the webinar, online or by using the hashtag #E4CWebinars, thanks for following along!

BrucePowerpointTopICT4D

Report: No Electricity Means No Internet

  1. Posted by Inveneo on August 5, 2014 in the categories: Publications, Relief

“I came to Uganda to run the technical side of a mobile phone company. Instead, I was running the largest  diesel fuel distribution company in the country—in order to run the mobile phone company,” says Francis Kazinduki, former CTO of MTN in Uganda. And he is not alone.

This quote, taken from Dr. Laura Hosman and Dr. Laura Elizabeth Armey’s study on “The Centrality of Electricity for Internet Uptake in Low-Income Countries”, is a common sentiment among ICT professionals working in low-income countries. In their innovative study, Hosman and Armey analyze Internet usage growth in diverse locations from Mali to Haiti, and Sierra Leone to the Solomon Islands. What, they ask, is a key factor influencing ICT adoption across all of these low-income countries?

Their answer:  Access to electricity.

worldatnight'Increased distribution of electricity across a nation is a key vanguard to ICT development success. Using dynamic panel data analysis, the two researchers based their findings on a unique data set taken from satellite images that capture the quantity and distribution of light that can be observed at night from outer space. This data set mediates variables such as defining what constitutes access to electricity and protects the study from faulty self-reported national electricity and energy data. While other researchers have used similar data sets for other purposes, this study is the first of its kind to use night-lights to measure real electricity use.

Hosman and Armey recommend pursuing policies that expand the distribution of electricity to greater numbers of people, not just increasing the total electrical output in each country, which tends to prioritize cities. The more people that have access to electricity, the greater demand will be for using the Internet and other related technologies. It is fruitless, they say, to discuss a digital divide where electricity does not exist. Many ICT projects have collapsed because they don’t fully realize the existing (or absent) electrical infrastructure within a country. Addressing the electricity divide between high-income and low-income countries will not only spur industrial and knowledge-based economic growth, but will enable millions around the world to connect online.

The key lesson to be learned? ICT development initiatives must first consider a location’s existing electrical infrastructure before setting up shop. The idea seems simple – it is just often overlooked.

The infographic below is based off the study and was created by Bruce Baikie, Inveneo’s Executive Director. You can follow him on Twitter for more ICT updates at @BruceICT4D. This article was republished with permission from ICTworks.

UpdatedNoElectricityNoInternet

Inveneo Publishes White Paper on Top ICT Hardware Challenges

  1. Posted by Inveneo on July 21, 2014 in the categories: Publications

WhitePaperCoverInveneo has teamed up with USAID and ARM Limited to publish our newest White Paper, “Emerging Markets: Top ICT Hardware Challenges”. Led by researcher Dr. Laura Hosman, formerly of the Illinois Institute of Technology, this publication has been created to educate engineers, designers, and manufacturers. Our report is to make ICT practitioners keenly aware of developing world hardware technology requirements and realities.

The top five ICT hardware challenges are:

  • Electricity/Power/Energy
  • Cost
  • Environment-Related Issues
  • Connectivity
  • Maintenance & Support

Inveneo has been happy to partner with ARM, USAID, Dr. Hosman, and ICTworks to conduct this research and release this White Paper. Read the full report here.

 

The infograph was created by Eric Zan. Check out his website at http://www.ericzan.info

The infograph was created by Eric Zan. Check out his website at http://www.ericzan.info

Inveneo Joins with U.S. Students to Further ICT Research

  1. Posted by Inveneo on June 11, 2014 in the categories: Education, News

Inveneo recently joined with Illinois Institute of Technology’s Professor Laura Hosman to lead student teams in addressing the challenges facing off-grid schools that want to harness ICTs to improve educational opportunities for local students. Bridging together their hard work, skills, and efforts, the student teams successfully developed the SolarCubed ICT Lab, which is a portable solar computer lab in a box that can be conveniently transported to developing schools in need of technology.

A school in Chuuk, Micronesia

A school in Chuuk, Micronesia

SolarCubed was initially deployed to a school in the island state of Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2012. Chuuk is one of four states that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The FSM consists of approximately 607 total islands strewn about the Western Pacific that maintain an average temperature of around 87 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Chuuk is the most populous of the states and is home to 11 main lagoon islands and 14 surrounding atolls and lower islands. There is a very high population of youth on these islands.

After the first SolarCubed deployment, it was discovered that the technology was not being used in the school in Chuuk as hoped. What was contributing to the lack of technology use? One of Dr. Hosman’s classes recently created a technology readiness site survey that would determine a school’s readiness and capacity to make use of the solar-powered computer lab. This baseline survey was made to have a factor of universality so it could be used in many different locations around the world to evaluate existing conditions.

With the leadership of Prof. Hosman and partnership of the Inveneo team, the class was given the opportunity to push the envelope on ICT initiatives even further. Inveneo was a huge help when it came to getting this team to think critically from a global point of view. The students wanted to facilitate the survey via Android mobile devices, so that it could be administered on-the-go on the most commonly used devices across the developing world.

When the class started in the spring semester of 2014, the students learned that simply providing the SolarCubed ICT Lab to less privileged schools was not an effective method to helping them take advantage of this technology efficiently. The main challenge was figuring out the best way to know which schools could be considered “ready” to make use of the technology, in terms of both the infrastructure and the human side of things, while not being able to travel to Chuuk ourselves.

The class was tasked with creating a technology readiness site survey designed to capture the attitudes of school administrators and teachers towards ICT and the school’s capability of sustaining it. The survey would be administered on a mobile device (for ease of use by the survey administrator), and local partners in Chuuk would be the ones carrying out the survey. Although connectivity would not be a necessity while the survey enumerators were administering the survey, they would eventually upload the survey data to us back in Chicago.  The class planned to assess the factors that were deemed important in terms of schools being able to take advantage of computer-related technology.

DrHosmanClass

Dr. Hosman (center) and her IIT class, 2014.

The survey-making process included:

  • Forming suitable questions that would be easy to comprehend in different regions of the world and would help reveal needs, capabilities, and interest in ICT.

  • Assessing existing open-source software options for creating and administering surveys on mobile devices. The class chose to use ODK (Open Data Kit) Collect as the main survey software, along with FormHub for creating the survey spreadsheet.

  • Administering the survey to multiple test groups, in Chicago and abroad, to help filter out any questions that seemed to be unnecessary or confusing.

The class’ local partner on the ground in Chuuk was the team at iSolutions, a computer networking and consulting business located on the main island of Weno, which is the capital of Chuuk. This team was lead by TR Mori, whom Dr. Hosman originally met while working in Chuuk, Micronesia. iSolutions also runs the only Internet cafe in Chuuk.

To help with this project, the iSolutions team administered the survey on the ground in Chuuk. The iSolutions team members needed to learn how to use “ODK Collect,” the mobile technology platform that was chosen to administer the survey, as well as to familiarize them with both the questions and the overall goals of our survey.

Ultimately, data was collected from six schools. Unfortunately, all of these schools were on the main island, and were not the intended targets. Outer-island schools would be good candidates to receive technology in the future–specifically, the SolarCubed ICT Labs. Each of the main-island schools that was surveyed already had access to both electricity and ICT. Nonetheless, the class could begin analyzing the data to determine whether the assessment tools that were created would be useful.

DataEvaluation

The data evaluation metric

Data was analyzed by breaking down the portions of our survey into four key attributes that determined overall readiness. The four key attributes included:

  • Potential Impact of the Technology

  • Infrastructure

  • Experience with Technology

  • Attitude Towards Technology

From this point, questions from the survey were grouped based upon their relation to each attribute, and the answers were evaluated to determine readiness.

The students were surprised to have received data from schools that already had access to technology, but this underscored a point that Prof. Hosman emphasized throughout the semester: the human side of technology initiatives is always the most complicated and challenging. Nonetheless, we are confident that with time (and relevant data), our site survey does have the ability to promote accuracy and increase successful efforts to assess the readiness of schools around the world for ICT initiatives, due to its global clarity and effectiveness in assessing global technological needs.

If you would like more information on our project or SolarCubed hubs, please visit www.solarcubed.org to keep up with our progress. Additionally, online versions of the surveys have been uploaded to FormHub and may be found here:

SiteAssessment V1.5 Part 1

SiteAssessment V1.5 Part 2

Written by Anndriene Bell, one of Dr. Hosman’s students at IIT. You can reach Anndriene Bell by email.