Inveneo Economic Development Archives

Mentoring Small ICT Businesses for Big Impact

  1. Posted by Inveneo on July 11, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News
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Inveneo launched the Bati Anfòmatik Teknisyen yo ak Inveneo (BATI) Program to train and certify rural Haitian IT entrepreneurs to deploy and support a high speed, broadband wireless network in rural population centers across Haiti. BATI participants are rural youth who have experience in information technology and an interest in becoming entrepreneurs. Through the BATI program, Inveneo trained youth in the technical skills needed to deploy broadband and computers in rural areas, and how to run their own ICT businesses, graduating 64 new Haitian ICT entrepreneurs.

To help jump-start their businesses and provide support to the broadband network, Inveneo brokered meetings between the newly trained ICT entrepreneurs and local ISPs to create partnerships to expand the broadband network and serve rural clients. The match-making was a success – the network, supported and deployed by Inveneo-trained ICT entrepreneurs, now provides access to broadband Internet to over 20% of the Haitian population, ensuring that rural schools, healthcare centers, non-profits, and enterprises can help Haiti build back better after the devastating earthquake.

MicroMentor mentorship

Yet, training and business leads alone do not create sustainable entrepreneurs. Long-term mentorship is crucial for entrepreneurs to survive and expand in the competitive ICT marketplace and in Haiti’s under-developed business climate. To help the entrepreneurs, Inveneo launched a partnership with MicroMentor in May 2011 to build a mentor-support network for the business aspects of the BATI program.

Since the program’s inauguration, 46 Inveneo-trained BATI entrepreneurs, representing 72 percent of the entrepreneurs trained by Inveneo in Haiti, have joined the program as entrepreneurs seeking advice from seasoned businesspeople. Twelve local Haitian business professionals and staff of Inveneo Certified ICT Partners (ICIP) around the world have signed up as mentors to provide advice to the entrepreneurs, resulting in a total of 26 mentoring relationships.

BATI entrepreneurs use the MicroMentor website to find and engage with professional mentors. In addition, the BATI entrepreneurs can pose specific questions related to their businesses and mentors can post responses, starting a dialogue that can be viewed by all entrepreneurs. There are also groups where members are able to participate in discussions and find resources specific to their program, such as Inveneo products and business plan templates.

The program is providing much needed encouragement as well as start-up expertise to the entrepreneurs. The feedback has been very positive. Here are a few examples:

«Il est toujours disponible pour moi quand j’ai des questions”. – It [the website] is always available to me when I have questions.»
«Je profite encore de vous féliciter pour ce programme, il est vraiment utile à tous ceux qui font partie et il porte du succès dans leurs entreprises » – I would like to again take this opportunity to thank the program; it is truly useful for everyone and the help that is needed to create a successful business.
« Nous avons beaucoup parlé de mon business, et elle m’a donné des bons conseils. » – We have spoken a lot about my business, and [my mentor] has given me a lot of great advice.

Overall, the program has been very successful in supporting Inveneo-trained entrepreneurs. The ultimate gauge of its success will be the number of entrepreneurs whose businesses survive the crucial first two years of operations.

Beyond Haiti, one of Inveneo’s aims over time has been to promote and strengthen collaboration among Inveneo Certified ICT Partners in the twenty plus countries in which they work. This initiative is our first opportunity to build collaboration among the francophone countries of Africa and with Haiti. Through MicroMentor, we are beginning to see trans-Atlantic mentoring matches being formed, and are very excited about the potential impact.

Inveneo partners can now support one another and share their expertise. They may be small businesses, but we see big impact in reaching our ultimate goal of improved ICT entrepreneur economic self-sustainability.

20% of the Haitian Population Now Has Broadband Access via the Haiti Connected Cities Program

  1. Posted by Inveneo on June 20, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
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Inveneo is committed to bringing real economic and education opportunities to Haiti in 2011-2012 through the Haiti Rural Broadband Initiative, also known as the Haiti Connect Cities program, and its related efforts, launched in January 2011. HRBI is a collaborative program involving Haitian Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Haitian IT entrepreneurs and the many organizations – NGOs and otherwise – that will benefit from access to reliable and affordable broadband Internet.

Building on last year’s progress, in the first quarter of 2012, Inveneo’s Haiti Rural Broadband Initiative (HRBI) continues to make progress in all key program areas:


1st Quarter 2012 HRBI Report

Network Build Out/Infrastructure
Inveneo engineers and our local partners have successfully completed Zones 1 – 5 of the network. This backbone comprised of hundreds of radios at 31 tower sites now provides a fully operational and stable network to connect 65 clients in these regions of Haiti.

Entrepreneur Training – BATI Program
A total of 64 BATI have now been trained throughout six provinces of Haiti: Artibonite, Cap Haitien, West, South East, Central Plateau and Grand Anse.

Network Governance and Operations
Inveneo handed off the day-to-day operations of the network to Haitian organizations in the first quarter, reaching a significant milestone.

Inveneo established a framework by which BATI provide the first line of support followed by the Haitian telecommunications company Haicom and their team, who have taken over the Network Operations Center (NOC) responsibilities. On a daily basis, they monitor the ever-growing rural network while the ICIP Transversal handles every physical installation and all maintenance of the equipment across Haiti.

Monitoring & Evaluation
Independent evaluation experts Mission Measurement (funded by the USAID Global Broadband and Innovations Initiative) released a draft version of the closing report on the social and financial impact of the Haiti Connected Cities program. Some affirming statistics from the report include:

  • As of April 2012, the broadband network covers 20.72% of the Haitian population.
  • In the case of NGOs, the increased efficiency [from broadband Internet connectivity through HRBI] drives development outcomes by allowing the organizations to better deliver their services through increasing beneficiary access, service quality and timeliness.
  • One of the strongest assets of the model, the BATI training program, has led to a networked group of local IT entrepreneurs who have built their own businesses, acquired clients, hired employees, obtained ISP contracts, and enjoyed increased incomes.

Challenges and Solutions
Customer acquisition is slower than anticipated. This is due to a number of factors, including: Complex processes within the ISPs to absorb the BATI; Speed of customer order process – organizations in rural Haiti need to work through 
multiple steps in order to get contracts signed by their country offices located in Port-au-Prince; Insufficient sales capabilities of the BATI themselves.

We are currently seeking additional funding in order to conduct supplemental entrepreneurial, marketing and process training with the BATI to accelerate customer acquisition. Inveneo is currently developing a detailed proposal to share with potential funders.

Haiti Connected Schools

Inveneo is partnering with Microsoft, World Vision and HP to deliver 40 ICT labs in rural schools across the regions where the broadband network has been deployed. In Q1 of 2012, HCS added solar-powered computer labs to an additional six schools (19 in all) in four departments in Haiti: Artibonite, Central Plateau, Ouest and Nord. One school installation was completed with a new solar partner, Solar Electric Light Fund, a US-based non-profit. Also, 18 teachers were trained with the new basic curriculum and 5 with the advanced administrator curriculum. This is brings the total teachers trained to 98.

The next phase of Haiti Connected Schools will bring rapid program expansion to more schools in rural Haiti now that processes, materials and qualified local resources are in place. Inveneo and NetHope received a grant from Intel to provide basic computer training in rural communities. Together, the two organizations will leverage the curricula, local trainers, train-the-trainer approach and computer labs implemented through HCS to offer training to new populations in the communities.

Working Past Bees for Long-Distance WiFi Networking

  1. Posted by Inveneo on April 25, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
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Planning an installation in a remote area asks for a lot of careful thought: one doesn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere missing a specific piece of equipment thus having to drive back several kilometers to complete the work. The unexpected being expected, even after several installations, you are never too cautious. But, what level of ’unexpectedness’ can a tower full of wasp nest be?

Bees in general are not really harmful to humans. Living in a tropical country you have been stung enough by these insects to know if you are of the allergic type. At best if you have a cold or indigestion it may cure you. This level of risk falls into the category of negligible.

But talking of something and seeing it right in front of you are two different things. The colors, the noise, the menacing zigzags and of course old memories, all this being put together, you think twice before even starting to put on the climbing gears. And just when your courage is at a sufficient level to face the wasp, local superstitions shatter it in thousands of pieces.

I am Jeffrey Carre of Transversal and recently we had to verify an old installation at Pont-Sonde, a small town on the way to Gonaive, pass St Marc in Haiti. With no hills to climb, and the site being right in the middle of the town, it’s not a difficult site.

Food and water are at hand ad you don’t have to drive a long way to get to a passable road. The aiming is generally easy in such a flat land that these usually take half a day of work to setup everything and pass the acceptance test. But…

“They can give you a fever so unbearable that you may not have enough time to go to the hospital,” the guardian says. Some time ago our townsfolk pride would have us walk past that statement with a “Let me show you how we do things,” tone and maybe we would have shamefully been victim of that ego… But today that bee problem was taken seriously. The questions is how to get pass that problem:

 

  • Bug spray is a real bad way the get rid of them – it kills some and infuriates the rest. They fall on the ground and fly back at you right away with their last remaining breath. And personally seeing all those creatures fall and die, you cannot help to think of yourself as an evil, heartless person (just a little).
  • Smoke. Yes but you have to climb high enough to reach them and they are sometimes in unexpected places. You have to use it on your way up and also, less easy, on the way down. Every nest that is on your path must be submitted to smoke for long enough to drowse the wasps. We don’t have that time.
  • Gas/oil. We once used this to repel hornets from the lightning arrestors they were using to construct their mud nest. We didn’t have enough with us and we couldn’t think of a good way to spread it.
  • Fire, same almost as smoke but for clear reasons, not a good solution.
  • Luck, hopefully you go up and don’t put your hand right in the middle of a nest. We engineers prefer not to play with luck to much. We prefer quantifiable and measurable facts, but then again, sometimes it surprises you pleasantly.

The guardian happened to be a beekeeper and had in his possession a pair of protective suits and it would only take him 5 minutes to get them for us. No need to tell what a relief he was to us. Maybe he enjoyed being our hero but he continued to help us by reassuring us. We learned that:

  • Bees, wasps, and hornets only attack when they sense danger. So if we calmly approach them they will stay away from us.
  • They tend to build their nest at a specific height, not to high to avoid strong currents and not to low to avoid the heat and natural enemies. So as soon as we pass that “activity zone” there is no need to watch out for them.
  • And the most beautiful part: bees are a sign of life and hope, and as we are spreading life and hope via our Internet installation they are doing the same with the flower pollen.

We put on the protective suits under the climbing gears and started to work. And as the day goes by, I couldn’t help to think of the bees working as group, coordinating their movements, each taking care of a specific task.

This was at our 3rd site of the day and the sun was getting low on the sky. As we climbed down the tower and started to pack, nature was slowly falling asleep and even the bees were regaining the house. Their nests that were once very busy spots during the day were now calm – technology and nature in quiet harmony.

Inveneo Awarded the Internet Now! Project in Uganda

  1. Posted by Inveneo on April 5, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
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Inveneo has been selected for the Internet infrastructure segment of the newly launched Internet Now! Project in Uganda. Working with Oxfam Novib, Arid Lands Information Network, and Samasource, Inveneo will provide computer hardware and Internet connection to 100 planned ICT work centers, all of which are targeted for rural Northern Ugandan regions.

The Internet Now! project aims to implement 100 ICT work centers, that will offer outsourced ICT data services, wireless Internet access via a wireless café hotspot model, and services such as agricultural education and crop pricing information. All of this with the goal to generate increased income and employment in rural communities of northern Uganda.

The network of 100 ICT centers will cover a total population of 872,000 people in the districts of Adjumani, Amuru/Gulu and Moyo. Each center will have two fully equipped and renovated rooms with 10 PC workstations for visitors to use. All centers will be stand-alone solar powered, independent from a grid, and are staffed with a Field Officer and two Knowledge Facilitators, who will provide training and support to center visitors.

Inveneo in conjunction with CLS Ltd., an Inveneo Certified ICT Partner in Uganda, will deploy energy-efficient, high performance computers and reliable Internet connections at each center. In addition, Inveneo will lead the network backbone planning and negotiations with Ugandan ISP’s and wireless carriers.

Inveneo is excited to be part of the Internet Now! project as it will bring Internet connectivity and employment opportunities to an area of Africa where such needs and potential benefits are great.

Every African Woman Should Have Access to Broadband – But How?

  1. Posted by Inveneo on March 9, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, Events, News
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If we are serious about ICT as an accelerant for social and economic development, and we know that a) women are the key to investments in family health and education, and b) broadband connectivity is a major ICT catalyst for both, then we should be working towards a world where every African woman can have access to broadband Internet.

Broadband for Women

But what does “broadband” or “access” really mean? And how can we accelerate connectivity? Yes, mobile operators will play a role, as will ISPs, national backbones, sea cable operators, and the private ICT ecosystem. In fact, its a policy, regulatory, financial, and cultural challenge, which will take many actors working together to achieve impact.

How do we start? What advice do you have for the technologists? The technocrats? The ICT4D community as a whole? Or the whole US government foreign assistance framework? What levers and leverage can make broadband ubiquitous?

Come to the next Technology Salon for a lively discussion at the intersection of technology and development, boosted with broadband. We’ll be joined by Priya Jaisinghani of USAID, Ann Mei Chang of State via Google, and your peers – so please RSVP early – we will reach capacity fast.

Broadband Access for Africa
March Technology Salon
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
IREX
2121 K Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC (map)

We’ll have hot coffee and Krispe Kreme donuts for a morning rush, but seating is limited at IREX’s headquarters. So RSVP ASAP to be confirmed for attendance – once we reach our 20-person capacity there will be a waitlist.


About the Technology Salon™

Our subscribersThe Technology Salon™ is an intimate, informal, and in person, discussion between information and communication technology experts and international development professionals, with a focus on both:

  1. technology’s impact on donor-sponsored technical assistance delivery, and
  2. private enterprise driven economic development, facilitated by technology.

Our meetings are lively conversations, not boring presentations. Attendance is capped at 20 people – and frank participation with ideas, opinions, and predictions is actively encouraged.  It’s also a great opportunity to meet others motivated to employ technology to solve vexing development problems. Join us today!

Jonathan B. Postel Technical Academy Opens in Kendu Bay, Kenya

  1. Posted by Inveneo on February 29, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
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The 1986 CSNET Executive Team Meeting
Sometimes the greatest advocates for Inveneo’s work emerge from the most unlikely of places: retirement! Much like our own Bob Marsh, a personal computing pioneer dating back to his days with the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley, other veteran technologists have recognized the vision and efforts behind Inveneo’s work in getting the tools of ICTs to those who need it most in rural and underserved areas across the world. Our most recent supporters come from the ICT networking field.

The Internet Society (ISOC) presented its 2009 Jonathan B Postel Service Award to CSNET, recognizing the groundbreaking work of the Computer Science Network, the research effort in the early 1980s that laid the groundwork for what became today’s Internet. The four founders of CSNET – Peter J. Denning, David Farber, Anthony C. Hearn and Lawrence Landweber – were collectively lauded for having made outstanding contributions in service to the data communications community.

Unanimously, the four award winners chose to donate the proceeds of their award to another deserving community – Kendu Bay, Kenya. Known primarily for being the birthplace of President Obama’s father, Kendu Bay is a small town at the center of an underserved community in Western Kenya.

With the $20,000 in funding from the Postel Service Award, Inveneo has implemented the Jonathan B. Postel Technical Academy. Run by local organization Rachuonyo Online Networks, the Technical Academy will be co-located with a Cisco Networking Academy, offering a multitude of learning and training opportunities for participants of varying levels of technical expertise.

“We are honored to help create the Postel Technical Academy in Kendu Bay. We believe it extends Jon Postel’s vision of a broadly accessible Internet that brings people together,” said Lawrence Landweber, one of the CSNET principal investigators recognized by the 2009 Jonathan B. Postel award. “The Postel academy also continues the CSNET legacy of empowering people around the world to communicate and collaborate through the use and understanding of networking technology.”

“The people of Karachuonyo are really looking forward to building ICT skills with support from the 2009 Jonthan B. Postel Award winners,” said Kennedy Kabasa, assistant to Hon. James Rege, Member of Parliament for Karachuonyo, Kenya, where the Postel Technical Academy is located. “This initiative will enable us to help bridge the shortage of ICT skills and infrastructure in the region, and allow our people to participate more fully with others from all over the world in this wave of technology.”

You too can join Bob Marsh, the CSNET founders, and other technology luminaries in supporting Inveneo’s efforts around the world.

A Successful First BATI Forum in Haiti

  1. Posted by Inveneo on February 1, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
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On a sunny morning, BATI (Bati Anfòmatik Teknisyen yo ak Inveneo) participants reached an important milestone as they looked out over the hills of Pétion-Ville: the BATI Forum. This was the first major national meeting of the members of the program. Its goal was to give an overview of efforts of their colleagues across Haiti – and to coordinate them.

Nineteen BATI technicians from four different regions of the country attended the inauguration of the Forum on November 15 at the new headquarters of Inveneo Haiti in Juvénat, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Until that point, a total of 36 BATI members had been trained, and since then another 15 participated in a training in Cap Haïtien.

The expansion of BATI personnel is assuming a growing importance for the continuity of the Haiti Connected Cities program with the approach of Inveneo’s depart from Haiti, projected for April 2012. Inveneo is a non-profit social enterprise whose mission is to get the tools of information and communications technologies into the hands of organizations and people who need them most, and which has worked in Haiti since the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

The assembly was organized by Emmanuella Stimphat, CEO of Connet’Em and BATI for Grand-Goâve, and Jerry Joseph, CEO of JigabIT Plus and BATI for Léogane. The opening presentation of the event was made by FJ Cava, Director of the BATI program at Inveneo, after which Ralph Étienne, CEO of Central Point Inc. and BATI for Mirebalais, gave a brief overview of the day’s program.

Each BATI presented a “sound byte” on his or her role in their territory and their small business. The participants had the opportunity to share their experiences and also pass on their complaints. They also learned important new skills from Inveneo technical volunteers Eyleen Chou and Andrew Dupree.

Distinguished guests, Mr. Jonas Dumersain and Mr. Yves-Fils Stimphat spoke about accounting and legal issues, respectively, which provoked stimulating discussions.

The participants also set in place standards for identifying themselves to clients and each other such as standard IDs and uniforms, registration with the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and a diagram of the board of management. Overall, the gathering provoked a range of discussions on the big picture of the organization and functioning of the BATI program.

Un matin ensoleillé sur une terrasse qui donne sur les collines de Pétion-Ville, le programme Bati Anfòmatik Teknisyen yo ak Inveneo (BATI) a atteint un jalon important : le Forum BATI. C’était la première grande réunion nationale des cadres du programme, avec le but de donner une vue d’ensemble des efforts de leurs collègues à travers Haïti — et de les coordonner.

Dix-neuf techniciens BATI de quatre différentes régions du pays ont assisté au lancement du Forum le 15 novembre au nouveau siège d’Inveneo Haïti à Juvénat, une banlieue de Port-au-Prince. Jusqu’au moment, un total de 36 cadres avaient été formés, et depuis ce temps-là à peu près 15 davantage ont participé dans une formation à Cap Haïtien.

L’augmentation du corps de personnel de BATI prend une importance croissante pour la continuité du programme « Haiti Connected Cities » à l’approche du départ d’Haïti d’ Inveneo, prévu pour avril 2012. Inveneo est une organisation non-gouvernementale dont la principale mission est de connecter les plus nécessiteux à Internet, et qui a travaillé en Haïti depuis le tremblement de terre du 12 janvier 2010.

La rencontre a été organisé par Emmanuella Stimphat, PDG de Connet’Em et BATI de Grand-Goâve, et Jerry Joseph, PDG de JigabIT Plus et BATI de Léogane. L’intervention introductive de la réunion a été faite par FJ Cava, Responsable du programme BATI à Inveneo, suite à laquelle Ralph Étienne, PDG de Central Point Inc. et BATI de Mirebalais, a fait un “briefing” du programme.

Chaque BATI à son tour a présenté son “sound byte” sur sa rôle dans leur zone d’activité et sa Petite ou Moyenne Entreprise (P.M.E). Ce fut également l’occasion pour eux de partager leurs expériences aussi bien que communiquer leurs doléances. Ils ont aussi fait le point sur des matieres élucidés par Eyleen Chou et Andrew Dupree, deux bénévoles techniques d’Inveneo.

En outre, des invités de marque, tels que M. Jonas Dumersain et M. Yves-Fils Stimphat ont apporté des conseils d’or et des principes dans différentes disciplines.

Les participants ont aussi mis en place des normes sur comment s’identifier aux clients et aux autres BATI tels que des cartes d’identité et des uniformes, la registration avec la Chambre de Commerce d’Haïti, et un diagramme du conseil de gestion. En somme, la rencontre a occasionné tout un panel de discussions concernant grosso modo l’organisation et le fonctionnement du programme BATI.

The Unique Challenges of Making Technology Work in Developing Countries

  1. Posted by Inveneo on January 26, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
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Making technology work in the rural and developing world is a process full of unique challenges. I am Andris Bjornson, Inveneo’s Chief Technology Officer and practicing project engineer. As an Inveneo engineer, I have to be prepared for it all. Recently in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Preserve, I had what I’d call in rock climbing terms an “epic” day traveling to bring the Cisco Community Knowledge Center (CKC) in Sekenani, Kenya (photos) online with high speed terrestrial broadband Internet.

This is not by far the most difficult deployment (that would be 3 weeks in Nepal dealing with monsoon rains and leeches) nor the most chaotic (probably our Haiti Earthquake disaster response) However, the condensed timeline, wild game, and bad weather combined to make this a good story.

I had arrived in Nairobi after finishing a week-long wireless connectivity assessment in the UNHCR Dadaab refugee camp and I was asked to tack on an additional day of work for this special project, to make the final adjustments to bring the connection live. This was the first time in Kenya that we would be connecting one of the CKC’s with broadband Internet by partnering with a local carrier at their tower and then using long distance wireless (WiFi) to connect to the CKC facility 20 kilometers away. It was supposed to be a quick in-and-out flight into the Masai Mara Game Preserve, as the CKC is just inside one of the Park’s eastern gates.

We usually send one of our Inveneo Certified IT Partners (ICIPs) to complete a technical installation like this. All of the equipment had already been put in place, but the connection had to be tested and completed now that the CKC had signed the service contract. First-time installations are always tricky.

Here’s how it actually went:

6:00am – Wake up in my hotel in Nairobi, scarf down a quick breakfast and call Bernard, a friendly taxi driver I had met earlier for a ride to Nairobi Wilson airport. This small airport is Nairobi’s jumping off point for all domestic, tiny aircraft that would generally worry my mother.

8:15am – Arrive at Wilson after navigating Nairobi’s legendary traffic and check in at the last possible minute.

9:15am – Take off in a Twin Otter: the favorite 20 seat, twin-prop workhorse of rural airlines from Nepal to Borneo.

10:30am – Land at the dirt airstrip at Keekorok in Masai Mara. Connect with Tony, the friendly Land Cruiser driver and guide whom I’ve hired to take me where I need to go. The change from UN convoys with armed escorts in Dadaab to convoys of open top matatus (vans) full of tourists seeking sightings of the “big five” (elephant, lion, leopard, black rhino, and water buffalo) is jarring.

10:50am – While bouncing down the dirt track to my destination, I see a herd of elephants! (Never seen them in the wild before.) Check in with the cellular engineers I’m scheduled to meet. Our wireless equipment, which serves the CKC with Internet, is co-located at their Talek Market cellular tower, and I’m supposed to meet them at the project site.

I learn that, though I’d made them promise to meet me at their tower by noon when I spoke to them last night, noon had become 1pm by the time I talked to them from Nairobi in the morning, and now it’s going to be 2pm due to car trouble. This is not uncommon, though given that my return flight leaves the airstrip at 4:15pm and the airstrip is at least 30 minutes from the tower, it is less than ideal. I need to connect with an international flight the same day in Nairobi, and this is the last flight out of Masai Mara for the day. I hope furiously that an hour and a half onsite will be enough.

11:10am – Arrive at the Sekanani CKC,the site I’ve come to connect. I meet with Kerry and Musa, the CKC managers, and discuss the problems. Initial diagnosis shows that what we’d thought was the cause of their Internet troubles is actually several completely unrelated problems. The Inveneo R3 server’s BIOS (the most basic “brains” of a computer) has reset itself and lost its settings, which can sometimes happen due to unusual power conditions. I fix this and show Kerry and Musa how to fix it if it happens again.

One of the server’s two mirrored hard drives has also failed (not uncommon in hot, humid and dusty environments. Sekanani is all three). Fortunately, our Inveneo R3 server has RAID: a technology that allows the server to keep running even with one failed drive.

12:30pm – Learn from Tony the driver that the normal road from Sekanani to Talek Market (the cell tower location) is deep under water from recent heavy rains. This turns a 15-minute drive into a 40-minute one. I pass this information on to the cellular engineers, who are still en route.

1:00pm – Quick lunch, then head toward the cell tower with Tony.

1:50pm – Herds of Antelope cross the road in front of us as we drive.

2:10pm – We arrive at the Talek Market tower, and find that the cellular engineers have just arrived! I eye our equipment at the very top of the 40m tower (a Ubiquiti NanoBridgeM5-25) and think how lucky our engineer, Jen, was to have installed it during the great migration season. She has pictures of massive herds of animals passing under her.

2:15pm – I discover that, three weeks earlier, the cellular provider moved our equipment and wiring to a completely new cabinet without letting us know. The way the move was done seems to have caused a power spike that wiped our long- distance WiFi radio’s settings. It’s a problem we knew about, but one we discovered after the equipment installation had been performed three months prior.

3:15pm – I reconfigure the radio from scratch, grateful I don’t need to climb the tower, and bring the link between the tower and the CKC back up and functioning again! Check in with the cellular providers’ NOC (network operations center) to verify connectivity. They confirm the test passes! This is good, because it has started raining and I’m running out of time. Upgrade firmware: the link to the CKC goes down! I’m out of time, it’s continuing to rain, and given the results of the NOC’s test, I theorize that I can fix the remaining issue remotely from Nairobi.

3:30pm – Dash for the airstrip

3:35pm – See some zebra hanging out by the side of the road. They don’t seem to mind the rain.

3:40pm – I receive a call from the NOC that their test has, in fact, failed. This problem will make it impossible to access the equipment remotely. Wish they would have told me this before I left the site, but I’m impressed with their follow-through. Better to find out now than after leaving the country.

3:45pm – We make the judgment call to push my return flight to Nairobi and my onward flight to San Francisco back by a day to finish the work. Spend 15 minutes on hold with the travel agent’s emergency line in an effort to get them to change the international flight. The international call burns through my remaining cellular credit and I never do reach them. Tony is also out of phone credits so I can’t even call Air Kenya to cancel my domestic flight.

4:05pm – Continue to the airstrip to tell the Air Kenya pilot that I can’t take his flight back to Nairobi. Buy cellular credit from a driver at the airstrip, call Air Kenya, and learn that the 4:15pm flight tomorrow is full. The best they can do is 10:15am tomorrow. Hope that buys me enough time to finish the work. Head back to the CKC to see what I can do from there because it’s much closer than the tower.

4:25pm – Try again to change my international reservation. I find the number for Swiss International Airlines. I ask the driver to stop the car so that the phone agent can understand me. Just as she is explaining that she can’t change the reservation because it was a Swiss Air flight booked as a Lufthansa codeshare, a giraffe casually wanders up and stops about eight feet from the car. I swear he’s looking right at me saying: “Clearly you should have called Lufthansa.”

4:35pm – We reach the CKC. I tweak some WiFi link settings. This fixes part of the remaining problem but not all of it. Then I have the “a-ha” moment realizing what happened during the firmware upgrade at the tower and that I need to go back.

5:15pm – Head back to the cellular tower (again, the long way because the fast road is washed out). It’s raining really hard now.

5:55pm – Exit the Masai Mara Park gates (the tower is just outside the park) and beg the ranger to let us back in in 20 minutes (15 minutes after closing time). Hope that I can fix the problem in 20 minutes. Pull on my raincoat, and grab my laptop.

6:05pm – Find myself hunched over my laptop, plugged into equipment inside a cellular equipment cabinet with two guards and a driver holding golf umbrellas over me to avoid drenching at least a hundred thousand dollars worth of cellular equipment and bringing down cellular service in the immediate area (our WiFi gear is housed in the same cabinet). Laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

6:10pm – Fix the problem while keeping surprisingly dry. I’m annoyed at myself that it was partly a stupid mistake on my part and partly a known bug I should have remembered, that causes a critical checkbox to check itself when firmware is upgraded to this particular version. Make a mental note to tell our teams in Haiti about this bug.

6:15pm – Call Kerry at the CKC. Still under the golf umbrellas in the deluge (though thankfully we’ve closed the cellular cabinet), talk him through some technical troubleshooting steps to verify that everything is working from his end. Hooray!

6:16pm – We all have to walk through ankle-deep water to get back to the car. The land around the tower has turned into a lake. Feet are soaked and muddy all around. Pass the tower guards some Kenyan Shillings for going way above and beyond the call of duty and helping me (and much more importantly, the equipment) keep out of the rain.

6:20pm – Start the trip back to the CKC, grateful that the Masai Mara ranger honors his promise to let us through the gate slightly after hours.

6:45pm – Spot some ostriches: cool!

6:50pm – Glad to reach my colleague who is passing through Nairobi for some meetings. He has good Skype access and makes the international call to change my flight. Change fees are totally reasonable! Phew.

7:00pm – Glad that Tony is a flexible guy, arrive at the CKC. This is way more driving than he bargained for. Do some general IT housekeeping, verify that the link is performing well.

7:20pm – It’s well after dark now. Needing to use the restroom, I stumble off with my flashlight to find the outhouse. Kerry warns me to watch out for hyenas. He is not joking.

7:30pm – Shake hands with Kerry and Musa, glad that everyone’s hard work paid off and that the CKC now has a 2Mbps symmetric Internet connection. This might not sound like much in San Francisco… but this is by far the fastest, most affordable Internet available out here in the bush.

8:00pm – Return to the safari camp where I had lunch and explain that, yes, I was supposed to have left already but please do they have room for me. Fortunately, they do.

8:15pm – Grateful to change into some dry clothes. Finally unwrap the soaked ace bandage from my swollen ankle (I sprained it a week before jumping on a trampoline with my wife). Relaxing at this amazing spot is a fantastic reward for an exhausting day of work. It all feels worthwhile because the CKC has Internet now and can greatly expand their (ICT) services to the community.

Announcing the launch and Google funding of Inveneo’s Broadband for Good Program

  1. Posted by Inveneo on December 14, 2011 in the categories: Economic Development, Education, Healthcare, News
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Inveneo is pleased to announce the launch of our newest program, Broadband for Good™, as well as a $2 Million Google grant in support of this three-year initiative. The goal of Broadband for Good (BB4G) is to catalyze and accelerate availability of high-quality broadband Internet connectivity in rural and under-served regions across the developing world, where it can transform lives through improved education, healthcare and economic opportunity.

Inveneo developed the concept for the Broadband for Good initiative through our experience in deploying broadband and ICT projects in Haiti, Palestine and East Africa and with seed funding from Cisco in 2011-12. These projects have highlighted not just the urgent need for broadband access in marginalized areas, but also the real opportunity to accelerate and expand access through a replicable framework that addresses the main challenges to sustainable broadband in low resource settings. Inveneo is uniquely positioned to spearhead this effort.

Key elements of the Broadband for Good framework include:

  • Low-cost Technology – We leverage new, low-cost networking technology options to minimize capital requirement.
  • Demand Mobilization – We identify and qualify prospective anchor tenants to assess real demand and ensure maximum utilization.
  • Local Carriers as Partners – We partner with in-country service providers to extend their reach to rural users.
  • Open/Shared Access – We employ open access and shared network infrastructure to lower costs and drive local network governance models.
  • Capacity Building – We grow the ability of local entrepreneurs to deliver and support the network. This helps ensure sustainability and adds to the greater local tech economy and ecosystem in each of the countries where we work.

In 2012, Broadband for Good will focus on three goals:

  • Establishing a team of internal and external experts who will formalize and evolve the framework for use in multiple settings.
  • Building a collaborative alliance of organizations and individuals with a shared vision and the technical/organizational capacity to accelerate access to broadband in currently marginalized areas.
  • Identifying and rapidly deploying regional demonstration projects.

Beyond 2012, the Broadband for Good initiative and alliance will be well positioned to partner with governments and other interested organizations to roll out country-wide rural broadband initiatives. Google’s $2m grant is key to the initial development of the program’s methodology, alliance formation and early field projects.

If you are interested in supporting or partnering with Inveneo on the Broadband for Good initiative, please contact us at broadbandforgood@inveneo.org. Come join us as we change the world for the better through broadband.

How Mobile Financial Services are Transforming the Economics of International Development

  1. Posted by Inveneo on December 1, 2011 in the categories: Economic Development, Events, News
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Terms like mobile money, mPayments, and M-PESA are all the rage in International development these days, but what do they really mean for the national development of countries we attempt to help?

Menekse Gencer of mPay Connect will lead us in a discussion of mobile financial services, the full gamut of finance that is now taking place on mobile phones: mobile payments, mobile microfinance, and mobile banking.

m-PESA She will showcase ways in which mobile financial services are (and will be) radically changing emerging economies, shifting the economic landscape in ways we are just now starting to see but as yet cannot fully understand. Here is one example of that shift:

  • mPay Connect research shows M-PESA saves 3 hours per day for every Kenyan subscriber in reduced shoe leather costs – the cost of walking money from place to place. If we multiply 3 hours per day, by 13.2 million subscribers, by 365 days, that’s 14.4 BILLION hours saved per year. Add in the average wage per hour in Kenya, and the time savings start to make you gasp in savings shock.

Priya Jaisinghani of the Mobile Solutions Office at USAID wants to bring savings like that to both the host country governments that USAID works with and to the USAID system itself. She’ll continue with Menekse’s theme and bring the discussion home:

  • How can USAID and its implementing partners also leverage mobile financial services to increase the efficiency of foreign assistance? Two simple suggestion to start: contractors using mPayments to pay host country national staff and national pensions paying through mobiles.

Of course there are many more, and more ways in which mobile financial services are radically changing the world in which we work. Join your fellow Technology Salon professionals in a deep dive on the impact all of this will have at the next Salon:

Mobile Financial Services in USAID Programming
December Technology Salon
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
RTI International
701 13th Street NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC (map)

We’ll have hot coffee and Krispe Kreme donuts for a morning rush, but seating is limited and the UN Foundation is in a secure building. So RSVP ASAP to be confirmed for attendance or you are on the waitlist.


About the Technology Salon™

Our subscribersThe Technology Salon™ is an intimate, informal, and in person, discussion between information and communication technology experts and international development professionals, with a focus on both:

  1. technology’s impact on donor-sponsored technical assistance delivery, and
  2. private enterprise driven economic development, facilitated by technology.

Our meetings are lively conversations, not boring presentations. Attendance is capped at 20 people – and frank participation with ideas, opinions, and predictions is actively encouraged.  It’s also a great opportunity to meet others motivated to employ technology to solve vexing development problems. Join us today!