Inveneo Healthcare Archives

Key ICT Features in UNICEF’S Response to Fighting Ebola

  1. Posted by Inveneo on November 6, 2014 in the categories: News
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Dr. Kerida McDonald (standing, right) and Regional Director Emily Brouwer (standing, left) address several attendees and board members.

International organizations like UNICEF are no stranger to dealing with devastating medical outbreaks like the ongoing Ebola crisis happening in West Africa, which has already claimed almost 5,000 lives. To engage local supporters, UNICEF recently hosted a speaker luncheon in San Francisco to explain the powerful work they have been doing on the ground throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The main speaker was Dr. Kerida McDonald, the UNICEF Senior Advisor for Communication for Development (C4D). A doctor who called in then followed her presentation via Skype from Accra, Ghana, to give an update on UNICEF’s work at the forefront of the crisis.

How is UNICEF utilizing technology to help make an impact?

1. Understanding the Unique Media Norms of a Culture

Liberia and other West African countries have their own flavor of pop music and media preferences that may surprise some western relief organizations. For example, Liberia’s broadest form of media is radio, not television. To bring communities accurate information on Ebola and how to avoid the disease from spreading, UNICEF has been using media like radio programming, partnerships with media producers, and community cinema nights (for those who don’t have televisions). UNICEF leaders are continuously paying special attention to what individual communities need and what kind of media outlets they are already using.

mobilephone_africa22. Sending Out SMS Messages

UNICEF’s C4D response is also sent via SMS messages. Large numbers of people already use cell phones in West Africa, and to utilize this UNICEF has created a long list of a text messages available in three countries in 18 different languages. This method of communication engages whole communities because individual cell phone users will share the accurate medical information to neighbors, family members, and friends.

3. Cultural Sensitivity and the Need for More Technology

A large problem that health care workers are experiencing in Ebola-ridden communities is the cultural practice of touching bodies while funerals take place. It is common for many different populations to want to continue this practice, but for the sake of the health of family members and communities, this cannot continue. UNICEF is working hard with interfaith relief organizations as well as community leaders to find culturally sensitive solutions to this ongoing problem.

Making cultural changes are always at the grassroots level, which emphasizes the need for accurate medical information to be in the hands of aid workers so they can disseminate it to communities. Technology is essential and tablets, smartphones, or other WiFi-enabled devices need to be sent to West African communities. Inveneo is currently doing that – learn how you can help make this possible.

CIMG2137UNICEF’s C4D response is becoming increasingly more vital as those infected with Ebola continue to suffer. Regional C4D officers are on the ground working in Liberia to breakdown the walls of misconceptions, issues of denial that one can get sick, and the stigma and discrimination that Ebola victims sometimes face.

Many thanks to Ian Rosenfield, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Northwest Board Chair, Emily Brouwer, Regional Director, Linda Naugle, Director, and the entire Northwest staff who hosted the speaker event in San Francisco. Learn more and how you can help make a difference by visiting the U.S. Fund for UNICEF website.

 

Note: The official photographer of this event was Federica Armstrong. Her photos are not featured above, but you can find her incredible portfolio at www.federicaarmstrong.com

The Making of a 90Km Wireless Link for Mfangano Island’s High-Speed Internet Access

  1. Posted by Inveneo on August 15, 2012 in the categories: Education, Healthcare, News, Projects, Sectors
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Mfangano Island now has a 1Mbps Internet connection. For those of you reading this over a high-speed cable, DSL, or fiber connection in a developed country this may not sound terribly impressive. However, when you consider the four major challenges we had to overcome to bring this meg of data to a remote island nestled at the mouth of Winam Gulf in Lake Victoria, you might think again as to the level of this accomplishment:.

  1. A small local NGO that had never before worked in the telecom space had to figure out how to design and build a tower that could be welded by local craftsmen to tight technical specifications
  2. The tower they built supports one end of a 90km wireless link (60% of which is over water), pushing the limits of long-distance WiFi’s capabilities
  3. The whole operation is powered by a hybrid solar/wind electrical system, because no other power is available at the tower site
  4. Finally, every single piece of equipment required to put this all together had to be ferried to the island in a small wooden boat and hand carried up a grueling two hour hike

How it all began

I am Andris Bjornson, Inveneo’s CTO and I first met the staff of the small Kenyan NGO Organic Health Response (OHR) two years ago when OHR asked Inveneo’s Eric Blantz to have Inveneo come to Mfangano Island to conduct a survey to assess creative options for bringing Internet to the island.

When OHR’s director and founder Chas Salmen started the organization, his first meetings were on a beach where he gathered ideas about what issues Mfangano Islanders felt were most important. One thing kept coming up over and over again: “We want Internet.” And so Chas focused OHR’s energies on brining Internet to Mfangano Island in a way that would help the local population.

Cellular data coverage is generally good in Kenya. By “good” I mean that in urban centers you often find 3G speeds, and that slower EDGE data is fairly widespread in the countryside. Mfangano Island is an exception. It lies 50 km off the Kenyan shore of Lake Victoria, and providers have been hesitant to build towers on the island because of its remoteness and the unique challenges of making long links work over water. Instead, Islanders must rely on distant mainland cell towers, resulting in connections that continually drop out, and speeds that are slow for one user, and truly glacial when shared among multiple computers.

On that initial survey, I hiked Mfangano from top to bottom with Robinson Okeyo and Brian Mattah. I conducted a standard Inveneo wireless survey: taking GPS points, pictures and notes. I learned that the highest point on the Island was considered sacred ground (and obviously an inappropriate place for an antenna) because it was where the very first man to inhabit Mfangano built his house. I saw beautiful Kenyan sunsets across rustling maize fields, with the expanse of Lake Victoria as a backdrop.

The OHR model

The main thing I came away from our initial survey with, was a deep respect for OHR. I have never met another small NGO with as much heart as OHR. Every member of the OHR team I worked with, most born and raised on Mfangano, is committed to the success of the organization on a very personal level.

OHR is primarily focused on delivering social services to the community around HIV/AIDS issues. Kenya’s Suba district has one of the highest HIV infection rates in Kenya, estimated to be between 25-30%.

OHR came up with the unique idea to start the Ekialo Kiona (EK) center. Ekialo Kiona means “Whole World” in Suba, the local language of Mfangano Island. The EK center is a well-equipped computer center, library, and training facility, and it’s free for all the residents of the island to use.

The only condition for access is that users must know their HIV status, current within 6 months. The EK center runs a testing and counseling center in the building across the hall from the computer lab, and issues identity cards to all EK center members. These cards not only grant access to the EK centers resources, but also help with the process of referring HIV positive members to the right treatment and care facilities.

Building the tower

Returning from the survey visit, I plugged the GPS points I’d captured into RadioMobile, the open source link planning software Inveneo uses to do WiFi analysis. RadioMobile uses freely available terrain data captured by the space shuttle to create a three dimensional view of the project area. It combines that with radio propagation models to let us analyze possible antenna locations for WiFi links.

Based on this analysis, Inveneo came up with two options for OHR: lease space on a Kenyan cell provider’s tower on the mainland, or build their own 20m mast high on Mfangano’s Soklo Mountain, and attempt a whopping 90km link all the way back to the province capitol city of Kisumu where high speed internet is readily and affordably available.

OHR, wanting to invest in small Island welders and fabricators as much as possible and to avoid the recurring costs of leasing a tower, chose the second option. OHR also found the mast construction option attractive because it would enable them to setup a community FM radio station to inform Islanders about their services. I have to admit; at the time I was skeptical of OHR’s ability to pull together a 20m mast safe enough for me or other Inveneo engineers to install equipment on, and to get it in exactly the right spot. Then again, I didn’t know OHR’s determination and work ethic as well then as I do now.

With Inveneo’s advice, OHR took on negotiations for the land we’d identified as the “sweet spot” for the tower. Sorting that out involved discussions with the father who owned the land and his two sons he’d divided it between. OHR’s local buy-in was critical here, as we later found a large Kenyan cellular provider had tried and failed to negotiate a land use deal with the farmer. OHR also secured an agreement with the owner of the tallest building in Kisumu to mount a pole and dish on their roof.

OHR did research and consulted with mechanical engineers to come up with a design that could be built by Island welders in 10ft sections. These sections would later be carried up the only footpath to the top of the Island, bolted together, and fitted with tight guy wires.

OHR next had to learn about proper grounding of radio masts. For obvious reasons, tall metal objects on high points tend to attract lightning. Tower grounding involves building a copper cage of sorts out of multiple rings of copper wire buried at the base of the tower. A lightning rod must be mounted high on the tower, and tied into the copper cage. This is essential to be sure sensitive electronic equipment on the tower survives lightning strikes unharmed.

The final step before construction could begin was to sort through the regulatory issues, and particularly in Kenya this is no small feat. Communications, aviation, and environmental regulatory agencies had to be contacted, forms had to be filled out, and fees had to be paid.

OHR navigated all these hurdles with remote technical input from Inveneo and many others, but to keep costs down and to make sure the OHR team was intimately familiar with the details of the project, OHR local staff handled the bulk of the discussions and negations.

A unique wind/solar power system

With the tower in place, OHR just needed electricity. After all, there aren’t exactly wall sockets sprouting out of the corn fields. Mfangano Island does have a small gas burning power plant (essentially a building sized gas generator). However, distribution wires and power poles haven’t been run around the perimeter of the Island yet, let alone to the top of Soklo Mountain. Kenya Power could be paid to install the wires to the mountaintop, but install fees would be enormous, and maintenance would have been extremely challenging.

OHR enlisted the help of a Kisumu-based organization Access Energy, started by Sam Duby. Inveneo has always prioritized low power equipment, and the WiFi gear we needed to install at the tower would only require 24 watts to operate 24/7. However, FM radio transmitters are a different story and are inherently power-hungry. Access Energy built a hybrid solar/wind system consisting of a panel and two locally fabricated wind turbines. Sam’s turbine mast design uses hinged, guyed monopoles. These are far easier to put up than climbable masts because turbines can be assembled before the whole pole is tilted into place. This doesn’t work for WiFi, though, because high gain dishes must be carefully aimed by a person on the tower to ensure a strong signal.

Preparing the WiFI connection

With all the prerequisites in place (tower, licensing, power), it was now time for Inveneo and our Kenyan ICIP Setright Technologies to deliver on our promise to get the WiFi link up. I definitely had a few butterflies when it came time to deploy. I knew the science was sound, but long WiFi links over water present unique challenges.

Water and land heat and cool at different rates. This in turn keeps the air above at different temperatures. Every time radio waves cross a temperature boundary, they bend slightly. As the air temperature changes throughout the day, this can make the ideal antenna position for, say, 6am vastly different from the ideal position at 6pm. Talking to others, it seemed that one of the key factors was whether the ends of the link were high up (good) or very close to the edge of the water (bad). In this case we were in luck, because both ends of the Mfangano-Kisumu link were quite high above the water.

Inveneo uses wireless equipment primarily from an innovative California-based company called Ubiquiti. Ubiquiti gear is rugged, easy to use, high performance, and at a far lower price point than many more traditional telco manufacturers equipment. Inveneo selected Ubiquiti equipment for the Haiti Rural Broadband Network that spans 30+ towers across virtually the whole country of Haiti.

For the OHR project, we chose Ubiquiti’s RocketM5 radio paired with their largest dish: the .9 meter, 34 dBi RocketDish. We fitted the dish with a radome: an aerodynamic cover that turns it from a wind-catching scoop into a smooth bubble. This change in wind resistance literally cuts the wind loading on the tower in half: a critical factor when putting such a large dish at the top of a skinny-guyed mast.

I’ve come to realize recently that something like 85% of implementing ICT projects in developing countries is proper logistics. The technical work itself isn’t all that challenging, but if you get to a place like Mfangano and find you don’t have the proper tool or spare piece of gear, you can quickly find yourself in a non-workable situation.

Once the equipment arrived in Nairobi, Setright shipped it to Kisumu. Sam Perales, one of Inveneo’s Project Engineers, and I traveled to Kisumu in late May this year to install the link. The plan was for Sam to remain at the Kisumu end of the link, managing the team installing the dish on top of the 18-story Province Headquarters building. Inveneo has learned from experience that with any link over about 40km, it’s key to have teams at both ends simultaneously to fine-tune the aiming. We found once we arrived in Kisumu that the 18 story building had never been fitted with elevators, so Sam’s team had to carry hefty pelican cases and the large dish up 18 flights of stairs. Sorry Sam!

I can honestly say Mfangano is one of the most remote places I’ve ever been. To reach Mfangano Island from Kisumu, I traveled by SUV to Luanda Kotieno, and from there by small car ferry to a spit of land called Mbita. The last hour from Mbita to Mfangano is done by wooden fishing boat. For the final two hours to the top of Soklo Mountain, travel by foot up the rugged footpath through the jungle is the only option. It’s a journey that’s challenging without a few hundred pounds of tools and equipment. Adding that in it makes for hot, sweaty work.

OHR rounded up a group of 6 strong guys to help us get the gear up to the tower. I can only imagine what it was like to carry the even heavier tower sections up there. OHR’s project coordinator, Robinson, was a whirlwind of activity as he arranged all aspects of moving the equipment. His rapid fire approach has earned him the nickname “Marucha” (speedy, in the Luo local language) and it’s certainly an apt moniker.

Day 1 of making the 90Km WiFi connection

With myself, Edwin (an engineer from Setright), the OHR team, and all the right equipment finally at the base of the tower, it was time to get to work. From our time in Haiti, and our recent month long deployment of a medical records network for AMPATH (also in Kenya, further north) we’ve got this part of wireless installation down pat, and the work flows smoothly. We have beautiful sunny weather and a cool lake breeze that’s pleasant up on top of the tower.

Through our partnership with the tower safety experts Petzl, Inveneo has learned a few tricks for rigging hauling systems that makes the task of getting a heavy dish to the top of the tower easier so that went like clockwork. Through Petzl’s generous support, we were also able to donate a climbing safety kit to OHR and train them on its use. This will enable the OHR team to safely carry out any necessary repairs or replacements.

The physical part of the install (hoisting the gear, bolting it to the tower, running the cable, and so on) is by far the most time consuming aspect of wireless work. This, and dealing with a few unexpected wrinkles involving malfunctioning power inverters and poles that were too short to hold our dish, took the whole first day.

OHR has two jovial guys assigned to their “emergency team.” The emergency team is the fix-all troubleshooters. In this case, the emergency team was tasked with carrying up a spare inverter and a backup generator from the base of the Island. “Spare” isn’t actually quite the right word. I learned later that the inverter they sent up came straight from OHR founder Chas Salmen’s personal tent, so Chas and his partner, OHR’s Agriculture Coordinator Jenna, would be without power at night until the permanent replacement could be arranged. Thanks Chas and Jenna!

With day one complete, we headed back down the trail at 6pm finishing the steep hike by headlamp-light. I was excited to know that the following day would be the moment of truth when we would light up the link back to Kisumu and finally see what kind of performance we’d be able to deliver.

Day 2 of making the 90Km WIFI connection

The second day’s hike was harder than the first, largely due to sore muscles from the day before. Edwin had the bad luck of having bought new shoes just before the trip and was fighting blisters. Fortunately, we’d been able to leave the gear in the small shed at the base of the tower so we were less encumbered at least.

Edwin manned the laptop in the equipment shed, communicating with me on the tower with our Motorola VHF radios. We picked these up for our Haiti work because they’re the standard that tie in with the UN’s radio networks around the world, and they’d come in handy recently on our Dadaab deployment. Amazingly, I was also able to reach Sam in Kisumu 90 km away on the VHF radio. This proved extremely helpful as I could coordinate with both Edwin and Sam in realtime.

We powered up the Ubiquiti radios, got them to connect to each other almost right away, and did a little fine-tuning. This is a painstaking process that takes a lot of patience. It involves the engineer at the base of the tower reading out signal strength numbers as the man on the tower makes minute adjustments to the dish. It’s proven one of the hardest skills to pass on to our partners, and the amount of precision required goes up as the link distance increases. On the OHR project, aiming went very smoothly since Edwin mastered the skill.

I called down from the tower to ask Edwin what final signal strength we’d settled on once everything was locked in. When the answer came back “-52 dBm” I could hardly believe it, and had to ask him to repeat himself. dBm is a measure of received signal strength. The less negative the number the better the signal. I’d been expecting something in the mid-70s or so, and to hear -52 was incredible. That was the moment when we knew for sure that we’d have a stable, high-bandwidth link to the island, and it was hugely gratifying.

Turning on Mfangano’s Internet link

After coming down the tower, we finished the equipment room installation, did final configuration of the router and monitoring server, and tidied things up. The monitoring server is an important part of any wireless network, as it lets you look at statistics on performance of the network captured around the clock.

A few final tweaks to the router configurations were all it took to “switch on” the Internet link. The first thing I did to test the connection end-to-end was Google “Mfangano Island” and up popped a very responsive Google map. Robinson and Brian were impressed with how fast it updated as I zoomed in and out, switching on high-resolution satellite photos of the island.

Getting ready to leave a remote site for the last time is always a little nerve-wracking. You find yourself double and triple checking cables and connections, because you know leaving something unplugged would mean another long hike up to fix it. We again hiked down by headlamp, feeling a strong sense of satisfaction knowing the hardest work was out of the way.

Edwin and I spent our final day on the Island installing the EK center end of the short wireless link to the tower. It’s the EK center where all the computers are and where the Internet bandwidth actually reaches the end-users. Fortunately we’d done our job right at the tower, and the link came right up when we pointed the small Ubiquiti NanoBridge up at Soklo Mountain tower. Edwin ran the installation, and things went smoothly. We also installed a local wireless access point (a Ubiquiti NanoStationM2) in the EK center to make sure laptops throughout the small campus could benefit from the internet).

The satisfaction of a job well done

When I fired up a speed test site on one of the EK center computers and measured a blistering fast 8Mbps, the eyes of all 6 people watching over my shoulder went wide. This is truly one of my favorite moments of a wireless installation: when the high-speed bandwidth reaches the end users for the first time. Word traveled fast, and the EK center’s 10 computers were quickly full. I saw a lot of gMail, some Skype, a bit of Wikipedia, and some Google image searches in just the first 10 minutes.

After putting the finishing touches on the EK center installation, Edwin and I spent a few hours training Brian on the layout and maintenance of the network. We made sure pre-configured spares were handed off and hung a detailed diagram of the network to help with troubleshooting.

Climbing into the fishing boat and speeding away from the Island, I looked up at the Soklo Mountain tower. The large white dish glinted in the orange evening sun, clearly visible from a few km away. I talk a bit with Edwin about all the hard work over two years that AccessEnergy, Inveneo, SetRight, and especially by OHR invested in making that tower a reality…and we both smile. I’m excited to see where OHR takes this project next.

The FM transmitter installation is set to happen soon. OHR will be able to install the radio studio in the EK center, and to stream the audio up to the transmitter at the tower over the short wireless link. With the training and extra equipment we left behind, OHR is already talking about putting in a few more links to reach clinic and school sites on the Island. From what I’ve seen working on ICTD projects, perhaps the biggest factor in long term success or failure isn’t technology: it’s local ownership. Given what I know about the dedication of OHR’s team, I expect this wireless network to be around for a long time

Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe

  1. Posted by Inveneo on September 14, 2011 in the categories: Healthcare, News
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Inveneo worked alongside the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe to deploy computing technologies at clinics and other medical facilities in and around Harare, Zimbabwe.

Congratulations to the Arid Lands Information Network on winning the $1 million Access to Learning Award

  1. Posted by Inveneo on August 30, 2011 in the categories: Economic Development, News
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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented its 2011 Access to Learning Award of $1 million to the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), which provides knowledge and information through a variety of innovative channels in remote communities throughout Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Microsoft, a partner of the foundation in its efforts to help public libraries connect people with relevant technology and skills, will provide ALIN with a donation of over US$270,000 worth of software and technology training curriculum to help the organization serve the local community.

ALIN’s 12 Knowledge Centers – known as Maarifa Centers – focus on providing practical information, particularly in the area of agricultural development. The vast majority of people in these regions are small-scale farmers who need information about issues such as drought, pests, and finding markets for their crops. The centers offer information geared toward the communities’ specific needs.

Maarifa Centers also address health issues such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, ways to improve people’s daily lives such as how to create an energy efficient biogas stove, and administrative requirements such as applying for an official identity card or getting tax exempt status. Some people have used the centers to create groups for the disabled, earn advanced degrees online, or create thriving small businesses.

In Uganda’s northern regions, Maarifa Centers employ Inveneo High-Performance Computing Stations installed by CLS Limited, an Inveneo Certified ICT Partner, to to help community members gain information to improve their health, increase their incomes, and better their lives.

Congratulations to the Ekialo Kiona Center!

  1. Posted by Inveneo on August 18, 2011 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Projects, Sectors
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The Ekialo Kiona Center serves as an invaluable educational workshop facility for Kenyan students, teachers, health workers, farmers, fisherman, and other interested community members as Mfangano Island’s only public internet access.

Thanks to Craig Newmark, the Craigslist Charitable Foundation, and Google. Inc Charitable Giving Fund of Tides Foundation, the Ekialo Kiona Center now has 10 new Inveneo High Performance Computing Stations and an updated solar power system that supports over 17 computers. As a result, Executive Director Richard Magerenge says:

“The IT room has given the center a new look. People are flocking the computers just to touch them. The word is going round so fast and many people are coming either to see the computers or join the EK club.”

The Ekialo Kiona Center also supports the innovative Cyber-VCT program which leverages intense local enthusiasm for Internet to provide a meaningful incentive and a valid excuse for residents to overcome the stigma and scrutiny commonly associated with stand-alone Voluntary Counseling and Testing centers for HIV and AIDS.

Inveneo is proud to be a facilitator of this unique model and the Ekialo Kiona Center overall.

AMPATH – Network Deployment in Eldoret, Kenya

  1. Posted by Inveneo on January 31, 2011 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Projects
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By networking its primary clinic locations and outfitting them with workstations linked to the central OpenMRS server in Eldoret, AMPATH can transform the way it provides medical care. A high- speed network linking the clinics allows Eldoret-based doctors and specialists to ‘whisper in the ears’ of field clinicians, nurses, and health workers as they meet with patents, helping with diagnosis and treatment in real or near-real time. The creation of an AMPATH network opens the door for providing a number of additional computerized services to field locations including VOIP phone calls and centralized email.

Inveneo designed and deployed the network in Eldoret, working with local partners Setright and technology partners.  The deployment was also used to train these partners in low cost wireless solutions.  Our partners are now providing network support.

Inveneo ICTs for healthcare come to Sierra Leone

  1. Posted by Inveneo on April 24, 2008 in the categories: Healthcare, News
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In March of 2008, Inveneo team members Jim Wiggins, Jeff Wishnie, and Eric Blantz traveled to Sierra Leone to work with the World Health Organization (WHO)/Health Metrics Network to install a series of pilot healthcare data systems at five locations – four district health offices and the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health. Two of sites were in the capital city, Freetown, while the other three were up-country, in Koidu, Makeni, and Moyamba.

Sierra Leone is the lowest-ranked country on the Human Development Index. And only recently has it emerged from civil war. It is a country with urgent and compelling needs for support and that’s why implementing even basic healthcare systems can be difficult, yet so very important.

The Inveneo team went there to install the systems, survey the countryside for future expansion, and make contact with local ICT entrepreneurs who could qualify for Inveneo Certified ICT Partners training and certification. Once certified, these ICT entrepreneurs would become Inveneo’s in-country partners, helping to expand the access to ICTs for healthcare and other vital projects around the country.

For Señor Software Engineer, Jim Wiggins, this was his first trip to Africa for Inveneo. What surprised him most when he arrived was the darkness at night — there were no lights on, even in the country capital Freetown.

Since no Inveneo team member had been to Sierra Leone before, the team had to perform site surveys before the installation could begin. A fair amount of improvisation was also required. For example, yellow plastic jugs were adapted to serve as battery covers. And most of the smaller pieces of equipment and network cabling had to be mounted to the wall to prevent accidental disconnection.

Knowing that they had limited time for up-country installations, the team set up a pre-assembly workspace in Jeff’s hotel room. Here the team tested everything, built junction boxes, and assembled cables.

At each location, the Inveneo systems were connected to the existing network. By adding a Linksys switch in the network connection, the Inveneo team enabled the doctors with laptops to connect to the network wirelessly. The team also managed to clean up the existing PCs, almost all of which were running several viruses communicated by USB memory sticks.

Upon arriving at each center, the team would quickly perform a site survey and assess the situation. The next day was spent installing systems and getting them powered and networked. The final morning was spent educating locals on the new systems before the team drove off to the next location. Since less than 10 percent of the roads are paved in Sierra Leone, these trips took the better part of half a day.

The challenges of deploying ICTs in Sierra Leone are much like most of Africa. A little more than five years after a brutal civil war, the country is rebuilding infrastructure with the help of NGOs and the UN. Grid power is very irregular, and never available at night. Up-country, it’s even more inconsistent. At up-country sites, people often fire up a portable generator in order to use a printer. While many of the centers have solar panels, solar is used to power refrigerators to keep vaccines and other medicines cool in the tropical climate.

With limited power, Inveneo systems are the perfect solution for Sierra Leone. Drawing 20W or less, the Inveneo systems can run all day off batteries charged during those times when power is on (either from the grid or through generators).

As for Jim, his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa was a success. When he arrived, he had little experience installing systems and performing site surveys. By the end, he was quite comfortable with both. Jim found that the people were happier than he expected, given that the country is last on the Human Development Index. They seemed very eager to rebuild their economy and infrastructure – they didn’t want handouts, rather they wanted help getting things back on track.

Sierra Leone has a long way to go, given the lack of reliable electricity, and the high price of fuel for generators. Still people are optimistic. They seem to feel that everything is looking up. And Jim returned home feeling good about his role in the movement to get the country back on track.