Inveneo Sierra Leone Archives
- Posted by Inveneo on June 18, 2015 in the categories: Events
Inveneo, in partnership with Facebook, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Cisco, EveryLayer, and NetHope, as part of the joint Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI), succeeded in delivering 100 new high-speed Internet connections to government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Humanitarian workers working in West Africa’s healthcare sector are now able to go online thanks to Inveneo and partners from the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) project.
As a result of this project, individuals working in NGO, UN, or government offices, Ebola treatment facilities, hospitals, and logistical hubs can now use high-speed broadband Internet to connect with healthcare applications, NGO headquarters, healthcare workers, and friends and family.
Inveneo delivered the milestone of 100 connections in less than five months. According to Inveneo’s Executive Director, Bruce Baikie, “The commitment and close collaboration of all partners was essential. The true stars of this project were the field teams, which included staff from Inveneo and Damsel, Inveneo’s certified partner in Sierra Leone. The field teams were just incredible, scaling rooftops and towers up to 175 feet high to install equipment underneath the blazing hot West African sun, six or more days a week in the realization that every connection counts to help save a life and create a more resilient healthcare system.”
This project establishes a sustainable infrastructure for high-speed Internet access in remote areas of Sierra Leone and Liberia, which plays a key role in preventing and/or mitigating future disease outbreaks while helping organizations respond more efficiently and effectively to community needs.
The ERCI Project Partners
Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.
Paul G. Allen Family Foundation
Founded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and his sister Jody Allen in 1988, the Allen family’s philanthropy is dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress. Since inception, the Foundation has awarded over $529 million to more than 1,500 nonprofit groups to support and advance their critical charitable endeavors in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The Foundation’s funding programs nurture the arts, engage children in learning, address the needs of vulnerable populations, advance scientific and technological discoveries, and provide economic relief amid the downturn. For more information, visit http://www.pgafamilyfoundation.org.
Cisco is the worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow by proving that amazing things can happen when you connect the previously unconnected. For ongoing news, please go to http://thenetwork.cisco.com.
EveryLayer has developed a cloud-based software platform and new approach that allows ISPs to deliver faster, better, cheaper broadband in the emerging markets of Africa and Asia. EveryLayer’s platform simplifies how providers design, deploy and manage low cost last mile networks and provides technical and commercial blueprints so service providers can speed to market in weeks, not months, with new services that are 80% lower cost than leading broadband providers.
Inveneo is a non-profit social enterprise that delivers the tools of technology – sustainable computing and broadband – to those who need it most in the developing world, to transform lives through better education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and faster relief. Inveneo is leveraging more than 10 years of experience of successfully introducing technology and expanding connectivity to underserved areas of Sub-Saharan Africa to implement this project.
Founded in 2001, NetHope is a consortium of 42 leading international humanitarian organizations providing emergency relief, human development and conservation programs in more than 180 countries. Through member collaboration and by facilitating public-private partnerships with major technology companies, NetHope enables members to leverage their technology investments to better serve their end beneficiaries.
- Posted by Inveneo on April 20, 2015 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Relief
Inveneo team member Eric Zan serves as a Senior Field Engineer in the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI). He recently explained his thoughts on the ERCI Project and the difference it has been making in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone. Read his story below on what country is like now almost one year after the virus hit.
- What is Sierra Leone like one year after the Ebola virus hit?
Inveneo visited a case management and burial management team in Sierra Leone. Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo
“Although I haven’t been in Sierra Leone throughout the entire crisis, I can see that Sierra Leone used to be a place where ‘doors were closing’ in almost all areas for the residents. What I mean is that there were serious limits on migration, how much people moved, and where people congregated. In addition, several businesses left Sierra Leone which drastically affected opportunities for individuals. The overall economic landscape was hurt from this, and often people had to change their jobs. And even if you did not contract the Ebola virus your life was still drastically altered.
Today, humanitarian organizations of Sierra Leone are transitioning to more of a “recovery” mode. Ebola is still active there, but it is concentrated in different provinces. Priorities are changing theses days since many regions are not experiencing new patients and are devoting their resources to the economic and social recovery. Not surprisingly communities have experienced different levels of fallout from all this. However, through it all, communication is the biggest factor we are concerned with and it was good to see local communities having trust in the global community.”
- What were your daily activities in the ERCI project?
Eric Zan organizing materials for the ERCI project.
“It was constantly different because every day presented new challenges. In general I was the logistics coordinator and helped direct the Field Team on where they could go.
- I made sure there was a way to gather details and share them with the team about where to go and when to take precautions.
- I would liaise with our project partners in order to come up with a plan for integrating our equipment into their core network.
- Also, I’d discuss how to build out each tower in a coordinated way, how to ensure bandwidth strength, and how to monitor the network.
Those items were the “big picture” parts to my day-to-day activities. But they add up when working in a crowded and limited-resource environment.”
- How is the ERCI project making a difference?
“First, the Internet will help main hubs coordinate with their field offices because a lot of decision making and resource allocation happens in the capital. Before getting an Internet connection, main offices sometimes had to wait days or weeks to get information about what was going on in the rural areas. By then it’s often too late to respond to the key needs in an efficient way. Second, the organizations can get data back almost instantly. This communication helps them coordinate with other organizations which overall helps paints the big picture for everybody.
Photo Credit: Eric Kuhnke/Inveneo
As a last note, the Internet generally helps people and organizations be more efficient in their missions, whatever their mission is. This may include having more time for projects, less need for travel, and better cost-effective strategies.”
- What precautionary health measures did you and your team take while in Sierra Leone?
“The health measures were mainly based on behavioral changes; they were all behavioral-based policies that we established for the team to follow. The ABCs meant Avoid Body Contact at all times. We were taking our temperatures at least twice a day, and we worked alongside a health a safety member from NetHope from their Icelandic Search and Rescue Team. Also, communication was important and people checked in with me. We also had a group chat on Skype going, and I was constantly coordinating with others in case someone needed to go to the hospital or wasn’t feeling well.”
- In your opinion, what ICTs would be the most effective in stopping Ebola from spreading?
“Although many people have mobile phones in Sierra Leone, they may not always be the entire solution. For example, mobile phones are not reliable to transfer large amounts of data. Instead, what is needed is a reliable Internet link and a better system for gathering and aggregating data in an automated way.
Another important part is the building of local capacity. Training is very important and it must be coordinated with local support and knowledge. Information should be made available to communities and more members of an organization’s team, too, and not necessarily to just the Project Coordinator.
Over the last few months I’ve realized that those living in Sierra Leone are incredibly resilient people, and they have so much that they are already offering. Combining these skills with ICT has the potential to play a significant role in bringing an end to this tragic Ebola crisis.”
- Posted by Inveneo on February 3, 2015 in the categories: News
As part of the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) project that Inveneo is doing with other partners, the next step is underway – training local technicians in Sierra Leone.
The Inveneo team has been on the ground in West Africa for several weeks now, and they recently started training the Inveneo Certified ICT Partner (ICIP) “Damsel Business Centre” on building Internet service for medical centers in Sierra Leone! To kick off this training, Damsel representatives have been meeting with Inveneo throughout this first week in February to go through a tower climbing safety course.
Inveneo’s Director of Field Operations Samuel Perales leads training and discussion with employees from Damsel Business Centre, an ICT business in Sierra Leone.
The training participants include Inveneo’s Director of Field Operations Samuel Perales, Inveneo’s Senior Field Engineers Sean Burgoyne, Matt Hulse, and Eric Kuhnke, and finally Inveneo’s ICIP partner Damsel from Sierra Leone. Damsel’s Director Eugene Tani-Luke brought with him five technicians to also take part in the training. Although representatives from AirTel and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) were invited, they were unable to make it.
After the climbing training is completed the team will continue with preparations and logistics for the first Internet connectivity site. Inveneo’s current goal is to start the first Internet installation by Monday, February 9th.
As Inveneo has been helping Damsel on safety throughout this training, they have been taking safety measures of their own. The men are washing their hands with bleach water, and when they enter a hotel nearby, a hotel staff member will take their temperatures on a regular basis. As positive as it is that Ebola infection rates have been going down, Inveneo is leaving no room for its team or its partnering teams to become sick in the process. In addition, NetHope has supplied the team with two Icelandic medics who may travel with them.
Inveneo’s Samuel Perales feels that this ICIP training process is just the beginning of a vital project that will make a big impact in Sierra Leone. He notes that Internet connectivity is always important and an issue for any humanitarian organization, no matter if they work in immediate relief or long-term development. He notes that the ERCI project is no different – connectivity will remain an important tool for years to come as communities rebuild from the devastating effects of the illness. The Inveneo team and its ICIP will continue to work long and hard to make connectivity available for those in need it most in order to make as big an impact as possible.
The Inveneo engineers have been very happy with the collaboration of this combined effort. The teamwork between NetHope, the ETC, and more has made an incredible difference in getting this project off the ground. Mr. Perales explains further, “One thing that’s been really nice is the collaboration between the ETC, NetHope, Inveneo, and Ericsson Response…we’re all out in the field, we’re all supporting each other, and we like to say that ‘There are no lines between us.’ That camaraderie is showing through as we continue to build our dedicated team.”
- Posted by Inveneo on January 21, 2015 in the categories: News
Inveneo recently co-launched the exciting announcement about its partnership in expanding ICT support in West Africa in order to fight and stop the spread of Ebola. Our team is proud to recently partner up with Cisco, Facebook, EveryLayer, NetHope, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in order to provide sustainable Internet connectivity in medical centers in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. These new Internet connections will enhance Internet connectivity for relief agencies, reorder supplies, and more. The Inveneo team will be working hard with our Inveneo Certified ICT Partners (ICIPs) in Sierra Leone and other parts of West Africa to ensure connectivity for those who need it most in Ebola-stricken communities.
Members of a training session that Inveneo held in San Francisco.
As a partner of the ERCI project, Inveneo recently hosted a training session for all current and incoming Inveneo contractors and engineers. Led by EveryLayer’s Andris Bjornson, the training session provided our engineers specific details on how EveryLayer designed the project’s broadband solution. According to our recent Press Release, our project “is based on a combination of extending satellite technology and strengthening existing service provider networks with carrier-grade Wi-Fi technology. The network can be deployed at a lower cost and on a faster time horizon than traditional mobile networks.” It is Inveneo’s job going forward to deploy this architectured solution and bring it to a full reality. We will be doing so while working alongside local partners as well to ensure that sustainable, low-cost Internet connectivity is available in relief agency offices and medical centers long after Inveneo staff leave West Africa.
Preliminary planning meeting in Accra. From left to right: Inveneo’s Eric Kunke, Emerson Tan, Inveneo’s Senior Field Engineer Samuel Perales, Kafui Prebbie, and Inveneo ICIP Eugene Tani-Luke. Photo Credit: Eugene Tani-Luke/Inveneo
Going forward, Inveneo will have staff members or local partners continuously in Ghana and Sierra Leone. We recently deployed Senior Field Engineer Samuel Perales and Engineer Eric Kuhnke to Accra, Ghana to coordinate with staff of NetHope and other NGOs to plan next steps. They have been taking extensive preventative measures to ensure health and safety at all times. In addition, much of our equipment has been arriving in a warehouse in Accra, Ghana, and in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and our staff has been very busy organizing all the equipment.
Our team is thrilled to work together with our partners and ICIPs throughout the ERCI project. We will keep you updating on how the project is progressing with posts, photos, interviews and more. Best of luck to our staff members and local partners – be safe and we look forward to watching the ERCI project unfold!
A VSat installation at Port Loko Ebola Treatment Center in Sierra Leone – Photo Credit: Eugene Tani-Luke/Inveneo
- Posted by Inveneo on December 12, 2014 in the categories: Healthcare, News, Projects, Relief
The ERCI team who met in San Francisco for pre-deployment training.
As the Ebola crisis continues to hit hard in West Africa, Inveneo recently launched its Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) this past week to bring Internet connectivity to doctors, nurses, and others working at medical centers located in Sierra Leone. On Wednesday December 10th, several of our team’s engineers, contractors, and few Volo employees gathered together in San Francisco for pre-deployment training.
The ERCI project is already underway and the Inveneo team has been busy ordering and moving ICT equipment to a warehouse in Accra, Ghana. Several pieces of equipment that we are using for this project include Ubiquiti’s Rocket M5 Radio, AirMax Sectors, RocketDish 30 cBi Dishes, AirFiber5, NanaoBridge M5 25, and the Mikrotik RouterBoard CCR 1009.
Several members of the Inveneo team join Volo in the Ebola Responder Communications Initiative class.
In addition, our Senior Field Engineer Samuel Perales and contractor Eric Kuhnke will be traveling to Accra, Ghana on Saturday, December 13th. In Ghana, Samuel and Eric will start sorting all the equipment that arrived, and soon they will be joined by several other team members throughout December. Our Sierra Leone partners, called ICIPs (Inveneo Certified ICT Partners), will also travel to Ghana in mid-January to be trained on creating broadband connections. We certainly have a great amount of work ahead of us, and we are certainly glad to be partnering with such a talented team!
After their training is complete our ICIPs and contractors will travel back to Sierra Leone to create Internet connectivity for medical centers that will be used by Ebola victims in the near future. Inveneo will provide long-term support after the technicians have set up Internet connectivity in medical centers so that strong and permanent WiFi connectivity is available to the doctors and medical staff working at those centers.
Inveneo is no stranger to providing aid after an international disaster hit an area hard, leaving no to little WiFi connectivity. In fact, throughout the past several years Inveneo has responded to devastating crises around the world. In the Philippines we creating emergency Internet connectivity for humanitarian organizations after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck, and starting in 2010, our team assisted Haiti in rebuilding its Internet infrastructure after the devastating earthquake. If you would like to donate to this our impactful ERCI project, please visit our donate page.
- Posted by Inveneo on December 12, 2014 in the categories: News
Inveneo is happy to welcome our newest staff member, Kelly Doley, who recently joined the team as the Project Manager. Kelly brings a wealth of knowledge to the Inveneo environment. He previously worked as a Program Officer for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) in South Sudan, where he served on the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) for 8 months following the eruption of conflict in December 2013. In South Sudan, Kelly co-managed USAID/OFDA’s humanitarian assistance portfolio, supporting the relief efforts of over 20 U.N. and NGO partners.
Kelly will be working as Project Manager for the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) that we recently launched this past week. Our team will be sending several engineers and contractors to Accra, Ghana for several weeks to work in partnership with technicians from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Throughout the next few months we will be creating new Internet connections for medical centers located in Ebola-ridden communities. Kelly will be working with our team to manage the project and take numerous safety measures to ensure that our team and partners are safe and use best health practices to avoid Ebola contamination.
Mr. Doley will also be managing the Internet Now! and Ethiopia READ projects. We are very excited to have him on board and look forward to watching our projects grow in impact with his help and support. Welcome to our newest member, Kelly! We’re so glad you joined the team!
- Posted by Inveneo on November 6, 2014 in the categories: News
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.
2. 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.
UNICEF’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
- Posted by Inveneo on February 2, 2011 in the categories: News
Over the past 6 years, Inveneo and its 68 Inveneo Certified ICT Partners (ICIPs) have delivered innovative solutions and brought access to impactful ICTs to more than 1,700,000 people in over 700 communities in Haiti and 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Along the way, we’ve found that appropriate technology and human constraints are the greatest limitations in integrating ICTs to improve social and economic development. ICT solutions need to be specifically designed for challenging environments and must be managed by local organizations with rural ICT expertise for ongoing support and expansion of these systems.
- Technology Constraints
- Expensive Electricity: Rural and other underserved locations rarely have a reliable electrical power infrastructure that can support a standard ICT implementation. Traditional computing systems are therefore cost-prohibitive because they require so much electricity – upwards of 200 watts per computer – when solar installations average $12 per watt.
- High Heat and Dust: Traditional computers, designed for use in air-conditioned office spaces, can fail when ambient air temperatures reach 38°C or 100°F in dusty settings. Under these conditions a computer can become useless if replacement parts are not available.
- Computer Viruses: Computer viruses are particularly problematic for underserved communities – the lack of connectivity and access to regular virus software updates often renders anti-virus protection useless over time.
- Lack of Connectivity: Local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) generally do not offer connectivity in the remote areas where we work and mobile phone data networks often have limited reach and can be prohibitively expensive.
- Human Capacity Constraints
- Inexperienced Users: Because they’ve not had access to ICT, inexperienced users often make simple mistakes that can render computers unusable.
- Distant Tech Support: All the previous challenges with ICT implementations in underserved communities are compounded by the lack of local capacity to provide technology support and maintenance. Without knowledgeable tech support, any mistake or user error can destroy a system, depriving the community of ICT’s benefits. Yet communities often do not have the means to keep qualified technicians in their midst.
WiFi installation in DRC
At Inveneo, we directly address the two major challenges to implementation of ICTs in rural and other underserved communities – appropriate technology and human capacity – with two interlocking, sustainable solutions:
- Appropriate ICT systems: computers, servers, software, wireless connectivity designed specifically for the local challenges these communities face, and
- Local capacity building through partner networks of in-country ICT experts who can deliver the installation and ongoing support that is critical for the long-term sustainability of technology projects.
Inveneo’s solutions have real impact with organizations that deliver vital education, healthcare, economic development and relief services to some of the poorest communities in the world. We enable these organizations – NGOs, governments and others – to more effectively serve people in need through technology. We’ve created sustainable community knowledge centers in Kenya accelerated microfinance institutions in Sierra Leone, and brought access to life-changing ICTs in Haiti.
- Posted by Inveneo on March 17, 2010 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
Whether the goal is to realize microfinance’s full potential or to avoid potential pitfalls, for most microfinance institutions (MFIs), improving the way they use information and communication technologies (ICTs) is crucial.
Today, even the best-managed MFIs working in environments with relatively good infrastructure often struggle to implement management information systems that are scalable and sustainable. The challenge is even greater in the resource-limited communities where many MFIs find their natural constituents. As Allen Hammond et al have noted in The Next 4 Billion:
“there is still a serious shortage of infrastructure on the ground to provide financial services to the [bottom of the pyramid].”
Fortunately, while building strong institutions can take decades, implementing sustainable ICTs doesn’t have to. Affordable and sustainable power, hardware, software and connectivity systems already exist, they are just not widely available, mostly due to lack of local knowledge and limited support capacity.
Enterprising Solutions Global Consulting recently asked Inveneo to help identify and solve the ICT challenges facing MFIs in two post-conflict countries – Sierra Leone and DR Congo – where they work to build the sector’s capacity. We began with assessments of the current use of ICTs among select client MFIs in each country.
Inveneo’s studies were followed by pilot projects designed to test whether more sustainable hardware, software, networking and power solutions can augment MFI performance and capacity. Our goals were to lower overall operating costs, improve and accelerate information flow and increase overall efficiency and growth.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
WiFi installation in DRC
Working with our ICIP partners in DRC (NEKOTEK) and Rwanda (Rock Global Consulting and Great Lakes Energy), Inveneo designed and deployed ICT and power solutions to 9 HQ and branch locations; 4 in Kinshasa (Bomoko) and 5 in Bukavu (Mecrebu).
We installed new, power-efficient desktops, a server, low power printer and CF lighting at each branch, powered by generator and grid-fed battery backup systems and power stabilization systems. In addition, we deployed a private, broadband wireless network in Bukavu to allow access to a central server running Loan Performer and inter-branch VoIP calling.
Whereas pilot MFIs in DRC were focused in urban settings, in Sierra Leone – HOPE and Association for Rural Development (ARD) – have HQ offices in the capital city, Freetown, and branch offices in Makeni, some 4 hours “up country.”
In Makeni, Inveneo installed low-power servers and workstations running Windows XP (protected with Deep Freeze) and Loan Performer. In addition, HOPE’s branch was entirely off-grid so Inveneo worked with Energy for Opportunity, our local power partner, to deploy a full solar array and power backup system.
To help create local capacity to support these pilot projects, Inveneo combined both classroom and hands-on training to coincide with pilot deployments. In total, we trained 10 new Certified ICT Partners to provide support as needed for future deployments, with Inveneo providing backstop technical support as needed.
In both countries, Inveneo also included IT administrators from the MFIs themselves in relevant parts of the training, thereby creating capable “Tier 1” support and establishing a strong link between system users and capable outside support for more challenging problems.
Download full report (PDF)
Initial indications are that reliable power, computing and connectivity systems can significantly benefit MFI performance. In DRC, for the first time, loan officers have reliable access to Loan Performer, their Windows-based accounts package system. We’ve also heard that Bomoko’s branch offices in Kinshasa can now access their Loan Performer system through power outages lasting as long as 2-3 days without having to try to start their aging generator.
For the full details, read our detailed project report:
Accelerating Microfinance Impact with ICT (PDF)
Working collaboratively with organizations like ESGC, Inveneo hopes to develop a better understanding of the real impact of specific ICT interventions for MFIs. We believe that combining efforts at institution/capacity building with appropriate and tested ICT solutions is the best way to achieve the promise – and avoid the peril – of the rapid expansion of microfinance services in the developing world.
- Posted by Inveneo on April 24, 2008 in the categories: Healthcare, News
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.