It’s been over a month since the Digi project inception meeting in Oslo. Those who missed my previous posts on this, in a nutshell: the Non-discriminating access for Digital Inclusion (DigI) project is a three year project, running from 2017–2020 with the main objective to establish pilots for the InfoInternet access in DRC Congo and Tanzania. The project was founded by the Research Council of Norway as part of the Visjon2030 portfolje. R&I work related to the pilots will prove business profitability for commercial establishment of the InfoInternet as an independent and self-sustainable ICT and communication infrastructure for digital inclusion.
The project vision on free access to information for everyone’ is realised in Tanzania through the intervention free access to digital health information and in DRC through free access to information as basis for digital economy.
The assumption of the project is that information uptake will
- lead to knowledge update, both for health education and for school education;
- prepare the ground for digital literacy;
- contribute to better health for humans and animals; and will
- foster societal growth both in terms of digital entrepreneurship and the overall economy.
We approach the vision of the design of new technology, the InfoInternet, providing hot-spots with free access to information both on user devices (BYOD) and on tablets. Through the hot-spots, we address availability and affordability. The hot-spots themselves will create jobs related to the digital economy (e.g. voucher sales), and are the entry points for other actors supporting information access, e.g. sponsoring Internet Access through advertisements.
This is what happened in Oslo. Day one of the kick-off meeting happened at UNIK, in Kjeller where the first internet in Europe came in 1973. Beside the meeting and presentations I followed, I had a pretty hectic day: it was a deadline day for the Marie Curie project proposal I was applying for (note to self — never, never ever wait the last minute for a deadline or submit three minutes before servers are closing down the submission form). Bernard Ngowi from the National Centre for Medical Research, in Tanzania, presented Digital Health for Africa, and experiences from Tanzania [click here to see the presentation]. Andrea Winkler from University of Oslo talked about Germany-Norway collaboration and Centre for Global Health [click to open], and Erwan Le Quentrec from Orange presented Economic Development using Mobile Phone can transform social development into cooperation and co-development [click to open].
Afterwards, we drove to Oslo marina and from there, our group took a boat through the fjord into the beautiful nature and green area by the sea, to the peninsula of Nesodden where we had a lovely dinner in a rustic boathouse in Flaskebekk. It was so fun and adventurous to go through the fjord and drive the boat (thanks Josef for letting me navigate and not ruin your boat and keeping the team alive on the surface). After the dinner and some frolics, I returned to the city by ferry, it was already late at night.
Day two of the Digi meeting started with the identification of topics and next steps, and planning and scheduling for Tanzania and Congo. Actually, we brainstormed and discussed all day, it was inspiring and interactive; we checked out the solar panel pilot at the gazebo, a health and village platform we plan for the rural areas in Tanzania. Also, we set up the future analogue meetings in the next couple of years. My tasks include digital literacy exploration and KPI, Uptake of Digital Health Information, Technology acceptance and User acceptance, etc. Everything is collaborative work and I’m very happy and grateful to work with amazing colleagues from different disciplines.
See you next time with the new Digi project letters from Tanzania, Berlin, and Paris.
Background: Agenda 2030
The United Nations have established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing 17 goals with a total of 169 targets. Given the ongoing development, it is obvious that development need digital inclusion, and the transformation towards digital societies.
Basis for digital societies is information for all, and the digital access. Given that roughly 4 billion people (status 2016) are not connected to the Internet, the first focus is ‘Goal 9 on sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. We see that target 9.C Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020 is directly addressed through the InfoInternet standard on free access to information for all.
My colleagues and I, at the Basic Internet Foundation, invited 9 partners for the DigI activity “Non-discriminating access for digital inclusion”, with the goal of piloting digital health in Tanzania (TZ) and the digital ecosystem in Congo (DRC). The Research Council of Norway and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are supporting this pilot.
As part of the activities, the consortium has established a pilot installation of a village hot-spot for digital health, and is now planning the Connectivity of the 4 pilot villages in TZ and the villages Kano and Palu in DRC. During the pilot, we identified the need for cost-effective infrastructures in the villages. Regarding connectivity, we have standardised on cost-effective equipment from Mikrotik and Witelcom.
However, we have seen the need for a village server and an IoT gateway. We envision student work or hackathons to establish the infrastructure for sustainable development.
We currently discuss a “village platform” as the digital hub for the remote villages. Goal of this hackathon would be to establish a low-power community server for a village of 2.000 – 10.000 people. Given the costs of communication and electricity, we envisage:
- a low-power (<50W) platform for storage of local video information
- PoE or solar-powered operation
- server for local community content
- social network platform for the village society
- cache server for network content
- low-cost server
Hackathon: IoT home platform
Goal of this hackathon or student work is to establish a low-cost IoT gateway, first of all controlling the power from the solar panel, charging of battery, and priority of attached devices. Current low-cost solar regulators have no Internet connectivity, thus remote configuration and assistance is not possible.
The goal of the implementation would include:
- a solar charge regulator for panels up to 1000 W
- communication interface, typically Ethernet or Wifi based
- controlling of produced energy, consumed energy (e.g. USB), batteri status
- interface towards IoT devices, e.g. controlling other IoT devices
Both hackathons are done in collaboration with industry (Eye Networks, Witelcom, IPXextenso), the Partners of Partners of DigI, and the University of Oslo.
Goal of this hackathon is showcasing the talents of women and girls in coding and software development, and encouraging them to become involved in the world of technology through the creation of solutions using technology. This hackathon is expected to attract women in Africa who are already in a technology-related field, and who are helping other women. The goals of this hackathon are:
- coming up with solutions affecting societal problems and women today in Africa. Solutions such as: inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG 4), including girls development, women’s health, and assisting rural women to upskill.
- one day “Digital media literacy” workshops on the following topics: 1) Bridging the gender divide on the internet, 2) How to use social media to address digital inequality, 3) education and leadership for girls and women.
- helping women and girls in science.
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An article I wrote few months ago (and was that prompt not to share it here) is about the current activities and projects at the Basic Internet Foundation I wrote earlier. We’re working on providing free access to Global Health Information in Tanzania, and education information in DR of Congo. It is published on Global Voices Community blog, where you can read it, and is currently available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
It’s been exciting, surprising, generous, and unpredictable 2016. I traveled the cities and places I never been before, I had wonderful collaborations worldwide, I learned a lot about myself and others, I started to change my old habits and implement new ones.
At the beginning of the year, I won the best dissertation award for 2015. That is the first PhD related award I got and I’m very grateful and happy, that years I spent on the research, it makes sense to other people as well. Working in academia is nice, however, I rather see myself working on projects and with organizations that make the difference in the world. And so it happened.
Last summer, I started to work for the Basic Internet Foundation as a digital equality advisor and I’m very happy and grateful that I can deploy my skills and expertise for a higher cause of helping people worldwide. This month we won a nice budget from the National Council of Norway for the project of connecting the unconnected 4.000 villages in Tanzania. I wrote about the Foundation and my work there on the Global Voices. Also, I did a research on the societal aspects and implications of the Internet of Things (IoT). I am very grateful to be included in something that is happening around us and that, indeed, present our near future.
I am continuing with the tradition of giving back and donating to those who need; this time beside the usual donations, I included the project in Ethiopia called Give a Child in Africa the Gift of Reading, because of children and literacy matter.
I shared with you ten things I learned in the past ten years of my professional life, and blogging. On a personal note, some good and challenging (at the times) things happened that made me re-examine how I nourish my body. At the moment, I am 6 weeks sugar-free and 8 weeks dairy-free (I plan to stay that way) and I feel great. Anyone interested in further story, I can write about it in some of my future posts.
Also, this photo of the happiness jar – it deserves a separate post. I believe that the happiness is not one time or huge event that will keep you happy throughout the year or that it is something we wait for us to happen. Instead, I believe that the life is made with zillions of little happiness tiny moments, situations and people that contribute in a sustainable way to our well-being on all levels. I proved myself how happy and grateful I was and I am in the past year; I plan to keep this happiness jar tradition in 2017.
I won’t comment the events on a global level, this is my 2016 wrap-up, as you all know – most of them were unexpected and ugly (good luck my friends in America and England). Many great people, artists have left us. I cannot look forward enough to new 2017 year. I wish you all the happiness, health, and joy in it! Cheers to 2017!
For those not familiar yet, this summer I started to work for the Basic Internet Foundation, based in Norway. Foundation is an organisation that aims at optimised content delivery on capacity-limited networks, and offers free access to low capacity Internet as a carrier of digital content to people in areas with low admission and / or no Internet coverage. Also, it assists organisations and companies to adapt and disseminate information for the affected recipients should be able to help themselves. Assistance may include educational systems, healthcare, agriculture information, innovation, research and development, banking or other services that contribute to increased welfare and value creation to benefit the population in the respective areas.
The Foundation was established in December 2014 as a collaboration between The University Graduate Centre (UNIK) and Kjeller Innovasjon AS. The impact of Basic Internet for the Digital Society is seen as a continuation of Internet deployment from Kjeller, starting with the Arpanet deployment in 1973, and with Opera Software in 1994.
One of our latest missions is free Information Internet (InfoInternet) that addresses Digital Inclusion (following the Sustainability Development Goals – SDG 2030), and enables digital access to vulnerable areas worldwide (Africa, India, etc.), and thus contributing to bridging the digital divides. The major InfoInternet principles include:
- Free access to all content being text and pictures, paid access to high-bandwidth services
- All the Internet, without favouring or blocking particular products or websites (respecting net neutrality)
More about InfoInternet, you can read here. Basic Internet Access for all is the vision of the Foundation. If you’re interested and want to contribute to a world of free access to basic information on health care, education or development, join our quest to make this vision a reality!
And follow the Basic Internet Foundation on Twitter!