A digital class in Senegal – People (part 2)

On Monday morning, I got up early. It was unusually warm for me, I have just left the Italian winter, with its rainy days. But telling the truth, I have to admit that I was very excited.

I didn’t know anything about the people we were going to meet, and my head was full of commonplaces. I would have never thought that the young girls immediately asked for a Facebook account  …

Let’s start form the beginning … that morning, we met just a woman. The class was scheduled for the afternoon, but all the village knew we were there. The lady wanted to learn writing her name, using a pen, not a computer.

Finally, in the afternoon we met our first group of ‘students’, mainly composed by women. And two men. At the beginning there were few words, many smiles, and a sort of suspicion. It was difficult to understand their expectations, it was difficult to realize ours. For most of them was their first ‘digital’ experience, and even the keyboard was largely unknown …

Our first class flew by, in a mix of multiple languages … Italian, French, Serer, English for some technical words …

But the real surprise was on Tuesday morning: when we arrived we found a group of young girls waiting for us. Same as all teen agers, they wanted a computer class to create a Facebook account. In a while, I realized that we are so full of commonplace, that we can’t face reality. Yes, we were in a small dusty village, but connections make information very fast, and Africa is running fast.

So  that, at the end of our second day, we had two fabulous different groups of students

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My first time in Africa

If you are a reader of my blog, a friend of mine or you simply look for my name in the web, you can think I am a liar. That’s true, I visited many African countries in the last twenty year, as a tourist or tour leader (it means the same for me!)

But my next trip will be a very special one for me. For the first time I’ll go there for a serious project. Thanks to Italian no-profit organizations Informatici Senza Frontiere (it sounds like IT without borders) and Yungar per la pace (Yungar for peace) me and two other friends will teach basic computer in Senegal.

That’s why I feel like my first time in Africa. I deeply believe that facilitating access to computing, helping to fight digital divide represents a step towards democracy, and social inclusion.

I hope to tell you soon about this story here, or if you’d like to practice your Italian also here.

Stay tuned!

 

News from South Africa

Apartheid Museum - Johannesburg

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about my expectations on information media in South Africa.

I deeply believe that Soccer World Cup is an important opportunity to focus our attention on a Country, a Continent that is like a puzzle of chances, and problems.

Fortunately, there are many people sharing this vision. That’s why it’s very difficult to collect all the news regarding social life published by hundreds of different media all over the world.

In this ‘mess’, I selected two news from different media: newspaper and internet. One is good, one is bad …

The bad news.

The Guardian reported that FIFA has been accused of banning the distribution of condoms in the World Cup stadiums. As The Guardian says “South Africa has the world’s largest number of HIV carriers, with an estimated 5.7 million people infected – about one in every five adults. There are around 1,400 new HIV infections every day and nearly 1,000 Aids deaths.”

So why cant’ Aids groups draw advantage from this worldwide interest in South Africa for a prevention campaign?

The good news

It comes from Italian association called UISP (Italian Sport Union), and it is reported by different Italian online sources: ANSA, italia-news.it, etc.

Created by UISP and dedicated to Nelson Mandela, the aim is to award those people strongly involved against all kinds of racism. Even though in South Africa  apartheid doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately racism is still alive. And not only in South Africa.

The ceremony will be significantly held at Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

Shoot4Change by Nicoletta Di Tanno

Together with this award, the Italian UISP will present the Antiracism World Cup, a soccer championship that will be hosted at Casalecchio di Reno (7-11 July).

Photographers by Shoot4Change will be the ‘voices’ of this tournement!

South Africa and 2010 Soccer World Cup

From tomorrow many of us will spend our time watching Soccer World Cup 2010, that will be held in South Africa.

This is the most important soccer competition, and it represents a unique opportunity of investments and economic incoming, as well as an important showcase for the whole country.

I hope that all the people that are working there (journalists, tv operators, photographers, ecc.) and even the supporters coming from all over the world will be able to tell us not only about some soccer matches.

I hope they will be the witnesses of social life, focusing their (and our!) attention on a Country, a Continent that need a deep awareness from all of us.

G. Perottino/Insidefoto - all rights reserved

Following the good example given by varous NGO as Doctors without Borders and AMREF, we don’t have to miss the opportunity to talk about projects, life, needs of South African people.

As for the Rugby Championship in 1995, this is also an opportunity to fight against apartheid, that unfortunately is still alive.

If you’d like to tell something about your experiences in South Africa, don’t hesitate to use this blog!

Enjoy your championship and let’s have an alternate view of  2010 World Cup!

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Date:
Monday, June 14, 2010
Time:
2:00pm – 6:30pm
Location:
Waithaka Divisional Headquarters

Description

AMREF is partnering Africa Goal to screen World Cup matches live across Africa, starting in Kenya on June 11 and ending in South Africa on July 11.

The aim of the project is two-pronged: to bring the World Cup, on a large screen, to communities in remote or poor areas that do not have access to such an opportunity to view the matches, and to use the opportunity presented by the ready audience to deliver messages on HIV and AIDS. Africa Goal is partnering with local health organisations, and AMREF is one of those they would like to work with in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

AMREF’s role is to organise the venues – such as a football field, or market ground – mobilise people to come and watch the match, and engage the audience in discussions and messages on HIV for about two hours before the screening in the form of talk, drama, music, question-and-answer sessions or other forms of presentation, or a combination of various forms. The Africa Goal team will provide the equipment, while AMREF organises the venue, mobilises the audience and delivers the health messages.

The first screening under this partnership will be in Dagoretti, and the match of the day shall be that between Japan and Cameroon. Children from the AMREF Dagoretti Child in Need Project will perform plays, poems and skits with a public viewing of Mapenzi Tamu and there after, a question and answer question for the audience based on the day’s performances.

Malaria: how technologies can improve prevention campaigns

I started reading something about malaria the first time I went to Africa. It was more than 20 years ago. I only needed to know the best treatment to prevent the disease.

I surprisingly realized that there weren’t many medicines, and they couldn’t prevent the disease for sure. I wasn’t affected with malaria, but I had a lot of diseases because of the treatment.

It was in that time that I asked myself how so many people in different countries can struggle against this disease, as treatments are so expensive, and plenty of side-effects.

I began from my country, Italy. Malaria was widespread in 40’s and 50’s, in many areas in the countryside. Then, there were many environment reclamations, and this issue became less and less important.

Nowadays that many people move from one country to another, as it’s easier to travel for tourism or for job, and the costs are becoming more and more higher for many countries, there is an increasing attention on this disease.

Just a couple of highlights from the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2008, which draws upon data collected through 2006:

–       new methods estimate the number of malaria cases is 247 million for 2006.

–       small children remain by far the most likely to die of the disease  (a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds)

–       malaria is endemic in more than 90 countries

–       access in Africa to a rather new artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), which is recommended by WHO, reached only 3% of children in need

One of the more effective malaria intervention is the bed net, so far.

But there is a good news, as many researchers are trying to find new solutions, supported by technology. Thanks to the last issue of Wired-Italia I acknowledged that  the team of Environmental Surveillance Core at Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, led by Gregory Glass.

By using a special software, a GPS computer identifies the area more infected by plasmodium mosquitoes. Satellite  pictures and data are processed in order to give information about at-risk areas, and consequently planning effective malaria interventions, campaigns, bed nets distribution, etc.

Isn’t it great? Fortunately, this is just one of the many projects to struggle malaria. And they are increasing together with the awareness of importance of this disease.

IPhone versus Digital Divide

La Jolla - Queuing at Apple Store

La Jolla - Queuing at Apple Store

July 11th, 2008: in many Western countries, people stand in a queue waiting for the new IPhone. I took this picture in La Jolla, but I saw similar pictures on the website of the main international newspapers: from London to Rome, from New York to Berlin, from Milan to San Diego.

In the meantime, only few fortunate Africans are able to get a dial tone.

For most people in that continent even making a telephone call is still a remote possibility.

The gap between those with access to ICT (internet, computer, communication) and those without is called “Digital Divide”.

There are many factors that contribute to the digital divide: economic instability of the country, lack of communication infrastructure such as roads and electricity, lack of broadband capability, low education level.

In our times, communication is becoming a human right, as the chance to communicate definitely changes the people life. Just think about some simple things like getting in touch with a doctor.

However, new technologies such as satellite communication and cellular phones represent a tremendous development opportunity, as they can easily provide communication infrastructure even in isolated areas.

I had my personal experience many years ago, in Tanzania. In 1993 I visited that country for the first time and I went to Arusha. Arusha is a small but important city, because all the safari games to the most famous national parks start from there. At that time, it was just a dusty small town and even calling my parents in Italy was really difficult.

Digital Divide

Digital Divide

I went to Tanzania again in 2001 and was very amazing for me to find many internet points crowded with local young people.

I wonder what about now in Arusha, in 2008 …

If you have any information … please, let me know!

PS: if you need any further information, you can also read:

African Telecommunication/ICT Indicators 2008: At a crossroads

http:www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/publications/africa/2008/index.html

Africa takes on the Digital Divide” by Africa Recovery, United Nations

http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol17no3/173tech.htm