The Global Ignite Week Toronto was such a stellar night last night and it was a pleasure to share the stage with so many cool people. Funny so many people asked me if I have practiced presenting given the format limitations, there was no practice for me. I think I've never done an Power Point practice for more than 15 years. I hardly gone through my slides once these days and typos is a problem for me. I guess I have always been a fast speaker. The people attending were all very cool from media to design and start-ups. The organizer Peter Horvath and Michele Perras did an amazing job. Good energy and I certainly recommend people to try the experience if you have not done so. There are so much creative energy in the place and everyone is eager to learn and share. And here are many IC folks there and many old friends exBlastees too.
The most interesting presentation for me personally is Steve Mugiri’s AfriGadget. He is a writer for a team blog AfriGadget that is about appropriate and ingenious application of tech in Africa. It is amazing how people use their imagination to create things with so little resources. Seeing people there bending the little they have to their will, using creativity to overcome life’s challenges. We have seen enough the unfortunate side of Africa that is full of conflicts and sufferings. AfriGadget's objective is to find more stories of African ingenuity. The Grassroots Reporting Project is their plan to find, equip and train more AfriGadget reporters in the field throughout Africa. This is the CNN on Innovation in Africa!
Every time I think about challenges in Africa, I always think educational attainment, probably the important element in reducing poverty, has made some progress, especially at the primary level. But fewer than 75% of primary school-age children were enrolled in primary school in Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and several other African countries. African countries have made little progress getting children to advance to secondary school. For all of sub-Saharan Africa, the average net enrollment for secondary school is just 28%. We need to find more effective ways to deliver education. We cannot afford the continuous widening of the gap.
One cool example Steve included in his presentation was Alfred Sirleaf, he is a blogger but like the blogger in this part of the world. There is no computer or Internet access. Guess what, Alfred is an analog blogger. He runs the "Daily News," a news hut in the middle of Monrovia, the capital of a Liberia, a country on the west coast of Africa. The lack of electricity or Internet connections doesn’t even faze him.
The lessons for us is we often resort to modern tools or solutions when we are dealing with a particular problem. The best example is we rely too much on pharmaceuticals, whatever the problem is; we’re too quick to reach for a pharmaceutical solutions. Same with technologies for enterprise usage, buy a big software package and your problems will be solved. Alfred serves, as a reminder to the rest of us, that simple is often better, just because it works. How does it work? He has no funding, no Typepad, no Facebook and no computer or electricity. It is all about the ideas. The power of imagination and creativity at work.
He is a good recruiter, he uses creative ways to recruit people from around the city and country to report news to him. He uses his cell phone as the major point of connection between him and the 10,000 that read his blackboard daily. I think soon, he will be selling Google ads on his blog. Great site to check out. There are so many good stories. Another good one from the blog is the hacking culture in Africa. I think we do it for fun and they do it for necessity.
One post from Erik Hersman talked about the FLAP bag project, a collaborative effort by Timbuk2, Portable Light and Pop!Tech. Those folks ar AfriGadget are helping to field-test the bags that they designed have solar power and lighting on them, and get interviews of the individuals using them. Then they asked them if they could make something from their own materials, with their own designs, from it. Three days later they returned with some new designs. The local cloth use in Ghana was pretty and I think they can sell well at Best Buy.