Guest Article – Tech for Good: How Technology Is Helping the Less Fortunate

As the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen, there’s no shortage of people willing to help, whether through charity or innovation. But who are these people? And how are they making their impact? 

While there’s no single right answer to this question, the growing number of tech-for-good companies that help bring the less fortunate up to speed with the rest of the world offers some insight into what they believe will make the biggest difference.

Then again, as technology continues to advance and change the way we live, there’s always been one question on everyone’s mind – how can this help those who aren’t as fortunate? 

Nowhere is that more true than in Africa, where the digital divide still remains wide and only continues to grow as technology advances further and further. In Africa alone, 22% of the population is without access to the internet, and even among those with access, many are limited to certain parts of the continent because of slow download speeds or prohibitively high prices charged by phone companies.

Technology has been doing wonders in the developed world, and now it’s time to take it to the next level and introduce technology into the lives of those who really need it. Not just those who simply want it but those who need it so they can improve their lives and societies around them.

A Little Bit about Technology in Africa

In Africa, there is a growing divide between those who have access to technology and those who do not. This has been dubbed the digital divide. 

While there are many factors that contribute to this divide, one of the most important is access to technology. Those who have access to technology have a significant advantage over those who do not. This is especially true when it comes to education. 

For example, in the continent, many schools are now using educational software to help students learn. This software is often not available to students who do not have access to technology. As a result, these students are at a disadvantage when it comes to their education. 

However, there are organisations working to close the digital divide in Africa. These organisations provide access to technology and the internet to those who would otherwise not have it.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), around 563 million people in Africa had access to the internet in 2013, although this number has been growing steadily in recent years. And there is hope that in the coming years, the majority of African citizens will have access to internet services at home.

How Technology Is Helping the Less Fortunate in Continents Like Africa

There are several issues preventing people from having access to the internet and technology in general, such as lack of infrastructure, expensive hardware and software, as well as cultural and educational factors. But it is good to know that technology is slowly shaping countries and helping them improve in ways we never thought were possible.

1. Better Education

In many rural African schools, students often share one computer between several classes. This can make it difficult for students to get the individualised attention they need to succeed. 

However, new initiatives are providing more access to computers and the internet in rural schools. For example,  there is a cause that aims to provide laptops to children in developing countries. These laptops are rugged and designed to be used in rough conditions. They also have educational software installed on them to help students learn even when they don’t have a teacher present. By giving students more access to technology, we can help close the digital divide and give everyone a fair chance at success. 

Camara, in particular, is a non-profit social enterprise that aims to focus on using technology to help the fortunate. They recycle and reuse computers and other IT equipment and use them to set up computer labs across the African continent. As of this writing, they have put more than 150,000 computers into 10,500 schools, impacting around 3,500,000 African children.

2. Improved Infant Mortality

In many parts of Africa, infant mortality rates are high. But with the help of technology, that’s starting to change. Mobile health clinics are bringing healthcare to remote areas, while apps and educational software are helping to improve literacy rates. 

In addition, the internet provides access to infant care information that was previously out of reach. It is obvious that tech is helping to save lives and improve living conditions for millions of people across Africa. 

Portable ultrasound devices are also made available in the continent, allowing doctors to see the inside of a woman’s womb and assess the growth of babies. Such devices are very affordable, and they can be easily connected to a computer or a smartphone.

3. Healthcare

In many developing countries, healthcare is often inadequate. But with the help of technology, that’s starting to change. 

For example, mobile health clinics are bringing medical care to remote areas, while telemedicine is making it possible for doctors to consult with each other and share information more easily. 

In addition, new diagnostic tools and treatments are being developed all the time. And thanks to the internet, people in far-flung corners of the world can now access this information. 

There are also programs such as NetAid, which uses digital technologies to deliver food aid. And there are countless other ways in which tech is improving lives – from cell phones providing a way for families separated by health crisis or disaster to stay connected to voice assistants helping children learn languages.

4. Job Opportunities in Emerging Markets

Technology has enabled us to create jobs that couldn’t exist without it, such as virtual assistants. It has also changed the way people live their lives and interact with each other. 

One way that technology is helping the less fortunate is by creating job opportunities. For example, in Africa, many people are employed in the tech sector. This provides much-needed jobs and helps to grow the economy. Additionally, tech companies are often able to provide training and support to employees, which can help to close the skills gap further.

Facebook even makes it possible for people to generate job opportunities for people and help them stay connected with friends and colleagues. LinkedIn, on the other hand, helps professionals find jobs by networking with potential employers, and Skype enables video calls over the internet, perfect for meetings and interviews. 

Educational software is also giving people in developing countries a chance to learn new skills and improve their prospects for employment. By bridging the digital divide, technology is helping to level the playing field and provide opportunities for people who otherwise would not have them.

5. Mobile Phones

In many parts of Africa, mobile phones are becoming increasingly prevalent. This technology is helping to connect people who previously had no way to communicate with each other. 

In addition, mobile phones are being used to access the internet and educational software. This is bridging the digital divide and giving people in Africa a chance to improve their lives. 

For example, women have been able to start small businesses selling products they create themselves through social media or by creating websites where they sell handmade crafts. Mobile phone use has also increased school attendance as children can now attend classes remotely via video streaming. 

And as text messages become cheaper than phone calls in some places, social networks are enabling people from different villages to share information about farming techniques and weather forecasts. 

Although there are still disparities between rich and poor, mobile phone ownership gives everyone access to new technologies, providing those living without electricity with power via solar panels or charging stations.

6. Bridging the Gap with Mobile Money

Mobiles aren’t just improving life for Africans but also for Europeans, Americans, and Asians. Because of mobile phones, mobile payments are now made possible, and they are proving to be more popular than cash transactions in countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe due to high unemployment rates. 

With this system set up on the mobile phones that most Africans have access to, it’s not only easy but also safe to do business using a credit card number stored on your phone rather than carrying around large amounts of cash that can be stolen or lost easily. 

In Kenya, mobile money services like M-Pesa provide bank accounts and mobile banking in remote areas without access to traditional banks. 

Mobile payments will continue to grow in popularity as smartphones continue increasing worldwide usage rates while expanding into developing nations; a trend that should only help everyone involved.

7. Reaching Remote Areas

The internet and mobile technology are increasingly becoming a lifeline for many people in rural and remote areas of Africa. With access to the internet, people are able to connect with family and friends, get news and information, find jobs, and do business. 

People can even educate themselves and perform basic troubleshooting in case they find that a computer turns on by itself. They need not go to the city to find a certified technician to do the fixing.

Mobile technology is also helping to close the digital divide by providing access to educational software, health information, and other services that can improve quality of life. 

8. Mapping Libraries

In many developing countries, access to technology and the internet is limited. But organisations are working to change that by mapping libraries. With just a smartphone, locals can map their library’s books, making it easier for people to find and borrow books. This not only helps people gain access to information but also helps libraries keep track of their inventory.

In some African countries, mapping libraries are also being established to help bridge the digital divide. These libraries provide access to IT, the internet, and educational software for those who wouldn’t otherwise have it. They also offer training on how to use these technologies. So far, these mapping libraries have had a positive impact on the lives of many people in Africa.

9. Creating Businesses

Starting a business can be incredibly difficult. The lack of access to resources, infrastructure, and funding can make it nearly impossible to get a business off the ground. 

However, technology is helping to level the playing field and give entrepreneurs in developing countries a fighting chance. Cloud computing, shared platforms, and open-source software programs are changing the game. Developing nations now have access to tools that they would not have been able to afford or develop on their own. 

Platforms like TARGIT; an open-source platform used by nonprofits to help individuals manage data from disparate sources (such as company financial reports), so they can better understand their sector or industry; allow people with few technical skills who may not have had exposure to technology before to contribute meaningful work without extensive training. 

Technology can empower those who are less fortunate by creating economic opportunities or providing resources for better education and health care.

10. Domestic Work

In many developing countries, women make up a large percentage of the domestic workforce. Aside from caring for children and cooking meals, they often have to walk long distances to collect water and firewood. 

However, technology is beginning to change this. In Rwanda, for instance, many women now use solar-powered lamps to light their homes and cookstoves, which has not only saved them time but also reduced their exposure to harmful smoke inhalation. A woman can now spend more time with her family or do an extra shift at work because she doesn’t need to worry about wasting fuel. 

11. Employee Productivity

It’s no secret that technology can help boost employee productivity. By automating certain tasks, providing easier access to information, and facilitating communication, tech can help employees work more efficiently and effectively. In turn, this can help small businesses increase their bottom line. 

And when businesses do well, they can create more jobs and opportunities for people in their communities. For example, Nigeria has a large population of youths who are not currently working or being educated. Businesses that invest in developing apps and programs can have a huge impact on these communities by creating job opportunities for many people. 

12. Agriculture and Large-Scale Farming

Farming in Africa has been traditionally very manual and time-consuming, making it difficult to scale up and be profitable. However, with the advent of new technologies, large-scale farming is becoming more feasible. 

For example, GPS-guided equipment can help farmers sow seeds more accurately, and drones can be used for crop mapping and monitoring. Apps and software programs are also being developed to help farmers with things like irrigation and pest control. 

Moreover, aerial images can now be generated by drones and satellites, and soil sensors can already be installed to manage and control crop growth in real-time. Zenvus, a precision farming startup tech, aims to measure and analyse soil data like nutrients and temperatures to help farmers determine the right amount of fertiliser and water required in farms.

These advances in technology are helping to increase yields and incomes, making a big difference for smallholder farmers across Africa.

Wrapping Up

The digital divide between people who have access to technology and those who don’t is becoming smaller every day as technology becomes more available to the masses. While this means we can help millions of people become more educated and financially sound, it also means that we need to make sure that technology is doing good things and not just making us lazier or more distracted. By thinking about how we can improve our world through tech, we can help those in need while also improving our own quality of life.

 

This was a guest article written by Jessica Bullet from Software Tested

Kasama teacher training

Christmas Challenge – an update on our progress

Regular maintenance of hardware and teacher capability are two key aspects in ensuring that students in schools supported with computers from Camara get the maximum benefit from them. Unfortunately, these areas are often neglected in schools that are desperately short of funds. Thanks to our 2021 Big Give Christmas Challenge Campaign, Camara Zambia was allocated funds to provide 50 schools with maintenance support and teacher capacity development. This support is helping ensure that computers remain functional and their life-span maximised, as well as providing teachers in the selected schools with ICT Skillbuilder training to enhance their digital skills and incorporate digital technology into their lessons.

Teacher training session

Although there were a number of delays at the beginning of 2022 with gaining approval to access the schools and start rolling out teacher training due to changes at the Zambian Ministry of General Education, the project is now well underway.

113 teachers have so far undergone training at sixteen schools in Southern, Lusaka, Copperbelt and Muchinga Provinces. Only fourteen of these teachers had any prior training so this support is vital in helping teachers gain the basic skills they need to use computers in their lesson planning and their teaching. 

Twenty-one schools in Southern and Lusaka provinces have been supported by our maintenance team – fixing any non-functioning devices and advising on safe and environmentally appropriate means to dispose of any e-waste.

Abbishy Chisenga is a teacher of Agricultural Science at Kampinda School in Kasama. He previously worked at a school in Lusaka which was also supported by Camara. He said:

“I recently attended training with Camara. Their training is so beneficial that teachers are now able to teach their various lessons using computers, lesson planning is done through computers to make their work easier. Computers from Camara are fed with offline libraries where learners can research their work and do their assignments, teachers can find academic games that suit the lever of learners!

It’s awesome being trained by Camara!

Thanks to Camara for your wonderful training, my lessons are now easier to deliver and they are so interesting to all my learners!”

Abbishy Chisenga

Sister Agnes Chirwa, another beneficiary of the training, commented “The Camara training session has come at the right time when I needed to learn more on how to use online applications such as Zoom for my meetings. I greatly appreciate the help and support given to our institution, Monze Youth Projects, as we are also empowering people from our local community. I would like to integrate the digital skills acquired to all the members of staff so that learners fully benefit.”

And Yvonne Chibuye Miselo, from Mumana primary school, Lusaka, added This programme should continue even to other teachers that they can also benefit and have the same knowledge that we have acquired. We greatly appreciate Camara for inviting our school and we are looking forward to attending further trainings from Camara in the future”

Shimelis Habte school

Shimelis Habte – 15th school where an e-learning centre was developed in partnership with Dell Technologies

Shimelis Habte Secondary was a school previously supported by Dell Technologies and Camara in 2018. The elearning centre installed at the time consisted of 20 Desktop computers with fully loaded content onto them. Four years on, thanks again to Dell’s support, Camara provided additional maintenance on all hardware, and replaced 6 computers that were out of date. All content was updated, and teachers were given refresher training. Additionally, we upgraded the lab by completing network installation in this school. As the eLearning centre is connected to the Internet, we are now also able to remotely track students’ activities through Dell’s high-end server installed at our hub in Addis Ababa.

Shimelis Habte school
Inauguration of the elearning centre at Shimelis Habte in 2018 by Dell EMEA president
Shimelis Habte school
Students using the upgraded eLearning centre in 2022
Shimelis Habte school
Shimelis Habte school
Assai Students

Dell Remote Server

Remote monitoring is up and running. In Ethiopia our partnership with Dell Technologies has enabled us to set up a high-end Dell server to monitor school and student progress remotely. The server is tracking usage data from 5 schools including Assai secondary, pictured here.

Assai Students

Camara originally worked with this school back in 2014, but we have now gone back to replace their equipment with 25 new computers and a networked eLearning centre. 

The students were quoted as saying they want to use the technology a lot, starting by studying for their next exam with the computers. We will be able to monitor their activity remotely, ensuring the sustainability and effectiveness of the centre.

Camara Staff using Dell remote server at Camara HQ
Mikias Ephrem, and Amanuel Mebratu from Camara Ethiopia, analysing the first data set received from Assai secondary school through Dell’s high-end server

As well as being beneficial to the Camara team supporting the implementation of the project, this information will also be helpful to school leaders for future planning and reporting. It will also enable us to provide data-driven support remotely.

IMG_0151

Hack to the Future

A team of students from Asco Secondary School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, reached the final of the Finastra “Hack to the Future” youth hackathon, competing against hundreds of projects from around the world. Their entry, Project YOKE, was designed to solve the financial problems facing farmers in rural areas of Ethiopia by providing weather and agri-tech information, and facilitating mobile-based financial services, including money transfers and information on the market price of products.

Brainstorming the project with a trainer

Three teams of students from Asco School, which had an e-Learning centre installed by Camara in 2019, participated in the hackathon. Each team had between 5 and 7 members: mentors from Finastra were assigned to each team and guided them through three Microsoft Teams sessions. Each session lasted two hours and was facilitated on-site by a Camara trainer (one for each team) with remote tech support from Camara. Support the trainers provided included ensuring fast Internet connection to make sure the calls went smoothly, translating concepts into Amharic, and providing support in the recording and submission of videos. You can check out the other two submissons here – Smart Gulit and Agro-Market by Unique.

Finastra has teamed up with Camara Education to process their retired laptops and other IT equipment, generating funds to bring ICT resources and skills to those who need it most in the developing world. Finastra is the largest pure-play software vendor that serves the entire financial services industry; Camara offers a safe, secure and reliable logistics chain for the collection of retired equipment from multiple global Finastra locations. Our partnership proivdes technology and education to thousands of children in Africa, and supports Finastra in its goal to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Kidia Secondary School in Moshi, Kilimanjaro

The Big Give update

Three months into the new year, we wanted to update you on how your contribution to our Big Give Christmas Challenge appeal is being used in Tanzania. In the next few months we’ll send updates on our programmes in Kenya and Zambia too.

Kidia Secondary School in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, pictured here, is just one of 37 schools in Tanzania that have already had training and maintenance visits from Camara thanks to your generous funding.

Kidia Secondary School in Moshi, Kilimanjaro

Computer Maintenance

Camara’s technicians check all the school’s computers and update, upgrade and replace components or entire units where necessary. Computers work well when they are taken care of and even simple maintenance can extend their lifespan: we use a blower to remove dust from the computer mother board and foam cleaner for cleaning the external case, keyboard and monitor.  When we identify items that can’t be repaired, our local e-waste partner, Chilambo, will collect them for recycling to ensure they don’t end up in landfill. 

Dust is an ongoing issue in the African environment:

Computer maintenance Camara
Computer maintenance Camara

But it can be dealt with!

We also check wiring and electrical supply, and modernise it when necessary

We also check wiring and electrical supply, and modernise it when necessary

The students get to help out with the maintenance too – here at Maringeni Secondary school in Kilimanjaro – and learn about computers along the way

The students get to help out with the maintenance too – here at Maringeni Secondary school in Kilimanjaro – and learn about computers along the way

Teacher Training

Through the Big Give programme, we have trained over 300 teachers in Tanzania this year. Teachers need to be confident enough to use technology as an integral part of their teaching, rather than an adjunct or afterthought. Here, teachers undergo our Skillbuilder training at Ifwagi Secondary School in the Iringa region.

Teacher Training

Our training officer, Bahati Kamanga, conducting a one-on-one session with the ICT teacher from Korongoni Secondary School in Kilimanjaro on how to manage user accounts on a computer. 

Our training officer, Bahati Kamanga, conducting a one-on-one session with the ICT teacher from Korongoni Secondary School in Kilimanjaro on how to manage user accounts on a computer. 
Launch 3

Community ICT Innovation Hub Inaugurated

A new computer lab at Ukia Community Information and ICT Centre (CIC) in Makueni County, Kenya, was officially opened last week by Makueni County Secretary, Benjamin Mutie. This is a vital part of a collaboration between Makueni County, Camara Education and Dell Technologies as part of our STEM STEPS Towards Positive Futures Project.

The STEM STEPS Project is a pilot being implemented in 30 secondary schools across four counties in Kenya (Makueni, Usain Gishu, Kajado and Kilifi) as well as at Ukia CIC. This pilot project, supported by Dell Technologies, aims to ensure that Ukia CIC and the 30 selected secondary schools have the necessary ICT equipment, teacher capacity and support to fully integrate ICT into education and provide students with opportunities to develop their digital skills. The project aims to positively impact over 23,000 beneficiaries directly, as well as 133,500 indirect beneficiaries.

Wycliffe Selebwa, Country Leader for Dell Technologies in Kenya, explained “When the pandemic resulted in a new, virtual way of living, it also increased the disparity between those with access to technology and those without. At Dell Technologies, we are committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to opportunities through technology. By working with organisations like Camara Education, we are creating an ecosystem that gives young people access to connectivity, computing devices and competency-based learning, so they can successfully participate in the digital economy and be part of the future workforce within the ICT sector. We thank Camara Education and The Makueni County Government’s Department of Education, Sports and ICT for leading initiatives that drive change and create opportunities for youth and underserved communities in the country.”

Students using the new computers

Makueni County Government’s Department of Education, Sports and ICT is fully committed to working alongside Camara and Dell Technologies to ensure the success of this project which they believe will have significant benefits for local community members. Ukia CIC is based close to Ukia primary and to four secondary schools which currently have no computers. The STEM STEPS Project will open doors for students from these nearby schools as well as other community members to access and learn from technology, which will provide significant opportunities for their futures in this digital age. Dr Naomi Makau, Executive Committee Member of the Department of Education, Sports and ICT in Makueni County expanded on this: “I am so delighted today to witness the launch of this project in Makueni County. A big Thank You to Camara Education and Dell Technologies for choosing to partner with us. This programme will be a game-changer for the community of Ukia with regard to digital access and also to the students in the selected schools. This project will truly move our youth towards positive futures. We look forward to more collaboration in your area of focus. Please accept my highest regard on behalf of the entire team of beneficiaries and the government of Makueni county”.

Sarah Musengya, Camara’s Country Manager in Kenya, said “We are very excited to officially launch the new ICT innovation hub within Ukia CIC and cement our relationship with Makueni County Government. Camara fully believes that our partnerships with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, Teacher Service Commission, County Governments, School leaders and the local communities are vital in ensuring that we can have the maximum impact in the projects we implement. In addition to the students who are benefiting from this project within the selected schools, the inclusion of Ukia CIC, will provide opportunities for more young people both in and out of school to access and benefit from technology. We are also most grateful to our longstanding partner Dell Technologies for their continued support and commitment to driving initiatives around youth skills training in ICT.

Our CEO, Aidan Tallon, was also present at the event and commented “I am delighted to witness some of the fantastic work being done in Makueni County and to share this special occasion with County Government officials and the Ministry of Education, local schools and community members as well as our partner, Dell Technologies, who have supported our work around driving digital inclusion for many years.”

Student training

IFWAGI SECONDARY SCHOOL

Ifwagi Secondary School is a government school located in Mufindi, in the Iringa region of the Tanzanian Southern Highlands. It has more than 200 students from form one to form four. The school has a good environment for students to learn and succeed in their dreams.

Camara Education Tanzania has been working with long-term partner, Lyra in Africa, a local NGO, to set up an e-Learning centre and ICT club in this school. While Camara carried out the installation, provided training for teachers and students, and loaded our content onto the computers, Lyra provided funding and have also constructed a girls’ hostel at the school. Together, these initiatives help overcome many of the barriers preventing girls continuing in education. The 90 girls accommodated in the hostel will be able to use the computers after school hours, to do their homework every evening, and at weekends. The project addresses the digital divide and the lack of ICT skills amongst disadvantaged girls, which hinders not only their academic performance but also their future employment opportunities.

In the e-Learning centre we installed 20 desktop computers networked to a local classroom server. Each computer is loaded with offline educational apps, tools and resources covering different subjects. In addition, the classroom server in the centre is loaded with the Camara portal which contains more than 5000 videos, over 3000 educational articles, digital books aligned to the curriculum and hundreds of ICT videos for students. Students access the portal from their computers and the portal can track what content they are consuming as well as how much time they spend on it.

This monitoring allows teachers, school administrators, Camara and other stakeholders to understand exactly what the computers are being used for, when and for how long. This helps us understand what improvements we can make to our content and what support should be provided to teachers and students.

Ifwagi School

Camara trained 20 teachers for 5 days, covering everything from basic ICT to the integration of ICT in teaching and learning. Teachers will be able to add their own content on the portal, assign students tasks and track their progress. Students have also been trained in how to utilise the resources on computers.

The ICT club makes the centre available out of school hours and allows students to develop more in-depth digital skills such as coding and design. Digital mentors will provide support and facilitate club sessions, encouraging girls especially to acquire vital ICT skills.

IMG-20211216-WA0016

More equipment for Zambia

Following multiple delays due to shipping congestion, our latest container of computer equipment finally arrived in Lusaka on Saturday 4th December. This container was eagerly awaited by the Camara Zambia team and schools across Zambia; our team worked over the weekend to check the computers and add our local educational content. By Tuesday 7th, the team had over 100 units ready for dispatch to schools and was on the road to Kasama, almost 900km from Lusaka, and to Copperbelt province, around 350km from Lusaka, to ensure the computers were installed in schools before they closed for the holidays on 10th December. A great end to the year for our Zambia team!