ICT

Helping Kenyan Farmers at the Touch of a Button

Posted on 7 April 2009. Filed under: Food Security, ICT |


Photo: Edgar Mwakaba/IRIN
Mobile phone technology could be used to correctly diagnose and treat crop diseases

The ability to correctly diagnose and treat crop diseases such as banana wilt via mobile phone is just one of endless possibilities for smallholder farmers if location-specific (geospatial) information were available, according to researchers.

Such a project would, for example, make use of mobile devices equipped with Global Positioning Systems and cameras.

“A trained community worker can input the location coordinates, take a photo of the diseased crop, send it to our database, from which we would forward the image for expert review and feedback,” Whitney Gantt, a project officer with the Grameen Foundation, told IRIN. “In addition to being able to identify a disease, people will know what to do.”

The Grameen Foundation is conducting a seven-month pilot project in two Ugandan districts, whereby community workers collect and disseminate information on crop acreage and projected harvests through mobile device surveys.

In the scheme, 45 community knowledge workers (CKWs), selected from existing farmers’ groups, are trained in using mobile devices for data collection.

Each has a mobile phone, some of which are equipped with cameras. From a drop-down menu on the phones, the CKWs are able to enter the required data, which is then transmitted to the foundation’s database for agricultural forecasting.

The phone cost ranges from US$30 each to $330. “It is a cost-effective method and we are also testing the three devices to see which collects better data,” Gantt said.

Challenges

Finding CKWs who are literate and fluent in English is a challenge and it is difficult reaching women farmers as most phone-owners are men.

Network connectivity and lack of electricity in the rural parts are a problem and can delay information transmission.

Ensuring accurate data is also a challenge. “Getting information that is actionable is very useful… how do you ensure that the data is accurate?”


Photo: David Gough/IRIN David Gough/IRIN
Location-specific information will not only maximise crop yields but also reduce uncertainties in production, according to researchers

According to Gantt, the goal of the project is to work intensively with the CKWs with a view to a possible scale-up. From the information collected, the foundation also hopes to link farmers with buyers. “A lot of providers are without such information,” she said.

Mapping

In another application, a study in Ethiopia is expected to capture information on rural road types, sea and inland water ports, airports, border crossings, private and community depots and silos and market locations for use by farmers and other service providers, according to Tesfaye Korme of the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development.

The use of high-resolution mapping is another possibility. “High-resolution mapping for fields would not only help with field acreage knowledge but could also be a precursor for sustainable land management,” said Pierre Traore of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. It could also be used to map low fertility areas within farms.

Crop yields

According to researchers, geospatial information on soils and the best crops, appropriate farming techniques and early warning on droughts, floods, diseases and pests, as well as up-to-date market and price information, would not only maximise crop yields and market access but also improve livelihoods and reduce uncertainties in production.

Such information does not reach those who most need it. “The information is often used by a select group of project farmers yet many such projects do not last beyond project funding,” said Jennifer Barnes of the consulting group CH2M Hill. “Current data is also not provided in relevant time and map scales yet there is a need for the information to reach farmers rapidly.”

According to Enrica Porcari of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) : “There is a lot of information at the policy level yet the problems are at the local level … Although we have solutions, they often don’t come off the shelf.

“There are challenges in the nodes of the chain from the researchers to the farmers,” Porcari said, adding that the mandate of research institutions did not extend to dissemination of information to the farmers. CGIAR is holding a meeting in Nairobi on opportunities in geospatial technology and accessing a broader range of users.

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UN-backed Forum Examines Role of ICT in Achieving the MDGs

Posted on 25 August 2008. Filed under: ICT, MDGs |

23 August 2007 – Over 1,000 participants from 66 countries have gathered at the United Nations Centre in Addis Ababa to explore how the latest information and communication technology (ICT) can help countries overcome poverty and advance development.

“ICT for Development and Prosperity” is the theme for the three-day World Information Technology Forum which kicked off yesterday in the Ethiopian capital.

The Forum grew out of the 2003 and 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which affirmed the importance of bridging the so-called “digital divide” that separates poor communities from affluent ones through their lack of access to such technology. It seeks to help developing countries in particular to use ICT to achieve the set of agreed global anti-poverty targets known as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

At the Forum’s opening session, Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), underlined the vital role of the knowledge economy in Africa.

In a message read by Aida Opoku-Mensah, ECA’s Director of ICT, Science and Technology Division, Mr. Janneh stressed that “through globalization new ideas and innovation are spreading faster than ever before and as a result, knowledge-based development is becoming a reality for all countries irrespective of whether they are developed or developing.”

Participants will look at successful and sustainable ICT strategies in developing countries, as well as issues such as human resource development, leapfrogging rural communications and low-cost telecommunication systems and information services for rural communities.

The Forum is organized by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) in cooperation with the ECA, the Ethiopian Government, the Ethiopian ICT Development Agency (EICTDA) and the Ethiopian IT Professional Association (EITPA).

Also in Addis Ababa, a new publication released today highlights the vital role of a strong media and communication environment to a developed and prosperous Africa.

The publication, “Framework for the Development of a Sustainable and Pluralistic Media,” states that achieving the MDGs requires a free and democratic environment in which the media can play an effective role in promoting sustainable development, fighting corruption and promoting good governance, according to a press release issued by ECA.

Date Created: 8/27/2007 6:21:20 AM
Copyright 2007

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Call to End E-Waste Dumping in Developing Countries

Posted on 7 May 2008. Filed under: Environment, ICT |

The world federation of consumer organisations, Consumers International (CI), today called for tighter government monitoring to prevent the continued dumping of toxic e-waste on the developing world.

The call comes as investigations by CI’s corporate watchdog partner, DanWatch, indicate that half a million second-hand computers are imported to Nigeria every month. The vast majority are obsolete and soon dumped on waste sites around the port city of Lagos.

This is just the tip of the 6.6 millions tons of unaccounted for e-waste that leaves EU countries each year*.

The situation calls into question the effective enforcement of the Basel Convention Ban Amendment*, to which the EC is a signatory. The Basel Ban is meant to outlaw the dumping of e-waste on the developing world, but inadequate monitoring of the quality of second-hand electrical goods shipments means millions of obsolete products continue to flood into Africa.

Professor Oladele Osibanjo, director at the Basel Convention Regional Co-ordinating centre for Africa said:
“We have about half a million used computers coming into the Lagos port every month, and only 25 per cent of these are working. Seventy five per cent is junk. The volume is so large, that the people who trade it, just burn it like ordinary refuse.”

The investigations revealed computers dumped at sites outside Lagos and the Ghanaian capital Accra from institutions such as Westminster City Council, The World Bank and numerous European, American and Asian companies.

These mountains of e-waste are poisoning the water supplies and damaging local people’s health.

Benjamin Holst, co-founder and editor of DanWatch observed:
“We filmed children as young as six searching for metal scraps in the earth, which was littered with the toxic waste from thousands of shattered cathode ray tubes. A whole community is virtually living and working in this highly toxic environment, which is growing everyday as a consequence of Western countries mismanaging their e-waste.”

Consumers International is calling for exporting countries to implement tougher monitoring procedures to ensure second-hand electronic goods are in a meaningful working order before being shipped. Obsolete electrical equipment is waste and, as such, illegal to export to developing countries. It should be disposed of or recycled in the country of origin using environmentally sustainable methods.

Luke Upchurch, Head of Media at Consumers International said:
“Million of tons of e-waste disappears from the developed world every year and continues to reappear in developing countries, despite international bans being in place. That 500,000 second-hand, mostly obsolete, computers can still enter Nigeria every month simply makes a mockery of efforts to prevent the dumping of e-waste in Africa. Stricter monitoring and enforcement by the wealthy exporting nations is urgently needed.”

* http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/weee/pdf/final_rep_unu.pdf

Note

1. Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. For more information, visit http://www.consumersinternational.org

2. DanWatch is a corporate watchdog working to document the exploitation of labour, environment and natural resources in developing nations hosting western workplaces, investments, trade and production. The organisation is co-founded and co-funded by the Danish Consumer Council

3. The Basel Convention Ban Amendment bans all forms of hazardous waste exports from the 29 wealthiest most industrialised countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to all non-OECD countries. It still permits the export of used electronic equipment for second-hand use. http://www.basel.int/pub/baselban.html

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ICT Is an Important Tool in Poverty Reduction

Posted on 24 January 2008. Filed under: ICT, Poverty |

A survey commissioned by DENIVA (Development Networks of Indigenous Voluntary Associations) and I-Network (Information Network) in May – June 2007, in Uganda, has shown a close link between ICT and poverty reduction. The countrywide survey indicates that developments of ICTs tend to increase income inequality within a country and it requires relatively good education and special skills to make full use of it.

The findings showed that overall there was an increase in the use and application of ICTs in rural and urban areas. This was correlated by previous studies and was found to be due to various factors like, the favorable policy environment, reduction of tariffs on electronics, increase in use and availability of refurbished computers, affordable costs of new electronic equipment, and the increase in the number of NGOs and private sector initiatives. Internet use is positively correlated with the levels of socioeconomic development, including the purchasing power of individuals, the availability of information technologies and telecommunication infrastructures.

The liberalization of the acquisition, use and application of ICT has led to a rapid expansion of the ICT industry in Uganda. Various technologies have been adopted and these include cellular and mobile telephones, networks, mobile radio communication, paging services, courier services and multi-purpose community tele-centres. There has also been an expansion of print media as well as an increased number of private radio and television stations.

In Uganda, the national ICT policy framework approved by Cabinet in December 2003 envisions a country where national development, especially human development and good governance are sustainably enhanced, promoted and accelerated by the efficient application and use of ICTs including timely access to information.

In the study on telecentres, access and development, there had been an increase in phone use in Uganda between 1996 to 2003. In urban areas landline telephone use was at 63.4% while in rural areas it was at 27.5%. This increase in use of telephones can be attributed to the expansion of GSM cellular networks, public fixed phones, public phone booths and public access through fixed wireless which is the most common and affordable.

Fax in contrast to other ICTs in the rural area carried low use at 8.4%. Use of the fax is mainly related to the formal workplace especially in interacting with formal institutions like banks, donors, government offices, and parent institutions.

In a comparative study done by Paul Tiyambe Zeleza in East Africa, most specifically in Kenya and Uganda, between December 2000 to February 2005, available data indicates that Uganda had 125,000 internet users from 40,000 in December 2000, entailing a growth rate of 212.5% and a penetration rate of 0.5 % in 2005. Uganda formed 1% of the internet users on the continent in 2005 and was ranked 13th in Africa. The most recent internet usage statistics (September 2007) indicate that Uganda with an estimated population of 28,574,909 now has 750,000 internet users. The penetration rate grew from 0.5% in 2005 to 2.6% in 2007. On the continental rating, from 1% of internet users, the percentage has risen to 1.7%. The growth rate by September 2007 was at 1,775% from 212.5% in 2005.

In this survey, use of internet/email in communicating with like minded organizations was 58.2%, communicating with affiliated member NGOs was 42.8%, with parent organization (38.6%) and interoffice or business at 30.5%.

Generally, there has been growth of ICT infrastructure in Uganda. In a study by Kintu Fred et al on early lessons from ICT projects in Uganda, from 1996 to 2004 the growth in the number of fixed telephone lines had risen from 46,000 to 71,272. More impressively, mobile phone subscribers increased from 3,500 to an incredible 987,456 in the same period. The government also planned to award service agreements to three or more internet service providers to render universal internet access services (through Internet Points of Presence) in 32 designated districts. However the number of telecommunications providers has also increased since 2004.

The growth in the ICT sector is but one aspect of Uganda’s impressive first steps into what some call “the new economy,” the knowledge and information economy. It is also essential to understand the various ways in which projects or experiences using ICTs can have an impact on the most important aspects of Ugandan life: governance, education, health and livelihood.

ICT is an important catalyst for social transformation and national progress. Disparities in levels of ICT readiness and usage could translate into disparities in levels of productivity and hence, different rates of economic growth. It is also important to observe that ICTs can lead to economic growth.

Providing access to rural areas is a big challenge generally in Uganda. On the supply side, limiting factors include infrastructure, maintenance, equipment supplies, staff capacity and transport while on the demand side they include money, and awareness on how these services can be used to improve livelihoods.

The role of cultural factors including language cannot be overlooked in the development and impact of ICTs especially the internet. The dominance of European languages, especially English has been a limiting factor in the growth of internet use in many parts of Africa. In this sense the internet excludes not only the illiterate but those with low English literacy levels. The question of language must be taken seriously and is part of the larger question of the cultural content of ICT products and services.

There is no question that the full potential of the internet for Africa will only be realized if indigenous languages are incorporated. If the development of local content is left to software developers, this will result in loss of control and ownership over the language, as software and hardware designers set new protocols of linguistic standardization as is already happening to some languages in several parts of the world.

There has been little success so far on relevant content in African languages related to African issues on the World Wide Web. In rural areas and poor urban areas of Uganda, education levels are low and many people use their traditional languages. Local content and local language application on the internet may become more important in the coming years as access to ICTs in rural areas improve. It is therefore important that organizations develop strong documentation practices both in English and local languages.

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Kenya Poll Violence: Spreading the Word of Hate

Posted on 23 January 2008. Filed under: Governance, ICT, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
The government issued a warning by SMS to all Kenyans to beware of inflammatory speech in the aftermath of contested presidential elections in 2007

NAIROBI, 22 January 2008 (IRIN) – Inflammatory statements and songs broadcast on vernacular radio stations and at party rallies, text messages, emails, posters and leaflets have all contributed to post-electoral violence in Kenya, according to analysts. Hundreds of homes have been burnt, more than 600 people killed and 250,000 displaced.

While the mainstream media, both English and Swahili, have been praised for their even-handedness, vernacular radio broadcasts have been of particular concern, given the role of Kigali’s Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines in inciting people to slaughter their neighbours in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

“There’s been a lot of hate speech, sometimes thinly veiled. The vernacular radio stations have perfected the art,” Caesar Handa, chief executive of Strategic Research, told IRIN. His company was contracted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to monitor the media coverage given to the main political parties in Kenya in the run-up to the 27 December presidential and parliamentary elections.

Among the FM stations that Handa singled out for criticism were the Kalenjin-language station Kass, the Kikuyu stations Iroono and Kameme and the Luo station, Lake Victoria.

“The call-in shows are the most notorious,” said Handa. “The announcers don’t really have the ability to check what the callers are going to say.”

''There’s been a lot of hate speech, thinly veiled. The vernacular radio stations have perfected the art''

Handa heard Kalenjin callers on Kass FM making negative comments about other ethnic groups, who they call “settlers”, in their traditional homeland, Rift Valley Province.

“You hear cases of ‘Let’s reclaim our land. Let’s reclaim our birthright’. Let’s claim our land means you want to evict people [other ethnic communities] from the place,” said Handa.

One difficulty in monitoring such stations is that the language used is often quite subtle and obscure.

On Kass FM, there were references to the need for “people of the milk” to “cut grass” and complaints that the mongoose has come and “stolen our chicken”, according to Kamanda Mucheke, senior human rights officer with the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), which monitored hate speech in the countdown to the elections.

The Kalenjin call themselves people of the milk because they are pastoralists by tradition and the mongoose is a reference to Kikuyus who have bought land in Rift Valley, Mucheke said. On another occasion, a caller emphasised the need to “get rid of weeds”, which could be interpreted as a reference to non-Kalenjin ethnic groups.

Out of tune

Vernacular music has also been used to raise ethnic tensions. The two Kikuyu stations, Kameme and Inooro, played songs “talking very badly about beasts from the west”, a veiled reference to opposition leader Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) colleagues, who come from western Kenya, said Handa. Radio Lake Victoria played a Luo-language song by DO Misiani, which referred to “the leadership of baboons”.

KNCHR singled out a Kikuyu song by Miuga Njoroge, broadcast on Inooro FM, as worrying. “I hear it was sponsored by the [governing] Party of National Unity,” said Mucheke. “The gist of it is Raila [Odinga] is a murderer. He is power hungry. He doesn’t care about other tribes. He only cares about his tribe, the Luo community. It says that Luos are lazy. They don’t work. They are hooligans. That when they rent houses, they don’t pay rent.”

By allowing such sentiments to be voiced on air, observers say, they earn a degree of legitimacy that can be used to justify attacks on other ethnic groups.

“Hate speech is contributing in a big way to get people to take action as a result of the anger they have been feeling individually. You might have an individual feeling but when entire communities are rallied to a cause, people find justification and find the community would support them, [for example] if they burned a house belonging to a Kikuyu. It’s not something the community is going to frown upon,” said Handa.


Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A woman suffers in a teargas attack during a demonstration in the Mathare slums, Nairobi

However, Mucheke said KNCHR had witnessed “a remarkable reduction” in incidents of hate speech by the media in 2007 compared with 2005, when there was a referendum on a new constitution. That period marked a dramatic escalation in polarisation of the Kenyan population into two ethnic voting blocks, with most Kikuyu, Embu and Meru people supporting the government and voting for the new draft constitution, while other communities, particularly Luo, Kalenjin and Luhyas, backed the opposition in campaigning against it.

Analysts attributed the reduction in hate speech to the fact that radio stations are now being monitored. Three days before the November 2005 referendum, Kass FM was taken off air by the government, which alleged it was inciting listeners to violence. The station was only allowed to resume operations after submitting recordings of its transmissions to the government.

KNCHR’s major concern in the lead-up to the 2007 elections was hate speech by politicians. In its October report, Still Behaving Badly, KNCHR cited comments by former minister of information Mutahi Kagwe at a rally in his Mukurweini constituency on 13 October.

“We are told that people will not be paying rent [if ODM win the election]. Even your milk which is now selling at 17 shillings will be declared free. Since independence we have never had such a dangerous man [as opposition leader Raila Odinga] who wants to destroy our government,” Kagwe said.

In another speech, Kagwe compared Odinga to Idi Amin and Hitler, warning his audience that Odinga will start “suppressing us” like those dictators if he wins.

Hate texts

A more anonymous way of spreading hate has been through emails and text messages.

One text sent before three days of demonstrations, called by the opposition ODM from 16 January, read in part: “We say no more innocent kikuyu blood will be shed. We will slaughter them right here in the capital city. For justice, compile a list of all luos and kaleos [slang for the Kalenjin ethnic group] you know at work, your estate, anywhere in Nairobi, plus where and how their children go to school. We will give you number to text this info.”

The majority of Kikuyus supported Kibaki, while Luos and Kalenjins overwhelmingly voted for ODM.

Many Kenyans, used to making derogatory statements about other ethnic groups, do not realise the implications of what they are doing, according to Linda Ochiel, principal human rights officer at KNCHR.


Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
An internally displaced woman gets food for herself and her child at the Nakuru showgrounds

“People treat it as a big joke. They don’t know such stereotypes eventually get fixated in people’s minds when they begin to kill people. It’s one of the triggers of violence in this country. When we begin to dehumanise other Kenyans and depict them as animals, it’s easy to take a machete and hack them to death,” she told IRIN.

Another serious issue is the circulation of leaflets warning certain ethnic communities to leave their areas.

According to one report, leaflets were distributed in and around Bungoma town on 10 January urging Kikuyu, Meru and Embu people to leave the area immediately. It read in part: “Notice to all landlords. Please take note that no Mount Kenya Mafia is your tenant lest you face the consequences. Avail quit notices to them immediately with no hesitation. Comply immediately!”

The Mount Kenya Mafia is a name commonly given to the influential Kikuyu, Meru and Embu politicians who are closest to President Mwai Kibaki. Bungoma is in pro-opposition Western Province.

On 21 January, the Daily Nation newspaper reported that the hand of a man who had been murdered by a gang was found on the Ukunda-Lunga Lunda road near the coastal city of Mombasa “with a chilling message attached … directing members of two communities to vacate the region”.

Government action

Analysts complained of a lack of political will to solve the problem.

After the 2005 referendum, KNCHR tried to sue members of parliament who had used hate speech but the Attorney General terminated the case. In 2007, the rights group tried to introduce legislation into Parliament incriminating hate speech. It was rejected by MPs who said it would be used to curtail their freedom of expression.

This has created a culture of impunity.

“When action is not taken against people who openly make statements which are inflammatory, people keep doing it because they know they will get away with it,” said Ochiel.

“We want people prosecuted. We would like them to be held accountable. They are responsible for the people who have died,” she said. The government had issued a nationwide text message on 3 January advising “that the sending of hate messages inciting violence is an offence that could result in prosecution”.

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African Leaders Endorse ICT To Cut Poverty

Posted on 6 November 2007. Filed under: ICT, Poverty |

 

*The leaders agreed that access to ICT is a priority

[KIGALI] African leaders have unanimously agreed to improve access to information communication technology (ICT) to address the continent’s development shortfalls and cut poverty by 2012. The African leaders gathered in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, last week (29 October) at the ‘Connect Africa Summit’ — convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) — to discuss ways of ensuring better access to ICT.

In support of this, the World Bank announced at the summit that it will double its financing for African ICT initiatives, to US$2 billion over the next five years. The ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure said the meeting in Kigali is a way to stimulate the implementation of past resolutions agreed at international conferences, such as achieving universal ICT access for Africa.

Information ministers, who met a day before the conference, agreed that all ICT infrastructure initiatives must be interlinked to facilitate delivery of both energy and access to ICTs. Leaders at the conference emphasised the need to create ‘digital villages’ so that people in rural areas would be less likely to migrate to urban areas.

Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, said the biggest hindrance to Africa’s development has been its lack of ability to provide fast Internet and telecommunications access to the millions of people, such as farmers, who require access to market information to sell their products at the best prices. “In ten short years, what was once an object of luxury and privilege, the mobile phone, has become a basic necessity in Africa,” he said. Better technologies would also give African farmers access to information on seed varieties and better farming methods, and using new technologies in medical fields could also lead to the expansion of services such as telemedicine.

Senegalese president Abdulaye Wade said the introduction of telemedicine in his country had resulted in a “cultural revolution” which saw doctors operate on a pregnant woman 500 kilometres away. Senegal is currently introducing new diagnostic technologies to digitally “revolutionise” its entire healthcare system, he said. Sha Zukang, UN under-secretary general on economic and social affairs said building a knowledge economy in Africa would not happen without adequately trained ICT personnel.

Source: SciDev.Net

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Pioneering E-learning in Kenya To Boost Nurse Numbers

Posted on 25 October 2007. Filed under: ICT, Public Health |

Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRINThe e-learning programme allows nurses wanting to upgrade their qualifications to continue working while they study.

An ambitious new e-learning programme is aiming to mitigate the severe nursing shortfall in Kenya and boost the country’s ability to manage diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

“In Kenya, 85 percent of nurses are of the most basic cadre, and at the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) it ordinarily takes two and a half years to finish an upgrade, while with e-learning it only takes one year,” said Marsden Momanyi, media officer of the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), a health development NGO facilitating the programme.

The project, which began in 2005, aims to upgrade the skills of 22,000 Kenyan nurses over a five-year period, a task that would take the KMTC 220 years at its current intake level of 100 students per year. “This training programme will have a fundamental impact on our nursing numbers,” said Momanyi.

AMREF and the health ministry’s Nursing Council of Kenya are running the project jointly, with funding from global consulting firm Accenture.

“So far, more than 100 learning centres have been established across the country, and more than 2,000 students have started the e-learning programme,” Momanyi said. The qualification takes the nurses from basic status to a more advanced ‘registered’ status.

Apart from a shortage of higher-cadre nurses, Kenya faces a general shortfall of nursing staff that is severely straining a health system already struggling to cope with the rise of epidemics like HIV and TB over the past two decades.

The East African country has lost more than 3,000 of its most experienced nurses in the past five years, with most leaving the continent for jobs in Europe and the United States, where they can earn considerably more than the less than US$300 per month they make at home.

It is estimated that at least another 10,000 nurses are needed, in addition to the 25,000 already employed in the public and private health sectors, to provide adequate care to Kenya’s 34 million citizens.

“By international nursing standards, for every eight-hour shift a nurse with a basic diploma should have 10 patients, while a nurse with an advanced certificate should have five patients under their care,” said Paul Kavoo, nursing officer-in-chief at Thika District Hospital, northeast of the capital, Nairobi, in Central Province.

“But in this country, the situation is such that a nurse with the most basic qualification cares for up to 40 patients per shift, while one with an advanced certificate cares for 16 to 18.”

Although Thika hospital has an official bed capacity of 265, there are often close to 400 in-patients, with many sharing beds. Kavoo said the hospital needed 350 nurses but was operating with just 234.

Two tiny rooms at Thika hospital, containing fewer than 10 computers, serve as one of the AMREF project’s e-learning centres; students are grateful even for such limited facilities.

“Both my wife and I are students in this programme, and if we had to go to KMTC then one of us would have had to quit work to go to school full-time,” said Joseph Warutere. “This way, although it is very time consuming, we can both carry on working while we get our qualifications.”

He got his basic training in 1986, and said the e-learning programme was giving him a much-needed update. “Although the basic tenets of nursing remain the same, this programme places a lot of emphasis on management of emerging diseases like HIV and TB, and because we are still working while we do it, we are able to put into direct practice what we are learning.”

Programme participants are guided by in-hospital mentors, with lectures by specialists a few times a month.

Kenya’s internet access is generally limited to urban areas, so the course uses software that can be downloaded onto a computer. A further 2,000 students who have no access to computers are using print versions of the programme, which take slightly longer to complete.

“Access to computers is a big issue and a challenge for us – at the moment we have provided over 400 computers, but this is still one computer to five nursing students; we need to do better,” Momanyi said.

Another hurdle is that many rural nurses are not computer literate and need lessons in how to operate a computer before they can start the course. According to Lucy Muhoro, an e-learning mentor at Thika hospital, “the mouse is like a miracle” to many students.

“It wasn’t easy for me, because I had to learn from scratch how to use the computer,” said George Arumba, also a student at Thika. “I did a short course before I started, and now I’m finding it easier.”

The cost of the course – about US$1,500 – has also prevented many potential students from signing up. “Many students get loans and others get support from their families; a few are on scholarships from various organisations, but for most it’s very tough,” said Adesuwa Akinboro, head of e-learning at AMREF. The organisation is working with its partners to advocate for institutional funding and subsidies for nurses in the programme.

The first batch of e-learning graduates received their certificates in October of this year, in Nairobi. AMREF is reviewing the possibility of replicating the programme in other countries in the region facing severe nursing shortages.

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Kenya Faces an E-Waste Time Bomb

Posted on 20 September 2007. Filed under: Environment, ICT |

The world is consuming more and more electronic products every year and the amount of electronic waste discarded globally has skyrocketed recently, with 20-50 million tonnes generated every year! This has caused a dangerous explosion in electronic scrap (e-waste) containing toxic chemicals and heavy metals that cannot be disposed of or recycled safely. But this problem can be avoided with the help of electronic consumers and manufacturers. Greenpeace International is at the forefront in pressing leading electronic companies to change; to turn back the toxic tide of e-waste.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of old computers and mobile phones are dumped in landfills or burned in smelters. Thousands more are exported, often illegally, from the Europe, US, Japan and other industrialized countries, to Asia and Africa. There, workers at scrap yards, some of whom are children, are exposed to a cocktail of toxic chemicals and poisons.

20061204_monitors.jpgObsolete computer monitors are stacked ready for shipment.

In its October 2005 report, “The Digital Dump: Exporting Re-use and Abuse to Africa,” the Basel Action Network found that e-wastes are entering African port cities such as Lagos, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, and Cairo in shiploads. Collecting information for that report, witnesses saw huge piles of e-waste throughout the Nigerian countryside. “We saw people using e-waste to fill in swamps,” Puckett recalls. “Whenever the piles got too high, they would torch them.” Residents complained about breathing the toxic fumes, but the dumps were never cleaned up. “We saw kids roaming barefoot over this material, not to mention chickens and goats,” which are later eaten by residents.

gsm-waste.jpg
The situation at home in Kenya is reaching crisis proportions, the notorious Dandora Dumpsite in Nairobi’s Eastlands area, is choking with electronic waste ranging from obsolete television sets, computers, and fridges to mobile phones and batteries – all containing highly toxic substances. Residents surrounding the area risk contracting cancer, respiratory and skin diseases due to poisonous by-products namely lead, cadmium and mercury from electronic waste. Apart from waste discarded by Kenyans, the country also received hundreds of container loads of e-waste each month from developing countries disguised as ‘donations’.

Although there are environmental laws in Kenya that hold to account those generating toxic waste, and with the failure to comply with waste disposal standards carrying a penalty of Sh500,000 or a prison term of 18 months, Kenya faces continues to face environmental and health problems due to indiscriminate, unregulated and trade in dumping of harmful electronic waste. The prospects of this threat is made worse when one considers that Kenya is at the verge of an IT revolution and the mobile phone industry is currently at more than seven million active lines.

The rate at which these mountains of obsolete electronic products are growing will reach crisis proportions unless electronics corporations that make mega profits from making and selling these devices face up to their responsibilities. It is possible to make clean, durable products that can be upgraded, recycled, or disposed of safely and don’t end up as hazardous waste in third word country’s dumpsites.

In order to keep Kenya at the forefront in fighting this problem, please read and discover more about e-waste and it has evolved to be the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream because manufacturers are developing products that have a shorter lifespan.

Also read and understand what happens after electronic waste is thrown away and how they end up in Nairobi, Lagos and other third world countries.

Greenpeace International have also released their ‘Guide to Greener Electronics’ which ranks 14 top manufacturers of computers and mobile phones according to their policies on toxic chemicals and recycling. That is a must read before you buy your next mobile phone or computer. Readers may also take their time to read suggested solutions to this worldwide problem and what you can personally do in order to alleviate this problem that is apparently hurting the poor, especially children.

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals

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