Snapshots is a monthly roundup of Science, Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (STIP) related highlights, events and opportunities in West Africa. The USAID West Africa Mission partners with the Global Development Lab in Washington to better utilize existing tools, technologies, evidence and innovative approaches and to further STIP approaches within the mission. This newsletter is an opportunity to share ways you can plug into the wealth of STIP knowledge available across the region and become a STIP Champion in your organization. Please read on to learn more about STIP in West Africa, sign up to receive future newsletters, submit topics for future issues and share the newsletter with your network.
As this is the last Newsletter for 2016, we would like to wish you a happy new year.
Interactive Voice Response Creatively Used in YALI Pitch Competition
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) refers to the use of any type of phone to either deliver or collect information via audio recordings. It can also allow users to provide feedback about the information they are giving or receiving by using the keypad to respond to voice prompts. IVR technology has been used extensively in development in areas of health, peace and governance and education. Recently, the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center used IVR technology to collect 1- minute business pitches from across the West African region for a business competitionit held in conjunction with local radio station, 3FM. The competition was open to all entrepreneurs with viable start-ups or SMEs not older than 3 years. Once applications closed, all eligible pitches were given a unique short code that could be sent to colleagues and peers to listen and vote for the pitch they liked the best. Sixty- nine entrepreneurs submitted their 3FM Business Pitch and hundreds of people voted to help narrow the list to the top 20 entrepreneurs who would then be vetted by a panel of investor judges. This unique way of sourcing applications ensured all people from all walks of life could participate since anyone with access to any kind of phone would be able to participate. The voting process created an opportunity for youth to engage with the YALI program and familiarize themselves with the opportunities that existed therein. The partnership between YALI and 3FM leveraged a large listener audience and engaged people in an activity that shed positive light on youth leaders across the region.
Congratulations to the winners of the Pitch Competition!
Video: Joshua Joseph, One of the winners from the 3FM Pitch Competition done in partnership with the YALI competition, speaks about his experience entering the competition.
Land Registry App Scaled from Tanzania to Burkina Faso
USAID’s Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) project is making it easier to map out land ownership for registry. Through an easy to use, open-source mobile application, the project empowers villagers with the training and tools to map the boundaries of their land and gather the demographic and tenure information that government officials can then use to issue formal land rights documents. This technology was first launched in Tanzania where youth were selected and trained to act as "trained intermediaries" to capture the land boundaries. Once the data was captured, they uploaded the information to a cloud based database that would be accessed by the land office for the creation of Land Certificates. The program is being scaled beyond the pilot districts in Tanzania and has now been adapted for use in Burkina Faso. In Burkina, the Observatoire National du Foncier(National Land Observatory), will pilot MAST in Boudry Commune, near the nation’s capital, Ouagadougou. The MAST app has been translated into French, and updated to fit stricter GPS mapping accuracy requirements, in line with Burkina Faso’s laws.
Photograph:Young Tanzanian man holding smartphone with MAST App showing on screen
Democracy Delivered Through Technology in Ghana
On December 7th, Ghana held their fifth democratic election under their Fourth Republic. The exercise was deemed free, fair and peaceful by local and international bodies as Ghanaians voted out the incumbent President John Dramani Mahama in favor of the main opponent Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. USAID worked in partnership with a number of local institutions to provide resources and capacity building for election observation, vote tabulation, inclusive voting practices and peace messages.
This election employed the use of technology and innovation in a number of ways. During observations, thousands of election observers were using tablets and phones to communicate reports of incidents. This ensured institutions recieved timely information about disturbances. As polling stations began reporting numbers, collation centers by the Electoral Commision (EC), media and political parties were tech enabled and used software for effective tabulation of results. The EC showed progress in communication through the use of social media to engage with media, civil organizations and ordinary citizens. They also offered a mobile application in order to communicate official results. Overall, the Ghana election employed a diverse set of tech- enabled strategies to increase transparency, ensure expediency of declaration of results and provide assurances to the electorate that would prevent violence. Congratulations are truly in order to both the institutions in Ghana and the people for ensuring fair, free, peaceful and inclusive elections for the nation.
Photograph: USAID/Ghana Mission Director, Andrew Karas (left) observes the biometric voter verification device at a polling station in Accra. Photo credit: U.S. Embassy in Ghana
Afrilabs Annual Gathering in Ghana
At the end of October, AfriLabs, the first pan-African network of technology innovation hubs on the continent held its first ever Annual Gathering. The Annual Gathering was an opportunity for techies to come together from across the continent to discuss important issues in the tech community, especially as it relates to growing tech hubs and ensuring they facilitate the creation of sustainable tech ecosystems. Over 20 African countries were represented with invited guests like Michael Oluwagbemi, Board Chair of Afrilabs and Jumanne Mtambalike founder of Sahara Ventures, providing important insight into trends happening in innovation hubs across the continent. The discussions focused heavily on the values of a) building ecosystems with feedback loops, b) creating a welcoming policy environment and c) collaborating more with private sector players to ensure ideas that come from the hubs can be adequately scaled. Everything from agritech to e-commerce to public sector innovations were featured through workshops, demos, group conversations and presentations. The Afrilabs Annual Gathering was primarily sponsored by Making all Voices Count, an initiative that funds innovations that target good governance and accountability and is jointly funded by USAID and three other donors.
Photograph: Michael Oluwagbemi, Board Chair of Afrilabs, gives an address to attendees of the Afrilabs Annual Gathering.
Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI) Learning Lab Launched
On November 30th, 2016, the USAID Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI), implemented by DAI Global, officially launched the the Capacity Development Post under the LAVI Learning Lab. The Learning Lab is a network of actors committed to multi-stakeholder advocacy strategies to promote issue-based reforms in Liberia. The Learning Lab is also part of the iCampus in Monrovia and serves as a work space for those focusing on the intersection of technology, accountability and social change in Liberia. The Learning Lab, through its partnership with iCampus acts as a physical and virtual space for youth-focused ICT and governance training; a networking and innovation hub; and a focal point for elections and open governance work. The space allows for collaborative meetings to take place for information sharing and learning and for people to participate in training opportunities . In addition to providing space and opportunities for dialogue, the Learning Lab utilizes cutting-edge technologies that enable communities to expand skill sets and build new partnerships towards collective change. As part of the work of the Learning Lab, The Capacity Development Post is a learning hub where civil society organizations (CSOs) and other advocacy actors in Liberia can find local capacity development service providers that can aid in their institutional capacity development.
Photograph: Members of the LAVI Natural Resource Management (NRM) Coalition Steering Committee met for the first time at the LAVI Learning Lab on the day of its formal launch.
Knowledge Sharing is an integral part of innovation. This section provides interesting headlines and snippets of the latest tech news and highlights from across the West Africa region.
"Boost Africa, a joint initiative between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), and one of the flagship initiatives of the AfDB’s Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy, aims to harness the continent’s potential, and create opportunities. It will support the development of affordable solutions to fundamental challenges affecting those at the base of the pyramid, from access to energy and healthcare to financial services, education and internet connectivity. Supporting start-ups also means sustaining the democratisation of the economy, in a context characterised by an unequal distribution of wealth and high barriers for newcomers to start a business."
"The Government of Kenya has launched Ajira Digital, an online platform aimed at leveraging on online opportunities to create jobs for Kenyans. The ICT ministry estimates that the platform will enable one million young Kenyans to access online jobs over the next year."
"Senegal has recently become only the second country in the world to introduce a digital currency based on blockchain technology. Named eCFA, the digital currency will be legal tender just as the current currency, CFA Franc, is. Senegal’s eCFA comes from a partnership by Banque Régionale de Marchés (BRM) and eCurrency Mint Limited, where BRM will issue the digital tender currency, the eCFA, in compliance with e-money regulations of the Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO), the Central Bank of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU)."
"To better understand the success factors for mobile money, the GSMA (Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association) partnered with Shawn Cole, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Jake Kendall, the Director of Digital Financial Services Lab at Caribou Digital, to examine the relative importance of key business and market characteristics on the growth of active mobile money accounts, as well as on mobile money transaction volumes and values through multi-variable regression analyses. These facts are remarkable and suggest that an enabling regulatory framework can promote the growth of the digital financial services industry, that Multinational Organization-led services may be better suited to offer widely adopted digital financial services. Indeed, by allowing additional number of countries adopting an enabling regulatory frameworks, the mobile money industry can further extend the reach of financial inclusion, with services achieving greater scale and improving the lives of low-income population."
A 13-week programme which offers mentorship, support and access to Barclay's network of knowledge and experience. They are looking for a diverse group of businesses, both from within the African continent and from around the globe to help shape the future of financial services. Deadline: Feb 5, 2017
Did you know that USAID spent $425 million on research and development in FY15, and that 88% of that was programmed by Global Health, Bureau of Food Security and the Global Development Lab? Learn more about what our Agency is doing worldwide to support research and development here.
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) is an international grants program that funds scientists and engineers in developing countries who partner with U.S. government-funded researchers to address global development challenges. Cycle 6 of the PEER program has announced its 2016 funding opportunities for developing country researchers and scientists. More info on how to submit a proposal here.
Deadline: Jan 13, 2017.
LEARNING: Co- Creation Demystified
During this Innovation Learning Series event, Global Health will discuss its experience using co-creation under a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to pursue innovations in HIV treatment. Dial in: 712-451-0011, Passcode 262949. AdobeConnect link. Date: Jan 12, 2017, 10:30-11:30am EST (RRB 7.08-450) USAID ONLY
This Grand Challenge seeks to identify and develop transformative approaches that integrate the latest behavior change approaches with scientific and technological advancements, better service delivery models, and improved "demand side" innovations that empower pregnant women and their families to practice healthy behaviors and be aware of and access healthcare during pregnancy, childbirth, and the early postnatal period, especially the first 2 days after birth. There is particular interest in investing in and supporting approaches that integrate Read more here. Deadline: February 24, 2017