Ushahidi launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new product, The BRCK. The campaign has raised more than $65,000 in the first five days.
The BRCK: a small, lightweight box about the size of a real brick, designed for portability and providing more reliable means of staying connected where connectivity is a constant issue.
For Ushahidi, the Kenyan-based company behind BRCK, inspiration was no further than their own office in Nairobi. “As a company full of engineers working in places with poor infrastructure, we simply can’t get online as much as our peers in the developed world,” said Erik Hersman, Director of Operations for Ushahidi. “We asked ourselves: why is the networking equipment used in Kenya, India, and the rest of the developing world the same as that used in the USA and Europe, when the conditions aren’t similar at all?”
BRCK is a modem for the global, mobile market. Ushahidi is a team of programmers who are constantly on the move, from cafes in San Francisco, to the iHub in Nairobi, to working in crisis situations like the Haiti earthquake. Ushahidi says that “being constantly handicapped with spotty internet access has led them to realize that the way the entire world is connecting to the web is changing. We no longer only get online via desktops in our office, we have multiple devices, and we are all constantly on the move. So Ushahidi set out to redesign the modem for the changing way we all connect to the web.”
They call the device the BRCK, and it's designed for the changing way we connect to the web around the world, from cafes-hoppers in San Francisco to struggling coders in Nairobi. "It works like a mobile phone, intelligently and seamlessly switching between Ethernet, Wifi Bridge, and 3/4G connection whenever the user’s preferred network is down. Plug in a SIM card -- the same card that measures the minutes of talk and megabytes of data for a phone -- and with its 8-hour battery the BRCK provides a fully functioning network anytime and anywhere in reach of cell service.
The BRCK is also a software infused device, operating in the cloud with its own website that you can access from anywhere to check how WiFi and electricity are performing, or manage alerts and applications.
“One of Ushahidi’s favorite sayings has always been ‘If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere,’ and that remains true for our new product, the BRCK,” said Hersman. Nathaniel Manning, Ushahidi’s Director of Business Strategy added “The emergence of a hardware product from an African company marks a phase-change point for tech invention. The BRCK shows that great ideas can come from anywhere, that innovation comes from solving real problems with constrained resources. Change happens at the frontier.”
The company knows about working in challenging environments. Ushahidi -- a Swahili word for “testimony” -- began during a media blackout following the 2008 Kenyan presidential election, launching software for election monitoring via SMS. Since then, their open source software is used for monitoring crises and elections to fixing potholes around the world, mostly in less than ideal conditions.
More information is also available at the official product website at brck.com
New figures today from the United Nations educational agency show that the number of children out of school dipped slightly last year over 2011.
Fifty-seven million children were out of school in 2011, according to the UN Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, down just two million from the previous year.
The agency also points out that the challenge of getting more children into school is being compounded by the fact that aid to basic education decreased for the first time in more than a decade.
"We are at a critical juncture," said the Director-General of the UN Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova. "Now is not the time for aid donors to back out."
She stressed that the world must move beyond simply helping children enter school to ensuring that they actually learn the basics literacy and numeracy skills when they are there.
UNESCO notes that at least one out of every four children that do enrol stay in school - a figure that has not changed since 2000. About 137 million children began primary school in 2011 but at least 34 million are likely to drop out before reaching the last grade.
The figure drops to one out of three students in Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia, which have the highest rate of early school dropout.
"Our twin challenge is to get every child in school by understanding and acting on the multiple causes of exclusion, and to ensure they learn with qualified teachers in healthy and safe environments," Ms. Bokova said.
Aid to basic education declined by six per cent between 2010 and 2011, according to new analysis from the Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Six of the top education donors that year cut funding, among them Canada, the Netherlands and the World Bank (IDA), leaving the United Kingdom as the largest bilateral donor to basic education.
In addition, the report calls for donors to prioritize countries and regions most in need. Only $1.9 billion was allocated to low income countries in 2011, according to UNESCO, a reduction of nine per cent and significantly short of the $26 billion needed to fill the finance gap for basic education.
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa account for more than half of all out-of-school children and have the highest out-of-school rate, the Institute for Statistics reported. Aid to Nigeria, for example, the country that is home to the largest number of out of school children in the world, dropped by more than a quarter from 2010 to 2011.
More than 20 per cent of African children have never attended primary school or have left school without completing primary education. By contrast, countries in South and West Asia, which also have high drop-out rates, have made considerable gains over the past two decades, reducing the number of out-of-school children by two-thirds from 38 million in 1999 to 12 million in 2011.
"Children in poor, remote areas, those affected by conflict, or those belonging to ethnic, racial and linguistic minorities are denied an opportunity for schooling," UNESCO said in a news release.
In addition, children from poor households are three times as likely to be out of school as children from rich households. Access to education is particularly difficult for girls from poor households in rural areas.
The release of the figures comes ahead of tomorrow's high-level discussions in New York in support of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Global Education First Initiative and Mr. Ban's Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown, to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship by the end of 2015.
In 2000, Governments meeting in Dakar set six education goals to be met by 2015. One of these, Universal Primary Education, was also set as one of the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are to be achieved by the same date.
To accelerate progress towards universal education, Mr. Ban launched last September his Global Education First Initiative. UNESCO hosts its Secretariat.
Source: UN News
In London on 8 June, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, together with an array of presidents, prime ministers, businesspeople and philanthropists, signed the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, an agreement to improve the nutrition of children and pregnant women around the world. Inside the meeting room, organizers said they had secured new commitments of up to US$4.15 billion to tackle undernutrition between now and 2020; outside, in Hyde Park, activists laid a carpet of flower petals to represent the lives of children lost each year through malnutrition.
The children represented by those petals do not starve to death. Rather, many of them die of diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria or measles - the usual child-killer diseases - but under-nutrition is an underlying factor in many of these fatalities. Being poorly nourished more than doubles a child’s likelihood of dying.
A major new Lancet series on maternal and child nutrition attempts to quantify the damage done by poor nutrition. Taking into account infant mortality linked to undernourished mothers and nutrition-linked birth defects, the authors of the study estimate that poor nutrition is the root cause of 45 percent of child deaths - 3.1 million deaths among children under age five each year.
Mortality figures would seem to be the ultimate measure of the world’s failure on nutrition, but the broader damage, say many in the field, is to children’s long-term development.
Sally Grantham-McGregor, of the Institute of Child Health, said, “Really, we have to move on from the outcome being death. We know that once children get severely malnourished, their development is going to be bad. Once a child is severely malnourished, feeding alone will only save their lives, not their brains. We are perpetuating the cycle of poverty, and we have got to break it.”
There has been progress since the last such report was published five years ago. The number of the world’s children who are stunted - who never grow to their potential height - has dropped steadily over the past two decades, from more than 253 million in 1990 to 167 million in 2010. The drop has been especially dramatic in Asia. In Africa, the percentage of stunted children has dropped, but population growth means that the numbers affected have actually risen.
In the past five years, there has also been a steady accumulation of knowledge about what works to reduce malnutrition. This new Lancet series aims to go further than its predecessor by presenting a list of 10 interventions whose effects are backed by scientific evidence.
It recommends: universal salt iodisation; the promotion of early and exclusive breastfeeding; micronutrient supplementation for all pregnant women; calcium supplements for pregnant women who need them; food supplements for pregnant women who need them; vitamin A supplements for children between six months and five years old; zinc supplements for children between one and five years old; education about appropriate complementary feeding, backed by supplements where needed; proper management moderate acute malnutrition; and proper management of severe acute malnutrition.
The authors estimate that if this package achieves 90 percent coverage in the 34 countries with the highest malnutrition burdens, it could save nearly a million lives a year at a cost of $9.6 billion.
The lead author of the paper on interventions, Zulfiqar Bhutta, of Pakistan’s Aga Khan University, said, “We believe that these 10 nutrition-specific interventions have the potential to save lives. The cost is affordable for a world which spends close to a hundred times more than this on conflict.”
The World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed the proposed package. Its executive director, Ertharin Cousin, told IRIN, “We believe that it’s very helpful, a recognition that the provision of interventions does make a difference in an area where WFP has a comparative advantage - distributing micronutrient support to mothers and to children… And we have now announced a partnership with UNFPA [the UN Population Fund] where we will support pregnant and lactating women’s access to nutritious food, as well as adolescent girls.”
Interventions that do not directly involve nutrition also have a role to play. The health of adolescent girls, their education level, and the age at which they marry and start to have children all affect the nutritional status of their children. Targeted agricultural programmes can improve child nutrition, as can social safety nets and other programmes to reduce poverty. But one of the hurdles to improving mother and child nutrition is that it must bring together many different disciplines and agencies.
Political will needed
Better nutrition is now a more high-profile cause than it has been in the past. The food price spike of 2008 brought the issue to the fore, and the UN high-level panel on post-2015 development goals has recommended the inclusion of a separate goal on nutrition.
But Lancet editor Richard Horton told a symposium on the series: “The high-level panel is only one strand of [a] series of political processes that are taking place over the next six to 12 months. So although we should feel good that nutrition and food security are there, we should not be complacent about its position in the political process.”
Talking about ways of building commitment on the issue, Lawrence Haddad, the director of the UK’s Institute of Development Studies, stressed the need for political action. “You don’t often see the words ‘politics’ and ‘malnutrition together’… but international development is political - no two ways about it. And malnutrition is potentially more political than some other issues because it needs lots of different actors to come together to act in concert towards something that none of them could achieve on their own, and that requires a lot of coordination and alignment of incentives… Also, we know that malnutrition in many of its guises is invisible.”
Haddad says malnutrition must be reduced through deliberate action. Improvements in nutritional status tend to lag behind economic growth, he said, meaning people must apply pressure to make their leaders fulfil their commitments.“ Let’s will the politicians to act,” he said.
Niamey — In Niger, a country where 67% of the population is under 25 years of age, the problem of youth unemployment and underemployment is acute, given that the lack of job opportunities threatens to undermine the country's political and economic stability.
"You, the young people of Niger, have the potential to become an engine for development in Niger, provided that sufficient investments are made in health and human capital," said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director of the World Bank Group, during her recent visit to Niger at a meeting held at the World Bank offices in Niamey with about 40 young entrepreneurs, civil society representatives, officials, and students.
To tackle youth unemployment, the World Bank has recently launched a program focused on vocational training and will invest $US30 million in the "Niger Skills Development for Growth Project" over a six-year period. The idea is to promote entrepreneurship (11,000 young people aged 15 to 25 will be targeted by this program).
"As a result of the poor quality of primary school education, the fact that secondary education is limited and ill-suited to current needs, and the lack of options for technical and vocational education and training (TVET), young people lack the academic, technical, and entrepreneurial knowledge required by the job market," explained Boubou Cissé, a World Bank economist based in Niamey.
"Consequently, unemployment, underemployment, and a shortage of skilled labor coexist, and this represents not only an impediment to development but also a source of frustration among youth. Clearly," he added, "it is also a contributing factor to social instability."
Although the socioeconomic conditions of young people have improved somewhat over the past few years, and the primary school enrollment rate rose from 37% in 2001 to 76.1% in 2010/2011, there are still sharp disparities between regions, socio-economic groups, and genders.
In 2011, the national gross enrollment ratio (GER) for boys was 84.9% compared to 67.3% for girls, while the GER in urban areas was 99.1% as against 70% in rural areas. In contrast, in secondary school, the gross enrollment ratio was 10% in 2010.
According to figures from the Ministry of Vocational Training (cited in a study on the vocational integration of youth in Niger by the economist Anne Le Bissonnais), a million and a half young people ages 13 to 19 are neither in school nor employed, and more than 50,000 graduates are unemployed.
The adult literacy rate (one of the lowest in the world) was estimated at 29% in 2009/2010. Among women ages 15 to 49, the rate is only 11.6%, compared to 27.8% for men.
"The objective of the skills development project is precisely aimed at enhancing the quality and effectiveness of technical and vocational education and training in Niger by offering on- and off-the job training in priority sectors such as public works, agriculture, and tourism," noted Boubou Cissé.
"Young people will be trained for jobs in the emerging sectors, since the purpose of this program is to boost their employability.
Courses in appropriate skills will be offered, and entrepreneurs will be trained so that they can contribute to the country's economic development, in close cooperation with the private sector," he added.
As noted in a World Bank report on youth employment and underemployment in sub-Saharan Africa, the creation of viable jobs for young people is a precondition for sustainable development in Africa.
Source: World Bank
Tax avoidance, secret mining deals and financial transfers are depriving Africa of the benefits of its resources boom, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan has said.
Firms that shift profits to lower tax jurisdictions cost Africa $38bn (£25bn) a year, says a report produced by a panel he heads.
"Africa loses twice as much money through these loopholes as it gets from donors," Mr Annan told the BBC.
It was like taking food off the tables of the poor, he said.
The Africa Progress Report is released every May - produced by a panel of 10 prominent figures, including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Graca Machel, the wife of South African ex-President Nelson Mandela.
African countries needed to improve governance and the world's richest nations should help introduce global rules on transparency and taxation, Mr Annan said.
The report gave the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example, where between 2010 and 2012 five under-priced mining concessions were sold in "highly opaque and secretive deals".
This cost the country, which the charity Save the Children said earlier this week was the world's worst place to be a mother, $1.3bn in revenues.
This figure was equivalent to double DR Congo's health and education budgets combined, the report said.
DR Congo's mining minister disputed the findings, saying the country had "lost nothing".
"These assets were ceded in total transparency," Martin Kabwelulu told Reuters news agency.
The report added that many mineral-rich countries needed "urgently to review the design of their tax regimes", which were designed to attract foreign investment when commodity prices were low.
It quotes a review in Zambia which found that between 2005 and 2009, 500,000 copper mine workers were paying a higher rate of tax than major multinational mining firms.
Africa loses more through what it calls "illicit outflows" than it gets in aid and foreign direct investment, it explains.
"We are not getting the revenues we deserve often because of either corrupt practices, transfer pricing, tax evasion and all sorts of activities that deprive us of our due," Mr Annan told the BBC's Newsday programme.
"Transparency is a powerful tool," he said, adding that the report was urging African leaders to put "accountability centre stage".
Mr Annan said African governments needed to insist that local companies became involved in mining deals and manage them in "such a way that it also creates employment".
"This Africa cannot do alone. The tax evasion, avoidance, secret bank accounts are problems for the world… so we all need to work together particularly the G8, as they meet next month, to work to ensure we have a multilateral solution to this crisis," he said.
For richer nations "if a company avoids tax or transfers the money to offshore account what they lose is revenues", Mr Annan said.
"Here on our continent, it affects the life of women and children - in effect in some situations it is like taking food off the table for the poor."
Source: Africa News
Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called "women’s issues.” But in this bold, blunt talk, Jackson Katz points out that these are intrinsically men’s issues -- and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. A clarion call for us all -- women and men -- to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.
Jackson Katz asks a very important question that gets at the root of why sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse remain a problem: What's going on with men?