Jouw Verhaal - De Verhalenmakers
Kim Nooij Tech Support

How technology can contribute to personal growth

Silently he sits next to his best friend in the upper lecture hall of the three-storey university building in Tamale. The friend with a laptop. Himself with pen and paper. WordPress is noted with the absorbing power of eagerness. WordPress. A widely used content management system that lets you to create a website easy and quick. <! – More ->

Matthew comes from Nandom, a small town in the North West of Ghana. After receiving his high school diploma, he moved to Tamale, the capital of the northern region and was admitted to the Polytechnic. The only place in Tamale for affordable higher education. His interest in computers and technology did Matthew decide, in addition to his training, to become a member of Tech Support Ghana.

Tech Support Ghana is a community active in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and creates jobs through a combination of practical training and involvement of businesses. This answer to the harrowing gap between unemployed youth and the needs of local businesses in information and communication technology skilled personnel and related services arose more than one and a half years ago out of a unique gathering between Kenedy Kubuga (Bold Tech), The International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and myself.

Create local opportunities

High unemployment, particularly among youth creates a pressing social and economic challenge. At least 25% of young people are unemployed and the Ghanaian education system is inefficient and fails to prepare young people to succeed in the job market. Since Accra has more options, unemployment leads to tension between the north and south of Ghana. There is economic migration and the likelihood of criminal activity increases when there is a lack of income and the feeling of being excluded from the job market.

The young generation fortunately has a lot of positive energy. Humour, hope and a yearn for a better future is the reason why these young boys and girls come together. It is a powerful movement with the potential to shape their own lives independently.

Tech Support as the alternative

Tech Support therefore began in 2013 with just an extension cord, a projector and an informal atmosphere with a practical training. A training linked to real jobs to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical skills and local capacity building in order to prevent the loss of jobs and economic migration. It is an alternative to expensive and theoretical education in Tamale and at the same time a reliable network of junior and senior technicians is established.

2013

In no time the group grew from 12 personally recruited and enlisted young people up to 30 members and within 8 weeks 3 sites, fully developed returned to the customers. The euphoria was immense and confidence in their own abilities, spontaneously grew new initiatives. There were 7 personal websites being realized, guest lectures held, events organized, friends invited and a logo, website and Facebook page being set up. Just before the close of 2013, the development of a school management system, a major project by the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD), was awarded to Tech Support.

2014

In 2014, the course offerings greatly expanded and together with (local) partners Tech Support worked hard to develop the School Management System and to implement the system in four schools in the northern region of Ghana. In 2015, the system will be installed in 21 schools and Tech Support will be working together with Butterfly Works and Bibir Ghana to establish the seventh BITS Digital Design School, the first one in West Africa!

“Through Tech Support, I have gained a lot of knowledge from others and I learned how I can create a website with WordPress within a few weeks time. I do it because it can help me in setting up my own company or accomplish a client assignment and I believe Tech Support can positively change my life. “

Matthew

Tech Support’s approach combines the Ghanaian way of living together (sharing is caring) with the weight of local ownership and pro activeness so that all members can contribute to the development of the group and take advantage of self-made employment through practical, on-the-job training. It is an honest, bottom-up and on reality-based initiative, promoting economic development inland.

And Matthew?

Matthew wrote everything down and built, using a computer in an Internet café, his own website within several weeks. He managed to get this website working on the laptop of his best friend and got to present it at an official ceremony to the public. Matthew participated in several courses that provided him with technical and teaching skills and connected him with like-minded colleagues.

At present, Matthew is one of the familiar faces of Tech Support. It is because of his commitment and dedication that made him an inspiring trainer for new members and allowed for him to participate in commercial contracts that helps financing his last year at the Polytechnic.

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Rooftop

Rooftops are my favourite

It happens quite often that I call my friend while standing on top of a roof. She is seriously concerned about this apparent weird crave for geographical analysis but so far we have always managed these situations. Seeing a city from above gives such an amazing sense of understanding it’s structure. You see the context you are in and you get a slight idea of how you relate to all the down chaos. And the best part: it puts you in the middle of it all. Or even better, above everything else. You have a visual summary of the reality, you are in control.
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9 steps to make a social business model

Maybe you have an idea and you want to start your own business. Or you might have started your business already but you are not so sure if you are on the right track and if you will make profit. Despite the scenario, this post will outline 9 simple steps to make a (social) business plan that might work for you.
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Bus

Priceless Public Transport

Bus

“It is better for you to travel by public transport.”

The person I am meeting today tells me a private taxi will cost up to 150 GHC (30,00 EUR) and public transport only 30 GHC (6,00 EUR) to reach. The hotel receptionist directs me to the nearby-est VIP bus station, bringing me straight and air conditioned to Winneba where my appointment takes place.

Upon arrival at the bus station, the taxi driver who took me from the hotel, suddenly gets a brainwave and tells me he has a better idea.

Now.

This is the time where only two things can happen. Or luck will come your way and you travel in pure luxury or, within the next minutes, you find your self in a slight uncomfortable situation.

Ten minutes later I am seated in a small 20-people-packed bus, all looking at me like entertainment could not have been more sweet. Big brown eyes stare at me while the children in the back carefully touch my hair.

Full equals departure so the bus takes off to Winneba but only after 3 more men squeeze in and both tires, on the right side of the bus only, are aired. Randomness at your doorstep.

Ebola

I am checking the health of my neighbouring passenger. With Ebola running through West Africa you can not be too careful and travelling by public transport isn’t the best way to protect yourself. This is a stupid idea, I hear myself think.

Luckily another taxi diver who drove my from the airport at my first night in Accra had shared his view on this matter. He told me Ebola can never come to Ghana because Ebola is a disease of fighting countries. And in Ghana. Exactly. They don’t fight.

With this wisdom in mind I exchange some “How are you’s and feeling allright’s?” with my lady neighbour but the surrounding views will soon grab my attention and make me daydream about the coming months in Ghana. The passengers rebound from by my sudden appearance in the bus and some even fall asleep.

Everything is quiet and peaceful.

Sharing and Caring

Suddenly a fiery debate in which all passengers discuss the best stop for me to get off, has arisen. I checked with my neighbour the best stop for me to leave the bus in order to reach the university. She told me the police station is the best place to alight but others clearly disagree.

Men and women strongly defend their pick and by the time we have finally reached the bus stop, (ironically the endpoint of the bus), everyone knows where I am heading to next.

Now, privacy has never been an issue in Ghana and it is often something you share with others but this time it has come to an extended level. People who left the bus and travel into the same direction are now gathering around me so we can all share the costs of a taxi to reach the university. I have become a landmark for university-direction-travellers.

An old man grabs my hand and tells me he doesn’t want people to cheat me. Together with his wife and a student, we share a taxi and he walks me all the way to the building my appointment is taking place.

The person I met today was right. Travelling by public transport is better for me and I decided to take the same bus back to Accra.

The whole trip cost me 14 GHC (2,80 EUR) but the travel was priceless.

It is the Mindset

Carrying things on your head is not the only way to sell!

It is the mindset!

It is the Mindset

Two young men selling sunglasses from a self made cardboard plateau

Richard puts a big bottle of green liquid on the table. “Here, you see this?” he asks. “A young boy produces his own liquid soap and wants to start selling it.”

Before I know it I find myself behind the office building, washing my hands, whereby the water is carefully poured by Richmond, the owner of Soft Productions Africa, an ICT company in Accra.

“Can you feel the soap being soft and soapy?” Richard laughs. “It is good right?” This is exactly why people come to Soft Productions Africa. They can get practical training in marketing and design and obtain skills to represent themselves more effectively and, at the end of the day, sell more products.

Green liquid soap in a bottle

The bottle with the green liquid soap on top of the current advertisement efforts done by the owner of the soap.

Youngsters joining the program sign up and note down their level of experience. Every Wednesday they come in and get vocational training relating to their field of interest. So far Soft Productions Africa has 8 members already and everyone got assignments to work on varying from making compliment cards to graphic design jobs and from video shooting to software development.

“The jobs are there and the youth is ready, we only need initiatives like these to prepare them for this demand by providing practical training.”

Richard also known as Smart studies at the University for Development Studies upcountry, has his share in Soft Productions Africa and is Google Ambassador trying to increase access to information amongst his fellow students.

According to Richard it is all about the mindset.

“People think that carrying things on your head is the only way to sell products but there are alternatives.”

Soft Productions Africa is one of these alternatives to unemployment and limited preparedness to the job market by offering vocational training combined with business development. With their motivated and strategic team, a simple idea and low costs, they are able to move fast in recruiting members, providing training and generating jobs.

This is precisely what I believe Tech Support Ghana can mean to youngsters in Tamale. In it’s slightly different approach and organizational structure, being another sustainable local alternative for job creation in Ghana.

More information:
https://www.facebook.com/SoftProductionAfrica

Kim_Nooij_E-Learning_Africa

FOSS at E-Learning Africa

Finally, at the last day of E-learning Africa (a conference held in Uganda in May 2014 on ICT and education) during the last session of the conference, the conversation turns towards free and open source software (FOSS). Foss is free open source software and does not include high licenses fees and anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way. The source code is openly shared so that people are encouraged to voluntarily improve the design of the software.

A positive attitude towards FOSS in education is seriously recommendable. The average age in Africa is 19 years old and only 6% enrolls in higher education. The main barrier to access education is money and given the fact that the population is going to double in the next ten years, efforts to close the gap between education and enrollment are urgently necessary.

The session, led by Sarah Kiden, points out why we should all use open source software in education, because FOSS:

  • decreases software costs
  • increases network security and stability
  • is accessible for everyone
  • is often free of costs
  • protects privacy
  • gives users more control over their own hardware

If you got inspired during the presentation, here are some open source alternatives to the more mainstream platforms, tools and software, shared by Sarah Kidden during E-learning for Africa 2014:

Operating systems

Linux (Ubuntu, Solaris, CentOS)

E-learning

Moodle, Pachyderm

Cloud Services

Own Cloud

Library System

Koha, EzProxy, Dspace

E-mail

Zimbra

Ticketing/Helpdesk

OSTicket

Phones/VoIP

Elastix

Network Access Control

Packetfence

Documentation

NetDot

Authentication

OpenLDAP

Oh, and if you feel like you want to find many more open source alternative, please visit
this Wikipedia page