Category Archives: ICT & Innovation

#HackForMombasa

Courtesy of Rhoda Omenya, UN-Habitat

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Hacking. A word more often than not, heavy with negative connotations – specifically with reference to digital technologies. Today, mainstream use of hacking still refers criminal activities but has also given rise to a positive meaning – use of technical computer expertise to solve problems. Extrapolated to the term hackathon – an intense 24 or 48 hour event that provides a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology where people with technical backgrounds come together, form teams around a problem or idea, and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch — these generally take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps, and robots.

UN-Habitat, Youth and Livelihoods Unit in collaboration with SwahiliBox, held a hackathon on May 20th – 21st, in Mombasa County to solve urban challenges that the county is facing. This hackathon is part of a project dubbed Innovate Counties Challenge Project that seeks to include local government partnerships in enabling governance technology applications developed by youth, have tangible impact at the community level. These challenges were identified in a challenge workshop previously held with participation and contribution from a cross cutting representation of pertinent persons from academia, civil society, youth groups, private sector, media and the core partners of the project, the county representatives particularly in the Youth and ICT departments.

The hackathon had participation from students as a result of outreach sessions done at Technical University of Kenya, Mount Kenya University, Kenyatta University and Kenya Methodist University. From the sign-up sheet, 71% were participating in their first hackathon, an indication of both the novelty of the hackathon and the challenges that would be faced therein. As such having the participants take part in a continuous 48 hour hackathon would be strenuous and thus was split in two full days.  Web4All, an ICT Enterprise founded with the sole aim of utilizing ICT to Improve the Livelihood of People in Africa, facilitated the hackathon.

In the first day of the hackathon, participants were grouped into the challenges they wanted to solve and taken through ideation and theme matching, meeting user needs and problem solving and low fidelity prototypes and placeholder sites under rotational mentorship. This enabled them to immerse themselves into the problems they were trying to solve by understanding the main person faced with the challenge – in line with human centered design’s core principle of empathy. Ultimately aiding the teams to narrow their thinking to one solution – what they were envisioning, for whom and how the solution would ameliorate the user(s) life. Day 1 concluded with hacking of their solutions.

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Figure 1 Participants at the end of Day 1

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Figure 2 Working through the Idea Canvas

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Figure 3 John Paul from Web4All taking participants through the Business Model Canvas

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Figure 4 Taking a break to fuel the body

Day 2 of the hackathon had the participants hacking and finalizing their solutions, as the mentors took them through deck preparation and pitching for the presentation.

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Figure 5 Mock pitching to mentors

The hackathon had four judges:

  1. Nyevu Karisa – County Government of Mombasa Officer, Department of Trade, Energy and Industrial Development
  2. David Ogiga – Director, Sote Hub
  3. Adam Chagani – Consultant, UNODC
  4. Sharmaarke Abdullahi – Project Management Officer, UN-Habitat

The air was stiff as teams began presenting their seven minute terse pitches, with a three minute follow up Q&A from the judges. There were thirteen teams exhibiting solutions on varied governance problems from service delivery (waste, transport and water management), tourism promotion, urban farming, county government transparency, to the often forgotten social and intangible human facets of drug abuse, etc. The judges evaluated the presentations based on the tangibility of the solution (thus showing the team’s grasp of the problem being solved), the solution’s feasibility on a technical level, its creativity and originality. Further, the teams had to show that the solution is socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. The teams were additionally judged on their cohesiveness and presentation skills.

The judges then went into weighty deliberations, finally agreeing on the top three teams:

  • Winners: Mji Safi with their innovative solution of preventing food produce at markets turning into organic waste. This would be done using an inventory control system, working with a market management authority and vendors.

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Figure 6 Winners: Mji Safi

  • First Runners Up: Azucorp with a hardware solution of delivering urgent medical supplies using drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) thereby reimagining transport modes. This solution comes an opportune time as the Government of Kenya has recently approved the use of commercial drones.

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Figure 7 First Runners Up Azucorp

  • 2nd Runners Up: Veve with an interactive web portal for both locals and tourists to restore Mombasa as a tourist destination and thereby reversing the drop in Foreign Direct Investment and specifically the five year drop in tourism earnings.

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Figure 8 2nd Runners Up – Veve

Special mention is given to Aqua Harvesters who came in sixth with their novel solution of a solar desalination and pump system that sanitizes and distributes water by exploiting road traffic movement to push water without fuel – consequently tackling water scarcity and quality.

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Figure 9 Judges

Looking ahead, the top six teams will be taken through a fundamental training on the startups and entrepreneurship to give them the starting block to techpreneurship whereas the winners, Mji Safi will continue on with the incubation to develop their solution for piloting and provide them with the necessary skills to develop a business model for scale.

The two days captured the vision, creativity, resourcefulness, and imagination of youth despite the newness of a hackathon in Mombasa County. Emboldening them should be a never ending exploit.

 

Visit to Mathare by Youth Envoy

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Great to see  to the Secretary General, visiting once again the  Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (M.E.C.Y.G). As he states, some huge leaps forward in services at the centre with the the development of the ‪‎Innovate‬ Kenya‬ ICT and Entrepenruship programs, the great work of the iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub and their Kio Kits, the continued focus on public space and football, and of course the indomitable spirit of the Mathare community and its youth!!!

On Friday July 22nd, the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi joined UN-Habitat and the Mathare Environmental Conservation Youth Group (M.E.C.Y.G) to check the youth-led projects in Mlango Kubwa community in Mathare. It was his second visit of this community and he was very impressed to see the progress the youth center made since 2014.

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Mlango Kubwa community lies at the periphery of one of Nairobi’s biggest slums. Like everywhere else, young people face many challenges there, from access to safe spaces to access to resources and opportunities. What distinguish them from others though is their drive, enthusiasm and willingness to strive for change. They take no chances and work together to make their community a better place for all, but especially for the children and young people.

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We were equally inspired and enchanted by the spirit of this youth. After we saw how they claimed burned-down space in the middle of their community, negotiated with authorities and built their first ever community football field with minimum resources and their hard work, we couldn’t not work with them. We wanted to support them so they can carry on their fantastic work and offer more opportunities for young people to grow in healthy environments.

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With the help of Samsung, we built a fully equipped ICT center that offers not only access to internet, but access to knowledge. As part of our Innovate Kenya project, UN-HABITAT and its academic partners developed a series of E-learning courses that come with the Samsung donated equipment. There are number of courses on offer, including project management, marketing or urban agriculture.

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Envoy’s visit to Mlango Kubwa meant a lot for the local youth, as well as for all of us who tagged along. It was great to watch how they presented their achievements with pride. It was even more touching to hear Envoy’s words of admiration and appreciation at the end.

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Keep it up guys!

 

 

 

 

Social entrepreneurship for youth development

 

Anoka's photo

Image courtesy GE

Young people at 1.8 billion (per UN) are some of the biggest contributors of human capital in the world. We have a role to play in our own development as well as the development of our communities. This has resulted in us being increasingly recognized as key participants in decision-making and development processes.

However with an increasing rise in population, there is a rise in youth unemployment. Almost 75 million young people are unemployed worldwide (per ILO).  With education being increasingly unaffordable for most youth, especially in Asia, the ability to be employed in a sector of their preference is quite low. In such instances, social enterprise has been seen to change the status quo, offering the ability to change lives while creating revenue.

Social entrepreneurship is not a new phenomenon, but it has risen to prominence over the past decades. Ashoka’s definition of social entrepreneurship as “catalysts of system wide social change” excludes a greater part of young people below the age of 18 as a majority of youth-led initiatives are not making “system wide change.”

However, youth led social enterprises have been creating changes that have being changing systems indirectly for years. Youth social entrepreneurial ventures, young people’s ideas and energy can contribute meaningfully in community building, social change and leadership skills, while facilitating their own development.

In South Asia, Mangrove based social enterprises have created over 5000 employment opportunities while conserving the environment by advocating for alternative livelihoods of the like of eco-tourism and organic farming. In Sri Lanka, Mangroves were officially protected and conserved through legislation in 2015 through a Presidential declaration by the current president. Such changes in legislation can be achieved when young people have been able to contribute through long-term action.

In India, youth led solar power social enterprises are changing the face of the power struggle seen in rural villages, with villagers gaining a monetary income through grid contribution. This also results in the end of the vicious cycle of bribing for power connections.

Therefore using social entrepreneurship as a tool to support youth development would result in more innovative and more sustainable community held solutions for social issues. This turn would lead to more equitable and more habitable world for all of us, man and animal alike due to the environmental and social harmony created through social enterprise. In my capacity as a UN-Habitat Youth Advisory Board Representative for Asia, I will advocate for social entrepreneurship in urban interventions to empower young people to address our “wicked challenges” through new tools and mechanisms.

Author: Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne, UN-HABITAT Youth Advisory Board

 

 

Youth and Local Government develop Urban Real-time Innovations and Solutions

‘One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man’. –Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard died in 1915 but the quote still rings true in 2015, exactly a century later. And in light of this statement, UN-Habitat, Ericsson and Strathmore University came together in a pilot project dubbed ‘The Innovation Marketplace’ seeking to incorporate youth in developing and implementing technological solutions to solve urban challenges facing the counties. A key phase in the project was the hosting of a hackday at @iLabAfrica, a Research and Innovation Centre at Strathmore University that took place from Friday, 25 September 2015, 8AM through to Saturday the 26th, 1 PM.

The hackday sought to bring together youth passionate about technology, social change and cities through the development of ICT solutions that can be used to improve our counties and by extension, our cities. We received over a hundred applications for the hackday but we had to select the 30 most extraordinary of them.

Dr. Sevilla, Director of @iLabAFrica Research Centre gave the welcoming remarks. Marcus Nyberg, Senior Researcher at User Experience Lab, Ericsson Research gave a macro view of how ICT solutions have been used to address various urban challenges while Pontus Westerberg, the Transparency Affairs and Digital Projects Officer at UN-Habitat gave an overview of the project and introduced the participants to the challenge statements (grouped into four thematic areas) on which they would be hacking on. These were:

  • Urban basic services: How can ICT be used to enhance collaboration between county governments and youth, and utilize local capabilities to effectively provide water and sanitation services to those who lack it?
  • City Planning: How can ICT bridge these gaps, stimulate a continuous and structured interaction between county and youth, and enable more participatory planning? How can an ICT based solution be used to aid in the dissemination of spatial and urban planning information to avoid land being grabbed?
  • Local Economy: How can ICT be used as a tool to provide the youth with this information? How can ICT provide a platform to synergize collaboration between government, the private sector and youth?
  • Local Governance: How can ICT be used to help address these barriers? What kind of solution can create awareness about available opportunities and requirements necessary to meet selection criteria, while at the same time increasing transparency and reducing bureaucracy to make service delivery faster and more efficient?

In addition to the youth, five county representatives from Kiambu (the county selected to participate in the pilot project) and four mentors who used the specialty skills to guide the hackers as they developed their solutions. These were, Frank Tamre – Co founder Moringa School and UX is his expertise; Theo Dolan – Director, Peacemedia and Peacetech Lab Africa, specializing in Media and Technology; Robert Yawe, MD, Kay System Technologies with product and business strategy as his areas of expertise; and Marcus Nyberg, Senior Reseacher at User Experience Lab, Ericsson Research having UX, mobile services, research and innovation as his expertise.

After the participants were introduced to the challenge statements, they were given time to quickly think of solution ideas and pitch them. The hackers then group themselves around the ideas they believed were viable to work on. Frank Tamre took the hackers through a session of UX – problem definition and user profiling. Hackers were then taken through customer validation by Robert Yawe through the use of the Javelin Experiment Board with the hackers presenting on their finding after each session.

‘One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men’

With the hackers now having fully comprehended the context of the solutions they would be developing, hacking proper began. This went on through the night and into early Saturday morning where they were taken through developing a business model using the Lean Canvas by Robert Yawe and had a dry run of their final presentations to the mentors.

The judges: Dr. Joseph Sevilla, Robert Yawe, Judith Owigar – co-founder and Operations Director at Akirachix, Douglas Ragan – Unit Leader for Youth and Employment at the UN- Habitat, Kate Kiguru – CEO of Ukall, George Rabar – Customer Project Manager for Sub-Sahara Africa at Ericsson and a county representative from Kiambu; arrived at Strathmore ready to listen, advice, and evaluate the outcomes.

There were 8 teams which developed prototypes in the area of provision of land information. Solving the challenge of lack of dissemination of land information, mobile application that aids in data collection with analytics and visualization and Smart Reporting by citizens for Local Governance.

The winning app was Mat Q which was a web and mobile application for automating management at matatu (local bus) terminals which would both improve efficiency for the drivers and improve revenue collection. This app would solve the pen, paper and board rudimentary way of matatu management that faces many challenge of efficiency and transparency.

The winning team, MatQ
The winning team, MatQ

The last phase of this project will be incubation of Mat Q for them to further develop the solutions for the rest of the year and to be able to pilot it in Kiambu County. Concurrently, county representatives will also benefit from trainings that will increase their understanding of urban issues and acquire digital and other skills that will enable them to fully integrate the solution to their processes.

How ICT is helping to change Kenya

The Innovate Kenya programme is a partnership between UN-Habitat. Samsung and local communities to foster innovation in Kenyan youth. One component of the programme is establishing 6 youth and ICT centres in Nairobi, Kenya, which will provide technology and entrepreneurship training to thousands of youth and youth-led groups. The backbone of this programme is an e-learning programme on social entrepreneurship developed by UN-Habitat which trains youth and youth-led organizations on how to start-up their own social enterprises.

For the global urban youth

On April 17th this year in Nairobi, Kenya, UN-Habitat and Urban Youth Academy (UYA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding pertaining to their mutual global cooperation. UYA is a Korea based organization that is aiming to empower global urban youth especially underprivileged youth in developing countries. UYA is also the implementing partner for running a “Lotte Window” for UN-Habitat’s Urban Youth Fund later this year. The Urban Youth Fund “window” is a part of a platform for rising additional funding for the popular youth fund that has proved youth are able to developed innovative solution to urban challenges that they face worldwide.

Lotte shopping, which is the benefactor of the window, is Korea’s undisputed leader in department stores and operates a number of outlets in all major cities across the country. The window will run under the theme “practicing and expanding peace and sustainable development through arts and culture activities”. Ten (10) eligible projects from youth-led groups across Asia will benefit from this funding to implement their creative projects.

David Kim, representative director of UYA, while meeting with Doug Ragan, the head of the Youth Unit at UN-Habitat said, “Through our joint programs, UYA is willing to support the global youth for a better world and to educate unprivileged youth to become ideal global citizens who strive to make a peaceful world”.

 

1st Global Urban Youth Exchange Program with Duksung Women’s University

The 1st Global Urban Youth Exchange Program run from January 27 to February 10, 2015 under the theme “ideal urbanization and Youth role’s in this era of globalization” at the Duksung Women’s University that is based in Korea. 28 participants from Duksung Women’s University presented policy proposal, pre-investigation and field research on ideal urbanization in developing countries especially Cambodia and Thailand and made a presentation on the same at the United Nations Office in Bangkok.

Participants were separated into five groups and challenged to come up with creative solutions related to sustainable urbanization. Innovative ideas emerged such as, establishing night classes for improving the Cambodian Women’s education, improvement of environment-friendly landfills, reducing school dropout rates through economic and entreprenureship education. The students went further to test their proposed hypothesis and policies in the local situation through local surveys.

At the launch of the programme, Mr. Jung, the Cooperation Director at Duksung women’s University emphasised that, “We expect this program can be a big help to cultivate students’ global citizenship and enhance global leadership”.

UN-Habitat and Duksung Women’s University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on August 6th 2014. The university also works closely with UN-Women and has signed an MOU with the agency as well to promote ‘the next generation’, especially women through the Global Partnership Training Program.

Innovate Kenya: Entrepreneurship and ICT Training for Youth Empowerment

The growing number of young urban citizens, coupled with the explosion of electronic handheld devices is introducing new challenges and opportunities for both local governments and youth that have not been adequately addressed. UN-Habitat has begun to address these converging trends through the development of a conceptual framework on improving local governance for youth using ICTs articulated in an e-learning platform.

UN-Habitat is embarking on a pilot program to facilitate the development and implementation of projects in towns and cities of Kenya to test the approach. The Innovate Kenya; Entrepreneurship and ICT Training is the tool designed to facilitate this process. The proposed e-capacity building and marketplace aims to link youth, local governments, and the technology community and corporations, into structured activities that utilize ICT to enhance local democracy and governance for young citizens of Kenya. The overall goal aims at empowering youth by giving them educational opportunities through e-learning and other methods. Improving the quality of education by supporting educational materials and hardware and introducing innovative opportunities on ICT platforms.

The initial undertaking was the renovation of a classroom at Alliance Boys High School into a computer lab, followed by a donation of 15 (fifteen) lap top computers to the school in the first quarter of 2015. An e-learning curriculum will then be introduced focusing on social entrepreneurship and business studies. Five other schools and universities are set to benefit from similar activities within the next year. This project builds on the UN-Habitat’s Youth Empowerment Programme, and is funded to the tune of USD460,000 by the Samsung Construction & Trade (Samsung C&T) Cooperation. This is an initial pilot project which will be scaled up to include programmes on urban sports, and youth.

Urban Youth Fund

Every year, over 8,000 youth-led organizations apply to the UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund. The fund offers grants of between 5,000USD and 25,000 USD to winning submissions in a very competitive selection and only about 30-40 entries are eligible for the grant annually.

These organizations span various sectors, from technology and agriculture to education and poverty reduction. Every year, the Fund supports new and innovative ideas and solutions for job creation, good governance, adequate shelter and secure tenure planned and implemented by youth-led groups globally.

By undertaking research on best practices in youth-led development the fund also creates greater awareness of youth-led development and the urgency to ensure that youth perspectives are integrated into local, national and international development policies and strategies.

To qualify, applicants organizations must be led by young people aged 15-32 years and be based in cities or towns in developing countries. to qualify. Support in terms of training, mentorship and an e-Learning programs are provided primarily for project leaders to ensure success of the selected projects. To support the projects further, an Urban Youth Fund Mentorship Programme has been created. The programme uses alumni from the fund and youth leaders to provide guidance to current projects. Projects encouraging gender equality or involving partnerships with the government or the private sector are particularly encouraged.

Urban Youth Fund E-Learning Program

UN-Habitat has partnered with Canadian University of Fraser Valley to provide custom courses in the area of sustainable development, social enterprise and community planning. The e‐Learning programme is the newest addition to the Training and Capacity Building Program of the Urban Youth Fund. The programme seeks to integrate the mobile technology, internet‐based curriculum and applied empirical learning to provide a dynamic learning opportunity for youth in the developing world.

UN-Habitat brings the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth to Rwanda

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From 16-20 July, UN-Habitat Youth brought the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, to Rwanda to showcase best practice programming for youth in urban areas.The Envoy got to visit and tour the UN-Habitat supported One Stop Youth Center in Kigali, which serves as a globally recognized best practice of youth centered programming in a rapidly urbanizing context.

Speaking to the many youth who were at the One Stop Center, the Envoy underscored the opportunities that currently exist for Rwandan youth. ‘You are the luckiest generation of youth in Rwandan history. You have the opportunity to contribute to and achieve development for your country’, he said, echoing the strong emphasis the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has placed on youth as a resource for sustainable development.

Rwanda is one of the African continent’s best performing countries in terms of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, with youth and urbanization recognized as key components to the country’s development.

The country’s Ministry of Youth and ICT is equally committed to ensuring that these two components are integral to the Sustainable Development Goals, and UN-Habitat looks forward to continuing the fruitful collaboration with Rwanda and the Envoy on Youth in this regard.