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Innovating Global Healthcare
Access to adequate healthcare remains a challenge for people around the globe living in poverty. Continuously increasing healthcare costs exacerbate this issue and the final result is that more people in need are suffering as a consequence. The term “catastrophic health spending” refers to a person who spends more than 10% of their income on “out-of-pocket,” healthcare expenses. According to a report from the World Health Organization, 926.6 million people dealt with catastrophic health spending of at least 10% of their income in 2015. Furthermore, 208.7 million people endured health costs that were more than 25% of their income. These figures may indicate a need for innovating global healthcare, going forward.

Medtronic Improving Global Health Conditions

As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the third goal focuses on improving health conditions. Specifically, section 3.8 aims to reduce cost barriers to life-saving treatments and medicine. Medtronic understands the value of this mission and is one company leading the way for innovations in global healthcare. As part of the company’s commitment to “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life,” Medtronic continues to combine technology and patient-centered care to improve access to health services and resources for vulnerable populations, worldwide.

Medtronic invests heavily in finding solutions for noncommunicable diseases (NCD), i.e. diseases that cannot spread from one individual to another. Often these are chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even hearing loss. In 2012, 68% of global deaths were caused by an NCD and while organizations are fighting to lower that number — approximately half of the global population are unable to access critical care.

3 Ways to Combat NCDs

An important part of Medtronic’s innovations in global healthcare stems from the idea of evolving medical practices. In the company’s efforts to combat NCDs, it concentrates on three areas: (1) capacity building, (2) community engagement and (3) sustaining programs. The capacity building portion of Medtronic’s commitment ensures that healthcare workers are well-equipped to understand their roles and responsibilities in the healthcare system. Moreover, it advocates for up-to-date training and professional feedback for workers. Medtronic’s community engagement aspect connects various organizations to broaden resources for populations in need of services. In this way, Medtronic scales back some of the barriers to care that many people face. Lastly, by gearing toward sustainable programming, Medtronic dedicates time to working with governments and policymakers to cultivate lasting change within the healthcare system itself.

Breaking Down Barriers with Programs & Patents

Medtronic has served more than 75 million people in more than 150 countries, since its start. It also has licenses to 47,800 patents — embracing the potential of new technologies to break down certain barriers. Patents for Humanity is a program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and celebrates companies that use inventions to address humanitarian issues. In 2018, the program recognized Medtronic for its progress in innovating global healthcare. The patent in question was for a “portable, low-water kidney dialysis machine” that can be used for those who normally would not have access to traditional dialysis treatments.

Medtronic has also launched programs that integrate its technologies, combined with compassionate business models. Empower Health is one such program — utilizing a mobile tablet, an automated blood pressure machine, a glucometer and a new software application. The program allows healthcare workers to remotely monitor diabetic patients located in Ghana and Kenya. Through the software, clinicians can keep current on their patients’ status and can even send messages and write prescriptions.

While many challenges still face vulnerable populations all over the world, Medtronic is fostering new and exciting developments in the realm of global health.

– Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr


Kenya, a country in East Africa, has made strides in battling poverty by reforming childhood education. In 2003 Kenya established a free primary school education program meant to ensure that young children receive a basic education. However, the Kenyan school system still has challenges to overcome. Teachers often lack proper training and support, and students often do not have enough school supplies. These obstacles ultimately contribute to low learning outcomes for students. Tusome, which means “let’s read” in Kiswahili, is a national literacy program powering childhood learning in Kenya that attempts to address these education shortfalls.

Origins of The Tusome National Literacy Program

Despite previous efforts to improve childhood learning outcomes by the Kenyan government, assessments from the years 2010-2014 showed no significant change in literacy and 40% of primary grade students could not understand their reading material. Tusome was built on this prior research and “was one of the first experiences of taking a piloted literacy program to national scale through government systems.” Tusome is funded by both the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Education and the USAID organization. The program was implemented in January of 2015 and will run until 2020 with a goal of improving reading for 6.7 million students.

Training and Support of Faculty

Two of Tusome’s key goals are to address the need for faculty training and support in the Kenyan school system. Tusome educates teachers, administrators, coaches, and support staff on the Ministry of Education’s expected learning outcomes. The program also provides Curriculum Support Officers that regularly visit schools to coach and monitor teachers in learning outcomes, though these are not professionals trained in general classroom instruction. Youth associations are also working to help to tutor children and develop a reading culture in their area.

School Supplies and Integration of Technology

One of the Tusome program’s notable achievements is that is has provided 26 million textbooks and supplementary materials for primary school students, ensuring that each student has a textbook of their own. Tusome also offers its students tablets with digitized learning materials, which can also provide feedback and progress monitoring for teachers. The performance of each student is uploaded to a cloud-based network system which is meant to promote greater responsibility within the school system.

Conclusion

Tusome has been able to improve teacher support, training and availability of school materials in Kenyan primary schools. This is, in part, due to the integration of technology in the form of digital materials, tablets and cloud-based technology. Learning outcomes have been promising, even in the early pilot phase. In 1,384 schools, children who reached the Tusome standard for an understanding of the English language increased from 8.6% to 43.7%. Overall, Tusome is considered a successful example of large-scale governmental implementation of a national program that can power childhood learning in Kenya, and serve as a model to education systems around the world.


– Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Apps that aid in healthcare in developing countries It can sometimes be difficult for people in developing countries to access healthcare, specifically those living in poverty. In order to address this problem, healthcare apps are being used to provide greater access. Here are 10 healthcare aid apps that are impacting access in developing countries.

10 Apps That Aid Healthcare in Developing Countries

  1. Peek has its sights set on helping people with vision impairment issues and blindness, a problem exacerbated in developing countries by a lack of resources. Peek can identify people with vision problems. The app then works with healthcare providers to pinpoint an economically feasible way to supply the treatment they need, before allocating the appropriate resources. Currently, Peek is being used by the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is administering a population-based survey of blindness and visual impairments in Cambodia.
  2. SASAdoctor focuses on making healthcare consultations more accessible in Kenya. In the country, only 12% of people are insured. About 8 million are reliant on the National Hospital Insurance Fund, leaving 35 million Kenyans uninsured. Available to all Kenyans with an Android smartphone or tablet (65% of Kenyans have one), SASAdoctor decreases the cost of an in-person consultation for the uninsured and makes it free for those with insurance. Patients will have their medical history, list of medications and other such medical notes in their ‘file’ on the app, so that whoever tele-consults with them will have the information they need to create an informed medical opinion. SASAdoctor can decrease the cost of uninsured visits with a doctor to Kes 495 (the equivalent of $4.66) for a projected 80% of Kenyans who are predicted to have smartphones in the next few years.
  3. iWander allows people to keep track of Alzheimer’s patients. Set with tracking technology that can be discretely worn by the patient, it offers whoever uses the app several options on how to deal with situations involving the patient. Solutions can range from a group calling session to making an emergency medical call or summoning a caregiver. iWander gives families more control over the care of a loved one, which can have a positive impact in countries where healthcare may be less accessible. In the US, the average cost of care for a single person is $174,000 annually. About 7 out of 10 individuals with dementia remain at home to receive care, where 75% of the costs fall to the family to pay. In helping families be proactive instead of reactive to crises, iWander can help in cutting these costs, especially in poorer countries, where many families are struggling to keep up with the high costs of at-home care.
  4. Kenek O2 allows the user to monitor their oxygen and heart rate while they sleep. Kenek O2, built for the iPhone, also requires a pulse oximeter which connects to the phone and retrieves the data to be stored in the app. Together, the cost for these two items is around $100, compared to the price of a regular hospital oximeter and other similar products, which could easily cost more than $500. Having effectively been used in North America, South America, Asia and Africa, Kenek O2 is currently working on developing a special COVID-19 device to watch for early signs of hypoxia, or the deficiency of oxygen reaching tissues.
  5. First Derm is an app that requires a smartphone-connected device, called a dermatoscope. This allows detailed pictures to be taken of skin conditions and lesions to better allow for remote, teleconsultations. In places where doctors are few and far between, and public transport is less reliable, this can make getting a second medical opinion much easier. So far, First Derm has helped in more than 15,000 cases from Sweden, Chile, China, Australia and Ghana, ranging from ages of just 3 days old to 98 years. Of these cases, 70% could be treated without a doctor, most often by over-the-counter treatments available at local pharmacies.
  6. Ada takes user-input symptoms and provides appropriate measures to take as a result, like a personal health assistant. It’s intended to assist those who don’t have the means to seek an in-person consultation right away. The app has been released in several languages, which makes it more accessible. Currently, 10 million people around the world are using Ada for symptom evaluation.
  7. Babylon is intended to mitigate the obstacle of going to see a doctor in person by allowing users to input symptoms or solve common health problems via teleconsultation with a doctor. Babylon specializes in non-emergent medicine, allowing patients to skip a trip to the doctor’s office entirely if their condition allows it. This is beneficial in places where doctors are sparse, or the patient lacks the financial means or a method of transportation in getting to the hospital. Babylon caters to users across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Rwanda and several countries across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The app aims to expand to more countries in the upcoming years.
  8. MobiSante, through its ultrasound device, allows versatility in diagnostic imaging by bringing the ultrasound to the patient. This allows quality, diagnostic imaging to be done outside the confines of a hospital or clinic. As a result, it provides more holistic and informed treatment where people may need it most but have previously struggled in accessing a healthcare center with the necessary technology. While having a computer at home with a desk is much less common in developing countries, the world’s increasing reliance on the internet is shifting the status of internet technology from a luxury to a basic necessity. This means that technology such as smartphones are becoming somewhat of a necessity in impoverished countries, making an app like MobiSante effective in using smartphones to make diagnostic imaging more accessible.
  9. Go.Data is a tool released by the WHO. It is specifically for collecting data during global health emergencies. During the Ebola outbreak in Africa, Go.Data was praised for tracing points of contact. The app also tracked infection trends and helped in arranging post-contact follow up.
  10. Mobile Midwife is a digital charting app that stores information in a cloud so that healthcare workers have access to all pertinent patient information. It works even in cases of power outages, or home births where internet connection may be less reliable. This app can help in areas where mother and infant mortality is higher, ensuring that healthcare providers can efficiently access patient information to ensure the best care. It can also cut the extra time it takes to find records that could otherwise make procedures more dangerous for both mother and child.

Bridging healthcare accessibility with smartphone apps isn’t a perfect solution, as it comes with accessibility issues of its own. However, these healthcare aid apps can help people without insurance, or who are physically unable to visit a physician, access health consultations. As a result, more people are provided access to healthcare, empowering a healthier (and more health-conscious) population.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Hydroponics Fight Hunger
In the past 40 years, droughts have impacted more of the world’s population than any other natural disaster. Their intensity and occurrence have increased, and the developing world bears the brunt of consequences including hunger, environmental damage and economic and social instability. Agriculture, in particular, a sector that supports 40% of the world population’s primary livelihoods, suffers from worsening droughts. In Eastern and Central Africa water scarcity and population growth dually affect food security to an increasing degree. The CEO and founder of Hydroponics Africa LLC, Peter Chege, is helping introduce the innovative and cost-effective method of hydroponic farming in Africa to help improve food security.

How Hydroponic Farming Fights Hunger

Hydroponic systems rely on dissolved nutrient additives to grow food in contained water structures rather than soil. These systems use water 90% more efficiently than traditional agricultural production methods because the closed systems recycle water. Using this method of production, farmers can precisely control pH and nutrient levels in the water to optimize plant growth. Furthermore, vertically stacked hydroponic systems can increase crop growth density and production rates.

Hydroponic systems support crop growth in drought-stricken areas with poor soil conditions that would typically prohibit productive farming. The potential for greater crop output means hydroponics fight hunger by combatting food-insecurity and improve the livelihoods of low-income farmers.

Introducing Hydroponics to African Countries

Chege, a chemist out of the University of Nairobi, founded Hydroponics Kenya in 2012 to market hydroponic systems to Kenyan farmers as an affordable alternative to purchasing livestock feed. His company was the first to market hydroponics in East Africa. Since its foundation, his company expanded into Hydroponics Africa LLC and began to produce and install crop-and fodder-growing hydroponic systems in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Additionally, there has been growing governmental support to increase the overall use of hydroponic farming in Africa.

Hydroponics Africa partners with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It receives support from Kenya’s Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA) and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture. The Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC)—an organization that aims to improve the productivity of small farms and promote water management technologies—has also issued Hydroponics Africa a “proof of concept grant” to help hydroponics fight hunger in Kenya.

Hydroponics Africa has sold more than 365 greenhouse units and 700 fodder units, which have helped to save 500 million liters of water and support 6,000 tons of crop yields. The company has also trained over 20,000 people on hydroponic farming techniques.

The Benefit to Low-Income Farmers

Hydroponics Africa LLC creates customizable hydroponic systems using local materials and markets them toward small- and mid-size farms. The systems require no previous user experience, no thermostat nor electricity and minimal user input. The system prices currently range from $100 to $4,800. Additionally, the company is working with local banks to make these systems accessible to low-income farmers through loans. For example, payment options include 0-20% upfront costs and a monthly payment plan per system. The costs are justified by the increased crop yields for subsistence and sale that the hydroponic method promises.

Hydroponic farming helps fight hunger in areas poorly suited to traditional agriculture. Companies like Hydroponics Africa LLC have the potential to revolutionize agriculture for low-income farmers in drought-stricken countries. The emergence of hydroponic technology may be a life-changing solution to food insecurity exacerbated by population growth and drought.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

Pest ControlAgriculture is often crucial to the economies of lower-income nations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of the population is smallholding farmers and about 23% of the GDP comes from agriculture. Because of the importance of this industry, pest control can become a major issue in a lot of countries.

Influence of Pesticides

When pests are not properly handled, produce is damaged, which leads to reduced yields and profits. If crops are drastically damaged, it can lead to a decrease in food supply and an increase in prices. When pesticides were first introduced to farmers in Africa, it seemed to be a quick and easy form of pest control to fix their infestation problems. Pesticides increased yields, which led to higher household incomes and more trading. However, pesticides present their own set of obstacles. When mishandled, pesticides can be very dangerous. Many farmers lack the proper knowledge and equipment to safely administer the chemicals. This can cause health problems among farmers, contaminate soil and water sources, and result in pesticide-resistant insects.

Pesticidal Pollution in Kenya

A study conducted in 2016 that tested the water quality of Lake Victoria in Kenya revealed the negative impact pesticides had on the environment in the area.In May 1999, the European Union imposed a fish import ban on all fish from Lake Victoria when it was discovered 0rganochlorine pesticides were being used to fish in the lake. This ban resulted in an estimated $300 million loss for Kenya.

Organochlorine pesticides are mostly banned in high-income nations, but they are still used illegally in East Africa. Sometimes organochlorine pesticides are also used in East Africa for “public health vector control,” meaning to control the population of pests that spread diseases. The continued use of these pesticides is cited as a reason why pesticidal pollution was still found in Lake Victoria in 2016. Testing the water revealed that the pesticide concentrations in the lake were higher during the rainy seasons compared to the dry seasons. This led to the conclusion that the pesticides were entering the lake from contaminated runoff from surrounding farms. Those conducting the study concluded that the lake contaminations presented an immediate danger to the animals and humans relying on the lake as a food and water supply, due to the pesticide bioaccumulation entering the food chain.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Cases such as Lake Victoria’s are why the government, academic and public agricultural agencies have been promoting the use of IPM. IPM is a system that aims to decrease the need for pesticides by “incorporating non-chemical techniques, such as pruning strategies or soil amendments that make plants less inviting to pests, using insect traps that monitor pest populations so growers can be more precise with chemical sprays or adopting pest-resistant crop varieties.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have all supported the IPM process. Still, IMP has been slower to spread to the low-income nations of the world.

Whereas pesticides are made to be harmful and heavy-handed, IPM requires more finesse and care. IPM requires farmers to possess significant pest management knowledge in order to be effective. They must closely monitor their crops and keep detailed records. This is a difficult change for a farmer to make, especially when failure can have dire consequences, as they rely on their farms for food and income. However, with proper training and knowledge, IPM can present a good alternative for pest control to farmers who lack easy access to pesticides or can’t afford them.

The FAO has been using the Farmer Field School program to try to teach IPM and other sustainable farming practices to farmers in low-income nations. Programs like these are likely the most effective way to teach farmers about alternatives to pesticides. They may be able to help farmers in low-income nations find the resources necessary for safe and successful pest control.

Agriculture is often very important to the economies of lower-income nations. Improper use of pesticides, due to a lack of resources, can end up negatively impacting the environment in those areas where people are trying to grow crops. Programs like the Farmer Field School Program may be able to help lower-income nations transition to safer pesticide methods, such as IPM.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Geothermal Energy in KenyaThe use of geothermal energy, or heat contained in rocks and fluids beneath the Earth’s surface, is expanding around the globe. Geothermal energy can generate a continuous supply of heat to power homes and office buildings. It can produce just one-sixth of the CO2 emissions produced in a natural gas plant. Today, geothermal energy in Kenya has emerged as a sustainable power source and contributed to poverty-reduction throughout East Africa.

The Prime Location

To access geothermal energy, production teams dig wells deep into reservoirs of steam and hot water. The method of access limits geothermal energy plants to locations along tectonic plates. For this reason, some have called geothermal energy “the most location-specific energy source” in the world. With an estimated geothermal potential of 10,000 megawatts, the Great Rift Valley in Kenya holds exceptional promise for clean-energy development. The Rift spans nearly 4,000 miles, extending north into Lebanon and south into Mozambique. Situated in the middle of the fault line, Kenya is in a position to harness vast stores of underground energy.

The first geothermal site opened here in 1984, in the region of Olkaria (about 150 miles from the nation’s capital, Nairobi). At the moment, Kenya is working to expand its 23 sites, only four of which contain deep wells. While geothermal power plants in Olkaria maintain a generation capacity of around 700 megawatts and can power nearby major cities, geologists hope to double their impact by 2025.

On Track to a Sustainable Future

Geothermal energy in Kenya remains vital to ensuring a sustainable future nationwide. Unlike natural gas or even solar power, geothermal energy is safe from climatic hazards. In addition, it is available year-round and is relatively low-cost after drilling. Accounting for half the power in Kenya on some days, it has alleviated the national energy shortage. Moreover, it helps provide 75% of Kenyans with access to electricity. This is a significant increase from 56% in 2016.

Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) recognizes the need to implement geothermal energy in sustainability efforts. According to Cyrus Karingithi, Head of Resource Development at KenGen, “We are too dependent on hydropower and this poses a real problem with the repetition of droughts.” Two-thirds of the power in Kenya came from dams in 2010. With the rise of geothermal energy, innovative companies like KenGen have reduced that number to less than 50% and are aiming for 28% by 2024. To achieve their goal, geologists will continue to identify new drilling areas along the fault line.

Economic Growth

Harvesting geothermal energy in Kenya provides environmental solutions, and it also stimulates economic growth. As geothermal plants create jobs and power Kenyan businesses, these operations can wield a direct influence on the fight against poverty. For instance, Oserian is one of the leading flower exporters in Kenya. Oserian relies on geothermal energy to heat greenhouses and sell 380 million flower stems each year. In addition, the company can grow new rose varieties with a 24-hour heating supply. The same geothermal plant generates power for 300,000 other small or medium-sized businesses in the area. With a fast-growing economy, Kenya is already moving toward industrialization and modernization. The nation hopes to be an upper-middle-income country within the next decade. Officials remain optimistic that geothermal energy can power burgeoning industries throughout the country.

Leading the Way

Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy on the African continent and eighth in the world. The nation has helped set a valuable precedent for building green infrastructure and implementing sustainable poverty-reduction efforts. Additionally, Kenya will soon be in a position to offer other countries its geothermal equipment and expertise. KenGen intends to construct some of the first geothermal plants in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia. Furthermore, the company has scheduled geoscientific investigations in Rwanda and the Comoros Islands. KenGen has partnered with the Kenyan government, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme to garner support for resource development.

Now more than ever, geothermal energy in Kenya is a promising alternative power source. Though not without its challenges, energy drawn from inside the earth promotes numerous financial and environmental advancements. In the end, geothermal energy can help Kenyans propel themselves and their neighbors down a sustainable path to economic stability.

Katie Painter

Photo: Flickr

Clean Water Initiative in KenyaKenya, among many other areas, needs clean water. Clean water is not only a necessity for adults in Kenya but especially for children. Children need clean water for sanitation and hygiene. The number one cause of death of children age five or younger is from diseases related to water, hygiene and sanitation issues. Schools in Kenya, all suffer from not having complete access to water, hygiene and sanitation. This causes educational setbacks for children and it stunts their development and potential.

The goal is to achieve complete access to water for everyone in Kenya by 2030. However, there are some issues preventing the completion of this goal. One major barrier is the population growth that is continuing in Kenya. People who drink from contaminated water in Kenya ranks as the third in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 9.4 million people who consume contaminated water sources. Additionally, they are about 5 million people who practice open defecation in Kenya. Also in Kenya, only 14% have access to soap and water in their homes to wash their hands.

The Water Project

The Water Project is a nonprofit organization that is committed to enabling the access of clean water throughout Africa. The organization working to help communities with the clean water initiative in Kenya. According to the Water Project, access to clean water means an improvement in education, health, poverty and hunger.

Hunger can be improved by access to clean water because it is the foundation to have sustainable food sources. A lot of water is required to ensure that food will grow. So, improving water sources can change an entire community and country. At the root of poverty in Africa is water sources. The lack of clean water sources is one of the main causes of poverty. However, this is a problem that can be solved.

The Water Project and Community Engagement

The Water Project has a process that it follows for all its commitments. The organization focuses on community engagement, community education, installing the project, education follows up, monitoring and evaluation. With the help of the community, the organization can decide where it is going to work. Resources, the potential for positive outcomes and demand are a few of the main factors in its decision.

Community education is an opportunity for communities to learn about clean water resources, hygiene and sanitation. In addition, the community learn other key aspects of cooking and preparing meals using clean water sources. At the ending of the process, the organization then follows up with the community to ensure that the education process is going well and also that the project is exceeding expectations.

Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH)

The Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) is a five-year program that is dedicated to the clean water initiative in Kenya. It is working to create clean and sustainable water sources. The USAID program has six key areas of focus. These areas are water access, infrastructure, sanitation and hygiene, finance, sustainability and governance.

UNICEF

UNICEF is also another organization with the determination of providing clean water sources for Kenya. It helps to establish WASH. UNICEF aims to increases access to clean water for the number of households, schools and hospitals between 2018-2022. Additionally, the organization has helped more than 6,700 communities achieve Open Defecation Free status. Almost 550,000 children use WASH hygiene and sanitation facilities. UNICEF installed more than 1,000 facilities in schools throughout Kenya.

Kenya continues to lack the appropriate access to clean water sources for all of its communities. This causes poverty and directly affects the education of young children. These children do not have the appropriate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. As a result, this leads to diseases which are one of the leading causes of death for young children. In addition, it leads to setbacks in their education and potential.

The Water Project has stepped in to help the clean water initiative in Kenya. The organization has set up a process that will lead to the appropriate access to clean water in Kenya’s communities. The Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH), is working to provide more accessible water sources, sustainability and education throughout Kenya. Finally, UNICEF has helped to establish WASH, which has helped people use hygiene and sanitation facilities throughout Kenya.

Jamal Patterson
Photo: Flickr

Technology in Kenya

In recent years, a focus on technology crept through cables and bloomed within the country of Kenya. Mobile phones, an item sought after in developed countries, conveys a deeper significance for Kenyan citizens, establishing digital communities and managing the majority of payments. Other programs have been created in Kenya, focusing on artificial intelligence and information technology and communication.

AI Kenya & Artificial Intelligence

Devoted to the learning of artificial intelligence, AI Kenya acts as a growing community of data science practitioners, government officials and enthusiasts. The organization provides “tracks” regarding coding and machines, claiming whether “you’ve just learned to code or you’re a seasoned machine learning practitioner,” information will be provided, free to learn.

AI Kenya’s tracks are lessons, introductions and resources that aid the visitor on the path to digital learning. For the introduction to artificial intelligence, Microsoft’s AI Business School and a self-directed online course from Babson College are presented. For an intermediate track, a group of videos reviewing Statistical Machine Learning is listed, provided by Carnegie Melon University.

Across Africa and in various international countries, AI Kenya shares upcoming expos and conferences regarding artificial intelligence and digital technology. Podcasts join the organization’s information as well, spotlighting businesses and research or documenting Code Maktaba, a training event series improving community members on concepts.

VMWare & Information Technology

Besides artificial intelligence, other skills involving learning through technology prove valuable in careers. VMWare, a software company, leads an information technology (IT) academy with a program dubbed “Virtualize Africa.” The company commits to supply students with the technical skills and techniques needed to pursue jobs created by the digital age. They explain that to combat the rapidly changing and advancing technology in Kenya and other countries, skill sets must also be honed.

Strathmore University, located in Nairobi, Kenya, incorporates courses developed by VMWare which cover cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IOT), virtualization and other subjects. Students access online resources as well as in-person lab experiments. In partnership with VMWare, students may earn certifications by the company and chances to work as part of it.

Mobile Transactions

Kenya currently endures a hefty transition from cash to submitting payments with money-transfer systems on mobile phones. 70 percent of the country now use their phones to give money to each other, which is more than any other country. The interest inspires entrepreneurs to take advantage of cell phones and invent creative programs interweaving their technology.

Blogs have arisen, documenting technology in Kenya and how it is attracting others to the country. An environment fostering technological revolution supports the emergence of VMWare and AI Kenya, along with communities such as iHub, a center for creative professionals and influencers, hosting sessions for ideas and competitions.

While leading in mobile rankings, Kenya still wishes to rise up to developed countries with other aspects of technology. Currently, artificial intelligence and IT boast an abundance of programs and organizations. An increasing focus on technology in Kenya and schools also prepares students for the digital age and allows a head-start in the pool of technological revolution. Finally, the technological hub offers untapped sources of economic advantages, allowing companies to spread their programs outwards to the rest of the globe; the research on artificial intelligence allows for a web of further ideas, creating drones and services to aid the economy further.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

Hope for Slums in Kenya

A homeless child is wandering the streets of the largest slum in Africa. The child steals a mango, his meal for the next two days. An angry mob seeks justice and starts beating the hungry child. For some reason, a man saves the child from further punishment by paying for the mango. The man carried on with his day, but that boy’s life was changed forever. His name is Kennedy Odede and he is the founder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to create hope for slums in Kenya.

Odede was forced to the streets at the young age of 10 because of poverty and violence in his family. After being saved from the angry mob, Odede met a Catholic priest who helped him go back to school. In addition to school, Odede was working a factory job that paid him only $1 for 10 hours of work. The kindness from strangers in the face of these struggles is what inspired Odede to create Shining Hope for Communities as a way to give back to his hometown and help the urban poor.

SHOFCO started in 2004 with, “passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball.” The grassroots organization works to transform urban slums into communities of hope. They do this in three ways. The first is by providing life-saving services like healthcare and clean water. As a grassroots organization, they also promote collective action, so that the struggling communities can advocate for lasting change. Finally, SHOFCO also works to educate young girls and allow them to be leaders because they are the key to advocating for and maintaining positive change in Kenya and Africa’s slums.

Here are a few ways that SHOFCO has benefited Kibera:

  • Over 500 students received free education from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • SHOFCO created 24 water kiosks that provided low-cost water to over 30,000 Kibera residents
  • The water kiosks served around 300,000 people in the region

The progress SHOFCO has made in Kenya and other African nations are remarkable. Grants and donations are SHOFCO’s main source of funding. They have yet to receive foreign aid, but the possibility of funding from the Kenyan government is looking more likely. SHOFCO could give hope for slums in Kenya and so many other slums in Africa if they received foreign aid. The impact that they have already made is astounding and they can only go up from here. In 2018, SHOFCO had some remarkable achievements:

  • Over 90 percent of students passed their KCPE exam which is an exam given at the end of primary school
  • The average school score on the KCPE was a B+
  • SHOFCO trained almost 1,500 new entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago a boy who had struggled for most of his life started an organization that would change the lives of thousands. From earning $1 for 10 hours of work, Kennedy Odede used 20 cents of that dollar to create SHOFCO. With his amazing passion and kindness, SHOFCO has given hope for slums in Kenya. Together, Odede and SHOFCO have provided essential services to the poor and empowered young girls and women to create lasting change.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

Digital Education in Kenya

Despite Kenya’s large economy and rapid digital and technological growth, the country still suffers a vast digital gap. This gap is especially apparent in Kenya’s primary schools. As of 2015, Kenya spent 95.7 percent of its total education expenditure on primary public institutions. But, there is still only one teacher for every 47 students, the majority of whom do not have access to the internet. Tech-start ups and pilot projects are trying to close this gap by creating innovative programs that are helping students to earn a digital education in Kenya.

Opportunity for Everyone

In 2016, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology created the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP). The project promised to deliver 1.2 million digital devices to 21,718 primary public schools nationwide. The launch was successful and by 2018 the roll-out provided 19,000 schools with more than 1 million laptops, tablets and mobile devices pre-programmed with interactive, educational materials for students.

According to the ICT Authority of Kenya, 89.2 percent of public primary schools have been supplied with these devices. Since its launch, teachers involved with the DLP have also reported increased student alertness, boosted attendance and reported an overall increase in student admissions. The DLP has also created 11,000 employment opportunities in ICT support centers, local laptop assembly plants and digital education content development.

Despite the DLP’s successful roll-out of devices, experts in the field speculated that teacher-engagement combined with access to materials is the most effective way to ensure students’ success. The Inter-American Development Bank carried out a study in 2012, reporting that 860,000 computers supplied to Peruvian schools made teachers feel disengaged from students and did not improve student test scores. The DLP and projects like it looking to innovate digital education in Kenya took note of this and put more emphasis on teacher training. The DLP alone has trained 91,000 teachers to deliver digital learning content through the project since its launch.

Combating Educational Imbalance

Despite the overwhelming contributions provided by the DLP, obstacles still remain in terms of digital education in Kenya. Students in rural areas rarely have access to traditional libraries and textbooks. Then, there is also the issue of not having enough teachers to cover the multitude of students in each classroom. These same areas also suffer from regular power outages, making it difficult to keep devices charged throughout the school day. This, on top of an overall lack of internet access, creates a significant imbalance in the quality of resources provided to students and a system that can’t ensure equal opportunities for every child to be successful.

BRCK, a tech company based in Nairobi, aims to combat this imbalance with an innovative solution called the Kio Kit. The kit provides 40 tablets per school, that can be charged wirelessly, a wifi hotspot and a small server packed with educational content. The Kio Kit is connected to the cloud, making its server self-updating. The kit’s self-updating capabilities ensure that students and teachers utilizing its platform receive the most diverse and up-to-date information that BRCK’s content providers, like TED Education, Khan Academy and the like have to offer. The kit’s wide-ranging content also enables teachers to identify learning techniques that are unique to each student and apply them in the classroom.

Kenya still faces many challenges in quality education for all students. But, innovative tech projects like the DLP and the Kio Kit are working to combat these issues by ensuring both teachers and students have access to the best tech and resources available and helping to make great strides toward strong, digital education in Kenya.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr