Monday, September 19, 2016

Let's #volunteeringh for National Volunteer Day - #NVDay16

3 years ago, the +GhanaThink Foundation started the National Volunteer Day! It's still going strong. It has spread all across the country and spurred a spirit of volunteerism in Ghana. The impact is enormous and continues to grow with volunteer activities all year round. Read the press release below prepared by +Ghana Volunteer Program lead +Ela Asare. Kudos to her and her team of +Enock Seth Nyamador +Adelina Martey +Felix Nartey +William Osilaja Boampong and +Gerald Sowah for organizing this.
The Ghana Volunteer Program (GVP) is a program being run by the GhanaThink Foundation, an NGO based both in Ghana and the USA. National Volunteer Day, which falls around the 21st of September each year, is our major activity. It was instituted as part of GVP in 2013. This year, National Volunteer Day activities can be organized on 17th, 18th, 21st, 24th & 25th September 2016 as well as other nearby dates. The initiative aims to get as many people as possible in Ghana to volunteer their time or do community service during the Founder’s Day Holiday weekend. While volunteerism is not very popular and part of our society’s fabric, many individuals and organisations volunteer occasionally. National Volunteer Day (NVDay) is to increase these numbers and unify efforts in volunteerism in Ghana. We are encouraging more people to do community service within Ghana. That’s the same spirit our founding fathers engendered within our citizenry.
In 2013, we coordinated over 34 activities in 11 towns in Ghana around 7 regions around September 21. In 2014, we coordinated over 80 activities in 9 regions in Ghana around September 21. In 2015 - around September 19-21, we coordinated over 90 activities in all 10 regions in Ghana around September 21. Over a 1000 volunteers participated across the country. We look forward to more participants for National Volunteer Day in 2016.

Ato Ulzen-Appiah, the director of the GhanaThink Foundation stated: “Volunteering is a great way to show leadership in our communities and for our nation. I hope to see many first time volunteers for this see National Volunteer Day. After NVDay, we can individually say I Made Ghana Better Today! ”. By having volunteer or community service activities, we would be championing the ideals of our founding fathers and joining a national effort to work for Ghana. Volunteering demonstrates initiative and hard work, two ideals that many organisations look for while hiring. We believe that by participating in NVDay, participants would be building their CVs and professional capabilities.
We expect several individuals and organisations to hold different activities throughout the country. Activities ranged from skills training programs, clean up exercises, tutoring in a particular course, reading clinics for kids, blood donation drives, creating playing grounds for kids in the government schools to painting schools and faded zebra crossings. More than 300 people volunteered and their work benefitted thousands of people. The impact on the volunteers and beneficiaries was massive and was captured on social media via the #NVDay15 hashtag.


Eleanor Asare, the lead coordinator for the Ghana Volunteer Program said “NVDay has not only come to stay, but it is also here to cause a positive change in our attitudes towards volunteerism and to serve as a development tool.” Make it a point to be a part of NVDay16 this year by organising and registering your event on our volunteeringh.org website. The registration of your activity will allow us to support you with more volunteers and some publicity. At the volunteeringh.org website, you can also join volunteer activities that are being planned by others. We look forward to hearing about the incredible things you will be doing on NVDay16. Stay updated with what’s happening with the #NVDay15 hashtag and on social media Twitter, Facebook and Google+ . You can also support the organization of National Volunteer Day activities by donating through gofundme.com/Nvday16. Volunteerism, the heart of community development. Watch our promo video

Monday, July 25, 2016

Internet Of Things (IoT) use in Ghana

In the recent beautiful Ghana Weekly Tech Roundup sent recently by +Claude Ayitey, he added that the WAZIUP Internet of Things Project Launches In Accra+iSpace Foundation is part of a number of organizations working on this cool WAZIUP "Internet of Things (IoT)" project, centered around agriculture. He also added that Vodafone M2M Is Now Vodafone Internet of Things, but you know of that because I blogged about that already. So I started wondering, how are Ghanaian organizations using IoT? Yes, we are. #Morevim to us!

Photo by Kwamena Bolton
I've known about Herman Chinery-Hesse, the Bill Gates of Africa, for a long time. I love how he and his team at SoftTribe, arguably the largest software development company in Ghana, focuses on developing tropically tolerant solutions for this environment. Kwamena Bolton, the technical director of SoftTribe said that they have over the last few years been focusing some research and development on UAV / Drone technology. Kwamena said: "We are developing both fixed wing and multi-rotor aircraft for different applications. Our fixed wing models will have long range capabilities of between 100-200km, with flight times of 2-3 hours and can be programmed to fly and land autonomously anywhere within that range". Imagine the possibilities for a moment. He continued, "The aircraft can be used for multiple purposes, whether it be carrying a payload to a destination or performing long range surveillance missions.  For example, marine patrol, border patrol, illegal forestry and mining surveillance over inaccessible areas, oil and gas pipeline inspection, electricity line inspection, etc". You should watch some videos of these possibilities via Kwamena's Instagram.

That brings us to AeroShutter! I started seeing their stuff on Twitter and when +Nana Fynn Class-Peters shared some media with the +GhanaThink Foundation crew. They've been taking really awesome pictures of places like Takoradi, Middle Class Housing in Accra, Zaina Lodge, Elmina (my hometown), Adomi Bridge, Stone Lodge, Our famous DC 10 Airplane, Rattray Park (Day) &(Night) in Kumasi, Sogakope, Nzulezu, Dumsor spotting in Accra, Tema Harbour, Ashesi, etc, with drones. I've seen these drones in action at various events too - it was used to shoot some of the famous SkinTight (#MusicWeDeyFeel) video too at Zaina Lodge! I also understand that even the TV stations (including one of my faves, TV3) are using drones.




The Kofi Annan Center of Excellence for ICT is one of the major proponents of the tech ecosystem in Ghana. With an eye on trends, their annual Innovation Week -iWeek (September 12-16) would focus on IoT. They'll have a number of organisations implementing IoT including drones. There was also the 2nd Technology Salon which focused on this topic - themed "How Can Drones Accelerate Ghana's Development?" Hosted at PenPlusBytes, this was attended by Kwamena Bolton and Kwamena Hazel as well. Here's a cool publication about Drones for Development inspired by the event. Watch this video from the event. 


Ecoband is an ISP I'm starting to like more and more. At Ecoband, they use ioT to monitor all electrical inputs from ECG, power banks and generators. They also use it to monitor temperature of all outdoor cabinets and motion detection for the enclosures. Claude also brought my attention to Trackhab. It is labeled as Ghana’s first indigenous Internet-of-Things company, and it provides asset tracking and monitoring devices which enable vehicle owners, and owners of other assets to have an overview of their asset’s location and condition at anytime. They have a wide-range of IoT devices too! TrackHab was incubated by SMSGH and it is doing some business with MTN. Everywhere you go things, I believe. Read more via Gharage.

Gharage, which I hope becomes Ghana's premier tech news site, reported that the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority hinted it would regulate drone use. #Somewaybi. But anyway, actually, as you can see, there is a lot brewing in the IoT space in Ghana. Stay tuned for more. :-)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Strengthening networks for an internet of things economy

Thanks to technology services, there is a lot of data about users and uses cases, which allow organizations to be smarter and technology to work even better. In addition to this value in data explosion, there is enormous growth in intelligent use of the data. Platforms must orchestrate the data in hand to deliver value. They have to help users shift out the requisite information out of the chaff they see. The attention span of users and subscribers for that matter is very minimal, and so they
need to be served with relevant information and data they need quickly and conveniently.

We celebrate our mobile phone penetration in Ghana (35 million subscriptions for a nation of 25 million people), We have multiple devices connecting us for communication, but there is a wide range of other connected devices. By 2025, there would be 9 billion connected devices. Ghanaians must be part and parcel of those numbers with a lot of IOT use.  There has been very small uptake with mobile application use in Ghana, due to lack of trust in technology, failed use cases and stories and access and affordability of internet data. IOT services need a smarter and tech loving population to thrive.

Vodafone's bespoke, innovative SIM and SIM chip solutions are designed to address IOT business models and service requirements. At the recent Vodafone Ghana IoT workshop, a representatative spoke about this. Vodafone already enables connections for millions of users and devices today in Ghana, its business solutions would add the ability to manage these connections as added value.
This single SIM can be used worldwide, amongst the countries that Vodafone operates in. Vodafone owns and operates networks in 26 countries and has partner networks in over 50 additional countries. It has more than 500 million connections (second globally behind China Mobile). For companies doing business in the West Africa sub-region, it's critical to be able to move data and communicate effectively across. This is also true for connecting devices and being able to seamlessly move information briskly and efficiently. 

— Vodafone Ghana (@VodafoneGhana) June 27, 2016
And a pretty bold statement at the end too right? As SIM cards become cheaper in many markets, they also need to be pre-provisioned and ready to use. Vodafone Ghana has addressed that. With their Machine to Machine solutions, business assets are connected to the internet. There are a whole wide range of uses cases for the Ghanaian market and beyond on the Vodafone website - aptly named Machine to Machine :-) Below is an intro video about Vodafone M2M.



Understanding & making use of the Internet Of Things revolution

Photo from http://tblocks.com/
The internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles and buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, network connectivity, etc - that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. That's what Wikipedia says. With IoT, internet connectivity is extended beyond computers, tablets and phones to a whole wide of range of devices and use cases that will really blow your mind. The 4th Industrial Revolution is here! That means we need great #internet4all as well.

Various companies around the world use Internet Of Things to manage fleet while monitoring mileage and even engine health. IoT is useful in monitoring parking spaces availability in city congested areas. Even Diageo is joining fun whereby messages are sent out when a Johnny Walker bottle is opened! IoT can also be used in payment processing based in location or activity duration for public transport, gyms, theme parks, etc.

It can be also used to monitor the quality of tap water in cities and for monitoring of water level variations in rivers, dams and reservoirs. This sounds like something Accra really needs. Maybe the next AMA supported hackathon should focus on this? The Trotro Data Throwdown was cool though! Zoomlion would find the ability to detect rubbish levels in containers to optimize the trash collection routes very useful. E-Commerce is starting to thrive a bit in Ghana. IoT can enhance that by getting intel through point of sale with info on customer habits, preferences, etc. Remember iCow? Well, various companies in Ghana like Farmable are using technology in the agricultural sector to monitor cows, etc.

Have you heard of a Fitbit? That's IoT in action. Some friends of mine have been wearing it. It challenges to walk more, sometimes doing as much as 5000 steps in one day. I walk a lot anyway, so I don't really need a Fitbit (yet). I've seen a lot of Samsung made watches and Apple watches used similarly but these devices are able to do much more - phone calls, act as calendars, used for playing music, etc!

See the cow? Photo from Ogilvy
After too many run-ins with the Electricity Corporation of Ghana over dumsor issues and ECG payment wahalas, a smart meter has been fixed in my home. Here's IoT at work again. Smart meters are able to read how much energy you use (for instance) and communicate that to a central system. That's lovely. Because when I go to ECG now, they can give me better information on how much energy I used and how much I should pay, etc. You're surprised this wasn't the case 2.33 years ago? That's some of what we are dealing with in Ghana.

The possibilities for IoT are endless though. Imagine we have smart cars and a smart city transport system all communicating? We will get better traffic flow optimization, where traffic lights can pick up changes in traffic flow and different conditions. Drivers will get to know about traffic and street conditions, and we can have better mobility. I know Dumsor is back but if our electricity system is working like it should, this is possible!

At the heart of making IoT work, is network connectivity. There is no organization better placed to support this effectively in Ghana like Vodafone Ghana. They have the broadband connections, they have a wide network and millions of subscribers and even more SIM cards in the system. They don't say "Power to You", they're also a fan brand. Check out Vodafone's M2M website to learn more about their IoT solutions.

Vodafone Ghana champions Internet of Things with expert workshop

Many telecommunication companies around the world have been at the forefront of scaling innovation. Thanks to their huge subscription bases and financial muscle, they are also some of the best organizations to drive this. Due of user churn amongst other reasons, these telcos spend a lot of money on marketing as well. As companies that adopt technology and in many ways stay on top of trends, they also promote a lot of innovation in their marketplace. Vodafone Ghana is priming to continue this in Ghana and be a market leader.  It is in this light, that they are promoting the internet of things (IoT).

Vodafone Ghana organized a workshop recently at the Labadi Beach Hotel on June 27, 2016 to educate Ghanaians more on IoT. In attendance were many Ghanaian content and web developers.
What is IoT? It is seen as an amalgation of IT & OT. IT is about people talking to people, while OT is about machines talking to machines.  IoT is about machines and objects talking to machines and objects talking to people.

IOT is transforming the way organizations work. Matt Hatton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Machina Research spoke about opportunities coming into the Ghanaian market for organizations here. He also shared some success stories.
With better use of technology and instituting more IoT into business, organizations can save millions of dollars. Don't take it from me, take it from the expert himself, Matt Hatton.

According to data from a Vodafone M2M Barometer survey in 2015, 64% of respondents (organizations) said they expect to have an IOT solution in place within 2 years. 59% of the respondents (organizations) using IOT said they are seeing significant return on investments (ROI). Many times, organizations are concerned with finding more money to invest in what they are doing for greater returns.

There are various Ghanaian companies starting to use IoT, including some startups. A group of them are working under the WAZI-UP IoT project. This workshop is the surest sign that Vodafone Ghana is willing to champion IoT in Ghana. When Vodafone Ghana supported our Tech Camp West Africa in 2015, Angela Mensah Bonsu, Head of Vodafone Business Solutions, gave a great presentation showcasing Vodafone Ghana's drive to showcase and implement innovation in our business ecosystem. At this IoT workshop, she said, "IoT is cementing Vodafone’s offering in Ghana exceeding its deliverables across varied and multiple sectors in Ghana". We need technology everywhere, indeed. Let's all deliver technology and trends for development in Ghana together. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Secure your & Ghana's future with the Savings Booster

Growing up is not easy. It would have been great to have been more prepared through the years. I am accepting that you can't have enough information, especially from experienced people. We must have one eye on the future as we go about conquering the present. As we are growing up, #WeAreEvolving. Things change, become better especially with technology and we get greater responsibilities as part of our careers and even our ages. We must be prepared for the future. Saving is an integral part of this.
We start to take more responsibility for our communities and countries. We start to understand and pay taxes. I tweeted about three constants. Life, death and taxes. When we were growing up, in mathematics, we learnt about mathematical constants which were signed by 'k'. Now, K has become a synonym for constant. Why not save for the future in between life & death while paying taxes? As we have evolved, there has been a lot of great information. One of the best evolutions is saving money as you pay your taxes. Read that again. It's real. You can save some of your taxes as extra savings for later


PetraTrust has launched a really cool online tool that sheds more light on this. It is aptly named achievemore.petratrust.com. It presents information about a PetraTrust product called 'Savings Booster'. The website is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. The pains at which it goes through to make you understand the Savings Booster is quite remarkable. It is that kind of 'attention to detail' that we lack in these parts and must become ubiquitous. Not surprised though. Those who run PetraTrust have been trained and been honed by world class institutions and this is evident in the work they do. After my friend Mutombo checked out the website, he chimed in with advice, He's a very experienced guy, Listen to him :-)
PetraTrust is a leading financial services provider. They are affectionately called the pensions expert.
The managing director, Kofi Fynn, at the launch of ‘Savings Booster’, said workers need to add the 3rd tier pension scheme to benefit from the pre-tax savings provision in Ghana's Pensions Law. You are probably patronising the 1st and 2nd tier schemes because they are mandatory - they are managed by SSNIT. He explained that when one makes a savings booster contribution through payroll, part of the money that would have been paid as taxes will be added to that savings hence, putting the contributor ahead even before the investment begun. You need to ensure yourself or your company is on this! Gain more information at the PetraTrust website today!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

With the Huawei P8, you can particip8 more in cool camera captures!



The Blobla meme has gone viral with many people getting their own at the Blobla link. When I was notified about this, it had given some accurate descriptions of friends. So I tried it. When I saw mine, I knew Blobla had studied my Facebook. Smart. I REALLY like taking selfies with friends. I obviously want to use my phone each time but sometimes, some other friends have phones that take nicer pictures and selfies. With the Huawei P8, I can now do the selfie taking with more confidence due to its great camera. Great news! Now, I can particip8.


As I mentioned earlier, I REALLY like taking selfies. But the truth is, I REALLY like taking groufies, that is, selfies with a group of people. Blobla attests :-) I need my phone to have a great camera. So I set out to test the ability of the Huawei P8. After a small party celebrating the 15th anniversary of Wikipedia, I took a selfie with some (+Planning Wikimedia Ghana) Wikimedia Ghana group members +Felix Nartey & +Enock Seth Nyamador  who are also part of the +GhanaThink Foundation. While we readied for the picture, I was going to anticip8. The results were gr8.
The camera has a couple of great features. The Huawei P8 has state of the art “low-light” shooting capabilities. It also has face and smile detection. You can also put the focus on yourself with the Huawei P8’s “Perfect Selfie” feature. Want to shine brighter when you take groufies? You're covered. You can highlight your best features in each photo, so every side is now your good side. Here is a groufie I took with +Jimmy Othniels +Samuel Mari Twum +Eric Amonoo +Samuel Tinagyei etc in Koforidua after a wedding reception. +Barcamp Koforidua things!

The touch focus feature can be a life saver! Imagine those times where you need to focus your camera to take the perfect picture for your Cam Scanner app. The last time I tried this with another phone, I had to adjust the phone and camera to account for shadows, etc. Tedious! It could make my patience dissip8.
Time travels at whatever speed you want with the Huawei P8 Time Lapse function. Huawei P8's real-time preview helps you choose the right exposure time for the perfect shot! The “light painting” feature allows you to paint with any light source in creating spectacular and unique images. These are relatively new features that I had to take time to figure out.

In addition to the timeless flash option, you can also choose a light option that creates a light source to brighten up the picture taking environment. The night vision pictures are really good! Fret no more about pictures after dark. Here’s a picture I took with a couple of friends - +Nii Oblie Ardayfio & +David Osei
at Republic Bar in Osu during a night on the town.
I tested the panoramic shot a couple of times. The camera app does a good job of guiding you in taking the perfect panorama. Below is a great shot of the Achimota Retail Centre in its full frontal glory.
My first experience with Huawei was when the Ideos phones were released. They were good affordable smart phones which brought many people into the Android family. They run out of Ghana so fast! However, I normally associated Huawei with cheap smart phones that aren't top of the shelf quality. Enter Huawei P8. It compares favorably to other high-end smartphones, at a more affordable price. One of the phone shops in Ghana sells it for under GHC 1700. That’s a steal right there! Grab one while stocks last. Don’t be l8. It can help take a really nice picture of #waakye, especially when you don't use the right camera on #WaakyeWednesday and have to take today like I did. Don't db8. G8 8. :-)

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