Thursday, August 29, 2013

Think Ghana on this day of the Supreme Court Verdict

Frankly, I had tuned off all the election petition talk all year but today, I can't ignore it.
Because today is the day of the supreme court judgment.

All the funny pictures (with weaponry in them too) and jokes have caught my attention. Apparently, we Ghanaians joke so that we don't take things too seriously, Nice explanation.

Ghana should be the winner today. Let's think Ghana.

Here's a cool picture from the Daily Graphic.
Sums up today in a really nice way.

That's all I have to say. Back to work. This blog post took just about 2:33 minutes to finish :-) 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Celebrating International Youth Day in Ghana

I only learnt about International Youth Day coming up when a lady who works in the UN alerted me about it when I emailed her about +Barcamp Tema. She wanted to know if they were connected. They weren't and they still haven't exactly been. Barcamp Tema was the 21st Barcamp organized in Ghana and it's a number that's been seen as highly impressive every time it's been mentioned as this has all happened in 5 years. Yeah, we ain't stopping till we hit Tuabodom, Tain and (Cape) Three Points. Follow the movement.

Earlier this morning, I was made aware that I was going to be featured & highlighted by the +US Embassy Ghana and celebrated as part of International Youth Day celebrations in Ghana. Later, the featuring happened, and just around 2:33pm or as close as possible. I was featured alongside +Alloysius Attah +Kajsa Hallberg Adu +Deborah Ahenkorah and +regina agyare (all of whom have participated in Barcamps before, awesome!) Here's the post about me

Born in Kumasi, Ato Ulzen-Appiah moved to Accra after receiving his university education in the USA and together with the GhanaThink Foundation has organized 21 barcamps in Ghana and brought together over 2,000 young Ghanaians to brainstorm on ways to move their communities forward. Ato is also the founder of an African music startup Museke.
Another young Ghanaian worth celebrating on ‪#‎YouthDay‬‪#‎IYD2013‬

I shared the photo on my Facebook profile with the following message. I'd had a tough day today between joggling work and plans for +Barcamp Tamale this Saturday. This was a welcome post. #Morevim for my Monday! And for you hopefully too. The sweetener was having this post go up just around the time is now becoming synonymous with Ghana - 2:33pm. #233moments indeed. Even though I was being praised, I remain as modest as possible. In fact, my #233moments post today was about learning.

I went to watch a movie at the Silverbird Cinema mall with my brother +Kofi Ulzen-Appiah. We watched a Ghanaian movie, "Cheaters 2". For some reason, I didn't realise this was the second part of a movie series or I might have watched something else. Why watch a Ghanaian movie at the theatres? It's called supporting some of our own. Quite simple. The movie wasn't one I would put in the same sentence as Tsotsi, but then again I've seen many foreign movies of this calibre. I loved that there were many Becca songs as the soundtrack though. The movie had some interesting subplots but I doubt I will be reviewing it. We'd see.

After the movie, I spotted a couple of girls ahead of me leaving the mall. They were likely Nigerian based on their accents. I offered them a ride with the #vimride, asking where they were going but they refused. Because they didn't even know where they were going as they were not from this country. Hope the taxi driver got them to their destination quickly and safely. Just as I was leaving the mall premises, I spotted another 2 girls. I stopped and offered a free ride to their destination so far as it was near. They were going towards Presec. "Oh, I know there, it's my old school". The ladies were not so forthcoming, but after it became clear I wasn't moving soon and I opened the back seat doors, they sat. They stay at Evandy Hostel and I dropped them off just around the ECG station at Legon. One lady was Nigerian and the other was Ghanaian.

Just after passing Presec and knowing that I was close to dropping them off, I told them "Today is International Youth Day, and this is youth helping youth". I told them I wanted to save them some cedis. I Made Ghana Better Today! #IMGBT. After they thanked me, I asked them to thank Ghana. Does that make sense? Not really. But that's how my relationship with Ghana is. It doesn't really make sense some of the time. Innovation and creativity hardly make sense the first time. In fact, love doesn't really make sense sometimes. Me and Ghana? It's loveI love my country Ghana so badly, that love gives me the vim to do what I do with others. These are some of the ways more value is added to the work I do with others.

The theme for International Youth Day is "Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward". I'd like to shout out all the folks who've been involved in +Barcamp Ghana events in one way or the other and those who've been involved in the GhanaThink Foundation from day one till now and continue to follow and support. They are some of young people moving development forward along with many others in Ghana. You can also move development forward. Less talk, more action. Less complaining, more doing. More vim to us all! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Persevering with the Junior Camp Ghana project via St. Augustine's College

After the successful organization of Junior Camp Ketasco and the implementation of Junior Camp Kalpohin, the next in line was Junior Camp Augusco. Cape Coast has always been a hotbed of educational institutions and it was prudent that it would host one of the earliest Junior camps. The +Barcamp Cape Coast team was bent to follow through a career guidance and mentoring event as part of the +Junior Camp Ghana project after the +Barcamp Ho and +Barcamp Tamale teams had taken the lead. St. Augustine's College became the third school thanks to the efforts of its teacher +agent wilson seyram ameamu amongst others. Junior Camp Augusco happened on July 27, 2013. The key learning here is teachers can really help drive ideas and solutions home.

+nathaniel ALPHA who had organized the first junior camp had just taken a leadership role on the project. Nathaniel is quite the vimful guy. He's a fresh graduate out of Keta Secondary School and is bent on taking the Junior Camp goodness to senior high school students around the country. We share his vim, especially +Mawuli Tsikata who also volunteered to lead this project. Nathaniel was the only mentor at Junior Camp Augusco who had been to any of the previous two events; it surely helps to have someone with the event experience at the next. He is reaching for change so as to make more senior high school students smile. The GhanaThink Foundation hopes to scale the Junior Camp Ghana project around the country and it might likely hit various other regions before the +Barcamp Ghana project does.

The call for mentors yielded about half of sign-ups being based in the Cape Coast area, with the rest being in Accra, Kasoa, Saltpond and Takoradi. We tried to get some old boys to participate but those who were interested in it were based in Accra and unavailable. These fine gentlemen lent their support though - Barcamp Ho lead Eli Aidam, +Derrydean Dadzie+Felix Tetteh & +Ebenezer Laryea. The mentors who were present at St. Augustine's College included +Elorm Billy-Awittor+Kobe Subramaniam+Dominic Hotor, +francis kumadoh and +David Abbey-Thompson. They were joined by Rachael Atorkey, Chris Orlando, Wisdom Kwashie and George Atta Quainoo. They mentored in matters around Student Life, Multimedia & Design, IT, Education, Nursing & Medicine, Literature & Writing, Blogging, Finance and Talent Management.

Augusco was the first same-sex school that we were having a Junior Camp at. I was personally wondering how that would play out in having mentors from the opposite sex involved. Turned out the lone ranger, Rachael, was very comfortable dealing with many teenage boys. It's believed that most students are not allowed to have phones at their school - St. Augustine's college. The students loved the event so much that their thoughts and expressions ended up on Twitter. A lot of those were captured in this Story by GhanaThink on Storify. I'd leave the Storify story to give a better recap of what happened at Junior Camp Augusco. You can see more pictures from the event on the Junior Camp page via Elorm Awittor. Big ups to Seyram Wilson for leading on this from the Augusco side. You could tell from the feedback from students that they really appreciated Seyram bringing the mentors to them. Interestingly, Kobe has been working and tutoring some of the students there. One of the outcomes of the event is for some of the students to develop apps.

We are excited about the possibility of more Junior Camps in Cape Coast especially. It's almost a race to see which school comes next. We believe in scaling this by interest; organizing Junior Camps where the school authorities want this. A lot can be built upon the Junior Camp project to increase engagement with senior high school students in Ghana as well. If you are an educator in Ghana or are interested in Ghana's education space, join this Ghana Educators Google group. Speaking of Cape Coast, it's first ever TEDx event is coming soon. Check out +TEDxCapeCoastEDMore vim to all the educators out there ensuring young people in Ghana are being educated and exposed to make right academic and career decisions. Follow the Junior Camp Ghana project and stay tuned for when a Junior Camp comes to your area in Ghana or to your alma mater!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Expanding the Junior Camp Ghana project via Kalpohin Senior High School

 We have Ketasco students to thank for the formation of the +Junior Camp Ghana project. This project is to guide and mentor senior high school students in Ghana to give them insight and guidance on their academic and career ladders. You can read about the story of the first Junior Camp held at Keta Senior Technical School and it happened here. This event would borne out of what some Ketasco students (especially +nathaniel ALPHA) saw while attending +Barcamp Tema & +Barcamp Ho. It happened on January 30, 2013. The next one happened on July 13, 2013. In a school you would have never guessed. Kalpohin Senior High School in Tamale. Yes, I didn't know of this school until this year either. Big ups to +Naomi Selorm+Seyram Freddy Ahiabor and the +Barcamp Tamale team for making the event happen.

After the success of Junior Camp Ketasco, the GhanaThink Foundation was looking for opportunities to do other Junior Camps. After seeing a Tema focused Junior Camp (to precede Barcamp Tema) not happen, it became clear that it would be best to do these Junior Camps per school and not per town or location. So we decided to pick through senior high schools that would be interested in a career guidance event. They'd organize their students and the event and take care of the student related costs, we (the GhanaThink Foundation) would organize the mentors and take care of their costs. It reduces the liability on the GhanaThink Foundation but it also allows us to scale and build within our resources, energy and interest. The first real opportunity arose with Kalpohin SHS because Naomi wanted it to happen and it would be a great way to whip interest for an upcoming Barcamp Tamale.

We called for mentors to participate in Junior Camp Kalpohin. Initially, we were getting a lot of interest from people outside Tamale and had to focus the communication. We're not at the point where we can transport people over long distances to mentor students. That day will come :-) We made use of the Barcamp Tamale social media accounts and the network the team collectively had. We managed to get a number of mentors based in the Northern region, including one fine lady who's based in Wa. I personally couldn't go to Tamale for the event. There are able-bodied people to ensure the success of the event. Seyram, who had attended the Ketasco event, was in the Northern region on Operation Smile duty and was able to help guide the Junior Camp. Now, Naomi, +Mohammed Muntasir Nashiru and +Yakubu H.Yakubu all have helped organize a Junior Camp to go on and lead others in different senior high schools.

The July 13 event had 16 mentors and organizers. They were Seyram, Naomi Adeho, Nashiru, Rabi Salifu, +Karen Sagoe+maccarthy lomotey, Alhassan Abdul-Latif, Michael Kpiebaareh, Mohammed Yakubu, Lawal Rafiatu, Saddique Abdul, Abdul-Aziz Ibn Shiraz, Felix Osei-Tutu and Kofi Larbi. They mentored in various industries and disciplines - IT, Medicine, Education, Social Work & NGOs, Business, and Entrepreneurship, amongst others. The event started around 9am and ended around 2pm.

The Kalpohin SHS students loved the experience as they got the chance to ask many burning questions about the next steps in their education and about careers they were interested in. The mentors especially loved sharing insight, getting to see what is happening in a senior high school and imparting knowledge. The event met the expectations of many of the mentors and they were really happy to have the opportunity. The organizing team learnt to ensure that based on the interests of the students and what subject areas the school is more versed in determine more of where the mentors come from. It's always great to have some old students come back to their alma mater to participate as well. It was a great feature of Junior Camp Ketasco, acknowledging the old students.

You can see more pictures from the event on the Junior Camp Facebook page as well as on the Barcamp Tamale one. As mentioned before, this event happened mostly because of the work Naomi put in. We need more awesome and forward thinking teachers like her around the country, just like Gameli Adzaho too in Ketasco. If you know teachers like these, encourage them to also join this Ghana Educators Google group. More vim to all the educators out there ensuring young people in Ghana are being educated and exposed to make right academic and career decisions. They have the kind of vim and verve with which the Kalpohin students were shouting "more vim" on July 13, 2013. The students had been armed with information and insight to help them build skills and knowledge to become better students and citizens. Follow the Junior Camp Ghana project and stay tuned for when a Junior Camp comes to your area in Ghana or to your alma mater! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Comparing the Samsung S4 to the Tecno Phantom A

Chinese Telecom company Tecno has sold over 2 million phones in Ghana and is poised to eat into Samsung’s market share for Android phones in Ghana too. In this post, I’d compare the new Tecno Phantom A to the Samsung S4. The latter is the flashiest baby on the block of Samsung Android Phones. The HTC One and Sony Xperia Z are a couple of other top-end Android smart phones but haven’t quite had the impact on the African continent as the S4. I’ve seen quite a number of S4s in Ghana and it was quite a statement when one of the local telecom operators organized an experiential launch of the Samsung S4 in Ghana earlier this year. 

Samsung S4’s quad 1.9 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor is better suited for the smart phone use than the Phantom A’s 1 GHz Dual-Core processor. This is most important for phone users who do a lot of gaming, and media consumption. If the phone is for more regular use, there’s not much to give as per the respective hardware. The Tecno Phantom A  arrives with the Android 4.1 OS compared to the Samsung S4 running on the 4.2 version of Android. This supports many features that Android users enjoy and the phone performs creditably. The internal storage is rather little at 1GB but the availability of a slot that can take SD card with up to 32GB is great news for users to consume and keep a lot of content.  The Samsung S4 allows for users to have up to 64GB in memory.

One major concern for many Android phone is the battery life. The S4 has arguably the best battery for Android phones and it beats out the Phantom A here. My friend whose S4 I borrowed, is able to routinely get about 18 hours of battery life. The most battery-run hours I’ve been able to get with the Phantom A consistently with heavy app use has been 10. But I do have the power bank that came with it. Though it’s an extra thing to carry, it’s handy and reduces the need to be charging the phone frequently.

The Samsung S4 replaced its predecessor the S3 as a thinner phone. The Tecno Phantom A is not as thin and has a relatively similar weight. The Phantom A has a 5inch HD screen just like the S4. It performs creditably as its compatriot for video viewing and audio playback. The display on the Phantom A doesn’t feel as sharp as the S4. The dedicated button for taking pictures on the Phantom A is a welcome addition, especially since many Africans like to ‘show off’ their smart devices and take pictures on occasion. It has a front-facing 8 mega pixel camera. The Samsung S4 has a 13 mega pixel camera and has a wow factor to it.

One phone feature I pay close attention to is how it handles contacts and communication. The Phantom A’s contact and communication interface is very much like that of Google Nexus phones, which I love. It gets the edge over how the S4 handles it for me, I like the look and feel better. The filtering for received, dialed and missed calls on the Tecno Phantom A is also great.

The major advantage for the Tecno Phantom A is obviously the DUAL SIM functionality. This is really built for Africa. There is a DUAL SIM S4 mini but that’s not the comparison here. We’re talking 5 inch screen types to enjoy proper video calls. There are real use cases for this in Africa and I like the way the Phantom A makes use of this functionality. It was relatively easy for me to get used to juggling two phone numbers on the same phone based on the user experience that the Phantom A offers.

To be able to achieve most of the functionality that top-end Android phones have and manage it all with a Dual SIM for about half the price makes the Tecno Phantom A a steal. The phone enjoys most of the functionality and features that we’ve come to know for various smart phones. The aesthetic appeal drops Tecno into the cool phone conversation and brings another buying bracket into the high-end smart phone market.

Revealing the technological reality of the Tecno Phantom A

Conservative estimates put Tecno Telecom as having sold about 2 million phones in Ghana. The introduction of the Tecno Phantom A is to make a dent on the existing Android market in Ghana and Africa. The economic benefit is the loudest statement that the phone makes, selling at Five hundred and forty Ghana cedis (540 GhC).  That’s about $270. The Phantom A is a very good deal. A relative of mine talked down the price as something to expect from Tecno as their phones as cheap. It was said tongue in cheek but I ensured she checked out the features and used the phone to notice how good it really is. Tecno wading into the Android market won’t be as easy as having a very good price point. Users will have to love the phone’s performance and productivity to make the Phantom A a best seller. In this blog post, I would go on to outline the phone’s functionality and performance. I would compare it to a major phone in this market in my next blog post. 

The Tecno Phantom A runs on the Android operating system version 4.1. This supports many features that Android users enjoy and the phone performs creditably. The internal storage is rather little at 1GB but the availability of a slot that can take SD card with up to 32GB is great news for users to consume and keep a lot of content.  It’s a bit odd to have the jack for connecting a USB or power cord at the top of the phone. The Built-in CD-ROM feature is a nice to have but not a show stopper in my opinon. Because many smart phone users are likely more in tune with the age of USB drives. The other standard options for USB connections from phone to computer are inclusive.

The phone has a big battery which contributes to its sturdiness.  The flip case that comes with the phone is a very welcome addition to keeping the phone in a good shape. The battery life is fairly good. For low activity and not much app use, I was able to go a whole day on battery. The battery acquits itself much better than other smart phones I have used.

The 5inch HD screen makes this a great phone for media consumption.  I tested the video functionality by checking through recommended videos on Youtube. I found the old Ghanaian movie classic “I Told You So” which I started watching. While looking to increase and decrease the volume to see its range, I mistakingly hit the button just below the volume controls. I was just discovering it! I realized it was a button to start the camera function and take pictures. Cool! But not very intuitive. The symbol on the button seems to signify a camera but that’s not readily known. I was able to take some great shots with the front-facing 8 mega pixel camera. The drop-off in quality for the back facing camera was a little too steep.

I installed the Kasahorow keyboard (for typing various Ghanaian language characters) seamlessly and started downloading various apps.  The default app offering was okay but not complete. I expected to see more from the Google suite – Navigation, Drive, Google+.  Google Translate would have been a nice touch given the phone’s focus on Africa. I like the inclusion of Notes and Recorder apps. Sometimes, it’s difficult to sift through a selection of apps that solve various problems so it helps from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to  help choose.

I am very particular about how smart phones handle contacts and communication. The layout and user interface for the contacts is very much like that of Nexus phones which I love. I waited a while but the profile photos of contacts never synced with my Gmail contacts which was disappointing. After a longer while, the photos started showing up but the photos were not too sharp and a bit blurry.

I did like how the phone identified which phone numbers were on various telecom networks. That’s a plus for me and staying true to this phone really being built for Africa.  Very glocal.  I’ve never used a Dual SIM phone before as I don’t believe as much in using multiple chips. There are real use cases for this in Africa and I like the way the Phantom A makes use of this functionality. It was relatively easy for me to get used to juggling two phone numbers on the same phone based on the user experience that the Phantom A offers. The call log didn’t show the dates of the calls which I think is a feature that needs to be added. I like how the filtering for received, dialed and missed calls is done. It also shows the call count which was also missing in the call log.

The phone enjoys most of the functionality and features that we’ve come to know for various smart phones. The aesthetic appeal drops Tecno into the cool phone conversation and brings another buying bracket into the high-end smart phone market.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tweeting my #LightHouse Chapel experience in Accra

I was at church again today! What an experience it was. I won't talk plenty. I blogged this thing already while at the Light House Chapel Airport West service :-)
I love wearing African attires. But you may know that already. I love seeing people wearing African attires. Especially my sisters. Ghana mmaa hoɔ fɛ! The ladies had 'spoated' paa! Some of the dresses had been made with about 5 different pieces of fabric. My people are full of colour. I was just loving this. 
Yeah, so we're hearing that many of these 'African' fabrics are not really from Ghana or Africa but rather made in China (rip-offs & cheap Chinese copycats) and Holland (courtesy of Vlisco and co). Can I tell the difference? Not really. Do I love seeing traditional African wear on people? Really do. If you are not appreciating God's people wearing their best cultural dresses into His presence and second-guessing and belittling that they might be wearing Dutch courage and Chinese copycats, God is watching you o!
Yeap. There's no real chance to do a second time at the LightHouse chapels in Kumasi and Oakland right now. There's a real chance I visit this Airport West branch again because I shall be invited again. Soon. They even have some directions to my house. The light breakfast on the house is the sweetener. :-)
I normally spend Sundays listening to gospel music. I am listening to some from South Africa now. But the percussion and piano in church does a lil something to the human being. Just like that loud party music in the club. Bɔ senku no na bɔ ne dɛdɛ!
No joke. There's a LightHouse chapel in every corner you turn. Have you not seen their bright yellow signboard in your travels? It's them. Bringing light to every house and maintaining loyalty. I just came up with the marketing motto for the church. I want some of my collection back. Just kidding :-)
It was tres cool to see Cwesi Oteng lead praise and worship. The Bishop confirmed it later, I wasn't sure whether it was him. It was even cooler to tweet with him today as well. Jesus Follower! I just followed him back. I love his music! Interestingly, he performed with Kirk Franklin here in Accra last night. I stayed at home yesterday and didn't party. Praise God! I missed Cwesi Oteng and Kirk Franklin in concert. OMG!

That video which had filmed the lady chilling at Prampram beach and talking about announcements for the church service for the next day was too cool. That's just putting some more cool in an already cool church. I thought it was interesting that the church announcements came before the sermon and the first offering had also followed.
After the service, I told all who would hear that Bishop Eddie Addy was a funny pastor. That's not something I could tell him so I told him he was entertaining. He surely was. He got his message across though. I tweeted it. If you missed the message while reading these earlier tweets, God is watching you too!
Many books to sell. This is a business. Too much. 3 collections! Eish! Three much. Let me save the church business talk for another blog post. I loved going to LightHouse. I already proclaimed I'd go back to visit. I caught myself saying second mass earlier today. I have to go to a Catholic service soon. I guarantee it won't be a 4 hour commitment like today was. It was a great 4 hours though. This blog post is confirmation. :-)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zouk my love for Kizomba music, make my move for Kizomba dance in Accra

Instead of going to Afrikiko to go and sharpen my poor Kizomba dancing skills, I am here at home 'working' and listening a playlist of Kizomba songs. That sounds like something I would do but not Roberto Saudades. When he is in the right environment, he can really get his Kizomba grooves on. Since I am not really Roberto, I have some learning to do. I basically want to be able to move like this on the dance floor. See the video below

I became a huge fan of Kizomba music as I continued looking for music from Angola. I discovered musicians like Ary, Ralph Anselmo and Yola Araujo. I knew of Perola and Bruna Tatiana already. In fact, Bruna is my Facebook friend. Grande som! Bruna had made a name for herself participating in Big Brother Africa and even coming to Ghana. How I wish she would come again, to Ghana? #Coded. Yeah. Perola had a couple of hot songs, disappeared for a bit and then reappeared with this classic - Presta Atencao. And then Ary came out with Vai Dar Bum, Ralph came out with Kizomba songs that were still madly popular but which I finally loved, like Nao Me Toca. This video has 14 million views. As for Yola, she'd won me over with that "I Love You" song with Ali Angel. And then Coisa Doida with Adi Cudz arrived. Yola Semedo found her way into my playlist after releasing Meu Amor. After a long period off the music scene and in being in DC, Bruna returned to Angola and then released with Estou Cansada. Aish.

The day I found out that there was a regular Kizomba night in Accra, I was beside myself with excitement. I went to the next Kizomba gig at Afrikiko the very next Thursday and enjoyed the 'performances'. They surely are performances because I can't really do it like they do. I had missed the dance lessons that happened earlier. You see how you go to clubs and get bounced around, not getting dances? Not at the Kizomba or Zouk gigs. If you can do the dance, you get a dance. After I eventually went to ask for a dance, one of the ladies was so kind to give me a lesson. I struggled. Hehe. I'm not sure I'm any better today. I put an entry in my calendar - Kizomba Night in Accra, every Thursday from 9-10pm. This is the most consistent entry in my calendar. No joke. It's happening right now as I finish this blog post. Am gonna pause to watch this video on my big screen TV. Join me.

I would have repeated the video but I didn't want to keep you waiting. I'm hooked onto Zouk, but I have a huge crush on Zouk's sister. I just might write another poem at some point. Kizomba for me is more African. It's more synonymous with Angola than Zouk is synonymous with Francophone Africa. It's made me want to learn Portuguese so bad. It's also made me want to go to Angola so bad. I can't do the dance but I absolutely love the music. I'm holding on tight to my love for Kizomba music while in Accra. I have to hold on tight to my yearning to learn how to dance Kizomba as well. It involves a lot of holding anyway. You didn't watch the video? Sit there and miss out. Get onto it. And if you're in Accra, join me to go to Afrikiko around 9pm on Thursdays. It would be an experience.

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