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The Acacia Learning Forum - 5-8 October, Dakar

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In 1997, IDRC established the Acacia program with the goal of unleashing the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower poor African communities. Since then, Acacia has invested more than $40 million in ICT research, development and evaluation projects for Africa. Now, at the mid-term of Acacia's third five year programme cycle, partners from around the world come together to reflect on research achievements, share outcomes and discuss ideas for future ICT research in Africa. This is a meeting of all our partners over Africa representatives from 13 African research networks and several other projects. We have one year left of our prospectus, and we are together to network; to consolidate our learnings and it's an opportunity for us to pull together all the outcomes that have been achieved. I can say that we have many reasons why we chose Dakar One is that we have an original office here, in Dakar, for west- and central Africa. The second reason is that we organised the first Acacia big conference in South Africa. We decided that the next one will be in a Francophone country. Third reason is that Senegal was one of the first countries of implementation of the Acacia Programme. The impressive thing that I saw here was the energy of the people and the understanding, the clear understanding that people have of the power of ICT4D research to inform decision-making across sectors and across themes and across ministries if you will to really allow developement proceed along lines that are locally designed, locally made, and serve local needs We Africans speak 2,000 languages, we have one million voices, we need technology to speak our language. I am the research director for the African network for localisation or 'Anloc', unlocking digital space to african languages, working on making sure that Africans can participate in the digital age. Health e-systems lead to healthy citizens. People talk about e-health systems what we are interested in, is health e- systems, that lead to healthy and healthier citizens. Imagine a world where people can receive quality appropriate care whoever, whenever, and wherever they are. We implement two projects that are supported by the IDRC, it's a two way system where health workers continue with medical education and also gather health data and report it to the district centre national Ministry of Health. Our project is about implementing simple management information systems for use at micro finances and small SACCOs in the east African region. Our project is about introducing ICT for SME small and medium enterprises. I'm reporting here about the project we are currently doing which is a qualitative research project on student practices student experiences with ICTs. we are starting to see a strong focus on cell phones cell phones for learning. We not only need to get information to small holder farmers in Africa, we need to make sure that they have the tools or people around them have the tools to enable them to act on that information. This is a chart of people, government and technology where you have the intersection of people, government and technology you then have an empowered citizen. The most interesting part of the forum for me was getting to meet a group of fascinating people. Some of them I already knew and that was really great to catch up and then talk about opportunities for collaboration, for further research pushing stuff forward. And it's always fascinating to come to the origin where the problems are and try to talk to the local people and then start to think of how you can find solutions to solve these problems. It was a good introduction to all the other Acacia projects and an overview of some of the big debates in the world of ICT4D. We saw that the interaction is going very very well and I think by the second day all people will start to networking, asking questions, participating in the discussions. So this is really what I loved in this activity. Its a difficult thing to sum up three days of what I would call rather intense thinking and dreaming and visioning. But I came here to witness that process of how people were envisioning the future of ICT for new research, how IDRC fits into that picture and where we are going to go into the future. So many people have sponsored ideas around what is important, what is it that we should be researching, how do we demonstrate the outcomes of this knowledge society, how do we evaluate our impacts, if at all. What I am committed to going on with is researching how to surmount the barriers of policy and received thinking in order to get African research onto the map to open it up and to create space for African knowledge and African innovation to have a presence in the world. What did I just write down? I think the question I am asking myself does the informal sector of ICT contribute to economic and social development in Africa. Some of the initiatives that are happening in Mozambique; not all of us know about them and sometimes we have even similar projects being implemented and what we would like to see in future was like how the existing framework can be used, to align this. Whatever we want to do language and gender should be a major common factor in all departments. In addition to gender and language I think the translation of research into popular language which ordinary people can access and understand and learn from is something that needs to cut across all our projects. We are interested in gathering country experiences especially on the e-waste management issues. We would also like to grow the network. Firstly, I was the the only one that started in the South American corner. In these following days I have had great pleasure having met beautiful people here and what I find is that within our continents we share many, many things. We have suffered many similar problems and we are building similar solutions. It would be great if we also made bridges between the networks that side of the Atlantic and Africa to learn together and to share more. The fact that they are identifying challenges suggests that if you can actually interpret the problem very well you are half way to coming up with a solution. I don't see it as a negative thing at all for researchers it is actually a very positive thing to be able to articulate the context to articulate the problem and ask the right questions. That's what funding researchers in development is all about; people solving there own problems. So going into the future, I certainly see IDRC continuing to work with our partners that we met here in Dakar. I think the future looks very bright. We have to re-envision as we always do; where we think we're going. But I am counting a lot on people that we met here, and of course many others to take us into that new direction. So I am very excited and I think the conference was a total success. Thanks very much.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 58 seconds
Country: South Africa
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: The African Commons Project
Director: Anna Berthold
Views: 262
Posted by: acacia on Nov 27, 2009

An overview of The Acacia Learning Forum conference being held from the 5-8 October 2009 in Dakar, Senegal

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