Bridging
the digital divide

LEAP², the pitch day

During the month of June, Close the Gap partnered with Nailab and 1% Club to host the LEAP² Innovation Challenge in Nairobi, Kenya. During the early stages of the challenge, participants were afforded the opportunity to explore their business case as part of a training and co-creation workshop conducted by experts. Here, professional coaches explored the ins and outs of crowd-funding and helped tailor individual camping plans based on each innovation. After an entire month of crowd-funding, all 10 innovations pitched their digital solution to societal issues in front of an international panel of jurors consisting of social entrepreneurs, impact investors and leaders from the corporate world, including Executive Director and Founder of Close the Gap Olivier Vanden Eynde.

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The four top innovations that reached their initial crowd-funding targets were B-track, Ebursary, EMEDEN Farmer’s market link and EsVendo. Close the Gap matched the crowd-funding targets of all 4 finalists once their campaign had reached 50% of initial target. While all innovations were outstanding for their strive to address societal shortfalls in Kenya, the LEAP² Innovation title went to Ebursary: An online platform incorporating smart tools and search capabilities to create a centralised platform serving both students and organisations. By serving a dual functionality Ebursary enables students to find scholarships and bursaries suited to their academic background and simplifies the process for organisations to find the strongest candidates best suited for vacancies. By creating such a platform, Ebursary has provided a direct service which shortens the length of time parties would otherwise be using to search various domains in pursuit of the right candidate/scholarship. By simplifying the communication between awarder and recipient, a more straightforward and transparent line of contact is being created where opportunities will no longer go unmissed in the chaos of information overload.

For Founder of Ebursary Dennis Gachoki, creating this online platform stemmed from his own personal frustrations with being unable to secure sponsorship for tuition. He recalls “My biggest wish was that someone would discover about my ambitions and pay for my school fees, it took long for that to happen until one day when I was informed by the school bursar that my school fees had being settled in full by an anonymous well-wisher.”

The significance of LEAP², a pilot program was to provide a digital platform to launch young entrepreneurs in the tech-sector and highlight the wide-scale accessibility of digital solutions and its ability to address societal issues in Kenya. And for many start-ups like Ebursary, it is an opportunity to secure seed-capital to bring a simple innovation to life with the capability to impact the lives of many disadvantages groups in developing countries, and Gachoki aims to do so…“I created this platform to help bright needy students to access information on bursaries and scholarships in Kenya… It is my hope that this platform goes on to connect thousands of these students to financial aid for their education.


LEAP²: Pilot Innovation Challenge

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For the duration of June, Close the Gap partnered with Nailab and One percent club to pilot the LEAP² Innovation Challenge in Nairobi, Kenya: our platform to promote and support entrepreneurs that are creating digital solutions for societal challenges in emerging and developing countries.

From a pool of 42 strong applicants, LEAP² selected 10 successful innovations to partake in the innovation challenge. Aligning with the innovation criteria set out by LEAP², innovations were selected based on their ability to address nation-wide societal issues by applying practical and accessible digital solutions. Innovations addressed a wide-range of societal issues focusing on health, education, transport, farming and agriculture, energy and gender. With recent figures indicating that 80% of Kenya’s population has access to a mobile phone, a majority of innovations aim to deliver products through mobile-applications to ensure accessibility and mobility of services.

Upon completion of a one day workshop held during June, professional coaches empowered participants with knowledge and tools to launch crowd-funding campaigns for their business case over the course of a month. Innovators were encouraged to discuss and map out individual campaign plans that were tailored to boost innovation support and popularity by addressing key demographic sectors.

The crowd-funding campaign concluded on the 4th of July with a pitch day, where innovators could pitch their business solution to societal issues to potential investors. The results of the LEAP² Innovation Challenge are already online, we will provide you with more details very soon! Learn more about the 10 innovations featured by clicking here.


Close the Gap’s Mission to Tanzania

Last April, Close the Gap’s Head of projects Peter Manderick travelled to Tanzania not only to support the training on thin clients, but also to visit some of our partners and projects.

One of the stops made by Peter was at the orphanage in Neema, home to Close the Gap’s and Arrow Electronics first digitruck.  Peter met with Mandy Stein, the Founder and Executive Director of Neema International who explained the progress of students, and the positive results of the digitruck. You can watch the video of the progress! Neema has diversified its support: Now, Neema is also focusing on young women who have not finished school, and would like to re-start their studies and pass their final high school exam. Neema International is giving them a second chance, providing them with education and preparation for that specific exam.

The orphanage also has a garden, where students are taught how to grow and harvest. In addition to that they have their own water tank, solar energy and bio-gas stove to become self-sustainable. Furthermore, students are channeling their creative side and selling their arts and crafts accessories to generate some revenue.

This mission to Tanzania was also the opportunity to visit a project that is very close to Close the Gap’s heart: Msandaka Lions Deaf Centre. Peter had the opportunity to speak with Nitu, the local project manager of the Lions club Moshi, and the director of the centre. Close the Gap’s chairman, Prof. Wim Blonk has been supporting this project over the course of 10 years, to which  Close the Gap provided renewed computers last year. In honour of our chairman the school renamed their computer lab as the ‘Wim Blonk Computer Lab’.  With the help of some funding, a vocational school is under construction. The school will develop 3 specific jobs trainings, one of them focusing on ‘IT professionals and e-waste dismantling technicians’.

Wim Blonk Lab


Project Update: Fund Isaan

Fund Isaan is a non-profit organisation that supports the education of children in the Isaan region of Thailand. Managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, the fund focuses on improving education and the support of microeconomic initiatives. To this end, the fund puts volunteers at the disposal of local schools.

Fund Isaan believes IT has become the single most important source of knowledge and the transfer of knowledge, which is the main driver of economic and social progress. In 2016, Close the Gap delivered 183 IT assets to the fund to be installed in schools to prevent regions from being left behind. As a condition for receiving these IT assets, schools have to organise adult education for the villagers of the surrounding communities and to open its doors to other schools in the area.

Fin Isaan is continuously collaborating with Close the Gap, requesting IT equipment for schools. Just last week, Close the Gap shipped 160 IT assets to Bangkok, which will be installed in different schools in the coming weeks.

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POM is inviting new users to donate €1 to Close the Gap

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Close the Gap believes in nurturing synergies between ICT skills and job creation to bridge the digital divide. Close the Gap’s holistic approach to learning in ICT not only aims to provide computer literacy and skills-based knowledge, but hopes to encourage social entrepreneurship through digital innovation.

Like Close the Gap, POM also shares excitement for digital innovation. Aiming to provide efficiency, accessibility, and online social inclusiveness, POM has designed the ‘POM-app’ which simplifies the experience of processing incoming invoices. Both digital and paper invoices can be paid through the app, enabling a single go-to mobile destination for invoice administration.

POM is inviting new users to donate €1 to Close the Gap. “This way, our users are able to experience how easy it is to pay via POM and at the same time they are offered the opportunity to support social entrepreneurship,” says Johannes Vermeire, CEO of POM. “Doing so, as digital citizens they are actively contributing to closing the digital divide on our planet. Of course, as a responsible digital service provider, we’re very proud of that.

Donations will contribute to Close the Gap’s mission in providing refurbished IT-equipment to disadvantaged communities that are often denied access to tech-based learning in developing countries.

The POM app is available for free in the App Store and on Google Play.

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Training on Thin Client in Tanzania

Close the gap would not exist without the strong, supportive and dedicated commitment of its partners in industrialized, emerging and developing countries. Close the Gap’s longtime partner Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), the Dutch Railway company, donated more than 1.000 thin clients that will be re-deployed throughout various projects. This marked the  perfect opportunity to engage with Realdolmen, another of Close the Gap’s longtime partners. Realdolmen has donated IT equipment for many years now and went the extra mile by offering to travel to Tanzania  to provide a 1 week training to a local African partner on the use of thin clients. Jeroen Staal and Kevin Bauwens from Realdolmen provided training to Theodory J Agutu and Elly Maduhu Nkonya from Exponential Technology (Tanzania), Franck Bigirimana from GLICE (Burundi), Dan Muganzi from CFSU (Uganda), Miriam Ndavi and Joseph Oliech from CFSK (Kenya) and Ally Abubakar Kodi and Thomas Massawe from ACTT. Our colleague Peter Manderick, Close the Gap’s Head of Projects was also part of the training!

The programme included:

1. Intro to Linux

2. Intro to thin clients

3. Installation and configuration of a thin client

4. Installation and configuration of servers

5. Installation of the remote area community hotspot for education and learning package (RACHEL), an open, online educational platform with educational content. Racheloffline.org

In the coming months a batch of thin clients will be sent to all participants, so they can start pilot projects in their respective regions. We will keep you posted!

What is a thin client?
A thin client is a lightweight computer that is purpose-built for remoting into a server (typically cloud or desktop virtualization environments). It depends heavily on another computer (its server) to fulfill its computational roles.

“Discussing with the participants during or after the training sessions made clear that the basic human right for education as we know it in Europe is not that obvious. Yes, everybody in Tanzania can have education but the lack of school material and infrastructure makes it harder. Tanzanian people realize that decent education is vital for their future and are very willing to invest time & money to make sure their kids can go to proper schools. They are also very aware that future prosperity for them depends on education. In that respect the importance of organisations such as Close the Gap cannot be stressed enough. This project was an eye-opener to me: in Western Europe we take decent and objective education for granted. It is not…” Jeroen Staal, Realdolmen

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Project Update – Womanity

In April 2016, the Womanity Foundation piloted the Girls Can Code project in Afghanistan. They implemented a coding program in two of the largest public high schools for girls in Kabul benefiting 40 students. Close the Gap has provided 60 high quality refurbished computers for the implementation of the Girls Can Code programme. The yearlong course included 400 hours of instruction, which began with basic computer literacy topics and followed with an extension of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and SQL. The results of the students’ mid-term tests showed impressive results in both schools, which proved that the programme generated high motivated students!

After a very successful year of the pilot program, Womanity will expand the program to four schools and complement its offer with tailored training in English and an introduction to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) between 2017 and 2019.

The program also cooperated with the Dialexa Company from the United States, who promoted the program and supported a crowdfunding campaign in the US on generosity.com. Their female employees mentored and empowered the girls in Afghanistan by recording videos with their advice for the Afghan girls who want to undertake a career in ICT.

Watch the video series!

Next to improving the girls’ future economic opportunities and teaching them how to code, the program also gives them confidence, improves their problem-solving skills and exposes the girls to a world that is full of solutions, not just challenges.

 


Close the Gap and BeCode are now partners!

We share the same values, we share the same interests and goals, so it’s just natural that we decided to join forces for a greater impact!

Close the Gap believes access to ICT is crucial to empower disadvantaged communities, and increase their chances in the job market. Like Close the Gap, BeCode is also supporting disadvantaged people, providing them with IT skills to also have a better chance in the job market. Indeed, BeCode is a free coding school based in Belgium, developed by a group of people, companies and associations passionate about technology, convinced that every motivated person must have the opportunity to learn to code and find a job. BeCode offers a second chance to people that are currently unemployed and left behind: the initiative offers six months long training programs to get the ‘students’ ready for the professional job market.

As part of the partnership and support to BeCode, Close the Gap will provided all the IT equipment necessary to the coding schools, with the support of DNS Belgium. Only a creative and inclusive society will provide an answer to some of the challenges that we are experiencing across the world. Anyone with drive and motivation could and should get a chance to acquire basic digital and coding skills, and build a profession. There is no right or wrong background, and current skills or (lack of) degree do not matter. This is all about motivated people finding a job through digital skills.


VLIR-UOS & Close the Gap, a great partnership

The Flemish Interuniversity Council for University Development Cooperation (VLIR-UOS) and Close the Gap are working in close collaboration aiming for better learning outcomes for students in developing countries.

 A unique differentiator of our partnership is the requirement that all projects that are selected to receive refurbished IT equipment must be linked to a socially minded initiative in the community. This guarantees that every member of the community has the opportunity to benefit from a ICT-based education.

 This year, Close the Gap and VLIR-UOS have supported five new projects worldwide.

 First, in Cuba the universities are working in collaboration with the Handicap International programme. Besides receiving themselves computers for their pedagogical schools, the special education schools also received IT equipment for people with disabilities.

 Second, in Ethiopia the Mekelle University has launched a plan in line with the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan to enhance ICT infrastructure in higher education and in the TVET centres (Poly Technique College). Through this project, both the University and the TVET centres have received quality computers, printers and notebooks, which will solve their major problems.

 Third, in Suriname, 2 universities and 2 secondary schools are involved in the “Digital Bridge” project. Their main goals are on the one hand to expand the ICT infrastructure both on campus and in the secondary schools, as they aim for “every child a computer”. On the other hand, the goal is also to provide proper ICT training of the pupils as well as of the teachers.

 Fourth, in Peru the University La Molina (UNALM) is supporting several primary and secondary schools in the poorest areas in the Andes, Amazon Basin and coastal desert. Donating ICT equipment to those schools opens a whole new world for these kids. They now get the opportunity to learn essential ICT skills and get access to new information sources and to qualified digital courseware. In total, 25 schools in very poor regions are equipped with educational technology.

Next to supporting these schools, UNALM is also being provided by extra portable computers.

 Last but not least, the University of Cuenca in Ecuador is working together with Cuenca’s Archdiocesan Curia to support high schools that are located in poor rural areas. Three educational establishments were selected to be the beneficiaries of this project. Besides installing and equipping a computer room, the schools are also provided with ICT training programs, which helps a total of 630 students.


Strategic Partner Trip – Kenya, March 2017

From March 22nd to March 26th, Close the Gap and more than 20 of its partners travelled to Nairobi, Kenya for a learning journey on Digital 4 Development & Innovation:

Computers for Schools Kenya, WEEE Centre and UNEP

March 22nd – The first stop of the day was at Close the Gap’s service partner in Kenya, Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK) and the WEEE Centre. The full teams welcomed our guests, and explained the aim, work and results of CFSK and WEEE Centre.  All partners were impressed, especially when witnessing all the hard work with their own eyes.

In the afternoon, the group visited the UN Campus in Nairobi, and attended a meeting with representatives from UNEP, – Mr. Naysán Sahba, Director of the division of communications and public information at UNEP, and Ms. Samantha Le Royal, Client Service account Manager – to discuss about UNEP’s work related to e-waste, and the challenges in Africa and more specifically in Kenya.

In the evening, the Ambassador of Belgium Roxane de Bilderling welcomed our group and some additional guests such as the Ambassador of the Netherlands Frans Makken, and Trade Commissioner Ivan Korsak amongst others, in her residence for a cocktail reception. This was the perfect occasion to discuss with guest from the UN, guests from the Belgian Embassy as well as the partners of Close the Gap and WorldLoop. All the guests enjoyed this unforgettable evening!

Pumwani Maternity Hospital, Aga Khan Hospital & Ushirika Secondary School

March 23rd – Our dear friend and member of Close the Gap’s Board of Recommendation, Marleen Temmerman, hosted an inspiring visit to the Pumwani Maternity Hospital and the private Aga Khan Hospital. Those two inspiring visits showed the importance for ICT 4 Health, and the need for technology in the health sector.

After that interesting morning, the group went to Dandora, where Close the Gap and its guests inaugurated the computer lab of the Ushirika Secondary School. The lab has 20 desktops, recently donates by Close the Gap. Dr. Evans O. Kidero, Governor, Nairobi City County Government, was also part of the ceremony of inauguration. This visit was particularly enlightening for our partners, as they witnessed the importance for kids to have access to a computer, and how much happiness and joy it can bring. This was a tremendously emotional afternoon for all our guests!

Workshop: Digital for Development & Innovation

March 24th – The morning of Friday, March  24th was dedicated to an inspiring workshop on Digital for Development. Close the Gap invited several entrepreneurs of different innovative initiatives on Digital for Development.

Sam from Nailab, Tonee from Kytabu, Nivi from BRCK and Leah from Postbank, a partner of Childfinance inspired all our guests with their initiatives. They talked about innovation, potential of youth, co-creation and access to ICT!

 

Check out the full album photo, created by our Strategic Partner, Vintage Productions. Thanks again! Check out also the video!