Bridging
the digital divide

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

POM bannerPOM banner POM banner

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.

POM phone


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

group pic

 

 


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!


Meeting Achievers Ghana

In October 2016 Close the Gap’s project manager, Aurély Luzolele, spent 2 intensive and very fruitful weeks in Ghana with the aim to meet several representatives of local organisations that promote a positive change in education, entrepreneurship and gender equality in the country. As mentioned a couple of months ago, Aurély had the incredible chance to meet with The Savana Signature’s team and Africa ICT Right’s team, and to visit some schools with ICT labs. We could clearly witness the impact of ICT in children lives.

This mission to Ghana was also the opportunity to visit the Achievers Ghana, a nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonreligious organisation that aims to educate girls in local slums.

The idea of creating Achievers Ghana belongs to Amina Ismail Dary, a resident of the Accra slum of Nima. Despite being a brilliant student, Amina was forced into marriage at the age of 12. Her story immediately became an inspiration to many other girls. In 2011, she co-founded the Achievers Ghana with a goal to prevent similar situations and let other young girls achieve their educational goals regardless of social restraints. Due to the great success and recognition of the organization’s goals and activities, in 2012 Anima was nominated for the Children’s Peace Prize. Amina’s inspirational story has already attracted more than 350 girls 7 – 16 years old.

achievers Ghana


The Digitruck, finalist for the Digital 4 Development Prize (iStandout category)

On November 30th 2016 Close the Gap was honoured to participate to the 2016 edition of the Innovation Fair and the Digital for Development (D4D) awards which took place at the African Museum in Tervuren, Belgium.

The day started with the Innovation Fair, where different initiatives had the chance to display information material, and inform any interested guest about Close the Gap’s activities and the role of its partners. Robert Mafie, Director of Affordable Computers and Technology for Tanzania (ACTT), the Tanzania-based project aimed at provide access to ICT to schools, traveled to Brussels for this event. This was also the occasion for Close the Gap to have a face to face update on ACTT activities. Our colleague Inge Knapen, Close the Gap’s Operations Director had the honour to give a keynote on Sustainable ICT4 Development at the beginning of the Innovation Fair, and share Close the Gap’s mission to bridge the digital divide.

In the afternoon, the Award Ceremony took place in the presence of the Minister of Development Cooperation and Digital Agenda, Mr. Alexander De Croo. The D4D Prize rewards outstanding initiatives that use digitalization and new technologies as a lever for development towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Out of the 3 categories for nominations – iStartUP (innovative ideas), iStandOut (success story) and iChoose (the public award) – The Digitruck was nominated in the category  iStandout for its innovative way of providing access ICT to remote locations off the grid. Click here to learn more about the Digitruck.


Close the Gap meets with Achievers Ghana

In October 2016 Close the Gap’s project manager, Aurély Luzolele, spent 2 intensive and very fruitful weeks in Ghana with the aim to meet several representatives of local organisations that promote a positive change in education, entrepreneurship and gender equality in the country. Aurély had the incredible chance to meet with the teams of Savana Signature and Africa ICT Right, and to visit some schools with ICT labs supported by Close the Gap. She could clearly witness the impact of ICT in children lives.

This mission to Ghana was also the opportunity to visit the Achievers Ghana, a nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonreligious organisation that aims to educate girls in local slums.

The idea of creating Achievers Ghana belongs to Amina Ismail Dary, a resident of the Accra slum of Nima. Despite being a brilliant student, Amina was forced into marriage at the age of 12. Her story became an inspiration to many other girls. In 2011, she co-founded the Achievers Ghana with a goal to prevent similar situations and let other young girls achieve their educational goals regardless of social restraints. Due to the great success and recognition of the organization’s goals and activities, in 2012 Anima was nominated for the Children’s Peace Prize. Amina’s inspirational story has already attracted more than 350 girls between the ages of 7 – 16 years.

achievers Ghana


Deloitte empowers local community together with Quirky 30.

CSI Western Cape in collaboration with Deloitte Belgium and Close the Gap hosted a wonderful week of skill development for the kids and young adults from Quirky 30, formerly Brothers for All. Quirky 30 is non-profit organisation based in the township of Langa, Cape Town, South Africa. The main focus of the organisation is empowering offenders, ex-offenders, inmates and vulnerable youth by giving them technology skills, and specifically in coding.

From 14 November 2016 to 17 November, kids and young adults participated in many activities. On the 14th, 20 young adults attended a workshop related to Design Thinking, and designed a wallet!

The second day of the programme was dedicated to creating and developing entrepreneurial ideas, based on community social issues. On this occasion Mr. Lance Brown, tax consultant at Deloitte and speaker at TEDxTabeMountain, was present and provided inspiration to the kids, through his “Creating Opportunities” philosophy.

The 3rd day took place at Deloitte Digital where kids had the chance to learn more about drones, 3D printers and even a lie detector test, and of course play with them! During that day, Emma from Deloitte Belgium also provided an inspirational speech about the power of social media, and how to use the different online channels to promote and connect with customers. As a practical example, Emma and the young adults created a social media plan for a brand new line of wallet.

The fourth and last day of this “week of skill development” took place at the V&A Waterfront. The digitruck was moved to this hotspot in order to showcase this exciting project. . Some of the youngsters from Quirky 30 were present to hand over brochures and explain their coding sessions inside this digitruck. One of the students, Fatima (see photo seated in the middle), was offered a job interview for a tech company in the neighborhood. She walked away with an internship!