Bridging
the digital divide

The 2015 Annual Report is now online!

Dear Friends, Partners and Stakeholders,

We are very proud to announce the release of Close the Gap’s 2015 Annual Report. 2015 was one of the busiest years ever! During the year, Close the Gap collected more than 70,000 IT assets and participated in tens of conferences, delivering several keynote speeches. Close the Gap also organised numerous events, but most importantly, Close the Gap supported hundreds of projects, implementing ICT equipment in key projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, and thus bridging the digital divide. Moving further along the innovation path, Close the Gap constructed the first Digitruck in country, which was sent to the Tuleeni orphanage in the Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania, in November 2015.

Close the Gap would not exist without the strong, supportive and dedicated commitment of its Friends, Partners and Stakeholders in industrialised, emerging and developing countries. Each one of you contribute its own way to help bridge the digital divide.

Thank you to all of you, and have a pleasant reading!

Click here to read the full 2015 Annual Report


Positive results from the Girls Can Code project in Kabul, Afghanistan

July 8th, 2016 – The Womanity Foundation was born in 2005 to empower girls and women in developing countries to shape their future and accelerate progress within their communities. The Foundation is implementing the School in a Box model in 15 public high schools for girls, and has served over 28,000 students, 1,100 school teachers and staff, and positively impacted their communities.  The model is a holistic approach to education that supports quality education and aims to increase girls’ attendance and keep them in school. The model has five key components: teaching skills, infrastructure, hygiene, creation of computer and science labs to ensure girls have access to subjects that are critical for higher education and the job market.

In April 2016, Womanity launched Girls Can Code in two of the largest girls’ schools in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Close the Gap has provided 60 high quality refurbished computers for the implementation of the Girls Can Code programme. Both classes are off to a great start in their new computer labs and their instructor has already progressed from the introductory curriculum to HTML.  The students are very enthusiastic and proud to be selected for the program:

 “This is my dream that one day I will work for a company because my father is a IT manager … but right now during this month I am learning very good and new information and all of these topic is very interesting for me. I will try to learn more than my father and this is my hope that … I can became a good manager in a company. This training is very good for the girls because I know some of the parents don’t like for their daughters go a city course because we have lots of security problem and this is the good chance for the girls that they can learn coding training in the school.” Student, Girls Can Code

Womanity also works to create clear opportunities for students when they complete the program.  Womanity has now a clear picture of the ICT job market in Afghanistan and is working on creating immediate educational and employment options post-graduation.

In addition to Girls Can Code, Womanity is in the early stages of introducing a financial literacy program for Afghan girls in grades 7-12 using the proven Aflateen financial and social education curriculum.  Financial and Resource Management will be introduced initially in eight girls schools.  The Aflateen teaching manual is currently being translated and will be contextualized for Afghan girls.


The Digital Revolution of Close the Gap

July 8th, 2016 – Access to information and communication technology (ICT) is essential for people to improve their lives and realize their full potential. Particularly in rural and / or disadvantaged areas in developing countries where people still live off grid and are not connected with the developments in the rest of the world. Providing them with ICT skills, access to information, innovations and global interaction is one of the major drivers to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and realize sustainable economic and social development, at an unprecedented scale.

Every one out of three people in the world is connected to the internet and 85% has access to a mobile phone. However this still leaves 4.2 billion people outside the digital revolution. Especially in Africa where 75% of the people live in remote rural communities, only 18% of the mobile phones are smart phones and only 7% of the population is connected with the internet. According to the UN, there are currently 410 million schoolchildren in Africa and by 2050, that number will be 800 million. The vast majority, like 95% of the schools in Tanzania, have none or little access to ICT and the internet.  We face the risk that some future generation will remain digitally illiterate and will miss out on future jobs, opportunities and developments and the gap.

Close the Gap has over a decade of experience in bridging the digital divide and igniting ICT entrepreneurship in Africa.  We are ready to scale up and catalyse our ecosystem. The Digital Revolution of Close the Gap and partners is an innovative game-changing initiative to connect our partners in an #ICT4D ecosystem that creates access to ICT for everyone to empower the next generation of Africa. With our online crowdfunding & partnership platform we aim to foster #ICT4D in education, learning & digital jobs. All with a focus on rural Sub Saharan Africa but with limitless opportunities to scale to a global level.

The 1%Club, one of the leading innovators in crowdfunding and CSR platforms in the world, is helping us to develop this new platform. Over the last couple of months we have been preparing the strategy for the Digital Revolution. We have travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to also involve our ICT service partners ACTT in Tanzania & Computers for Schools Kenya to assess how the new platform could benefit them and the projects they support. This was also the opportunity to meet with different stakeholders such as the Nailab, one of the leading partners of AfriLabs, a fast growing pan-African network of 40 technology innovation hubs in 20 African countries. To partner with them and invite their ecosystem to the Digital Revolution with an innovation challenge for startup entrepreneurs with the bright ideas for on how ICT could support education, learning and job creation.

We will update you in September, stay tuned!

 


The Bike to Close the Gap 2016 raised 105.000€ to support our projects!

July 6th, 2016 – On July 30th, more than 200 cyclists gathered together for the good cause at the Paterberg, Kluisbergen. Bike to Close the Gap is a sporting event, but certainly not a competition. Participants were cycling with each other for a common goal: raise funds to provide access to ICT to disadvantage children and young adults in Europe and in developing countries. This 2016 edition was co- organized and co-sponsored by Close the Gap, Proximus and DNS Belgium, with Mr. Alexander De Croo, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Development and Digital Agenda as our special guest.

This Bike to Close the Gap 2016 edition was an exceptional one. With more than 200 bikers, the event raised 105.000 € that will support the projects of Close the Gap.

For this special occasion, the rain showed up but nothing stopped the 200 cyclists from competing against the Paterberg, clocking almost 3000 laps. Minister of Foreign Development and Digital Agenda, Mr. De Croo explained why development and digitalization are closely linked. He was also pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming private sector support for ICT for Development. Mr. De Croo strongly supported this event not only by cycling up the Paterberg, but also by committing to come next year to add some more laps. This show of support of the vice-minister is an excellent push for the organisiers of Bike to Close the Gap to ensure a 7th Edition.

The prototype of the Digitruck was also present, and participants were invited to take a small tour and see with their own eyes what a 40 foot refurbished container on solar power, mobile IT lab looks like.

The day ended with a small award ceremony, where trophies – symbolically shaped as the cobblestones that make the Paterberg so challenging – were handed out by Minister De Croo to the man and woman with the most laps. The women’s honors went to Els Van Dycke from Centric Belgium with 20 laps and the men’s best went to Nick Van Den Heuvel from SIDN with 30 laps.  A special award was handed out to Proximus for having the highest number of bikers (25), and an additional special award went to Nicolas Vander Auwera, for travelling from the “furthest city” (4570  – Marchin) to attend this unique event.

Because Close the Gap and its spinoff, WorldLoop are concerned about responsible reduce, reuse, recycle, WorldLoop’s longtime partner Recupel – Belgian e-waste agency – kindly offered to install a recycling point, where participants were invited to bring their small electrical broken appliances. We collected a dozen of electrical appliances!

You can download all the pictures from the Facebook page!


Deloitte employees walk 500.000km and donate IT assets to bridge the digital divide in communities off the electric grid

Close the Gap’s long-time partner Deloitte Belgium recently increased its potential in terms of learning strategy, design, development and technology through the acquisition of Vision NV, now named “Learning Solutions @Deloitte”.  What does this have to do with bridging the digital divide? When the two organisations merged, the IT department acquired many redundant devices due to double use. All Vision NV’s 88 fully functioning IT assets (27 laptops, 7 desktops, 33 screens, 5 multi-functional printers, 1 server and 15 desk phones) have been donated to Close the Gap and will find a second life and help bridge the digital divide in developing countries.

Deloitte Belgium and Close the Gap have developed a special and multifaceted collaboration over the past year, from IT donation to assistance in tax audit and accountancy. Earlier this year, the firm started a campaign to fund a mobile IT lab, called the #Digitruck, intended for Up4All (formerly Brothers4All), and bridge the digital divide in Cape Town, South Africa. The challenge consisted in encouraging Deloitte’s employees to step for the good cause: all steps were counted with sports watches and converted into credits representing Deloitte’s contribution. Deloitte’s employees did a great job; The goal of 500.000 km was reached 3 weeks before the initial deadline!

This successful employee engagement lead to, not only providing a Digitruck to the young adults of Up4All, but also  20 extra laptops thanks to Deloitte’s employees extra steps, and therefore, extra credit!

Today in Cape Town, 38 students currently receive training inside the Digitruck, and they are learning computer programming/coding.

Deloitte’s collaboration with Close the Gap began with a donation of used computers to help bridge the digital divide. From there, we developed our partnership further and we since many years we offer accounting, legal and internal professional services. At Deloitte, we’re delighted to be part of the Close the Gap family, and to offer our core expertise and our network to help Close the Gap make an even bigger impact on society.”

Piet Vandendriessche, CEO Deloitte Belgium


You only have 2 weeks left to submit your project proposal! Deadline is July 13th, 2016!

 

The PC Solidarity call is launched once a year in order to bridge the digital divide within Belgium, and increase the possibilities of employment for less favoured young adults. We provide to the best proposal refurbished computers, 2 trainings and a financial support of 50 € per computer to cover the installation of the material.

What kind of association can apply?

Organizations or associations that support disadvantaged people to expand their ICT skills and thus, increase their employment opportunities. For example, organisations that offer special help for young people, associations that fight against poverty, associations of migrants or projects that concern professional integration related to ICT.

The PC Solidarity project is the answer to a real need. The important number of applications requesting computers every year proves it; We receive more than sixty applications to evaluate each year, representing around 700 PC’s.” Ms. Hélène Deconinck, King Baudouin Foundation

Please click here to selection criteria, in French and in Dutch.


Bridging the Global Digital Gap: A way to Bolster Social Impact by ICT Entrepreneurship

May 16, 2016 marked the calendar as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD). This UN observed day aims to raise awareness to the work of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the challenges of global communication. This year’s WTISD theme was “ICT Entrepreneurship for Social Impact” more specifically, the role of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in contributing sustainable and inclusive economic growth. As Close the Gap we welcome this year’s WTISD theme in support of the global emphasis on ICT on social impact, especially in Sub-Saharan countries.

Information and communication technologies have been increasingly bolstering global development efforts and this pattern is visible from the recent shift from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For instance, parallel to the SDGs number 1 – end poverty 4 – quality education, 5 – gender equality, 8 – decent work and economic growth,9 – industry, innovation and infrastructure; ICT-enabled solutions have been accelerating the access to the public services, improving education, encouraging economic growth by increasing productivity and connecting to global markets. However, this ICT-enabled approach requires new technologies, new approaches to innovation, new intellectual perspectives, a different view on developing countries, and a new approach to innovation and implementation. These are all essential for empowering SMEs and start-ups in the developing world, in addition, a right approach can help build sustainable and inclusive communities.

One of the greatest potential of Africa is its young population, where 85% of the population is younger than 44. Young people are natural innovators and they tend to be digital natives; If given the chance, this potential will transform the socio-economic outlook of the continent. However, lack of infrastructure and access to ICT devices are major challenges to transform this potential into meaningful impact. Close the Gap aims to bridge this digital divide by offering high-quality, pre-owned computers donated by large and medium-sized corporations or public organisations to educational, medical, entrepreneurial and social projects in developing countries. In addition to this, our DigiTruck, provides mobile IT labs (powered by solar) for those in remote areas with no access to electricity and empowers future generations. The following testimony from our DigiTruck project beneficiary in Tanzania tells about the astonishing impact of such projects.

 

“The computers in the DigiTruck are used throughout the day by students aged 14-20 years old. These students for one reason or another are no longer in school and were spending their days roaming the streets completely unstimulated. We have put 18 students in the “DigiTruck school” on the laptops every day and they are flourishing beautifully. This has prevented alcohol use and sex related social issues such as teenage pregnancy and transmission of HIV/AIDS. On top of this, these students are now gaining skills and perspective to shape their own future.”                 

 – Mandy Stein, The Founder of Neema International –

 

With ICT-enabled facilities, young innovators and entrepreneurs, innovative SMEs and start-ups from Africa can increase their connectivity to the global markets, boost competitiveness and build ‘glocal’ business models. This will not only help them to be a part of global business trends, but also bring a more sustainable approach to their operations. Investments in innovative, knowledge-based projects and creating innovative regional ecosystem are therefore necessary for this progress.

For example, one of our project partners, Brothers For All, a non-profit social enterprise from South Africa, has initiated a program called “Coding and Startups” for offenders, ex-offenders and unemployed youth. After the necessary ICT, coding and entrepreneurial trainings, these at risk youth had increased their employability and gained necessary skills to break through the cycle of crime and unemployment. This is filling the ever growing demand in South African for skilled ICT staff. Furthermore, this initiative had created a momentum for ICT-enabled positive social impact where more and more people are signing up for Coding and Startups program.

On the other hand, empowering ICT for education is essential for school-age children to gain skills to carry on this momentum in the future. For instance, our projects prove that 15 devices are enough for an IT lab and one lab can educate up to 240 kids per week. Therefore, every device donated, refurbished and sent to a project in Africa can have a significant impact in people’s lives and future.

ICT entrepreneurship for social impact has to fit in a circular economy model. Our projects are not only about bringing digital literacy to developing countries and remote locations, it also tries to change the e-waste cycle. Facilitated by our sister organization WorldLoop, we develop projects for collection and safe recycling processes for ICT hardware used in the beneficiary projects. Local entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa receive practitioner training to increase resource yield and create efficiencies, connect with global pre-processors, and end-refiners to extract the highest amounts of fractions that are reintroduced into the market. This work has the potential to help eliminating health and environmental issues in Africa and strengthen recycling and sustainable models while creating employment opportunities.

There is still a lot to do to in Africa in terms of ICT-facilitated sustainable development models. By focusing on the factors that allow entrepreneurs to come up with innovative ideas and allow stakeholders and partners to transform those ideas into sustainable outcomes for social impact, we can achieve more.


NEW PC Solidarity call for proposals is now open!

Are you part of a Belgian organisation that helps vulnerable groups to enhance their chances on the labor market and do you need computers?

Close the Gap launches its PC Solidarity call for proposals for Belgian not-for-profit organisations.

Submissions until July 13th, 2016! Good Luck!

What is it about?

Launched in 2009 with the support of DNS Belgium, PC Solidarity is Close the Gap’s project for countering the digital divide in Belgium. PC Solidarity runs an annual call for proposals for not-for-profit organisations that can help disadvantaged people improve their ICT skills to enhance their chances in labor market. The calls are organised by the King Baudouin Foundation, you can submit your application to their website in French or Dutch.

Last February, Maks vzw, one the PC Solidarity projects, was invited to a very important milestone in Close the Gap’s history; the refurbishment of the 500,000th donated computer at Arrow Value Recovery`s Mechelen facility, in the presence of His Majesty the King Philippe of Belgium.


MAKS vzw receives 20 computers through PC Solidarity Project

5 April 2016, Brussels, Belgium – Earlier this year, Close the Gap and Arrow Value Recovery welcomed His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium to celebrate an important milestone: the refurbishment of the 500,000th donated computer at Arrow Value Recovery`s Mechelen facility.

This 500,000th computer, refurbished by King Philippe, is part of a larger delivery for the Belgian-based non-profit MAKS vzw through Close the Gap’s PC Solidarity programme.

MAKS vzw, founded in 1999, has been involved with Close the Gap and the PC Solidarity project for more than 5 years and is working to stimulate the population to discover their talents and competences since 1999 by offering multimedia facilitator services through their MAKS Digitaal programme, job-search coaching with MAKS Werk and new skills development for unemployed graphic designers as part of the MAKS Grafisch Bureau.

In 2014, MAKS students participated in Close the Gap’s 10-year anniversary by developing a customized computer game for Archbishop em. Desmond Tutu and Former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes which the Arch and Ms. Kroes played during the inauguration of Close the Gap’s first Digitruck.

MAKS is always seeking for innovative pedagogic tools and new methods to get the best out of people and to make them discover their passions and talents, the computers MAKS receives via PC Solidarity help MAKS realise their mission.

Over the last years, we have received several computer donations from Close the Gap thanks to the Belgian programme PC Solidarity. We are grateful that this project exists as it would be difficult for us to finance new computers for our computer lab. Thanks to the computers, we now guide 2.500 persons yearly with their first steps on the computer or in their mastering of new ICT skills.

Véronique De Leener, Director Maks vzw


Health 2.0: Are we ready to go digital?

March, 31st, 2016: After the meeting on digitalization for development (D4D) that took place on March 1 of this year, the Belgian Platform for International Health, Be-cause Health organised a seminar last week to highlight the challenges for ICT in development co-operation in the health sector and to establish a strong ecosystem (NGOs, agencies, academic departments, start-ups, investors, etc.), encouraging and enabling Belgian stakeholders to integrate ICT in their operations. The conference room was packed with experts from North and South, researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, policy makers and  practitioners.

ICT can bring major contributions to better health of the population. Convergences between ICT solutions are emerging (e.g. m-health and m-money), and some actors involved in international co-operation in the health sector are committing resources to develop ICT solutions in favour of the South. Together with a number of traditional development co-operation stakeholders (NGOs, multilateral and bilateral stakeholders, etc.) they design and test new project strategies.

In this regard, inspiring personalities exposed some problems and situations: Mr. Alain Labrique, Director at the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative, inspired us with his words on the digital revolution in Health, as well as the participants of the parallel session on “M-health applications and interventions to empower patients and households“, where representatives from Burkina Faso, Belgium and Benin shared their invaluable experiences of their country.