Bridging
the digital divide

Close the Gap signs the Belgian SDG Charter

Last year, the United Nations approved the very ambitious Sustainable Development Goals such as ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls amongst others, to be achieved by 2030.

Last month, more than 80 companies, civil society organisations and representatives of the public sector signed the Belgian SDG Charter for International Development. The charter was an initiative of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo. Close the Gap’s strategic partner The Shift helped draft the charter and is currently managing the ongoing process. In the Charter, and for the first time, the important role of the private sector in international development is explicitly recognized in the SDGs.

The Belgian SDG Charter is intended to increase awareness of the ambitious SDG agenda within the private sector in Belgium. The fact that, today, more than 50 companies have already signed the charter is an important signal.

Alexander De Croo

On October 18th , Close the Gap, together with over 80 Belgian companies, partners from civil society and the public sector, signed the SDG Belgian Charter which was praised by Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General and Jim Yong Kim the World Bank President in a video message at this event.

The Belgian SDG Charter for International Development outlines the engagement of the private sector, civil society and the public sector in Belgium based on the SDGs. In the months and years to come, concrete initiatives will be set up, based on the charter, between the authorities, the private sector and civil society organisations. The focus will be on health, renewable energy, digitization, agriculture & food, and sustainable entrepreneurship.

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Ms. Inge Knapen (Operation Director, Close the Gap) with Mr. Alexander De Croo (Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services)

 

Close the Gap is focusing its efforts towards achieving the SDGs through ICT4D, since this approach plays a pivotal role in achieving a world of prosperity, equality, freedom, dignity and peace, as outlined by the SDGs. Close the Gap and its stakeholders feel that education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality, laying the foundations for sustained economic growth, and ICT for Education can be a powerful tool in support of achieving the SDGs.


We are hiring!

Do you believe in Close the Gap’s mission? Would you like to contribute bridging the digital divide? Are you an organised person that is passionate about social entrepreneurship? Are you a good communicator and team player? Are you detail oriented, accurate and you are fluent in Dutch, French and English? Then we have the perfect job for you! Apply for the Project Assistant position at Close the Gap!

Click here to download the full job description


Close the Gap on mission in Ghana

At the beginning of October, Close the Gap’s Project Manager, Aurély Luzolele travelled 10 days to Ghana to visit different projects and organisations, which mission is to provide access to ICT in schools. One of the highlights of this mission was the visit to Close the Gap’s service partners, Savana Signatures (SavSign) and Africa ICT Right. Savana Signatures aims to equip youth, women and vulnerable groups with ICT skills for their personal and professional development through the innovative use of ICT. SavSign promotes a society where relevant information, knowledge and skills for development are enhanced by equal access to and use of ICT. Africa ICT Right was established in roder to use ICT tools to address critical national problems pertaining to the education, gender and health in Ghana. The Savana Signature’s team and Africa ICT Right’s team accompanied Aurély to visit a school and a computer center in Tamale:

  • St John’s of the Cross School complex – Primary school with Savana Signatures

This primary school, located in Tamale, Ghana has received computers from one of Close the Gap’s Strategic Partner, Essent. Thanks to the opportunity to access those computers, children at an early age can already start playing with the mouse and identify the keys on the keyboard to familiarize themselves with the working of computers. The schools offers two hours IT lessons twice a week.

  • Darul Hadis Junior High School – GTech Center with Africa ICT Right

The high school uses a computer lab located in Tamale that consists of 14 computers donated by different parties and run by Africa ICT Right. Each class counts with more than 45 pupils. Despite the limited number of computers per student, the Center still manages to do a great job and offers basic ICT training to its pupils, including coding courses.

Aurély visited many schools that received computer assets though Close the Gap. Our mission has a real impact in children that live in developing countries. Access to ICT is  not only key to have access to information and become more knowledgeable, but also to learn and gain IT skills that will allow the young adults to find the job they dream of. If you wish to donate you used IT assets, contact us any time.


Changing the role of philanthropy in Europe

The King Baudouin Foundation United States (KBFUS) is an American public charity associated with the Brussels-based King Baudouin Foundation (KBF), and a leading foundation in Europe named after Belgium’s late head of state. In 2015 KBFUS opened 48 new funds for donors and NGOs.

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On September 18th, 2016 KBFUS organized a 4 days’ workshop in Brussels with the aim to change the role of philanthropy in Europe. The program builds on KBFUS’ experience in facilitating thoughtful, effective giving to Europe and Africa. KBFUS enables U.S.-based donors to support their favourite causes and organisations overseas providing European and African NGOs with cost-effective solutions to raise funds in the US. Meanwhile, KBFUS’ educational programs present unique learning opportunities in the fields of fundraising and philanthropy.

During the 4 days, corporate grant makers met several times with the European Commission, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Europe, the European Foundation Centre (EFC), the European Venture Philanthropy Association, and the European Policy Centre (EPC) to discuss the main objectives of how philanthropy could be integrated in European realities in the most efficient way and to the maximum extent.

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During the 3rd day of the program, our colleague Inge Knapen, Close the Gap’s Operational Director participated in the Lunch discussion with Arrow’s CSR Global Director Joe Verrengia. The lively conversation touched Community involvement in Europe and how the US-based financial contributions could encourage the development of innovative projects, creating more opportunities for employees and fostering other collaborative activities.

We were delighted to attend this workshop, especially because it was the opportunity to share best practices for employee engagement.


Timeless Women of Wonder, a great project supported by Close the Gap

Timeless Women of Wonder Foundation (TWOW) is a subsidiary of Timeless Dynamic Services Ltd, responsible for developing, designing and implementing initiatives that will include African women in the social and economic transformation of Africa, and empower them to optimize their potential in the process.

The platform brings together women from all over Africa and from all sectors to collaborate in the dialogue and development of solutions that will harness women’s potential and contribute to the social and economic transformation of their communities, nation and continent.

In November 2015 TWOW teamed up with the National Construction Authority, a Kenyan Government body, and other development partners to organise a one week workshop in Nairobi with 400 women for the opportunity to learn skills in carpentry, roofing and other male-dominated jobs.

A lot of women don’t take up opportunities in construction, oil and energy gas, technologies because it’s mostly seen as male dominated and hard. But these are the sectors where opportunities are great for wealth creation and job creation. And women are shy because they think they cannot do it.” Nyakan June Munyeki, CEO & Founder of TWOW

In addition, TWOW has developed a module to train the women on design and recycle so that they can start to build items that are accessories and artistic for them to sell, and build their start up enterprise. TWOW is working with national government to enable them access funds to start businesses.

Every year, TWOW organizes its annual conference, were women engage in dialogue on various issues pertinent to Africa’s development and propose solutions that will scale impacts throughout Africa and enable women’s engagement and empowerment in the process of development.

“One of our key platforms for transforming Africa through women is by having an annual conference called Timeless Women Conference  in Nairobi. Over the next coming years it could take place in other parts of Africa. It’s a global platform, original and continental, that draws leaders from all over.”

Close the Gap has been a great supporter of the TWOW project and truly admires the goals and aspirations set in its agenda. For this reason we are happy to be able to provide TWOW with more computers, so that every woman participant of the program can have easier access to registration to the program and follow the suggested trainings. Moreover, we strongly believe that the documented proof of the growing interest of the program by women around the continent will facilitate new funding of the project and, as a result, will give more opportunities for women to grow professionally, socially and increase economic sustainability chances in their regions.


Close the Gap at Electronic Goes Green Conference, co-presenting with Arrow Electronics

From September 7-9 2016 the fifth Electronics Goes Green Conference took place in Berlin. Close the Gap was part of the 400 conference delegate participating. Our colleague Inge Knapen, Close the Gap’s Operations Director, had the chance to co-present a session with our longtime partner Arrow Electronics. For the occasion, Scott Venhaus presenting “Arrow Value Recovery and Close the Gap partner to Close the Loop for Electronics” during the session dedicated to Social Responsibility.

Earlier this year, Close the Gap and Arrow Electronics joint forces to produce an abstract, explaining the collaboration between us, and how this could close the loop, in a circular economy. The abstract got selected to be presented during the “Social Responsibility” session. Inge and Scott had the chance to explain to the audience how we are doing everything we can to close the material loops including collecting, repairing, refurbishing, parts harvesting, extensive re-use, upcycling, and ultimately responsibly recycling returning everything possible to the manufacturing stream.


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!