Global magazine Southern Innovator profiles innovation culture ending poverty
60-page color magazine gives snapshot of fast-changing world
Southern Innovator (SI) is a new magazine for a fast-changing world. It profiles and celebrates the innovators across the global South finding new ways to tackle poverty, create wealth and improve human development and achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs). In its first issue, Southern Innovator features the people who are re-shaping new technologies – from mobile phone ‘apps’ to Internet technologies – to overcome poverty and to improve the quality of life in some of the poorest places on earth.
SI is based on intensive research and is produced by UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (www.southerninnovator.org). The Unit is the leading organisation in the world tasked with the goal of sharing knowledge across the global South. It organises events including the yearly South-South Expo (www.southsouthexpo.org), a roaming celebration and gathering of Southern innovators previously held in New York and Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s Expo will be held in Rome, Italy (5 to 9 December 2011).
SI is being distributed around the world through the United Nations network and partners and reaches some of the poorest and remotest places as well as the vibrant but stressed growing global megacities. It is hoped the magazine will inspire budding innovators with its mix of stories, essential information, facts and figures, images and graphics. The magazine will evolve based on reader responses and this first issue is very much the beginning of a journey. As became clear while researching this first issue, many things can change in a short space of time. Few could have imagined the rapid take-up of mobile phones in Africa and how these phones have become integral to development goals across the continent.
SI magazine is a quarterly publication and the next issues will launch in September and December of this year.
A summary for publication is here:
“Southern Innovator (ISSN 2222-9280) is a quarterly magazine published by the United Nations Development Programme’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation. Launched in May 2011, SI is a new magazine celebrating creativity and innovation emerging from the global South. It explores entrepreneurial solutions to development challenges and uncovers the trends and events shaping the rise of the South in order to spur action on ending extreme poverty and toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”
We hope you enjoy the magazine and find its content interesting and illuminating: a snapshot of a fast-changing world awash, as we found out, with innovators, creators and do-ers making their world a better place.
For more information on Southern Innovator contact Cosmas Gitta at email@example.com or editor David South at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An African NGO believes the Internet is the single biggest key to rapid development in Africa – and it is working to connect youth, women and rural populations to the web, and in turn, switch them on to the vast resources stored across the world’s Internet sites.
After initial successes with a youth project and with farmers, Voices of Africa (VOA) (http://www.voicesofafrica.info) is now seeking to scale up its work to fan out across Africa – and takes its services to the world’s largest refugee camp, the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya.
The youth and technology empowerment NGO has developed a business model to deliver low-cost Internet access and e-resources to Africa’s slums and rural farmers.
VOA argues that “the digital divide, defined by a lack of access to information for a specific population, symbolizes the largest difference between developed and developing countries: the opportunity to obtain and utilize information.”
“The digital divide runs much deeper than hardware and software,” it says. “While equipment is necessary it is not sufficient. The real heart of the digital divide is that those without access to information resources often suffer needlessly while the solutions to their problems are floating in the air.”
But why is the Internet so important?
“The internet puts the choice of content at the fingertips of the user,” explains executive director Crystal Kigoni. “Traditional media is one way communications. Internet is bi-directional.
“Our NGO is completely grassroots. We train the people who train the people. It is an each one, teach one philosophy and is highly effective. We also design our projects to be self-sustainable after one year of successful implementation.”
The philosophy behind Voices of Africa – “Sustainable Development through Information Empowerment” – is to give people the information and resources to take better control of their lives.
Access to the Internet in Africa is patchy and, for the poor, an expensive resource. The penetration of mobile phones in Africa has been spectacular in the past five years. But there are limits to the resources people can afford to access with their phones. Issues abound about data costs, mobile phone networks, and mobile phone capability.
The e-learning resources include high quality training videos, presentations and screencasts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screencast) – like a movie, it is a digital recording of changes on a computer screen and is used to teach software – to share on the web. The resources are also shared through compact discs (CDs) and iPods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod).
Project coordinator Nick Kungu coordinates the staff working on the pilot Kenyan projects: a Rural Internet Kiosk; a Youth Empowerment Center; and KiberaNet, which launched in August 2011. VOA uses a part-time and volunteer staff of more than 20 Kenyans and four international ‘virtual’ volunteers.
The group is also working with farmers in Kutus, central Kenya, to help them get a better price for their products and introduce sustainable agriculture practices. This is done through online courses so the farmers do not need to travel. It is hoped by doing this they can improve the supply of food for the country.
The Youth Empowerment Center in Webuye constituency of the Western province of Kenya involves a partnership with the government of Kenya to teach computer basics, research and data collection, social media, ICT (information communication technology) for development, social business and community health.
In rural areas, the need for information cannot be overestimated. In the remote countryside, there are few schools with adequate resources and almost no community libraries. The lifesaving knowledge the people require has to date been completely beyond their grasp. As one rural woman in the Western province of Kenya exclaimed to VOA after encountering the resources on the Internet, “It is like being brought from the darkness into the light.”
Another project in development is SlumNet, which seeks to combine the Internet with low-cost devices like tablet computers and netbooks. Its pilot scheme, KiberaNet, launched this month in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya to test the business model. VOA hopes to then expand it to Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It is using a business model to bring low-cost Internet access to Africa’s slums that is fully funded by the local communities and the users.
It has identified the key needs of youth in slums that need to be met: a way to access the vast resources available on the Internet; a way to generate income, undertake low-cost learning, and organise for social justice; ways to overcome social, economic and political isolation; a way to access affordable equipment and resources to improve their quality of life in the short-term.
To make it a sustainable business model, the community takes a 60 percent stake in the incorporated entity. Voices of Africa will select six local civil society organisations to take another 10 percent stake in the business. VOA takes 10 percent and the remaining 30 percent will be open to outside investors.
It involves setting up a closed intranet system and Internet access covering the entire Kibera slum, which has an estimated population of 2 million, a majority under the age of 30.
KiberaNet hopes to act as a community hub for socialising, education and generating content. A key part is creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to novices. The business model is about delivering the bandwidth of Internet access and simultaneously generating a sustainable source of income to keep it going. Partners in the business include Promote Africa, Plexus Group and Future Optics Networks.
VOA also has been blogging about its time in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp (http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e483a16) at their website, www.voicesofafrica.info, and has been developing plans to expand services to the camp, home to over 400,000 refugees from drought and famine in Somalia. The camp was only designed to hold 90,000 people. The chronic food insecurity has caused a massive humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, leaving over 10 million people in need of help.
“There are plenty of resources going in but it is aid business as usual,” claims Kigoni. “You see lots of waste in many areas, and a lack in others that would be extremely beneficial. Hence, why Voices of Africa has come up with the youth technology and empowerment plan that accompanies a general information and communications system, DadaabNet.”
DadaabNet will be a youth-run community Internet service and education service. VOA plans to use a wireless intranet, internal communications systems and low-cost internet access in the refugee camp.
The project is the first of its kind in Dadaab and a first in Kenya, claims VOA, allowing free educational content without needing to access the Internet.
The intranet will host free educational videos that can be accessed by mobile phones and computers. The topics covered in the videos include health, nutrition, sanitation and computer training and how to use technology for sustainable development.
The curriculum is also approved by Nazerene University to certificate level.
The system is supervised and would be able to offer resources to other NGOs seeking to provide services to the camp’s residents. The intention is to open up opportunities for education and employment youth who are currently unemployed.
At present the youth in the camp, many of whom have not completed secondary school, get by ‘hustling’ for work, according to VOA. By being left to their own devices, there is a risk they will fall into negative behaviour like crime and drug use or be preyed upon by terrorist organisations operating in the area like al Shabaab, they maintain.
“In our dreams, everyone everywhere in the world can have the opportunity to develop their minds. It is through this creativity that Africa will rise,” concludes Kigoni.
The transition to a green economy has reached a crossroads: while multilateral global initiatives have been long-running and complex, the idea of a green economy still seems fragile and achieving it far from certain. In the face of the ravages of the global economic crisis that has raged since 2007/2008, countries are now trying to roll back their green pledges or slow the pace of transition.
This exposes a dilemma: a perception that a green economy is in conflict with economic growth, prosperity and the advance of human development, particularly in developing countries seeking to make rapid gains in reducing poverty and building a middle class, consumer society.
Three things need to be foremost in the minds of those who care about creating a global green economy in the 21st century: innovation in design, in market prices and in business models. I think these three factors will be the deciding elements in whether green technologies are taken up quickly and used by large numbers of people to improve their lives.
The green option needs to always be the more appealing, cheaper option that also improves living standards. Happily, many people are doing this all around the world – you just may not have heard of them yet (unless you are reading Southern Innovator magazine that is).
As editor of the magazine Southern Innovator since 2011, I have had the privilege to meet, interview and see first-hand green economy innovators across the global South and profile them in the magazine. What has stood out for me is this: the ones who have achieved sustainable success have put a great deal of effort into design – how the technology is made, what it looks like and how it is used, how efficiently it is made and distributed – while also thinking through the business case for their work and how to make it appealing to others.
We have tried to apply this thinking to the magazine as well, by using clear and modern design with bright, eye-pleasing colours, and by choosing to use 100 per cent renewable energy (much of it from geothermal sources) for the magazine’s design and layout and to have it printed on paper from sustainable forest sources.
The fourth issue of Southern Innovator (www.southerninnovator.org), on cities and urbanization, launched in October at the Global South-South Development Expo 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya. It profiles many practical initiatives and innovators that are currently building green homes, communities and even whole cities. The magazine’s fifth issue will focus on the theme of waste and recycling and hopes to be a one-stop source of inspiration to better use the finite resources of planet earth.
– David South, Editor, Southern Innovator United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)
While South Africa has been free of the racist Apartheid regime since the mid-1990s, the expected boost to living standards for the majority black population has not been as widespread and as quick as many had expected.
One important aspect of lifting living standards is making sure the entire population has access to adequate sanitation and hygiene services. Another is making sure they have access to adequate and healthy food sources. A bright idea based on intensive research is meeting both goals in an innovative way.
According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (http://www.csir.co.za/), some 11 million South Africans have received access to basic sanitation services since 1994 – but 13.3 million still lacked basic sanitation services by 2008.
The Water Research Commission (WRC) (http://www.wrc.org.za/) believes there is a crisis with South Africa’s toilet pit latrines, which are quickly filling up past their original design capacity. WRC’s solution is to turn the human faeces or faecal sludge deposited in pit latrines into fertilizer for farming and agriculture. The Water Research Commission is advocating using the fertilizer either for fruit trees or for trees that will be turned to income sources like paper and fuel.
The WRC’s project and series of experiments are called “What happens when pit latrines get full?”
“Only one third of municipalities have a budget to maintain on-site sanitation,” WRC researcher and scientist David Still told Inter Press Service (IPS). “If pits fill up, all the hard work that was done to address the sanitation backlog will be wasted. Why not use faecal sludge to address the growing problem of food insecurity by planting fruit trees? Or use the sludge to cultivate trees for fuel or paper production?”
Human faecal sludge contains a variety of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphates and potassium. The WRC estimates the average person excretes enough human faecal sludge per year to fertilize 300 to 400 square metres of crops.
The big reason people are reluctant to use human waste as fertilizer is because of the pathogens it contains. Spreading this on edible crops is dangerous and it is also a risk to groundwater when it leaches in to the soil.
The WRC conducted research on two sites: Umlazi and Karkloof, both in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. They used property owned by the South African Paper and Pulp Industry (SAPPI) and the local municipality.
The first step in the experiments was to bury the sludge in pits and plant crops on top of it. The pathogens were contained using this method and in time died off.
The test trenches were 0.75 metres in depth and filled with different quantities of sludge. Two control sites did not use faecal sludge. The scientists found the sites where the human waste was used saw plant growth and volume increase by “as much as 80 per cent.”
Tests for microbes at the Umlazi site also found none. The plants were found to have healthy dark green leaves and the trees grew larger with the sludge present.
Researchers also monitored the groundwater around the sites. They found in flat ground and sandy soil there was no impact. In the site with sloping and shallow soil, small increases in nitrate were observed in the groundwater after rainfall.
They concluded the best place to apply this technique is in places that are flat and where the soil is deep.
One local resident, Lindiwe Khoza, was selected to be part of the test. Citrus and peach trees were planted on top of the buried sludge.
She told IPS: “The fruit grows much faster and it seems to be tastier and juicier than fruit bought at supermarkets. We now enjoy fruit from our own garden.”
WRC’s clever solution to these twin problems could help make life much more pleasant in communities still grappling with poor hygiene services, while dramatically improving the health of crops and their yields.
Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.