Announcements & Publications

After more than 25 years of working in the information technology and communication industry, we've learned this: innovation happens with people. We had the honour of working with civil society in Africa for more than eight years and innovation happens in civil society all the time. Innovation happens because passionate people individuals and organizations figure out how to use the tools they have access to, under constrained circumstances, to meet the needs of their communities. 

1st Ever Cancer Survivor Summit - Africa

posted Sep 5, 2016, 4:22 PM by desmond Seeley


Global Goal - No.1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere

posted Oct 11, 2015, 9:20 AM by desmond Seeley

Poverty has many definitions and explanations, but what we can conclude is that  poverty is multi-dimensional. Poverty is visible - we see it in the shacks we pass by, homeless we encounter, unemployment we know of, poor infrastructure we can observe and lack of basic services. The long and short of it, poverty is that people lack the means to live and access opportunities, so imprisoning and enslaving them. As Nelson Mandela said:

"In this new century, millions of people in the world's poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved, and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."

Does this mean there will be no poor people in the world? No, as previously mentioned in this article there are various definitions of poverty. Poverty can be defined as "extreme poverty", "moderate poverty" and "relative poverty". This Global Goal is about ending "extreme poverty" (The UN defines this a people living on less than US$1.25 per day). "Extreme poverty" is where households are not able to meet their basic needs for survival. This means that households are chronically  (constantly recurring) hungry, they may lack shelter, they do not have access to health care and don't have access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Further to this these households cannot afford education for their children and may lack basic articles of clothing like shoes. 

"In South Africa the latest statistics say that 21.7% of South Africans live in extreme poverty, not being able to pay for basic nutritional requirements; 37% of people don't have enough money to purchase both adequate food items and non-food items so they have to sacrifice food to pay for things like transport and airtime; 53.8% of people can afford enough food and non-food items but fall under the widest definition of poverty in SA, surviving on under R779 per month" (Nicolson:2015).

South Africa's response to poverty is social grants! "The number of social grants recipients in South Africa have increased exponentially over the past twenty years: from an estimated 4-million in 1994 to 16.3 million by 31 August last year" ( Ferreira:2015). This is not sustainable, and furthermore is creating a dysfunctional society. We South African Global Citizen cannot sit back and say this is Government's problem, we need to take action.  We need to take up the  responsibility to make a difference. 

Here are the targets agreed by the leaders at the UN:

  • By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day
  • By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.
  • Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.
  • By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of 13 property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.
  • By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.
  • Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions.
  • Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions

The Global Goals for sustainable development

posted Oct 4, 2015, 7:05 AM by desmond Seeley   [ updated Oct 4, 2015, 7:08 AM ]

Leaders from around 200 nations gathered in New York on the 25 September, making it a special day in the world of sustainable development. Since 1990, where the UNDP's 1st report defined its approach and values as shifting its focus of development and economics from national income and economics to peopled controlled policies, the idea of development has grown on the agenda, and this date 25 September 2015, will be significant in Human Development.

While gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York, world leaders agreed to the UN’s sustainable development goals. A set of ambitious but achievable targets work to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. “The new sustainable development agenda embodies the aspirations of people everywhere for lives of peace, security and dignity on a healthy planet,” said UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.

The Global Goals for sustainable  development consists of 17 goals and 169 targets, the new goals expand on the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015) that have worked towards removing barriers for millions of people to be free from poverty.

According to the official United Nations Millennium website, the following has already been achieved;  extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990; the maternal mortality ratio has fallen by 45 per cent since 1990; in total, 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water since 1990. There is still a long way to go, thus making these new Global Goals a real opportunity to shift a gear.

The 17 goals are as follows:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and wellbeing
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace and justice strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

For more information on the Global Goals go to www.globalgoals.org/

Healthcare spatial inequality - in South Africa

posted Oct 4, 2015, 7:04 AM by desmond Seeley

It is not a a new story that South Africa has challenges with spatial planning an service distribution, but when you read an article like this that was published in TimesLIVE by Katharine Child, you realize our the magnitude of the problem!

'Gynaes in wrong places'

Katharine Child | 07 May, 2015 00:20

"Motsoaledi said the fact that most doctors worked in the private sector and serviced about 18% of the population revealed the vast "inequality" in the country's health system. 

There is a hospital near Sandton, northern Joburg, that has more gynaecologists than all the state facilities in Mpumalanga and Limpopo combined, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi complained yesterday

There are six full-time gynaecologists working in the public sector in Mpumalanga and nine in Limpopo. Three also work part time for the state in Limpopo, according to Joe Maila, Motsoaledi's spokesman.

With at least 2.6 million women using state healthcare facilities in Limpopo, this means there is only one full-time gynaecologist for almost 300000 women. In Mpumalanga, the six fulltime gynaecologists each serve 297000 women.

Motsoaledi said the fact that most doctors worked in the private sector and serviced about 18% of the population revealed the vast "inequality" in the country's health system.

He was speaking at a UN meeting in Kempton Park on the East Rand on the global health plan for women, children and adolescents.

Chris Archer, a gynaecologist and head of the SA Private Practitioners' Forum, said posts for government specialists had been on and off for years.

He said this meant that when new gynaecologists qualified, they faced two choices: go overseas or work in private practice.

"The fact that gynaecologists could make a living working in private practice meant the industry had retained the doctors in the country, " Archer said.

He said many of his colleagues would love to work in the public arena if it were well-managed.

" [The public sector] has politicised management, runs out of drugs or has broken or poorly maintained equipment," he said.

Health economist Alex van den Heever agreed, saying various provinces had faced fiscal crises and had frozen posts.

But he also said when specialist posts for public hospitals were advertised, doctors applied for them.

"The state pays about R1.5-million a year for a top specialist and offers a huge pension that pays 75% a month of what one earned when working, for the rest of your life."

It was hard for private doctors' savings to compete with the government's pension fund, he said.

He admitted that it was hard for rural areas to attract doctors.

Motsoaledi said better health for women and children would not be realised until the National Health Insurance became a reality.

NHI would need more gynaecologists working in more rural areas."

According to the SA Society of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists in South Africa, 400 of their members work in private practice, 98 in state hospitals and 11 part time for the government.

Remote Workforce Management

posted Feb 19, 2015, 12:14 AM by Desmond Seeley

by Jan Grobler, February  2015

 

Introduction

Most managers dread the thought of managing a virtualised workforce out of fear of losing the ability to track employee progress. Thanks to improved technologies and the higher price of transport, working remotely has become increasingly popular as is evident in the white and blue collar domains, providing less expensive options for both large and small work    forces.

This does not mean that the managers solved the progress tracking issue. Having teams or individuals roaming or on their own, representing you or your organisation in the work they are executing are and have always  been riddled with uncertainties.  Uncertainties that are  not easily resolved.

 

What is a Remote Workforce

So let’s start at the beginning and look at what we call those lonely warriors that are out there in the wild, representing us by doing work on our behalf, or doing their work but not in the office with the rest of the team. Most publications use words such as remote workers, telecommuters, work­shifters, distributed teams, flextime, flexiplace, career sabbaticals, zero­hours contract and flexible  work.

There is a tendency to use these terms interchangeably, though there are certainly subtle distinctions between them. However, the real interest and focus is on managing the tasks executed in remote locations ­ at some distance from the manager or the person responsible for controlling the process. What matters is the distance between  the  manager  and executioner of the task or process, not the label put on the job   category.

In essence there are two categories which are effectively the base reasons for work done remotely. The most recently developed category is where work that could have been done in the office, is done remotely. Various reasons for this development exist and included in this list are costs, travel and time, both to and from the place of work. This is impacted by the distribution in location of clients or prospects. Technology made this category possible in the forms of mobile computing and  telecommunications.

The second category however is the original reason for remote work ­ the location where the work needs to be executed. This mean someone needs to go to a specific geographical location in order to execute a specific  task.

It is important to note that to a large degree, the two categories have the same effects on the organisation, but, the reasons or objectives of the two categories   differ.


Issues with remote work

Many information  systems don’t have the capability to support remote workers at the outset  of a remote workforce roll­out. Addressing the uncertainties are not all obvious at  first, but includes:

      Are the team at the right location,

      Are they doing the right job/task,

      Are they scheduled to do the job at this stage,

      Did they start on time,

      Did they complete the job,

      Did they finish on time,

      Do they know where to go next,

      Do they know what to do next,

      Are we using the right person/team for the job,

      Are they efficient in their execution,

      Do they need assistance/resources, and

      Do they need to compile proof of execution and when is the proof available.

 

Practices

Critical practices for successful Remote Workforce Management   includes:

Going paperless ­ Committing to digital information flow and storage is the single most important thing you can do to enable efficient distributed work. People can be much more mobile when they don’t have to access paper documents that are by definition stored in only one location. The real magic of centrally stored digital information is that once it’s online it can be accessed and processed from almost anywhere. Most organisations already have formal document retention policies; they just need to learn to use   them.

Carrying the tools you need with you ­ One government agency we studied no longer has any desktop computers. Everything is portable, although all laptops have physical security devices and are assigned to individual employees. That makes it really, really simple for staff to pick up and go. This degree of technology mobility increases the likelihood that people will work wherever they are ­ because they  can.

Making time to practice new tools such as job­specific software applications ­ Give employees time to learn how to use new collaborative technologies well before they are expected to integrate them into their work style. We are talking about much more than a simple orientation to a new version of a program. Give the new tool to the team and let them play with it in offline mode before they are explicitly responsible for getting the job done with it.

Being contactable (i.e., published times when people are available) ­ When people work in a single central location everyone assumes that if they can see you, you are available to talk. When you are remote you should advertise your availability and set aside specific blocks  of time for calls and other real­time collaborative activities. One manager called these times his open­door hours.

Develop personal discipline, including knowing when to unplug ­ Gil Gordon (one of the thought leaders we interviewed) is famous for promoting the value of getting offline. In his view, many employees become overly connected and can’t separate work from the rest of


their lives. There is a psychological risk in being away from the direct supervision that helps people know when they are at work and when they’re not;  burnout can become  endemic among remote workers unless they learn how to   disconnect.

 

Remote Management

Primary attributes of effective remote  management:

Establishing clear expectations/goals ­ Set the goals early, put them in writing, and re­visit them on a periodic basis.

Knowing your employees ­ Optimise their individual skills and styles; get the right person for the right job at the right time in the right  place.

Establishing explicit Big Rules ­ Define acceptable etiquette, protocols, expectations of team members, norms, and values. Do not assume everyone will understand how things get done around here. Be explicit. For example, in one ad agency we know, managers actually assign someone to shadow new workers in order to help them learn the not­so­visible rules of the road.

However, as trite  as  it  may sound, the most critical skill in a distributed work environment  is the ability to establish trust (which in many ways translates into, or is equivalent to, employee engagement).

 

Technology

Utilising the right technologies to support a remote workforce is of utmost importance. No remote worker or team can operate in isolation. Fostering a remote workforce means not only hiring the right people, but also supporting them with the technologies that enable them to collaborate effectively. Working remotely do not foster esprit de corps with colleagues from the same organisation and surely do not allow for easy exchange of experiences  and knowledge sharing. This can be augmented through the use of technologies, depending on communication capabilities of devices and systems   utilised.

Civil Society and Technology

posted Jan 4, 2015, 8:55 AM by Desmond Seeley

I play many roles. To my business colleagues, I am a business entrepreneur who likes to incubate and capacitate business. To my friends, I am a IT professional (whether they know what that means, I wouldn't know). Nevertheless, I constantly find myself in situations where I try to explain some complex or, alternatively, sleep-inducing ideas to different sets of people, depending on my audience. I try to put my combined interests into easily understood terms that explain what exactly it is that I believe is possible with technology. So the topic here is about using technology in civil society.

 

In the past few years I have been working with various NGO's, helping them utilise the technologies that commercial organisations have been using daily. The combination of business, design, and world changing innovation is game-changing as far as our traditional conceptions of technology, international development, aid, philanthropy, and collaboration are concerned. I read this interesting article on the web:  "For 10 years, HIV scientists had been struggling to crack an extremely difficult problem (to produce an accurate model of the crystal structure of the M-PMV retroviral protease by molecular replacement), hindering their progress in the research of the virus. Then in 2011, the puzzle website, Foldit, published the HIV problem to the public and, in less than a month, the gaming community had solved the conundrum". Wow is that not awsome, we always need to remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Collaboration is key! 

 

In the same way we have the ability to make an exponential impact, on the great work already undertaken by civil society, by making use of technology.  Using technology, such as software for public data collection, visualization, and interactive mapping using multiple channels such as SMS, email, and the web, are changing the way information flows between individuals and communities. This will and could impact democracy, health, safety, disaster management, and economic development.

The rise of social media has immeasurably contributed to connecting communities, donors, beneficiaries, and organizations. Social media can provide a more tangible and measurable impact on communities, which would have been impossible by the use of face-to-face engagement only.  

For me personally, technology is most worthwhile when it makes a difference to people and more importantly when it is able to be utilised to equal the playing fields of “have’s and have-not’s”. I know that especially those (NGO’s) working in civil environments, technologies are pointless unless they enhance the lives of the people they're trying to help.

 

From personal experience, successful tech start-ups are not different from sustainable social ventures. Both are willing to take risks, want to be game changers in their field, and do it with burning passion and perseverance to solve problems. By making better use of technology, social innovators should be encouraged to scale their impact and better manage their sustainability. Nothing will and can ever replace the local, on-the-ground interaction, but with technology social organisations are able to make sure their content, process and resources, are getting to the people they are trying to reach, and they are able to measuring the impact

 

Technology is not a silver bullet to the world's complex problems. What is requires, I believe, is that we must develop a “mixing pot” of the social sector and communities with the technologies to socially innovate and make the difference required. Innovation isn't invention. Innovation is not another scientific discovery. Innovation is about continual redesign and replacement of outdated process and thinking to produce a fundamentally better experience for people!

 

Desmond Seeley

The Digital Divide

posted Oct 15, 2009, 7:59 AM by Desmond Seeley

The Digital Divide, or the digital split, is a social issue referring to the differing amount of information between those who have access to the Internet (specially broadband access) and those who do not have access. The term became popular among concerned parties, such as scholars, policy makers, and advocacy groups, in the late 1990s.

Dimensions of the Divide

Broadly speaking, the difference is not necessarily determined by the access to the Internet, but by access to ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) and to Media that the different segments of society can use. With regards to the Internet, the access is only one aspect, other factors such as the quality of connection and related services should be considered. Today the most discussed issue is the availability of the access at an affordable cost and quality.

The problem is often discussed in an international context, indicating certain countries are far more equipped than other developing countries to exploit the benefits from the rapidly expanding Internet. The digital divide is not indeed a clear single gap which divides a society into two groups. Researchers report that disadvantage can take such forms as lower-performance computers, lower-quality or high price connections (i.e. narrowband or dialup connection), difficulty of obtaining technical assistance, and lower access to subscription-based contents.

Bridging the Gap

The idea that some information and communication technologies are vital to quality civic life is not new. Some suggest that the Internet and other ICTs are somehow transforming society, improving our mutual understanding, eliminating power differentials, realizing a truly free and democratic world society, and other benefits.

In many countries, access to the telephone system is considered such a vital element that governments implement various policies to offer affordable telephone service. Unfortunately some countries lack sufficient telephone lines.

Literacy is arguably another such element, although it is not related to any new technologies or latest technological devices. It is a very widely shared view in many societies that being literate is essential to one's career, to self-guided learning, to political participation, and to Internet usage.

There are a variety of arguments regarding why closing the digital divide is important. The major arguments are the following:

1. Economic equality

Some think that the access to the Internet is a basic component of civil life that some developed countries aim to guarantee for their citizens. Telephone is often considered important for security reasons. Health, criminal, and other types of emergencies might indeed be handled better if the person in trouble has an access to the telephone. Another important fact seems to be that much vital information for people's career, civic life, safety, etc. are increasingly provided via the Internet. Even social welfare services are sometimes administered and offered electronically.

2. Social mobility

Some believe that computer and computer networks play an increasingly important role in their learning and career, so that education should include that of computing and use of the Internet. Without such offerings, the existing digital divide works unfairly to the children in the lower socioeconomic status. In order to provide equal opportunities, governments might offer some form of support.

3. Democracy

Some think that the use of the Internet would lead to a healthier democracy in one way or another. Among the most ambitious visions are that of increased public participation in elections and decision making processes.

4. Economic growth

Some think that the development of information infrastructure and active use of it would be a shortcut to economic growth for less developed nations. Information technologies in general tend to be associated with productivity improvements. The exploitation of the latest technologies may give industries of certain countries a competitive advantage.



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