Monday, July 30, 2007

Handwritten letters are moving again

We are going to move to the Hague soon. I decided to clean the attic and throw away stuff, when I found old letters my husband wrote me when he was in Tanzania and I was in the Netherlands (must have been 1989 or so). It is very funny to read the details of things you have forgotten. He had earpain and went to the hospital where the doctor took one hour to find the key to the cupboard where the ear-inspection-device was stored.

It struck me that I hardly receive letters now, and that I don't keep an archive of my mails (though with gmail you have a large archive, I doubt I will ever go back). And then you hardly write a long and intense mail as you used to write letters.

The letters was number 11 and he mentions that he needs to start keeping a diary with numbered letters, so that we can track the arrival of the letters... He is commenting on a job interview I had and I probably had to wait 3-4 weeks to get an answer, the difference is just so big with internet and mobile phones nowadays! When I started emailing (this started roughly in 1997 for me) I remember for a long time I still used to send hand-written letters to my friends, as emails felt so public, with a letter at least you knew that it would only end up in the hand of the person you write to. When I finally took to mailing girlfriends, we wrote less about our boyfriends, as we were not sure they would read it at some point. So technology does bring its own codes and changes your communication patterns.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Some bloggers meet

Yesterday I went out with the GINKS secretariat to meet Emmanuel K. Bensah, one of the most fanatic bloggers in Ghana. I met Emmanuel through his blog. When we connected on facebook he had stated (ticking a box by mistake) that we met in school, but actually the category 'met through their blogs' is missing...

It was very nice to exchange blog and vlog tips, and discuss the Ghanaian blogosphere which is too quiet according to Emmanuel. He is an author for the globalvoices for Ghana. This means that he reads about 15-20 blogs and when he thinks something is interesting for a global audience that doesn't know much about Ghana he writes a review to the editor, who then edits and puts it up the globalvoices site. See an example of a review here. This is a huge opportunity for bloggers to get known (this is how I found Emmanuel's blog) and to be crossposted to a wider audience. He told us globalvoices now has a feed into the Reuter's Africa site. On each country page there is a feed with blogposts, see the example for Ghana. We discussed ways of leveraging the GINKS vlog with ICT4D stories, a possible blogmentoring project and tried to start a Ghanaian vloggers group (so far with 3 members :). I forgot to ask whether the Ghanaian bloggers ever meet.

We had a good brainstorm about the developing of ICT uses in Ghana. Emmanuel was very enthousiastic about his GPRS phone which allows him to connect to the internet by mobile phone. It is not extremely expensive and you can set it to see what you used. When he's offline, he uses his onetouch (onetouch is a Ghanaian telecom service) pay-as-you-go subscription to check and reply to mails and even to go to facebook. I still have my video-ipod dream (in combination with videoblogs) . Mobile television is coming through ghana telecom/onetouch. So enough work for GINKS...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Zentation to combine videos with powerpoint presentations on the web

Via Erwin Blom I discovered Zentation, you can upload a powerpoint presentation and link it to a google video presentation! Very useful. though some of the slides on slideshare are quite self-explanatory, it can be more powerful in combination with a video. (or would be video with the slides be enough?)

Blogger integrates feedburner feeds

A short blogpost to alert all blogger-bloggers to the fact that feedburner and blogger have apparently collaborated to make the integrating of a feedburner feed into your blogger blog easy. You go to settings, then site feed and add the URL of your feedburner feed. Having a feedburner feed is very useful if you want to monitor the subscriptions to your blog. You can read more here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The news: no news

In Ghana, the Volta River Authority (VRA)'s main function is to generate and supply electrical energy in Ghana. For some time now, there is an energy crises in Ghana and every other day, you'll be 12 hours off electricity (alternating day and night shifts). This includes ministries and business areas, so you can imagine it affects work seriously, let alone the domestic troubles it gives. Yesterday one of the news items on the Ghanaian television was that there is no news on the energy crises. There was a briefing for journalists by officials of VRA planned on the energy crises yesterday by 9.00. By 12.00 someone came to explain that the briefing would not take place... So this became the news item.

I'm not blogging this to ridiculize the VRA officials, but I do think it shows how they continue to think and act according to a pre-media model, where officials can arrive as late as they want, and can even cancel meetings after letting people wait for hours. Yet, currently with the new media like television and internet, this will become the news itself. Strikingly, the meeting was called 'briefing for journalists' and not a press conference.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Great resource on communities of practice in a development context!

Dorine had a blogpost on their work on communities of practice in the development sector. I planned to reblog it, but didn't find the time, till here in Ghana (as the saying goes, in Europe we have clocks, but here we have time). Dorine participated in the online community of practice workshop and did a project with Bill Williams and Patricia Mantey. They made their small project quite big, as it resulted in a large and resourceful document with all kind of references that you can find online here. They had 5 main topics:
1. Life after funding
2. Gaps in technology
3. Differences in communities
4. Multiple cultures and languages
5. Donor pressure and expectations

They looked for cases and interviewed people. I was amongst the people they interviewed by mail, not know that these answers would be posted integrally in the report (I assumed they'd use it to inform their own opinion and write something condenses). It felt very ackward to be quoted as an 'expert' on all these big questions I don't really have an answer to, and then amongst the responses of other experts, sometimes completely contradicting. Would have been more fun to have an exchange! The biggest difference in opinion as I recall was my opinion that funding can be helpful (but tricky ofcourse) compared to Ueli's answers which go into the direction of banning funding for effective communities of practice. (I'm lazy to search for quotes, but if it's interesting to you, you can find it in the document). They are hopefully going to organize on online exchange still (the intention is there at least).

What I personally learned from it, is that I can see the parallel between funders and communities of practice and the manager's paradox. Both funders and managers should refrain from too much trying to control the domain discussions, but engaging in it in the right way can be energizing.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The tech forum in Ghana meets face-to-face

Today I co-facilitated a meeting of the 'tech forum' a group of ICT technicians who are active in ICT4D. We started last year with a meeting, and had a year of online exchange, which never took off full speed. Nevertheless, more than half of the people present had participated in the previous meeting and were still 'in the mood' and enjoyed their connection. I found out a lot of invisible connections had continued either by mail or meeting people.

It's always encouraging to see how energizing it is for people to engage in practice-related discussions, also today. Even though I'm not a practitioner myself, you see it from the body language, and the break discussions. We had a peer assist session where 4 people could bring in their cases, and I had worried about the others (the non-caseholders), but I noticed that it was as energizing for the others to think along the questions of the 4 case holders. For instance, one question of the delay in seeing the content on a website after uploading it to a CMS was a real puzzle, and we got all intrigued by it. Another very practical exchange was how to load your cell phone battery while travelling (by connecting the poles of your phone battery to a normal battery)...

Something I learned myself is how to use flickr images in blogger. It never worked, and when someone asked me, I felt encouraged to try and find out and I managed (click on other sizes and you can grab the flickr URL).

People thought it was really participatory and peer learning, but what was missing is some thought leaders, and some inspiring new ideas. A reminder that it is not easy to get those people engaged for a long period of their time. That's a process in itself. Secondly, we had done all our best to get the online forum going, but it never really took off. Now, through the face-to-face connections, there are new topic leaders emerging, and there is a plan to have a new topic every month, with a topic leader and monthly online chats, Fridays at 17.00 (without voice because people might not be able to talk outloud in their offices). This is really a breakthrough in energy level that would have been hard to achieve online.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Commoncraft video on social networking

Here's the new video in the series by commoncraft explaining social networking. Ofcourse I'm eagerly waiting for the social bookmarking one after our own attempt.. But you watch it differently after you tried to produce one!

As for social networking site, I've become a member of linkln and facebook, but I don't invest in it and it doesn't work for me. For my case, the video doesn't help in explaining the principle, or do I miss the clue because I'm not looking for a new love neither for a new job? for development

By recommendation from Jay Dedman I moved from Youtube to to host my videos (almost forgot I started with castpost). I thought blip had roughly the same features as youtube, but I liked the fact that when you embed videos, you don't have a large triangle and YOUTUBE on your video. Just looks better with

But yesterday I discovered an important reason why is better for use in a development context. Namely, it is very hard to download videos from youtube! It's quite easy from This feature is helpful if you want to put the video on a server or on a CDrom to play it back to an audience with unreliable or low bandwidth connectivity. Though it is not impossible on youtube, it is not as easy as on

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Argyris and intercultural settings

Last Friday I attended a the M&O conference 'samenwerking in allianties en netwerken' (=collaboration in alliances and networks). I think it was my first real conference, you're never too old to attend your first conference... and immediately I can join the unconferencing movement. Can't say I was impressed by the general level of presentations and sessions. BUT a real treat was the presentation by Chris Argyris. And it was really cute that he was using a good old overhead projector with slides (see picture). That did not diminish the power of his presentation. It was impressive how he told a story and explained both theory in use versus espoused theory as well as model 1 and model 2 thinking and behaviour, and I felt like he had explained the book I read (knowledge for action) in less than 30 minutes. He stressed that model 1 behaviour is universal behaviour.

One question I have is whether working in intercultural situations helps to move towards model 2 thinking and behaviour. Model 2 is behaviour where you try to make your assumptions explicit, check them and ask for feedback. Unfortunately I didn't dare to ask him (even though I spotted him in the corridor)..