Tag: barcampafrica

FRONTLINE/WORLD iWitness Interview: BarCamp Swaziland

August 28th, 2009 — 7:57am

Our FRONTLINE/WORLD iWitness interview about BarCamp Swaziland is now up:

Swaziland: The King and the Web

25 comments » | Africa, Swaziland

The Highest HIV Rate in the World: Beyond Statistics #1

August 27th, 2009 — 4:50am

Swaziland has the highest HIV rate in the world, with estimates of the adult prevalence rate ranging from 26%-38%. Before I left for BarCamp Swaziland, in between buying batteries and packing tripods and making sure I had enough DV tapes, I needed to try to wrap my mind around this reality. What did it really mean to live in a country so devastated by HIV?  I wanted to know why the rate was so high.

I read an audit of HIV/AIDS policies in Swaziland funded by the WK Kellogg Foundation. On page 12, it listed factors fueling the epidemic in Southern Africa. Economic and civil war-induced migration, especially migration to work in gold and platinum mines in Botswana and South Africa, is a key factor in spreading disease. Unsafe sex and multiple partners remain a common cause of infection, as are dirty needles and poor health delivery systems.

Phindile, a smiling, broad-faced young woman with close-cropped hair, is the oldest one on her rural homestead and helps to care for her siblings. Her parents have both died. An older brother works in the city and sends money “sometimes.” As an advisor to YouthAssets.org, Phindile helps to counsel other orphans who head households. Largely due to the AIDS epidemic, there are over 15,000 orphan-headed households in the small kingdom of Swaziland, about 10% of families.  

We interview her in Hluti, a rural village near the South African border,  on a red-dirt path shared by cows and goats in front of her school. Many Hluti men cross the border to work in South African mines, where many prostitutes are HIV positive. Phindile clutches a notebook close to her chest in a shy girlish way, faded paper cutouts of women in haute couture dresses pasted to the cover. 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” we ask. Continue reading »

83 comments » | Africa, Swaziland

BarCamp Swaziland 2009: A Technology Community on Fire

August 25th, 2009 — 1:13pm

In the verdant Ezulwini Valley, where you’ll often pass King Mswati III’s motorcade zooming down the road, Swaziland’s first technology conference, BarCamp Swaziland, was held on Saturday, June 27th. It took place at the House on Fire venue, a fanciful, mosaic-encrusted amphitheatre which often hosts local performances. About sixty people attended, including local engineers, ISP’s, artists, music promoters, software developers, and non-profits including SangoNet and the Grameen Foundation. BarCamp Swaziland was sponsored by YouthAssets.org, which empowers youths heading households in Swaziland. Other sponsors included Real Image Internet (Swaziland’s leading ISP), Swazis Rock, i.t. solutions, PoeTree, and Comparatio USA. Several rural youth who head households due to the loss of their parents attended and helped document the conference with Flip video cameras.

The IT guru at House on Fire, Mark Fulton, although he found out about the barcamp just the night before (suitably enough, in the actual bar where he was nursing a Windhoek), did a fantastic job of taking care of the attendees’ wireless connectivity needs and managing the conference multimedia presentations. In addition, he gave Swazis a window into the truly geeky world of computer gaming – especially inspiring the youth. American video blogger Katrina Heppler and I helped document the conference.

Key takeaways from BarCamp Swaziland:

1. There is a vibrant group of very smart geeks and creatives in Swaziland who want to form a technology community.
2. There is lots of interest in blogging tools such as Twitter. Prediction: a year from now Africa watchers will have heard of some Swazi bloggers (maybe some will attend Kelele?).
3. Local developers are developing software for the local business market – Wandile Nxumalo of Maestro IT showed off his new accounting software.
4. Technology coming soon to Swaziland includes WiMax, mobile banking, and local mobile search – Ali Resting of Real Image Internet was a great resource for what’s coming next.
5. There was interest in using social media to promote local artists and musicians.
6. There is a strong interest in using technology for social good – especially to help the many children orphaned because of HIV/AIDS.

What people learned:
“How important is technology in our community and to the world at large.”

” There is a community out here of especially young people interested or involved in IT – I need to network with these people.”

“How to use Facebook and Twitter.”

“About open source software and online community development.”

“That programming is not a joke and I’m into it!”

“That there are other IT folks around.”

“There is a lot happening in the mobile development sector in Swaziland.”

“There is more happening in technology than what meets the eye!”

“Women in Swaziland or around the world can contribute in technology.’

What was your favorite part of BarCamp Swaziland?
“Learning how we can develop IT in our community. The discussions were very informative, everyone giving input was great.”

How would you make the next conference better?
“I would try to bring something that I have made myself – like my own program.”

“Introduce barcamp to the community (friends and relatives).”

If you would like to help organize future technology conferences in Swaziland, join the BarCamp Swaziland Facebook page.

2 comments » | Africa, Swaziland

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