Math(s) and Africa

I’ve blogged a few times about education and innovation in Africa before, but I figured it would be worthwhile mentioning the AIMs School  just outside Cape Town.

From the website.

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is an educational centre in Cape Town, South Africa. The goals of AIMS are:

  • To promote mathematics and science in Africa.
  • To recruit and train talented students and teachers.
  • To build capacity for African initiatives in education, research, and technology.

The Institute is focussed around a nine-month, postgraduate course covering many of the most exciting areas of modern science, taught by outstanding African and international lecturers. The course develops strong mathematical and computing problem-solving skills and leads to a postgraduate diploma in the Mathematical Sciences, formally accredited by the three partner South African Universities and taught in association with the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Oxford, and the University of Paris-Sud 11. Students with good mathematics, science or engineering degrees are invited to apply and will be supported on bursaries where needed.

There are some videos and details over on the TED blog.   Well done Barclays for the 20 scholarships. This all grows out of 2008 TED Prize winner Neil Turok’s wish — that the TED community will help him to educate the next Einstein in Africa.  Spend some time looking at Neil Turok’s talks. Humbling stuff.

Building a grasp and love of mathematics in what will thousands of Africans is a brilliant way to invest in the long term success of the continent. 

BTW.  They are looking for post docs and researchers .

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Social media and malaria……..

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Photo from the cc flickrstream of tanakawho

Via Yahoo news I read that

The British entrepreneur who sold a football Web site at the age of 17 for $40 million (20 million pounds) has switched his attention to help launch a social networking site on Sunday designed to fight malaria

“Travelling across Africa and seeing the devastation caused by malaria made me realise there was more to life than putting up soccer scores,” said Hadfield.

“Everyone I met at an aid project making mosquito nets in Zambia had either lost a child to malaria or knew someone who had.”

… Hadfield co-founded the site with health professors Peter A. Singer and Abdallah S. Daar at Canada’s McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health at University Health Network as well as the University of Toronto

Malaria is a largely preventable disease, yet it kills millions of people.

 

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MalariaEngage impresses me for two reasons.

1. Social media platforms like this enable charities and researchers  to build compelling online presence and interaction at a price point that would have been inconceivable even a couple years ago.

“It’s about more than about giving money — it’s about creating connections. By encouraging individual participation and involvement, we will create international communities of common interest. This is the essence of social networking.”

2. By linking donations to local research, it boosts local skills and research, and explores new avenues for practical cures and preventions. Strengthening African research is goodness. Malaria impacts those least able to pay for medicine,  so it is a tragic example of market failure. The global pharma industry has not really addressed the challenge of malaria, so perhaps local research is the answer. 

 

We feel young African scientists have very good ideas that end up in the dustbin,” said Singer. “This is about helping committed young researchers with good ideas to help themselves create a better future.”

Well done to Hadfield, Singer and Daar.

 

More on Africa and what mashups can be used for.

I have rambled and ranted before about African based industry, software deployment even African Mathematics, but I figured it was time for another rant on Africa and social media.

James Farrar posted this question a couple of weeks’ ago  when reviewing the blogger coverage of the Davos gathering.

Surely all these gadgets, communications and software we hold court on can offer something to help in terms of improved communications, institutional development, education and economic development for countries like Kenya. Something

He is right. In our  industry we talk so much about the tools, we  sometimes forget that there is more to the world than using one set of tools to talk about another set of tools.

Quoting him from a different context altogether, Jeff Nolan had this to say..

Check out this snapshot of Techmeme today. As is typically the case, Google scratches its left ear lobe and an entire industry of bloggers kicks into gear dissecting what it means.

It reminded me of a cartoon from the always funny often insightful Oliver, over at Geek and Poke

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I started watching a video clip from Demo 08, thinking that I was going to blog about some of the cool African start ups in social media, mobile phone innovations, and laptops powered by bat droppings  but after watching it I  changed my mind.

You can watch the video here please,if the embed fails. (the video is about 30 minutes)

 Mike,one of my regular link victims, Erik Hersman who writes the brilliant White African blog, and Juliana Rotich of the excellent Afromusing  appeared on the panel.

Yes, they covered off some of the interesting solutions and services on the web in Africa,  talked about mobile phones, and developing market economies, all good stuff but what made me stop multitasking and really really listen was the discussion on Kenya, and I think it goes some way to answering James’ question.  Watch the bit about the Ushahidi project , and spend some time on the site.

Mashups of where the nearest Starbucks drive through is located have their utility, and I’m not knocking them, but seeing a google maps mashup of violence outbreaks in real-time reminds me that there are other, more important challenges and uses for the tools. Blogging is great to cover the latest cool new laptop launch, but there is something fundamentally good about being able to get a post up on wordpress.com in minutes to highlight Brian’s plight.

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One of the most thoughtful commentators on Africa in the blogosphere is Ethan Zuckerberg. His piece on the Kenyan middle class is worth a read, but I’d like to quote from one his posts about TED.

Mwenda points out that mainstream media doesn’t cover Africa, in print, in television or on the web. When it’s covered, “journalist behave like scavengers of disaster”. When coverage of disaster captures the truth, it’s only capturing part of the reality. They’re missing all the stories of ordinary people doing amazing things. “When people like Sergei Brin think about Africa, they think in terms of giving aid, not in terms of opportunity.”

Although  comedy, this clip from the Onion is rather too close to the truth for comfort. (you will need click here   because wordpress.com seems to disagree with oinions)

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

Technology can play a vital role in times of crisis, but more than that, I have a hope that social media will help Africa tell its own story. As Zuckerberg notes, the web enables him to point, not tell. 

If you are interested in learning more about Africa,  then TED is an excellent place to start understanding its beguiling complexity.  Have a look at Joseph Lekuton, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Andrew Mwenda,  and Chris Abani. TED Africa 2008 looks to be a must view event.

Afromusing has an excellent blogroll, and herewith a random excerpt from What an African Women Thinks.

I’m very cross with Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga and their respective hardline surrogates today, for putting us in this position where the “International Community” have all the excuse they need to swagger into our sovereignty and order us around.
Because Condi, Milliband, and that tall German whatsisname guy with an unkempt moustache would not be all up in our faces being patronizing if Kenya’s erstwhile leaders just left their mountain-sized egos outside the negotiating room and got their acts together already. We want back our country and our pride. Give us back our country and our pride.
Seriously, today: Me. Cross. At these so called leaders of ours.
Wincing and squirming and cross.

There is more out there than techmeme. But if you are wedded to knowing the latest and greatest gadgets then please add Afrigadget to your RSS feed.

Oh, and finally again via Afromusing I’d like to remind you that Africa is open for business 

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