Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chale, where (did) my credit go?

Mobile Data under Phone's Settings


Mobile internet bundles have contributed to the low patronage of Internet Cafes in Ghana. The other 'culprit' in this regard are the modems from the telecommunication networks.
Inasmuch as these mobile bundle services have increased the convenience of users, a number of grievances still abound.
A trivial one has to be with 'stolen' credit when users buy credit vouchers and find out they can't bundle data because 'they don't have enough credit units'.

Really?

Take my friend Kofi, who bought a GHS20 worth of  Vodafone airtime the other day. He loads it onto his phone, and enters the short code to begin the bundle process. All goes accordingly until the final step, where he chooses the bundle that he wants (1.6GB), and is told he has insufficient credit.
Surprised, he checks his balance and realises it's GHS1.99456! He starts cussing.
Chale, where my credit go?

I'm sure we've experienced this before. I know I have.

I approach Kofi and ask him if his mobile data is on. With confusion drawn on his face, I take his phone from him and show him the mobile data in his phone's settings page. In other phones, this is simply known as Background data.

His mobile data was on, so I had to explain to him how leaving the data on before recharging airtime isn't a good idea. You see, once your mobile data is on, it allows apps on your mobile phone to access the Internet in the background. This uses your airtime.

Kofi was grateful for this hack that I showed him.




Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Challenge: Re-orienting the learning approach

As a Ghanaian who studied in Ghana, I've gone through an educational system that lays premium on passing exams and getting degrees, and cerificates -- what I call A4 sheets.
This system is still dominant, albeit there's a fresh breath of forward-thinking institutions, and individuals who realise that it's skill and ability that determine the output of an individual, and not a piece of paper.
In my (still young) academic life, I've met students who have no clue why they are in school.
For most, so long as they can get a job, they are okay.
No identified problem to be solved. No wonder most researches undertaken by students towards the award of a degree are next to 'useless' in terms of practically solving a problem.
The classroom environment is one that sees lecturers teach students what to think, and not how to think.
Chewing and spewing of facts is the norm. Understanding concepts is simply unwelcomed.
I am frustrated.
I need help in re-orienting the teaching/learning approach being used in our educational system.
I was privileged to be involved in the teaching of the Human-Computer Interaction course last semester. The first couple of classes made me realise how I had to explain almost everything on the PPTs I was using.
Note: The textbook on which the PPTs is based, and supplementary texts have been given to the students.
So the next lecture, I informed the class I hadn't read the book and so implied I wasn't ready to teach effectively.
Surprisingly, I went through about 6 slides with VERY little questions from the class.
No discussions.
That changed the next lecture because they had actually read and researched, and a wholesome diacussion took place.
I also tried using twitter to engage the class. That didn't go well, but it's a start.
Also, the students a practical assignment in training their eyes on products around them and their designs.
Thanks to Astrid, my boss Patrick, Richard, Kajsa for their advice, motivation, and believe in my ability.
There is hope.
I'm really opened to suggestions on to effectively engage my students and get the best out of them, and the courses I may teach.
Please share your tips, tricks in the comment section.
Thanks.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Do we need to recycle polythene bags, or find an alternative?

Enactus CUCG's paper bags
The '80s and '90s in Ghana saw a country that dealt with sanitation consciousness in an almost 'effective' way.
Not recycling though. The practice of going green (mostly recycling) is one that is still alien to most Ghanaians.
Food sellers used natural materials: waakye was served in leaves, hausa koko was served in bowls/cups. Heck, Ghanaians went about buying food with their own containers (bowls, cups). 
The narrative is different now. Plastic and polythene everywhere. We are invariably generating filth in the name of packaging -- and branding.
It's as if we've developed an unspoken slogan, "If it's not in plastic/polythene, it's not edible".
But that should change -- and indeed it will change. A number of individuals are doing their bit to help grow a green economy. These include The Green Ghanaian (@AkyaaN), Golda Addo, The Wheel Story House .
A couple of initiatives I'd wish to share with you are from two student organisations at the Catholic University College of Ghana.
Enactus CUCG has embarked on a project of dealing with plastic bags being used as grocery bags, and packaging for fast food and other products. They are designing paper bags. These are biodegradable, above all other considerable reasons. I read of a young man in Kenya who's also began an enterprise, making such paper bags.
Aiesec CUCG also had an intern last semester who collected used water sachets, and designed dust bins from them. These he donated to some primary schools in some deprived communities.
I'm yet to learn this skill, and produce some free dust bins too. ;-) 
I know of a number of initiatives coming out this year. Do watch the Green Ghanaian space for updates.
We should harness the power of the sun.
We should get some energy from our shit.
We should sort out our rubbish, so recycling is easier.
We should ... we should ... we should stop complaining and start from somewhere.
Brainstorm. Collaborate. Just. Do. It.

Dust bins made from used water sachets