I will make a series of posts to summarize the journey that Tim Berners-Lee, Rosemary Leith (Web Foundation Director) and I made in Kenya during the past 4 days. I was coming directly from Cairo and the IGF in Sharm el Sheikh.
The 2010 World Cup Football activities hit me hard! I flew on the day Egypt and Algeria were playing each other in Khartoum … and my flight was supposed to stop in Khartoum. At the end of the match, there were some troubles, and thus the airport just closed! The pilot decided to wait for the reopening, thus making us wait about 3 hours on the tarmac in the plane, at 11:30pm. Then 2 hours later we finally reached the airspace around Khartoum … but the airport was still closed. So we circled in the sky for another hour, and running out of fuel, the pilot decided to go to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. We landed without an issue, but just to refuel. We stayed in Addis more than 2 hours. We eventually we reached Nairobi at around noon instead of 6:25am. Though the 2010 World Cup caused me a delay, on the positive side, upon landing, I learned that France qualified for the World Cup (yoo hoo!).
Unfortunately, I missed the first half-day of meetings in Nairobi, and only joined Tim and Rosemary for lunch. The remaining 3 days of meeting went quite well. We met a series of very different and very interesting people from government agencies, non-governmental organizations working in the field in different domains, and the information technology sector (ISPs, investors,…).
Each time we met with people from the government, they came with a different journalists who knew little about Tim and the Web Foundation. So the first day, Tim mentioned as an example Open Street Map, and a particular initiative aiming to put the Web the map of the biggest slum in Nairobi, called Kibera. The next day the press reported that “Tim distributed a set of GPS-enabled handset to people in Kibera”. One of the most funny reports was presented Tim Berners-lee, as the World Wide Web *investor* — probably a typo, but funny one. Some other funny excerpts: “Sir Tim will help writing the Web in local languages”! The press conferences were a good opportunity to help people understand why we were there, and how the Web Foundation might be able to help in the future.
An impressive thing for me was the number of personal or organization stories we heard that were made possible through the Web. Our driver during the 4 days, Shadrack, heard about the job offer as a driver through the Web.
We met a teacher from a Swedish university at the SIDAREC radio (Ghetto FM) who helped the radio station to implement its online library using free and open source software. They use the Web to contact the radio team through the Web. Now some of his students are visiting Kenya often, and helping the radio to develop its Web presence.
We visited an elephant orphanage which is saving young elephants who would die otherwise. Much of their funding is coming from donations from people who are adopting orphans (virtually). Using the Web to provide information on the orphan, how the orphanage is doig and so on, enables them to have closer relationships with adopters, and therefore raise more money to keep the orphanage running. A good story about how the Web can help wildlife conservation.
In my next post, i will go in more details on the different meetings with governments, NGOs, developers, educators and researchers.