Social media is using the Internet to collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, and causes we care about, powered by web based tools.” – [We Media]

From the learnings from the successful pilot (See blog posts about the event), and second  Social Media Online Workshop, the CGIAR through its ICT-KM Program, is pleased to offer a new online opportunity for social media explorations, this time with the specific objective to embed social media in participants’ contexts of international development work. This fully online workshop will run from September 7 to 25, 2009.

Social media offers development practitioners and organizations a move from “push” communications towards a place where we can interact with our constituents, listen and engage with them in ways we never could before. It enables us to network with colleagues and some stakeholders. If facilitates collaboration in the lab and in the field.

Social media also offers so many options that it can be overwhelming. This workshop focuses on exploration of social media from some specific development contexts. So instead of saying “there is a tool, how can we use it,” this workshop seeks to answer “we need to do this activity, how can social media support it and under what circumstances.”

If you ask yourself questions like these, you might consider joining the workshop:

  • How can I support collaboration in wide-spread teams?
  • How can I provide opportunities for open dialogue with my stakeholders?
  • How do we support communities of practice and thematic networks, online and offline?
  • How do we share our content and knowledge effectively online?
  • How can we make use of social media under low-bandwidth constraints?

This online workshop is designed for researchers, research and development communications professionals and knowledge sharing practitioners.

Objectives of the workshop
This three week online workshop will provide a collaborative, peer based learning opportunity for you, as development practitioners, to address if and how social media can help address your needs, opportunities or challenges related to collaboration, participation, or communication. By the end of the workshop you should be able to understand and analyze the opportunities that social media can offer in the view of your specific research and development context, identify some potential tools and create a plan of action.

During this workshop you will:

  • Identify possibles usages of social media through small group synchronous and full group asynchronous conversation, exploring opportunities and constraints related to your work.
  • Obtain an understanding and appreciation of the role and value of social media.
  • Explore 2-3 different social media tools which may be appropriate for your context.
  • Start to plan the implementation of one or more social media tools that fit our work environment.
  • Learn from participants of mixed professional and organizational backgrounds.

Outline of the 3-week event

  • Week 1 to 2 – Context and Application of Social Media: Introductions, and telephone conversations in small groups to assess your research for/and development context and identify opportunities for social media practices.
  • Week 2 to 3 – Testing Social Media Tools. Explore select social media tools in small groups.
  • Finalizing week 3 – Reflection for Action. Reflect on individual and group learning of the past two weeks and  create an initial plan for social media implementation.

Maximum Number of participants: 18

Language: English

Participant Requirement/Dedicated time: This workshop offers an in-depth exploration of social media tools adapted to your specific context with personalized support and work in small groups. To do this, we ask the following of each participant:

  • Organize your agenda to dedicate up to 1-1/2 hours per day during the three weeks. If you will be on travel and won’t have time in a particular week, save some time for “catch up.” If you will not be able to participate in more than one week, please consider taking a future workshop. It will become hard to catch up after missing significant time.
  • Participate in weekly telecons of  60-90 minutes. These are scheduled for the afternoons for those in Europe and Africa, mornings for North and South American, and evenings for Asia. We will try to accomodate all time zones as best we can.
  • Read and respond to blog posts
  • Explore at least 2 tools
  • Reflect and share your learnings on the workshop blog and wiki
  • Complete a pre- and post-workshop survey.

Open to: CGIAR staff, not for profit partners, agricultural and development organizations. Individuals, consultants and members of for profit organizations may join on a space available basis as the unsubsidized rate. (See costs below)

Platform: Blog, Skype and/or telephone, email and wiki. Our teleconference platform allows you to call for free using Skype. If you choose to use a landline for the conference calls, you will be responsible for long-distance costs. You should have regular access to the Internet. Some tools may not be accessible for those with low bandwidths. You may need to check with your IT department, as some web-based services you wish to explore may be currently blocked in your organization and you may need to seek support to access them.

Facilitators: Nancy White (Full Circle Associates), Simone Staiger-Rivas (CGIAR-CIAT), Pete Shelton (IFPRI)

Cost: USD$ 850. Individuals who work for for-profits or consultants: USD$ 1050.

Contact: Please write to Simone Staiger-Rivas (s.staiger[at] for questions and subscription by August, 10 at the latest.

This article was first published in the International Livestock Research Institute’s (ILRI, ) internal intranet site. ILRI hosts the Bioscience facility for East and Central Africa (BecA) and is ramping up its work in the area of biotechnology. However, East Africa will be the last region in the world to be connected to the internet by optic fibre cable. Slow, expensive, often contested satellite bandwidth is a big constraint to carrying out this work. These are some thoughts from our partner Erik Bongcam Rudloff and from Etienne de Villiers and Ian Moore of ILRI.


Is our bandwidth sufficient to do networked science? and if it’s not, what are the implications and potential solutions? Ian, Etienne and Erik puzzle it out!

Ian, Etienne and Erik

Ian, Etienne and Erik

Today’s scientific work is becoming more networked!

Erik Bongcam-Rudloff, associate professor of bioinformatics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), talks about networked science and the need for high bandwidth.

Erik Bongcam-Rudloff

Erik Bongcam-Rudloff

Erik, who has been a regular visitor to ILRI Nairobi since 2006, says: ‘Scientific work is becoming more and more networked and technology development is going VERY fast.


‘We are in a golden era of development. We need to look at bandwidth and the channels (ports) we have open for communications and what scientists need to ‘do’ science today and tomorrow.


‘Email is just a primitive communication tool from the past!


Erik argues: ‘Good internet connectivity is more imperative than ever before.

 ‘You’ll soon have a new 454 machine at the BecA-ILRI hub. [For non-scientists a ‘454’ is a ‘second generation’ high throughput sequencing machine – apparently the ‘new paradigm in sequencing’!].

About Erik

About Erik

‘These machines will change the way people design experiments and allow us to ask research questions that weren’t possible before. These machines can produce lots of data… but without knowledge the data is worthless! It’s all about how you connect data to knowledge and no single institute or university or lab is capable of coping with this alone. New science demands that many people – many thousands of people – connect and share in real time!

‘So there’s a huge need for a very fast internet connection to distribute, communicate and do analysis of scientific data. All future research will be done collectively. Living in silos, unconnected to the rest of the world, is out!

Fibre optic connection coming soon! 

Ian Moore

Ian Moore

Ian Moore (ILRI-ICRAF ICT Manager) says: ‘Reliability, bandwidth capacity and speed are the three most important factors that we take into account when implementing an internet connection. A research institute the size of ILRI should have an absolute minimum capacity of 10Mbps of uncontested bandwidth on each campus, preferably through a fibre optic connection to the internet.

‘This capacity is still small when compared to universities like SLU where Erik works or even compared to our sister centre IRRI in the Philippines.

‘In Ethiopia the optic fibre internet connection is fast but very unreliable so we’re going to install a satellite connection to improve the reliability, but unfortunately that won’t help the speed!

In Kenya and many other parts of eastern and southern Africa we’re still waiting for fibre optic internet connections, so until then we have to access the internet through slower, expensive satellites. For an asymmetrical satellite connection of 4Mbps incoming and 1Mbps outgoing in Nairobi ILRI spends an extortionate USD 180,000 per year. In Europe you can have shared 10Mbps in your house for USD20 per month!

The growth of the mobile phone industry and the loss of several satellites means that available capacity in the region is limited… costs are high and our upgrade options are limited. The limited bandwidth means that the link becomes congested at peak times and this is the main reason for slow speeds.

‘But the good news is that fibre optic internet connections from TEAMS, a Kenyan Government project, and SEACOM will land in Mombasa by March and be commissioned in June [That’s THIS year: 2009!]. The cost of bandwidth is estimated to drop to around USD800 per Mbps per month. If ILRI continues its policy of increasing bandwidth rather than making savings when prices fall then we’ll be able to implement the minimum 10Mbps internet connection that we need. Fibre optic connections are 5 times faster than a good satellite connection, so speeds will improve too.

So what can we do in the meantime?

Ian says: ‘First we needed to make sure that we were using our bandwidth productively. We’ve been monitoring to ensure capacity is not being taken up by viruses, other unexpected traffic, that staff are not using the internet for personal entertainment or gain and that we’re caching regularly accessed content. But at the same time we don’t want to frustrate scientists by blocking access to sites they need to do their work!

‘We’re now confident that the large majority of bandwidth is being used solely for work-related purposes. We’ve also ordered a bandwidth manager device which will be installed within the next month. This will give us more flexibility to assign priority use of the bandwidth to specific groups of users or to certain types of internet traffic. The young scientists who struggled at the bioinformatics webinar last week will, in future, receive the bandwidth they require, but this will be at the expense of others. These measures offer only limited respite and soon we’ll have to upgrade our bandwidth capacity.

‘I totally sympathise with the scientists, especially the bioinformatics team who need to regularly update their huge datasets. If we were located in a region with fast internet 2 connectivity for research and education establishments, like GEANT in Europe or APAN in Asia, then Etienne (de Villiers) and his team would be able to download a dataset within a matter of hours. At the moment, it’s quicker for them to receive datasets on removable media via DHL, rather than attempting to download them through our internet connection.

To cater for the new generation of scientists, make use of the new communication and collaboration tools, not to mention the resources required to carry out research on the internet, we DO need more bandwidth. So ILRI scientists and management have to weigh up if the savings and improved productivity that can be gained from a non-contested internet connection is worth the increased investment in bandwidth and whether this investment should be made immediately or whether ILRI can afford to wait for the faster fibre optic cables to be commissioned.

‘The existing internet connection is funded almost entirely from unrestricted core funds recovered through the ICT service charge. But this is not sustainable and in the future more funds need to be built into restricted grants especially by those who need the additional capacity. So we need to do an assessment with scientists and figure out the best way to go.

Is it possible to ‘stay in the game’ if we don’t have high bandwidth?

Erik believes that productivity improvements and other costs savings can be made by upgrading now: ‘Huge amounts of money can be saved by increasing bandwidth. I’m chairman and board member of two international bioinformatics groups. We meet once a year face to face, but hold monthly meetings over the internet using a webcam, microphone, freely available video conferencing tools and a good internet connection. This saves us at least Euros 100,000 a year in travel costs AND reduces our carbon footprint! We talk to people in China, Brazil, South Africa and all over the world. We can have rapid questions and answers and this saves us weeks, if not months, of time! We also give teaching courses through this system.

I believe the future of science is in building gigantic wiki-like systems where whole communities collectively write datasets and these datasets will, of course, be open source!

‘We already have two examples – Wikigenes and BioGPS. It’s amazing how much data is there already. Yes, it’s primitive at the moment but so was Wikipedia when it started and just look at it now! There are few scientific articles today that don’t cite [our friend] Wikipedia as a source! [Tip for scientists: Check out Wikipedia’s page on your research topic and make sure your research is cited! And if there isn’t a page – just create one!]

Erik concludes: ‘So is it possible to do research with the latest technologies if you don’t have high bandwidth? No, it is not possible any more! No research can work by itself. Today’s science is network-based using a plethora of internet-based tools.

Scientists need to be prepared for collective working. And a lack of bandwidth will hinder real progress. If you don’t practice and use the tools, then you will be left behind! This new way of working is here now and it’s already ongoing.’

So do you agree with Erik’s views on where science is going? What are your experiences? Can you provide examples of this new networked science and how it’s working in your area? Please post your comments below.


Article by: Margaret Macdonald-Levy with thanks to Erik Bongcam-Rudloff, Ian Moore and Etienne de Villiers.

This article was first published in the International Livestock Research Institute’s (ILRI, ) internal intranet site. East Africa will be the last region in the world to be connected to the internet by optic fibre cable. This article helped to explain to our staff why internet connectivity has been so expensive and slow from East Africa and to convey the excitement we all feel that finally decent connectivity is coming to the region. Since the article was first published Ethiopia has commissioned the optic fibre link via Djibouti.


Africa has always felt disconnected, or at most connected by a thin thread, to the digital world. In the past, many projects attempting to connect African countries by fibre optic cable have floundered at an early stage.

The IDRC map “The Internet: Out of Africa” below shows the status of internet connectivity per capita in 2002.

The Internet: Out of Africa

The Internet: Out of Africa

The larger the circle over a country the more bandwidth per person was available from within the country, mostly from satellite connections. 

Only four fibre optic submarine cables landed on African soil and SAT3, the main West African cable, was not used to full capacity for many years due to poor infrastructure within the countries and poor management and marketing by incumbent telecommunication monopolies.

Since then, the availability of satellite connectivity has grown enormously but little has changed in terms of the fibre optic cables that connect Africa to the rest of the world.

The good news!

But all that is about to change! The map below “Sub-saharan Africa Undersea Cables (2011)” from our friend Steve Song’s blog site shows the eight undersea cable projects that are already underway and will be commissioned before the end of 2011.

Sub-saharan Africa Undersea Cables 2010 (source: )

Sub-saharan Africa Undersea Cables 2011

The thickness of the line indicates the comparative bandwidth that will be made available. The West coast, in particular South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, are set to benefit most from this revolution, but the East coast will also be connected for the first time!

When compared to the thin black line of the original SAT3 cable you’ll see that the planned explosion in available bandwidth driven by the telecommunication companies is huge.

Those who read the Kenyan newspapers will know that the red SEACOM cable is due to be commissioned in Kenya at the end of June 2009 and that the green TEAMS cable is not far behind. See: “Seacom steps up cable marketing” Daily Nation (Kenya) 23 February 2009.  

And at the end of February 2009, the government of Ethiopia finally commissioned the cross border connection to Djibouti. This provides a much needed alternative to the unreliable fibre route through Sudan. It also means that Ethiopia can benefit from the SEACOM cable and eventually the blue EASSY cable that has been plagued and delayed by political infighting among the consortium members.

Ian Moore

Ian Moore

About the author

Ian Moore, ICT manager for the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). ILRI and ICRAF are headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya and ILRI has a second principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ian is also the Project Coordinator of the ICT-KM’s Second-Level Connectivity Project. The objective of the Second-Level Connectivity project is to upgrade Internet access at up to 50 of our small and mid-sized remote locations, with particular emphasis on Africa. Read more about the Second-Level Connectivity project success stories.


Steve Song “Sub-Saharan Africa undersea cables (2011)” 

Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) “The Internet: Out of Africa” (2002 )


See the recently published report at:

Entries include projects using ICT solutions or implementing ICT-based activities, institutions/groups providing services using ICTs as well as ICT solutions software providers, both at the national and regional level.   Project Summaries are offered in chapters looking at 1) Voice; 2) Radio; 3) Mobile Phone; and E-learning

This is a blog post about the host center of the Institutional KS project– the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)– the host country Colombia and one historical example of activities around ICT4D that I would like to celebrate.

Knowledge Sharing has been part of a CIAT project called Inforcom (, now closed. Inforcom focused on strengthening local capacity for innovation by better enabling rural communities and the R&D organizations that serve them to obtain, create, and share information and knowledge, with the aid of new ICTs. It started with a project on community telecenters “InforCauca”, which was a pioneer project. Its objective was to strengthen communities in marginalized areas in their capacity to appropriate new information and communication technologies (ICT) for their own development. Models had previously and successfully been tested in southwestern Colombia. The project’s goal was therefore to implement three community telecenters in this area.  Then other subsequent projects looked at further steps that can be taken so that groups and individuals in rural communities can derive greater benefits from ICT services. One such intervention is to strengthen the role and capacities of information intermediaries, which are another key component of local information networks.

CIAT is not anymore directly involved in the telecenter movement in Colombia, but more than ever is ongoing, with for example the most recent 4th national meeting of telecenters in Popayan, entitled “Strategic Strengthening of Community Knowledge Networks”. It is with great pleasure that the Institutional KS project and CIAT colleagues contributed with a very small seed to the event by orientating the organizers in the set up of a Knowledge Fair and an After Action Review to allow informal conversations and exchanges of multiple local experiences.

One key actor in the telecenter movement is the Colombian NGO Colnodo. Colnodo provides information on and access to Internet since 1993, with specific focus on issues like human resources, digital inclusion, gender and governance. It’s Action Applications were one of the first Web content development systems with Web 2.0 features I experienced. This was in 2002.

More on telecenters in Colombia (in Spanish) at:

10 useful tips from

1. No Page Bigger than 25kB. Design your pages to load within 10 seconds over 20kbps connections, which means 25kB is the maximum page size. If you do one thing, do this.

2. Reduce Images. Good design is possible without lots of images. Use CSS for layout and rollovers, instead of images. Make sure your site is usable if images are turned off in the browser. Optimising the images you do have can make them a fraction of the size.

3. Have Good Site Structure. Provide easy navigation. Don’t make users load unnecessary pages which are annoying for all users but really frustrating for users with low bandwidth connections.

4. Use Style Sheets. Using style sheets (CSS) is more efficient. Don’t use tables for layout. Avoid using JavaScript. Avoid embedding style rules within the page.

5. Minimize HTTP Requests. Every image, CSS file, JavaScript file and HTML page requires a separate HTTP request. Too many requests will add delays to page loading.

6. Turn on Compression. Enabling compression on your web server could shrink your pages to half the size.

7. Be Cache-able. Allow browsers to keep a local copy of, or “cache”, your pages.

8. Avoid PDFs. Avoid using PDFs. If you use them, optimize them for low bandwidth. PDFs can be optimized by using vector-based graphics and minimizing the number of fonts.

9. Put Useful Items First. Put main navigation items at the top of each page so they load and display first. Make your pages useful even before they finish loading.

10. Show Link Sizes. Don’t force the user to download large things, always link to them, and if they are over 75kB say how large they are going to be.


More at:

gkp_logo.jpg During its 3rd Global Knowledge Conference (GK3), to be held in December 2007, and entitled  “Emerging People, Emerging Markets, Emerging Technologies, the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) will explore concrete solutions and possibilities within the interplay, interface and interweaving of issues related to the Knowledge for Development (K4D) and Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) in the context of our globally evolving societies, economies and technologies worldwide

As part of GK3, a variety of online interactions and online events are engaging a broader audience. If you would like to join the discussion lists, have a look at: The current discussion is on Organizing Interactive and Participatory Sessions, an issue very close to the heart of the knowledge sharing project. Here is an interesting post from a participant,  Veronica Cretu, President of the “CMB” Training Center (NGO,

“From my almost 10 years of experience in designing/organizing sessions as well as conducting training programs, I want to share the Basic Principles hat after me, contribute essentially to a successful participatory session(compared to traditional formats of the sessions):

1.  Adults have a rich life experience and they know many things – building or developing further on their knowledge and experience is a more efficient way rather than a training or session based on the fact/assumption that adults do not know anything.

2. Learning by doing is more efficient than a lecture. It has been proven/demonstrated that people memorize only 10% of what they are told, 20% of what they are told and shown, and over 50% from what they try to do by themselves.

3.  Learning is more efficient when it is based on a real situation, or a real experiences rather than being based only on theories without real practical application;

4.  All the participants participate equally in the training/session process – thus, they contribute to their own learning as well as to the learning of their colleagues.

5.  Every participant is responsible for the success and efficiency of the training/session program – everyone has the possibility to share his/her points of views vis-à-vis the issues tackled/discussed in order to increase the program efficiency.

If these principles are implemented/followed, the sessions are much more interesting, participative, opened, fun, and at the end of the day, you feel reat with the results achieved:)!