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Concern Universal launches Better Tech for CSOs, MSMEs in CRR

Oct 14, 2015, 3:45 PM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

Officials of Concern Universal, in collaboration with the US Embassy in Banjul, recently launched an ITC project called Better Tech for CSOs and MSMEs, in Bansang, Central River Region south, at a ceremony held at Bansang Youth Centre.

The ceremony was well attended by stakeholders from different instructions and a cross section of the community of Bansang.

Speaking earlier, Ismaila Jarjue said Concern Universal in Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau are branches of the UK-based international NGO.

Concern Universal Gambia has been operating in The Gambia for 21 years, with a trademark approach to development that is based on principle of partnerships with local development organizations or CSOs.

The US Embassy in Banjul has provided funds to CU to implement an ICT project called ‘Better Tech for CSOs and Micro, small and medium enterprises.

According to him, Internet communication was a big challenge in CRR, and businesses also had lots of constraints in carrying out their activities, especially in marketing and selling of their products and services.

He said students who could not go for studies abroad have no other option but to seat down and wait for a chance to travel or go in for a course they might not prefer at local institutions.

“With emergence of internet, such challenges became a thing of the past,” he posited. “The internet as we know has brought about tremendous improvement in communication, education and business.”

Such improvement has led to fast, reliable, cheap and even free communication using software applications such as emails, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and others, he noted.

There has also been online presence with a website or social media such as Facebook to advertise or even sell out products and services to potential customers and donors.

Joseph Gomez, project manager for Better Tech Gambia for civil society organizations and micro, small and medium enterprises, said the project came as result of a survey Concern Universal conducted across the country, the report of which revealed that Central River Region is one of the regions with the greatest challenge regarding good internet connectivity.It is also the only region in the country without an internet café, he said.

Through Better Tech project sponsored by the US Embassy, three internet cafes - Brikamaba, Kaur and Bansang cafes - have been established in the region.

It is believed that with these internet cafes the communities will make the best use of them as they start to experience the benefits of the internet facilities that other regions have been experiencing.

For his part, Mr Mark Shaw, Charge de Affairs’ at the US Embassy, said the launching is a culmination of a project that began last year, when the U.S. Embassy gave Concern Universal roughly US$150,000 to improve access to Internet Technology.

“The project benefited 90 organizations, including civil societies, small businesses, and community groups,” he said.

“Concern Universal created free websites, provided social media training and held two TechCamps on three-day training and networking workshops that took place in Banjul and Basse,” he added.

He said: “The project also included a ‘hackathon’ a programming marathon to create solution to specific social benefit problems faced by beneficiaries in The Gambia.”

The winning solution was a centralized database system to store market prices from specific markets in each of The Gambia’s regions.

The system functions in three languages: English, Wollof and Mandinka, and allows registered users to call a local number to receive market price updates for food crops in their region.

“This allows farmers to set fair prices for their crops and helps ensure a sustainable livelihood for their families.” he said.

This system, he noted, is currently rolling out up to 400 women, which will empower them in their communities, as well as help to support and improve women’s rights.

“These are just the kind of activities that the United States wants to support in The Gambia; tangible projects that benefit people and their communities by sharing knowledge and providing access to global information,” said the US Charge de Affairs.

The launch was characterised by a presentation on ICT basic techniques and a practical demonstration on how to operate basic ICT procedures.