Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Youn? !nnovators Malawi Competition

Are you a young Secondary or College student in Malawi? Are you interested in Computer programming? Here is your chance to learn easy computer programming, design your first ever video game and win a prize for your effort. Youn? !nnovators Malawi is running a competition for students which will officially start in September but registration is in progress. You just need to fill their online application form

The competition is based on an easy to use computer programming language called Scratch and the worlds smallest computer, Raspberry PI which will be provided by the organisers.

The Challenge

Using the Raspberry PI, develop a video game of any format. The game must run without crashing and must have clear rules, objectives. Ideally it should have increasing difficulty levels as the player proceeds.

Examples could include:

(a) 2-d 'platform' games - moving around the screen avoiding 'baddies' and winning rewards
(b) 3-d maze game - moving through a maze to find the way out
(c) text adventure - an interactive story where the player chooses which actions to take
(d) 'physics' based games (like angry birds or tetris)
(e) quiz-based games (like trivial pursuit)
(f) board game simulation (e.g. chess)
(g) multi-player (multi-pi) games encouraged
(h) linking Pis to e.g. mobile devices for gaming too.
(i) completely novel format! - this would steal the show!!

The rules

1. The competition is open to teams of between 2 and 5 students.
2. All students in a team must be studying in the same school/college and must be over 15 and under 23 years old on 1st September 2013.
3. Each team must be supported by a member of staff from their school/college.
4. Each team must fill in an application form which must be submitted by the school/college.
5. There is no limit to the number of teams entering from any school/college.
6. A student may only join one team.
7. A teacher may support any number of teams from their school/college.
8. youn? !nnovators Malawi will provide a development kit, including a Raspberry Pi computer, power supply, operating system and necessary cables
9. The team is required to provide its own keyboard, mouse and TV/computer screen to use the development kit.
10. All teams must be represented at the September Raspberry Jam event and must exhibit their work at the final exhibition in December in Lilongwe
11. youn? !nnovators Malawi will recruit and assign a professional to work with the team as a mentor.
12. The mentor will spend half a day each month helping the teams to progress their project
13. ach team must also submit a report detailing their final work
14. The judges will make their decision at the final exhibition and prizes will be announced and awarded.
15. The judges decision will be final.

The prizes

Prizes will be announced at the September Raspberry Jam event.

There will be three prizes awarded in two categories; schools and colleges

There will be great prizes for the top three teams, as chosen by the judges.

Tedx Conferences coming to Malawi - Ideas worth spreading

If you are an avid follower one of the worlds famous conferences for Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED), then you should plan to attend a TEDx Lilongwe conference on 25th May 2013

For the first time Malawi will host its own independently organised TEDx event at Crossroads Hotel Auditorium from 8am to 4pm. Presenters will include Business Consultants, Software Developers and Environmental Activists.

TED is a global set of conferences founded in 1984 by Richard Saul Wurman as a one off event with an emphasis on technology and design in the Silicon Valley, America. The annual conference began in 1990 in Monterey, California. However over the years it has turned into a global event attracting speakers of influence from various sections of the society.

The TED main conference with the slogan 'ideas worth spreading' is held annually in Long Beach, California with other events livestreamed throughout the US, Europe and Asia. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture often through storytelling.

TEDx was started in 2009 when TED started granting licences to third parties to organize independent TED live events internationally. TEDx Lilongwe has been granted this licence and will hold Malawi's first ever TEDx event following the successful organisation of two livestreaming TED events at The Living Room early this year.

Speakers to a TED event are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most enganging ways they can. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Richard Dawkins, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende, Gordon Brown and Al Gore.

The 25th May TEDx Lilongwe event will include speakers like Dr Matthews Mtumbuka  Airtel Malawi Director of IT; Business Consultant Henry Kachaje; Educator and Blogger Steve Sharra; the boy who harnessed the wind Willian Kamkwamba will speak live from the US, Software Developer and Open Source Evangelist, Edmond Kachale; Architeture Lecture at the Polytechnic, Chitsanzo Lamba-Isaac; Ellen Doherty a social documentary photographer and Heather Lulu Maseko a youthful Climate Change and Environmental Activist.

Tickets to the event are sold at The Living Room and Papaya. They are going at K5000 for the whole day including lunch and refreshments.

You can get more information by emailing organiser@tedxlilongwe.com or visit their website.  You can follow them on twitter or Facebook.

Dr Chakwera should stand as an independent candidate in 2014

He is very charismatic, eloquent with an American accent, full of passion for his country and he is probably the best thing that has happened to Malawi politics in recent times. From the day the former President of Malawi Assemblies of God, Reverend Dr Lazarus Chakwera, announced his candidature for Malawi Congress Party presidency, various quarters have expressed their reactions both positive and negative.  From the reactions one cannot fail to notice that he is one of the few respected and principled people that Malawi needs to move away from the recycled politicians who grace our podiums. However,  just like some commentators have pointed out,  the 'man of God' is wrong to contest for Malawi's oldest party's presidency. He should consider putting his face on the 2014 Tripartite Elections ballot as an independent candidate. Here are my reasons:

1. Reverend Dr Chakwera is joining the same people he is trying to runaway from. Here is a candidate selling himself as a man full of integrity and ready to transform the political landscape of the country. His whole entry into politics is based on cleaning up the mess these recycled politicians have created. It is ironic enough to  see that he is lining up to contest with the same recycled politicians in their party, using the same rules they themeselves made and can change them at will to siut their egos. Simply put, Dr Chakwera is a sheep among wolves, playing the wolves game expecting to remain a sheep at the end.

To win the MCP presidency, Dr Chakwera needs the support of voting delegates to the  MCP convention. From my point of view these are party die hards who are the custodians of the four cornerstones of Unity, Loyalty, Obedience and Discipline. These are people who love their original party and are resistant to change to the extent that they still wear Kamuzu cloth even after 16 years without him.  To win the hearts of these diehards and party zealots is not only a hard nut to crack but it might require the Chakwera camp to use some ways that will not leave the integrity of the man of God intact.

Forget about the excitement that Dr Chakwera's joining politics has brought to the religions majority, the media or the various other quarters which have welcomed it. These do not vote in conventions! The MCP delegates will have to decide if the Dr Chakwera labelled drinks are enough motivation to move their loyalty away from Hon. John Tembo or the other familiar MCP members like Beston Majoni, Lovemore Munlo, Jodder Kanjere, Lyton Dzombe, Eston Kakhome or even Chris Daza.

2. Dr Chakwera is dividing the people who were ready to support him in transforming the nation. He is loved by people from various sections if the country. He is fit fir the national race as he us able to command support from most parties, regions, and various religious groups are ready to support him. If goes on the ballot paper alone with his integrity intact, he brings in the type of leader that is currently missing from those who have already shown interest. Malawians believe that his reputation speaks more than the speeches of orange, blue and yellow party colors. Unfortunately some of these people will not want to be associated with the MCP and would rather vote for another candidate than Chakwera and his MCP (will it be his?).

3. What next if he fails to win the MCP presidency? From the little interviews Dr Chakwera has made,  his eyes are set at transforming Malawi and not the MCP. Very little is said about what he will do for the party. Should one be excused to think that he wants to use MCP as a vehicle of winning the country's Presidency and then dump it? Are we going to see another Bingu like in 2005? Will he be an ordinary  party member if he looses at the convention? He should go for the bigger picture now and contest at a bigger stage before it is too late. Leave MCP to its owners.

4. Pressure from the MCP MPs and followers. One biggest challenge politicians in the country have faced and are still facing is to rise above party politics. There is always pressure coming in from within the party rank and file. Dr Chakwera will have to deal with this and his ideas will not only be diluted when they go through the party caucases but they might not see the light of the day. Unless he plans to be a dictator and impose his ideas on the party people, i dont see him contradicting the party that sponsors him.

5. MCP is right. It needs to screen the people who want to contest the party presidency. It makes sense that a person who has been an active member of the party for at least five years should be the one to lead the party. If Dr Chakwera has not been a member for five years he should forget about the party presidency. Some arguments driven by the Chakwera camp are that everyone was once a card carrying MCP member and that the late Kamuzu was never screened are not relevant with the current setup. Alot had to be done to save the might MCP since Malawi attained democracy in 1994. There are people who worked hard to make sure that the party should be where it is now. For some to gatecrush the convention and claim to renew their 1974 membership is not only an insult but unfair to those who have suffered the label of 'party of death' all these years. The respected Reverend is an outsider in MCP unless there is information to the contrary which has not been floated in the public domain.

Why not stand as an independent?

He has all it takes to win the nations presidency. Malawians are tired of these recycled politicians and are ready to vote for a person of great integrity who will move us forward after 50 years of stagnation. I suggest he mobilises his resources and stay away from party politics (he is above that anyway), let the parties fight for parliamentary and local government  elections. Only then will we have an independent Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Dr Chakwera will have a proper platform to practice his clean and honest politics and leave the petty politicking to part zealots.