SocialNetLink from Senegal among the Winners of World Summit Awards 2015

Senegal is driving digital innovation in the e-Media & Journalism category of the World Summit Award (WSA) with SocialNetLink

It is the first time that a Senegalese solution has been selected as a winner of the WSA competition. is a platform focusing on technology and media news for Senegal and Africa. The goal of the platform is to give a voice to entrepreneurs and increase the visibility of the Senegalese and African tech ecosystem. Basile Niane, a well-known blogger and TV figure of Senegal, is the founder and CEO of

WSA promotes and recognizes the uniqueness of digital innovation with social impact worldwide. The WSA 2015 list of winners offers a great variety of innovations – from mobile learning for STEM education to citizen participation platforms.

The WSA Chairman, Prof. Peter A. Brucks, states: “To drive meaningful and relevant digital innovation, you have to connect people […]. This year’s winners are an excellent selection matching local solutions to local needs. […]”.

There are 40 winners from 24 countries including 3 winners from Africa (Namibia, Senegal, and South Africa).

The WSA winners were selected by a jury of international experts in two rounds from 386 nominations from 86 countries. Each UN member state is eligible to nominate one product per category for the World Summit Award. This way any nomination results from a national pre-selection prior to the international WSA jury. The pre-selection for Senegal was organized by MobileSenegal and a local event with all the selected projects was organized in July in collaboration with Mobile Monday Dakar.

The 40 winning projects will be honoured at the World Summit Award Global Congress in Shenzhen, China, in February 2016.

The next WSA competition will be launched in June 2016 and will focus on mobile solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

About the winners
List of worldwide winners
List of Senegalese winners

About the WSA
The World Summit Award is a global initiative within the framework of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). It evolves in collaboration with UNESCO, UNIDO and UN GAID. WSA is the only ICT event worldwide that reaches the mobile community in over 178 countries.

Innovation numérique : La plateforme parmi les 40 gagnants du concours World Summit Award (WSA)

La plateforme web sénégalaise a été sélectionnée pour faire partie des 40 gagnants du Concours World Summit Award (WSA). Ce concours met en avant les meilleures innovations numériques à travers le monde. Au Sénégal, cette compétition est organisée par MobileSenegal.

40 gagnants venant de 24 pays (3 d’Afriques – Afrique du Sud, Namibie et Sénégal) ont été choisis parmi 386 candidatures de 86 pays. Ils ont été reconnus pour leur caractère unique et innovant et leur impact social.

Pour la première fois, un projet Sénégalais a été sélectionné. est une plateforme web francophone axée sur l’actualité technologique et les nouveaux médias au Sénégal et en Afrique. Basile Niane, blogger renommé, est le fondateur et CEO de cette platforme dominante au Sénégal.

Les gagnants ont été sélectionnés par un jury d’experts internationaux durant un processus à deux tours, au niveau national et au niveau international. Chaque État membre de l’ONU peut proposer un projet par catégorie pour le concours. recevra son prix lors du Congrès Global du WSA  à Shenzhen en Chine en février 2016. Des représentants de l’ONU, des ministères des TIC (Technologie de l’Information et de la Communication) et du secteur privé seront présents à la cérémonie.

‘’Les lauréats de cette année sont d’excellentes sélections locales qui correspondent à des besoins locaux “, a dit Professeur Peter A. Bruck, président du WSA, dans un communiqué.

Le prochain concours du WSA sera lancé en juin 2016 et se focalisera sur les solutions mobiles adressant les objectifs de développement durable.

A propos des gagnants
List of worldwide winners
List of Senegalese winners

A propos du WSA
Le World Summit Award (WSA) est une initiative globale qui évolue dans le cadre et en collaboration avec le Sommet Mondial sur la Société de l’Information (WSIS), UNESCO, ONUDI et UNGAID. WSA est le seul évènement TIC qui atteint les communautés TIC dans plus de 178 pays.

Plus d’ information :, et, #WSA15

5 Years of Capacity Building in Mobile App Development in Senegal: What is the impact? (2009-2013)

This post is adapted from a paper that was published in the Journal of Procedia Engineering, Volume 107, 2015, Pages 463-469 and in the 2015 Conference on Humanitarian Technology: Science, Systems and Global Impact Conference (HumTech). The complete paper is available here (

Considering the large number of mobile subscribers and the growing market in Africa, local developers and entrepreneurs with the right set of skills have an important role to play in the creation of mobile services solving local problems in health, education, agriculture, and citizen participation. Who is/will training/train them? Where will they learn? Very few multi-year capacity building initiatives on mobile technology exist in the region. Incubators often do not have this type of offering. Universities are too slow in changing their curriculum. MOOC courses did not disrupt education as expected. Competitions and hackathons organized by corporations and other institutions are good ways to learn technologies but their focus is too narrow. To think further ahead, it is important to wonder: Who will teach the next technologies? Wearable? Internet of Things? Blockchain? Etc.


We have been working in Senegal since 2008 through the MobileSenegal project ( to build capacity in mobile technology. We witnessed the changes and evolved our offering. We take a holistic approach and favor intensive training sessions focusing on technical, design, soft, software engineering, and entrepreneurship skills. Our training emphasizes project-based learning. We rely on the support of an active ecosystem that we gather in two meetup groups: Mobile Innovations Dakar ( and Mobile Monday Dakar ( 131 mobile apps were developed by 392 participants (296 males and 71 females) in boot camps, courses and competitions between 2009 and 2013.


What is the impact of MobileSenegal? We administered a survey that was sent to actors of the tech ecosystem. 163 participants to our activities answered the survey (45 complete answers). We systematically analyzed the mobile solutions that were designed throughout the years (between 2009 and 2013).

Impact on participants and the community

Our findings show that participants are trained with skills that are valuable in the Senegalese job market and MobileSenegal responds to a specific need in the Senegalese tech ecosystem that is not covered by other initiatives.

  • Participants would recommend its activities to friends (100%).
  • Participants were very satisfied with the activities of MobileSenegal and considered it as a pioneer in mobile in Senegal (87.7%).
  • MobileSenegal is perceived as very important (40.8%) and important (53%) in the Senegalese tech ecosystem due to the role of mobile technology in Africa, its focus on mobile for development (M4D), and the importance it gives to training faculty.
  • Participants cited interest in technology (19.9%), getting skills in mobile app development (17.7%) and networking (14.4%) as the main reasons to participate in MobileSenegal activities.
  • Participants felt that the skills they acquired helped them strengthen their CV (25%) and get an internship (16.4%), ignited their interest in mobile and entrepreneurship (22.4%), and supported their day-to-day job (8.6%).
  • Their skills permitted them to secure internships and employment in the most recognized startups and companies (e.g., WARI, Money Express and Ferlo, ARTP, Orange, Tigo, People Input, etc.).

The apps

Only 9 apps were released in Nokia Store and Google Play and 2 apps were piloted in Senegal (out of 131) after mentoring from MobileSenegal. Participants mentioned that time deficiency, studies, and impossibility of registering for a developer account without a credit card were reasons that kept them from publishing their apps. In addition, as explained earlier, publishing an app was not one of their priorities when participating in activities.

Apps proposed by participants mainly focused on Health (37), School Administration (23) and Education (16).

  • Most of the health apps were health education apps with content on maternal health, blood donation, vaccine, malaria and diabetes, apps that improve communication between doctors and patients, and information on health facilities.
  • School administration apps reflected on the everyday life of Senegalese students and some of their important and urgent concerns (e.g, grades, campus dining/housing).
  • Education apps focused on quizzes and study guides for children to learn numbers and letters, and apps to learn about Africa, the environment and Wolof.

What’s next?

We are currently looking at new models to sustain our initiative though intensive training of instructors, and new models of teaching to accelerate the release of enterprise and consumer mobile applications and train more participants at once. Stay tuned! Great things are coming!


Authors: Christelle Scharff, Chun Hei Cheung, Jean-Marie Preira


We thank all the participants of MobileSenegal activities for their involvement and feedback. We are particularly grateful to Amdane Samb and Landry Ahouansou for their work. We also thank our sponsors since 2009: VentureWell (ex-NCIIA), Google, IBM, WARC (West African Research Center), and Neurotech.

Containing Ebola in West Africa with Technology: Overview and References to Explore


Ebola is a highly infectious and deadly disease. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, muscle pain, and headaches, and are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and internal and external bleeding1. The incubation period is between 2 to 21 days. It is deadly in 50% of the cases (on average). It is transmitted through direct contact with body fluids. There is no cure and patients are given fluids to reduce fever and stabilize blood pressure.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in December 2013 in Guinea. It is the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976. The largest outbreak is centered in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

In this article

There are numerous examples on how technology is helping containg and fight Ebola – from radio, TV, toll free hotlines to social media, SMS solutions and mobile apps. In this article we provide references that will let readers understand how technology is used to contain and fight Ebola in West Africa. This article provides a list of possible use cases and describes some solutions in details, discusses the limitation of some solutions that do not rely on the users and context of the affected areas, and make some recommendations to consider in developing relevant and efficient solutions. Our conclusion are that: 1) while targeting the general population is crucial, solutions aiming at health workers and community leaders are also important as they can disseminate information; 2) SMS is still the most powerful technology to reach people at risk; and 3) there is a need of more collaborations between the actors who are proposing redundant solutions and not sharing message content and collected data.

Consequences of Ebola

Up to January 9th 2015, more than 800 people were reported as having died from the disease in six countries: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Mali and the US. The total number of reported cases is more than 21,000. Considering the difficulty of collecting data, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes that these figures are underreported2. Finding and counting cases often require investigations on the field and avoiding stressing out and frightening people more than they already are. Cases can fall out of the official count at each step of the reporting process due to mistrust, poverty, lack of resources for health workers, and poor roads and infrastructures.

The latest WHO Ebola Report is available here:

The consequences of the disease are not only linked with health and deaths. The Ebola crisis slows down important services and local economy of affected countries. A UN World Food Programme (WFP) survey found that households in Kailahun and Kenema, two districts in eastern Sierra Leone are badly affected by the Ebola outbreak and struggling to meet their basic food needs3.

In addition, more than 5 million children in West Africa cannot attend school and emergency education measures are necessary to support and sustain school safety4,5,6.


There are numerous examples on how technology is helping fight Ebola – from radio, TV, toll free hotlines to social media, SMS solutions and mobile apps7,8,9.

Use cases
  • Diffusing prevention tips and educating about the disease (including two-way communications)
  • Locating and mapping infected areas to track the disease and propose actions
  • Developing communities of proactive health workers and citizens
  • Collecting, reporting and analyzing data in a digital form
  • Polling people in affected areas
  • Tracing all contacts that an infected person has been in touch with
  • Supporting infected persons during the disease and after recovery
  • Reporting data to labs and tracking health supplies
  • Educate on burial practices and coordinate burials of Ebola victims
  • Automated diagnostic of people infected by the disease
  • Etc
Discussion on the choice and impact of technology solutions

While we need technology, we can question some uses of technology and high tech solutions that do not consider the realities of the affected countries (e.g., the use of drones and social media)10. Better infrastructures are needed and Facebook, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Cisco, EveryLayer and Inveneo are partnering to improve communications to fight ebola11.

It is important to have people and context of the affected countries at the core of the design of the solutions. It is not about technological prowess but technology that works! For example, 69% of people in Sierra Leone have mobile phones, but only 9% used 3G data. It is clear that mobile phones have a more important role to play than any other technology but mobile penetration is still low in rural and remote areas.

What solutions to propose where Internet penetration and literacy are low, use of smartphones is almost inexistent, rural areas are not covered by telecom operators, and people speak local languages different from English and French and do not use social media?

SMS is a powerful tool as it is available on every type of phone and people in the affected areas are still using basic phones without Internet access. SMS can be saved on phones and can be shared easily by people and health workers. However, they require literacy! Most SMS systems are only one-way, so they cannot be used to collect information directly from the general population or target group. More two-way communications are necessary.

There are more than 200 apps on Google Play that target Ebola12. We can categorize them as follows: emergency/disaster management, prevention, support for victims and survivors, tracking, and data collection. Their targets can be the general population and health workers. Considering the status of apps penetration in West Africa, apps for health workers would have more impact providing health workers are trained and equipped with smartphones.

The quality of the content of SMS and apps is very important. Content needs to be up-to-date, synchronized and developed with experts. There are more than 200 initiatives by NGOs and international organizations in the design of messages about Ebola to be sent to communities. This certainly implies replication of the same content and spamming targeted people. It is important for organizations to work together and design a database of Ebola messages as it was done for MAMA in maternal health13.

The use of Social Media is still limited in Africa. Facebook is the most widely used social network. The diaspora has an important role to play on social media in crisis situations by relaying crucial information to relatives in the affected areas10,14.

Collecting and analyzing data and mapping the disease are crucial. The US company, Magpi (, is helping to change the way data are collected and analyzed by implementing mobile data solutions in affected areas. More generally, it is important that all data related to Ebola are made available to researchers, organizations and developers to analyze and propose solutions to contain the disease15.

OpenStreetMap has been providing crowdsourced mapping services from the beginning of the Ebola outbreak16. Maps of the spread of the diseases, available health facilities, hostility towards health workers and other information are provided. OpenStreetMap permits a low granularity of information and maps areas that are not available on Google Maps.

  • Put users and contexts at the center of the design of solution (e.g., Internet penetration and local languages)
  • Promote solutions that work rather than technology prowess
  • Partner with experts from different fields (medical, public health, government, health geography and technology experts)
  • Develop solutions for users who are trusted by their communities (e.g., religious leaders and health workers)
  • Empower people to make them part of the solution (e.g., two-directional messages and people as health workers)
  • Privilege two-way communications
  • Synchronize data and provide up to date content in a timely manner
  • Design a database of messages on Ebola (e.g., MAMA for maternal health11)
  • Rely on, leverage and connect to existing tools (e.g., iHRIS health workforce information system)
  • Make all data about Ebola open to have researchers, organizations and developers
Examples of proposed solutions


  • The BBC launched an Ebola public health information service on WhatsApp, the biggest chat app in use in Africa. Audio and SMS alerts and images are sent to provide people with the latest public health information. MIXIT is also used to send public health information.

Data and maps


  • According to a study by the government of Sierra Leone, UNICEF and other partners, 96% of the households affected by Ebola are suffering from discrimination. A campaign, called #ISurvivedEbola, was launched to support Ebola survivors in all aspects of their life after the disease. Survivors can submit updates that are directly visible on social media and the dedicated web site.

Facebook app

  • Facebook created Safety Check, an app that lets people near the site of a natural disaster to know if their friends are safe. The app is activated in case of disaster or emergency situation.
Other resources

Ebola in numbers

Infographics & illustrations

Hackathons & events

Numerous universities and organizations around the world have organized hackathons where interdisciplinary teams of developers, designers, public health specialists, activists, and medical experts can work together to frame solutions to fight Ebola. One particularly noticeable initiative is targeting youth of Sierra Leone (e.g., secondary school pupils) who are out of school due to the outbreak17.

Requests for proposals




















More references

Le Monde. Le Virus Ebola.