Thursday, November 13, 2008

Going Beyond a Multinational

"Connecting those who need it most" is the goal of a new innovative firm called Inveneo. Inveneo is a pioneer in a new breed of organizations which utilize their technical superiority to widen the reaches of computer technology and take it to rural areas around the world. On November 11, Jeff Wishnie, the Chief Technology Officer of Inveneo, delivered a stimulating lecture highlighting the pathbreaking achievements of Inveneo within just a few years of formation.

"The mission is to get the tools of ICT-Information and Communication Technology to the people and organizations who need them the most, those in remote and rural communities in the developing world," Jeff said. The non-profit organization believes that ICTs are the premier solutions in offering rural healthcare and relief, better finance and market opportunities and more well rounded education. Inveneo has been successful in employing ICTs in the predominantly rural areas of the world, including Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Over the years, Duke students have been actively connected with Inveneo. Duke Smart Home and Engineers Without Borders (EWB) students installed Inveneo systems and computers at the RASD (Rural Agency for Sustainable Development) resource center in Nkokonjeru, Uganda. "It was so gratifying to see people – many of whom had never been on the internet before - at the computers," said Will Patrick of EWB. "We trained RASD volunteers how to maintain it, and in its first month, the cafĂ© brought in more than 200,000 shillings. It's not much, but it was twice as much as the bills to the phone company."

Jeff said that the task of installing computers and the Internet, which appears to be really simple in a country like the USA, involves a complex procedure in the underdeveloped areas. This is due to the extreme social, infrastructural and technological challenges posed in these places. "Even government healthcare hospitals do not have generators. If they do have them, most don't work or don't have fuel", Jeff said, recounting his first-hand experiences working in such harsh conditions. "Thus,"he adds, "there needs to be a major focus on building a sustainable design, which should be usable, affordable, supportable, resistant, resilient and low power consuming." The engineers and software designers at Inveneo have incorporated all these design considerations into their systems, which has enabled them to live up to their mission of "Connecting those who need it the most."

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