Posts filed under ‘south america’

Translation: a quarter of laptops distributed through the One Laptop Per Child program in Uruguay aren’t working

One in four laptops given for free by the government of Uruguay to all public school students two years ago is either broken, under repair, stolen or has crashed, according to an official report published in July.

In 2008 Uruguay was the first country in the world to implement the One Laptop Per Child program, created by US scientist Nicholas Negroponte.

The program aimed to provide every child in the developing world with a laptop for educational purposes, at an affordable price.

With this objective the Uruguayan government created ‘Plan Ceibal’, which between 2008-2009 gave laptops to 380,000 children between 6 and 12 years of age who were enrolled in the country’s public schools.

Now the government has completed a survey to check the condition of the laptops, which has found that 27.4 percent are out of operation for different reasons.

According to the survey 14.2 percent of the laptops are broken; 6.2 percent are being repaired; 3.9 percent are frozen or crashed; one percent have been stolen; and the states of 3.1 percent are unknown.

In the country’s interior, where the laptops were first distributed in 2008, 29.9 percent of the laptops aren’t working. In Montevideo, the capital, 19.6 percent aren’t working, but children there received the laptops a year later in 2009.

The percentage of broken laptops in poor areas is higher, where only 66.3 percent are working. In more favourable environments the percentage reaches 83.5 percent.

“A significant number of faults were expected, but not this many. This discovery means that we’re revising aspects of the plan’s operation and coming up with measures to lower that number,” Fernando Brum, director of Plan Ceibal, told SciDev.Net.

Among the measures include a call centre to help users with broken laptops, mobile repair services to work in schools, and ways to reduce the cost of repairs.

Workshops for parents and teachers on how to look after the laptops have also been organised.

“We should keep in mind that 2010 is the first year that Plan Ceibal is operating across the whole country. We’re still gaining experience and problem solving; reducing the number of laptops that are out of service is one of our primary objectives,” concluded Brum.

You can read about the report in Spanish on the Plan Ceibal site.

This is my translation of a story written by Daniela Hirschfeld on the Science and Development Network, “Uruguay: cuarta parte de portátiles del OLPC no funciona”, published on August 11, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

August 17, 2010 at 3:52 am Leave a comment

Translation: reducing water contamination using solar energy

Arsenic and other minerals have been removed from river water using solar power by a team of Peruvian and Chilean researchers.

Researchers from Peru’s National Engineering University and Chile’s Tarapacá University have photochemically purified water from the river Locumba near Tacna, a Peruvian town by the border with Chile.

The decontaminated water is used for agricultural irrigation, though depending on the level of decontamination achieved it could be used for human consumption in future.

The technology’s ease of use means it could be used in the countries involved with the research as well as Bolivia; Andean countries where natural contamination is present in many waterways.

Juan Rodríguez, coordinator of the research in Peru, told SciDev.Net that the technology is able to reduce high levels of arsenic contamination of currently 500 parts per billion (ppb) to about 30 ppb.

The researchers designed prototypes of electrochemical equipment and decontamination filters for use in rural or difficult to access areas, which for the moment can treat 20 cubic metres of water daily.

“Modular systems can process much higher volumes, so that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” Rodríguez said.

They used a photochemical system with tubes of glass or plastic to decontaminate the water. Based on reflections the tubes get solar radiation for a few hours, which can purify water contaminated with arsenic and make it suitable for consumption.

This system can also decontaminate boron and iron from water, as sunlight accelerates the rate at which minerals coagulate and can then be removed.

According to Rodríguez, this research is of importance for Bolivia, Chile and Peru because “the problem of arsenic in waterways is of natural origin and doesn’t distinguish between borders”.

This is my translation of a story written by Zoraida Portillo on the Science and Development Network, “Reducen contaminación por arsénico usando energía solar”, published on August 3, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

August 12, 2010 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

Translation: Environmental exposure impacts antibiotic resistance in children:

Exposure to antibiotics at home and in the broader environment influences the risk of children carrying antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria, according to a study published in the The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The study was based in four areas of Peru with poor health systems, where antibiotics are used indiscriminately and without prescription. It covered coastal, mountain and jungle environments and focused on children between the ages of three months and three years.

The study suggests that environmental exposure to antibiotic-resistant E. coli can be as important as the consumption of antibiotics, according to the paper’s principal author, Henry Kalter, from the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

A risk factor at home was the use of antibiotics by other family members. The study demonstrated that children who hadn’t taken particular antibiotics themselves still carried bacteria resistant to them.

At the community level, living in a place where many families raised chickens themselves was a protective factor against the transport of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to Kalter, high consumption of home-raised chickens probably protects a community against exposure to antibiotics. He contrasted home-raised chickens with market-bought chickens, which may be given high doses of antibiotics and therefore have high levels of antibiotic-resistant E. coli.

“An important aspect of our conclusions is that the protective effect was not due to the fact that the children were eating certain types of chicken; rather that their communities were,” he said.

Kalter suggested that communities consuming more chickens raised at home presumably had less resistant bacteria in the environment, such as in open sewers and uncovered wells.

“This study reinforces the message that exposure to antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic resistance, by studying the role of different types of exposure on small children carrying of antibiotic-resistant E. coli,” he continued.

According to Kalter, examining these factors provides a better understanding of how antibiotic resistance spreads in the developing world.

“These findings suggest that unnecessary use of antibiotics in humans and animals should be minimised as much as possible,” he added.

“Many tons of the antibiotics consumed each year on the planet are given to stock animals. This study demonstrates that this use has a very real cost to human health,” Edward T. Ryan, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said in a press release from Johns Hopkins University.

The study was run by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, the Peruvian charity PRISMA and the infectious disease laboratory of the Cayetano Heredia University in Peru.

The original paper in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is here.

This is my translation of a story written by Zoraida Portillo on the Science and Development Network, “Antibióticos propician resistencia infantil a E. coli”, published on June 14, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

June 16, 2010 at 1:13 pm Leave a comment

Translation: Internet and mobile phones to improve agricultural management in Chile

An internet portal called “YoAgricultor”, driven by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, will allow small to medium-size country farmers to join virtual communities where they can access strategic farming information.

Four virtual communities have been launched on the portal this week (June 2nd), for producers of maize, honey, wine and berries. The initiative is a pilot project financed by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) and the Inter-American Development Bank, which could reach an estimated 2000 farmers.

In each virtual community farmers can find free information about plant health, productivity, agricultural techniques and weather and market alerts, among other things. There are also forums in which farmers can communicate with each other.

The portal’s contents have been developed in conjunction with farmers and organised following stages of production. Agronomists and members of agricultural organisations developed the contents including short videos, podcasts, text and photographs.

“This project is purely knowledge management: we’re taking the knowledge of producers and putting it into a system in which they can participate and enhance their activity,” Alain Hermosilla, the coordinator of YoAgricultor, said.

“A site like this hasn’t existed in Latin America until now, but it’s completely replicable and exportable, plus it’s developed with free software,” he added.

The portal also includes a service called DatAgro that allows maize farmers to receive a text message with guidance on market prices, weather alerts and crop improvement data. This mobile service will soon be introduced for berry farmers, beekeepers, winemakers and organisations for stock breeders in the south of Chile, according to John Zoltner, head of Zoltner Consulting Group, the Chilean company running the service.

In the near future, strategic information delivered via mobile phones might extend to other Latin American countries, where Zoltner said they are already talking with farmers of potato, coffee and other agricultural products.

This technology, he added, “will also be implemented in a pilot project with the Ministry of Health in Peru and the Pan American Health Organization, to build the capacity of health professionals and community workers who care for pregnant women and small children, with the objective of reducing rates of infant mortality in the Peruvian highlands”.

This is my translation of a story written by Paula Leighton on the Science and Development Network, “Internet y celulares mejoran gestión agrícola en Chile”, published on June 4 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; this translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

June 12, 2010 at 11:11 am 2 comments

still south but north, video editing

I grew up in the southern state of a country in the Southern Hemisphere, South Australia. No geography confusion there. At the moment I’m living in the northernmost region of another country in the same hemisphere, which means I’m living in the north, even though for most of the world with internet access it’s still the south. However from my perspective, and that of Chileans, Arica is a northern extremity. It’s also extreme thanks to its exceptionally dry climate, which trumps that of my home town, Adelaide, which is also noted for aridity.

Arica is also an interesting place to be right now because Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, popped up this week for a celebration. The occasion was the day during the War of the Pacific (not to be confused with the Pacific War), when Chile took this region from Peru. Or more specifically, a big rock by the beach in Arica.

You might ask what I’m doing here, besides brushing up on South American history and international relations and taking South American Spanish classes. Despite reaching intermediate level in Spain, I needed classes because the language on this continent is different. So much so that I’m reading a book called “How to survive in the Chilean jungle,” which is not a guide to a jungle at all (I’m on the edge of the Atacama Desert), but rather the vocabulary unique to this skinny but vast nation.

As well as polishing my thesis I’ve been editing on a series of videos. They’re for one of the research institutes based at the University of Adelaide I’ve worked with before, the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics. You can see one here. I filmed the content before I left the country. I have my camera with me, so you can expect content from South America down the track.

June 11, 2010 at 8:37 am 2 comments

Being seen, not published…

I continue to lament the lack of the ‘published high’ I get from journalism while I work on my MPhil. However I’m emerging from this academic fugue for two conferences next month.

Firstly I’m heading to Canberra to present at the Australian Science Communicators conference, among other things. One of those other things is an interview – in Spanish – at the Chilean consulate, to get a working holiday visa for my move there at the end of April. You can keep up to date with that on my travel blog.

After Canberra I’ll return to Adelaide to volunteer at the Australian International Documentary Conference, following my fantastic adventure at WCSFP (the subject of my previous post). I wrote a roundup of my highlights from the WCSFP on my Nature blog, which has been woefully neglected since.

In Canberra I’ll be talking about how to avoid preaching to the converted in science engagement, as well as being part of a panel discussion on “Tools for Democracy and Dialogue”. This is the summary of my presentation:

Events aimed at public engagement with science often attract the same crowd.

They’re sometimes planned with little consideration for who will participate, beyond sheer numbers. So rather than representing a broad public, outcomes may represent people with above average interest in science and, studies suggest, socioeconomic status and education to match.

This raises issues of equality, and can limit the value of feedback from such events. As part of my research, I’ve looked at different ways participants have been recruited and what implications this has for outcomes of public engagement with science.

January 20, 2010 at 4:23 am Leave a comment

Suriname has already hit malaria MDG

The country of Suriname in northern South America has already exceeded its 2015 Millennium Development Goal target for the reduction of malaria.

Leopoldo Villegas, consultant for the Global Fund Malaria Program in Suriname, presented a poster on the success at the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene conference in London last week (14 September).

Part of Millennium Development Goal six is to halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria.

Villegas said that rates of malaria in Suriname fell by 70 per cent between 2001 and 2006, and there have only been 700 cases of malaria this year – a 90 per cent reduction since 2001.

Suriname’s malaria decline is the result of an intensive campaign that began in 2005, Villegas said.

“We have the whole population of the interior of Suriname covered with insecticide-treated nets, we have passive case detection through the primary healthcare system and we have active case detection – so we don’t wait for patients to come to us, we look for them, we have mobile teams,” said Villegas.

These measures are complemented by insecticide spraying in high-risk areas, a comprehensive public awareness campaign and good detection systems for possible epidemics.

“When we had a lot of malaria our epidemic detection was at 70 or 200 cases. Now the epidemic starts when you have three cases reported,” he said.

“If three cases are coming from the same place we automatically activate a team who go there and have a mass screening of people to see who have parasites.”

Chris Curtis, professor of entomology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said Suriname’s progress was excellent, but warned the campaign must be maintained.

“They can’t afford to relax – the parasites and the mosquitoes are still there and if they do relax then there is the risk that eventually it will come back,” he told SciDev.Net.

He said the need for constant vigilance was demonstrated by the situation in neighbouring French Guyana.

“I think now French Guyana has the worst malaria rates in South America, which is a great shame because in the late 1940s they eradicated malaria in the inhabited north using DDT house spraying,” he said.

Villegas said Suriname’s malaria prevention measures have reduced the number of cases in French Guiana, and there are plans to replicate efforts in other South American countries.

“We’re now trying to put down all the data and start publishing to show that we can work in border areas between two governments, it doesn’t need to be one side,” he said.

Read this story on the Science and Development Network.

October 9, 2007 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment


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