Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)

SAFOD, Partners launch AT-Info-Map Project

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19 April, 2016

The Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), in collaboration with other three strategic partners, officially launched the Assistive Technology Information Mapping (AT-Info-Map) project at an event held on 19 April 2016 at Masa Hotel, Gaborone, Botswana.

Funded by the Google Impact Challenge as one of the ‘big ideas that will use technology to expand opportunity and independence for people with disabilities’, the AT-Info-Map is a 3 year project (2016-2019) that has the goal of mapping the availability of different types of assistive technology (AT) in 10 countries in Southern Africa.

The AT-Info-Map, which is being piloted in Botswana by SAFOD in partnership with the African Network for Evidence-to-Action on Disability (AfriNEAD), University of Washington, and Dimagi, has the goal of mapping the availability of different types of Assistive Technology (AT) in 10 countries in Southern Africa. Within each of the 10 SAFOD countries, national DPOs, government officials, AT providers, and local organizations that serve persons with disabilities are invited to participate in implementation.

Speaking during the launching ceremony, SAFOD Director General, Mr. Mussa Chiwaula, said the project was one of the most innovative initiatives as far as disability and inclusive development in general were concerned in Botswana and the entire Southern Africa.

In his speech which can be downloaded here, he said one thing that had always been clear right from the beginning was the fact that many persons with disabilities could hardly access AT, and that something needed to be done to address this gap, hence the project was timely as kit would seek to fill that yawning gap.

“Indeed, this project is going to be a game changer, as we believe it is going be a significant shift from the current manner of how we view and understand Assistive Technology,” he declared.

He added that SAFOD and its partners came to realize that one of the key factors contributing to lack of access to AT was simply lack of information about the availability of AT within the target countries. It was therefore in this context that they were starting At-Info-Map project that was going to develop a data system to capture, organize, and map the current availability of AT within the targeted countries.

He added: “We believe that this will create the baseline against which increased access can be measured. It will also bring to light the gap between availability and need. And understanding this gap has the potential to encourage key actors to increase access to AT.”

Chairperson of the Botswana Federation of the Disabled (BOFOD), Mr. Neiso Modise, stressed the success of the project in the region would very much depend on how Botswana would fare as a pilot country. He therefore called for unwavering support from the various stakeholders to ensure not only the success of the project, but also as a collective commitment towards inclusive development in the country.

“So I see this as an opportunity for our country to show that we really care about issues affecting persons with disabilities in particular, and inclusive development in general. And we can only show that care based on the level of support that all participants gathered here today, and those that have not made it here, are going to render to the project,” he appealed.

Mr. Modise, who is also member of the Regional Executive Council of SAFOD, re-echoed Mr. Chiwaula’s observation that the timeliness of the project. He noted that the project came at an opportune time when Botswana was just at the brink of putting in place a national Disability Policy, and at a time when the debate for the enactment of a disability law as well as the ratification of the United Nations Convection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) seemed to intensify.

“I am therefore positive that the rolling out of this project will, in a way, also affect this discourse and some of the challenges as well as positives related to Assistive technology to be unraveled by the project can be used to enrich these policies or pieces of legislation,” he said in a speech that can be downloaded here.

Throughout the event, a number of PowerPoint presentations were made by representatives of SAFOD, University of Washington and AfriNEAD focusing on Project overview/description, AT overview, AfriNEAD introduction, and CommCare App overview. The presentations can be downloaded here