Jerry outreach

Could Agbogbloshie begin to supply low-cost upcycled computers to children in Old Fadama? Could this scope expand beyond this territory to other parts of Accra and to the under-privileged in Ghana? Could this net expand to cover the entire African continent? Imagine upcycled computers, supplied to all parts of the world from Agbogbloshie. There is a promising  future for this and needs to start somewhere.

As part of engaging the Agbogbloshie community and STEAM professionals, AMP organized a ‘maker workshop’ to teach e-waste workers how to make a Jerry and install software on it. After a rainy morning, the AMP team arrived in Agbogbloshie in the afternoon. Most of the work-spaces in the scrap yard were partially flooded. Being Friday, and a majority of the e-waste workers being Muslims, they had just arrived from the Friday afternoon prayers. Since prior arrangements had been made with Sam Sandow (AMP agent in Agbogbloshie) and Zack (E-waste worker), the workshop started in one of the computer shops in Agbogbloshie located near the entertainment center.  It is owned and operated by the Nigerian called ”Emeka”. The very same person from which components were sourced for the Jerry workshop in Kokrobite. The shop has shelves on which one would find hard drives,  mother boards, circuit boards and many others.

Emeka's computer shop in Agbogbloshie
Emeka’s computer shop in Agbogbloshie

Upon arrival, the team pitched tent and Daniel (AMP intern from  creativity group KNUST) briefly introduced the Jerry concept to the community.  After we explained the concept to Emeka, a monitor, keyboard and mouse, were made available for us to use.  He also gave us a compact disc (CD) with an operating system. The team  installed it and  allowed the participants to familiarize themselves with the Jerry whilst interactively exchanging ideas with the AMP makers collective.

It’s highly informative and exciting to think that, these same e-waste workers who are among the most marginalized and least literate are actually computer literate- and that some of them are even self-thought. This reveals how much youthful potential is being lost to class stereotyping and the resultant marginalization.

The team later presented the concept of the Quadcoper to the workers by Samuel Amoako (AMP intern and student from KNUST). It was then flown on the football field to demonstrate how it will help AMP map Agbogbloshie and also monitor air pollution levels.

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AMP collective on the football field in Agbogbloshie…About to fly the Quadcopter

All through history, some of the most fascinating discoveries have come about as a result of conversations between two unlikely parties or people from highly divergent backgrounds who would ordinarily not interact. The creation of a community space where such interaction can happen and spark new genius via the crafting of the  ground breaking ideas and objects is one of the central objectives of AMP.

As usual, the workers were busy with their activities: dismantling, loading trucks with scrap metals etc… but some were able to spend time with us and expressed their interest in making one themselves. One of the common questions asked was..whether the plastic will melt when the computer overheats? We answered them by discussing the physical properties of the type of plastic used, such as its melting temperature which is about 130oC and it’s combustion point which is between 340oC to 380oC. Another major concern was the market for the product and the price one should be sold. In effect they appreciated the fact that, parts of old computers can be sourced and used to make a server that works and are cheaper. The AMP team hopes to transfer the knowledge in assembling Jerry computer to making a Jerry Laptop (‘JerryTop’) in the near future.

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Makers’ Paradise and the Jerry!

Agbogbloshie e-waste dump as it is known, and portrayed by the media is more than just that. It is an e-resource repository; a source of valuable raw e-material and a makers’ paradise. On this e-turf, there are several players, whose operations  make it what it is.

Zack is a young e-waste worker. He usually operates in the Agbogbloshie refrigerator trade: buying, selling, dismantling and selling again. The AMP team encountered him over 7 months ago and signed him on as a part of the AMP maker collective.

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Zack dismantling a refrigerator during the AMP workshop in Agbogbogbloshie

“Emeka” is a Nigerian migrant to Ghana. He owns and operates a shop out of Agbogbloshie. The shop is well stocked and has a CCTV camera which helps him secure his “goods”. Though the team had been to this side of Agbogbloshie, this was the first time we were meeting him in person.

What do all these people have in common? Computers!!

As part of the AMPQAMP at the Kokrobite Institute, AMP hackers and/or STEAM students and graduates, collaborated with hackers from the Woelab (Togo’s very active makerspace!) to build a Jerry. A Jerry is a computer that is made with parts from old computers assembled in a jerrycan. This workshop was significant, mainly due to the transfer of knowledge which occurred during the assembly process. As part of this highly didactic process, a team comprising makers from both AMP and Woelab visited Agbogbloshie.

Inside Agbogbloshie, the team first encountered a computer shop. It was well stocked and able to provide a wide range of old computer parts owned and run by Emeka. During the interviews and interaction with the e-waste workers in Agbogbloshie, the AMP team discovered that, Nigerians formed a critical part of the ecosystem in Agbogbloshie.  A network that virtually spans the entire globe.

Subsequently, the team met with Zack, an e-waste worker, who is part of the AMP maker collective. Several weeks earlier, the AMP team had discovered much to our surprise that Zack whom we knew only as an expert in the commerce and dismantling of old fridges in Agbogbloshie and who had helped us with our workshop in fridge disassembly, was also a self taught computer repairer. He was comfortable enough to ask us which parts we needed, and proceeded to test them for us by connecting each in turn to his personal computer. The level of fruitful interaction had with him, points to the phenomenal possibilities that a fully operational maker collective (comprising STEAM professionals and e-waste workers) in Agbogbloshie would unleash.

Back at the Kokrobite institute, the Woelab team, led by Rhode Audrey and Martine Pandam together with the AMP team led by Daniel started to assemble the Jerry computer.  We first produced schematic sketches and then marked out and cut the JerryCan. We then  placed the components:  first the mother board, then the hard drives, then the cables, the power pack and finally the CD-ROM. In all, it was a very exciting experience. The excitement has spurred the AMP team on to explore further design possibilities. The team is advancing ideas such as the solar JerryTop: recovered laptop parts in a Jerrycan powered by recovered solar cells.

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All hands on deck during Jerry computer workshop.

These we believe can serve as a means of providing cheap computers in rural areas and in deprived urban contexts and can go a long way to improve computer literacy in Ghana and Africa as a whole. This is one of those projects where hackers like Zack in Agbogbloshie and STEAM professionals like Daniel from the creativity group in KNUST (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) could collaborate. In the few moments where language was a barrier, both teams communicated via the language of computers and making, which are both universal. Thanks to Yasmine (AMP co-pi) and Rejoice ( psychology intern and maker), such moments were minimized, as they took turns to translate.

In the end, there was a handing over ceremony where the team from Togo handed over the Jerry’s to the AMP team, signifying a transfer of technology.

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Internal arrangement of components in Jerry Computer
Laptop dissection - Daniel with Woelab crew
Laptop dissection – Daniel with Woelab crew
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The transfer of the Jerrys from Woelab to AMP