This post is written by Tapani Toivonen and Katariina Loimusalo from University of Eastern Finland who visited Eritrea as a part of ICT4EEDU project in October, 2016.
Our travel to Asmara began on the first of October from the Joensuu airport. Although we had had quite a good packet of information about Eritrea, we had a little idea what would be waiting for us in Asmara. And even we had a long and exhausting journey ahead of us, we were very exited about the intensive mobile development course that would be held to the students of EIT during our stay.
After switching the planes several times and waiting long periods of time at the many airports we arrived to Asmara at about 2 o’clock at night of 2th of October. We cannot even describe the feelings of happiness when we were able close our eyes and have a rest at Crystal Hotel in Asmara. After some sleep we went to a walk to the streets of Asmara. The beauty of the city instantly tickled the eyes and no doubt the architecture will echo in our subconsciousness through eternity. Asmara is indeed a very beautiful and peaceful city. The local people that we met were very polite and the food that we ate was delicious.
We arrived to Asmara on Sunday night and on Monday the intensive course started. At the Monday morning we took the EIT bus to the EIT campus. During the bus trip we saw come country side and although were were still quite sleepy we could not help peeking the sights outside of the bus window. When we arrived to EIT campus we were taken to the office of vice president of EIT who welcomed us and wished us a pleasant stay. Meeting with the vice president was a great honor.
After the meeting with the vice president of EIT we went to the computer lab where the students of the course were already waiting for us. We introduced us and the students introduced themselves. The first day had officially started. During the first day the students learned about Ionic – a mobile development framework that we were using during the course – as well as about the basics of mobile development. The students also designed their own applications in the small groups that they were about to develop. The first group was about to start the development of a e-library application that would have an access to the library database so that the students of EIT could download interesting ebooks from the server. The second group was about the develop a trip advising application for Eritrea that would have some useful information for the foreign visitors about the main Eritrean cities. The third group chose to develop a question and answer application that would provide an interface for users to ask questions and providing answers regarding the studies in EIT.
During the course the students kept surprising us constantly. Even if they did not have any experience on Ionic, they managed to learn rapidly and develop their applications with a little help from us. The lack of offline documentation sometimes made the development hard but eventually all of the groups had applications to show. The students were seemingly interested in the mobile application development and did not hesitate to try new things.
During the first couple of days of the course we concentrated on the Ionic as an environment. The students were able to explore the environment and create content to their applications. Ionic is build on the top of AngularJS and even though none of them had experience on AngularJS, they managed to do so well.
At the end of the course all of the groups had working applications and they managed to load dynamic content from the server that we hosted. The trip advising app uses geoposition and the app showed the current distance to the cities that they chose to include to their app. The students were happy but indeed we were at least as happy as the students because of the great progress that the students made during the week.
The outcomes of the intensive course were remarkable! We had three good mobile apps that differed from each others and about ten Eritrean students that showed us that it is possible to learn a complex framework in a very short period of time. The hospitality of the fellow Eritrean students was something we will be missing. The country itself was very beautiful and we sincerely hope that it will be possible to return to EIT at some point. We will be missing you and your country. We would be honored if we could return someday.
Tapani Toivonen and Katariina Loimusalo