IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC)
Technology for the Benefit of Humanity // Villanova University, USA / October 12-15, 2023

Panel: Culturally Relevant and Usable Innovation and Technology

Tuesday, October 22, 1:30-3:30 pm
Session F3: PANEL: Culturally Relevant and Usable Innovation and TechnologyAsanteCommunity

In order for a solution to be accepted, it has to be what the “users” want, sustainable long term, and serviceable. It also has to be culturally relevant and socialized to have a chance of success. Be prepared to be stimulated and challenged.

This panel of experts who work daily “in the developing country fields” will share the mistakes, the provocative concepts, and the realities of what is involved to bring innovation and technology into developing rural communities.  This panel is unique in their historical careers and education and how that helps them to adapt to the realities of working in developing countries.

Moderator: Erna Grasz , CEO of Asante Africa Foundation, Prior CTO and VP/GM and VP of R&D
Panelists: Gathii Kanyi, Kenya Country Manager for Asante Africa Foundation
– Works daily in Kenya rural communities, key emphasis on usable, and serviceable technology that is accepted and works – Recent projects include solar systems, youth investment systems
Stan Mierzwa, Director of Information Technology at Population Council
– Critical focus on usable technology supporting rural medical clinics across  the African Continent focused on preventing the  transmission of HIV
Cormac Lynch, Founder and Chairman of Camara Education
– Success in implementing e-learning technology and training to gain acceptance in the  classrooms of rural communities (Africa Continent, Haiti, Jamaica, Ireland)


Gathii Kanyi – Kenya Country Manager, Asante Africa Foundation

GathiiKanyiGathii Kanyi lives in Thika Kenya and  holds a MS in Entrepreneurship (MSc in Entrepreneurship) from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology-Kenya, B.Ed from Moi University-Kenya and Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He has worked as a teacher with the Government of Kenya for over 13 years where he taught in three public schools in both Makueni and Murang’a South. Kanyi has also worked with Public and Private Development (PPD) Consultants since 2006 as an associate director in charge of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development. He has participated in various projects including designing proposal for assessing the impact of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) in Kenya. In 2012 he received the African International Achievers Award for innovative concepts for improving academic performances of youth.

Stan Mierzwa , Director, Information Technology, Population Council

StanMierzwaStanley Mierzwa is the director of information technology (IT) at the Population Council, where he sets global technology strategy and direction for the Council’s 21 offices and oversees all computer-related activities at the Council’s three offices in the United States. Mierzwa also leads the technical effort in software design, development, and management of the Council’s proprietary audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (ACASI) survey software, which has been used in numerous field and clinic-based product surveys to facilitate accurate reporting of sensitive behaviors.  His “on the ground” implementation experience has taken place in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, India, Brazil and the United States.Mierzwa previously worked at the Council as senior systems engineer, then as supervisor of computer operations.

Mierzwa has an M.S. in management of information systems from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a B.S. in electrical engineering technology from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and he has completed a certificate program for Microsoft-certified systems engineers. He helped form—and is a frequent speaker at—the InsideNGO tech professionals group and is a member of IEEE, NTEN, the HIV/AIDS Network Coordination (HANC) BSWG Tech & Measures Task Force, the Adolescent Trials Network (ATN), the HealthTech Council and the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), which has provided funding for the Council’s customized ACASI software for multiple clinical trials.  He was the recipient of the inaugural 2010 InsideNGO Information Technology Outstanding Contribution award.


Cormac Lynch , Founder of Camara and the CEO of Camara Learning in the UK


CormacLynchCormac Lynch is the Founder of Camara and the CEO of Camara Learning in the UK. He has an engineering and finance background having spent 5 years as a petroleum engineer in the North Sea and 12 years as an investment banker in London, New York and Moscow. Prior to starting Camara, he was Chief Executive of NIKoil, a medium-sized Russian Investment Bank. In addition to his undergraduate degree from Trinity College Dublin (1st Class Engineering Science), he has an MSc from Imperial College London, an MBA from Stanford  University and a MSc in Development Studies from UCD.


Erna Grasz – CEO, Asante Africa Foundation

ErnaAsanteAs an experienced executive, Erna Grasz established a reputation as a strategic leader with demonstrated success in diverse industries, including Medical Device, Defense Research, and Semiconductor Capital Equipment. She has led organizations, teams and individuals to success in fast-paced, high-stress, and results-orientated environments for over 20 years and is known as an organizer of chaos and a “turn-around” leader. Three years ago, Erna has transitioned her leadership skills from being a Chief Technology Officer in the Medical Device Market to the non-profit world as the CEO of Asante Africa Foundation.

Erna is an award-winning speaker with Toastmasters International. She has published numerous articles on leadership, communication skills and project management. Her advanced degrees are in MS Electrical Engineering and Engineering Management from Texas Tech University and Santa Clara University.

Further reading:  interview with Erna Grasz in Engineering for Change.