Wikipedia via SMS for the developing world

This looks like an initiative to keep an eye on, since many people in West Africa have mobile phones and text messages are an inexpensive way to transmit text. What do you think? Can you imagine reading Where There is No Doctor 140 characters at a time?

photo by Victor Grigas

“Even as we all love to debate the scholarly merits of Wikipedia, there’s no denying that it’s an immensely powerful research and learning tool. That goes doubly so in poor nations, where access to education materials can be limited to nonexistent. To that end, Wikimedia started the Wikipedia Zero project, which aims to partner with mobile service providers to bring Wikipedia to poor regions free of charge. It’s a killer strategy, because while computer and internet access is still fleeting for much of the world, cell phones are far more ubiquitous. Wikimedia claims that four mobile partnerships signed since 2012 brings free Wiki service to 330 million cell subscribers in 35 countries, a huge boon for folks whose phones have web capability but who can’t afford data charges.”

Via slashdot and boingboing.

Support from Author of “Monique and the Mango Rains”

We were delighted to receive an endorsement of the Dokotoro Project from Kris Holloway, author of Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali.

During my Peace Corps experience in Mali, Where There is No Doctor was one of the few practical, life-saving books I used in my work in a small clinic. How useful it would have been to have a copy in Bambara so that health workers in my village could read it!

Monique and the Mango Rains - book coverWhen talking to friends about the Dokotoro Project, I tell them that to really understand the health challenges in Mali, they should read Monique and the Mango Rains.

In this extraordinary work of non-fiction, Ms. Holloway describes her time as a Peace Corps health worker and the extraordinary friendship she develops with a young village midwife, Monique Dembelé. I am not exaggerating when I say, “you will laugh and you will cry” while reading this book.

It’s particularly great to have Kris’s support, just as we launch our six-week fundraising campaign, Have a Heart for Mali.” This is our effort to raise $20,000 (two-thirds of our translation budget) by March 31.

Monique and the Mango Rains is now available on Kindle from All sales of the book support Clinique Monique, the rural health clinic established in Monique’s honor.

Have a Heart for Mali!

logo3_hThis Valentine’s Day, the Dokotoro Project is launching a six-week fundraising campaign to inspire people around the world to “Have a Heart for Mali” and contribute to the long-term health of Malians. Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, and it is currently in the midst of an acute humanitarian crisis. Because of the disruption of basic services – including health care – the needs of ordinary Malians are greater than ever.

This short 3-minute video (edited by volunteer Scott Saraceno) explains why our project, to adapt and translate the book Where There is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Manual into Bambara, is so critical, and why we need your help.

Here’s the deal: It will cost about $30,000 to translate, proofread, and edit this 600-page health guide. Why so expensive? We pay our Mali-based translation team 10 cents per word for translation, and an additional 10 cents for a double-round of proofreading. We then pay a separate editor for a final quality check.

We also have a team of volunteers who provide thousands of dollars worth of in-kind contributions through French-English translations, professional design and layout, and medical review. But if we don’t have the basic funds to pay our translators, we can’t unlock the additional value of all these volunteers.

Our goal for the “Have A Heart for Mali” campaign is to raise a total of $20,000 for the project (we have already raised over $8,500). This amounts to two-thirds of our total translation budget, so we need your help.

Every dollar we raise is fully tax deductible and will pay for our direct translation costs.

  • $250 can pay for printing and binding about 16 books
  • $150 will pay for translating, proofreading, editing, testing, and printing one page
  • $100 can help us pay for a one-day workshop in Mali for partners to review the book
  • $50 will allow us to translate and proofread 1 ½ pages

Please consider joining the Dokotoro community, and thanks for having a heart!

February Project Update

The Dokotoro Project Steering Committee held its monthly meeting in the beginning of February. It’s been a busy month! Much of the discussion revolved around the soon-to-be-launched fundraising campaign.

Present: Matt, Michelle, Jenna, Zach, Marlow, Aaron, Ruth



The group welcomed Aaron Goldblatt to the steering committee. Aaron was in the Butterknife stage (2003–2004) in Sevaré, and now is a medical resident in Santa Rosa, California. We are delighted to have someone with expertise in international medicine on the steering committee.
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The Best Malian Music Clip on the Web?

In the last few weeks, as major media outlets scrambled to explain to readers why they should care about Mali, many took note of the country’s magnificent musical heritage. There have been expertly-curated online listening tours, a few top 10 lists, conjecture about where Mali’s Tuareg musicians’ loyalties lie, and consternation over the future of Mali’s music festivals. In January, a who’s-who of Malian musical stars came together to record “Mali ko.” But was it “voices united for peace,” or a call to rise up and violently repel northern aggressors?

I’ve been an avid collector, listener, and concertgoer of Malian music for over a decade. For what it’s worth, here is my favorite Malian music clip on the web, a fireside session with the griots of Kela, from the collection of Tout Pouissant Africa.

Hackathon a success!


Thanks to all the great volunteers who turned out this past weekend to dedicate their afternoon to the first-ever Dokotoro Hackathon. We had a dozen dedicated folks turn out to merge (French-English) several new chapters, do formatting, and make some serious inroads into thinking about how to best review the outdated medical information from the old French version. We all learned first hand how much preparation needs to be done before sending our text to our Mali-based translation team.

The atmosphere was one of industriousness and intense concentration. The scene was one of pizza boxes, snack wrappers, and laptops. In the middle of the table was one our our prized possessions: two volumes of the latest French-Bambara dictionary (by Father Bailleul), which had just arrived in the mail, slightly battered and smelling of soap.

It was a productive afternoon, and it was fun to meet up with friends who share a love for Mali. If you would like to volunteer, please email Jenna at; we will be having more hackathons in the future and would love for you to join. And you don’t have to live in the San Francisco bay area or speak French to get involved — we have volunteers from Minnesota to New York, from Bamako (Mali) to Bobojulaso (Burkina Faso) pitching in.  Please join our team!