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ICT Success Stories

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One the most effective way to revive and sustain remote communities is to help them to gain access to the global information network. Since the early community telecentres were set up, such as the multi-purpose community telecentre  in Timbuktu, Mali in 1997, many different stakeholders have got involved in a variety of pilot projects and initiatives around the world. By connecting to the digital world abroad, as well as closer to home, communities can seek economic prosperity, social stability and the personal and professional development of its members. ICTs, in conjunction with wider measures, can bring the digital age to isolated and marginalized communities and help ensure their integration into wider society at the local, national and international levels.

ICT stories from the field

 Wi-Fi Pilot Development Projects-Latin America


Success Strategy: The challenges faced by rural communities in Latin America include the lack of communication infrastructure and limited finances available to provide this infrastructure. With these as setbacks, there are little or no communication technologies to link the inhabitants to the city The project brings Wi-Fi connectivity to these seemly unreachable areas in an inexpensive manner, thereby connecting remote areas to the internet. The project is unique because of its use of Wi-Fi technology. It connects rural communities across Latin America and the Caribbean to the internet using a single antenna. The project has successfully been rolled out in the mountainous regions of the Amazon rainforest, Ecuador, Panama, Peru El Salvador Mexico and Argentina.

The Latin America School of Network Foundation in collaboration with the Institute for Connectivity in the Americas has launched a portal called WiLAC designed to support wireless connectivity implementation.

Source: The International Development Research Center, Institute for Connectivity in the Americas.

Partners: International Development and Research Center (IDRC), Institute for Connectivity in the Americas (ICA)

 Comunicación sin Fronteras en Costa Rica

Success Strategy: Communication without Borders (Comunicación sin Fronteras) is a national program in Costa Rica designed to reach every citizen, regardless of their specific social group. The program is a universal access initiative by the Government, which began in 2003, with the purpose of incorporating information and communication technologies (ICTs) as part of citizens’ daily life. Communication without Borders proposes that all 4 million inhabitants of Costa Rica have a free electronic mail account and a personal web site space. Community Access Points would be dispersed throughout the country, and incorporated in institutions rooted in the community (i.e. libraries, post offices, and schools).In addition, the users will have access to governmental information and key government services.

For more information: see  ICAmericas' website

 Daknet: The Wi-Fi Postal System

Success Strategy: This joint project, DakNet, was a result of the partnership between the MIT Media Lab, the Government of India, and leading academic institutions, in an effort to bring the benefits of new technologies to more people.

DakNet uses a unique combination of physical and wireless transport to offer data connectivity to regions lacking communication infrastructure. The hybrid network architecture (patent pending) enables high-bandwidth intranet and internet connectivity among kiosks and between kiosks and hubs. Villages can send e-mails, and multimedia messages, which are then stored on the local kiosk server, which is connected to a wireless access point. Once a day, the mobile unit (a van with an access point and external antenna) drives by to “collect” the requests/messages that have accrued in the local server. As the van passes through the villages on its route, messages are dropped off and collected, finally ending the day at the hub (the central internet-connection point) where the requests are processed, files shared, messages sent and received, to be once more driven and delivered to the rural kiosk the following day.

For more information: see Daknet's website

 Colombia’s laptop warrior- Connectivity for Peace and Progress

Success Strategy: Vilma Almendra, a 23-year-old Paez Indian from Colombia, represents what Canadian Aboriginal Chief Dwight Dorey recently referred to as the modern "laptop warrior." Almendra coordinates the community information service, or telecentre, in the town of Santander de Quilichao in southwest Colombia. The telecentre — part internet café, part library, and part meeting place — is housed at the headquarters of ACIN, the Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca [association of Indigenous governing councils of North Cauca], and is one of three internet-equipped information services in southwest Colombia supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Vilma Almendra says that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are playing a key role in denouncing human rights abuses in Colombia — a country plagued by civil war for the past 39 years. Almendra is part of a growing movement using internet communications as an antidote to violence against Indigenous peoples. She and Dorey addressed a Canadian-Latin American aboriginal forum on information technology and connectivity, held in Ottawa from March 24th to 26th  2003. The three-day meeting, sponsored by the Institute for Connectivity in the Americas (ICA) and several Canadian federal government departments, was webcast live on the internet via the Aboriginal Canada Portal.

For more information: see IDRC website

 Boats and River Networks to Deliver Access to Information Technology - Bangladesh

Success Strategy: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a Bangladesh NGO, has adopted a pioneering approach to bridging the digital divide and its commitment to providing free public access to computers and the Internet. Through the use of indigenous boats converted into mobile libraries, schools, and the Mobile Internet Educational Units on Boats program, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha provides educational services, access to technology, and computer training to poor communities in a Northern Bangladesh watershed. The boats, which anchor at remote villages, rely on generators or solar energy and mobile phones for Internet access.

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha is dedicated to alleviating poverty among the poorest people in the Nandakuja-Atrai-Boral Watershed, serving 86,500 families and an area covering over 240 kilometers crossed by thousands of rivers, tributaries and streams. The Access to Learning Award will enable the organization to sustain its services and expand programs to meet an increasing demand.

“All our program activities are concentrated in and around the rivers using a familiar vehicle for people to approach technology. Our boat libraries are crucial to the progress of the villages along the river basins,” said Abul Hasanat Mohammed Rezwan, executive director of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha and founder of the boat project.

Relying on skilled volunteers, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha educates men, women, and children on issues ranging from agricultural practices and to micro enterprise and literacy. Farmers learn about strategies for productive and sustainable farming and the ecological hazards of pesticides. Throughout the year, they are able to connect with educators via onboard e-mail and check current farm prices online to remain competitive in the local market.

Seeing a computer, let alone touching it, was beyond our wildest imagination,” said Abdul Azad, a farmer who travels an hour to the docked boat library from the remote village of Kalinagar. Students who would otherwise be unable to attend school during the monsoon season continue their education through the year using the libraries’ onboard field staff. With literacy rates in Bangladesh at only 42 percent, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha is making a significant impact on educating young people, especially girls. In fact, over 70 percent of the program’s beneficiaries are women. In a highly competitive job market coupled with pervasive poverty, student participants are eager to learn technological skills they hope will translate to a career later on.

The project is intended to extend further even if government subsidies are not available. Over the next five years, the program hopes to double its capacity.

Target group: Local communities, with a special focus on women and children

Partners: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (SSS)

Awards: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's annual Access to Learning Award  

For more detailed information: see the SSS' website 

Source: the Council on Library and Information Resources (Clir) website

 Two-Wheeled Wireless Experiment to Connect Remote Villages in Cambodia

Success Strategy: A project organized by American Assistance for Cambodia and Japan Relief for Cambodia consists of a motorcycle with a rear-mounted box that is equipped to send e-mail messages to schools. An antenna on the top of the box, and a Wi-Fi wireless communication system inside, enable e-mails to be relayed to schools in 13 remote Cambodian villages via satellite dishes. These villages have no water, electricity or phones and are far from health centres, but they now have e-mail. The schools are equipped with solar panels to run a computer for six hours, with an e-mail link via a motorcycle delivery system.

Every morning, five Honda motorcycles leave the hub in the provincial capitol of Banlung, where a satellite dish, donated by Shin Satellite, links the provincial hospital and a special skills school to the internet for telemedicine and computer training. The bike drivers begin the day by collecting e-mails from the hub's dish, which takes just a few seconds.

Then, as they pass each school and one health centre, they transmit the messages. At the end of the day they return to the hub to transmit all the collected e-mail to the internet for any point on the globe.

Each school also has a computer and e-mail-trained young teacher graduated from the Future Light Orphanage in Phnom Penh, including four women, who are the village computer teacher and e-mail postmaster. The children in the village are being trained to take over this function in a couple of years.

This program opens the village up to receiving and sending messages to the whole world and also doing internet searches for information.

For more information: see the source

 Hong Kong, China: Community Cyber Points

Success Strategy: The Cyber Points project was designed to provide free computing facilities for the general community, with a view to promoting IT awareness. The facilities enable the public to access official information through the Government home pages. Through the Universal Free Electronic Mail Service Scheme, members of the public can use the facility for e-mail communications; browse other websites; and access Electronic Service Delivery (ESD) for those families without personal computers (PCs).

The project was implemented in different phases to meet users’ requirements and government pledges. Phase I of the project was launched publicly on 29 June 1999. Fifty PCs were installed in enclosed workstations at 20 different community halls and centres of the Home Affairs Department. Phase II was implemented in three stages, and was completed in June 2000 with 64 PCs launched in 21 different locations. At completion of stage III in October 2001, a total of 200 Cyber Point PCs had been launched in 78 different locations and non-government organizations. To provide equal opportunity to different groups of the community, the Cyber Points have also been extended to the visually impaired, with a trial project involving 28 PCs with special furniture, computer hardware and software launched in June 2000 at four different sites. In July 2001, a Super Cyber Centre with 100 PCs was opened at central Government offices to provide free IT facilities and training programmes to the community.

For more information: see the ITU case study on Hong Kong, China

 Baatchit: Economics in an Information Community Centre

Success Strategy: All roads in Tikawali, a village lying 40 kilometres from the capital of India, lead to the Baatchit Center—where one and all gather not just for local news and information but also for entertainment, exchange of ideas, and business advice.

Before the introduction of communication devices such as radio and television, rural Indian communities depended extensively on the Chaupal (a central meeting place) as the primary means of information exchange, business talks, socialization, and entertainment. With the advent of television and radio, information, though easily accessible, was largely urban-oriented, with content lacking a local relevance, especially with regard to sustaining livelihoods in rural areas. Worse, as people spent less physical time together, social bonds also began to deteriorate. The Baatchit programme seeks to empower and enfranchise villagers through a set of social, economic, and information technology (IT) strategies. Further, it demonstrates that this multi-perspective approach is necessary if any information and communication technology (ICT) project is to succeed.

Baatchit has a centre located in the middle of the village with a computer room and a television hall. The computer room contains a PC laptop (with a webcamera) that runs an icon-based community software system. There is also a Mac laptop and video camera that villagers use to create their own video content in the form of news, information, entertainment, and advertisements. The television hall has a 34” set that plays the videos created by the video team.

From an economic perspective, villagers are encouraged to understand essential economic principles as they relate to the development of the village as a whole, as well as to the villagers independently. For this, the centre is used as a discussion and learning ground. From the IT perspective, the community software system is functioning as a means of collecting information about people, and providing a window for villagers to understand their village in a different light. They are finding out about schemes that are available and are beginning to take advantage of them. Through the video-message board module, users are able to asynchronously share their ideas with others, without having to read or write. From the social perspective, villagers are interacting not only for emergencies (as was the case previously). The gatherings here are often for social or constructive purposes.

For more information: see iConnect online and Jiva's website 

 Ethiopia: Adaptive Technology Centre for the Blind

Success Strategy: The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established a computer training centre in Ethiopia – Adaptive Technology Centre for the Blind - to assist the blind and visually impaired members of the community to gain access to information and communication technologies.

ATCB, registered as an NGO in 2000 is a non-profit resource and Information Technology center which is essentially a dedicated computer training and Braille transcriber Center focusing on the needs of students and professionals in Ethiopia who are blind or visually impaired.

According to the ATCB,it requires several months of hard work to transcribe any full text of ink print edition. The long process usually involves a phrase-by-phrase dictation by a sighted reader to a blind Braille writer, who copies down the words on a manual Braille-Writer. Once the Braille text is completed, it is reproduced page by page on a Thermoform Braille -duplicating machine The duplication of a single copy, depending on the speed of the operator and the condition of the machine, may take several days. Not only it is time consuming and tedious, the process exposes the people involved in it to an extreme degree of heat that causes them discomfort and eventually results in health problems.

Producing Braille by computerized embossers saves both time and energy. Moreover, embossers are equipped with graphic programs, enabling the  Braille readers visualize objects and thereby form clear mental images of the real world under their fingertips, something that wasn’t possible earlier.

The two United Nations specialized agencies will lend their support to the Addis Ababa-based Adaptive Technology Centre for the Blind (ATCB) by training blind students, government employees and others to use computers equipped with adaptive devices. ITU and ATCB will provide the training equipment and software. In addition, ATCB will make available administrative and professional staff and provide the project office with the necessary facilities and transport. For its part, UNESCO will supply training and curriculum-development materials.

As part of the project, a course for trainers and students will be conducted at five technical schools across Ethiopia. Those who can afford to participate in the project, or their sponsors, will be charged a moderate training fee. Proceeds from the sale of Braille publications such as training manuals, newspapers and other materials, as well as fees and charges from individuals and organizations will also contribute to sustaining the initiative.

There is sparse involvement from the Government, one reason being cited is that there is no clear policy on both the Federal and Regional levels designed to address such issues as rights of the blind and visually impaired to information accessibility and other opportunities According to the United States-based International Eye Foundation (IEF), there are about 45 million blind people in the world, the vast majority of them living in Africa. In Ethiopia, the latest census indicates that there are well over 500,000 blind people in the country. Given such numbers, it is worth promoting such Centers that assist the disabled by means of ICTs and Governments all over the world should encourage such initiatives.

Source: the UNESCO website>

Southern India: Information Shops

Success Strategy: Obtaining current price information for fish or farm products was one of the initial benefits being advertised. These days, a fisherman goes to the Village Knowledge Centre (VKC) and gets information on seawave heights likely in the next 24 hours. This is downloaded for him from a US Navy website. He then asks for information pertaining to safety at sea, fish/shoal occurrence near the seashore and post-harvesting techniques so he can fish in the right area. In Southern India, four VKCs have now been set up by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), in collaboration with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)of Canada.

From the VKCs, villagers also access information on grain and agricultural input prices, integrated pest management and pest management in rice and sugarcane crops. Important public events and government announcements that are relevant to the villagers are also flashed through the VKCs. Local-specific information has also been compiled - a detailed account on sugarcane cultivation, a guidebook on the application of bio-fertilizers in rice cultivation, a how-to-style document on herbal remedies for disorders among children and one on local religious festivals. There is also a provision for exchanging information on the availability of labour and materials in the region. Bus/train timetables and opinions of medical practitioners are also available at the click of a mouse.

For more information: see MSSRF's website

 Honduras: Rural Community Telecenters—Myth or Reality? 

Success Strategy: In one of the poorest countries in Latin America, where only a few kilometers separate semi-rural cities from rural populations, there exist villages that lack even the most basic services. Here, water is often the only basic resource the people can count on. Montaña Grande is one of these many small hamlets, with some 300 inhabitants living in around 50 homes. The significant activity of Montaña Grande is agricultural, accounting for the production 65 per cent of the vegetables that are consumed in the country. But this little hamlet has no telecommunications whatsoever—an astonishing thought for many who take telecommunications access for granted.

Close by is Valle de Angeles, a picturesque village in which the first Multipurpose Community Telecentre (MCT) was set up.  It was only two years ago that the mayor and his advisors first heard the word “internet” and without even understanding what it meant, and even less what the initials of ITU meant, went ahead and agreed to the establishment of the first and only rural MCT in Central America.

The MCT now provides facilities to the public through a modern computer network with a permanent 64 kbit/s internet connection, e-mail service and electronic library and includes a study area, a Web page server with the history of the town, a commercial portal, public telephones for national and international calls, fax service, printing, photocopies and the very first tests of virtual telephone reception.

Training programmes for rural teachers are also offered. Suddenly, the library that had never been had, the telegraph system that had never arrived, the letter that was sent in a fraction of a secondand access to national and international newspapers was within reach of people who had never used such facilities, even in a non-virtual context. As one can imagine, the emotional impact was high for these teachers, the first group of rural teachers trained for the twenty-first century that the rural towns of Valle de Angeles and Santa Lucia had ever seen. After just eight months of activity, the MCT was already virtually covering its own costs and was well on the way to become auto sustainable.

It is here also that a new concept of the rural mini or micro-telecentre is taking off as a new experience that will for the first time in history permit rural farmers to send messages to the outside world. The ITU and the Honduran Telecommunications Company (HONDUTEL) offices in Tegucigalpa have received dozens of requests for more rural telecentres from remote hamlets all around Honduras, for instance from medical brigades working in remote tropical forests. And disbelieving neighbouring countries have been in contact to verify the existence of this technological miracle that is closing the digital divide between “the haves and have nots” in telecommunications.  

Santa Lucía, another rural town, opened up the second MCT in Honduras following efforts by the inhabitants, ITU, HONDUTEL, Canadian volunteers and a local group of Ham Radio operators. This new MCT has opened up new frontiers in tele-health and tele-education, and for agriculture, as well as a better management of crises and natural disasters.

For more information: see the ITU's website  [esp]

Public Domain Information Centers

Success Strategy: The Public Domain Information Centers Programme (united and extended Public Legal Information Centers Programme and Public Business Information Centers Programme) is aimed to create the network of community centers for free public access to the different kind of public domain information, e.g. legal, consumer, business, ecological, educational, etc. across the Russia and CIS countries. The website of the programme has till now connected more than 1350 telecenters throughout the CIS region and provides useful information about ongoing and forthcoming initiatives related to the dissemination of legal information concerning all aspects of life.

Partners: UNESCO IFAP National Committee of Russia, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Russia, Ministry of Culture and Mass Media of Russia, Special Communications Service, Garant Co., Ltd, Kodeks Co., Ltd, Konsultant Plus Co., Ltd

For more information: see IFAP website and the website of the activity

 Malaysia’s e-Bario Initiative

Photo #970047Success Strategy: The Malaysian Government’s e-Bario is a development project that utilizes computers, telephones, and VSATs (very small aperture terminals for use with satellites) to connect villagers to the internet in the remote village of Bario.  Administered by a combination of public and private domestic and international actors, e-Bario demonstrates the many ways in which ICTs can be used to help marginalized communities in Malaysia develop socially, culturally and economically.  

For more information: see the ITU's website

Background materials: see the e-Bario case study

 The Leland Initiative

Success Strategy: Formally launched on 4 June 1996, the Leland Initiative (LI) has proved to be one of the most effective projects to bring internet access to the African continent.  Designed as a five-year USD 15 million United States Government effort, LI seeks to promote the use of the internet as a means of fostering sustainable social and economic development in approximately 20 African countries.  Administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), LI is designed to help Africans realize the power of the internet as a communication and development tool.Working with international and domestic partners, USAID helps target states get the infrastructure and training necessary for becoming active participants in the global information society. 

For more information: see USAID's website

Background materials: see the Leland Initiative case study

Telecottages in Hungary

Success Strategy: In a country that has over 3,000 small villages and where 7.8 per cent of the population lives in settlements with less than 1,000 people, Hungarian telecottages are a key source of access to the global information society. Inspired by the telecentre schemes in Denmark and Sweden, in 1990, a group of Hungarian librarians set out to provide marginalized groups with computer services and internet access.The first telecottage, or “TeleHaz,” in Hungary was established in a small mountain community called Czakbereny in 1994.

For more information: see the ITU's website 

 Community Perspectives

Success Strategy: Located in a small village in the Buey Arriba territory of Cuba, Television Serrana (TVS) has helped to give marginalized communities a voice throughout the country.Designed to preserve the cultural identity of these communities, TVS has become an important tool for strengthening the human capacities in the remote village of Sierra Maestra.  Equipped with basic camera and editing equipment, the staff of 15 uses video to publicize the living conditions of residents of Buey Arriba.  TVS founder, Daniel Diez, said, “We wanted to truthfully record the full reality of the daily lives of these men and women that live in the mountains and preserve this for our national culture, as well as improve their self-esteem.”With the help of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO), the Cuban Government, the Asociacion Nacional de Agricultores Pequenos (ANAP), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), TVS has introduced many of the region’s 32,000 inhabitants to the information age.

TVS covers a variety of issues, including education, culture, health, gender and human rights.It also offers many services that help to bolster the skills of the community, including workshops and seminars on how to use video for participatory development.  Perhaps the most compelling service TVS offers is the production of “video letters,” which are designed to foster cross-regional communication between children within and outside of Cuba.  These video letters capture on film peoples’ realities, dreams and aspirations for the world to see.Mainly targeted at Cuban youth, TVS’s video letters give children the opportunity to record their concerns and self-expressions, thereby protecting their cultural identity and boosting their self-esteem.Although TVS helped to spawn a new generation of Cuban video makers, the lack of experience with new technologies and the hesitancy of the Government to undertake a “cultural video project” continue to pose challenges for TVS.  Information was gathered from the Rockefeller Foundation’s comprehensive global study on Participatory Communication for Social Change. 

For more information: see the Rockfound Foundation's website

 Multipurpose Community Telecenters (MCTs) in Uganda

Success Strategy: While it is still too early to gauge the effectiveness of MCTs for rural Ugandans, it is clear that, where appropriately designed, they can play a key role in narrowing the digital divide. To be effective however, they must be sponsored, implemented and managed by a bi- or multilateral consortium that engages indigenous peoples at the community and/or village level.  For example, Uganda’s first MCT, which was launched in March 1999 in a remote village about 50 kilometers from the capital, Kampala, was designed and funded by ITU, IDRC and UNESCO, among other international and domestic partners. The Nakaseke MCT offered users one TV, a VCR, five computers, a printer, two telephone lines, a scanner, a fax machine and a photocopier—the latter item being the most popular among users. During 1999, MCTs were also launched in Nabweru and Bunyoro, two other periphery villages in Uganda. As in other telecentres in other LDCs, Ugandans used fax, e-mail and the internet to reduce transaction and transportation costs, retrieve information about new farming, education and health techniques, and stay in touch with family and friends abroad.

For more information: see the ITU's website  

Background materials: see the Wired in Uganda case study

 Empowering Mayan Women

Success Strategy: In 1997, Padma Guidi, an international advocate and trainer for empowering women, launched the Centro de Mujeres Communicadoras Mayas (CMCM) to help bring ICTs to the remote village in Solola, Guatemala.  The project, known as Nutzij (“my word” in Mayan), empowers indigenous women by providing them with hands-on training in video production and using the internet.  Specifically, Nutzij, which is run by a collective of young Mayan women, seeks to help women develop the skills to preserve their community’s cultural heritage on video and market the content to the world via the internet.Nutzij offers culturally relevant information relating to education, agriculture, health and the environment.

From her past experience of helping women in India and Czechoslovakia, Ms Guidi understood the effectiveness of using video and the internet to preserve the uniqueness of marginalized communities in an era of globalization.  Given the lack of attention paid to the educational needs of the Mayan population, particularly those of women, Ms Guidi saw video as a way to allow women to contribute to the social and economic evolution of their communities.  She said, “seeing is believing, and videos made by the indigenous community can bring information in people’s own languages and in images they can recognize and relate to.” This was her vision for Nutzij.  By capturing stories from the community on video, Nutzij has made women a central component for preserving cultural knowledge for future generations.

Although the widespread benefits that it brought to the Solola community, Nutzij has consistently ran into funding difficulties throughout its implementation.  To address this obstacle, the administrators created co-production workshops for foreign communication students who would pay for their participation to help supplement the project’s operations.  Beyond funding, Nutzij also faced linguistic (most websites are published in English), electricity and infrastructure hurdles.  Moreover, women are also restrained by the social norms that inhibit their involvement in training and other group activities.  Despite the social, infrastructure and economic hurdles, the project has proved to be an effective mechanism for helping to cultivate the human capacities of Mayan women in this remote, isolated community.  Perhaps most importantly, Nutzij has helped to demystify ICTs, while also offering a replicable and sustainable method for cultural preservation and social development.Information was gathered from the Rockefeller Foundation’s comprehensive global study on Participatory Communication for Social Change.

For more information: see the Rockfound Foundation's website

 Cambodia’s KIDS Initiative

Success Strategy: The Khmer internet Development Service (KIDS) was the first public internet café in Cambodia.By partnering with the government-run ISP, Camnet, KIDS was able to reduce the price of internet access from USD 10 per hour to less than USD 2 per hour.  KIDS gives Cambodian children and aspiring entrepreneurs the skills both to learn from the internet and to utilize it to improve their socio-economic position.

For more information: see the ITU website 

 Public Acess Points (PAPs) in Egypt

Success Strategy: In an effort to connect all 26 of its governorates, the Egyptian Government launched a plan to create more than 300 publicly accessible telecentres for Egyptians without private access to the internet.Connected to the internet via a LAN, each telecentre is equipped with 10 PCs and offers training in a variety of IT-related fields. In collaboration with UNDP, national post offices, and local libraries, the Egyptian Government hopes to bring the internet to remote and high-cost areas otherwise disconnected from the digital age.  By using existing infrastructures (i.e. libraries and schools), the Government hopes to help narrow the domestic digital divide between urban and rural communities.

One project is the UNDP-backed Technology Access Community Centers (TACCs), of which there are three in rural areas of Egypt.The TACCs seek to promote civil society, provide training for isolated communities, women and youth empowerment, and indigenous content creation.  Similar to most other cybercafé projects, TACCs are equipped with PCs, fax machines, prnbsp; Howeveike typical cybercafésers with access to expert advice catemmerce).

21st Century Kids Computer Clubs is another PAP initiative designed to help connect those who are not connected.Drawing on resources from the government (training), NGO (management) and the private sector (equipment), this program helps kids prepare for the ever-evolving globally networked society.The internet Care Society (ICS), an NGO that was created in 1977 and headed by Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, the first lady in Egypt, manages the program. 

Source:see the ICS' website   

Background materials: see the ITU's website 

 India's Honey Bee Network

Success Strategy: In the same way that honeybees thrive off of pollen from flowers, the Honey Bee Network is designed around the principle of information and knowledge sharing for the common good. Just as taking nectar away from flowers does not make them poorer, the objective of the Honey Bee Network is meant to enrich the lives of the people who share their innovations and ideas by helping them realize the value of their knowledge. By facilitating the cross-cultural and multi-linguistic exchange of ideas throughout India, the Honey Bee Network offers artisans, farmers, and marginalized groups an opportunity to tap into the creative component of indigenous knowledge systems.

Background materials: see the Honey Bee Network case study

 Community Empowerment Over the Airwaves

Success Strategy: What began as a rudimentary radio broadcast to help educate local healthcare workers in the Khayelitsha community evolved into one of South Africa’s most successful radio stations. In a township about 26 kilometers outside Cape Town where the majority of people were illiterate, but owned or had access to a radio, Griffith Mxenge realized that he could reach a wide audience with his newly established Radio Zibonele. Using a ghetto blaster, a transmitter and an amplifier, Mxenge set up Radio Zibonele in an old container truck in 1993. To his surprise, demand for his broadcasts, which included topics such as health, sports and women’s issues, was resounding.  After being granted a license to operate in 1995, Radio Zibonele quickly expanded from five hours a day, three days a week to 19 hours per day, five days a week. As of 2001, the station, which employs nine staff and has a cadre of 40 to 70 volunteers, has developed into a capacity building medium by offering training in management, budgeting, marketing, research and basic broadcasting skills.  By demystifying the medium and maintaining its participatory focus, Radio Zibonele demonstrates the effectiveness of community empowerment via the airwaves.Information was gathered from the Rockefeller Foundation’s comprehensive global study on Participatory Communication for Social Change.

For more information: see the Rockfound Foundation website

 Talking Through Keyboards

Success Strategy: In an effort to encourage global cross-cultural communications, California-based Schools Online in the United States launched a collaborative project between students in the United States and Egypt. Equipped with computers and training from School Online, students in Watsonville, California were able to use the internet and other ICTs to communicate with their counterparts in Giza, Egypt. The experimental project, which began in January 2002, is an effective method to broaden the horizons of a new generation of global citizens. Srila LaRochellle, Director of Business Development for Schools Online, said, “Through online collaborative projects, children become more aware of diversity and are more understanding of other cultures.”

Background materials: see the Talking through keyboards case study

 India’s Village Knowledge Centres

Success Strategy: Designed by M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and funded by the Canada-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Village Knowledge Centres have been an important source of information for many rural villages throughout India.From healthcare to farming and transportation information, these “information shops” are both sustainable and empowering.  For instance, a cadre of women volunteers between the ages of 21-27 run the shop in the village of Embalam, and women are given preference at each of the other sites in operation.

While the Village Knowledge Centres have improved access to markets, healthcare information and helped sensitize rural youth to computers, access to agriculture-related information has proved to be one of the most popular uses of the Centres.In the village of Veerampattinam, each day the operating staff downloads maps from the U.S. Navy website, showing local weather forecasts for the day.  The staff then disseminates the information via loudspeakers to the village fisherman to help them prepare for the day’s tasks.  By offering practical, localized information that can be immediately useful to the community, these information shops help to promote a healthy environment for all villagers.

While the government of Pondicherry has established Centres in four villages so far, it intends to establish “onramps” to the information superhighway in 50 more villages in the near future.Each shop is equipped with a multimedia Pentium PC and a printer, which are linked to the MSSRF hub in Villianur through a local area network based on Very High Frequency (VHF) radio.Despite the positive benefits the Centres have had since being implemented in 1998, many barriers remain.Poverty, illiteracy and linguistic hurdles must be overcome in order to expand the project into new villages throughout Pondicherry.  Moreover, it will be essential to for the project coordinators to educate local bureaucrats, who seek to maintain control over the flow of information, about the social and economic benefits of ICTs and the free flow of information at the local level.

For more information: see ISOC's website 

 Creating an Innovative Community

Success Strategy: Similar to the way in which Thomas Cooke transformed the village in the 1840s, Market Harborough in the United Kingdom is undergoing another revolution.  While Cooke used the railroad network to launch his travel business, today’s innovators in this remote village are using the internet to become active participants in the global information society.  One initiative created by the Market Harborough-based Mass Mitec company involves the use of a variety of ICTs to connect the local community with the rest of the world.  By using a combination of the internet and radio, Mass Mitec brings together experts from around the world to discuss the multiple issues relating to innovation and the information society. The “Radio with Pictures Show,” which airs on 95.1FM, provides a forum for knowledge sharing on subjects ranging from sustainability to youth and the media and gender. While local in nature, the initiative is global in scope in that it is designed to cultivate the innovative capacities of the local community by using ICTs to facilitate an international cross-cultural dialogue. For instance, a recent broadcast brought together visitors from the United States, Belize and the United Kingdom to discuss the meaning of innovation, and its influence on the evolution of societies around the world. 

For more information: see Mass Mitec's website  

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