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Volume 4, Issue 3 July - September 2002

This issue is co-sponsored by:

Academy for Educational Development and
USAID's Global Bureau, Human Capacity Development Center (G/HDC), under an Indefinite Quantities
Contract (No. HNE-I-00-96-00018-00) to AED/LearnLink.

The contents of this Issue do not necessarily reflect the policies or the views of the co-sponsors or their affiliates

Thematic Focus: Technologies for All - Issues of Equity

5 Technologies for All: A Dream or a Nightmare?

Wadi D. Haddad, Editor

The vision of ICTs for All is easy to justify but hard to achieve. An implementation strategy must be realistic
as to recognize the constraints and devise sustainable mechanisms to overcome them.

7 What is The Digital Divide?

Laurence Wolff and Soledad MacKinnon, Inter-American Development Bank

This article briefly describes the digital divide, its scope and reach worldwide, and looks at ways in
which efforts have been made to bridge the divide by increasing access to new technologies.

10 The Many Uses of ICTs for Individuals with Disabilities

Sonia Jurich, and John Thomas, President, CURE Network

Individuals with disabilities have much to gain from the freedom, support and opportunities that can be
offered through the use of assistive technology, adaptive technology, and technology as a tool for knowledge
and support.

12 TechKnowNews
Wearable Computer Gives Voice to Children with Disabilities ♦ "VoGram" to Help Connect India's
Rural, Illiterate Masses ♦ UNESCO Computer/Internet Centre Opened at Education Ministry in Kabul ♦
DigitalOpportunity.org Launched ♦ Report Released on Bridging Global Digital Divide ♦ Egyptians
Spending More Time on the Internet

! 1 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

14 Chilean Schools: The Enlaces Network
Ernesto Laval and J. Enrique Hinostroza, Instituto de Informática Educativa, Universidad de La
Frontera, Chile

In the early 1990's Chile began an educational reform for its primary and secondary school system. The
Enlaces Network is a Chilean initiative for introducing ICT into these schools. This article discusses the
various stages of the program.

19 The Impact of New Technologies on the Lives of Disabled Central Americans: A Model to
Increase Employment and Inclusion
Jessica Lewis and Estela Landeros

This article discusses a program that introduces the use of adaptive ICTs for people with disabilities at
a countrywide level in El Salvador with the goal of increasing their employment opportunities.

24 Uganda School-Based Telecenters: An Approach to Rural Access to ICTs

Meddie Mayanja, ICT Community Development and Business Specialist, World Links

A national School-Based Telecenter (SBT) project was started in Uganda in 2001. It has shown that the SBT
is a potentially strategic initiative that will have impact on ways of helping rural communities functionally cross
the digital divide.

27 The Owerri Digital Village: A Grassroots Approach to Bringing Technology to Nigerian Youth
Njideka Ugwuegbu, Executive Director, Youth for Technology, and Tressa Steffen Gipe

The goal of the Owerri Village is the long-term empowerment of youth through technology knowledge
and skills that will serve as coup de grace against poverty, crime, violence and youth unemployment.

30 Internet Training for Illiterate Populations: Joko Pilot Results in Senegal

Lisa Carney, Joko International, and Janine Firpo, Hewlett-Packard Emerging Market Solutions

Joko is proving that the demystification of new technologies (even to illiterates), is opening doors for
economic development and giving disenfranchised communities new tools to live out their dreams.

34 Mobile Libraries: Where the Schools Are Going to the Students

Sarah Lucas, Education Consultant

This article brings awareness to an old but underused and understudied innovation - the mobile library.

38 India's "Hole in the Wall:" Key to Bridging the Digital Divide?

C.N. (Madhu) Madhusudan, President, Strategic Alliances, NIIT USA Inc.

Could "Minimally Invasive Education" pave the way for a new education paradigm? Read the results of
India's Hole in the Wall project.

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41 ICTs for Disadvantaged Children and Youths - Lessons from Brazil and Ecuador
Barbara Fillip, Independent Consultant

Children and youths in poor neighborhoods in developing countries are very likely to be on the wrong side of
the digital divide. Yet the range of beneficial impact of exposure to and training in ICTs on children and
youths is extensive. This article highlights key lessons learned from case studies in Brazil and Ecuador.

45 Botswana: Equity and Access in ICTs - Are We Reaching the Audience We Intended to
David Motlhale Ratsatsi, Coordinator, World Links for Development, Botswana

Issues of equity are very important factors contributing to quality education and also to empower all in
an equal and equitable manner to enable them to participate fully in the economy. This article looks at
equity at National, Rural/Urban, School and Classroom levels.

49 A Review of Telecenter Effectiveness in Latin America

Joanne Capper

Two recent studies of telecenters in Latin America provide guidance in establishing the strategies
needed to ensure that low-income populations could benefit from Internet connectivity. This article
discusses the findings and recommendations of these studies.

51 Dealing with Gender as an ICT Access Issue

R. D. Colle and R. Roman, Cornell University

This article discusses India's Self Help Groups intermediaries approach as a systematic way to deliver
the benefits of ICTs to bring women in Africa and Asia across the digital divide.

53 ICT for All: Are Women Included?

Marie Fontaine, Academy for Educational Development

This article presents a hypothetical telecenter mini-model that incorporates the essential features
known to be conducive to women's participation in the digital revolution. This telecenter is deliberately
designed to accommodate both men and women equitably. The article also identifies and addresses
some of the common constraints to women's access and usage of ICTs.

58 e-ForALL - A Poverty Reduction Strategy for the Information Age

Francisco J. Proenza, FAO Investment Centre

Countries that seek widespread prosperity and social stability must focus on e-ForAll; i.e. on making the
opportunities that ICTs open up for individual and social improvement accessible to all their citizens.

65 ICTs and Non-Formal Education: Technology for a brighter future?

Anthony Lizardi, The George Washington University

This article discusses recent uses of ICTs in Non-Formal Education and also examines implications for
the future.

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68 Packet Radio: Medium Capacity, Low Cost Alternatives for Distance Communication
Kurt D. Moses, Academy for Educational Development

Packet radios, which when integrated become radio modems, provide a chance for a “bottom-up” approach
to communication using “off-the-shelf” equipment and techniques.

71 Understanding Web Page Accessibility: A Focus on Access for the Visually Impaired
Aaron Smith, GW Micro

When contemplating the design of a web page, it is difficult to think of each type of disability and
account for them during the design process. Fortunately, for most users, the adaptation required is
minimal, and access can be gained at almost any location.

73 WorthWhileWebs
Sonia Jurich and Gregg Jackson

This issue focuses on web sites that address two aspects of technologies for people with disabilities: those
that make ICTs accessible to people with disabilities, and those that use ICTs to assist people with
disabilities to handle jobs and daily life activities.

76 Handy 1: A Robotic System to Assist the Severely Disabled

Mike Topping and Jane Smith, Staffordshire University, Stoke on Kent, UK

Handy 1 is a rehabilitation robot designed to enable people with severe disability to gain/regain
independence in important daily living activities. This article describes Handy 1's various assistance tools.

78 Augmenting Communication with Synthesized Facial Expressions - A Controversial New

Donald B. Egolf, Department of Communication, University of Pittsgurgh

This article describes facial expression synthesis, and its potential uses and controversies.

80 Bringing Mayan Language and Culture across the Digital Divide

Andrew E. Lieberman, Academy for Educational Development

This article describes the "Enlace Quiché" project in Guatemala, which is working in teacher training high
schools to teach students and teachers to create Mayan language instructional materials to show that it is
possible to bring their language and culture with them as Mayans cross the digital divide.

! 4 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

Wadi D. Haddad, Editor

Technologies for All: A Dream or a Nightmare?

There is a growing recognition of the value of information and speed. Likewise, Internet access growth has been ac-
and communication technologies (ICTs) in the lives of peo- companied by some cost reduction. From 1999 to 2004, the
ple as learners, workers, and citizens. Consequently, the ra- number of U.S. households online is estimated to increase by
tionale to bridge the digital divide and provide access to 66% (from 40.5 million to 67.1 million), but spending on
ICTs to all is expanding to cover economic, social, educa- access is estimated to rise by only 9.2% CAGR (compound
tional, political, and equity considerations. annual growth rate). Similarly, broadband Internet access is
expected to increase by 800%, from 2.1 million subscribers
The Challenge in 1999 to 18.9 million in 2004, while broadband spending
will grow by 527%, from US$1.1 billion to US$6.9 billion
The use of ICTs has grown exponentially. In 1950, personal respectively.
computers were little known or used, but within a generation, (www.veronissuhler.com/publications/forecast/highlights.html.)
they became essential work and communication tools.
Similarly, the number of Internet hosts worldwide grew more • Simplification: ICTs strive for simplicity of use, even
than 1,100 times in eight years. (See when the technology becomes gradually more complex. The
www.redhucyt.oas.org/.) first disk operating system- (DOS-) operated PCs required
some training for simple tasks. However, children have no
Despite this phenomenal growth, access varies greatly problems dealing with modern PCs. This concern with the
around the world. Modern ICTs have not corrected the al- user may explain, at least partially, the rapid popularity of the
ready existing divide between technology-rich and technol- medium.
ogy-poor countries created by the Industrial Revolution. As
before, ICT access is related positively to economic devel- • Efficiency: Perhaps more than any other technology,
opment—the higher the income, the greater the ICT access. ICTs strive for efficiency: they are getting faster, simpler,
less costly, more user-friendly and more productive. Auto
But, income is not the only variable that influences access to industries have relied on one source of fuel for the past 100
technology. There are documented inequities across and years, despite warnings ranging from potential depletion of
within countries by race, gender, age, and location. More this sole source to environmental disasters. In less than 50
recently, the limited access to ICTs by persons with disabili- years, telecommunications have experimented with simple
ties and special needs has also been highlighted. telephone lines, fiber optic cables, satellites, and wireless
technologies, and the search continues.
The Hope
There are many reasons for optimism. These trends encourage us not to think in terms of linear
projections. Also countries and communities can leapfrog
• Acceptance: ICTs have been well received worldwide, from pre-technology stages (e.g., the absence of telephone
and it appears that the older technologies have opened the lines) to state-of-the-art strategies (e.g., wireless technolo-
door for the more recent ones. To reach 50 million users, the gies), thus bypassing less efficient and generally more ex-
telephone took 74 years, the radio 38 years, the PC 16 years, pensive alternatives.
the television 13 years, and the WWW only 4 years. In In-
dia, places that did not have a telephone now have Internet
kiosks where families can e-mail their relatives abroad. The Constraints
Likewise, homeless children in Asunción, Paraguay, are The vision of ICTs for All is easy to justify but hard to
learning to read and surf the Web at telecenters where com- achieve. A political commitment is necessary but not suffi-
muters send e-mail messages while waiting for the bus on cient. An implementation strategy must be realistic as to rec-
their way to or from work. ognize the constraints and devise sustainable mechanisms to
overcome them.
• Reduced costs: Increased use of ICTs is associated with
reduced costs and improved technology. Computer hardware
prices have fallen, despite significant increases in memory

! 5 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

• The first and obvious constraint is infrastructure. Until
recently, most ICTs depended on electric power and tele-
phone lines. Other sources of energy (e.g. solar) and tech- Published by
nologies (wireless, radio, and satellite) offer new opportuni- Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.
ties for access bypassing the traditional technologies.

• Cost is another obvious constraint, despite reduction in EDITOR-IN-CHIEF:

Wadi D. Haddad, President, Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.
unit costs of ICT investments and services. ICT projects re-
quire start-up investments that may challenge the limited
resources of poor countries or locales. However, technolo- INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD:
gies also offer solutions that help to defray costs without Jarl Bengtsson, Head, CERI, OEDC
Claudio Castro, Pres., Advisory Bd., Faculdade Pitágoras
jeopardizing the quality of the projects. Creativity is essen-
Gajaraj Dhanarajan, President & CEO,
tial to overcome potential barriers. Here public-private part- The Commonwealth of Learning
nerships should be explored and encouraged. Dee Dickenson, CEO, New Horizons for Learning
Alexandra Draxler, Director, Task force on Education for
the Twenty-first Century (UNESCO)
• Attention must be paid to laws and regulations that Pedro Paulo Poppovic, Secretary of Distance Education,
could facilitate or hinder ICT plans. ICTs, with their ability Federal Ministry of Education, Brazil
to reach beyond political boundaries, defy many of the na- Nicholas Veliotes, President Emeritus,
tional and international legal frameworks that were created Association of American Publishers
for a world with frontiers. Solutions, albeit necessary, are
difficult to find and slow to implement. The balance between ADVISORY EDITORIAL COMMITTEE:
national and global interests, rights of individuals, and free- Joanne Capper
dom of information is a challenge that must be faced if the Sam Carlson, Executive Director, WorldLinks
Mary Fontaine, LearnLink, AED
potential of ICTs is to be fulfilled. Kathleen Fulton, Nat'l Comm. on Teaching &
America's Future
• Ensuring access to ICTs is just one step. Securing ac- Gregg Jackson, Assoc. Prof., George Washington Univ.
ceptance and use is equally important. Cultural and political Sonia Jurich, Research Assoc., RMC Research Corp.
Frank Method, Consultant, Former Director, UNESCO
factors may promote or create obstacles to the use of ICTs or Washington
limit their use to certain subgroups of society. Likewise, the Kurt Moses, Vice President, AED
structure and organization of local educational systems may Harry Patrinos, Sr. Education Economist, World Bank
favor integration of technology or create a technophobe at- Stephen Ruth, Prof., George Mason University
Laurence Wolff, Sr. Consultant, IDB
mosphere that hinders efforts to change.

• Finally, the provision of ICTs to different segments of MANAGING EDITOR:

society requires local expertise of different kinds: expertise Sandra Semaan
in the potential of ICTs for different needs, strategic exper- GENERAL QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS
tise in planning large-scale innovation projects, technical FEEDBACK ON ARTICLES
expertise related to the hardware, and educational expertise EDITORIAL MATTERS:
in using ICTs for the advancement of knowledge and learn- TechKnowLogia@KnowledgeEnterprise.org
ing. ICT development plans fail when they are transplanted SPONSORSHIP
from outside without regard for the national capacity for de- Sandra@KnowledgeEnterprise.org
sign, customization and implementation.
Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.
The Target P.O. Box 3027
Oakton, VA 22124
ICTs for All is a desirable but elusive target. The needs are U.S.A.
expanding, the demands are escalating, the technologies are Fax: 703-242-2279
evolving, and the resources are diminishing. Will we ever get
there? Probably not. But we can certainly get close through
This Issue is Co-Sponsored By:
sustained pursuit, hard work, exploration, creativity, collabo- Academy for Educational Development (AED),
ration and commitment. and
USAID's Global Bureau, Human Capacity Development
Center (G/HDC), under an Indefinite Quantities Con-
Wadi D. Haddad tract (No. HNE-I-00-96-00018-00) to AED/LearnLink.

! 6 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

What is The Digital Divide? 1

Laurence Wolff and Soledad MacKinnon

Inter-American Development Bank

The Scope
The “digital divide,” inequalities in access to and utilization
of information and communication technologies (ICT), is
immense. As can be seen in Figure 1, over half of the
households in the USA own computers, compared to less
than 1% in Africa (ITU, 2000).

disabled, single parent (especially female headed) house-

holds, those with little education, and those residing in cen-
tral cities or especially rural areas (NTAI, 1999). The tech-
nology gap is not simply a reflection of the choices made by
individual households, but poor neighborhoods and some
rural communities lack the necessary infrastructure available
in affluent and more populated areas. (Benton Foundation,
1998). The digital divide in other developed countries (e.g.
New Zealand) equally reflects existing disparities in race,
About 77 million computers in the USA have valid Internet income and location (Doczi, 2000).
addresses, while in Bangladesh, Angola, Chad, and Syria
fewer than ten computers are linked to the Internet. Over
time, this division between countries has increased, even as
all countries have steadily increased their number of Internet
users -- as illustrated by Figure 2.

In communication technologies other than computers and

Internet, the divide is significant but not as great. (Figure 3).

Nonetheless is estimated that 80% of the people in the world

have never made a phone call (Digital Dividends, 2001).

The Information Underclass

Even though inequalities in access to ICT are most apparent
across countries, there are also inequalities within countries,
where there is an “information underclass.” In the USA, the
least connected households are those with low incomes,
Black, Hispanic, or Native American, the unemployed, the

! 7 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

While attention is often focused on the disadvantages to an dependent commercial use by local entrepreneurs, which
individual, an equally important problem is the growing un- may generate employment and economic growth. A growing
attractiveness of under-wired locations to business, which ICT service sector may provide better-paid skilled employ-
can lead to “a concentration of poverty and a de- ment, for example by increasing both demand and ability to
concentration of opportunity.” At present, 96% of e- pay for better education, health, and other social services. In
commerce sites are in English and 64% of secure servers are short, affordable access to information infrastructure and the
located in the USA (Bridges, 2001). Finally, while public effective use of the gained knowledge are key factors for
attention often focuses on hardware and interconnectivity, economic sustainability and improved social conditions.
the divide is equally important in terms of human re-
sources—literacy, and people trained and capable of utilizing The “digital divide" is based on insufficient infrastructure, high
ICT and developing appropriate software. The underlying cost of access, inappropriate or weak policy regimes, ineffi-
trend is that privileged groups acquire and use technology ciencies in the provision of telecommunication networks and
more effectively, and because the technology benefits them, services, lack of locally created content, and uneven ability to
they become even more privileged. derive economic and social benefits from information-intensive
activities. To reduce the digital divide requires a “systems”
The Broader “Divides” approach broadly attacking all of these issues. But care must
The digital divide is a sub-set of broader “divides” that char- be taken. Good investments can make ICT an engine for
acterize the world. High cost anti-malarial drugs are provided development. Misguided investments in ICT can divert scarce
to safari-trekkers, at the same time that one African child human and financial resources from more fundamental poverty
dies every 30 seconds because of lack of basic malaria pre- reducing measures.
vention services (Dunavan, 2002). Half the world’s popula-
tion lives on less than $2 a day. About 25% of the world’s Action Points
adult population is illiterate (World Bank, 2001). In 1913 the The Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), established
gap between the world’s richest quintile and poorest quintile by the Group of 8 (USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany,
was 13 to 1. In 1990 it was 60 to 1. In 1997 it was 74 to 1. Italy, France, Japan, and Russia) has set out to define such an
In 1999 the richest 200 people in the world had a combined approach so as to increase access and use of ICT in developing
wealth of $1,135 billion, while the total income of the poor- countries. The DOT Force has proposed the following nine
est half a billion people in all the developing countries barely “action points” for ICT enhancement, which the G8 would
exceeds 10% of that amount (UNDP, 2000). support:

Any program to reduce the digital divide, therefore, has to start • Undertake national e-strategies that would establish ena-
with poverty alleviation, since poverty is by far the greatest bling regulatory and policy frameworks for the growth
impediment to connections with and utilization of ICT. In of ICT.
Bangladesh a computer costs the equivalent of eight years’ • Improve connectivity, increase access and lower costs,
average pay. The cost for Internet connections in Africa ex- through use of multiple competing technologies, public
ceeds the average income of most of the population, while it and community access points, and sharing of best prac-
amounts to 1% of average monthly income in the USA (US tices.
Internet Council, 2000). Poverty reduction, fueled by eco- • Enhance human resource development through actions
nomic and social development, depends on many factors other such as training teachers in ICT, enhancing awareness of
than ICT - political stability, macroeconomic governance, decision makers, and expanding ICT learning opportu-
transparency and accountability of national and local admini- nities to the rural, the poor, and the disenfranchised.
strations, physical infrastructure, and basic literacy. By no • Foster enterprise and entrepreneurship through putting in
means is access to ICT a panacea or short cut for reduction of place pro-competitive policies, encouraging private
poverty. sector innovation, and establishing public/private col-
Bridging the Divide • Examine emerging worldwide policy and technical is-
There are, nonetheless, compelling reasons why it is neces- sues raised by the Internet and ICT through a network of
sary to greatly increase public access to new technology. In researchers and policy makers with participation by de-
the first place, even with the Internet “bust” of the last few veloping countries.
years, ICT has become an enormous engine of development. • Make specific efforts to help the countries that are fur-
It is estimated that $2 trillion US dollars were invested in thest behind—the poorest countries, with an emphasis
ICT in 1999. It is reported that the use of ICT contributed on Africa.
close to 50 percent of total growth in US productivity in the • Promote ICT for health education, HIV/AIDs, and other
second half the 1990s (Bridges, 2001). An important addi- communicable diseases
tional benefit of effective use of ICT is the potential for in- • Develop local content through making software applica-

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tions widely available, encouraging participation by lo- Conclusion
cal stakeholders, and expanding the languages available In sum, ICT is not the solution to poverty or inequality. In-
on the Internet. vestment in and use of ICT alone is not automatically associ-
• Prioritize assistance for ICT in the initiatives of multi- ated with economic growth. Rather, ICT provides a link in
lateral lending and assistance agencies. the chain of the development process itself. This may reflect
the fact that ICT requires an enabling environment of infra-
These action points constitute the basis for a comprehensive structure and policies before they contribute efficiently to
worldwide effort to reduce the digital divide. economic growth. The task for policy-makers, the business
community, and representatives of civil society is to create
conditions for building the knowledge base in a way that
maximizes the benefits of ICT and reduces the risks.

Acacia. (1997). Use of Information and Communication Technologies in IDRC Projects: Lessons Learned.

Analysis Ltd. (2000). The network revolution and the developing world report. A literature review. InfoDev, World Bank,
Washington DC.

Benton Foundation. (1998). Losing Ground Bit by Bit: Low-Income Communities in the Information Age. United States.

BRIDGES. (2001). Spanning the Digital Divide. http://www.bridges.org

Capper, J. (2001). The promise and challenge of information and communication technologies for development. The World
Bank Institute.

DigitalDividends (2001). Digital Dividends webpage on background to digital divide. http://www.digitaldividend.org/

Doczi, M. (2000). ICTs and Social and Economic Inclusion. March 2000.

DOT Force. (2002). Digital Opportunities for All: Meeting the Challenge. http://www.dotforce.org.

Dunavan, Claire Panosia. “Men, Money and Malaria,” Scientific American. June 2002.

ITU (2001). Telecommunication Indicators. http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/at_glance/Internet01.pdf

National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTAI). (1999). Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital
Divide. A Report on the Telecommunications and Information Technology Gap in America. NTAI, Department of Commerce.

Rodriguez, F. & Wilson, E. (2000). Are poor countries losing the information revolution? InfoDev Working Paper, World

UNDP. (2000). Human Development Report. New York.

US Internet Council, "State of the Internet Report 2000," http://www.usic.org

World Bank (2001). World Bank Development Report 2000/1. http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/wdrpoverty/

This article draws mainly from two reports, BRIDGES (2001), Spanning the Digital Divide. http://www.bridges.org and DOT
Force. (2002), Digital Opportunities for All: Meeting the Challenge. http://www.dotforce.org.

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The Many Uses of ICTs for Individuals with Disabilities
By Sonia Jurich, M.D. & John Thomas, President, CURE Network

Individuals with disabilities have too much to gain from the trauma. The Robot acts as a proxy for muscle strength and
freedom, support and opportunities that can be offered mobility that was lost due to disease or trauma, thus enabling
through the use of ICTs. A discussion of the use of ICTs for an individual to function at a level higher than he or she
individuals with disabilities generally covers three major would otherwise achieve unassisted. ABLEDATA offers a
areas: assistive technology, adaptive technology, and the good introduction to the world of assistive technology with a
technology as a tool for knowledge and support. This article database of close to 30,000 different products
briefly discusses each of the three areas. (http://www.abledata.com). See article "Handy 1: A Ro-
botic System to Assist the Severely Disabled," TechKnowLo-
Assistive Technology gia, this issue.
Any technology that assists individuals to overcome limita-
tions can be called an assistive technology. For example, a Adaptive Technology
crane that lifts and moves hundreds of tons of steel beams is The term adaptive technology indicates the changes that must
assistive technology in the sense that it provides the user be introduced in existing technologies to make them user
with a type of ability that no human being would otherwise friendly for individuals with disabilities. This distinction is
posses. For persons with limited or impaired mobility, not universal and the term assistive technology is frequently
strength, or sensory perception, assistive technology provides used to indicate both devices developed specifically for indi-
resources to bypass or even conquer these limitations. These viduals with disabilities and the adaptations or enhancements
technologies function as a bridge between individuals and of technologies that are intended for general use.
their world; fostering independence and self-confidence.
Examples of simple adaptive technology are keyboards with
A list of assistive technology devices can read like a mail- colorful keys for persons with learning disabilities, or with
order catalog with something for all types of disabilities, large keys for persons with visual impairments. For instance,
ages and individual interests. Products can range from the the HeadMouse is a sophisticated device for persons who do
simple to the sublime, such as battery-operated scissors for not have the use of their hands. The device, placed on the
individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in the wrist user’s forehead, includes a wireless optical sensor that tracks
region that is exacerbated by repetitive movements of the a target. The user selects a key on the screen keyboard by
thumb), switch-operated toys with a loud buzz for children moving the target over the required key. Voice recognition
with hearing impairments, or time pieces that “speak” the as replacement for keyboarding has become a commercial
hours and minutes of the day for individuals with visual im- alternative even for individuals with no motor disabilities.
pairments. Products can also require extensive financial re- This issue of TechKnowLogia includes an article on facial
sources, such as the Homecare Suite, a prefabricated unit that expression recognition to empower individuals with progres-
can be attached to a home, and caters to persons with physi- sive neuromuscular impairments (Augmenting Communica-
cal disabilities who require daily assistance. tion with Synthesized Facial Expressions: A Controversial
New Technology, by Donald B. Egolf). For individuals who
Assistive technology is not only limited to computerized are blind, documents can be translated into Braille through
technologies. In fact, an assistive device for a person with the use of software and a Braille Embosser (a special type of
impaired mobility can be as rudimentary as a crutch, or as printer). The Adaptive Technology Resource Center, at the
sophisticated as a power wheelchair with voice command. University of Toronto (http://www.utoronto.ca/atrc/), has an
Although many of the basic concepts of assistive technolo- extensive list of devices that can facilitate access and use of
gies have existed for many years, (e.g., wheelchairs or man- computers by individuals with different disabilities.
ual recliner systems), ICTs have expanded this field to new
dimensions. The Development Of Handy 1, A Robotic Sys- An important area of adaptive technology refers to the World
tem To Assist The Severely Disabled, by Mike Topping and Wide Web. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), a proj-
Jane Smith, describes a device that uses a simple computer ect of the W3 Consortium,1 has developed a number of re-
technology to increase mobility for persons with severe neu- sources to increase the usability of the web and guidelines for
romuscular limitations, such as persons with advanced mus- web design to make Web content accessible to people with
cular dystrophy (a disease characterized by the progressive disabilities. The guidelines are intended for all Web content
weakening of muscles) or quadriplegia due to a spinal developers (page authors and site designers) and for develop-

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ers of authoring tools. The complete guidelines and related technologies have made computers accessible to persons
checkpoints are available at WAI web site with visual impairments, motor and sensorial impairments
(http://www.w3.org/WAI/.) Here are some sample guide- have little impact on the performance of persons working
lines: with computers. Even home-bound individuals can continue
• Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and vis- working and communicating with colleagues and clients
ual content - Provide content that, when presented to through the Internet. For persons who have social phobia,
the user, conveys essentially the same function or pur- for instance, computers provide a protective wall, facilitating
pose as auditory or visual content. communication with a world that is seen as threatening.
• Don’t rely on color alone - Ensure that text and graph- Computer jobs are therefore a great venue for self-
ics are understandable when viewed without color. sufficiency and personal fulfillment among individuals with
• Use mark up and style sheets and do so properly - disabilities.
Mark up documents with the proper structural elements.
Knowledge and support
Control presentation with style sheets rather than with
As any other group of Internet users, individuals with dis-
presentation elements and attributes.
abilities access the Internet for information, including infor-
• Ensure that pages featuring new technologies trans- mation about their disabilities, available resources, cutting
form gracefully - Ensure that pages are accessible even
edge treatments, and rights. This knowledge empowers the
when newer technologies are not supported or are turned
individuals, bringing back to them the control over their
treatment and future. Many provider organizations, advo-
• Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes cacy groups and individuals with disabilities maintain web
- Ensure that moving, blinking, scrolling, or auto- sites that offer resources, information and linkages. Three
updating objects or pages may be paused or stopped. examples of web sites for persons with emotional disabilities
• Design for device-independence - Use features that include the Center for Mental Health Services, Knowledge
enable activation of page elements via a variety of input Exchange Network (KEN), funded by the U.S. Department
devices. of Health and Human Services
• Use interim solutions - Use interim accessibility solu- (http://www.mentalhealth.org/), The Internet Mental Health,
tions so that assistive technologies and older browsers a site for information on mental illness and treatment main-
will operate correctly. tained by a Canadian psychiatrist
(http://www.mentalhealth.com/fr01.html) and the Mental
The article Understanding Web Page Accessibility: A Focus
Health Self-Help Network (http://www.mhshn.com), a sup-
On Access For The Visually Impaired, by Aaron Smith, in
port and information site developed and maintained by a
this Issue of TechKnowLogia, explains some strategies in
consumer of mental health services. CURE Network
web design to facilitate accessibility for persons whose vis-
(http://www.cure.org), an organization funded and managed
ual impairment requires the use of a screen reader.
by persons with disabilities, has an extensive list of websites,
newsgroups and listservs encompassing many types of dis-
ICTs for Knowledge and Support abilities.
The third important area in the interaction between ICTs and
individuals with disabilities refers to the use of technologies ICTs are opening new doors, expanding horizons and ena-
as a tool for economic independence and a source of knowl- bling economic independence and emotional balance for
edge and support. many individuals with disabilities. Schools should make an
extra effort to provide students with disabilities with strong
ICTs for economic independence foundations on computer technology skills to improve their
Computer-related technologies have opened the doors of chances of a productive adult life. For the same reasons, it is
economic independence for individuals with different dis- essential that the public and the private sector increase their
abilities for a number of reasons. Most disabilities do not support for research and development, education, and infor-
affect cognitive skills, but motor, neurological or sensorial mation projects that foster new and enhanced technologies
skills. That is, most individuals with disabilities are quite and increase its access to individuals with disabilities. These
intelligent and able to perform well in jobs that demand are necessary steps to move the concept of a more equitable
higher order thinking skills. These are generally jobs that world from utopia into reality.
involve using computers. Since working with computers
requires low mobility or physical strength, and adaptive

The W3 Consortium is the international body that sets the standards by which the World Wide Web operates. The Consortium is com-
posed of individuals, corporations and organizations at the cutting edge of web development and use.

! 11 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

Wearable Computer Gives Voice "VoGram" to Help Connect India's
to Children with Disabilities Rural, Illiterate Masses

Xybernaut Corporation, known for its wearable computing Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science have developed
technologies, has announced a fully functional wearable an application that would allow the emotion of voice to be
computer platform incorporating hardware, software and conveyed in a telegram. "VoGram" could change the
peripheral technologies designed to help educators empower communication scene by connecting India's largely rural and
students with various learning disabilities. illiterate masses.

The computer, known as Xyberkids, has been tested at The application is a marriage of speech compression, Internet
several schools in the U.S. with promising results. and store and forward messaging ideas. All a person needs to
Xyberkids integrates a variety of educational applications, do is to call up the VoGram call center, record a voice
such as speech and handwriting recognition and peripheral message using a simple card that compresses the voice
devices, into a sturdy backpack that brings the power of a message.
desktop computer to a wearable package to assist teachers
and children in the classroom. The compressed file is sent through the Internet to the post-
office close to the recipients' address. The post-office could
It is used to aid students in a variety of tasks including either print and deliver the message to the recipient or the
written expression, conversion of text and pictures into receiver could call up a local number free of charge, use an
structured speech, supplemental communication through access code given by the postman and hear the VoGram.
audio output devices, augmentation for study habits and
enhancement of organizational skills. Or, better still, if the postman has a Simputer (see
TechKnowNews in TechKnowLogia, May/June 2001 Issue)
The basic XyberKids solution is expected to have a starting he could play the voice message to the recipient at home.
price of $4,995 and is available immediately from Xybernaut
and reseller partners concentrating on the education market. The Indian Institute of Science has sold the application
The solution will be carried in a 15x10x5-inch, heavy-duty license to ILI Technologies, which in turn will market the
polyester and rip-resistant nylon backpack with padded and product in conjunction with the state-owned Indian
adjustable straps. The standard unit features a 500 MHz Telephone Industries.
Intel® Mobile Celeron® processor with 256MB SDRAM, 5
GB internal HDD, as well as Compact Flash, USB and Source: Yahoo India News (May 3, 2002)
Firewire peripheral ports. Students enter and view data using http://in.news.yahoo.com/020503/43/1n7jx.html
the flat panel display, which is an 8.4" viewable (21.3cm) all
light readable display with 800 X 600 color SVGA graphics
capabilities, onscreen keyboard and built-in handwriting UNESCO Computer/Internet
recognition. XyberKids also supports networked and/or Centre Opened at Education
wireless Internet access just as one would experience with a
standard laptop or desktop PC. Ministry in Kabul

Source: BBC News and Xybernaut As reported by UNESCO, May 24, 2002:
93074.stm " An Internet equipped computer training centre established
http://www.xybernaut.com/newxybernaut/company/public/pr within the Ministry of Education in Kabul was officially
ess/2002/pub_prss_2002_009.htm opened on Monday (20th May, 2002).

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The centre, put in place by UNESCO with funds from the Report Released on Bridging
Government of Japan, is equipped with 19 Compaq Pentium Global Digital Divide
4 computers and a Compaq Proliant server. It also includes
overhead projection equipment for training purposes and a
high-speed Internet connection. The centre is the first of its
kind within any Ministry in Afghanistan. The G8 Digital Opportunities Task Force, also known as
DOTForce, released on June 25, 2002, their reports that
The training facility, which will be utilized by Ministry of outlines how governments, businesses and civil society can
Education staff for developing skills in the use of ICT’s work together to advance human development and reduce
(Information, Communication Technologies) for educational poverty through the use of information and communications
purposes, was opened by Fumio Kishida, Senior Vice- technologies.
Minister of Education with the Ministry of Education,
Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of the Government This report follows up on the 2001 Genoa Plan of Action,
of Japan. He was accompanied by Rasoul Amin, Minister of which called for a concerted plan to narrow the technological
Education of the Afghanistan Interim Administration." gap between developed and developing nations. In less than a
year, the DOT Force has developed a series of initiatives
aimed at forming the key building blocks of the information
Source: UNESCO society for developing countries -- strengthening countries'
http://www.unesco.org/education/news_en/index_archives.sh readiness for e-development, increasing access and
tml connectivity, supporting skills development, as well as
fostering local content and applications.

DigitalOpportunity.org Launched The report can be found online at http://www.dotforce.org.

Source: Industry Canada http://www.ic.gc.ca

May 17, 2002, World Telecommunications Day, was the Egyptians Spending More Time
official launch of the Digital Opportunity Channel on the Internet
(http://www.digitalopportunity.org/). Developed jointly by
OneWorld, the online sustainable development and human
rights network, and the Benton Foundation, the Washington, Egyptians are spending more time on the Internet since the
D.C.-based nonprofit that works to realize the social benefits Internet became free of subscription fees. The Ministry of
of communications technologies, the Channel will focus on Communication and Information Technology (MCIT)
the use of information and communications technologies for arranged a partnership with the state-owned telephone
sustainable development. The site will place a special operator, Telecom Egypt to collect fees for online calls. Use
emphasis on promoting digital opportunities in developing of the Internet for an hour now costs 20 cents, versus the
countries. prior fee of $4 per month for unlimited usage. ISPs were
having difficulty collecting these fees, but are now sharing in
"Developing countries have largely been marginalized in the 70 percent of the revenues collected by the phone company.
global dialogue on the benefits and negative impacts of
digital technologies," said Kanti Kumar, channel editor. The move towards a "free Internet" came in response to
"Digital Opportunity Channel aims to give organizations and Egypt's miniscule Internet usage rate. Out of 69 million
community leaders - especially in the South - a platform for Egyptians, only one million access the Internet. As a
their voice to be heard." developing country, Egypt risks falling further behind as the
global economy becomes increasingly knowledge-based.
Channel features include news, campaign actions, success This is a drive to increase Egypt's online presence.
stories, opinion pieces by leading commentators, in-depth
analysis and research, events listings, a beginner's guide to Source: Wired News
digital divide issues, funding information, email digests and http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,52993,00.html
a dedicated search facility on ICT for development.
Source: DigitalDivideNetwork.org

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Ernesto Laval and J. Enrique Hinostroza
Instituto de Informática Educativa - Universidad de La Frontera, Chile

In the early 90's Chile began an educational reform for its that the solution was not merely the massive provision of
primary and secondary school system. Similar processes took hardware. New technologies were seen as powerful artifacts
place in many countries around the world,1 adjusting educa- that could act as new tools for improving and enhancing
tion to the so-called "Knowledge Society" that was ap- teacher practice within the school. Hardware provision
proaching at the end of the millennium. needed to be part of a larger educational vision that included
clear means for supporting teachers in the use of technology.
Many aspects of the Chilean Educational Reform are similar
to other reforms in the world: new curriculum, better infra- The initial vision was built around the construction of a Na-
structure, text books, more teacher training, more learning tional Educational Network, through which teachers and stu-
time at school, etc. Nevertheless, there are some particular dents could develop professional and pedagogical communi-
aspects of the Chilean context in the 90's that offer a par- ties. This network was called Enlaces, which means 'links' in
ticular flavor: Spanish.
• Chile was initiating a democratic phase after a long pe- Teachers were expected to use technology to communicate
riod of military government. The three presidents elected with other colleagues, sharing problems and solutions, stu-
since 1990 came from the same political coalition, and dents were expected to participate in collaborative projects
gave a high priority and continuity to the educational within their schools and with other schools, and computers
policies of the decade. were seen as a potential pedagogical tool that could support
• The country had a relatively robust economy within the the teaching and learning process within the curriculum.3 In
Latin American Region (GNP per capita of US$4860 in summary, technology was seen as playing several roles in
1996). This situation offered a good framework for education:
funding a large and long-term effort in education. • A pedagogical role: Technology can support learning at
• The 90's were marked with high political and social con- school from a perspective of 'how' students learn (facili-
sensus on the priorities in education, which implied a tating certain learning situations that would be more dif-
national relation between the political system and edu- ficult without technology), but also from a perspective of
cation.2 'what' students learn (learning some concepts or contents
that are easier to understand through digital and interac-
All these factors allowed for the design and implementation tive representations).
of long term and consistent programs articulated around the • A cultural, social and professional role: Computer
Educational Reform. One of these programs was the Chilean networks can enable the formation of new communities
initiative for introducing ICT in primary and secondary of practice.
schools: the Enlaces Network. • An administrative role: Computers can be a powerful
tool for facilitating management and data handling pro-
cedures within the school.
An important component of Chilean Educational Reform was We were certain that it was important to have a clear vision
the incorporation of information and communication tech- of the roles of technology in education, but we were also
nologies (ICT) into primary and secondary schools. At the certain that many change processes in education don't suc-
beginning of the 90's there were no clear answers about how ceed if they don't get to an implementation stage: making it
to conduct such a process in the whole country, but we knew happen inside the school. This implementation stage implies

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dealing with many variables that are hard to consider - or • Make it simple for the users
even be aware of - from a design desk. Some of the most Teachers were not coming from an ICT culture. Com-
challenging aspects of the implementation stage were: an puters, operating systems, software modems and even
appropriate relation with the school principal, a respectful keyboards could be powerful tools, but they could also
approach to teachers, an appropriate professional develop- be huge barriers for the adoption of technology. From
ment process, a good understanding of the power relation the beginning, Enlaces tried to focus the tasks that
between schools and local authorities, etc. teachers could achieve with computers, and not the
mastery of the computer as and end.
Since we did not have the experience of implementing an
ICT initiative in schools, the decision was to have an initial
It was decided to buy the easiest-to-use hardware and
pilot stage working with a small number of schools (100
software at that time (graphic user interfaces, easy to set
schools) during an extended period of time (5 years) before
up systems, etc.). This could seem to be an expensive
scaling up nationally. This is not an easy decision for a Min-
choice in terms of hardware cost, but turned out to be a
istry of Education, since working on a small scale in educa-
cost-effective solution in terms of usability. An easy to
tion is not popular and might not have high political revenues
use graphic software environment was also developed -
in the short term. Looking backwards we may say that it was
La Plaza - which allowed users to engage in meaningful
a right decision for the long-term implementation of Enlaces.
tasks at the computer within a few hours, even if they
had never seen one before. (see Figure 1)
Enlaces began its pilot stage in 1992 working in educational
and technical aspects of the implementation with just 3
schools in Santiago (Chile's capital city). In 1993, the project
moved to a small city in the south of Chile - Temuco - in one
of the poorest regions of the country. We took the decision of
doing a pilot project in 'difficult' conditions, since if we
could succeed there, then it would be possible to scale up to a
national level. The team that coordinated the pilot project,
and designed the later expansion, was based at the University
of La Frontera, a small University in the city of Temuco,
which became a key partner of the Ministry of Education in
this national ICT program.

After 3 years we were able to build a network of over 100

primary schools that received hardware (computers, printers,
modems), educational software, Internet connection and most
important, a teacher training program that allowed teachers
to use technology. The decision then was to expand at a na- La Plaza (which means 'the central square') was a
tional level, building on the experience gained in the past graphic representation of a common place for Chilean -
three years. The main lessons from this period were: and Latin American - culture. Most Chilean towns have
a central square, which is the place were important

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things happen in the town: people meet at the Plaza, the zone. Within each zone, the Zone Center established, in turn,
Post Office is near the Plaza, important buildings are agreements with other universities and institutions - 'Imple-
close to the Plaza, etc. Our computer Plaza was a point mentation Units' - in order to cover all the geographical re-
and click image, where users could go to a Post office gions of the country with a local presence.
(for sending emails), to a News Kiosk (for reading
news), to a Cultural Center (for participation in interest Along with the Enlaces National Support Network, the Min-
groups), and to a Museum (for accessing software and istry maintained a partnership with the Institute for Informa-
information). (see Figure 2) tion Technology in Education at the University of La Fron-
tera, which had conducted the pilot stage. The National Co-
• Focus on Teacher Training ordination of the project was established at the Institute (in
A key dimension of Enlaces work was "training teach- coordination with a team at the Ministry), as well as a Re-
ers". The University that was conducting the pilot proj- search and Development Center, which supported the Minis-
ect established a teacher training team composed ini- try in the design of future steps of Enlaces.
tially of university staff, but later made up mainly of
teachers coming from the first schools in the project. This National Support Network was central to the expansion
due to some key factors:
Teacher training was organized around regular sessions
conducted with teachers in their own schools for a pe- • The implementation of Enlaces in the schools was the
riod of two years. The first year was oriented mainly to- responsibility of institutions that knew the local schools'
wards the use of the computer and software (electronic reality.
mail, word processor, electronic spreadsheet, painting • Institutions appropriated this national initiative as a
programs, educational software), and the second year fo- shared challenge. It was not just the implementation of
cused mainly on the pedagogical application of technol- an official policy from the government, but the imple-
ogy (collaborative learning, curricular projects, etc.). mentation of a program felt as belonging to the whole
• Organizational aspects • A network of specialized teams thinking, reflecting and
It was very important for the development of the project having direct experiences with technology in schools
to have a good organizational structure that offered a was established.
balance between political decisions, design capacities,
• The universities worked with school teachers for training
national articulation, trust, implementation efficacy and
teachers in schools (peer tutoring). This promoted the
funding. This balance was achieved through the partner-
ship established between the Ministry of Education and development of a national network of teacher trainers.
the University.
1995-2000 The early years of Enlaces, and the later national expansion,
One of the most critical moments in a project's implementa- was built on a design for large urban schools: arrangement of
tion is when it has to grow from a small - and controlled - computers within a special computer room, training groups
pilot project to a massive, large scale, national program. En- of 20 teachers in weekly sessions at their own school, Inter-
laces faced this challenge in 1995, when it began a national net connectivity through the telephone network, frequent
expansion to the primary education system and at the same technical support, etc.
time it started a national implementation in the secondary
school system. Almost 90% of Chilean students go to these 'urban' primary
or secondary schools. The other 10% of the students attend
A key issue for facing this expansion was the creation of the small rural schools, with a very different context. Some of
'Enlaces National Support Network' that involves a partner- the most salient characteristics of rural schools are as fol-
ship between the Ministry of Education and more than 24 lows:
Universities through the country. Following the scheme • They have a small population of students (an average of
adopted for the pilot stage, 6 universities constituted spe- 27 students per school).
cialized groups of people that would be in charge of provid- • Several classes are taught by the same teacher in one
ing professional development, technical support and devel- classroom (66% have just one teacher).
opment of materials at the regional and local levels. Each of • In spite of the fact that a small proportion of the national
these universities became a 'Zone Center', which was respon- population attend rural schools, the number of these
sible for the implementation of Enlaces in a geographical
schools is relatively high (there are more than 3,300 ru-

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ral schools, more than one third of all the schools in the Enlaces National Support Network, provided technical and
country). pedagogical support to each school.6
• Most rural schools are located in places with difficult
access (no public transportation). In summary, the implementation of the Enlaces educational
• About 10% of rural schools do not have regular access network has involved the following:
to electricity. • Providing three years of training to twenty teachers per
• About 80% of rural schools do not have telephone com- school, for an approximate total of 80,000 teachers (70% of
munication. all teachers).
• Reaching 72% of the schools, thus covering 97% of the
The Ministry of Education has a special program for working student population attending state-subsidized institutions.
with rural schools since 1992. This program involves meth- • Supplying 51,000 computers to schools, allocated ac-
odological and organizational approaches that are suitable for cording to the number of students in each school. The
equipment – chosen according to annually updated technical
mixed grade classes, and monthly meetings with teachers
standards – includes multimedia computers, printers, mo-
from nearby schools constituting a community of teachers
dems and a local area network. Considering this equipment
called Microcenter.4 Within this context of Rural Education,
and the ones purchased by each school, the stu-
in 1999 Enlaces designed a special ICT program: Rural En- dents/computer ratio in the country is 42.
laces.5 This program involved a different organization of • Equipping schools with educational software to support
resources within the school (computers arranged as learning their study programs. Annual bidding is held to supply
corners inside the classroom), and a different teacher-training schools with this material. The software includes productiv-
program. ity applications such as word processing, spreadsheets and
graphics programs, along with educational software on topics
Rural Enlaces constituted a network of teams within the such as the human body, space, science, math, geometry,
Zone Centers that were dealing specifically with ICT intro- scientific experimentation, Chilean history, world history,
duction in rural schools. These teams work with rural teacher geography, literature, music, art, drama, physics, chemistry,
trainers - called facilitators - that visit each school once a the environment, etc.
month and work with the teacher and students inside the • Creating a Web site (www.educarchile.cl) that offers a
classroom, modeling different approaches to the incorpora- wide range of useful educational content and services for
tion of technology in pedagogical activities. Besides these teachers and students. This site was conceived as an educa-
'in-classroom' sessions, the facilitator meets with all the tional portal where teachers can find relevant and useful cur-
teachers from nearby schools once a month in their already riculum-oriented content (digital educational resources), fo-
established Microcenter meeting. The first year, teachers also rums on relevant issues and up-to-date education information
participate in special intensive workshops at the closest Uni- (news, events, etc.).
versity, learning basic skills related to the use of computers
• Introducing ICT as a built-in part of the new curriculum
and software. This professional development program is seen
for secondary schools. The use of ICT was defined as a
as a progressive process that takes 3 years, after which they
transversal aim in the curriculum, indicating thereby that it
keep a permanent basic support link with the Enlaces Sup-
should be used in all the core subjects (Language, Math, Sci-
port Network.
ence, etc.) and not as a subject by itself.
In terms of connectivity, it was decided to begin Rural En-
A crucial step in the development of Enlaces was the Agree-
laces with a focus of the pedagogical use of technology in-
ment that the Ministry of Education negotiated with one of
side the classroom even if the schools did not have Internet
the largest telephone companies in the country - Telefonica
access. In parallel, there is a task team designing a national
CTC Chile. The company agreed to provide telephone lines,
solution for providing sustainable Internet access to all the
email accounts and dialup Internet at no cost for a period of
rural schools - and communities - in the following years.
10 years to all the schools in the regions where the company
had a telephone network (the majority of the Chilean
By the year 2002 more than 7,300 primary and secondary EVALUATION RESULTS
schools have been incorporated to Enlaces. Each of these In general terms, the results of the evaluations of the effects
schools received computers, local networks, educational and of Enlaces done at an early stage of the project 7 (between
productivity software and free and unlimited Internet access. 1993 and 1997), coincide to show positive outcomes in
Additionally, the Ministry of Education, in a partnership with learning (students increased their reading capacity and their
comprehension levels) and psychological effects (students

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improved their creativity, self-esteem, and concentration
capacities). These results are congruous with results of
qualitative evaluation, indicating that technology produces a We recognize that the task is far from being completed. We
high level of motivation among students, generates a more had provided just a basic seed that allowed schools and
horizontal social organization within the classroom, and en- teachers to recognize the potential benefits of ICT. Technol-
ables students to feel proud of their participation in projects, ogy has already been incorporated into the school culture, but
with a corresponding increase in self-esteem. it has not really incorporated into teachers' regular teaching
practice. If ICT is to make a contribution to teaching and
From the point of view of teachers, the comparative evalua- learning practices, we still have a long road to follow. The
tion made of programs introducing computers into the edu- next steps of Enlaces are directed towards the effective Cur-
cational systems in Costa Rica and Chile8 showed that En- ricular Integration of ICT. Several task teams are working on
laces is a source of pride that opens doors for professional priority areas (particularly basic skills of Literacy and Nu-
development, especially among teachers. School officials meracy in primary education), not only trying to understand
also valued the increase in equity that the project provides by the potential benefits of technology, but more importantly the
outfitting schools with equipment that they otherwise would key knots in teaching and learning within the disciplines.
not have been able to acquire. However, a main concern That is, we are trying to answer the question: where and how
among teachers is the heavy unpaid workload resulting from can technology help the teaching and learning process
their participation in the Program. within each discipline? The main idea is that we are not just
providing resources and training, but that we have to design
From a general perspective, evaluations made by the World 'modes of action' for teaching with the use of technology, as
Bank,9 UNESCO10 and the U.S. Agency for International mediators in the teaching process in the domains were tech-
Development11 coincide to highlight the Enlaces project as nology can have an impact.
one of the successful programs in the Chilean Educational
Reform. An important point in this positive evaluation is that We still have more questions than answers for the next steps
the project has expanded its coverage to the national level in Enlaces, but we do know that this is not a neatly designed
without sacrificing quality or equity. Among the factors in 'single shot' intervention, but a long term process in which
this success, they mention the program’s focus on teachers, we will have to continue working with schools and the na-
the construction of a social network of educators and pupils tional - and international - community to build new under-
facilitated by user-friendly technology and decentralized standings and support networks for incorporating ICT for the
support, and respect for participating schools’ autonomy and enhancement of our students’ learning.
their decisions in the use of the program’s technologies.

Fullan, M., The new meaning of educational change. 3rd ed. 2001, New York: Teachers College Press. xiv, 297.
Cox, C., La Reforma de la Educación Chilena: Contexto, Diseño, Implementación. 1997, PREAL: Santiago, Chile.
Hepp, P., Enlaces: Todo un mundo para los niños y jóvenes de Chile, in La reforma educacional Chilena, J.E. Garcí-
Huidobro, Editor. 1999, Editorial Popular: Madrid. p. 289-303.
San Miguel, J., Programa de Educación Básica Rural, in La Reforma Educacional Chilena, J.E. García-Huidobro, Editor.
1999, Editorial Popular: Madrid.
IIE, Enlaces Rural "La informática como un recurso de aprendizaje para todas las escuelas rurales de Chile". 2000,
Universidad de La Frontera: Temuco.
Laval, E., Informática Educativa en Chile: Experiencia y proyecciones de la Red Enlaces. Persona y Sociedad, 2001. XV(2).
The methodology considered a quasi-experimental design with chronological series using successive pre and post tests. The
sample consisted of 52 primary schools (10,500 students) and 49 secondary schools (5,600 students).
Potashnik, M., Rawlings, L., Means, B., Alvarez, M. I., Roman, F., Dobles, M. C., Umaña, J., Zúñiga, M., & García, J.,
Computers in Schools: A qualitative study of Chile and Costa Rica, in Education and Technology Series Special Issue. 1998,
World Bank Human Development Network: Washington D.C.
Núñez, I., El Proyecto Enlaces (Chile), un estudio de caso. 1996, UNESCO.
Rusten, E., Contreras-Budge, E., Tolentino, D., in Learnlink Case Study Summary. "Enlaces: Building a National Learning
Network". 1999, Global Communication & Learning Systems. US Agency for International Development. Available in:

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The Impact of New Technologies on the Lives of Disabled Central Americans:

By Jessica Lewis and Estela Landeros

Trust then designed a more in-depth program with additional

VICTORIA’S VICTORY job-readiness training and training for businesses specifically
for El Salvador. This program introduces the use of adaptive
Victoria Martínez Orellana, a twenty-three year old Salva- information and communication technologies (ICTs) for
doran, was born with a congenital deformity in the lower half people with disabilities at a countrywide level in El Salvador
of her body. For many years, she had to use her arms as with the goal of increasing their employment opportunities.
crutches to move herself. Now, however, through the Trust Its engine is a cadre of volunteers and local staff who train
for the Americas’ technology and job-readiness training pro- trainers in computer technologies. These groups then repli-
gram and the help of the Universidad Don Bosco and Gesell- cate the training with their constituents. Local businesses are
shaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (UDB-GTZ) project, partners and ensure that the training given responds to the
she has a wheelchair and a new job at a computer center at a demands of the market and that the people who participate
local school. are able to find a job. This is the only program in Latin
America offering ICT and assistive technology training as
Victoria’s story demonstrates the powerful impact of the new well as job readiness skills training to the disabled. All
technologies on the life of a person with disabilities. Victoria manuals and training modules were designed and tested with
joined the Trust’s Disabilities and Technology program in El people with disabilities.
Salvador in the summer of 2000. Through this program, she
received training in computer skills and job-readiness that Since the start of the Disability and Technology program in
prepared her for her job. To get the job, she had to pass a El Salvador in June 2001, The Trust has trained over 304
series of tests on Windows, Excel, and Power Point. Based disabled Salvadorans and placed 35 people in new jobs. In
on her computer expertise and job-preparation skills she addition, 45 program participants were promoted in jobs that
gained through The Trust program, she succeeded. “Various they had before starting the program while 185 trainees are
people had discriminated against me when I looked for a currently participating in job placement programs. The Trust
job,” explained Victoria. Her new boss, however, told her, has also trained 75 local firms on the issues related to em-
“We don’t discriminate against anyone. I know you are ca- ployment for a person with a disability and trained over 27
pable of doing the job.” non-governmental organizations in the use of these technolo-
gies. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International
For decades, people with disabilities, like Victoria, have Affairs funds the Trust's El Salvador program.
faced discrimination. In Latin America, people with disabili-
ties have had less access to educational and training pro-
grams suited to fulfill their special needs. In countries with
high unemployment rates, a person with a disability has
fewer opportunities to compete for a job. This situation,
along with employers' requirements for training in the use of Victoria’s accomplishment is even more significant in the
information and communication technologies, makes job context of the larger unemployment situation in El Salvador
searching more difficult for them. For these reasons, the and unemployment for people with disabilities. In Latin
Technology and Disabilities program concentrates on train- America, in general, people with disabilities face many
ing people with disabilities in the use of state-of-the-art as- challenges to fully participate in society as equal economic,
sistive technology in order to facilitate their integration in the social, and political players. In countries with high poverty
labor market. rates, people with disabilities are often the last to receive
services and support. Because many of these countries have
The Trust’s Disability and Technology program started as a significant unemployment and underemployment rates for
regional program in four Central American countries that the general population, people with disabilities face an even
sent high-tech volunteers to train disability organizations and greater challenge finding meaningful employment. In El
their constituents in the use of the new technologies. The Salvador approximately 17% of its 6 million people have a

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disability and approximately 98% of those who have a dis- impact of computers is far greater than could have been
ability are unemployed, as reported by Asociación Coopera- imagined 10 years ago. A blind person’s computer can read
tiva del Grupo Independiente Pro Rehabilitación Integral out loud and suddenly that person has access to the Internet,
(ACOGIPRI).1 Although poverty indicators in El Salvador e-mail, and e-books. A quadriplegic can write by speaking
have significantly improved since 1990 when the level was into a computer engendering a new route to communication
about 60% of the population, it still remains high at ap- with friends, family, and the world. With computers adapted
proximately 47.5%.2 to an individual’s disability, he/she can perform the same
duties as a person without a disability rendering physical
El Salvador also has a high number of people with disabili- limitations irrelevant and disproving societal misperceptions.
ties compared to other countries in the region. In most Armed with adaptive technology and computer skills, people
countries, one out of ten people or 10% of the population has with disabilities can enter the workforce.
a disability3 versus El Salvador's significantly higher rate of
approximately 17%, as stated above. The civil war in El Assistive technology represents the best way – often times
Salvador greatly increased the number of people with dis- the only way – for people with disabilities to perform certain
abilities in the country and, unfortunately, there are new vic- jobs that people without disabilities do in other ways. The
tims of undiscovered land mines left over from the war. El cost of technology is a standard component of the expenses
Salvador also has high poverty levels and, as a result, higher incurred by all businesses. It's hard to imagine a business
levels of people with disabilities. “The birth of an impaired without telephones, fax machines, photocopiers or comput-
child, or the occurrence of a disability in the family, often ers. People with disabilities can easily use all of this equip-
places heavy demands on the limited resources of the family ment if an assistive device is added to some of them. Consid-
and strains on its morale, thus thrusting it deeper into pov- ering that these office systems represent labor saving de-
erty. The combined effect of the factors results in higher vices, people with disabilities, restricted in their mobility, are
proportions of disabled persons among the poorest strata of best positioned to use these systems to their benefit and to
society. For this reason, the number of affected families liv- the benefit of others.
ing at the poverty level steadily increases in absolute terms.
The negative impact of these trends seriously hinders the
development process.”4
El Salvador, however, has begun a new era promoting em- PROGRAM - THE EL SALVADOR PROGRAM
ployment for people with disabilities. El Salvador’s new and
comprehensive disability law passed in May 2000 requires
all businesses to employ one person with a disability for The current Trust/DOL project focuses directly on increasing
every twenty-five people employed. Businesses now have to the supply of people with disabilities ready to enter the
comply with this new law. The country is at a moment where workforce and the availability of jobs for those individuals.
the government, NGOs, and businesses have started working It also addresses the wider issues faced by people with dis-
together to increase employment for people with disabilities. abilities through strengthening the work of local disability
organizations that fight to eradicate exclusion from educa-
Opening new opportunities for employment helps to decrease tion, remove architectural barriers, disprove societal misper-
the high rate of unemployment in general. In each family ceptions and advocate for changes to laws.
with a disabled member there are two non-productive citi-
zens: the disabled and his or her caregiver. If we provide This program cannot change the greater economic situation
proper training and job placement for the disabled, we will of the countries, nor directly address other problems such as
be returning two productive citizens to their society. limited access to education and architectural barriers. In-
stead, this program multiplies the impact of existing organi-
zations that have already developed effective locally based
programs. El Salvador already has organizations and national
THE POWER OF TECHNOLOGY FOR associations working on behalf of people with disabilities.
Few, however, are already using ICT. Again, ICT’s potential
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES for change in this situation is tremendous.

The Trust for the Americas created the Disability and Tech- The program has five inter-related components:
nology project to combat these problems bringing the par-
ticular added value of the new technologies for people with 1. High-Tech Skills Training
disabilities. Computers contain the unique ability to trans- In daily training sessions, differentiated based on the
form the lives of people with disabilities and unleash their participant's level, the Trust provides morning and after-
powerful potential for productive and meaningful work. The noon sessions in basic computer skills, advanced com-

! 20 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

puter skills and some adaptive technology. Students the bathrooms. This is highly unusual in San Salvador.
take a series of classes so that as they become more pro- The center is open for classes during the week and on
ficient, the classes increase in difficulty. In addition, the weekend for practice sessions. In addition, other lo-
trainers from each local disability organization partici- cal disability organizations can apply the training in their
pate in trainer of trainer sessions, which they then bring own organizations with the adaptive technologies that
back to their own organizations. they have received through this program.

2. Job-Readiness and Job-Placement Training The center’s computers are modified for blind people
The organizations and people trained in the high-tech with specific software including screen-readers. All of
training program also receive job-readiness and job- the computers are connected to a central Braille printer.
placement training to prepare them to enter the work In addition, the computer center has a central scanner to
place. Since this may be the first job for many people use for scanning documents that are on paper so that the
participating in the program, they need skills and infor- screen reader can read them. For the visually impaired,
mation on how to dress, how to write resumes, and how the center provides a text magnifier that amplifies size
to address particular issues often faced by people with and changes the contrast of the text.
disabilities in the workplace. Some of the training also
builds on their computer skills by showing them how to For people with motor disabilities, the center has adap-
use the computer programs in an office situation. tive hardware that includes different switches, track roll-
ers, and a mechanical arm. This hardware allows people
3. Employment Promotion who are missing limbs or have limited mobility to use a
The Trust partners with local businesses and existing computer. In addition, the center provides adaptive key-
programs to increase opportunities for people with dis- boards in different sizes and that are pressure sensitive.
abilities to work in local businesses. The Trust also
works with the Ministry of Labor, local non-
governmental organizations and government organiza-
tions to sensitize businesses to the needs of people with
disabilities in the workplace and the benefits of em-
ploying them. It also works directly with local busi-
nesses to advise them on necessary adaptations. The
Trust, in coordination with the Ministry of Labor, de-
signed and launched an on-line job-bank for people with

4. Technology Center for People with Disabilities

The Centro de Capacitación en Tecnología para Perso-
nas con Discapacidad has fourteen computers for stu-
dents and is completely accessible for people who use
wheelchairs including the entrance, the classroom, and

5. Virtual Disabilities Resource Center (VDRC)

In an effort to facilitate access to universal knowledge
and to centralize web content, The Trust has developed a
portal on the Internet. This portal provides access to a
diversity of resources and specific services for people
with disabilities and their organizations. The VDRC in-
tegrates all communication tools that enable the ex-
change of knowledge and experience.

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The Trust received its original funding for the pilot disability
project, which was conducted at a regional level, from De-
velopment Marketplace and infoDev at the World Bank. The
goal of this program was to work closely with existing dis-
ability organizations to train them in the use of the new tech-
nologies for people with disabilities and to strengthen their
use of the new technologies within the organizations. This
program sent 13 high-tech volunteers to work with more than
40 disability organizations in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Hondu-
ras and El Salvador. The Trust has trained more than 300
people in the use of adequate assistive technology as well as
the proper computer tools for entering the job market. This
program also received additional funding from the eBay

The main skills taught by the volunteers included software

management: Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint),
Internet navigators, Microsoft Front Page, Netscape Com-
poser, email applications, database design and adaptive tech-
nologies (among them JAWS and Scan and Read for the
blind and adaptive devices for people with low mobility). The following is a sample of work the Trust volunteers
Also, training included the use of special designed equipment did with disability organizations in different countries.
as Braille printers, Trackballs and special switches, Intelli-
keys and other special keyboards. Additional training for INFRACNOVI is an Honduran non-governmental organi-
specific needs of small businesses run by people with dis- zation that serves blind adults and children and provides
abilities included production and marketing strategies for them with education and health services, job training and
graphic print shops and training in marketing and commer- placement. Before The Trust program, INFRACNOVI had
cialization of products. outdated computers and no training in adaptive technology.
The Trust sent a Spanish University professor who is an ex-
One unique component of this program was that the high- pert in adaptive technology for the blind, to train them in the
tech volunteers tended to be older than traditional volunteers, use of these technologies and set up a new mini-computer
and had significant work experience and professional train- center. Local universities and other institutions also partici-
ing. In particular, The Trust promoted South-South coopera- pated in the training.
tion by recruiting Latin American volunteers, in addition to
others. The volunteers came from Argentina, Venezuela, TRANSITIONS is an independent living center in Antigua,
Holland, Spain and the U.S. Their ages ranged from 25 to 65 Guatemala run by young people with spinal injuries. Many
years, with 36 years as the average age. One third of the vol- of the participants were injured in local violence, had injuries
unteers sent were women. The different profiles included IT from accidents, or were born with a disability. In addition to
experts, marketing experts, teachers, IT trainers for people creating a home where they can live independently, often for
with disabilities and a university professor. It is important to the first time in their lives, the group also provides medical
note that by the last deployment, 60% of the volunteers were services and educational outreach to other people with dis-
Latin American themselves and others were U.S. citizens of abilities. The group has created a small graphics print shop to
Latin American descent. earn additional income. The Trust first sent an expert in
computers and web-design to train this group and then sent a
In addition, The Trust designed the program so that each retired Dutch businessman from the Netherlands Manage-
volunteer not only trained their own organization but also ment Cooperation Program and former manager of graphics
worked with other local disability organizations to expand print shops. He trained the Transition's staff in the develop-
the reach of the project. The chart below shows the work of ment of their business skills to increase the income they re-
the volunteers in the different countries. The volunteers ceive from their print shop.
trained both people with disabilities and people without dis-
abilities who work in disability organizations.

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Number of Number of People trained
Country Host Organizations volunteers organizations People with
sent participating Total Women

- Consejo Nacional de Atención In-

tegral a la Persona con Discapaci-
El Salvador - Fundación Teletón para la Rehabili- 3 10 39 29 20
tación (FUNTER)
- Asociación Cooperativa del Grupo
Independiente Pro Rehabilitación
Integral (ACOGIPRI)
- Asociación Transiciones
Guatemala - Consejo Nacional de Atención al 3 16 93 82 29
Discapacitado (CONADI)
- Instituto Franciscano del No-
Honduras - Fundación Hondureña de Rehabili- 4 12 150 68 100
tación e Integración del Limitado
- Universidad Francisco Morazán
- Asociación de Padres de Familia “
Los Pipitos”
Nicaragua 3 6 56 21 21
- Centro de Rehabilitación Interna-
cional (CIR)

13 44 338 200 170

disabilities in other countries.

The Trust’s program shows that ICT and assistive technol- Ultimately, civil society, local government and private sec-
ogy can help the disabled community diminish the gap be- tor, acting together, need to join forces to provide better
tween their needs for academic and job inclusion and the lack services for this isolated population and to promote their full
of appropriate training programs existing in most Latin inclusion in the mainstream society. People with disabilities
American countries. tend to be left out of development projects in spite of the fact
that they are often the most disadvantaged group in a coun-
The disabled community has been deprived of opportunities try. In spite of the powerful impact that adaptive technologies
that encourage their professional development. The program can have for the disabled population, they are also often left
provides a model for training the disabled community in the out of technology and development projects, as well. The
state-of-the-art in assistive technology and job-readiness. The Trust's program is an example of a project designed specifi-
program also has developed a strategy for creating awareness cally to bring these technologies to the disabled population
in the private sector about the need for increasing job oppor- and to use them to improve their opportunities for employ-
tunities for people with disabilities. Based on this model, ment.
The Trust plans to bring similar opportunities to people with

Statistics obtained from Eileen Giron Batres, a representative of ACOGIPRI, an advocacy organization for those with dis-
abilities in El Salvador.
Pan American Health Organization.www.paho.org/English/SHA/prflels.html, January 2000.
Taken from UN’s World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons.
Taken from UN’s World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons.

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Uganda School-Based Telecenters:
An Approach to Rural Access to ICTs

Meddie Mayanja
ICT Community Development and Business Specialist, World Links

The Context This training, delivered to headmaster representatives from

fourteen secondary schools and one national teachers’ train-
ing college, was partly built on the Zimbabwe experience but
The School-based Telecenter (SBT) approach developed out
also crafted to accommodate a different national setting, lo-
of a combination of motivational factors. In Uganda’s rural
cal MCT experiences, and an innovative technological pilot
communities like most parts of Africa, there is general lack
opportunity – a national satellite network to deliver high-
of basic ICT infrastructure. By the end of 1998, Multi-
speed Internet to schools in peri-urban and rural areas.
purpose Community Telecenters (MCT) pilot projects had
been launched with the support of IDRC/ITU/UNESCO at
The network, established by World Links through support
three different sites in Uganda. The broad mission of the
from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves fifteen
MCTs was to study the efficacy of use of ICTs to promote
SBTs. Of these, eleven use Very Small Aperture Terminal
rural community development.
(VSAT) satellite technology to link to the Internet with at
least eight computers on a Local Area Network (LAN).
Early impact assessments and studies about the MCTs indi-
These sites are geographically well distributed around the
cated steep challenges in management, content generation
country in the districts of Jinja, Iganga, Mbale, Soroti, Lira,
and sustainability, among others. It had also become clear
Arua, Moroto, Hoima, Kabale, Masaka and Luwero. The
that ICT community access points were more relevant to the
four other school sites will be connected via spread spectrum
community if the target community was allowed to partici-
technology off the VSAT hub from the school in Jinja.2
pate in planning and implementation in appropriate means.
Connectivity for MCTs deep in rural areas had by 2000
The bandwidth (256 Kbps “download”/32 Kbps “upload”) on
proved a serious challenge to overcome through ordinary
the VSAT is shared among the participating sites and the
cost is accordingly shared among the schools with a payment
of US $200 per month. (World Links is contributing the
In Zimbabwe, the World Links program1 was at the same
other US$200 per month per site for a two-year period). The
time experimenting with another approach -- School-based
schools raise funds from charging students termly tuition
Telecenters -- with a twin objective of introducing ICTs in
fees and other community user fees. On average, each stu-
the process and delivery of educational content and also pro-
dent pays US $18 per year. A typical secondary school has
viding communities with access to communication facilities
between 800 and 1000 students around the year.
and ICT training in the after-school hours, evenings, week-
ends and holidays. Based on this experience, World Links
commissioned the development of a new week-long training The Services and the Clients
program on the Establishment of School-Based Telecenters
which it first pilot-tested in February 2001. Lowering the “student” user cost is one of the principal ob-
jectives for establishing a school-based telecenter. These
The School-Based Telecenters sites will traditionally provide computer and Internet-
oriented training and services rather than the basic telephony
or other client facilities (e.g., photocopying, fax) featured at
A national SBT project was formally started in Uganda in
most MCTs. The principal differences: the site location
September 2001 with a revised week-long training program.
within schools, whose fundamental mission is to enhance

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educational outcomes, supporting income from government In addition to general community users, selected SBTs will
and student fees, and the principle donation of hardware and pilot high impact knowledge services for specific client
software by project partners to achieve these goals. The at- groups. These include Telemedicine for the Moroto High
tractiveness of the school-based telecenter model is building Telecenter and E-commerce for Kigezi High Telecenter. The
upon these foundations -- and then reaping the added bene- targeted training and product development activities at these
fits: maximizing resource use in after-school hours, greater sites are part of jointly coordinated pilot projects between the
community-school linkages, additional income to meet recur- World Bank’s Energy for Rural Transformation, World
rent and expansion costs, and the ability to sustainably add Links, and Knowledge Economy programs.
further technology-based services over time.

Generally, the computer- and Internet-based services vary

Management Structure
depending on the needs and sophistication of the community.
SchoolNet Uganda, World Links’ national operating partner,
provides the administration and coordination roles for the
All these telecenters train students and teachers in the use of
nationwide program. A national coordinator, technical coor-
the computers and Internet supported facilities as tools for
dinator, and the community development and small business
learning and teaching. Lango College Telecenter in Lira
specialist are available to provide technical back stopping to
District and Kigezi High Telecenter in Kabale also receive a
the network.
number of community users for Internet supported services.
At the school level, every SBT has a local ICT Coordinator
At Duhaga Telecenter of Hoima District, the user records for
who also doubles as a classroom teacher. A few telecenters
the last month indicate that there are clients from the com-
have ICT Coordinators who are not teaching staff. The role
munity who have used the Internet to search on health,
of the coordinators is to oversee the daily operations (both
farming and business issues (e.g., rice prices; the area is
technical and pedagogical) of the Telecenters and keep
known for upland rice growing).
communication with other partners open at all times.
Ndejje Secondary Telecenter in Luwero district provides
All SBTs have management committees charged with the
access to community institutions. For example, Ndejje Uni-
task of designing broad program direction. Different users
versity is one of the principal users. Without a computer lab
are represented on this committee and particularly teachers,
or Internet access of its own, the university students and lec-
Board of Governors and Parent Teachers Associations
turers access Internet related services and research at Ndejje
(PTAs). The Head teacher is normally an ex-officio to the
Secondary Telecenter.
management committee.
With their recently established school-based telecenter, many
The World Links Organization provides strategic linkages
locals consider Moroto High Telecenter the most important
and networking with related initiatives at the international
communication center in the whole of Karamoja region
North East of Uganda. The region is home to the famous
native Karamojong nomads, brothers to the Turkana in
School-based Telecenters have overcome one of the biggest
Northwest Kenya. Government, the NGO community and
challenges of the Community Telecenters -- administrative
civil society from within Moroto and as far as Kotido almost
stability. The SBTs take advantage of the host schools’ ad-
100 Km away use the telecenter.
ministrative detail, which have contributed to sustainability

This approach helps to provide the community with access to

The School-based Telecenter ICTs facilities without necessarily carrying directly the total
burden of management and operation of the facilities. Instead
is a potentially strategic ini- the community meets the cost indirectly but also collectively
tiative that will have an im- through the tuition fees of their children. The host school
pact on ways of helping the transfers such fees to the operation of the Telecenter and
rural communities function- charges some user fees at the point of service to augment the
operational budget.
ally cross the digital divide.

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Achievements and receive email although there are some few people
who do research...” While in Duhaga, the clients include
doctors, nurses, accountants, forest officers, pastors from
In the five months of implementation (since January 2002),
various churches, students on vacation and farmers.
each of the eleven schools in the pilot project have a func-
tional satellite node through which they are accessing the
Internet. Additionally, the program has achieved the follow- Challenges
There are several ongoing challenges to the project. These
• The program has received full support from the Ministry include the following:
of Education that paid duty taxes for the clearance of
VSAT and associated software and equipment. The • Lack of reliable electric power -- Muni NTC and
School-based Telecenter directly contributes to the Moroto High Telecenters are located in northern Uganda
Ministry of Education’s ICT Policy for Education that where electric power distribution is still very limited and is
was launched in 2001. switched on from 7.00 p.m. - 10.00 p.m. These Telecenters
can only use fuel generators for power, which is expensive.
• The head teachers have taken up responsibility to meet One possible solution being explored is solar-powered sys-
the running costs of the program at the Telecenter level. tems for both Telecenters.
The Boards of Directors of participating schools are
supportive of the initiative giving it an opportunity to be • Adequate Time - Personnel who double as class teachers
mainstreamed. manage most of the planning and implementation of the
SBTs. This often puts a lot of pressure on them, which can
• All ICT managers/coordinators have been trained in subtract from their traditional teaching loads and leave in-
basic business planning, technical management and adequate time for the effective management of the telecenters
pedagogical aspects of ICT integration in education. in the after-school hours. Further reducing teaching loads
and/or underwriting full-time managing staff to alternate
• Teachers and students in host schools are undergoing IT between day and after-school use are possible solutions being
training in integration of ICT resources in the learning explored to this problem.
and teaching process with a view of making education
more relevant and enterprising. The education commu- • Identifying Community Needs – An early challenge has
nity in neighboring schools is benefiting from the same been fitting relevant services for the community within the
training programs. context of the school-based Telecenters. World Links and
SchoolNet-Uganda staff will continue working with the
• In several communities where there was no communica- schools to help them identify client and service opportunities,
tion system to talk of before the SBTs were established particularly those unique to their location and communities.
now view the facilities as one of the critical elements of
the community’s development. This is true for Muni Conclusion
NTC Telecenter in Arua district, Moroto High Telecen-
ter in Moroto district, Lango College Telecenter in Lira The School-based Telecenter is a potentially strategic initia-
district, and Duhaga secondary Telecenter in Hoima tive that will have an impact on ways of helping the rural
district. In Lira district local authorities are interested in communities functionally cross the digital divide. Plans to
distributing Internet related services from the Telecenter develop an evaluation framework for the program is under-
installation to wider community access. way and very soon the vitality of the program will be con-
• Regarding community access to the Telecenter, the IT
coordinator at Kigezi High Telecenter, Ms. Gloria
Akatukunda reported in April 2002 that “…Our out-of-
school market still remains for people who want to send

World Links is a joint initiative of the World Bank Institute’s World Links for Development Program and the World Links
non-profit organization (http://www.worldbank.org/worldlinks and http://www.world-links.org)
Bloome, Anthony, “Wireless School Internet Connectivity,” TechKnowLogia, January – March 2002

! 26 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

The Owerri Digital Village
A Grassroots Approach to Bringing Technology to Nigerian Youth

Njideka Ugwuegbu, Executive Director, Youth for Technology

Tressa Steffen Gipe

African countries are undergoing a crisis of youth unem- still limited. The cost of using technology tools in “roadside
ployment and poverty. This crisis is precipitated by weak- cyber-cafés” is prohibitive (the average monthly cost is about
nesses in educational systems and a failure to incorporate $40 for 20 hours of Internet service2) given that the average
information and communication technology skills acquisition gross national income (GNI) per capita is only $260.3 Very
into youth development programs. Without the proper skills few people use computers outside work or school. Of the
to survive in a technologically literate world, school dropouts over 120 million people in Nigeria, only 6.6 people per thou-
are vastly unemployed. Furthermore, the lives of many Afri- sand have personal computers and only 200,000 are Internet
can youth – particularly those with high unemployment rates users.4
– are infused with poverty, violence and deprivation. Some
African youth are forced to subsist as child soldiers or as Clearly, for a country of its size and international impor-
participants in ethnic, religious and political violence. The tance, Nigeria has a long way to go before its youth receive
scourge of AIDS has also orphaned thousands of children the technological education they need and deserve in order to
across the continent, leaving many vulnerable to exploitation be economically competitive in the global marketplace. Per-
and displacement. These young people have little hope of haps more than ever, Nigeria’s young people need new op-
receiving a basic education, let alone gaining access to criti- portunities to gain access to technology as a tool for im-
cal technology skills that can ensure better employment and a provement of themselves and their communities. Because the
brighter future. government is not always able to meet people’s educational
needs, the aggregate efforts by non-governmental organiza-
Like many African countries, Nigeria has been deeply af- tions have begun to “fill in” in small ways to link youth, edu-
fected by poverty, social unrest, and health-related chal- cation and technology. This article describes one such effort
lenges. Public schools are often the first to suffer when – the Owerri Digital Village – and some of the facets of this
money is scarce. Pervasive corruption has also led to misuse program, which is managed by the Youth for Technology
of education funds. As a result, education is suffering in Ni- Foundation.
geria and so are the lives of millions of young people. The
problem of under-education in Nigeria runs deep in the gen- The Owerri Digital Village
eral population. According to recent UNESCO estimates,1 In September 2001, the Owerri Digital Village was launched
about 25% of males and 41% of females ages 15 and over are in Owerri, Imo State, Eastern Nigeria. The center was estab-
functionally illiterate in Nigeria. And while those percent- lished by the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF),5 an
ages are expected to drop slowly over the next five years, international non-profit organization based in the United
that still leaves over 22 million people without basic literacy States and Nigeria. The mission of YTF is to provide disad-
skills. vantaged Nigerian youth in rural communities with access to
technology. Taking a grassroots approach, YTF has begun to
Few young people have used computers or know how to ap- implement community-based technology programs by first
ply technology as a tool for learning in their daily lives and gauging the needs of the community and understanding how
to improve their communities. A small number of fortunate technology can be used to enhance their lives, create jobs,
schools have one or two computers, but often the computers slow urban migration and promote self-sufficient communi-
go unused because they are outdated, broken, or teachers do ties.
not have adequate skills to teach the technology. Unless they
have real and frequent interaction with computers, children Owerri, an underserved eastern Nigerian town, is about
are simply too far removed from practical reality to gain con- 600km from the former capital, Lagos State. The town of
crete technological skills and learning. In addition, technol- Owerri hosts five tertiary institutions, including a college of
ogy training and courses are not part of the educational cur- agriculture and a federal university of technology. Every
riculum in the early stages of primary and secondary school year, hundreds of young Nigerians graduate from these
levels, leaving a key window in early and catalytic learning schools with the hope of employment, career and a sustain-
development unopened. able life. Unfortunately, these dreams often remain an illu-
sion because the programs fail to offer skills training that can
Broader community access to technology is also lacking in be immediately applied to local and international jobs.
Nigeria. The use of technology in Nigerian communities is

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The first of its kind in West Africa, the Owerri Digital Vil- • TechKids – Introduction to Computers. Youth be-
lage is an example of successful application of a targeted tween the ages of 8 and 12 learn to use computers as a tool
blend of information and communication technologies in for learning. Program goals include improving critical
underserved rural communities. The Village offers informa- thinking, information synthesis and problem solving skills
tion and communications technology training at no cost to at- among students through inquiry-oriented learning modules.
risk youth between the ages of 8 and 25. Many of these • TechTeens – Computer Fluency Education. The
young people come from desperately poor subsistence- TechTeens Program is designed to prepare students (ages 13-
farming communities, have low educational achievement, 18) for a career in the field of information technology. Par-
receive little or no parental support and, in the case of the ticipants gain the skills to use technology as a tool for learn-
female children, are vulnerable to teenage pregnancy and ing and gain the necessary entrepreneurial skills to be future
abuse. job creators. Prior to completion of the program, participants
are expected to lend some of their technology expertise to
The idea of the Owerri Digital Village is simple: Keep young local businesses in order to “give back” to the community.
people busy and they will learn and thrive. As the first of • TechEnhancement –Skills Enhancement Program.
YTF’s community technology centers, the ultimate goal of Participants in this program are typically civil servants who
the Village is the long-term empowerment of youth through are enrolled to acquire the skills to make them better at per-
technology knowledge and skills that will serve as coup de forming their daily jobs. Many of these trainees come from
grace against poverty, crime, violence and youth unemploy- local and state government offices.
ment. It all begins by helping youth to develop self-
• TechCommunities – Community Enlightenment Pro-
confidence, self-esteem, discipline, and teamwork and to
gram. This program is focused on rural women and will give
respect and value themselves and others.
them the skills necessary to improve their small businesses
Community Support and communities. In particular, youth that participate in the
In order to achieve real-life outcomes with technology, Village’s programs are encouraged to bring their mothers in
YTF’s staff members spend a significant amount of time to experiment with the equipment.
identifying and then cultivating relationships with key local
leaders, members of the private sector and community-based
organizations in the Owerri area. YTF is assisted by local
and state leaders, many of whom appreciate the need for
better technological education. The Owerri community also
understands that not having access to information and com-
munication technologies marginalizes their citizens.

Yet with very little infrastructure, no electricity and no phone

lines, it was practically impossible to communicate with the
outside world from Owerri until recently. In November of
2001, the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL)
digitalized the telephone lines in Owerri making Internet
connections faster and easier. In addition, the Owerri Digital
Village has secured a stand-by power generator to manage
electricity outages during the day. The Village is now func-
tional with over thirty computer terminals, a number of class- Program Goals
rooms, a snack area, a library, and an open court area for The Owerri Digital Village has served as a prototype in Ni-
community events. geria for a successful grassroots model for technology edu-
cation and training. But the Village is a work in progress. As
Current Programs technology changes and the goals of Nigerian youth change,
YTF’s training curriculum includes four core programs:
so the Village must change to meet these demands. There-
TechKids, TechTeens, TechEnhancement and TechCommu-
fore, there is a constant need for new programs and ongoing
nities - a new program set to be launched in July 2002. Each
refinement in the YTF teaching methods. This year, YTF
program is designed to get at different cohorts of young peo-
anticipates reaching a number of goals to increase outreach,
ple in the local area and to disseminate relevant training on
including the following:
using technology as a vehicle to self-improvement. The im-
plicit foundation in all of the programs is that not just access, • Training 500 Nigerian youth, between ages 8 and 25 to
but access that is meaningful to the individual is the most use technology as a tool for learning and in their daily
compelling way to get results. lives;

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• Bringing 200 civil servants to participate in YTF’s access to and the use of technology is directly linked to so-
“TechEnhancement” program to gain skills to allow cial and economic development, it is imperative that young
them to compete in the global workforce; Nigerian women understand the significance of these tech-
• Reaching out to 50 local community-based and non- nologies and use them, ensuring that they do not become
profit organizations so they profit from the range of further marginalized from the mainstream of their communi-
services offered at the Village; and ties, their country and the world.
• Bringing students from 10 Owerri-area schools together
to participate in the Global Classmates program. The TechCommunities program will offer academic learning,
vocational and technology training and adult education busi-
Starting in July 2002, YTF will launch two new programs at ness management skills to empower women. Most of the
the Owerri Digital Village, the first being the Global Class- adults participating in this program will be traders seeking
mates Program, which is made possible through a partnership computer training that will help them manage their busi-
with Digital Partners Institute in Seattle, Washington. The nesses more efficiently. For instance, trader women will use
Global Classmates program will teach young Nigerians to the e-post facilities at the digital village to deliver messages
produce and share information through information and to their customers in the villages when a new shipment or
communication technologies as they seek to further contrib- stock has been received. The training approach is specifi-
ute to the outside world and promote cultural exchange glob- cally adapted to the needs of the adult woman semi-literate
ally. For example, students will be given an e-pal in another population, to allow them to acquire insight into what the
country and are assigned a joint project with goals and deliv- new information technologies can offer and select the most
erables. Without ever meeting face-to face, a student in Nige- useful tools to improve their lives. Through the TechCom-
ria could work with a student in a community technology munities program, it is hoped that local women will gain new
center in India to develop a new application, website or work levels of computer literacy and economic self-reliance.
on a team project. By virtue of close collaboration towards a
common goal, students receive critical intercultural commu- The Road Forward
nication lessons in the process. Nigerians are beginning to realize that their nation cannot
continue to rely solely on its natural resource base of oil,
YTF hopes that access to the Global Classmates program at which currently accounts for 46% of gross domestic product.
the Village will give youth a stronger sense of connection to The country also needs to take a bottom-up approach in en-
the outside world. The program is meant to ensure that suring its educational systems are structured to build leaders
learning is meaningful for students, is connected to their per- and entrepreneurs in the next generation. With over a third
sonal interests and understandings about the world, and ca- of its population between the ages of 10-24, young people
ters to a range of learning styles and abilities. In order to will be the ones who have to articulate Nigeria’s interests in
maximize the benefit from technology, a multidimensional a globalized twenty-first century. 6 But they need the tools
approach is necessary to prepare students to ‘read’ the world to do it.
and communicate through multiple modes of communication
preparation for functioning in an increasingly digital world. Technology alone will not erase the gaps in wealth and op-
Email, instant messaging, video clips, CD-ROM, and other portunity in Nigeria. Issues related to the digital divide can-
multimedia are some of the ways students communicate. not be solved piecemeal; they require comprehensive solu-
tions that integrate people, processes and technology. Deci-
The second new program, TechCommunities, is aimed at sive action is needed in Nigeria and across Africa in order to
training poor rural women to improve their standard of living stem the onslaught of social, economic, and political trou-
by gaining employment skills. YTF has paid special attention bles. Blending education and technology is one of the best
to the discrepancies between male and female participation in ways to start fighting these troubles where there is still the
technology education. Traditionally, men are more encour- greatest hope – in the young. By reaching out to the local
aged than women to pursue technical studies in Nigeria. In youth population, the Owerri Digital Village raises the stan-
Owerri, many women engage in economic activity that is dard for what young people want and expect from their edu-
vital for the community, but their work could benefit from cational experience. Starting in Owerri, change is happening
simple, yet effective applications of technology. Given that one student at a time.

UNESCO, January 2002. “Estimates and projections of adult literacy for population aged 15 years old and above.”
Dr. Kolawole Olayiwola Country Profile NG -Development Policy Center, Ibadan.
The World Bank, 2002. “Nigeria data profile.” http://devdata.worldbank.org/external/CPProfile.asp?CCODE=NGA&PTYPE=CP
World Development Indicators database, April 2001.
Youth for Technology Foundation – http://www.youthfortechnology.org or ytf@youthfortechnology.org
Population Reference Bureau. The World's Youth 2000: Data Sheet. Washington, DC: The Bureau, 2000.

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Internet Training for Illiterate Populations
Joko Pilot Results in Senegal

Lisa Carney,1 Joko International, SARL

Janine Firpo,2 Hewlett-Packard, Emerging Market Solutions

Is Computer Training Relevant for Illiter

The value and even relevance of training illiterate popula-
Ethnic Groups: Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer
tions to use new information and communication technolo-
14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%,
gies is often questioned, or dismissed as unwarranted opti- Soninke 1.1%, European and
mism. In Senegal, Joko has responded to a strong demand for Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%
such training. The demystification of new technologies, the
Internet in particular, is opening doors for economic devel-
Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar,
opment and giving disenfranchised communities new tools to Jola, Mandinka
live out their dreams. While Joko is still in early stages, the
preliminary results are very encouraging.
Religion: Muslim 92%, indigenous beliefs
Since 1996, Senegal has also been one of the first Sub- 6%, Christian 2% (mostly Roman
Saharan countries to make significant investments in tech-
nology, and is currently benefiting from a relatively high rate
Literacy rates: Total population: 33.1%
of penetration and growth of technology-related services. (age 15 and -male: 43%
Senegal achieved a much-cited success in spreading teleph- over can read -female: 23.2% (1995 est.)
ony without intense public investment. With its grassroots and write)
approach, Joko hopes to demonstrate that this dynamic can
be replicated in the spread of Internet skills and services.
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.07% (male
Joko was founded by Youssou N'Dour, the celebrated Sene- 2,279,996; female 2,252,255)
galese musician, to make the opportunities of the Internet 15-64 years: 52.88% (male
accessible and relevant to Africans. In Wolof, a widely spo- 2,603,829; female 2,834,328)
65 years and over: 3.05% (male
ken native language in Senegal, the word 'joko' means 'con-
155,877; female 158,644) (2001
nection' or 'union.' Hewlett-Packard (HP) e-Inclusion, as est.)
Joko's incubating strategic partner, provided seed funding
and management expertise in the pilot phase for Joko to ini- Income: 50K FCFA/month
tiate and build their business. As Joko's ongoing technology
partner, HP will work closely with Joko to expand their busi-
ness. The company is also interested in testing innovative Computer Booming demand. Second best
technology solutions in the local communities in which Joko Access: Telco infrastructure in Sub-
works. Saharan Africa. More than 10,000
telecenters, 200 cyber cafés na-
tionwide, several ISPs, numerous
computing training centers.

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bilities. While the Joko network offers Internet access at
minimal cost to local community members as well as a plat-
form for local content development, training became a cen-
tral Joko activity based on community requirements.

The Joko training courses have been developed and certified

by El Hadji Diop, Joko’s Education and Pedagogy Director.
Prior to Joko, Mr. Diop was in charge of the computer train-
ing at Lycée St-Michel, where he developed and trained stu-
dents on a wide range of computer related subjects. A broad
syllabus of courses is available to meet the wide range of
demands – from the most basic introductory training to more
advanced office skills and on up to web content development
and computer maintenance. (A syllabus is available online
at http://www.joko.sn/formation).

Most of the adults participating in Joko literacy training are

“commercants,” or trades people, seeking computer training
In August 2001, the Joko pilot was launched: an urban Joko- that can help them manage their businesses. Merchants and
Club in the Medina district of Dakar, a rural JokoClub in the small business owners are usually illiterate, and very often
village of N'Goundiane (near Thiés) and a community/local women. Women’s collectives are active in producing a wide
content website, http://www.joko.sn. In the first months of range of agricultural products – such as dried fish, mangos,
2002, two additional Joko training centers were opened. peanuts, and other crops varying on a geographic basis.
Joko is licensing existing cyber cafés as JokoClubs, as well Other women’s collectives create and sell traditional crafts.
as building new JokoClubs, with the aim of having at least These collectives are typically a central economic force in
50 JokoClubs across Senegal by the end of 2002. their communities – their income is often the means by
which families are fed. Male and female, illiterate trades
In its limited pilot rollout, Joko has successfully introduced people must hire certified accountants to oversee and verify
more than 3,000 people to the Internet. Since their inaugura- their businesses. To write any letters or summary reports
tion, the JokoClub pilots have been generating revenues suf- concerning their activities, they must ask for and usually pay
ficient to cover their operating costs – in itself, operational for assistance. Most of the adults who have participated in
sustainability was a major goal of the Joko pilot. Now, with the initial Joko training courses are responsible for manag-
the pilot experience demonstrating the feasibility of achiev- ing, accounting or reporting for collective or individual busi-
ing business sustainability, Joko is developing a strategy to ness activities.
enable JokoClubs to cover the full capital costs of future de-
velopment. This business perspective is in sync with the Training Approach for Illiterates
growing awareness of African politicians and entrepreneurs
The Joko training team developed a training approach spe-
that private investment, rather than continued dependence on
cifically adapted to the needs of the adult illiterate popula-
aid, is necessary to break Africa’s cycle of poverty.
tion, to permit them not only to acquire insight into what the
new information technologies can offer, but also give them
The Emergence of Training as a Joko Service the ability to select the most useful and immediate skills for
When Youssou N’dour announced the Joko initiative in their own development. The usual incentives are to save
Senegal, one of his main messages to the Senegalese popula- money and more easily keep track of their merchandise. For
tion was that the Internet is not just for elite users. In fact, example, a vendor who buys products in Mauritania and sells
the Joko slogan in Wolof is Joko, nok o bok – literally them in southern Senegal can use a spreadsheet to automati-
translating as “link up – the Internet is for everyone.” There cally calculate stock availability, purchase and sales prices,
was an immediate response from the communities to sign up and overall profits for each product line. But in learning to do
for Internet training offered at the pilot JokoClubs. Since these tasks, adult participants are finding themselves unex-
two-thirds of the Senegalese population is illiterate, the re- pectedly on the path to literacy.
quests from communities for Joko to offer Internet initiation
and access for “analphabetes” (illiterates) were strong from The training courses designed for analphabetes are presented
the outset. In Senegal, the term “analphabete” can encom- in French and translated into Wolof, the local language used
pass a range of literacy levels – some can read or write a by the majority of Africans in Senegal. Since the Wolof is
tribal language, many are trained in Koranic schools and can the largest tribe in Senegal, people belonging to one of the
read some amount of Arabic, and others have numeric capa- other tribes in the region generally also use Wolof as lingua

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franca. French is used primarily to communicate with for- • 15 classes of intermediate-level students who were com-
eigners. fortable with French but beginners at computing; and
• One class advanced students, with good command of
A very simple introductory course is presented first in French and working knowledge of computer use.
Wolof, explaining what the computer is and how it functions.
Function keys are then introduced, to associate a symbol Scope of the Program
with an active effect on the computer’s operation. Training
The response was overwhelming, and over 1,500 people
participants learn, in a hands-on fashion (generally two or
were on the waiting list by the time this first session ended.
three to a computer), that pressing a certain key results in a
At the two pilot JokoClubs, prices for the initiation courses
certain effect on the computer.
were set at 3000 FCFA initiation fee plus 3000 FCFA for a
month of training. The Medina JokoClub reports teaching
Once these basics have been understood, the second level of
more than 1,000 new students, including 80 illiterates.
training begins: learning the French alphabet. A large key-
Ngoundiane taught more than 1,200 students, 70 analphabe-
board is painted on the wall of the JokoClub as a teaching
tes among them. Ngoundiane reports that so many other rural
tool, and a CD-ROM is used to teach the French alphabet, so
communities have sent delegations to spend a week getting
that the sound and look of a letter can be learned simultane-
initial computer training that they are considering opening a
ously. This enables the participants to master the alphabet
“bed and breakfast” to accommodate them. These villagers
quickly. Another locally developed software program helps
say they feel at ease in a familiar, rural setting—so unlike the
trainees learn keyboard skills. A sentence appears on their
urban environment in Dakar.
screen, and they copy it underneath. Voice-over explanations
of the meaning of the sentences are provided in Wolof (and
At the new training center in Thiaroye, an initial 212 students
are being added in other local languages) to improve com-
began courses in February 2002. Of these, there are 50 anal-
prehension. Active assistance from the teachers helps each
phabetes who have just received their diplomas. In Kolda, a
particular group or individual to learn the basic skills re-
small town in the southern region of Senegal, 110 students
quired to manage their own goals.
have been in training since February, of which 30 are illiter-
ate. For the younger training participants, more advanced
The third level of the course covers arithmetic and calcula-
courses are in high demand after the initial training. The
tion using spreadsheets.
number one request is for computer maintenance courses,
with webmaster classes right behind. More advanced
The training allows participants to
courses are more expensive, and vary in cost. The Joko
• Navigate and operate computers; training centers are analyzing the optimum pricing to be both
• Begin to read and write French; self-sustaining and broadly accessible.
• Learn to use spreadsheets to calculate and track business
proceeds; and As Joko expands its training facilities, new classes have an
• Use the Internet to send and receive e-mail communica- even higher proportion of illiterates. Overall, about 15% of
tions and for research of information. new Joko training participants are illiterate. The Joko train-
ing staff is keeping watch on their progress to see how many
The Joko courses in training illiterates are still in their in- of them remain involved with computers, and to report re-
fancy – it’s been just one year since the first pilot course be- sults in a more formal manner. But even now, it is clear that
gan. Last summer, Joko partnered with the Institute Supé- these disenfranchised men and women, young and old, are
rieur d’Entrepreneurship et de Gestion (ISEG), a private edu- finding that they can better manage their personal and busi-
cational institute based in Dakar, to provide Joko’s “intro- ness affairs using basic computer applications. Many of these
duction to computers” course while the Joko facilities were same people would have previously said that literacy and
being developed. This “training pilot” was offered free of educational achievement were beyond their reach, but while
charge, based on a grant from the Acacia Foundation and learning to use the computers they are gaining basic literacy
computer systems donated by HP. Over 500 youth from the and math skills without even realizing it. By the time they
Medina neighborhood of Dakar were taught at ISEG in May, recognize what they are learning they are well on their way
to pave the way for the launching of the Medina JokoClub. to developing new skills, and have been reinforced about
The courses were taught in 18 different classes, with 18-24 their own capabilities for learning and changing their lives.
students in each class. A group of 336 students met Monday-
Thursday, and 246 children, ages 7-13, met Friday-Sunday.
“Push” or “Pull”
The breakdown of these initial courses was as follows:
There is a legitimate debate about whether computers should
• One class of illiterates, taught in Wolof;
be ‘pushed’ on the world’s poorest people. Technology is
• One class of beginners, with limited mastery in French,
not food or water, and cannot in itself address the basic
taught in French/Wolof;
health concerns that threaten so many lives. Yet Joko’s expe-

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rience has been one of ‘pull.’ Somehow even the most re- that she can sit without apprehension before a computer.
mote populations are finding out about the Internet, through Conscious of the demands of the business world, she has
their expatriate family members and through other media. resolved to study French to reinforce and make better use of
her new computer training. "Since the Joko computer train-
Jasmine Whitbread, Oxfam’s Regional Director in West Af- ing, I’ve come to understand that with a strong will, all barri-
rica, related a telling experience last year. Oxfam had helped ers can be overcome.” When Dioma first came to Joko she
a very remote village dig a clean well for drinking water. At did not know how to read or write, within two months she
the ceremony to celebrate its completion, they asked the vil- learned so many new skills that she now dreams of market-
lage chief what the next priority for the village would be. ing her fashions to the rest of the world using the Internet.
“Internet,” he responded enthusiastically, showing that even
in the most remote districts, there is a pronounced social in- Dioma was among
terest in getting Internet training and access. When pressed, the first group of
he explained that he believes the Internet is necessary for the illiterates trained in
future prosperity of his people. the JokoClub pilot
last year. When the
Changing Lives second JokoClub
The head of the women’s collective in Ngoundiane, Astou opened in
Gningue, participated in the JokoClub training. She reports Ngoundiane, she
that her group no longer needs to travel to Thies and pay became the
others to create their vital business means of communica- instructor for the
tions. They have built a spreadsheet to track their business illiterate women
activities, replacing a hand-written notebook. This has not there. Her personal
only resulted in greater accuracy, but has also allowed them success in learning
to send proposals for support to NGOs working in Senegal. computing made her the most convincing evangelist for her
Since the JokoClub started, Plan International opened a bank peers, and she now oversees training for women’s collectives
in their village to provide microloans to the women. The throughout the emerging Joko training network.
women manage more than 200 million FCFA in credit, and
now USAID has also brought its support to the Ngoundiane In April 2002, Joko conducted a network-wide workshop
Women’s Federation, adding a mutual fund of 100 million (“Porte Ouverte”) for “La Fête de l’Internet.” For a weekend,
FCFA. The men of the village very proudly make it clear the JokoClubs offered free initiations to its Internet and com-
that the women’s initiative is bringing substantial new eco- puting express training modules. Its success was denoted by
nomic opportunities to their rural community. The potential the presence of several government officials and nationwide
to replicate these extraordinary results in other rural zones is media coverage, but perhaps the most significant result was
one of the axes of development upon which Joko is placing that, in the following days, the inscription of illiterates
strong emphasis. jumped in all existing JokoClubs. The Senegalese population
is loudly clamoring for Internet training. Joko will continue
Dioma Mbodji is an analphabete clothes designer woman to expand its offering and to track the usage and ongoing
from the Medina quarter of Dakar. When the JokoClub development to report how the Internet adapts and evolves in
Medina team was first canvassing the district to sign people response to their needs.
up for training, Dioma was skeptical. She asked what good
such an initiative could possibly do for her. All her life she It is intriguing to consider what possibilities Internet devel-
had studied couture, a profession she inherited from her par- opment skills could bring to a population traditionally re-
ents. Her full-time business activity is managing her tailoring moved from modernity. The most interesting question is
studio and finding clients for her designs. what will happen when Africans start programming truly
local applications, independently?
At age 30, Dioma will tell you that her life has been trans-
formed with the discovery of information technologies, now

Lisa Goldman Carney co-founded Joko in 2000 with Youssou N’Dour, the celebrated African musician, and Adama Sow, a journalist and
radio executive in Senegal. Previously, Ms. Carney was President and CEO of Construct, an Internet company.
Janine Firpo currently manages External Collaboration for Hewlett-Packard’s e-Inclusion initiative. This effort is dedicated to reinventing
technology - the hardware, services and business models - to make it more relevant and affordable for people in developing countries.

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Mobile Libraries:

Where the Schools Are Going to the

Sarah Lucas, Education Consultant-1 srl35@columbia.edu

From the horse-drawn library wagon in the United States in underused and understudied innovation, and that is the pur-
1907, to the 21st Century ‘Malaysian Mobile Internet Unit,’ pose of this article. Additionally, new technologies are ex-
people have been finding innovative ways to provide educa- panding the potential for mobile libraries to offer more than
tional access to all, despite difficult conditions or scarce re- just books and periodicals, but also Internet and computers.
sources. For example, we heard about Zimbabwe’s “Big With the new technology comes new information for new
Blue” in the July/August issue of TechKnowLo- needs, such as training or retraining for teachers and health
gia [http://www.techknowlogia.org/welcome.asp?IssueNumb care workers.
er=12]—a 15-foot van that carries 10 computer workstations
over rough rural terrain to underserved populations. Big The rationale for providing mobile library services is illus-
Blue can operate the computers for a week at a time using trated well in the case of Mongolian “Mobile Resource Cen-
power supplied by its own generator, and it connects to the ters.”3 These mobile libraries respond to the unique condi-
Internet using dial-up or wireless connections as available. tions of Mongolia’s culture and geography in the following
More than a library, Big Blue is essentially an extension of ways:
rural public schools that cannot afford to all be equipped with • The population is disparate enough that very few librar-
a computer lab, and is just one example of the innovative ies could be located in areas accessible by everyone in a
ways that educational and technological resources can be reasonable amount of time.
brought to specific audiences. This article takes a look at • Resources are too scarce to build permanent stationary
some examples of mobile libraries, and the variety of ways libraries for limited use.
they can be enhanced and operated using the newest commu- • Populations are nomadic, and so demographics are con-
nications technology. You will find that there are as many stantly changing, which affects the demand for fixed li-
ways to design mobile library services as there are commu- brary services.
nities to benefit from them, and more and more mobile li- • Though separated by large distances, populations are
braries are becoming global libraries. dense enough to provide a reasonable demand for library
services in most major towns.
Why Mobile Libraries? • There is a desire for communication and education
The underlying assumption that drives these ambitious proj- among rural populations, demonstrated by Mongolia’s
ects is that people have always had need for information and high literacy and new government policy related to ICTs
a desire for literacy. The importance of library services in and education.
particular has been proven in international comparative sur-
veys that rank the educational achievement of countries ac- A study comparing the cost of mobile library service in Zim-
cording to various indicators such as test scores, teacher babwe with that of the fixed-library equivalent found that
qualifications, completion rates, etc. According to although initial capital costs and recurring costs (fuel and
UNESCO, the factors that distinguished high-performing repairs vs. cleaning and decorating) were higher, savings
countries on these tests were “large school libraries, large were made in staffing and book stock such that the mobile
classroom libraries, regular book borrowing, frequent silent libraries were about a third of the cost to operate.4
reading in class, frequent story reading aloud by the teachers
and more hours spent teaching the language.”2 To debate the Mobile Resource Centers in Mongolia were actually
worth of information or the need for knowledge is less use- not designed to function solely as public libraries, but rather
ful, however, than to bring awareness to an old but as teacher training units and public outreach for the School

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2001 Educational Reform Project whereby core team teach- What’s New?
ers from partner schools travel periodically to deliver in- Of interest to TechKnowLogia readers will be the latest in-
service training workshops to other schools. The project novations combining mobile library services with IT serv-
provided vans, equipment and learning materials for six re- ices, making them mobile community telecenters. The don-
gional education centers (regional branches of the Ministry key cart mentioned above, for example, will soon become a
of Education.) The project was designed so that vans would “donkey-drawn mobile electro communication library cart,”
visit each village in the region at least twice during the year, offering such services as access radio, television, telephone,
at intervals of at least several weeks; during the first visit, fax, e-mail and Internet.7
books would be checked out by local teachers and citizens,
and during the second visit they would be returned or ex- The Mobile Internet Unit (MIU) in Malaysia
changed for new books. (http://www.miu.nitc.org.my) was designed entirely by local
designers, engineers and IT experts and contains 20 Pentium
However, some of the same conditions that make mobile III workstations with CD-ROMs and headsets, a color
libraries a necessity also make implementation extremely printer, a fax machine, foldable seats, bookshelves, a televi-
problematic. Certain villages are so far apart that it takes at sion, projection screen and slide projector, a refrigerator and
least a day to travel from one to the next; road conditions are a toilet. Generators provide power, air conditioning and an
extremely poor, and require durable vehicles and frequent alarm system. The objectives of the MIU are to promote ICT
repairs; demand for books (especially in Mongolian lan- training and computer literacy to students and teachers, and
guage) far exceeds the scarcity of resources and in many to assess the impact of ICTs on the learning environment.
cases there aren’t enough books to loan out from town to The MIU was initiated as a joint project between the Na-
town before the vans are empty. Mongolia is also a good tional IT Council (NITC), Education Ministry, United Na-
example of a country that may ‘leap-frog’ communications tions Development Programme (UNDP), Mimos Berhad and
technology, since existing land-lines for telephone services Automotive Corp (M) Sdn Bhd. The total cost of the part-
are rare, making it an appropriate candidate for wired mobile nership between UNDP, the government and other private
library services using new technologies. sponsors is US$420,000. A similar project initiated at the
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak is building a Mobile Internet
Other countries have found ways to adapt mobile library Boat to expose rural children to ICTs. In August 1999 the
services to their particular resources and constraints, for ex- project began visiting 20 low-resource rural schools to give a
ample: series of 10 one-hour lessons designed to help students and
• The donkey cart library in Zimbabwe; teachers acquire ICT skills. The Malaysian government has
• The Camel Caravan service of the National Library in been so pleased with the project that it plans to invest in up
Kenya; to 20 additional Internet Units. Mimos Berhad also ex-
• The Mobile Floating Library in Thailand: Since 1999, panded the impact of the project by donating one computer
the Mobile Floating Library has operated along rivers and with free Internet access to each of the participating schools
canals to promote reading and water conservation and envi- so that they could continue to learn while the MIU was away.
ronmental education through books, toys and exhibitions.
Volunteers also carry books inland to those who cannot reach
the floating library themselves;5
• The Library Wagon in Mali: Since 1980 the library-
wagon makes 11 stops on the railroad between Bamako and
the Senegalese border. The newest 40-ton wagon contains
3,000 books and 300 videotapes. The wagon stays for two
days in each town and uses solar energy for multimedia pro-
jections. As part of the Public Reading Operation, the library
wagon also provides training and services to public school
libraries, helping to create a nationwide network of public
libraries;6 and
• Greece’s “Blue Sack” can hold up to 150 books and
audiovisual materials divided according to the Dewey Deci-
mal System. It visits Greek schools (presumably, with
someone carrying it) to present a different subject to students
and allowing them to borrow books until the next visit.

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Mobile Community Telecenter in Nigeria is a van or UHF wireless solutions can transmit over 200 KM dis-
that will carry laptops as well as library books on specified tances and provide upwards of 9.6 Kbps connectivity.
weekdays to the rural villages where users can access IT
training, reading materials and the Internet (see image Finally, there is satellite access, but the cost is still prohibi-
above). This mobile telecenter emerged out of a stationary tive for most Internet users. According to Best and McClay10
community learning center (CLC), and targets health profes- the current cost of a VSAT system is anywhere from $4,000
sionals in need of retraining. Where no Internet connections to $10,000. Mobile units typically use existing power
are available in the villages, copies of web-based materials sources as part of the partnership with the community, but
are downloaded at the CLC and saved on the traveling lap- where this is not possible, mobile units can be equipped with
tops. Health and population statistics are also gathered and their own generators or even solar power.
stored as the telecenter makes its rounds.
To sum it up…
The Mobile Telecenter-to-go in Ghana is a project While it may sound like an ideal solution, there are never-
sponsored by UNDP as part of its Internet Initiative for Af- theless a few important points to consider in the actual im-
rica. Financed by a number of public and private sources, plementation of mobile libraries. These recommendations
the telecenter is an example of the potential for partnership are mostly considered with simple mobile libraries, but the
between the government, the private sector and NGOs. The lessons can be applied to mobile ICT resources as well.
goal of the telecenter-to-go, which has been in operation
since August 2001, is to bring ICT training and e-services to 1) The importance of policy and planning cannot be
schools, businesses, farms and health clinics. UNDP’s Web overstated. True mobile libraries must be treated with the
site in Ghana is at: same importance as regular public libraries. They should
ideally be dedicated to providing library services and re-
http://www.undp.org/dpa/frontpagearchive/2001/august/13au maining stocked every day of the year, and the temptation to
g01/index.html use the vans as transportation for other business should be
avoided. However, service provision through integrated li-
There are also plans to create an “info-thela," or cyber brary services can maximize the utility of ICT investments
cafe on wheels in India’s Utter Pradesh region. The and provide practical reasons for people to become users.
partnership between the Indian Institute of Technology and
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a part of the 2) Emphasis on providing a service to the com-
“Media-Lab-Asia” will provide battery ICT services on “tri- munity in the form of a dedicated and informed librarian,
cycles” to remote villages whose users will benefit from up- fulfilling requests and dependable scheduling can contribute
to-date weather and economic information.8 to increased demand and financing of the vans, and overall
quality achievement. In the case of mobile telecenters, pro-
How does it work? viding useful computer-based services—like Big Blue’s
Aside from ever-present financial limitations, there are few software offering training for the International Computing
spots on the globe that do not have the potential for Internet Driving License—can be a potential source of sustainable
access at present — (as a matter of fact, I submitted this arti- financing.
cle via the Internet from eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo, in a town surrounded by several armed groups occu- 3) Financing should be obtained through private sources
pying territory in a country at war, cut off from international in addition to government funds. Private donors may con-
cooperation and with extremely poor transportation infra- tribute materials in kind, or they may help with operating
structure). According to the International Telecommunica- costs; users may be charged membership fees or late fees, if
tions Union (ITU) (http://www.itu.org), in at least thirty possible. Providing additional services such as mail deliv-
countries today, the number of mobile subscribers is greater ery, banking or health services can be an additional source of
than the number of fixed telephone subscribers, and mobile revenue, but may also interfere with dedicated library serv-
phones are beginning to exceed fixed lines in a growing ices, resulting in lower quality. Financing affects every as-
number of developing countries. Wireless Application Proto- pect of the operation of mobile libraries, from recurrent costs
col (WAP), is a technology that allows mobile phones to like gasoline and staffing, to incidental costs for reparation
browse Internet sites that are specially adapted to fit the mo- and replacement of materials, and of course for adequately
bile phone screen. Additionally, it is now possible to use a stocking the library with relevant resources.
mobile phone for dial-up service at speeds equal to or faster
than fixed-line dial-up.9 4) Examination of the existing context and iden-
tification of the target audience must be undertaken in
Radio connectivity is another option and one provider is order to identify current information needs, existing sources
TETRA [http://www.simocodigital.com/default.asp]. VHS of information and gaps in access. Library resources must be

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relevant to the lives of the users, and must meet the literacy, its stocks after just few visits if people are allowed to borrow
language, professional and technological profile of the com- the materials. Staffing strategies encourage include having a
munities, while providing enough ‘novelty’ to keep them local community member be in charge of checking out, dis-
interested and involved. Although catering to many diverse tributing and returning books that may be dropped off one
needs is ideal, it can also complicate scheduling and diminish box at a time, or chosen by the community member. Local
the quality of resources for each specific user. The Mobile trainers and maintenance staff should also be available at
Resource Centers in Mongolia are an example of targeting each destination, rather than relying on staff to travel with
resources and processes to a very specific audience; although the van. And finally…
they may in some cases include resources for students or the
general population, they were designed to provide resources 6) Marketing and public awareness is essential for
for teachers, and the operating schedule reflected that man- making sure that users know exactly when and where the
date. library will be on any given day, and what resources are
5) Determining strategies and processes to be fol-
lowed in terms of the schedule of library visits and staffing is In addition to the above considerations, mobile telecenters
a major concern, and can only be determined on a case-by- and libraries offering ICT services have an additional set of
case basis depending on the distances between target com- factors to consider, including finding reliable power sources,
munities. For example, some mobile library services simply keeping delicate equipment in good condition, and ensuring
depart from a home base in the morning, and return in the the security of personnel and equipment when valuable items
evening to restock, traveling a different round trip route are widely known to be circulating. An additional alternative
every day. Others may spend a week on the road before to consider is accessing the Internet using different types of
returning to restock, but this requires lodging for staff mem- hand-held devices such as the Simputer
bers and can be extremely tiresome. The duration of stops is (http://www.simputer.org) which can replace costly and deli-
another concern; the bus may stop only long enough for peo- cate PC equipment. Finally, mobile internet services of any
ple to choose and check out resources, or it may have to stay kind will not be possible without cooperation of the govern-
long enough for everyone in the village to have a chance to ment in creating policies favorable to creation of ISPs and
read the materials that they are interested in, and return them awarding affordable licenses.
before departure. If the quantity of books is limited, then this
may have to be the solution, since the library risks emptying

Thanks to members of the listserv DLDC@yahoogroups.com and to the International Federation of Library Associations for their help in
finding case studies for this article. Most information concerning the operation of mobile computer centers comes only from journalistic ac-
counts available on the Internet. It appears that these vehicles have been in use for such a short time that in some cases no formal evaluations
have been done, or project documentation is not made widely available. I would be happy to receive any such evaluative reports if they do
exist for a potential follow-up article. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and recommendations for additions can be sent to the author at
Perraton, H. (2000). Open and Distance Learning in the Developing World. Routledge Studies in Distance Education. New York:
Part of a school reform and teacher training project sponsored by the Mongolian Foundation for Open Society (Soros Foundation). Data
for this article were collected by the author during an assignment with MFOS in July-August of 2000 and are contained in: Steiner-Khamsi,
G., Prime, T. & Lucas, S. (2000). School 2001 Evaluation Report: Project Year 2. Prepared for the Mongolian Foundation for Open Soci-
ety: Ulanbaatar.
Doust, Robin W. "Provision of School Library Services by Means of Mobile Libraries: the Zimbabwe Experience." IFLA Journal 25, no.
3 (1999): 148-51.
Lerdsuriyakul, K., (1999). “Public Library in Thailand” Information Education Promotion Centre: Bangkok, Thailand. Paper presented
to the 65th IFLA Council and General Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 - August 28. (http://ifla.org/IV/ifla65/papers/106-
Diakite, F (1999). “Services of libraries and reading in Mali” Public Reading Operation Bamako, Mali. Paper presented to the 65th IFLA
Council and General Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 - August 28. (http://ifla.org/IV/ifla65/papers/133-85e.htm)
According to Sharat Pradhan, Indo-Asian News Service, 12 Feb. 2002, via the GKD list-serve.
Michael Minges, Mobile Internet for developing countries. International Telecommunications Union,
Community Internet Access in Rural Areas: Solving the Economic Sustainability Puzzle

! 37 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

India’s “Hole in the Wall”
Key to Bridging the Digital Divide?
C.N. (Madhu) Madhusudan
President, Strategic Alliances, NIIT USA Inc. email: cnm@niit.com

The world has become a global village thanks to advancements in technology. While it is a challenge to provide tech-
nology access to the under privileged, the bigger problem is what is increasingly referred to as the Education Emer-
gency caused by the digital divide. Developing countries are always at a disadvantage when it comes to such issues.
Torn between the wish to address basic literacy and the wish to leapfrog by investing in technology, they often end up
doing a little of both, thereby missing the upside that technology can bring.

Work done at NIIT in India on Internet-based education paradigms may offer interesting solutions to this problem. In
1999, in a slum in New Delhi, residents woke up to an unusual sight. The wall between their slum and the NIIT head-
quarters next door had a hole in it and out of that hole was visible a TV like screen! What was that? First there was
hesitation. Then, with increasing degrees of boldness, the younger children approached the screen - in a few minutes,
they had discovered the touchpad embedded in the wall. Semi-literate children were soon learning to use the com-
puter and access Internet resources! Could this “Minimally Invasive Education” pave the way for a new education
paradigm? Could this “Hole in the Wall” be the key to addressing literacy and bridging the digital divide?

quired? Could children who were illiterate or semi-literate be

The Background able to learn on their own or was basic literacy a pre-
The mind of the child is perpetually active, absorbing and requisite to learning with technology?
assimilating. Children absorb information, discover new
learning and continuously change their mental maps with the These questions begged for an answer. The project team, led
new inputs. Play and experimentation are valuable forms of by Dr. Sugata Mitra, now the head of the Centre for Research
learning - self-structured and self-motivated processes of in Cognitive Systems (CRCS), swung into action.1 Their
learning. Like with computer networks, when children col- target was the slum next door – a very different world from
laborate their learning rises exponentially. If an invisible corporate R&D but providing the best audience profile for
hand can gently direct them and help them move from one what they had in mind. The slum had a large number of chil-
level to another, from one discovery to another, it could cre- dren of all ages, most of whom were not familiar with the
ate an ever expanding self propelled method of learning that English language nor did they go to school.
could outpace the effectiveness of any traditional learning
model. They cut out a hole in the wall dividing the NIIT corporate
office from the neighboring slum and set up the prototype
Researchers at NIIT, a leading global software solutions and system, a kiosk with a color monitor, touchpad and Internet
IT training company, had asked themselves many questions access. With no chrome and no glass and a very rugged exte-
regarding the acquisition of basic computing skills by chil- rior that matched the décor of a typical slum, the kiosk was
dren. Did children have to go to formal schools to learn or not threatening. With this move, in spite of some cynics who
could learning be achieved through incidental learning while dismissed it as a total waste of computing resources, the Kal-
children played, discovered and experimented? For inciden- kaji experiment was born.
tal learning to happen, would technology and interesting
content suffice or would a lot of human guidance be re-

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• The children developed their own terms to describe the
The Kalkaji Experiment objects and events that they encountered while working
on the kiosk. While the applications and web sites were
Construction of the outdoor kiosk referred to by their names, the arrow cursor was called a
The kiosk was constructed such that a monitor was visible sui (needle, in Hindi), the crosshair was called a kaanta,
through a glass plate built into a wall. A touch pad was also daabna for clicking (Hindi equivalent of pressing),
built into the wall. The PC driving the monitor was on the sabse rangeen button for the Start button on the taskbar,
other side of the wall in a brick enclosure. The PC used was a damroo for the hourglass icon, kaam kar raha hai when
Pentium 266 Mhz system with 64Mb of RAM, a hard disk, a the hourglass rotated, and macchar ki dawai (insecticide
true color display and an Ethernet card. The kiosk had access spray) for the spray tool in Paint.
to the Internet through a dedicated 2Mbps connection to a • The adults did not try to use the computer citing reasons
service provider. such as “We don’t know the language” or “We don’t
know how to operate it.”
• Familiarity with English words because of associations
was observed. For example, it was realized that ‘Quit’
meant to stop doing something because clicking on it re-
sulted in closing the program.
• There was also a new pecking order amongst the chil-
dren based on their ability to use the kiosk rather than
age or physical strength – a new divide between those
that knew and those that did not!

The launch
The kiosk was operational on January 26, 1999. It was turned
on without any announcement or instruction. A video camera
was placed on a tree near the kiosk in order to record activity
near the kiosk. Activity was monitored from another PC on
the network. This enabled the kiosk to be monitored and, if
necessary, controlled from within the office. The children
were the first users and they were able to start browsing
within the first four hours of use.

Key observations:
• The regulars were very young children (age 6 to 12) who Interesting Findings: The Power
live in the slum right next to the kiosk. The majority was
at the elementary school level (below Grade 8). They all of the Discovery Learning Spiral
went to some school (either the government-run school
or welfare school nearby). Certain common observations from the experiment reported
• Browsing the web was fun. The Disney website was a above suggest the following learning process when children
hit. Some were able to read the news, horoscopes and self-instruct each other in computer usage:
short stories. The Hindi news sites were very popular as
were some Bollywood (India’s Hollywood) sites. 1. A child explores randomly in the GUI (Graphical User
• Paint was very popular. Almost everyone used it to Interface) environment, while others watch until an ac-
make pictures or write their own names. Seeing their cidental discovery is made.
own name on the computer was a big attraction.

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2. Then, several children repeat the discovery for them- The power of today’s technology tools enables the creation
selves by requesting the first child to let them do so. of newer education models that can leverage multimedia,
provide ease of access, support collaboration and sharply
3. While in step 2, one or more children make more acci- reduce the traditional constraints on access to effective
dental or incidental discoveries. teachers, teaching resources and cost structures. Today’s
tools include Web pages and sites, email, bulletin boards,
4. All the children repeat all the discoveries made and, in chat sites and chat servers, voice over IP, newsgroups, video
the process, make more discoveries and begin to create a telephony over IP, remote presence and mobile Internet ac-
unique vocabulary to describe their experience. cess. The ability to deliver web-based learning services in
the form of learner recognition, customization, mentoring,
5. The vocabulary encourages them to perceive generaliza- interventions and such other valuable inputs make it possible
tions (“when you right click on a hand shaped cursor, it for economies of scale to kick in and hold tremendous po-
changes to the hourglass shape for a while and a new tential for bridging traditional divides caused by resource and
page comes up”). access shortages. The learning process need no longer be
shaped by just the local teacher but can be transformed by
6. They memorize entire procedures for doing something, technology, providing access to the best-of-breed resources
for example, how to open a painting program and re- without any geographical constraints.
trieve a saved picture. They teach each other shorter
procedures for doing the same thing, whenever one of
them finds a new shorter procedure. Can Minimally Invasive Educa
Educ a -
7. The group divides itself into the “knows” and the
tion be the Illiteracy Buster?
“know-nots,” much as it did into the “haves” and “have-
nots” in the past. However, they realize that a child that The Kalkaji kiosk continues to be operational. The Kalkaji
knows will part with that knowledge in return for friend- experiment has expanded to four other locations. The IFC –
ship and exchange as opposed to ownership of physical International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group
things where they could use force to get what they did - has joined hands with NIIT to test Minimally Invasive Edu-
not have. cation in eighty locations in India so that this paradigm can
be fine-tuned to become the leading method of cost-effective
8. A stage is reached when no further discoveries are made and self motivating education for children around the world
and the children occupy themselves with practicing what irrespective of their standing. The Kalkaji project has now
they have already learned. At this point intervention is matured into an independent company. In the first phase, the
required to introduce a new “seed” discovery (“Did you company will focus on measuring the impact of the kiosk on
know that computers can play music? Let me play a learners who are poor children in semi-urban, rural and slum
song for you”). Usually, a spiral of discoveries follow areas. Special web-based curricula will be designed to pro-
and another self- instructional cycle begins. vide a fun and discovery-based learning environment. Inter-
vention designs will be tried out with the objective of mini-
mizing interventions and using software to drive appropriate
Technology – Powering Collab o - interventions. The end game is to derive a technology and
learning model that can be commercially viable thus setting
ration, Resource Sharing and the stage for a global roll-out.
Shaping The New Economics

The research findings are the outcome of the work done by the CRCS group at NIIT. This article is based on their findings,
observations, recordings and published reports.

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ICTs for Disadvantaged Children and Youths -
Lessons from Brazil and Ecuador
Barbara Fillip, Independent Consultant

Children and youths in poor neighborhoods in developing countries are very likely to be on
the wrong side of the digital divide. They are very unlikely to have access to computers at
school or at home and their access to sources of information and knowledge of any kind is
severely restricted. Yet the range of beneficial impacts of exposure to and training in in-
formation and communication technologies (ICTs) on children and youths is extensive.
This article highlights key lessons learned from case studies in Brazil and Ecuador.2

Why Focus on Disadvantaged Groups? section of society will remain excluded from access by virtue
of their relative poverty.”3
In any society or country, there are groups of individuals that
are clearly “at a disadvantage”. What does that really mean? It is sometimes difficult to see how modern ICTs can be in-
“Disadvantaged groups” are unable to take advantage of the troduced in very poor environments where basic necessities
many opportunities that may be available to others in society. such as electricity and clean water are lacking. It is difficult
There can be many different reasons for that. Perhaps they to imagine how modern ICTs could have a positive impact.
are poor and cannot afford basic necessities. Some may be Some argue that modern ICTs are a luxury in such environ-
physically or mentally disabled. Some may find themselves ments and that more basic needs must first be addressed.
facing special challenges simply because they are women, or Indeed, basic needs do need to be addressed, but waiting to
part of a minority group. Children and youths, particularly in introduce modern ICTs would be a mistake. The introduc-
poor neighborhoods, often find themselves facing many tion of ICTs in such environments can actually help to ad-
challenges and caught in a vicious circle of poverty, lack of dress a broad range of needs within the community. ICTs
facilitate the flow of information and the creation of knowl-
edge. Knowledge is power. ICTs empower people.
“ICT disparities usually exacerbate existing
disparities based on location (such as ur u r-
What Can Disadvantaged Groups Do
ban-rural), gender, ethnicity, physical dis
dis- With ICTs?
ability, age, and, especially, income level, ICTs are tools - they are powerful tools! Access to ICTs in
and between "rich" and "poor" coun
countries.” itself has little value. The value of ICTs resides not in the
tool itself but rather in what the user is able to do with the
Source: “Spanning the Digital Divide: tool.
Understanding and Tackling the Issues.”
http://www.bridges.org/spanning/summary.html Modern ICTs are particularly attractive to children and
youths that are quick to learn the basic skills to operate com-
puters, software and to browse the Internet. Adults often
education and even violence and abuse. look at computers in a slightly different way as they realize
If the digital divide (i.e., the gap between information haves that they need computer skills for most employment.
and have-nots) is likely to exacerbate existing inequalities
within countries, it is essential that attempts to address it pay For children and youths, computers offer unmatched oppor-
special attention to the groups that are most likely to be on tunities to learn both within and outside of formal school
the wrong side of the divide, those that are already in a dis- settings. For children of disadvantaged backgrounds, often
advantaged position. “The use of new ICTs is likely to fall doing poorly in schools that fail to adequately address their
into well defined socio-economic user groups and a certain

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educational needs, computers are powerful motivational and selling recycled paper to generate income for the tele-
tools. center. In the Guacharaca telecenter, the women are hoping
to improve their chicken raising business by finding re-
! Learning through games sources on the Internet and then using some of the resources
Educational games come in many sizes and shapes and often to support the telecenter as well.
at significant costs. In Ecuador, Chasquinet has made avail-
able a collection of free game software donated by Cuba to Microenterprises can therefore also serve as a source of in-
all the telecenters that it has helped to establish.4 The first come to support telecenters, building a virtuous cycle of im-
thing that children need to learn is often how to use a mouse provements, increased revenues and sustainability around the
properly. Simple games can enable them to quickly acquire effective use of ICTs.
the necessary fine motor skills. In a number of the telecen-
ters established by Chasquinet that we visited during our Key Findings from the Case Studies
field trip, the children were playing a game designed to learn
colors. Finding: Children and youths are a very appro-
priate target group for ICT initiatives. The
! Learning through exploration range of beneficial impacts of ICT exposure and
Access to the World Wide Web allows students to get infor- training on children and youth is extensive. In
mation that is often not accessible at their school or commu- addition, children and youths are generally very
nity library (if there is one). At the Niños de la Calle Tele- enthusiastic about new technologies and very
center in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, we came across children who quick to learn new skills.
were learning about animals through Spanish language inter-
active National Geographic software. The Ninos de la Calle project in Ecuador has shown that
ICTs can help to change the lives of children who had very
! Learning through collaboration few opportunities. Once introduced to ICTs, children
Children who are not doing well in traditional academic set- quickly learn important skills and are exposed to a broad
tings can do much better when they learn by doing and expe- range of information sources, opening up new horizons and
rience something firsthand. Computers and the Internet al- allowing them to make better choices for their future. Some
low students to collaborate across cultures and across oceans. who had dropped out of school decide to return to school.
Through email, chat rooms and other tools, they can ex- Others decide to pursue more advanced computer training.
change information and learn from students in far away
lands. One such example of virtual exchange and collabora- Finding: While the children and youths are mo-
tive learning is the RiverWalk project linking schools in five tivated, it is important that their experience
countries, including Brazil and Japan.5 (See RiverWalk - with ICTs be supported by competent and
Brazil: Virtual Journey, Real Learning, TechKnowLogia, knowledgeable staff. While it can be argued
January - March 2002 Issue.) that children and youths (particularly younger
children) can teach themselves basic computer
! Learning work-related skills skills, this does not negate the need for quali-
ICTs can create income opportunities in a number of ways. fied staff to guide and support the learning
First, as already mentioned, basic computer skills have be- process. Indeed, this support and guidance are
come a necessity for many jobs in urban areas. Second, ICTs critical to the long-term success of these initia-
can facilitate the development and improvement of microen- tives.
terprises within disadvantaged communities.
In San Jose dos Campos, Brazil, a local organization named
In some cases, the ICTs themselves can become a microen- FUNDHAS is collaborating with the Brazilian branch of
terprise. For example, in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, a telecenter Kidlinks (an international organization) to create a rich
named Telenet Chicos de la Calle, was established as a mi- learning environment using the Internet. Highly qualified
croenterprise to serve the needs of the social sector, the personnel facilitate the learning experience by focusing on
community at large and create jobs for youths. The ICTs can the effective use of computers and the Internet to learn about
facilitate the improvement of existing microenterprises or issues that are important to the children rather than focusing
development of new microenterprises. For example, at the on teaching basic computer skills.
telecenter in El Panacillo in Quito, the youths that manage
the telecenter are using the Internet to learn how to make and Not all organizations starting to integrate ICT projects into
improve the candles they sell in the local market. In the tele- their activities have this necessary technological and peda-
center at El Itchimbia in Quito as well, the youths are making gogical expertise. For example, the Working Youth Program

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in Ecuador (Programa del Muchacho Trabajador) is pressing are now increasingly getting involved in ICT
hard to build up its own human capacity with regards to both projects. On the other hand, ICT-oriented or-
technological and pedagogical issues related to the introduc- ganizations are also trying to reach disadvan-
tion of computers into existing programs that serve the needs taged groups. They each have strengths and
of the youths of Quito and other cities in Ecuador. weaknesses and can be most effective if they
combine their efforts through partnerships or
Finding: Affordable technological solutions for networking.
access in remote areas remain illusive. There
is a shortage of technical expertise in the ad- A good example of partnership is the collaboration between
aptation of existing low-cost technologies for FUNDHAS and Kidlink in San Jose dos Campos.
remote areas where electricity and telephone FUNDHAS has the local knowledge of how to manage after-
lines are inexistent. More efforts need to be school children’s programs in San Jose dos Campos and
channeled into identifying such expertise where Kidlink has expertise in technology and cultural exchanges at
it exists and developing it at the national level the national and international level. By combining their ex-
in countries where connectivity remains a pertise, they are able to deliver quality technology programs
challenge in rural and remote areas.6 for children and youths from poor neighborhoods.

For example, a local NGO in Ecuador called Chasquinet has Finding: There is no single model for
been trying to help indigenous groups gain access to comput- sustainability. Sustainability must be achieved
ers and the Internet. Many of these indigenous groups live in along different models based on local condi-
remote areas where there is limited electricity and there are tions. If the focus remains on disadvantaged
no telephone lines. These areas must not be excluded from groups, the communities themselves are un-
the information age. Yet it is difficult for Chasquinet to likely to have the resources to ensure the
identify the appropriate experts and find financial resources sustainability of the ICT project. However, it
to hire such experts to develop connectivity solutions in re- often remains important for the community to
mote areas. contribute something, whether it is a locale,
symbolic fees or volunteer labor. In some ar-
Finding: The importance of effective training eas, the local private sector may be a good
and ongoing support for educators cannot be source of support but in other regions or coun-
underestimated. Finding second hand comput- tries the private sector will not be a significant
ers or obtaining donations of computers is not source of support. In some cases, a micro-
difficult compared to ensuring that computers enterprise model can perhaps help sustain an
are used effectively to teach, learn and expand ICT project. There are no simple solutions.
horizons and opportunities. More generally,
providing access to ICTs is only a first step. For example, the Committee for the Democratization of In-
Making sure that this access is transformed formatics (CDI) in Brazil has been very successful at ex-
into productive use remains a key challenge. panding its technology schools around the country. It has
been most successful in doing so in a sustainable fashion in
For example, ProInfo is a Federal Government program in areas where there is significant private sector support. In
Brazil that provides training and support for primary school poorer areas of Brazil, where private sector support is lack-
teachers in using computers for educational purposes. The ing, CDI has had to rely more extensively on international
Government of Brazil is planning a rapid deployment of private foundations and other international sources of funds.
computers in secondary schools. Unless support similar to
that which has been provided by ProInfo to primary school Finding: Replicability and expansion are not al-
teachers is provided to secondary school teachers, the de- ways the ultimate goal. Some projects are de-
ployment of computer equipment in secondary schools will signed to address specific local needs and will
have limited impacts and may even result in further resis- necessarily have a local impact. Local impact,
tance to technology in the future as less and less educators however, does not mean “minimal” impact.
will be convinced of the benefits of technology in education. Other projects are meant to be expanded and
are expected to have a national impact. Com-
Finding: Combining strengths through partner- munity-based ICT projects and initiatives need
ships and/or networking and networks is im- not be “replicable.” Indeed, they need to be de-
portant. Organizations with long-standing ex- veloped based on local needs and conditions.
perience working with disadvantaged groups On the other hand, national programs need to

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be based on an existing national structure and Even the projects that appear to be successful in terms of
must take into account the human and finan- rapid expansion and deployment across the country such as
cial capacity of existing institutions when con- CDI, their true impact will take time to materialize and con-
templating large-scale expansions. centrated efforts to capture. Measuring results in terms of
the number of computers installed, demand for ICT services
For example, Chasquinet supports small community-based and satisfaction with training provided fails to account for
telecenters in Ecuador. These telecenters are meant to serve the true impact of such projects. Few organizations under-
small target groups and are based on community-level in- take comprehensive evaluations of their impacts and when
volvement and management. Their impacts are necessarily they do, the focus tends to be on immediate outcomes rather
local and cannot automatically be replicated in other com- than on the expected long-term benefits of exposure to ICTs.
Japan, among a growing number of donor countries, has ex-
On the other hand, programs such as ProInfo in Brazil are pressed a strong commitment to helping address the digital
meant to have a national scope and national impact. The divide in developing countries and is backing up this com-
scale of operations, scale of funding, human and institutional mitment with significant financial resources. The larger re-
capacity building issues involved vary greatly. port upon which this article is based was meant to help JICA
(Japan International Cooperation Agency) develop specific
projects to integrate ICTs in efforts to help disadvantaged
Finding: Measuring true impact remains an il-
groups in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a special
lusive goal. Efforts must be made within exist-
emphasis on Brazil and Ecuador as possible target countries.
ing and new programs to have clear and meas- Through a review of ongoing projects in both countries, we
urable objectives. In order to gain access to were able to gain some useful insights into future ICT coop-
funding, most initiatives are forced into a cycle eration in Brazil and Ecuador as well as broader lessons
of reporting that invites overestimation of learned to be applied in potential projects across the region
beneficial impacts of pilot projects and neglect and around the world.
of the true challenges being faced.

URLs of Projects or Programs mentioned in the article:

Committee for the Democratization of Informatics: http://www.cdi.org.br
ProInfo: http://www.proinfo.gov.br
RiverWalk: http://www.riversproject.org
Kidlink: http://venus.rdc.puc-rio.br/kids/kidlink/
Programa del Muchacho Trabajador (PMT): http://www.ciudadandina.org/pmt/
Chasquinet: http://www.chasquinet.org
Fundhas: http://www.iconet.com.br/khouse/

Barbara Fillip can be reached via email at barbara.fillip@verizon.net.
The study upon which this article is based was funded by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). The views ex-
pressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of JICA.
Andrew Skuse, “Information Communication Technologies, Poverty and Empowerment.” June 2000.
The games can be downloaded from the Niños de la Calle web site: URL: http://chasquinet.org/ninosdelacalle/juegos-e.htm.
The website for the RiverWalk project is located at http://www.riversproject.org/.
Finding low-cost connectivity solutions is an area of focus for activities of all major global efforts to address the digital di-
vide, including the G8’s Genoa Plan of Action and the UN’s ICT Task Force.

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BOTSWANA: Equity and Access in ICTs
Are We Reaching the Audience We Intended to Address?

By D.M. Ratsatsi1

Background economy. Equity and access will also be very closely related
to the community within which the school operates.
Technology has become the leader in the socio-economic
environment in the 21st century. In preparation for meaning- Equity therefore is the provision of resources to all in a man-
ful contribution in this century, we should all be prepared for ner that does not disadvantage others while Access can be
the challenges of technology before us. Information Com- defined as the ability to enjoy the benefits of resources that
munication Technology (ICT) has proved to be the driving are being provided without any discrimination whatsoever.
force in all economies through out the world. Jobs now re-
quire computer literacy and the need for everyone to have In Botswana, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruc-
computer and technology skills has grown dramatically. tion in the document ‘Equity in Education: Policy & Rec-
ommendations,’ defines equity as “the outcome of funda-
The world has now become a place where information shar- mental laws and policies which, when enforced, should guar-
ing is of paramount importance. We are all now used to the antee fair treatment and access to resources and programs for
terms “Global Village” or “Superhighway” which simply all students as well as outreach for parental involvement.
refer to the way in which we are able to communicate effec- Furthermore the educational environment must teach and
tively and efficiently without any barrier irrespective of the promote the positive self-esteem needed to enable each stu-
distances and times of operation. For all of us to succeed in dent to make a productive contribution to his or her school,
ensuring that all our nations benefit from the use of ICT, community, country and world.”
education should make it their priority to educate children at
a very early age on the use of computers in every day life and The Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE), a Gov-
the world of work. ernment of Botswana paper No. 2 of 1994, which is a guid-
ing document to all educational developments in the country,
Issues of equity are very important factors contributing to made recommendations on equity and access. One of these
quality education and also to empower all in an equal and recommendations which is of interest here is as follows:
equitable manner to enable them to participate fully in the

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REC. 1 (para. 2.3.17) The commission recommends sources. This is a facility with air-conditioning, network
that equity continues to be an explicit goal of edu- trunking and a dedicated circuit isolated from the direct
cational policy and that the Ministries responsible mains. There are at present, 51 of the 205 laboratories
for education and training should introduce appro- equipped with computers. Out of the equipped schools, 15
priate measures to achieve greater equity. They were equipped by World Links for Development while the
should develop clear equity indicators and targets government equipped the rest. All the government equipped
so that progress can be regularly monitored and re- schools have 20 computers, with a server and a local area
ported. network while the WorLD schools still do not have the same
compliment of equipment. We have plans to ensure that they
Based on the above, the government has made it a point to are also not disadvantaged. Plans are also at an advanced
try and distribute educational resources in an equitable fash- stage to install computer equipment in all the remaining 154
ion through out the country. Learners are taken as agents of CJSS.
change and as such should all be reached at all costs.

In Botswana, the World Links for Development program

(WorLD)2 has been implemented mainly in the Community
Junior Secondary schools (CJSS). These schools are sup-
posed to be part of the community in terms of their opera-
tions and management. They have a board of governors who
lay out policies that the school operates within.

World Links aims to help bring the developing world into the
information age through its future leaders — students — and
to build cultural awareness among them in the face of an
ever more global economy and society. It also wanted to im-
prove and expand educational opportunities for secondary
teachers and students around the world. This program, spe-
cifically, wanted to target the disadvantaged communities. It
is within this premise that we would like to see whether the
program is addressing or reaching the audience that it set out
to empower. Rural vs. Urban
Pupils should not be disadvantaged simply because of their
Is Equity Served? location. The selection of schools was made in such a way
that a good spread was achieved through out the country
(see map below).
There are several levels of equity to be observed in educa-
tion, as equity can be addressed by assessing what causes the
There have been cases in the WorLD program where privi-
inequity and who is involved. It has been stated “Incentives
leged schools in the affluent neighborhoods are chosen at the
systems only work if they are perceived as fair. Equity re-
detriment of the rest of the schools in the country. This
quires both that unequals are treated differently (vertical eq-
situation should not be allowed to prevail. Efforts should be
uity) and that equals are treated similarly (horizontal eq-
made to level the ground especially when it comes to con-
uity).”3 In this article, we would like to look at equity in the
nectivity, which is the main reason for disparities in the
following categories: National, Rural/Urban, School and
World Links for Development program.
Classroom levels.
School Level
National Level At the school level, all learners should receive the same in-
All schools should have access to the same facilities to pro- struction and treatment to enable fair competition, as there
vide equitable services to their learners. The government of are exams to determine any further development after basic
Botswana, in their implementation of equity and access at the education. All learners must also be able to compete favora-
Community Junior Secondary School (CJSS), embarked on bly for any other work-related opportunities.
the expansion of facilities at this level. There are 205 of these
CJSSs in the country and government has committed to en- The Revised National Policy on Education of 1994 made
suring that they all get a set of 20 computers, with a server recommendations for the Junior Community Secondary
and networking. A computer laboratory was therefore built schools as follows:
for each of the schools so that they all have the same re-

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“To develop in all children computer literacy and Classroom Level
readiness for the world of work.” Gender becomes an issue as the girl child and the boy child
would behave differently when it comes to who sits at the
“Each student should take a Basic Computer Aware- driving seat at the computer. It was reported at one of the
ness Course.” World Links in Washington that boys have a habit of running
to the lab to take charge of the operation at the computer.
It is at this level that we ensure that all students in the school Other factors that come into play are the high achievers and
are given the opportunity to learn basics in computers and low achievers. The high achievers are more often selected to
their uses. There is a syllabus that is followed by all schools participate in collaborative projects, as they will easily com-
that covers some application software as follows: word proc- municate with learners from other countries. Teachers will at
essing, spreadsheet, graphics and database. The communica- all cost avoid selecting learners who will need a lot of assis-
tions component, even though it is not covered in the sylla- tance to participate in such projects. And therefore, the rest
bus, has been treated through other programs, e.g. Internet of the students spend endless periods of time at the windows
Learning Trust from the UK and WorLD. It is over and peeping in to admire the computers and craving to put their
above this basic computer course that we then select a few hands on them. The computers are in this case reserved for
students to undertake WorLD and IEARN collaborative proj- the selected few, defeating the whole essence of equity.
The selection of students to participate in activities is also an
area of concern. We have had experience where teachers

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selected students because they were the best academically From a paper presented at the SchoolNet conference in
while those who really needed that help were left on the Namibia in 2000 by the Botswana delegation it was noted
ledge. This is contradictory to what WorLD set out to that
achieve - to reach out to the disadvantaged and thus bridge
the digital divide. The digital divide does not only exist be- “The prerequisite for the creation of an informa-
tween the developed and developing countries, but also exist tion-based economy is the existence of an efficient
between different individuals within the country depending telecommunications infrastructure. The poor state
on their location and position in society. Some of the stu- of telecommunications in our continent is presently
dents selected are already using computers at home and that the main constraint on the accessibility of many Af-
is why they excel. rican countries to the global information infra-
structure. There are only about 2 main telephone
In Botswana, because of government policies that are in lines per 100 persons in Africa, compared with 7 in
place, WorLD activities are not only limited to the students Asia, 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 37 in
who are selected to undertake collaborative projects, but Europe and 66 in the United States. Though most
there also is active teaching of all learners in the schools to countries in Africa have established Internet links,
acquire basic computer skills. The strategy of infusion is access is mostly restricted to the major cities and it
being implemented to enable all subjects to use computer is quite expensive, mainly because of the ineffi-
skills for teaching and learning. ciency of telephone services. The monthly cost of
an Internet account in Africa is, on average, esti-
It is with these foregoing in mind that we believe all students mated to be about seven times higher than that in
should really benefit rather than only an impressive few. We North America.”
have been encouraging our teachers to at least form hetero-
geneous groups to undertake collaborative projects. • Gender – The girl child must be empowered to compete
equally and equitably in ICT, but not at the expense of
Factors That Facilitate or Inhibit the boy child.
• Disparities – Let programs such as WorLD benefit both
Equity the very remote schools as well as the urban schools
• Clear policy guidelines – Each country should look at • Implementation Capacity – It is easier to find resources
how equity can be addressed and also come up with poli- and facilities in the urban areas than in the rural and re-
cies to guide implementation. mote areas but this must not be used as a reason to mar-
• Operational Structures – It is very difficult to address ginalize others.
issues of equity, but there must be structures in place with • Monitoring and Evaluation – Programs should be
intentions to address these issues and also come up with monitored and assessed to ensure that all the intended
strategies for implementation. beneficiaries are reached.
• Resources for implementation – There are also impli-
cations regarding a number of resources to implement the The World Links for Development is a very worthwhile pro-
policies, e.g. human resources, facilities, equipment and gram. Its methodologies and materials have really strength-
materials. ened the Computer Awareness program in our schools. As a
catalyst, we believe this program has achieved a lot and will
Challenges keep on making a difference where other endeavors have not
succeeded. We do not want to present a rosy picture in so far
• Conceptualization of Equity and Access – Equity and as equity is concerned. The country is still striving to address
access should be defined within the context of each indi- equity issues, but there are policies in place within which
vidual country so as to guide any policy developed. frameworks to guide implementation of equity are being de-
• Infrastructure - Telecommunication regulations and

David Motlhale Ratsatsi (DSE, BSc Physics, MSc Instructional Technology, MBA), Coordinator, World Links for Develop-
ment, Botswana, Email: Botswana@world-links.org
World Links is a joint initiative of the World Bank Institute’s World Links for Development Program and the World Links
non-profit organization (www.worldbank.org/worldlinks and www.world-links.org )
David W. Chapman and Carol A. Carrier, (Editors). 1990. Improving Educational Quality – A Global Perspective.
Greenwood Press.

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Joanne Capper

Two recent studies of telecenters in Latin America provide ! Successful Internet projects working at the local level
guidance in establishing the strategies needed to ensure that should be used to inform public policy at a national
low-income populations could benefit from Internet con- level.
nectivity. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB),
in collaboration with the FAO and ITU, conducted one of ! Gender issues are often neglected and need to be ad-
the studies focusing primarily on telecenters in Peru, in- dressed systematically.
cludes findings from a survey of 1,752 adult users.1 Peru ! The Internet is dominated by business and government
was selected as the focus of study due to the high number of agendas and those who would use the Internet to en-
individuals that use the Internet from public access points in courage social change must find creative ways to pro-
that country. The second study, conducted by Canada’s mote their social vision over the Internet. Forming
International Development Research Centre (IDRC), syn- broad alliances for cooperation on specific projects is
thesizes the experiences of about 50 IDRC-funded informa- more likely to yield results than are individual or small
tion and communication technology (ICT) projects since group efforts, working in isolation.
! Unintended negative effects of ICTs include exacer-
bating existing inequalities, the imposition of dominant
Study Findings views, information overload, and detachment from real
world needs. Problems or pre-conditions that existed in
Major findings of the studies include the following: a society before the Internet tended to be amplified by
the introduction of ICTs.
! A number of low-income users in Peru are benefiting
from Internet use, but the population served has a sub-
stantial stock of human capital. Individuals with lower Types of Telecenters
levels of human capital are less likely to take advantage
of the Internet’s benefits without additional support The IADB survey included several types of telecenters, in-
structures. cluding: commercial, franchise, university, school, NGO-
sponsored, municipal and multipurpose. Each is viewed as
! Providing Internet connectivity is not sufficient to fos- having particular advantages and disadvantages, as well as
ter democracy. A social vision of the Internet requires: structural and policy decisions that are needed when consid-
" equitable access, which involves basic training ering attempts to bridge the digital divide.
and affordable connectivity;
" an ability to make meaningful use of ICTs; and ! Commercial telecenters have limited capacity to benefit
low-income populations with little education.
" social appropriation, that is, use of computers and
the Internet to solve concrete problems and trans- ! Municipally-sponsored telecenters are more likely to be
form current realities. able to further local development, but independence
and distance from municipal leadership offices is im-
! For each $100 invested in telecenters, one is more
portant to reduce the potential for political interference.
likely to obtain high-impact results if simultaneous in-
vestments are made to improve access, use, and appro- ! University telecenters can offer social outreach to dis-
priation, than if the $100 is more broadly allocated to advantaged and community groups, provide training,
improve only access, while expecting use and social develop locally relevant content and establish and fa-
appropriation to increase on their own. cilitate virtual networks. Charging affordable fees for
services supports sustainability.
! Factors that limit access in rural areas include an inade-
quate telecommunications infrastructure, humidity, low ! School-based telecenters can be structured to involve
skills of client populations, and a lack of technical fa- community members during off-school hours, but costs
cilities and staff to maintain equipment. need to be shared by school system and the community.

! 49 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

Financing Telecenters ! Provide training for under- or uneducated adult users
when necessary.
Common features of successful ventures include transpar- ! Public service portals aimed at meeting economic and
ency in financing, flexible but required payment (including social needs of low-income populations are a high pri-
in-kind services or equipment), and a decentralized admin- ority. Such portals should use simple language and
istrative structure. State subsidies are likely to be required provide access to labor and self-employment opportu-
for poor populations, possibly using scholarships or voucher nities.
systems, instead of general subsidies for all users. Public
franchise schemes tend to undermine local ingenuity and ! Content development for public service can be publicly
sustainability and are not recommended. Local administra- supported but should be developed privately. A benefit
tors should have free reign in designing the structure and beyond the increased content is the development of an
policies of local telecenters. Telecommunications Devel- indigenous IT sector.
opment Funds and Community Investment Funds have been ! Content and telecenters need not be linked.
successful and are recommended, and Social Investment
Funds have been found to be useful for jump-starting the ! Communities should take the initiative and be respon-
development of community telecenters. When privatizing sible for maintaining community information systems.
telecommunications systems, States should negotiate rural ! There is a need for government policies to strengthen
coverage of telecenters by private providers. the legal and institutional framework to foster devel-
opment of sites and Internet solutions that facilitate e-
commerce, particularly by small and medium enter-
Recommendations prises, especially with regard to secure, online payment
Report recommendations include the following:
! States should encourage virtual activism.
! Use of wireless technology to increase Internet access ! Civil society groups should be provided with support in
in rural areas. getting their voices heard.
! Secure government subsidies, since market incentives
are not likely to be sufficient in sparsely populated rural
! Incorporate telecenters into a comprehensive economic Latin American governments are struggling with formulat-
and rural development strategy that includes investment ing policies and providing appropriate ICT services to meet
in complementary sectors. the needs of those groups that find themselves on the other
side of the digital divide. Given limited resources and
! Target youth for information technology (IT) training knowledge about whether investments in ICTs are worth-
interventions, since they are quick learners with the while and what is needed to ensure that they are used pro-
longest productivity horizon. This involves incorpo- ductively, these two studies should prove useful in provid-
rating IT into the formal education system and training ing needed guidance to national and local policymakers
teachers, which is a critical factor to effectiveness of concerned with meeting the social and economic needs of
use of IT in schools. Schools can either serve as tele- all their citizens.
centers/community learning centers, or can be users of
external telecenters.

Telecenters for Socioeconomic and Rural Development in Latin American and the Caribbean, by Francisco Proenza, Roberto
Bastidas-Buch, and Guillermo Montero. Online at: http://www.iadb.org/regions/itdev/telecenters/
Gomez, R. and Martinez, J. (2001) The Internet: Why and What For? Canada: IDRC.

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R.D.Colle and R. Roman

Cornell University

We begin by laying out some assumptions that are widely What will it take to change the access situation for women?
shared among those who work in development and commu- In a recent infoDev interview, Nancy Hafkin1 cites examples
nication. of how women are using ICTs (particularly computers and
the Internet) successfully. She notes, for example, that a
(1) Information and communication technologies (ICT) are women’s income generation project in South Africa has be-
vital components of development programs, with computers gun using the Internet to market “very fat chickens” in the
and websites as central actors in the 21st century. nearby high-income communities. In this simple example,
we have a clue as to a somewhat different approach to the
(2) For at least a generation or two, shared public facilities gender divide in ICT access.
such as telecenters, cyber cafés and information access points
(IAP) will be the means a majority of the world’s population
will have for using computer-mediated communications. Intermediaries
(3) Access to these information resources is more than con-
nectivity, and the social, political and economic aspects of These barriers eventually may disappear as cultural practices
access require as much attention as the technical and tele- begin to change. We are reminded of this possibility when
communications aspects. we realized recently at commencement ceremony that a PhD
candidate at Cornell University came from a family of 11
(4) Cultural barriers especially impede opportunities for fe- children in Kenya, and that six of her female and male sib-
males to gain the benefits that can come from ICTs. lings had also earned college degrees. When we asked how
that could happen, our acquaintance attributed it to her fa-
ther’s idiosyncratic counter-culture belief in education for
girls and boys. But these kinds of cultural changes will take
Cultural barriers generations to ripple through society. Meanwhile, the gulf
exists between women’s information needs and potentially
The cultural barriers that hinder women’s access to ICTs, and vast amounts of relevant ICT mediated information.
especially computers and the Internet, are more problematic
and complex than simply making computers available in a We need to look at some shortcuts to accelerate women
library, telecenter or other public facility. Those barriers in- gaining some of the benefits that come from ICTs. We have
clude literacy, education, language, cost, locality, the per- already done this regarding the issue of each person or
ceived role of women, and technophobia. These are not in- household having an individual computer and individual
herent in the female condition as we can see in thousands of connection to the Internet. We have accepted the telecom-
offices across the world (where men are often less competent munications concept of “universal access” in which there is
in dealing with the computer programs and putting the fuel in shared use of ICT facilities at a public place by individuals.
the copy machine). Nor are they barriers uniquely experi- We can accelerate women gaining benefits from ICTs by
enced by females. But they are barriers that exist widely and exploiting the concept of intermediaries.
more severely for women and particularly in Africa and
some parts of Asia. Some of these obstacles are as resilient to Richard Heeks2 of the Institute for Development Policy and
change as female genital mutilation. They are deeply embed- Management in the UK's University of Manchester suggests
ded in cultural practices such as denying school opportunities that intermediaries are organizations or individuals "who
for girls, which is where the computers are most likely to be own ICTs and who can act as gatekeepers between cyber-
and where they will learn to read. space and the organic, informal information systems of those
on the wrong side of the digital divide." Heeks suggests that

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good intermediaries bring more to the process than connec- would be the focal point of a SHG’s activities. A scenario
tion to information and communication data and hardware. might unfold like this. A group of SHG representatives is
Motivation is a key element. Heeks asserts that too often trained to use ICTs, with the training material built around
projects assume motivation is present and too often it is not. micro-enterprise management. The SHG representative
In designing ICT systems within development projects he would then perform four roles: (1) serve as an information
suggests that it is critical that someone have an answer to the source on micro-enterprises for the SHG; (2) be the group’s
'Why should I?' Why should I learn ICT skills? Why should I and individuals’ liaison with the telecenter for obtaining in-
access ICTs? Why should I use ICT-borne information? formation on other issues and for communicating for them;
(3) facilitate distance and self-learning programs for the SHG
or its individual members; and (4) carry out informal ICT
Intermediaries in an ICT peer training within its groups so that SHG members might
be motivated and empowered themselves to use the telecen-
strategy ter’s ICT services directly.
Because it may take generations to bring significant and per- This scenario sees the representatives as linking SHGs and
sonal ICT benefits to a majority of the women in Africa and the information resources available through ICTs (which
Asia, we propose a systematic use of intermediaries to de- may include, besides computer-based technologies, a range
liver these benefits now. This is how. In India there are of other media such as audio and video recordings) and open
thousands of women’s self help groups (SHGs) involved in a paths to such newly emerging ventures as e-commerce and e-
wide array of micro-economic enterprises. Many have been governance.
mobilized by NGOs that have a commitment or mandate to
improve the welfare of their constituents. For example, in
Gujarat, the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Beyond ICTs
has a membership of more than 200,000 women in some 790
villages. SEWA helps these members organize into groups or As all readers of this journal are aware, information may be
cooperatives so that they can cooperate to build stronger en- important and valuable, but there are other factors that also
terprises. need to be addressed in an ICT-for-development strategy.
The list depends on the circumstances but might include
The promotion of women's SHGs is seen as an effective roads, markets, clinics, and credit. That is why, when we
means to empower poor women and enable them to partici- explore the SHG intermediaries approach in India, we are
pate in and drive their own development. SHGs are now rec- also exploring the establishment of facilities that can provide
ognized as a key transmission belt for development efforts by microenterprises with quality control mechanisms, packag-
the state and the civil society. Such village level collectives ing, and delivery services.
are a preferred institutional mechanism because they are
gender sensitive, participatory, cost-effective and grassroots And finally, while we are taking shortcuts across cultural
organizations. boundaries, we recall the classic story that anthropologist
Lauriston Sharp tells about missionaries working among
Many of the women in these groups are not benefiting from Stone Age people in Australia. They provided steel axes to
ICTs because of the cultural barriers noted above. We see as women in a society where men traditionally controlled the
an innovative initiative aimed at broadening their access to axes that heretofore had been made of special stone. The
ICTs, to have representatives of (and in) SHGs trained in changes in power and responsibilities proved calamitous for
ICT use -- for example, in "information seeking” on the web, the existing social order.
using e-mail, and working with self-learning and distance
learning multi-media packages. As we look toward opera-
tionalizing this approach, existing community-run telecenters

Gender Digital Divide: What Can Be Done? An Interview with Nancy Hafkin. 2002. The eXchange Newsletter 8, infoDev
[Online] Available: http://www.infodev.org/exchange/exch8/4exch8.htm
Heeks, R. 2002. "’i-Development not e-Development’ Special Issue on ICTs and Development", Journal of International De-
velopment, 14.

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Marie Fontaine, LearnLink, Academy for Educational Development

Likely to be last ence…largest in the more mature markets, such as Sweden at

46 percent, Britain at 42 percent, and Germany and France at
In 19 seconds, a Google search for “women, development,
39 percent each….”6 The trend is ever upward, and one ex-
and information/communication technologies” yielded 10,400
pects that, over time and as needed, European women will be
results. A quick scan of the first 10 or so pages of descrip-
equal Internet users with their male compatriots.
tions revealed a large number of articles focusing on Infor-
mation and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as tools for
Outside of OECD countries, however, the gender divide is
the economic advancement and social empowerment of dis-
thriving, with so few women online that, in some places, they
advantaged women in developing countries. Indeed, one of
do not even appear on the radar screen. While male use of
the articles listed was an essay I had written on that theme.1
the Internet is growing in developing countries, women are
far less likely to have access to ICTs and, as with virtually
Clearly, the topic deserves attention. In the rush to comput-
every modern advance, far more likely to be the last to benefit
erize the world, women whom technology bypasses risk even
from the opportunities ICTs can provide.
greater social isolation, political marginalization, and re-
source impoverishment. Yet the literature is full of promising
case study material, mainly descriptions of projects with After changes upon changes, are we
worthy objectives indeed. One cannot help but conclude that more or less the same? A digression….
the ICT movement must be achieving excellent progress on
Reading through the project descriptions on the Web, I was
this front.
struck by how little the language about women and develop-
ment has changed over the last 25 years. When I first entered
But are these achievements merely small, isolated successes,
the international development field, I was an avid reader of
or are they substantive stepping stones leading to equal ICT
Irene Tinker, Ester Boserup, Fatima Mernissi, and other inno-
access and digital opportunity for women and men every-
vative feminists leading the way to a new model of develop-
ment—one in which women mattered. At the time, I thought
their insights into gender issues offered great promise for
Certainly, the trend in North America is encouraging. In
altering the course of human development. Little did I know
1999, 49.5 percent of all Internet users in the United States
that, a quarter of a century later, our publications, confer-
were women.2 Then, in the first quarter of 2000, the number
ences, workshops, seminars, brown bags, and their 21st cen-
of US women online surpassed that of men for the first time!3
tury equivalent—the listserv—still would be wrestling with
Canadian statistics are similar. In 1994, for example, 22 per-
the same concepts and complexities of change.
cent of men were online compared with 14 percent of women.
“By 2000, the proportion of men surfing the net had more
The ICT phenomenon—and the growing gender divide in the
than doubled to 56 percent, while the proportion of women
developing world—is characteristic of many activities that
had more than tripled to 50 percent.”4
still fail to reach “third world” women. Why? What is it
about women in developing countries that continues to con-
Though the Internet population in other developed countries
found and defy development experts? Are the theories
is still predominantly male, those statistics are changing as
wrong? Are the approaches and models insufficient? Or
well. In Europe, for example, ICT use is skewed toward men,
have they just not been implemented properly?
sometimes “going well beyond the general male to female
proportion of the overall population.”5 Yet women’s usage is
steadily increasing, with “the female Internet audi-

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Beyond Access: How not to design de- A lot of knowledge, a lack of success
velopment projects for women Dr. Rathgeber’s claims correspond with the results of my
search for a successful case study to share in this article. I
Clearly, the model of individual ownership of computers that
had hoped to present a case study of a telecenter that women
works so well in North America is limited in developing
frequented equally with men and that met the information and
countries to the social and economic elite—and utterly unre-
communication needs of both effectively. Unable to find one,
alistic for disadvantaged populations. Telecenters,7 or com-
I must agree with her conclusion that none of the major actors
munity based, public Internet centers, have been touted as an
in the establishment of telecenters “has successfully devel-
effective solution to the access problem, and a variety of
oped an effective methodology to address women’s different
models have sprung up as pilots or prototypes around the
priorities and constraints.”11
world. Moreover, many telecenter projects have carefully
and creatively crafted outreach efforts to attract women to the
Yet the plethora of articles, essays, reports, models, guide-
centers. “Preliminary evidence suggests that telecentres in
lines, and project descriptions on the Web suggests that ICTs
developing countries,” however, “are not particularly effec-
finally may do for women what the print dissemination of
tive in helping women…gain access to better economic, edu-
Women in Development (WID) material has not. With the
cational and other opportunities. Women use telecentres
almost instant and unlimited availability of programming
much less than men, and when they do use them, it is usually
experience, cumulative knowledge, even nascent wisdom on
for non-Internet related purposes.”8
which to draw, there is no excuse for ICT initiatives in gen-
eral or telecenter activities in particular to fail women.
Dr. Eva Rathgeber, Joint Chair of Women’s Studies at the
University of Ottawa and a leading telecenter researcher, cites
To illustrate the elements that are critical to telecenter success
reasons for this failure that read like a 1975 primer on how
for women, I chose not to search further for an existing case
not to design interventions for women: focus on machines
in point. Rather, I present a hypothetical telecenter mini-
that women find “unfriendly,” construct cramped premises
model that incorporates the essential features we know to be
with little privacy and no childcare facilities, hire male man-
conducive to women’s participation. Drawing on first-hand
agers and technical assistants, choose an inconvenient loca-
experience with 28 AED/LearnLink-administered centers in
tion with unsuitable hours of operation, charge fees beyond
Ghana, Benin, Paraguay, and Bulgaria,12 plus selected re-
the financial reach of poor women, and, perhaps most impor-
search and studies from the many excellent documents avail-
tant, offer content that is perceived as irrelevant. In short, Dr.
able online, this article describes a community telecenter de-
Rathgeber suggests that like other technological innovations
liberately designed to accommodate both men and women
before them, telecenters often are designed without adequate
equitably. In the process, some of the common constraints to
attention to the needs, capacities, and preferences of local
women’s access and usage are identified and addressed.
communities in general and of women in particular.9

Accommodating local needs is a simple and basic tenet that A wonderful drawing
all development professionals know. Yet in terms of women, A couple of years ago, the Canadian International Develop-
Dr. Rathgeber believes it is not being done. “The knowledge ment Research Center (IDRC) (http://www.idrc.ca) produced
exists,” she claims, “but it is not being used.”10 a wonderful drawing of a telecenter, a comfortable, convivial
place with men and women and children and goats and chick-
ens wandering about, each taking
care of his or her or its own
business. The center is rich with
personality and community spirit,
one of those welcoming public
square-type places where people
congregate to meet friends and
exchange news while accomplishing
some information or communication
task. As with the old public
telegraph or post office — or the
watering hole13 — one gets the
feeling that almost everyone stops
by the center almost every day, if
not to conduct specific business then
just to see what’s new.

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Several features of this telecenter stand out
as particularly important for women.

First, contrary to the notion of ICTs as in-

timidating and inappropriate in a “low-tech”
village setting, the center presented in the
drawing appears to be integrated seamlessly
into the surroundings. Rather than appear-
ing sophisticated, high-tech, and out of
place, the telecenter seems to be a natural
extension of life, combining computers with
more traditional ICTs, such as photocopiers,
telephones, and a meeting room. The re-
laxed atmosphere blends in beautifully with
the palm trees, grazing goats, and napping
At this particular moment in time, the center in the drawing is
dogs outside, and men, women, and children of all ages are
accommodating approximately 20 people, some working
clearly comfortable inside, working, chatting, and learning
alone and others in a group; though the center holds only ten
together. The telecenter has been set up to harmonize with
or so computers, which seems to be sufficient. No one is
the village, building on tradition and accepted cultural
waiting, and the space is roomy enough to provide people
norms and fostering a sense of familiarity among people
with enough privacy to do their work.
of both genders.
Most important, women appear to be comfortable engaging in
Second, with a house, a car, and a woman carrying a basket
telecenter activities alongside men. While research suggests
on her head, the physical location of the center appears to be
that women sometimes do not feel at ease with male technical
at a community crossroads, not in an isolated spot difficult for
assistants, the center depicted in the drawing reveals no such
women to reach. It seems that women do not have to travel
difficulty. Indeed, the staff is so integrated into the telecen-
far to use this telecenter but can walk there in the course of
their daily activities. Moreover, while studies suggest that ter activities that, aside from two men who appear to be
employees—one at the back with outstretched arms and an-
many people in communities with telecenters do not even
other at the front door welcoming a women who is entering—
know where they are located, one senses that the entire com-
munity knows where to find the center in the drawing. differentiating between clients and staff members is not
easy to do.
One also gets the sense that what is going on in this telecenter
is relevant to the lives of the visitors. Just as people frequent In the real world
the market to find the necessities of life, here, too, they obvi- While the happy telecenter cartoon illustrates how some of
ously are engaged in meaningful activities—perhaps re- the logistical difficulties for women can be addressed, it does
searching a topic for a school assignment, sending an email to not depict the deeper, underlying obstacles to women’s ICT
a loved one, or checking market prices. The people seem to access and usage. Illiteracy, poverty, purdah, and other con-
be aware of what can be accomplished with ICTs and to un- straints related to time, mobility, finances, and social and
derstand and appreciate ICT applications, and the community cultural tradition—the same constraints that limit women’s
as a whole is taking advantage of the opportunities ICTs pres- equitable access to high quality education, health care, paid
ent. Clearly, the information and communication needs of employment, and legal rights—conspire to keep women from
the community have been ascertained, and the telecenter participating in and benefiting from the information revolu-
has been set up to meet the priorities and interests of both tion. If telecenters are to offer women equitable opportunities
male and female users. These are not just “machines for for personal and professional growth, these longstanding and
men.”14 well-documented constraints must be considered from the
outset, informing and factored into the creation of new tele-
Childcare seems not to be an issue or problem. Indeed, chil- centers at the design stage.
dren are clearly welcome, whether outside playing or inside
with their mothers. While no organized child care is appar- Beyond addressing the obvious obstacles to women’s access
ent—an addition that, if designed properly and affordably, and usage, ICT-specific concerns require attention as well.
would likely enhance the female friendliness of the telecen- Some of these include the following:
ter—children seem not to be a deterrent to women’s use of • Women’s awareness of IT functions and benefits;
the center. The “open door” atmosphere appears to extend to • Convenient, effective training in ICT applications;
all age groups. • Reliable hardware;

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• Appropriate software; Awareness adds orientation and demonstration programs to
• Affordable opportunities for use; access. This approach takes time, money, and planning, but it
• ICT policies that promote and enable women’s access reaches beyond the technical elite to other “early adopters”
• Sufficient literacy and language skills among women—or who, given the opportunity, will take the time to learn and
access to mediators; integrate ICTs into their personal and professional lives.
• Women’s ability to synthesize, organize, and apply in-
formation; and Diffusion involves a pre-planned, systematic program of ac-
• Women’s ability to produce and disseminate information tivities designed to spread the message broadly. (The mes-
as well as receive it. sage includes “what are ICTs?” and “how can ICTs help
you?”) Diffusion is time-consuming and resource-intensive,
but it is how disadvantaged groups are reached. Effective
Diffusion diffusion programs should focus on local needs and priorities,
Of the several approaches to introducing ICTs in developing both in terms of the message conveyed and the method used
countries—access, awareness, and diffusion—only the latter for conveyance. What works in one environment may not
is likely to reach women effectively. work in another.

Access involves making Internet, computing, and telecommu- Alternative delivery channels can be useful for reaching re-
nications tools available. Once the technical issues are mote regions and populations, especially those lacking liter-
solved, those who already understand the advantages of acy skills. For example, information obtained through the
ICTs—a relatively small segment of the population—will use Internet can be repackaged for distribu-
them. In this model, entry and start-up costs are relatively tion/dissemination/diffusion through more traditional means,
low, but the risk is that the digital/gender divide within coun- such as radio, television, even face-to-face meetings or com-
tries will widen. munity theatre. Therefore, one need not have access to a
computer per se to benefit from information originally gath-
ered online.
AWARENESS Sound access programs also go beyond the mere delivery of
information. Once one gets information, what does one do
In Savalou, Benin, the “town crier” announced the with it? For women accustomed to minimal access to infor-
opening of a new Community Learning Center (CLC) mation, for example, information overload can negate the
providing ICT tools for public use. The CLC also benefits. Follow through involving synthesis, organization,
spread the word through radio interviews, strategi- application, and distribution may be necessary.
cally placed posters, brochures, newspaper ads, and
open houses. In Asunción, Paraguay, the openings of
new CLCs were gala affairs, accompanied by music, The vast majority of information available on the Internet has
dancing, feasts, and the local priest, who blessed the been produced in English-speaking countries. For non-
centers. In Kumasi, Ghana, the Queen mother of English speakers, this information has little value unless it is
Mampong Kronko, Nana Aboagyewaa Kente, cut the translated. Equally important, there is a lack of information
tape to the new CLC facility. from developing countries online. Locally produced material,
in native languages and concerning topics of local interest,
Effective outreach, using traditional methods to mar- could greatly benefit development efforts at the local level
ket new ideas, is the first step in providing public and go a long way in attracting women to use ICTs.
access to ICTs. To reach disadvantaged communi-
ties, advertising access to computers may not be the
most compelling draw. Initially, what appeals may be Women want access
much more basic---the photocopier, the fax machine, A new survey undertaken by the International Telecommuni-
even the telephone. With time, other functions be- cations Union (ITU), the UN agency dealing with telecom-
come popular, too: desk top publishing to produce
munications, indicated that “…women from all regions of the
letterhead stationary---or even Christmas cards---
laminating of business cards, designing logos. Intro- world showed a striking solidarity in the belief that ICTs are
ducing ICTs in remote, rural, and disadvantaged critical to them in meeting their personal and professional
communities is best achieved by focusing initially on goals.” More specifically, “99% of the women surveyed said
immediate, locally perceived needs, moving to more that access to ICTs is important to women entrepreneurs, with
sophisticated applications through orientation and 97% agreeing that ICTs helped them to meet their profes-
demonstration sessions later. sional goals.”15 Even women who lack a specific under-
standing of how ICTs can benefit them seem to know, almost
intrinsically, that computers represent a hope for the future—
if not for themselves then for their children. And they are

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right. What is needed now is for development planners, do- women for years—to approach development, finally, as if
nors, and practitioners to build on this hope by addressing the women really mattered. In truth, we know what needs to be
same old issues that have confounded development for done. It is merely a matter of doing it.

Mary Fontaine, “A High-Tech Twist: ICT Access and the Gender Divide,” TechKnowLogia, March 2000
Joanna Glasner, “Gender Gap? What Gender Gap?” November 8, 1999
Michael Pastore, “Women Surpass Men as US Web Users,” CyberAtlas, August 10, 2000
Michael Pastore, “Internet Gender Gap Remains in Canada,” CyberAtlas, April 9, 2001
“Men Still Dominate WorldWide Internet Use,” CyberAtlas, January 22, 2002
“European Women Surf to a Different Drum,” CyberAtlas, March 25, 2002
In this article, “telecenters” refers to community learning centers (CLCs) and other public access centers where fees are low
and learning opportunities are available to social change agents and disadvantaged groups. Cybercafes and other for-profit,
primarily urban-based telecenters are excluded.
Eva M. Rathgeber, “Gender and Telecentres: What Have We Learned,” delivered at the Gender and the Digital Divide Semi-
nar on “Assessing the Impacts of Telecenters,” World Bank, March 7, 2002
LearnLink is a six-year global communication and learning systems activity funded by the US Agency for International De-
velopment and administered by the Academy for Educational Development (AED).
Mary Fontaine with Richard Fuchs, “The Watering Hole: Creating Learning Communities with Computers,” TechKnowLo-
gia, May/June 2000 (http://www.techknowlogia.org/).
Eva M. Rathgeber, “Gender and Telecentres: What Have We Learned,” March 7, 2002
"ICT for all: Empowering People to Cross the Digital Divide,” ITU, May 20, 2002, Switzerland

! 57 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

A Poverty Reduction Strategy for the Information Age1

Francisco J. Proenza
FAO Investment Centre

Pervasive poverty and inequality amidst plenty is the major threat to prosperity, stability and peace at the
dawn of the 21st Century. Notwithstanding extensive discourse about the digital divide, most information
and communication technology (ICT) initiatives start by encouraging nations to become e-ready: to boost
economic growth and increase e-commerce. These initiatives will help countries grow and contribute to
poverty alleviation. But globalization and ICT development tend to increase inequality. Countries that seek
widespread prosperity and social stability would do well to focus instead on e-ForAll; i.e. on making the
opportunities that ICTs open up for individual and social improvement accessible to all their citizens; and
on applying ICTs to empower common folk and engage their participation in national and local develop-
ment initiatives, and to reduce personal and societal insecurity.

Strategic Thinking about ICTs

Practically all countries of the world are launching national strategies to share in the benefits of the infor-
mation revolution. ICT development strategies, though, must address the central challenge facing develop-
ing countries: poverty and persistent and pervasive inequality.

Is this too much to ask? Is it economically feasible? Nobody knows, because the present stage is one of trial
and error and because constraints on ICT expansion throughout the region are daunting. What is clear is
that economy-wide returns to ICTs are high; that unless the issue of poverty takes center stage, new rich
enclaves will arise and leave poverty largely untouched, and that State action can help determine the extent
to which ICT benefits are broadly shared.

Notwithstanding the inequality bias of ICT development, the new technologies offer extraordinary oppor-
tunities to reduce the costs of the provision of services to low-income people. In many ICT-related proc-
esses, the marginal costs are close to zero. The cost associated with an additional telephone call or one
more Internet user or of a longer call or Internet link is minimal, unless the increase occurs during the peak
period of usage. Once produced, the cost of reproducing a CD is negligible. Once the content of a web page
has been prepared, the number of visitors has practically no effect on the costs of maintaining or updating
it. Governmental action to facilitate the provision of such services can therefore have a huge impact on the
livelihoods of low-income peoples.

Connectivity to the Internet, for example, can help overcome some of the most significant obstacles under-
mining the development of remote rural areas. They can enable low-cost access to governmental services,
agricultural product and market information, project and local investment opportunities, financial services,
distance education, online health services, and job vacancies and community development networks.

Some countries have been remarkably successful in implementing over a short period of time an equitable
ICT development strategy that is broadly endorsed by its citizenry and is fully supported at the highest lev-
els of government. In 1992, Estonia had just lost its major trading partner and was experiencing hyperinfla-
tion and a 15% fall in GDP.2 The country was turned around by sound economic policies and a thrust to
modernization in which equitable ICT development plays a key role. Building on a policy tradition of eq-
uitable growth, South Korea's informatization program has raised the number of Internet users from 2% in
1995 to 65% in 2001.3 Both countries have a substantial educational base developed through a sustained
effort over the years. Their action programs include cost-effective comprehensive measures to ensure that
all citizens have access to and partake in the benefits of ICT development.

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In thinking about ICT policy, e-readiness guides4 constitute a The first two columns in Table 1 briefly reproduce the key
useful point of departure. These are primarily “descriptive” questions addressed by two of the most prominent e-
tools, rather than prescriptive policy instruments. The readiness methodologies presently in use. The right hand
resulting country assessments are valuable to private column presents a somewhat different set of questions, com-
companies and investors, and to government officials that patible with a more inclusive ICT development vision. e-
may want to learn where their country stands vis a vis others. ForAll explicitly addresses the way in which a Government
They may also help officials recognize important might approach the development of a country’s ICT capa-
determinants of ICT sector development. bilities to combat poverty in a cost-effective and sustain-
able manner.

Table 1. From e-readiness to e-ForAll

McConnell Harvard’s CID e-ForAll
Connectivity Network Access Widespread Access to Networks
Are networks easy and What are the availability, Are there widespread low-cost means for the majority
affordable to access and to cost and quality of ICT of the population to access reliable ICT networks,
use? networks, services and services and equipment? Are there specific programs
equipment? directed securing full access by low-income people
and enhancing development impact of ICT use?
Human Capital Networked Learning
Are the right people avail- Does the Educational Democratic Networked Learning
able to support e-business System integrate ICTs into Do the Public Systems of Formal and Vocational Edu-
and to build a knowledge- its processes to improve cation integrate ICTs into its processes to improve
based society? learning? Are there techni- learning by the majority of the population? Does it
cal training programs in train and prepare a Workforce that is computer and
the community that can Internet literate and is capable of upgrading its skills
train and prepare an ICT frequently?
e-business Climate Networked Economy
How easy is it to do e- How are businesses and Networked Competitive Development
business today? governments using infor- ForAll
mation and communica- Are small firms, microentrepreneurs, small farmers
tion technologies to inter- and wage workers being incorporated into the net-
act with the public and work economy?
with each other?
Networked Society
To what extent are indi-
viduals using information
Networked Social Development
and communication tech-
Are national institutions that support social develop-
nologies to interact with
ment and security making effective use of ICTs and
the public and in their
social participation in their delivery of services tar-
personal lives? Are there
geted to low-income members of society?
significant opportunities
available for those with
ICT skills?
Information Security
Can the processing and
storage of networked in-
formation be trusted?

e-Leadership Network Policy ICTs and Poverty Reduction in National

Is e-Readiness a national To what extent does the Development Policy
priority? policy environment pro- Is poverty reduction a centerpiece of national policy?
mote or hinder the growth Does it encourage and facilitate the application of
of ICT adoption and use? ICTs to reduce poverty?

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e-ForAll: A Public Policy Guide for Pov- tent that provides services that traditionally bypassed low-
erty Reduction income people, and by content generated by people them-
selves giving expression to their needs and aspirations. The
e-ForAll is a strategic public policy guide to the applica- value of ICTs in combating poverty will remain very limited
tion of ICTs in the fight against poverty. It is founded on as long as participation rates remain repressed. At the present
three basic principles: stage of development in which most developing countries
face significant gaps in access to ICTs, providing connec-
• The new ICTs have an enormous potential to improve tivity, and complementary support to make that connec-
the livelihoods of low income peoples by reducing the cost tivity truly accessible to the poor over and above hard-
of providing services to traditionally marginalized commu- ware, should have the highest priority in an e-ForAll
nities and facilitating the build up of constructive social policy agenda.
capital. e-ForAll comprises some key steps that are necessary
to realize this potential.
• e-ForAll should put ICTs at the service of everyone in a Shared Public Access
One of the most economical forms of providing connectivity
society. Public policy should provide for the competitive and
to the poor is through shared public telecommunications ac-
transparent enabling environment to facilitate ICT business
cess facilities commonly known as telecenters. The commer-
development. e-ForAll should also include concrete pro-
cial variety of telecenters (cybercafes, cabinas públicas) is
grams to open opportunities for the poor to increase their
common in some cities (e.g. Lima, Mexico, Quito, La Paz),
incomes and improve their livelihoods, empower them
but practically nonexistent in others (e.g. Sao Paulo). This is
through participation in the decision making process, and
mainly because spontaneous commercial spread of telecen-
enhance their security from adverse shocks and health haz-
ters is conditional on specific circumstances that are not al-
ways present in a country or community: relative prices of
• ICT development for socioeconomic change will require
alternative forms of communications, a dense low-income
considerable State support and financing. Nevertheless, in
customer base, low cost technical know-how, and popular
a developing country context, State support cannot proceed
familiarity with ICTs. Even where commercial telecenters
without regards to cost, impact and effectiveness. ICT initia-
are located in urban marginal neighborhoods, well-educated
tives to combat poverty must be suited to the low productiv-
young people frequent them, primarily.
ity environment in which they are to be applied, and any sub-
sidies required must be cost-effective and result in sus-
To reach the large mass of low-income people, most of
tainable benefits.
whom have limited education and are unfamiliar with the
new technologies, specific measures – promotion campaigns,
Table 2 incorporates these principles into a model ICT de-
start-up investment capital, training programs, and demand
velopment program. The list of activities is meant to be il-
support during the initial stages while users become familiar
lustrative, not comprehensive, and their classification re-
with the technology - will need to be instituted. These meas-
garding impact on opportunity, empowerment or security is
ures are costly. They yield high social but low private re-
indicative. In practice, overlap is expected and desirable.
turns. Private enterprises can help provide the services but
cannot afford to bear their costs.6
Widespread Access to Networks

The Significance of Access State Support to Increase Access

The revolutionary feature of modern ICTs – mainly the How can the State help connect a large proportion of its citi-
Internet and mobile telephony - is their ability to facilitate zens to the Internet without creating inefficiencies or going
low cost interaction among network members. Most present- bankrupt in the process? Urban and rural areas require differ-
day calls for “content” miss this key attribute of the new ent strategies.
technologies. Radio and television have been around for a
while and constitute broadcast technologies; top down medi- The principal driving force leading to growth in services and
ums. Whoever controls the content controls the message. The quality and to lower prices is competition. It is the opening
value of a broadcast network is proportional to the number of of telecom markets to competition from cellular operators
members. The value of a point-to-point communications that has brought about rapid growth in mobile telephony; in
network is, by Metcalf’s Law, proportional to the square of some countries achieving greater penetration than fixed
the number of participants.5 landlines. Competition is so important that some countries,
like New Zealand and Australia, are doing away with their
Point to point communication is needed to empower the poor regulatory bodies and relying instead on commissions man-
with a voice online and the ability to network and build up dated to advance competition.
social capital. It needs to be complemented by Internet con-

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Table 2. Proposed Elements Comprising an e-ForAll Public Policy Guide
Widespread Access a Does the regulatory framework stimulate fair and transparent
to Networks competition, and the participation of a broad range of opera-
Are there widespread tors?
low-cost means for Opportunity/
b Are there country initiatives to bring connectivity to remote
the majority to ac- rural areas at a cost that is sustainable and affordable, both to
cess ICT networks, the State and to users? Security/
services and equip-
ment? Are there spe- c Are there programs to increase awareness in the population of
cific programs geared the opportunities that ICTs have to offer? Empowerment
to address access d Are there efforts to provide support, on a competitive basis, to
requirements of low- socioeconomic development initiatives that make use of ICTs to
income peoples. service the needs of low-income communities?
Democratic Net- e Are efforts being made to ensure that the formal school sys-
worked Learning tem, teachers in particular, are fully equipped to help students
Do public systems of benefit from computerized and networked learning?
education integrate
ICTs and prepare a f Are there technical training programs in the community to pre-
computer and Inter- pare a workforce that is computer and Internet literate and is
net literate workforce capable of upgrading its skills frequently? Is primary and sec-
that is capable of ondary education delivering the strong literacy skills that ICT
frequently upgrading skills must build on?
its skills? g Are there programs that make use of ICTs to address the edu-
cational and training needs of low-income adults? Opportunity
Networked Com- h Do public institutions use ICTs to make job information avail-
petitive Develop- able online to improve the performance of labor markets?
ment ForAll i Are small firms and microentrepreneurs being supported and
Are small firms, mi- trained in the use of ICTs to improve their competitiveness
croentrepreneurs, (productivity, marketing service delivery) and develop strategic
small farmers and partnerships with other enterprises? Do microenterprise service
wage workers being providers (savings, credit, training, business development)
incorporated into the make effective use of ICTs?
network economy? j Are there national systems of public procurement that facilitate
supply by competitive micro and small enterprises?
Networked Social k Are there low-cost opportunities for poor people to themselves
Development apply ICTs to strengthen bonds with other peoples and com-
munity groups and enhance their incomes and security?
Are national institu- Security
tions that support l Are ICTs being used to improve the performance and service
social development delivery of agencies entrusted with food security, public health,
and security making public safety, domestic violence prevention and counseling,
effective use of ICTs and disaster prevention and mitigation?
in their delivery of m Are there initiatives specifically targeted to incorporate tradi-
services to the poor? tionally disenfranchised groups (e.g. indigenous peoples,
women, persons with disabilities, unemployed youths, small
and landless farmers) into the Network Society.?
ICTs and Poverty n Are there efforts to develop sustainable e-Government systems
in National Dev. to service the needs of the poor, and engage their participation Empowerment
Policy in the design and operation of these systems?
o Is the State implementing an effective system of decentralized
Is poverty reduction decision-making to engage the participation of low-income and
a centerpiece of na- traditionally disenfranchised groups? Are ICTs being used to
tional policy? give these groups an effective voice?
Does it encourage p Is poverty reduction a centerpiece of national development
and facilitate the policy? Is there high level understanding of the role that the
application of ICTs to State needs to play in order for ICTs to help combat poverty?
reduce poverty? q Are there reliable mechanisms for interagency coordination and
for partnerships with private and civil society institutions?
r Are government ICT support programs transparent, sustain-
able, accountable and cost effective? Does the public have a
say in deciding what programs would be of most value and in
shaping their design?

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Competition may be advanced through improved governance education programs could help strengthen graduates’ ability
of regulatory frameworks and appropriate institutional in- to meet the demands of a modern labor force (item f in Ta-
centives (item a in Table 2). This is one area where interna- ble 2). ICTs could also improve the capacity of State funding
tional cooperation could be effective - e.g. through training agencies to monitor - through computerized systems online -
of regulators and assistance to help decision-makers under- the effectiveness of their vocational training programs and
stand and improve regulatory governance. help them redirect funds to fields and institutions offering
higher returns.
Given the limited levels of competition typical in most re- • Initiatives like Joko Clubs in Senegal,13 are demonstrat-
gional telecom markets, the auctioning of special incentives, ing that ICTs make it feasible and operationally viable to
awarded to operators that are willing to innovate and intro- train adults with basic skills (item g in Table 2), including
duce flat rate pricing, might be a suitable market-friendly, literacy, in very low-income environments.
transparent, sustainable and cost-effective way of stimulating
rapid expansion of Internet use among middle to low income Networked Competitive Development
customers (item r in Table 2).
Cotahuasi is located in one of the most economically de-
A competitive regulatory framework alone will not suffice to pressed, remote areas of Perú, 400 Km away from Arequipa.
lure operators to serve low-profit remote, economically de- Per capita income is about US$ 250/year, much lower than
pressed and sparsely populated rural areas. Three Latin the national average. Travel to Cotahuasi through rugged
American countries – Perú,7 Chile8 and Colombia9 – have terrain takes about 12 hours by car, if the roads are good and
established reverse auction programs that award subsidies on you manage to arrive. If you ask Manuel Tejada, Executive
a competitive basis to operators that establish and run ICT Director of AEDES (www.aedes.com.pe/), a lead NGO
services in low profit rural areas. Most of the auctions have working in Cotahuasi, he will tell you that he is not engaged
been for rural telephony; but Colombia has already had two in e-commerce, that he is only making use of computers and
auctions to establish rural telecenters and the other two the Internet to make his job easier. AEDES has in fact helped
countries are planning similar programs (item b, Table 2). A identify buyers for the local organically produced Kiwicha in
suitable auction design is vital,10 not just to assure account- European markets, organized local producers to supply that
ability, transparency and sustainability, but to increase com- market, and gradually built up an export business that last
petitive pressures by encouraging a large number of bidders year enabled 235 families to sell abroad about US$ 350,000
to participate (item r, Table 2). worth of produce.

Democratic Networked Learning There are many NGOs worldwide doing similar work with
varying degree of success. Their support, as part of a trans-
ICTs cannot redistribute investment in education to better parent, efficient, competitive funding program based on
match economic returns and social requirements, nor can merit, would be a high priority initiative under an e-ForAll
they prevail over resource constraints. ICTs also cannot development strategy (item i in Table 2).
overcome the discrimination that in some countries prevents
indigenous peoples from earning as much as their nonindige- With markets shifting rapidly and jobs increasingly tempo-
nous counterparts, even after accounting for all skill related rary, a key labor policy objective should be to increase effi-
attributes.11 But ICTs, combined with sound educational ciency in the functioning of labor markets and reducing the
planning and public sector management in partnership with amount of time a worker spends unemployed between jobs.
private sector and civil society organizations, can help lower There are good job market sites in Australia
the cost of provision of educational services and make a (www.jobsearch.gov.au), Canada (www.hrdc.gc.ca), and the
marked difference in extending the reach of a country’s edu- US (www.ajb.org). Unfortunately, developing country job
cational programs and improving the skills of the majority of information and placement sites (item h in Table 2) tend to
the population. Here are some specific cases. be poor in design and are underutilized, mainly for lack of
access of workers to the Internet.
• ICTs can contribute to educational reform by enhancing
school information, monitoring and control systems, and thus Networked Social Development
facilitating the transfer of decision-making to local adminis-
trators and parents. In 2001, workers of Latin American and Caribbean descent
• ICTs can also help train teachers and increase the pro- living abroad sent an estimated total of US$ 23 billion to
ductivity of teacher and student training. Teacher training their respective home countries. It is bonding social capital,
(item e in Table 2) is a central feature of Estonia’s Tiger nurtured by point to point communications (snail mail, tele-
Leap initiative to improve computer education in all of the phone, and increasingly even if slowly, the Internet) that ties
country’s secondary schools.12 family and friends across national boundaries and motivates
and keeps these remittances flowing.
• Computer and Internet literacy training in vocational

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Also, ICT use by Government and international agencies can be supportive of broader efforts to decentralize decision-
help reduce developing countries’ vulnerability to natural making and to give local communities resources and a voice
disasters and to other kinds of risks (item l in Table 2). GIS in shaping local development initiatives (item o in Table 2).
and remote sensing are making significant contributions to
improving natural disaster warning and forecasting systems Institutional Viability
in India.14 Another example is the efforts being made by
Governments, with FAO assistance, to develop a comprehen- Information and communications technology programs and
sive Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and projects involve many disciplines and sectors, making co-
Mapping System (FIVIMS) that makes extensive use of ordination across disciplines and partnership with different
modern ICTs to help guide food security policy and pro- kinds of public and private institutions indispensable. Nev-
gramming.15 ertheless, achieving effective coordination is complex, and
distributing competencies is no easy task, even though it is
Unless programs specifically geared to low-income and dis- essential (item q in Table 2). It may require a redesign of the
enfranchised groups are introduced, the social and economic way Government agencies interact with each other, with
impact of establishing connectivity will be less than desirable businesses and with civil society.
(item d in Table 2), and the depth of outreach - i.e. the abil-
ity to improve living conditions amongst the most excluded e-Government initiatives are recognizing the importance of
members of society - will be limited (item m in Table 2). coordinating across multiple tiers of government and are
One striking case is that of indigenous people. They have a establishing Chief Information Officers to avoid wasteful
distinct social history. Their authority, organizational struc- duplication of effort.18 In planning programs to expand ac-
ture, language and view of the world are different. They of- cess to facilities and online services to serve the poor, inter-
ten lack the formal institutional structures to benefit from agency coordination and partnership with the private sector
existing social programs or to operate with effectiveness in and civil society are just as vital.
local markets. Reducing poverty among them, as well as
among other traditionally disenfranchised groups, will re- Consider school-run telecenters: the provision of connec-
quire the institution of special programs (item m in Table tivity to school labs, operated as public facilities after school
2).16 ICTs can contribute in various ways, as for example in hours. Commercial telecenters everywhere get very little
Guatemala through the training of teachers in bilingual and business in the morning, which is when most schools operate
multicultural education, developing early childhood educa- and could make use of the service. Although in principle an
tional training materials, and by strengthening the cultural ideal way to share scarce connectivity resources, school tele-
identity of Mayan communities centers have in practice proven difficult to implement.
(www.enlacequiche.org.gt/).17 School systems are usually run under highly centralized
authority, whereas telecenters thrive under local management
and decision-making. National school administrators are
Vision and Commitment to Empower
weary of sharing their school’s equipment and connectivity,
and Serve the Poor and they discourage the charging of fees by local school offi-
Translating the potential impact of ICTs on poverty reduc- cials. Without the means to pay for operation and mainte-
tion into reality will require a vision for the future that puts nance (be it through fees or direct support if Government can
poverty reduction as a centerpiece of national and interna- afford it) telecenter sustainability is compromised.
tional policy, recognizes the threat of increasing inequality in
the information age, and applies the power of ICTs to com- Some institutional frameworks are amenable to shared con-
bating poverty (item p in Table 2). Beyond vision, success- nectivity. In Canada, there is no equivalent to an "Education
ful promotion of ICTs for development requires awareness Ministry." Decisions on ICT promotion are vested in Indus-
campaigns (item c in Table 2). The objective is not to try Canada, which does not have to compete with other agen-
promise the impossible, impractical or unaffordable, but to cies in order to put in place its SchoolNet Program
engage the population and increase awareness of the impor- (www.connect.gc.ca/en/ar/1018-e.htm). Perhaps a more suit-
tance of ICTs and their usefulness in everyday life. able alternative might be to turn the concept around; i.e. to
establish telecenters in the vicinity of schools, run by an en-
These efforts must also lead to a commitment to make serv- trepreneur or local NGO, to service school needs during the
ices available online that respond to the specific needs of the morning (for a fee partly funded by Government), and those
poor. These services need not be operated by Government of the community afterwards (on a commercial basis).
directly and should not substitute private sector initiatives.
The example of the most successful private initiatives (e-Bay Concluding Remarks
being a prime example) should be followed, and engage the
ICTs are no magic wand. Reducing poverty requires leader-
target clientele in defining service needs and operational re-
ship, a national consensus that acknowledges poverty as a
quirements (item n in Table 2). These services should also

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major problem to be overcome, and the will of nations to practical and institutionally and economically viable recom-
invest and make concerted long-term sustained efforts to mendations that put poverty reduction at the forefront. e-
achieve equitable growth. The solutions to poverty are gen- ForAll is work in progress. Its application is being tested on
erally known and often require action in matters that have a trial basis in Peru, with funding from the Food and Agri-
little to do with technology. What ICTs offer is an unprece- culture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and in
dented set of tools; an opportunity for a win-win situation collaboration with the College of Communication of the
that makes the provision of services and the opening of op- University of Texas, Perú’s Ministry of Agriculture. the Or-
portunities for the poor to improve their well being less ganismo Supervisor de la Inversión en Telecomunicaciones
costly to achieve. It is, nevertheless, an opportunity that (OSIPTEL), the Intermediate Technology Development
needs to be seized and built upon. Group (ITDG-Perú), the Asociación Especializada para el
Desarrollo Sostenible, AEDES, and the Centro Peruano de
e-ForAll is a guide for ICT policy design. Its recommenda- Estudios Sociales (CEPES). With adjustments for context, e-
tions, summarized in Table 2, aim to offer policy makers ForAll should be amenable for application in other countries.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the FAO. The author acknowledges valu-
able comments to earlier drafts by Guillermo Montero (FAO-consultant), Jorge Tamayo (FAO-consultant), Joseph Straubhaar (University of
Texas), Ester Zulberti (FAO), Clare O’Farrell (FAO), Stephen Rudgard (FAO), Felipe Manteiga (IICA), Cornelio Hopmann (consultant),
Daniel Pimienta (FUNREDES), Lisa Goldman Carney (Joko Club, Senegal), Juan Belt (IADB), Rosario Londoño (IADB) and Jessica Lewis
A fuller version of the article will be sited at: http://communication.utexas.edu/college/digital_divide_symposium/papers/index.html
A Spanish version of the fuller version will be sited at: http://www.aat-ar.org/documentos/e-ParaTodos
Darling, Peter, “From Communism to Dot-Com,” EuroViews 2001. (http://manila.djh.dk/estonia/stories/storyReader$4)
Park, Han Woo, “Digital Divide in Korea: Closing and Widening Divide in 1990s,” November 2001.
McConnell International, “Ready? Net. Go,” May 2001 (http://www.mcconnellinternational.com/ereadiness/ereadinessreport2.htm)
Center for International Development (CID), “Readiness for the Networked World: A Guide for Developing Countries”,
Bridges.org, “Comparison of E-Readiness Assessment Models,” 14 March 2001, (http://www.bridges.org)
Odlyzko, Andrew, “The History of Communications and its Implications for the Internet,” (Preliminary version), June 16,
2000.(http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko/doc/networks.html) , page 30.
Proenza, Francisco J., “Telecenter Sustainability: Myths and Opportunities,” The Journal of Development Communication, No. 2, Vol. 12,
December 2001. (http://www.fao.org/Waicent/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/ags/Agsp/pdf/ProenzaTelecenter.pdf).
Cannock, Geoffrey, “Telecom Subsidies: Output-Based Contracts for Rural Services in Peru,” Public Policy for the Private Sector Note No.
234, June 2001. (http://www.worldbank.org/html/fpd/notes/)
Wellenius, Björn, “Closing the Gap in Access to Rural Communications: Chile 1995-2002,” November 2001.
Proenza, Francisco J., Roberto Bastidas-Buch and Guillermo Montero, Telecenters for Socioeconomic and Rural Development in Latin
America and the Caribbean, FAO-ITU-IDB, May 2001. (http://www.iadb.org/regions/itdev/telecenters)
Proenza, Francisco J., “Comentario al Proyecto de Bases Concurso Cabinas Públicas de Internet,” 2002.
Patrinos, Harry Anthony, “The Costs of Discrimination in Latin America,” Human Capital Development and Operations Policy Working
Paper. (http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/hnp/hddflash/workp/wp_00045.html)
Darling, op. cit.
See Carney, Lisa, and Firpo, Janine. “Internet Training for Illiterate Populations: Joko Pilot Results in Senegal” in this Issue of Tech-
KnowLogia. (http://www.techknowlogia.org)
Gupta, Alok, “Information Technology and Natural Disaster Management in India,”
Corral, Leonardo, Paul Winters and Gustavo Gordillo, “Food Insecurity and Vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Working
Paper Series in Agricultural and Resource Economics, 2000. (http://www.une.edu.au/febl/EconStud/AREwp00-4.PDF)
Menou, Michel, “Telecenters and Social Development,” Power Point Presentation, Washington, 2001.
Renshaw, Jonathan, “Social Investment Funds and Indigenous Peoples,” Inter-American Development Bank Best Practice Series, June 2001.
See Lieberman, Andrew E. "Bringing Mayan Language and Culture across the Digital Divide" in this Issue of TechKnowLogia.
Accenture, e-Government Leadersip - Realizing the Vision, 2002. (http://www.accenture.com), pages 15-16.

! 64 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

ICTs and Non-Formal Education:
Technology for a brighter future?
Anthony Lizardi
The George Washington University

Introduction NFE distance education included the following:

Over the past thirty years, Non-Formal Education (NFE) • It requires fewer teachers to reach a larger number of
initiatives have effectively used Information and Communi- learners.
cation Technologies (ICTs) for mass literacy campaigns, • It does not require new brick and mortar schools, and
training of health workers, and rural community development can utilize existing schools during spare-times.
projects. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Coombs and • It allows learners to continue to earn a living while at-
Ahmed, and Sheffield and Diejomaoh helped to define NFE tending classes during their spare time.
as an alternative form of education that addressed learning • It becomes economical once initial startup costs are paid
that occurred outside of the traditional classroom environ- because the marginal cost to enroll additional students is
ment in schools and colleges by adults and children (Anza- low. (Siaciwena, 2000).
lone, 1995, and Robinson, 1999). Recent innovations in ICTs
like Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite com- Early studies showed that there was no significant difference
munications, the Internet, and CD-ROMs are helping to cre- in performance between students who received ICT delivered
ate new innovative learning tools that will profoundly change instruction and those receiving face-to-face instruction
the way NFE is delivered. This article discusses recent uses (Blurton, 1999). Once distance education was accepted as a
of ICTs in NFE, and will also examine implications for the legitimate way to deliver NFE, it has continually evolved by
future. experimenting with new communication technologies and
Early distance education NFE projects used print, radio, tele-
vision, audiotape, videotape, and satellite transmission as an Developing countries have a strong desire to build the neces-
efficient and cost-effective way to provide illiterate adults sary human capital that can support a market-based econ-
and out of school learners with educational opportunities. omy. Consequently, the desire for Internet-based NFE dis-
With the development of new ICTs, the delivery mechanisms tance learning is continually growing (Menezes, 2000).
of NFE now include: personal computers, the Internet, the There is now a proliferation of NFE distance learning insti-
World Wide Web, CD-ROMs, and DVDs (Kerka, 1996). tutions that provide courses to adult learners. For example,
The use of new ICTs in NFE has created serious issues in the the University of South Africa (UNISA) now uses ICTs to
provision of NFE. The emphasis on using the newest ICTs offer relatively cheaply priced courses that attract students
has begun to shift the focus of NFE away from local com- throughout Africa (Menezes, 2000). Established in 1997, The
munity development and towards individual life-long learn- African Virtual University (AVU), started by the World
ing. The push to introduce new ICTs into developing coun- Bank, now serves 12 English-speaking countries and three
tries may foster negative side effects associated with con- Portuguese-speaking countries via the Internet (Menezes,
sumer-based economies, the continued dependency on tech- 2000). These virtual universities are delivering high-quality
nology from industrialized nations, and the shifting scarce professional training via distance education on the Internet.
resources away from poverty alleviating programs. The fu-
ture use of the new ICTs in NFE in developing countries will The latest ICTs are also being used to develop virtual learn-
greatly depend upon how well NFE practitioners manage the ing communities for NFE purposes. Virtual learning com-
issues associated with the use ICTs in NFE. munities are learning groups with a shared interest, who are
able to overcome barriers of time, geography, age, ability,
culture, and social status. (Blurton, 1999). For example, the
Benefits of ICTs use in NFE Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environ-
NFE distance learning programs using the latest ICTs are ment (GLOBE) project “… links students, teachers, and the
beginning to provide workers with the opportunity to pursue scientific research community worldwide in a virtual learn-
lifelong learning. By the end of the 1980s, enthusiasm for ing community to study the global environment” (Blurton,
formal education’s ability to mobilize needed human re- 1999, p 13). Another example of an innovative virtual learn-
sources for economic development in developing countries ing community was the MayaQuest project (Blurton, 1999).
had dampened. NFE distance education was recognized as a This distance education initiative created an interactive
way to meet the needs of out-of-school learners and adult learning expedition with five bike-riding explorers who were
workers (Siaciwena, 2000). The attractive advantages of directed by the collaborative decisions of online learners

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(Blurton, 1999). Over an eight-week period, the explorers Problematic Issues with ICT use in NFE
visited 21 Mayan archeological sites, and documented their Barriers exist that prohibit the extensive use of ICTs in NFE
adventures using digital cameras and written reports that in developing countries. These barriers are a result of issues
were posted on the web. Virtual learning communities allow relating to access, cost, and lack of locally developed con-
learners to interact and exchange information via the Inter- tent. The pressure for developing countries to allocate the
net, and have the potential to revolutionize learning by link- necessary capital to develop the capacity to effectively use
ing students across the world (Menezes, 2000). new ICTs may result in a lack of funding for NFE programs
designed to build social capital.
New and innovative uses of ICTs in NFE are beginning to
emerge that could produce a brighter future for those who The first barrier that prohibits the extensive use of ICTs in
currently live in marginalized communities in the world. NFE in developing countries is the issue of the digital divide.
New ICTs of the Internet, CD-ROMs, and teleconferencing The digital divide quantifies the lack of access of ICTs in
have the potential to reduce isolation, facilitate greater com- developing countries. In the 1990s, 90% of the people living
munication, increase access to high quality educational mate- in developing countries had not made a phone call, and 40%
rials, and be an effective delivery vehicle for innovative in- of these people did not have electricity (Latchem & Walker,
struction and personal development (Wagner & Hopey, 2001). The statistical data of worldwide Internet use is even
1998). The Internet can create new channels of communica- more disturbing. Only 2.4% of the world’s population has
tion that can reach neglected communities. The Internet can access to the Internet, and the graph below (Figure 1) shows
stimulate learner interaction and dialogue to create new inter- that 7 out of 10 Internet users in the world come from either
personal networks from a bottom-up approach using shared North America or Europe (Bischoff, 2001).
local knowledge (Richardson, 1996). By taking a commu-
nity-orientated approach that seeks full participation of its
members, the Internet can promote a human dimension to
information creation and knowledge sharing (Richardson,
1996). New pedagogical techniques that utilize new ICTs are
very promising in allowing communities to become owners
of the technology as they learn to use them.

An example of this new technique is demonstrated in the

Lighthouse project directed by Seymour Papert (Bers & Best,
1999). The Lighthouse project, started in 1997, was located
in an under-served region in northern Thailand. The goals of
this pilot project were to help villagers master technology,
cultivate a sense of ownership in the use of technology, and
One major factor that contributes to the digital divide is the
foster cultural pride. Additionally, the project intended to
physical geographic structure of the Internet. The Internet
create a learner-centered constructivist educational experi-
builds on existing telecommunication infrastructure, which
ence using desktop publishing software. The project began
biases access to major urban centers (Economist, 2001).
with constructing a community computer center led by a
Consequently, access to the Internet for the vast majority of
team of community volunteers. This was followed by the
people who live in the rural sectors of developing countries
installation of donor provided computers and satellite equip-
is nonexistent. As the Internet is evolving, mega data servers
ment. A collaborative workshop, attended by village chil-
are becoming more consolidated in developed countries be-
dren, rural teachers, and community association members,
cause these servers need to be near large power supplies and
was conducted to develop the capacity to learn how to use
high-speed data communication lines. As a result, users in
desktop publishing software (Bers & Best, 1999). The col-
developing countries suffer from low data transfer-rates that
laborative methodology used during the workshop fostered
limited their ability to utilize the latest multimedia innova-
the collective effort to produce an online community news-
tions that run on the Internet. The digital divide is not just a
letter. The completion of the newsletter helped to strengthen
result of physical limitations, but it is also related to levels of
the cultural pride of the community, and to bridge the gap
educational attainment.
between technology and traditional village life (Bers & Best,
1999). Many of the goals of the project were accomplished,
The second major factor contributing to the digital divide is
as villagers became owners of the technology they learned to
the high costs associated with purchasing and maintaining
use, and became information-producers rather than informa-
computer equipment (McLean, 2001). The costs associated
with ICTs will force many education ministries to make dif-
ficult choices with the scarce resources available to them. As
developing countries attempt to produce the necessary hu-

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man capital for a ‘knowledge-based’ economy, more funding Conclusion
will be needed for formal higher education systems. Higher
ICTs have been used in NFE to provide distance learning
Education systems can readily take advantage of the use of
opportunities to a large number of learners over the past few
the Internet, by gaining access to virtual universities from
decades. Distance learning NFE initiatives have used ICTs to
across the world. Consequently, focus on higher education
increase work-related skills and productivity, and to help to
needs may limit the growth of NFE distance learning pro-
build social capital for community development. But the
grams that primarily focus on developing social capital in
digital divide may limit the widespread use of ICTs in devel-
marginalized communities.
oping countries. Consequently, the introduction of new ICTs
into socio-economically disadvantaged communities can
To summarize, new innovative pedagogical techniques that
create both positive and negative effects. Therefore, the fu-
utilized the latest ICTs have the potential to dramatically
ture use of ICTs in NFE in developing countries will have to
increase the participation of disadvantage communities to
find a balance between the need to increase human capital for
increase their social capital. But the current reality of the
production in a ‘knowledge-based’ economy, and the needs
digital divide prohibits the widespread implementation of
of marginalized communities to maintain their social capital
new innovative uses of ICTs in NFE. The desire to develop
against the continuing pressure of globalization.
the human capital for a ‘knowledge-based’ economy may
shift scarce resources away from popular education initia-
tives to the formal education sector.

Anzalone, S. (ed.). (1995). Multichannel learning: Connecting all to education. Washington, DC: Education Development Center.

Bers, M. and Best, M. (1999, December). Rural Connected Communities: A Project in Online Collaborative Journalism. In Hoadley &
Roschelle (Eds.) Proceedings of the Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) 1999 Conference. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erl-
baum Associates.

Bischoff, P. (2001, June). Access for the poor: bridging the digital divide. Retrieved on November 26, 2001 from http://www.ms-

Blurton, C. (1999). New directions of ICT-Use in education. In World Communication and Information Report 1999-2000 [On-line].
Available: http://www.unesco.org/education/educprog/lwf/dl/edict.pdf.

Economist (2001, August), Geography of the net. The Economist.

Kerka, S. (1996). Distance learning, the Internet, and the World Wide Web. (Report No. EDO-CE-96-168). Washington, DC: ERIC
clearinghouse on adult, career, and vocational education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED395214)

Latchem, C. and Walker, D. (2001). Perspectives on distance education: Telecenters: Case studies and key issues. Vancouver: The
Commonwealth of Learning.

McLean, S. (2001, September). Distance education and distance learning: A framework for the food and agricultural organization of the
United Nations. Retrieved on November 18, 2001 from http://www.fao.org/sd/2001/KN0901_en.htm.

Menezes, E. (2000, June). Some views on technologies in education in the knowledge society. Paper presented at the First World Tele-
Education Symposium for Developing Countries, Manaus, Brazil.

Richardson, D. (1996, September). The Internet and Rural Development: Recommendations for Strategy and Activity. Retrieved on No-
vember 18, 2001 from http://www.fao.org/sd/cddirect/cddo/contents.htm

Robinson, B. (1999, November). Open and distance learning in the Gobi desert: Non-formal education for nomadic women. Distance
Education - An International Journal, 20 (2), 181-204.

Siaciwena, R. (ed.) (2000). Case studies of non-formal education by distance and open learning. Vancouver, BC: The Commonwealth of

Wagner, D. and Hopey, C. (1998, September). Literacy, electronic networking, and the Internet. (ILI Technical Report TR98-10). Phila-
delphia, PA: International Literacy Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.

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Packet Radio:
Medium Capacity, Low Cost Alternatives for Distance Communication
Kurt D. Moses
Vice President, Academy for Educational Development

Not for All The Packet Radio

In the rapid surge of interest in Internet for educational pur- Packet radio is basically the use of Amateur Radio equip-
poses, a great deal has been made of “broadband” connec- ment (“Ham” equipment) often operating in the 2-meter
tivity—usually connections with speeds in excess of (144-148 Mhz VHF) band (or in the UHF bands around 400
56Kbps.1 The most popular broadband options have been MHz) providing both just “over the horizon” and up to a sat-
cable connections to sites (usually provided by cable compa- ellite communication. A typical packet radio configuration
nies) and DSL with speeds in the 512Kbps range. Many of involves a PC, a radio transceiver, TNC (Terminal Node
the poorer, remote users of the Internet have been left out of Controller), omni-directional antenna, and some communi-
recent developments. One quarter to one third of the cation software. (see Figure 1) The TNC basically assembles
world’s population live in communities without affordable and disassembles the “packets” of digital information and
access to telephone “landlines” or wireless telecommunica- converts them for use with an analog radio—the modem
tion services. Many of these rural sites will remain cut off function. It essentially allows a “Ham” radio to serve as a
from effective communication for 5 to 10 years. network transmitter. The majority of such networks use an
AX.25 connection protocol and although they can operate at
Those institutions with sufficient money have been able to 56Kbps, interference, terrain, and atmospheric conditions
establish VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) sites aver- often limit actual speed to 9.6Kbps.
aging about $5,000 per site, with connection charges up to
$400 per month on a satellite. These VSAT connections can As importantly, particularly for remote areas, one can use a
provide up to 512Kbps connectivity and thereby provide microphone with a Ham radio to conduct conversations. For
good, reliable communications, but their comparatively high many situations, that is sufficient for the transfer of small
initial and operating costs have kept them from all but the amounts of information, such as weekly contact, and ex-
best-funded education and health efforts. Recent examples change of simple data—for example drug requirements at a
of their use can be found in Uganda (Star Schools), Tanzania, remote health clinic, exchange of educational supply de-
and selected sites in South Africa. mands, updates on requests for teachers, or requests for as-

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sistance with diagnosis. Because packet radio has been in mission from the government to operate in the 2-meter
use since the early 1970s, it is a mature and well-supported bands. This periodically slows implementation and is occa-
technology, and makes use of equipment and materials that sionally costly, but once achieved, allows for very low oper-
remain comparatively inexpensive. ating costs.

While requiring more power than cellular technology, most

remote, packet radio installations can be run off car batteries
Examples of Use
supported by solar cells, a motor vehicle, or even “pedal Packet radio technology is most often used where rural
powered” generators. Typical installations cost anywhere communication is either very unreliable or extremely costly.
from $700 to $1,800 excluding the PC. The transceiver can In countries of recent application like India, Indonesia, or
be obtained for around $400 to $1000, the antenna is a single Tanzania, both factors have led to serious projects for use of
pole or a so-called dipole (a proper length antenna strung packet radios.
between two trees), a TNC, about $200, $400 for solar pan-
els, or half that for a pedal powered generator, and $100 for In India, the International Development Research Center
assorted software. The best computer for use with this in- (IDRC) of Canada, under its Pan Asia Networking R&D
stallation is a laptop. Many laptops can be purchased for Grants program, has introduced wide-area network (WAN)
around $1,000 and can be powered from the same source that using wireless packet radio modems to connect local NGOs,
powers the transceiver. If a satellite connection is not used, CBOs, and selected individuals. The primary purpose of this
then the airways and hence operating costs are essentially 0. effort was to provide Internet access through an alternative
means from the unreliable and expensive landlines available
in Madras, Madurai, Erode, Coimbatore, Salem, and Tirup-
Packet Radio Package pur. Initial tests involved exchanges over a distance of 60
A long established group, VITA (Volunteers in Technical kilometers. Extensive tests indicated that the most reliable
Assistance) also provides a prepackaged, easy to use, packet transmission rate was 9.6Kbps, even though higher rates
radio set-up for “store and forward” satellite connection were attempted. As importantly, a number of the test sites
(called VITA-CONNECT) for $3,000 (including 2-meter became licensed as Internet Service Providers (ISP), which
base station transceiver, omni-directional antenna, and soft- then allowed them to offer additional Internet services. By
ware). In addition, there is a $495/year annual cost share that the end of the project in 2000, there were 12 functional nodes
helps support the operation of the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to support local NGOs at minimal cost. It appears that the
Satellite that receives messages from 4-8 times per day dur- most important effect resulted from the benefit of improved
ing its passes over the earth station. Data transfer occurs at communication and the actual experience of operating a
9.6Kbps and each station is allowed 350 Kbytes2 of data per WAN using lower cost approaches.4
week—enough to exchange over 160,000 pages of text in-
formation. VITA CONNECT allows access through VI- Indonesia has created one of the longer-lived packet radio
TAinfo, which provides users with Internet access—the re- based WANs. Linking eight organizations including the
sults of searches are then provided as appended e-mail mes- University of Jakarta, Institute of Technology Bandung and
sages.3 Indonesia Science Institute and several ministries, these
groups used low-cost equipment to bypass expensive wire-
VITA is also working now with the WorldSpace Foundation, based networks. The radio WAN has been used successfully
to effectively use the WorldSpace all digital radio capacity, for about eight years and has also made use of the aforemen-
in a broadcast mode, to provide low cost listener feedback on tioned VITA LEO satellite for periodic connectivity to Euro-
multi-media digital transmissions. WorldSpace satellites, in pean Internet—specifically the University of Aachen in
fixed orbits, are now broadcasting to both Asia and Africa, Germany. Importantly, a number of the Indonesian institu-
and have provided 5% of their existing bandwidth for non- tions have reverse engineered hardware and software and
commercial purposes. WorldSpace uses a dedicated re- have mass-produced the equipment for much broader use in
ceiver, which is presently not compatible with the European the more remote islands.5 In recent reports, these institutions
or U.S. digital standard, but can be obtained for around $200- have exchanged research reports, emails, and in selected in-
$300 and is commercially produced in several configura- stances much more extensive collaboration on scientific
tions. Some health specific projects using digital download work. Some secondary schools have also participated in the
through a Public Health Channel are now active in: Zim- network. Others used Internet access through this WAN to
babwe, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, using the AfriStar sat- participate in the U.S. KidsNet science application project.
Tanzania, also using interested universities, has established
Because most of these packet radios operate in the Amateur both satellite-based communication via more traditional
radio bands, which are licensed within each country, almost ground-stations, and packet radio mobile ground stations for
all countries require either an amateur radio license, or per-

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both terrestrial and satellite uses. These connections were ministrative support to ensure that both the technical and
made to allow collaborative relationships with U.K. univer- programmatic needs are being met.
sities, particularly the University of Southampton. As the
packet radio effort gained more experience, more rural areas Summary Issues
became a part of the project. In the past in selected parts of Packet radio links generally provide three things:
Africa, training of packet radio operators and facilitation of
the logistics of equipping and operating individual sites has 1. Low cost introduction to connectivity that enhances dis-
often been a key problem. tance communication—increasingly with slow but avail-
able access to the Internet and to email—important for
HealthNet is an electronic mail network administered by any far-reaching projects.
SatelLife, as a non-profit support to health communication. 2. Proven technologies that have now adapted to new
Based on a Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) Satellite (called Health- Internet protocols and software options. Email and re-
Sat-2), the Net uses packet radio technology described ear- stricted Internet access are clearly the most important
lier. The service provides gateway access to the Internet and uses for this type of technology.
specialty networks such as NGONET. There are working 3. A means to provide a “thin” connection to multiple sites,
earth stations in virtually every southern and eastern African rather than just waiting until major infrastructure in-
country as well as Ghana, Mali, Cuba, and Brazil. In its vestments are made by poor countries in either cellular,
multiple years of existence, the Net has supported: a Library satellite, or land-line connections.
Partnership Program (allowing libraries in developing coun-
tries to access resources in the U.S. and Europe); Dialogue While the generally slow connection available through
for Health, allowing dialog links between developing coun- packet radios limits how much “return” data can be provided,
tries and northern hemisphere institutions; interactive publi- these radios represent an important alternative in a world still
cations such as HealthNet News; and research capability limited by available funds and infrastructure. Packet radios,
using CD-ROMS built around MEDLINE. The service, which, when integrated, become radio modems, provide a
through SatelLife also provides GetWeb, which allows low chance for a “bottom-up” approach to communication using
bandwidth access to the Web by accessing through tradi- “off-the-shelf” equipment and techniques. Motivated educa-
tional email links. Often times, where land-lines are avail- tional and health enterprises are able to develop small sys-
able, they are used to link ground stations to other sites tems that can grow organically. As importantly, they allow
nearby using FIDO6 store and forward technology—often an organization to use voice exchanges—easy to use and an
depending upon the presence of funds to support toll charges. important back up.7 Packet radio will gradually fade as low-
The Net has also supported selected distance education func- cost cellular and inexpensive satellite options emerge, but for
tions. the 5-10 year transitional period, it will remain a very work-
able option for poor, remote areas.
As with many other packet radio networks, each requires
some level of coordination, prior communication, and ad-

KBPS: KiloBits Per Second. A bit is either 1 or 0. It requires approximately 10 bits to transmit one character (such as the
letter A). Hence a transmission speed of 56kbps (56,000 bits per second) allows the transmission of about 5,600 characters per
second. There are approximately 2,500 characters on a single spaced 8.5x11-inch page. Hence 56 kbps allows the transmis-
sion of about 2 and one-quarter pages of information per second. Poor connections, or interference, requires that characters be
retransmitted, so the effective rate on a radio-based 56 kbps is often lower. “Bits per second” is also known as the Baud rate.
One kilobyte is equal to 1000 characters. It requires about 10 bits to create one byte or character of information.
See http://www.vita-connect.org/brochure.htm
See http://www.panasia.org.sg/grants/awards/97800403fr.htm
See http://www.ifla.org/VI/5/reports/rep5/rep5.txt
See http://fidonet.fidonet.org/
Some important references for additional information:
• Packet Radio: An Educator’s Alternative to Costly Telecommunications, TCET (Texas Center for Educational Technol-
ogy. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. 1992
• Texas Packet Operating Guide: Texas Packet Radio Society, Denton, Texas. 1993
• http://www.Vita.org
• http://www.arrl.org

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A Focus on Access for the Visually Impaired 1
Aaron Smith, GW Micro

Web Page Accessibility Frames

Accessibility has become a broad term within the past few
Frames are often used to denote a static location for topical
years, used to indicate the needs of large groups of individu-
links on a given web page. The most popular design consists
als with varied impairments: mobility, visual, hearing,
of two frames: one frame containing the links and another
learning, and other impairments. Each of these groups has
frame where the main content of the site will be displayed
special needs for access. For example, individuals with mo-
when a link is clicked. Frames can be very beneficial for
bility impairments may require lifts, or elevators to offices
grouping related content on a web page, but access (moving
above the first floor of a business, while those with hearing
between frames) can be difficult to traverse.
impairments require visual cues when a nearby phone rings.
Frames require a document source by default (the URL).
When contemplating the design of a web page, it is difficult
Although web designers can do their part by adding a NAME
to think of each type of disability and account for them dur-
element to a frame, screen reader manufacturers are able to
ing the design process. Fortunately, for most users, the ad-
take it one step further. For example, Window-Eyes will
aptation required is minimal, and access can be gained at
read the title given to an HTML document that is loading
almost any location. For others, however, access can be de-
into a given frame as the name of the frame, providing the
pendent on a number of different factors. People with visual
user with a dynamic title every time a new page is loaded
impairments must rely on the accessibility of the web page
into that frame. If the HTML document has no title, then
and on their screen reader to take into account the elements
Window-Eyes reads the name given specifically to that par-
of web page design. Certain web pages, however, implement
ticular frame (this requires the web designer to add the name
elements that have the potential to be inaccessible. In order
element). If neither a frame name nor an HTML document
to understand the reasons behind a page considered inacces-
title is given, then Window-Eyes will announce “untitled” as
sible, web page elements and their characteristics need to be
the frame name. This is an instance where the screen reader
examined by all parties involved: the web master, the screen
manufacturer took extra steps in making sure that the user
reader manufacturer, and the end user.2
would always be notified of the presence of a frame, regard-
less of whether the frame or HTML document was named by
Elements of a Web Page
the web designer.
A basic web page consists of ASCII text code referred to as
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). This language con- Forms
tains tags that indicate to a web browser how a page is to be
Forms are designed to allow users to input information, and
displayed. There are tags for bold text, italic text, paragraph
have that information transmitted to wherever the web page
breaks, line breaks, tables, forms, frames, and a host of other
specifies. Popular examples of forms are order forms, search
ways of manipulating the text on a page. Web pages may
engines, and web based e-mail. Forms allow users to con-
also contain other languages to assist in how the page acts or
duct online tasks quickly and easily, but can be difficult to
reacts to user input. Some of those languages include
traverse if they are labeled incorrectly.
JavaScript, VBScript, JAVA, XML, CSS, and DHTML.
Web masters decide which language will provide them with Forms consist of controls such as edit boxes, check boxes,
the results they are looking for while designing a web page. radio buttons, combo boxes, list views, text areas, and but-
Screen reader manufactures also must take into account each tons. Creating a form that is accessible requires forethought
of these languages, and how their reader will interact with a on both the web designer’s and screen reader manufacturer’s
page designed in, or utilizing, a certain language. Under- part. When a web designer inputs a control into a form, he
standing HTML, however, is critical to understanding other must also provide an indication as to what that control is. If
languages, and will contain most of the information that the an edit box, for example, has no field label, there is no way
web browser and screen reader will communicate to each for a screen reader to know what that edit box should be
other. The following is a list of HTML elements that some called. On the other hand, the screen reader must be able to
accessibility tools deem inappropriate for a web page acces- detect a field label and read it correctly to the user. Although
sible to individuals with visual impairment. advancements have been made in web design that allow web
masters to provide labels more efficiently, many screen read-

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ers must still be able to track a field label that is close to a font family, font size, font color, placement, padding, bor-
control in order for the label to read correctly. ders, and special filters can all be applied to make web pages
more exotic. CSS rarely causes inaccessibility and has very
Tables powerful features, but has little implementation among
Tables are a collection of horizontal and vertical cells con- screen readers.
taining information that is relative to a column and row
header. The most common form of a table is a spreadsheet. A page that takes advantage of CSS is not only aesthetic but
Tables provide quick access to large groups of information, also auditory. CSS includes a number of styles that can dic-
but location in a table can be difficult to determine. tate the way a web page is supposed to sound. These ele-
ments can affect speech rate, pitch, tone, spelling, and pro-
Tables are unique in that they serve multiple purposes. nunciation. A web designer could state that a block of text is
While tables can contain formatted information (such as a spoken slower so that important information is not missed.
spreadsheet) they are most commonly used to created web Screen reader manufacturers, however, need to take into ac-
page layout. Cells begin to contain groups of data, rather count that these elements may exist, and look for them.
then single pieces of information. Many web designers use
tables to align images, and to combine links into groups of Communicating for Improvement
links. If a table contains structured data, in say a textual Web masters and screen reader manufacturers must be able
graph, then it will be useful for the user to be able to deter- to understand why a web page works the way it does. Often,
mine where in the table they are currently residing. If a table web designers will use HTML editors that show the page as
is being used for the placement of images, however, the cell it is being developed. This is a fine way to design a page, but
coordinates contain little or no useful information at all. Al- the problem lies in the fact that the designer may not become
lowing a table to be accessible is dependant on both the web familiar with the code used to render the page. Understand-
designer and the screen reader manufacturer. Web designers ing the code provides the designer with knowledge to fix
can add special tags to table headers and rows, and the screen accessibility problems that the editor may not understand.
readers can pick up on those tags to provide information as to Screen reader developers must also learn to interpret what
the location of the currently active table cell. the code is telling a web page to do. This knowledge will
provide the screen reader with the ability to take into account
JavaScript many features that were once considered inaccessible.
Many people confuse JAVA and JavaScript. It should be
noted that they are two very different languages, and the only There are many tools available to examine a site and provide
thing that they have in common is the word JAVA. feedback to whether it is accessible or not. Although these
JavaScript is a web programming language that allows for a tools are valuable, they are not an end all nor are they the
more dynamic and interactive web page. JavaScript is very final say on accessibility. The only way to understand if a
powerful, and provides a number of accessibility aids but, web page is accessible is to have a number of different peo-
when used inappropriately, can cause a web page to become ple try it out with their own respective screen readers. If a
inaccessible. web page causes problems in one screen reader doesn’t mean
that it will cause problems in another. Although the goal is to
JavaScript is mostly used for the manipulation of color, like be accessible for everyone involved, it is also the responsi-
the background color of a link when the mouse passes over bility of the screen reader manufacturer to provide solutions.
it. One of the more powerful features of JavaScript is the use
of its accessible features, such as the key press. For example, Through education, and an increase in web design knowl-
if a page contains a JAVA applet that is not accessible, the edge, and by incorporating accessibility into the design para-
web designer can implement a JavaScript key press to per- digm, web pages can easily become accessible without sacri-
form a task that would bypass the JAVA applet, thereby cre- ficing the page’s functionality. Web designers need to be-
ating access. Screen reader manufacturers may need to take come more familiar with the code that they develop, and
into account the different results that JavaScript functions screen reader manufacturers need to become more familiar
can have. JavaScript can be used in conjunction with with how web pages work. With these two forces combined,
DHTML to create dynamic text on a page that changes under an inaccessible web page will soon become a thing of the
certain circumstances. A screen reader must be able to tell past, and technology will once again be available for all.
when that content has changed, and voice the change ac- 1
cordingly. This article is adapted from the Proceedings of the California State
University (CSUN)’s Sixteenth Annual International Conference on
19 - 24, 2001. Published with permission from the author. [Online]
Cascading Style Sheets are extremely popular for manipu- http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf2001/proceedings/0238smith.html.
lating the styles of elements on a web page. Elements like The comments regarding screen reader features are drawn upon
the features of Window-Eyes, GW Micro’s screen reader.

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In this issue we focus on Web sites that
address two different aspects of technologies
for people with disabilities. One
aspect is making information
and communication
technologies such as
computers, software, and
Web sites accessible to people with various disabilities.
The second aspect is the use of information and
communication technologies to assist people with
disabilities to handle jobs and daily life activities. Some of the sites deal with
technologies for a broad array of disabilities, and some deal with technologies for one
specific disability.

Selected by Sonia Jurich and Gregg Jackson


This is a searchable database of information on more than 25,000 assistive technology products. For each there is a detailed
description, price, and distributor information. This site also has an Assistive Technology Library that indexes books,
articles, and other publications about assistive technology. Many of these resources are not available on the Web, but there
are links to those that are.

Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE)


This organization tries to stimulate advancements in assistive technologies. It includes researchers, developers, and private
companies within its membership.

Technology Centre: TechDis


This British organization monitors and advises on the accessibility of current and emerging technologies used in learning,
teaching, research, and administration. Its searchable TechDis Accessibility Database allows you to search for information
on more than 2,500 assistive and adaptive technological products. For each, it provides a description, price, and contact
information for the vendor. Its Web Accessibility and Usability Evaluation Resource states seven precepts of usability and
accessibility, with detailed criteria for judging a Web site. Unlike Bobby (below), it does not provide an automated

! 73 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

ConnSENSE Bulletin

This free online publication focuses on assistive technologies. The Bulletin includes articles, software reviews, job
announcements, conference dates, and links to other resources. The articles often include links to the referenced resources.

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America

This is a professional organization of researchers, engineers, therapists, educators, and manufactures dedicated to research,
development, and utilization of assistive technologies to enhance the potential of people with disabilities. The organization
produces several publications, provides and indexes professional development opportunities, sets standards for assistive
technologies, engages in various special projects, and holds an annual meeting. This site includes a number of online
resources and links to others. Under the link for “Accessible Education Technology” is a detailed discussion on
considerations schools should give when purchasing technology to maximize accessibility by students with disabilities. It is
titled, “Basis Questions to Ask When Purchasing Technology.”


This site focuses on assistive technologies to help people with disabilities. This site is a vivid example on how helpful
assistive technologies can be—the creator of this site has only partial use of his arms and hands.

Equal Access to Software Information (EASI)


This site provides information and distance training on how to assure that people with disabilities are able to access
information technologies. It offers distance training on barrier-free Web design, barrier-free e-Learning, learning
disabilities and adaptive technologies, and several other related topics. The courses start several times over the year, include
about eight substantial lessons, and cost $350 dollars, with a 20% discount for students. EASI also publishes a free on-line
journal, Information Technology and Disabilities, and the online archive goes back to the 1994 issues. The focus is both on
access by people with disabilities to common information technologies and on adaptive technologies for people with special

Assistive Technology Training Online (ATTO)


This site provides information and online training about assistive technologies suitable for use with elementary (basic)
education students. It offers self-study guides on the basics, tutorials on the use of several specific devices and software
packages, and links to other resources.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)


The goal of this consortium is to assure universal access to the Web across cultures, languages, education levels, ability,
material resources, and physical limitations of users on all continents. It designs technologies and sets standards for the

! 74 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

programming of Web pages. Its Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) created the first and still dominant guidelines for Web
accessibility by people with disabilities. Details about this work are at http://www.w3.org/WAI. Because the consortium
includes most of the large companies providing software for web development, it has considerable influence.


Bobby is software designed to help Web developers identify and repair barriers that their Web pages create for individuals
with disabilities. This site allows the free use of the software to test any one Web page, but not a full site. A trial run of it
revealed that the TechKnowLogia home page could be made more accessible. A single copy of the Bobby software can be
purchased for $99.

The American Foundation for the Blind


This is a major organization providing resources to help people with visual impairments function better in jobs and in their
personal lives. Its Web site offers information, online discussion forums, and order information for the organization's many


This journal focuses on the uses of technology by and for people with visual impairment. It discusses the application of
various technologies and also reviews computer software and Web sites for accessibility by people with visual impairment.
The journal is available in several forms including online. There is a subscription fee.

Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center: Information on Deafness


This is an extensive collection of Web-based material about educating deaf students.

RIT Libraries: Subject-Based Deaf and Hard of Hearing Internet Resources


This is a well-organized and extensive set of links to Web resources for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Northeast Technical Assistance Center


This organization assists colleges, universities, and other postsecondary institutions to serve well students who are deaf or
have serious hearing impairments. Its “Additional Links of Interest” provides links to many organizations and Web-based
resources about and for postsecondary students with hearing impairments.

! 75 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

Mike Topping, BA Cert. Ed. and Jane Smith, BA Hons.
Staffordshire University, Stoke on Trent, UK

The Handy 12 is a rehabilitation robot designed to enable people with severe disability to gain/regain independence in
important daily living activities such as: eating, drinking, washing, shaving, teeth cleaning and applying make-up. De-
pendency upon health care staff, particularly in public institutions, where volume dictates the level of personal attention,
can have a significant effect on the well being and quality of life of the individual. The introduction of systems such as
Handy 1 has a dual purpose: it enables greater personal activity for persons with severe disabilities, thus leading to an in-
creased level of independence; and helps to reduce the demand on caretakers for individualized, intensive assistance.

The Many Functions of Handy 1: ing the single switch when the eighth light on the tray section
is illuminated.
Eating System – The ability to eat independently is a
major challenge for persons with severe disabilities and, Washing, Shaving and Teeth Cleaning System -
therefore, is one of the first concerns in the development of The Handy 1 self care system enables people with little or no
Handy 1. A scanning system of lights designed into the tray arm or hand movements to achieve independence in impor-
section of Handy 1 (see Figure 1) allows the user to select tant personal daily living activities, such as washing, shaving
food from any part of the dish. Briefly, once the system is and cleaning their teeth. The self care system's human ma-
powered up and food arranged in the walled columns of the chine interface is based upon the Handy 1 eating and drink-
food dish, a series of seven lights begin to scan from left to ing protocol, i.e. a single switch input used in conjunction
right behind the food dish. The user waits for the light to with a scanning control methodology. With this practical
scan behind the column of food that he/she wants to eat, and device, users are able to instruct Handy 1 to pick up a
then presses the single switch that sets the Handy 1 in mo- sponge, move it into the bowl of water, remove excess liquid,
tion. The robot proceeds onto the selected section of the dish apply soap and bring it to the face position, rinse their face
and scoops up a spoonful of the chosen food, presenting it at and dry it using a warm air dry option to complete the task.
the user’s mouth position. The user may remove the food at The system is fitted with an electric shaver, toothbrush and
his/her own speed, and by drinking cup. All can be picked up and manipulated by the
pressing the single user in any order. Once chosen, the shaver or toothbrush can
switch again, the be moved by the user to any part of the face or mouth to al-
process can be low shaving or dental hygiene to be performed in an efficient
repeated until the dish manner.
is empty. The onboard
computer keeps track Makeup Tray - A questionnaire sent to one hundred
of where food has women with motor neuron disease found that the activity
been selected from they most wished to regain was applying their own cosmet-
the dish and ics. In many cases the women commented that their caretak-
automatically controls the ers were unable to apply their makeup to their taste and their
scanning system to bypass inability to present themselves well left them with a feeling
empty areas. The use of of frustration and loss of self-esteem. The Handy 1 makeup
walled dishes ensures that the attachment (see Figure 2) is designed to enable women to
food does not escape choose from a range of different cosmetics. Briefly, the sys-
when the spoon tem works as follows: when Handy 1 is powered up, a series
scoops into it. of lights adjacent to each type of cosmetics begins to scan.
When the light is lit adjacent to the cosmetic that is required,
Drinking System - During early trials, it emerged that, the user simply activates the single switch. At this point the
although Handy 1 enabled users to enjoy a meal independ- Handy 1 selects the correct brush or applicator and applies
ently, many users stated that they would also like to enjoy a the correct amount of blusher, foundation, lipstick, eye
drink with their meal. Thus the robot’s design was revised to shadow, etc. Once the make-up has been applied to the appli-
incorporate a cup attachment. The cup is selected by activat-

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cator, this is then enable a new color pen to be chosen. Users were able to draw
taken to the appropri- by activating the single switch when the light adjacent to the
ate face position pen color they wished to choose was lit.
where the user is able
to apply the make-up. The “Artbox” prototype was tested successfully in schools
for children with physical disabilities. There was a high
The Artbox level of user and teacher satisfaction with the Artbox and it
was concluded that the system could have the potential of
Prototype3 being a useful educational aid for children with severe dis-
A study conducted at ability. However, several areas for improvement were high-
a UK Motor Neurone lighted, particularly the time delay encountered with the lin-
Disease Association ear scanning lights and the viewing angle of the drawing
Annual General board, which proved difficult for some of the more severely
Meeting, found that disabled children. A second prototype is now under con-
many of the disabled struction incorporating the feedback gained from the pilot
people interviewed study.
spent several hours
each day in an intel-
lectually inactive
state, often left to watch the television for long periods while
caretakers dealt with other important tasks such as cleaning
and shopping. Similarly, children with severe physical dis-
abilities are not offered opportunities to develop and exercise
their skills of distance judging, creation and spatial aware-
ness. A pre-prototype “Artbox” is being developed now to
provide persons with disabilities an outlay for their creativity
and to help children with physical disabilities to gain and
consolidate their skills of spatial and three-dimensional

The prototype was mounted on an adjustable stand to facili-

tate its use with children or adults sitting in chairs of differ-
ent heights (see Figure 3). Briefly the system can be de- Conclusion
scribed as follows: around a conventional shaped artists pal- The necessity for a system such as Handy 1 is increasing
let were placed eight different colored felt tip pens which daily. Improvements in medicine and the changing age
were housed in special holders. A light was positioned structure in the world means that fewer able-bodied people
alongside each holder to facilitate any color pen being cho- are caring for an even greater number of people with special
sen and picked up. On each of the four edges of the drawing needs. The simplicity and multi-functionality of Handy 1 has
paper a light was positioned in order to allow directional heightened its appeal to all disability groups and their care-
control of the pens once they were in position on the paper. takers. The system provides people with special needs a
Also on the pallet were three further light displays labeled greater autonomy, and enhances their chances for a more
“up”, “down” and “new pen.” Their function when selected productive and fulfilling life.
was to lower and lift the pen from the drawing paper and to

Adapted from the Proceedings of the California State University (CSUN)’s Sixteenth Annual International Conference on
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf2001/proceedings/0211topping.html. Published with permission from the authors.
The RAIL (Robotic Aid to Independent Living) Project is supported by the European Commission, Directorate General X11,
Science, Research and Development Life Sciences and Technology.
The Artbox project is supported by Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust.

! 77 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

Augmenting Communication with Synthesized Facial Expressions:
AA CCoonnttrroovveerrssiiaall NNeeww TTeecchhnnoollooggyy *

Donald B. Egolf,
Egolf, Ph.D.
Department of Communication, University of Pittsburgh

From Voice to Facial Expression What is a Synthesized Facial Expression?

Approximately 20 years ago, research in speech synthesis Digital Personnel is a computer-based facial expression syn-
began to pay off. Devices were created that provided a func- thesizer. It synthesizes animated, life-like, facial expressions
tional level of intelligibility. And soon thereafter, devices of an individual in synchrony with that individual's speech.
were produced that generated intelligibility scores virtually The system is speech driven, that is, as an individual speaks
equal to live voice comparisons. Voice choices also became the appropriate facial expressions are generated simultane-
available, most notably female and male voices. These re- ously.
search efforts enhanced the lives of many individuals who
could not use speech as a primary means of communication. To initiate the system, an individual is asked to recite a pho-
Currently, a watershed mark has been passed in the research netically balanced passage that has all of the English pho-
effort to synthesize a person's facial expressions in syn- nemes represented in a variety of phonemic contexts. As the
chrony with that person's speech. individual recites this passage, audio and video recordings
are made. Facial expressions accompanying each phoneme
Facial expression technology emerged from a sustained are tagged and stored. This storage constitutes the basic da-
NASA-sponsored research effort at the Jet Propulsion Labo- tabase. The database can be “tweaked” by having the target
ratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasa- individual give samples of winking, blinking, nodding, etc.
dena, CA. G-Tec™, Graphco Technologies, Inc., has re- These responses can be added to give the synthesized face
cently acquired exclusive distribution rights to the technol- more animation potential. From this database it is possible to
ogy, which will be co-developed with JPL. The technology reproduce an individual's facial expressions as he or she
has been called “Digital Personnel™.” speaks naturally. The speech can be provided either live,
recorded, or for a speech-disabled individual, synthesized
speech. In all cases the synthesized facial expressions are
those of the actual speaker.

Using Synthesized Facial Expression

Proposed commercial uses of the technology include web-
based customer support, e-commerce sales, video-telephony,
news dissemination, advertisements, entertainment, and dis-
tance learning, among others. In these cases, the communi-
cation is enhanced by the addition of an animated person on
the other side of the monitor. For instance, a technical sup-
port staff can be looking through documents while still ap-
pearing attentive to the help-seeker; the distance learning
instructor or the TV news anchor can appear to be in the
college or TV studio when in fact they may be phoning in
from anywhere in the world.

Would someone who is communicatively impaired want to

augment his or her communication with synthesized facial

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expressions? One such person might cation. They have been accepted by
be someone with a degenerative their users and in varying degrees by
disease like AIDS or Atrophic Would someone who is the users' listeners. The acceptance of
Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),
example. This person might want to
communicatively impaired facial expression synthesizers in
augmentative devices will probably
"bank" his or her facial expressions want to augment his or her not come so easily. In fact, many
in the early stages of the disease, communication with synthe synthe- people recoil at the idea. Reasons for
shortly after a definitive diagnosis this response include the following.
has been made. ("Banking" means sized facial expres
having oneself videotaped reading a First, a person's face is intricately
phonetically- balanced passage.) related to that person's identity. When
This would provide the stored data necessary for synthesiz- you think of someone, what comes to mind? In most cases,
ing facial expressions. As the disease progresses and the it is likely to be a person's face. To present a face that has
sufferer becomes weaker, he or she still could communicate been synthesized from a sample taken at an earlier age, as
with natural looking synthesized facial expression that would might be done in the case of someone who has a degenera-
appear in synchrony with his or her own voice or a synthe- tive disease, or to take a series of videotaped samples from a
sized voice. The communication could occur in a telecom- person with severe dysarthria so that fluid facial movements
munication situation or in the presence of a communication might be made to accompany synthesized speech might be
partner. seen as a kind of deceit.

Individuals with non-degenerative neuromuscular diseases Second, research has shown that the face is the part of the
like cerebral palsy, for instance, might also want to adopt the body most intricately related to self-concept. Having one set
new technology. Many of these individuals already use of expressions without a device and another when using a
synthesized speech. And although their neuromuscular in- device with synthesized facial expression capabilities may
volvement may preclude them from reciting a phonetically not only be confusing to others but also to the user as well.
balanced passage, videos of brief facial expressions could be
recorded and attached to a synthesized phoneme bank. This Third, certain rules of discourse would be broken if the fa-
process would allow the individual to present a speech- cial expression synthesizer were used in the face-to-face
synchronized animated face during conversation. Again this conversational setting. The device user's listener would be
might be utilized in telecommunications or in the presence of put in the position of having to choose between listening to
a communication partner. synthesized speech and watching speech-synchronized facial
expressions generated by the user's device, or maintaining
A third area of application would apply to teachers, thera- eye contact with the user while listening to the device. The
pists, and trainers. These individuals may want to record a former may appear to be insulting and mortifying to the de-
bank of phonemes using highly animated facial expressions. vice user; it might be viewed as a form of rejection.
They could then use this bank to synthesize their facial ex-
pressions as they telecommunicate, in visual training prod- Advantages in the use of facial synthesizers are many. Syn-
ucts, or as they speak “live” in the classroom having their thesized facial expression capabilities offer the users a wider
enhanced images projected on monitors. communication bandwidth in that the visual or nonverbal is
there to complement the speech. It may make the users more
Controversies competent communicators. The user might apply the synthe-
sized facial capability in all situations, or limit it to telecom-
munications, be it on videophones or across the Internet. In
Synthesized or digitized speech mechanisms, packaged in the long run, the users will decide. It will be the responsibil-
any number of augmentative communication devices are ity of researchers to provide the best facial expression syn-
used as compensatory mechanisms by those for whom natu- thesizers to help users make the best decision.
ral speech cannot be used as a primary means of communi-

Adapted from the Proceedings of the California State University (CSUN)’s Sixteenth Annual International Conference on
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf2001/proceedings/0011egolf.html. Published with permission from the author.

! 79 ! TechKnowLogia, July - September 2002 © Knowledge Enterprise, Inc. www.TechKnowLogia.org

Bringing Mayan Language and Culture
Across the Digital Divide
Andrew E. Lieberman
Academy for Educational Development

“To become a true global citizen is to celebrate the diversity of humankind while
retaining the personal right to celebrate our own traditional cultural heritage.”1

“Technology is neither positive nor negative, nor is it neutral.”

Melvin Kranzberg2

All over the world, the people on the unconnected side of the that the Internet will make it easier to “preserve artifacts of
digital divide get glimpses of the other side. From television their culture,” which will only make them stronger.4
and the news, they have created an image of the connected
world of global communication and instant access to unlim- The hypothesis that ICTs can be an integral part of the strug-
ited information. Firsthand access to information and com- gle to revitalize a language and culture has been put into
munication technologies (ICTs) is still very limited for the practice in a number of innovative experiences around the
vast majority of people in developing countries. Nonethe- globe. This article describes the “Enlace Quiché” project in
less, ICTs are beginning to reach even the remotest villages Guatemala, which is working in Mayan teacher training high
around the world, and more and more societies that have schools to prepare the country’s future bilingual (Maya-
lived in relative isolation until recently are finding them- Spanish) educators. By installing technology centers in these
selves with at least one foot in the global village. schools, and working with the students and teachers to create
Mayan language instructional materials, they are showing
Stepping across the digital divide often means leaving that it is possible to bring their language and culture with
something behind. In the rush to embrace the new, much of them as Mayans cross the digital divide.
what has been important can be cast aside, intentionally or
not. This is true for anyone, but for indigenous populations,
it has a special impact. They move toward something alleg-
Guatemala: Peace, Bilingual Education, and
edly better, but to get there, they leave behind a part of their Technology
culture, language, values, and identity. The current weaken-
ing of many indigenous languages and cultures is well Guatemala is the home of 21 Mayan languages. Their use
documented. However, a countermovement has been build- has persisted despite colonization by the Spanish and a harsh
ing in recent decades. 36-year civil war. Globalization has affected the Mayans,
too, as Western clothing becomes more fashionable and less
Shorris3 and others have written passionately about lan- expensive than traditional dress. Cable television and inter-
guages being lost, along with the cultural information their national music have made Western pop culture very much a
words hold. Despite the tendency toward assimilation, many part of the local popular culture, lowering the popularity of
observers do not feel that a single homogeneous global cul- the marimba and other traditional instruments.
ture is inevitable, and that technology will play an important
role in reversing these trends. James Hrynyshyn believes There is no question that Mayan culture has been weakened.
that “Global culture does not mean an end to local culture.” Women continue to dress in elaborately hand-woven clothing
He predicts that aboriginal cultures will “find it easy to iden- with designs based on the Mayan cosmovision, but men have
tify themselves in the global culture linked by the net,” and

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adopted Western dress. Mayans with little education prefer Bilingual Intercultural Technology Centers
their native language over Spanish. In the homes of educated
Mayans, however, Spanish is likely to predominate. Few
people can read Mayan languages, and fewer still write in
these languages. It would be easy to predict that Mayan lan-
guages will die out, and the population will assimilate into
the mainstream. Many Mayans and non-Mayans alike be-
lieve that this would be a step forward for Guatemala. They
believe that assimilation will provide more opportunities for
work and advancement.

Yet others are working to promote a resurgence. The 1996

peace agreements recognize Guatemala’s multilingual, mul-
tiethnic fabric and guarantee the right to a culturally and lin-
guistically appropriate education for the entire population.5
International development partners have been working with
the national bilingual education program and many other
organizations to make this a reality. Many obstacles stand
between the current situation and an educational system that
will produce the bilingual, bicultural population that many
hope for. Bilingual teachers are in short supply and, with
few exceptions, have had little or no training in bilingual
teaching methodologies. Furthermore, instructional materi-
als in Mayan languages are still being developed and stan-

Parallel to the ongoing debate around bilingual education,

ICTs have become increasingly more common in rural Gua- Figure 1 represents the project’s vision of the centers. The
temala. Computer use is routine in government institutions, multimedia computers, digital cameras, tape recorders, video
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other organi- cameras, printers, and other accessories are the most visible
zations. Computer academies offering basic courses and elements of the centers. However, they are only the points of
desktop publishing services are sprouting up in most towns. entry used to develop future teachers, in both learning to be
Privatization of the phone company has lowered costs and and learning to make. This thought spawned the slogan,
spurred investment in infrastructure, helping Internet dial-up “Teaching with computers, not about computers.”
access to reach more and more people. “In Latin America
Internet use is growing by more than 30% a year—though The centers are located in each of the five participating
that still means that only 12% of individuals will be con- schools, offering services to students, teachers, and the
nected by 2005. Broader expansion is limited by low house- community at large. In addition to their normal course load,
hold incomes.”6 It is clear that ICTs will continue to reach students now have an extra computer class, and teachers are
more and more of the population. beginning to use the centers to prepare materials. The proj-
ect has provided training on integration of technology and
As a response to both of these trends, Proyecto “Enlace course contents. In off-hours, students can use the equip-
Quiché” began in 2000, operated by the Academy for Edu- ment for class work and personal endeavors. Most of the
cational Development’s LearnLink initiative7 and financed as centers offer courses and desktop publishing services to the
part of USAID-Guatemala's “Better Educated Rural Society” community. Fees from these services help to support the
package.8 The first phase of the project had two principal centers.
thrusts. The first was installation of technology centers in
five bilingual teacher-training schools. The second was
creation of multimedia materials showing the use of ICTs in Student Projects
the development of bilingual instructional materials. With During the 2001 school year, the project coordinated two
these goals in mind, the project defines itself as “The link yearlong activities with each school to help demonstrate the
between the Quiché teachers and the technology of the new potential of the centers for creating bilingual, intercultural
century.” instructional materials. One was a multimedia CD-ROM
with local cultural information. The second was an oral tra-

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dition collection, presented as both an early childhood reader More Digital Resources
program and an audio CD of radio programs.

“Our Grandparents’ Thoughts” is the name given to the CD- In addition to empowering the teacher training schools to
ROM produced using Microsoft PowerPoint. Each school create their own instructional materials, the project created
followed an interdisciplinary process involving interviews several demonstration products that show the value of ICTs
with local elders, digitalization of information and images, in Mayan language instruction.
translation, editing, and production. Teachers from different
courses worked together with the students, who gained prac- The majority of students in the selected schools has oral pro-
tical experience in writing in the Mayan language as they ficiency in the local Mayan language but are just beginning
transcribed the interviews. They learned more about their to learn the written form. To help the students learn to dis-
culture. The final product is also a valuable resource for tinguish similar, but distinct, sounds, the project created a
other students in the same schools and around the globe, be- CD-ROM with a series of interactive auditory discrimination
cause it presents authentic information about Mayan culture. exercises and games. The rich visual and audio effects and
functionality of this software have made it very popular and

Another useful product is a CD-ROM containing 3,000 clip

art images, all drawn by local Mayan artists and representing
a basic Maya-K'iche' and Maya-Ixil vocabulary. For exam-
ple, there are four separate drawings for the verb, to carry,
since Maya-Ixil has a separate verb for each of the following:
carry on shoulder (chele'm), carry on head (isq'u'm), carry
on back (ija'm), and carry in arms (jele'm). These images
will be useful for language learning exercises and to provide
instructional material designers with ready-to-use drawings.

“The Blossoming of our Grandparents’ Words”9 began as a

project in oral history collection. Students asked the local
elders to tell stories in Maya-K'iche' and Maya-Ixil. Back at
the technology centers, with the help of their teachers, stu-
dents transcribed the stories and translated them into Span-
ish. Then they recreated some of the stories for pre-school
children. Students drew and scanned artwork as part of the
basic layout of each story. “Enlace Quiché” provided a pro-
fessional layout and printed a limited number of copies of
each book.

While the books were being finalized, some of the same sto-
ries were used to make radio programs. A small group of
students and teachers from each school worked with a con-
sultant and technician. They wrote scripts; then the partici-
pants used audio-mixing software to record and mix voice,
sound effects, and background music. The final versions
were burned onto a CD bearing the same name as the books. A third CD-ROM holds six digitized books about Mayan
This CD is accompanied by a teacher’s guide, which sug- language grammar. While the CD-ROM limits accessibility
gests simple post-listening activities such as making draw- to those with computer access, it does provide an inexpen-
ings of the listener’s favorite character. These stories have sive means to reproduce and distribute specialized texts that
been aired on local radio stations to reach as wide a popula- otherwise might not be available. The HTML format that
tion as possible, including the many young children who do was used for these books also opens up the possibility of
not attend pre-school. adding interactive exercises to each text. The Ixil grammar

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text has more than 30 interactive exercises so the reader can Final Thoughts
measure his or her understanding of each chapter.
The dawn of the information age is reaching the remotest
Internet Connectivity villages. Odasz writes, “No traditional culture will be well-
served by denying the reality of our fast changing world, or
It is important to note that all of the student projects were the value of more accessible knowledge and education.”11
carried out without Internet connectivity in the centers. The Warschauer adds that most indigenous cultures have relied
decision to delay connectivity was partially due to lack of on oral tradition, song, dance, chants, etc. “for passing down
affordable options. However, it also was seen as an advan- knowledge and cultural traditions from generation to genera-
tage—it did not distract attention from the planned projects. tion ... . This blending of communication modes is obviously
It is no surprise that the schools now see connectivity as the well-suited to a medium such as the Internet.”12 Wuagneux
next step. They have become aware that being connected reminds us, “Knowledge sharing does much more than pass
will provide them with fast and efficient communication on information; it adds to the self-esteem and self-worth of
tools, instant access to local and global information, and a those sharing, and allows group members to see each other as
means to disseminate their work in preserving their language capable.”13
and culture.
Our increasingly interdependent world faces many chal-
As of mid-2002, shared VSAT Internet connectivity has been lenges. One of the most critical of these is how to reach
secured for one school. Three others are in the process of equality in health, education, and economic levels, without
acquiring a telephone line for dial-up access. The fifth, lo- sacrificing the human diversity that makes our planet so in-
cated in one of the remotest regions of the country, is still teresting and likely holds the key to our species’ continued
waiting for an affordable solution. Looking ahead to this survival. An important step is to help Mayans and all other
connectivity, the project web page10 already includes a dem- indigenous populations to take ownership of ICTs and cross
onstration web page created by each school. During 2002, the digital divide without distancing themselves from their
center managers will be trained in how to administer the culture and language. Just as the Mayans’ cornfields and
school web page. Intranets also will be set up to make in- temples have been part of the landscape for centuries, we
formation available within schools without permanent con- must ensure that Mayan language and culture will have its
nectivity. place in cyberspace.

Odasz, Frank. Echoes in the Electronic Wind: A Native American Cross-cultural Internet Guide. Dillon, Mont.: Self-
published, 2000, p. 82.
Weinstein, Jay A. Social and Cultural Change: Social Science for a Dynamic World. Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn &
Bacon, 1997, p. 190.
Shorris, Earl. “The Last Word: Can the world's small languages be saved?” Harper’s Magazine (August 2000): 35–43.
Zellen, Barry. “Surf's up!: NWT’s Indigenous Communities Await a Tidal Wave of Electronic Information.” Cultural Sur-
vival Quarterly: The Internet and Indigenous Groups (1998). http://www.cs.org/publications/CSQ/csqinternet.html
MINUGA. Acuerdo sobre Identidad y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas. Self-published, 1995.
United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2001: Making New Technologies Work for Human
Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
See http://www.aed.org/learnlink
See http://www.usaid.gov
Described in more detail in Fontaine, Mary. “Back to the Future: ‘IT’ for ‘ECD’ Among the Maya.” TechKnowLogia (Sep-
tember/October 2001). http://www.techknowlogia.org/welcome.asp?IssueNumber=13
See http://www.enlacequiche.org.gt
Odasz, p. 82.
Warschauer, Mark. "Technology and Indigenous Language Revitalization: Analyzing the Experience of Hawai'i.”
Wuagneux, Dianna. “Learning Relationships & Community Wellbeing.” Cultural Survival Quarterly

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