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 ♦ Launched ♦ Report Released on Bridging Global Digital Divide ♦ Egyptians Spending More Time on the Internet

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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.

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Wadi D. Haddad, Editor

Technologies for All: A


or a


There is a growing recognition of the value of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the lives of people as learners, workers, and citizens. Consequently, the rationale to bridge the digital divide and provide access to ICTs to all is expanding to cover economic, social, educational, political, and equity considerations.

The Challenge
The use of ICTs has grown exponentially. In 1950, personal computers were little known or used, but within a generation, they became essential work and communication tools. Similarly, the number of Internet hosts worldwide grew more than 1,100 times in eight years. (See Despite this phenomenal growth, access varies greatly around the world. Modern ICTs have not corrected the already existing divide between technology-rich and technology-poor countries created by the Industrial Revolution. As before, ICT access is related positively to economic development—the higher the income, the greater the ICT access. But, income is not the only variable that influences access to technology. There are documented inequities across and within countries by race, gender, age, and location. More recently, the limited access to ICTs by persons with disabilities and special needs has also been highlighted.

and speed. Likewise, Internet access growth has been accompanied by some cost reduction. From 1999 to 2004, the number of U.S. households online is estimated to increase by 66% (from 40.5 million to 67.1 million), but spending on access is estimated to rise by only 9.2% CAGR (compound annual growth rate). Similarly, broadband Internet access is expected to increase by 800%, from 2.1 million subscribers 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 respectively.

• Simplification: ICTs strive for simplicity of use, even when the technology becomes gradually more complex. The first disk operating system- (DOS-) operated PCs required some training for simple tasks. However, children have no problems dealing with modern PCs. This concern with the user may explain, at least partially, the rapid popularity of the medium. • Efficiency: Perhaps more than any other technology, ICTs strive for efficiency: they are getting faster, simpler, less costly, more user-friendly and more productive. Auto industries have relied on one source of fuel for the past 100 years, despite warnings ranging from potential depletion of this sole source to environmental disasters. In less than 50 years, telecommunications have experimented with simple telephone lines, fiber optic cables, satellites, and wireless technologies, and the search continues. These trends encourage us not to think in terms of linear projections. Also countries and communities can leapfrog from pre-technology stages (e.g., the absence of telephone lines) to state-of-the-art strategies (e.g., wireless technologies), thus bypassing less efficient and generally more expensive alternatives.

The Hope
There are many reasons for optimism. • Acceptance: ICTs have been well received worldwide, and it appears that the older technologies have opened the door for the more recent ones. To reach 50 million users, the telephone took 74 years, the radio 38 years, the PC 16 years, the television 13 years, and the WWW only 4 years. In India, places that did not have a telephone now have Internet kiosks where families can e-mail their relatives abroad. Likewise, homeless children in Asunción, Paraguay, are learning to read and surf the Web at telecenters where commuters send e-mail messages while waiting for the bus on their way to or from work. • Reduced costs: Increased use of ICTs is associated with reduced costs and improved technology. Computer hardware prices have fallen, despite significant increases in memory

The Constraints
The vision of ICTs for All is easy to justify but hard to achieve. A political commitment is necessary but not sufficient. An implementation strategy must be realistic as to recognize the constraints and devise sustainable mechanisms to overcome them.

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© Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.

• The first and obvious constraint is infrastructure. Until recently, most ICTs depended on electric power and telephone lines. Other sources of energy (e.g. solar) and technologies (wireless, radio, and satellite) offer new opportunities for access bypassing the traditional technologies. • Cost is another obvious constraint, despite reduction in unit costs of ICT investments and services. ICT projects require start-up investments that may challenge the limited resources of poor countries or locales. However, technologies also offer solutions that help to defray costs without jeopardizing the quality of the projects. Creativity is essential to overcome potential barriers. Here public-private partnerships should be explored and encouraged. • Attention must be paid to laws and regulations that could facilitate or hinder ICT plans. ICTs, with their ability to reach beyond political boundaries, defy many of the national and international legal frameworks that were created for a world with frontiers. Solutions, albeit necessary, are difficult to find and slow to implement. The balance between national and global interests, rights of individuals, and freedom of information is a challenge that must be faced if the potential of ICTs is to be fulfilled. • Ensuring access to ICTs is just one step. Securing acceptance and use is equally important. Cultural and political factors may promote or create obstacles to the use of ICTs or limit their use to certain subgroups of society. Likewise, the structure and organization of local educational systems may favor integration of technology or create a technophobe atmosphere that hinders efforts to change. • Finally, the provision of ICTs to different segments of society requires local expertise of different kinds: expertise in the potential of ICTs for different needs, strategic expertise in planning large-scale innovation projects, technical expertise related to the hardware, and educational expertise in using ICTs for the advancement of knowledge and learning. ICT development plans fail when they are transplanted from outside without regard for the national capacity for design, customization and implementation.

Published by Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Wadi D. Haddad, President, Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.

INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD: Jarl Bengtsson, Head, CERI, OEDC Claudio Castro, Pres., Advisory Bd., Faculdade Pitágoras Gajaraj Dhanarajan, President & CEO, The Commonwealth of Learning Dee Dickenson, CEO, New Horizons for Learning Alexandra Draxler, Director, Task force on Education for the Twenty-first Century (UNESCO) Pedro Paulo Poppovic, Secretary of Distance Education, Federal Ministry of Education, Brazil Nicholas Veliotes, President Emeritus, Association of American Publishers

ADVISORY EDITORIAL COMMITTEE: Joanne Capper Sam Carlson, Executive Director, WorldLinks Mary Fontaine, LearnLink, AED Kathleen Fulton, Nat'l Comm. on Teaching & America's Future Gregg Jackson, Assoc. Prof., George Washington Univ. Sonia Jurich, Research Assoc., RMC Research Corp. Frank Method, Consultant, Former Director, UNESCO Washington Kurt Moses, Vice President, AED Harry Patrinos, Sr. Education Economist, World Bank Stephen Ruth, Prof., George Mason University Laurence Wolff, Sr. Consultant, IDB


The Target
ICTs for All is a desirable but elusive target. The needs are expanding, the demands are escalating, the technologies are evolving, and the resources are diminishing. Will we ever get there? Probably not. But we can certainly get close through sustained pursuit, hard work, exploration, creativity, collaboration and commitment.

Wadi D. Haddad

This Issue is Co-Sponsored By: Academy for Educational Development (AED), 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.

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© Knowledge Enterprise, Inc.

What is The Digital Divide?
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).

About 77 million computers in the USA have valid Internet 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).

disabled, single parent (especially female headed) households, those with little education, and those residing in central cities or especially rural areas (NTAI, 1999). The technology 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, income and location (Doczi, 2000).

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

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While attention is often focused on the disadvantages to an individual, an equally important problem is the growing unattractiveness of under-wired locations to business, which can lead to “a concentration of poverty and a deconcentration of opportunity.” At present, 96% of ecommerce sites are in English and 64% of secure servers are located in the USA (Bridges, 2001). Finally, while public attention often focuses on hardware and interconnectivity, the divide is equally important in terms of human resources—literacy, and people trained and capable of utilizing ICT and developing appropriate software. The underlying trend is that privileged groups acquire and use technology more effectively, and because the technology benefits them, they become even more privileged.

dependent commercial use by local entrepreneurs, which may generate employment and economic growth. A growing ICT service sector may provide better-paid skilled employment, for example by increasing both demand and ability to pay for better education, health, and other social services. In short, affordable access to information infrastructure and the effective use of the gained knowledge are key factors for economic sustainability and improved social conditions. The “digital divide" is based on insufficient infrastructure, high cost of access, inappropriate or weak policy regimes, inefficiencies in the provision of telecommunication networks and services, lack of locally created content, and uneven ability to derive economic and social benefits from information-intensive activities. To reduce the digital divide requires a “systems” approach broadly attacking all of these issues. But care must be taken. Good investments can make ICT an engine for development. Misguided investments in ICT can divert scarce human and financial resources from more fundamental poverty reducing measures.

The Broader “Divides”
The digital divide is a sub-set of broader “divides” that characterize the world. High cost anti-malarial drugs are provided to safari-trekkers, at the same time that one African child dies every 30 seconds because of lack of basic malaria prevention services (Dunavan, 2002). Half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. About 25% of the world’s adult population is illiterate (World Bank, 2001). In 1913 the gap between the world’s richest quintile and poorest quintile was 13 to 1. In 1990 it was 60 to 1. In 1997 it was 74 to 1. In 1999 the richest 200 people in the world had a combined wealth of $1,135 billion, while the total income of the poorest half a billion people in all the developing countries barely exceeds 10% of that amount (UNDP, 2000). Any program to reduce the digital divide, therefore, has to start with poverty alleviation, since poverty is by far the greatest impediment to connections with and utilization of ICT. In Bangladesh a computer costs the equivalent of eight years’ average pay. The cost for Internet connections in Africa exceeds the average income of most of the population, while it amounts to 1% of average monthly income in the USA (US Internet Council, 2000). Poverty reduction, fueled by economic and social development, depends on many factors other than ICT - political stability, macroeconomic governance, transparency and accountability of national and local administrations, physical infrastructure, and basic literacy. By no means is access to ICT a panacea or short cut for reduction of poverty.

Action Points
The Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), established by the Group of 8 (USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, and Russia) has set out to define such an approach so as to increase access and use of ICT in developing countries. The DOT Force has proposed the following nine “action points” for ICT enhancement, which the G8 would support: • • Undertake national e-strategies that would establish enabling regulatory and policy frameworks for the growth of ICT. Improve connectivity, increase access and lower costs, through use of multiple competing technologies, public and community access points, and sharing of best practices. Enhance human resource development through actions such as training teachers in ICT, enhancing awareness of decision makers, and expanding ICT learning opportunities to the rural, the poor, and the disenfranchised. Foster enterprise and entrepreneurship through putting in place pro-competitive policies, encouraging private sector innovation, and establishing public/private collaboration. Examine emerging worldwide policy and technical issues raised by the Internet and ICT through a network of researchers and policy makers with participation by developing countries. Make specific efforts to help the countries that are furthest behind—the poorest countries, with an emphasis on Africa. Promote ICT for health education, HIV/AIDs, and other communicable diseases Develop local content through making software applica-

Bridging the Divide
There are, nonetheless, compelling reasons why it is necessary to greatly increase public access to new technology. In the first place, even with the Internet “bust” of the last few years, ICT has become an enormous engine of development. It is estimated that $2 trillion US dollars were invested in ICT in 1999. It is reported that the use of ICT contributed close to 50 percent of total growth in US productivity in the second half the 1990s (Bridges, 2001). An important additional benefit of effective use of ICT is the potential for in-

• • •

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tions widely available, encouraging participation by local stakeholders, and expanding the languages available on the Internet. Prioritize assistance for ICT in the initiatives of multilateral lending and assistance agencies.

In sum, ICT is not the solution to poverty or inequality. Investment in and use of ICT alone is not automatically associated with economic growth. Rather, ICT provides a link in the chain of the development process itself. This may reflect the fact that ICT requires an enabling environment of infrastructure and policies before they contribute efficiently to 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.

These action points constitute the basis for a comprehensive worldwide effort to reduce the digital divide.

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. 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. Doczi, M. (2000). ICTs and Social and Economic Inclusion. March 2000. DOT Force. (2002). Digital Opportunities for All: Meeting the Challenge. Dunavan, Claire Panosia. “Men, Money and Malaria,” Scientific American. June 2002. ITU (2001). Telecommunication Indicators. 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 Bank. UNDP. (2000). Human Development Report. New York. US Internet Council, "State of the Internet Report 2000," World Bank (2001). World Bank Development Report 2000/1.

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

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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 freedom, support and opportunities that can be offered through the use of ICTs. A discussion of the use of ICTs for individuals with disabilities generally covers three major areas: assistive technology, adaptive technology, and the technology as a tool for knowledge and support. This article briefly discusses each of the three areas. trauma. The Robot acts as a proxy for muscle strength and mobility that was lost due to disease or trauma, thus enabling an individual to function at a level higher than he or she would otherwise achieve unassisted. ABLEDATA offers a good introduction to the world of assistive technology with a database of close to 30,000 different products ( See article "Handy 1: A Robotic System to Assist the Severely Disabled," TechKnowLogia, this issue.

Assistive Technology
Any technology that assists individuals to overcome limitations can be called an assistive technology. For example, a crane that lifts and moves hundreds of tons of steel beams is assistive technology in the sense that it provides the user with a type of ability that no human being would otherwise posses. For persons with limited or impaired mobility, strength, or sensory perception, assistive technology provides resources to bypass or even conquer these limitations. These technologies function as a bridge between individuals and their world; fostering independence and self-confidence. A list of assistive technology devices can read like a mailorder catalog with something for all types of disabilities, ages and individual interests. Products can range from the simple to the sublime, such as battery-operated scissors for individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in the wrist region that is exacerbated by repetitive movements of the thumb), switch-operated toys with a loud buzz for children with hearing impairments, or time pieces that “speak” the hours and minutes of the day for individuals with visual impairments. Products can also require extensive financial resources, such as the Homecare Suite, a prefabricated unit that can be attached to a home, and caters to persons with physical disabilities who require daily assistance. Assistive technology is not only limited to computerized technologies. In fact, an assistive device for a person with impaired mobility can be as rudimentary as a crutch, or as sophisticated as a power wheelchair with voice command. Although many of the basic concepts of assistive technologies have existed for many years, (e.g., wheelchairs or manual recliner systems), ICTs have expanded this field to new dimensions. The Development Of Handy 1, A Robotic System To Assist The Severely Disabled, by Mike Topping and Jane Smith, describes a device that uses a simple computer technology to increase mobility for persons with severe neuromuscular limitations, such as persons with advanced muscular dystrophy (a disease characterized by the progressive weakening of muscles) or quadriplegia due to a spinal

Adaptive Technology
The term adaptive technology indicates the changes that must be introduced in existing technologies to make them user friendly for individuals with disabilities. This distinction is not universal and the term assistive technology is frequently used to indicate both devices developed specifically for individuals with disabilities and the adaptations or enhancements of technologies that are intended for general use. Examples of simple adaptive technology are keyboards with colorful keys for persons with learning disabilities, or with large keys for persons with visual impairments. For instance, the HeadMouse is a sophisticated device for persons who do not have the use of their hands. The device, placed on the user’s forehead, includes a wireless optical sensor that tracks a target. The user selects a key on the screen keyboard by moving the target over the required key. Voice recognition as replacement for keyboarding has become a commercial alternative even for individuals with no motor disabilities. This issue of TechKnowLogia includes an article on facial expression recognition to empower individuals with progressive neuromuscular impairments (Augmenting Communication with Synthesized Facial Expressions: A Controversial New Technology, by Donald B. Egolf). For individuals who are blind, documents can be translated into Braille through the use of software and a Braille Embosser (a special type of printer). The Adaptive Technology Resource Center, at the University of Toronto (, has an extensive list of devices that can facilitate access and use of computers by individuals with different disabilities. An important area of adaptive technology refers to the World Wide Web. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), a project of the W3 Consortium,1 has developed a number of resources to increase the usability of the web and guidelines for web design to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines are intended for all Web content developers (page authors and site designers) and for develop-

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ers of authoring tools. The complete guidelines and related checkpoints are available at WAI web site ( Here are some sample guidelines: • Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content - Provide content that, when presented to the user, conveys essentially the same function or purpose as auditory or visual content. • Don’t rely on color alone - Ensure that text and graphics are understandable when viewed without color. • Use mark up and style sheets and do so properly Mark up documents with the proper structural elements. Control presentation with style sheets rather than with presentation elements and attributes. • Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully - Ensure that pages are accessible even when newer technologies are not supported or are turned off. • Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes - Ensure that moving, blinking, scrolling, or autoupdating objects or pages may be paused or stopped. • Design for device-independence - Use features that enable activation of page elements via a variety of input devices. • Use interim solutions - Use interim accessibility solutions so that assistive technologies and older browsers will operate correctly. The article Understanding Web Page Accessibility: A Focus On Access For The Visually Impaired, by Aaron Smith, in this Issue of TechKnowLogia, explains some strategies in web design to facilitate accessibility for persons whose visual impairment requires the use of a screen reader.

technologies have made computers accessible to persons with visual impairments, motor and sensorial impairments have little impact on the performance of persons working with computers. Even home-bound individuals can continue working and communicating with colleagues and clients through the Internet. For persons who have social phobia, for instance, computers provide a protective wall, facilitating communication with a world that is seen as threatening. Computer jobs are therefore a great venue for selfsufficiency and personal fulfillment among individuals with disabilities.
Knowledge and support

ICTs for Knowledge and Support
The third important area in the interaction between ICTs and individuals with disabilities refers to the use of technologies as a tool for economic independence and a source of knowledge and support.
ICTs for economic independence

As any other group of Internet users, individuals with disabilities access the Internet for information, including information about their disabilities, available resources, cutting edge treatments, and rights. This knowledge empowers the individuals, bringing back to them the control over their treatment and future. Many provider organizations, advocacy groups and individuals with disabilities maintain web sites that offer resources, information and linkages. Three examples of web sites for persons with emotional disabilities include the Center for Mental Health Services, Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN), funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (, The Internet Mental Health, a site for information on mental illness and treatment maintained by a Canadian psychiatrist ( and the Mental Health Self-Help Network (, a support and information site developed and maintained by a consumer of mental health services. CURE Network (, an organization funded and managed by persons with disabilities, has an extensive list of websites, newsgroups and listservs encompassing many types of disabilities. ICTs are opening new doors, expanding horizons and enabling economic independence and emotional balance for many individuals with disabilities. Schools should make an extra effort to provide students with disabilities with strong foundations on computer technology skills to improve their chances of a productive adult life. For the same reasons, it is essential that the public and the private sector increase their support for research and development, education, and information projects that foster new and enhanced technologies and increase its access to individuals with disabilities. These are necessary steps to move the concept of a more equitable world from utopia into reality.

Computer-related technologies have opened the doors of economic independence for individuals with different disabilities for a number of reasons. Most disabilities do not affect cognitive skills, but motor, neurological or sensorial skills. That is, most individuals with disabilities are quite intelligent and able to perform well in jobs that demand higher order thinking skills. These are generally jobs that 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 composed of individuals, corporations and organizations at the cutting edge of web development and use.

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Wearable Computer Gives Voice to Children with Disabilities
Xybernaut Corporation, known for its wearable computing technologies, has announced a fully functional wearable computer platform incorporating hardware, software and peripheral technologies designed to help educators empower students with various learning disabilities. The computer, known as Xyberkids, has been tested at several schools in the U.S. with promising results. Xyberkids integrates a variety of educational applications, such as speech and handwriting recognition and peripheral devices, into a sturdy backpack that brings the power of a desktop computer to a wearable package to assist teachers and children in the classroom. It is used to aid students in a variety of tasks including written expression, conversion of text and pictures into structured speech, supplemental communication through audio output devices, augmentation for study habits and enhancement of organizational skills. The basic XyberKids solution is expected to have a starting price of $4,995 and is available immediately from Xybernaut and reseller partners concentrating on the education market. The solution will be carried in a 15x10x5-inch, heavy-duty polyester and rip-resistant nylon backpack with padded and adjustable straps. The standard unit features a 500 MHz Intel® Mobile Celeron® processor with 256MB SDRAM, 5 GB internal HDD, as well as Compact Flash, USB and Firewire peripheral ports. Students enter and view data using 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 recognition. XyberKids also supports networked and/or wireless Internet access just as one would experience with a standard laptop or desktop PC. Source: BBC News and Xybernaut 93074.stm ess/2002/pub_prss_2002_009.htm

"VoGram" to Help Connect India's Rural, Illiterate Masses
Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science have developed an application that would allow the emotion of voice to be conveyed in a telegram. "VoGram" could change the communication scene by connecting India's largely rural and illiterate masses. The application is a marriage of speech compression, Internet and store and forward messaging ideas. All a person needs to do is to call up the VoGram call center, record a voice message using a simple card that compresses the voice message. The compressed file is sent through the Internet to the postoffice close to the recipients' address. The post-office could either print and deliver the message to the recipient or the receiver could call up a local number free of charge, use an access code given by the postman and hear the VoGram. Or, better still, if the postman has a Simputer (see TechKnowNews in TechKnowLogia, May/June 2001 Issue) he could play the voice message to the recipient at home. The Indian Institute of Science has sold the application license to ILI Technologies, which in turn will market the product in conjunction with the state-owned Indian Telephone Industries. Source: Yahoo India News (May 3, 2002)

UNESCO Computer/Internet Centre Opened at Education Ministry in Kabul
As reported by UNESCO, May 24, 2002: " An Internet equipped computer training centre established within the Ministry of Education in Kabul was officially opened on Monday (20th May, 2002).

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The centre, put in place by UNESCO with funds from the Government of Japan, is equipped with 19 Compaq Pentium 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 training facility, which will be utilized by Ministry of Education staff for developing skills in the use of ICT’s (Information, Communication Technologies) for educational purposes, was opened by Fumio Kishida, Senior ViceMinister of Education with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of the Government of Japan. He was accompanied by Rasoul Amin, Minister of Education of the Afghanistan Interim Administration." Source: UNESCO tml

Report Released on Global Digital Divide


The G8 Digital Opportunities Task Force, also known as DOTForce, released on June 25, 2002, their reports that outlines how governments, businesses and civil society can work together to advance human development and reduce poverty through the use of information and communications technologies. This report follows up on the 2001 Genoa Plan of Action, which called for a concerted plan to narrow the technological 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 society for developing countries -- strengthening countries' readiness for e-development, increasing access and connectivity, supporting skills development, as well as fostering local content and applications. The report can be found online at Source: Industry Canada Launched

May 17, 2002, World Telecommunications Day, was the official launch of the Digital Opportunity Channel ( Developed jointly by OneWorld, the online sustainable development and human rights network, and the Benton Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works to realize the social benefits of communications technologies, the Channel will focus on the use of information and communications technologies for sustainable development. The site will place a special emphasis on promoting digital opportunities in developing countries. "Developing countries have largely been marginalized in the global dialogue on the benefits and negative impacts of digital technologies," said Kanti Kumar, channel editor. "Digital Opportunity Channel aims to give organizations and community leaders - especially in the South - a platform for their voice to be heard." Channel features include news, campaign actions, success stories, opinion pieces by leading commentators, in-depth analysis and research, events listings, a beginner's guide to digital divide issues, funding information, email digests and a dedicated search facility on ICT for development. Source: m?key=229

Egyptians Spending More Time on the Internet
Egyptians are spending more time on the Internet since the Internet became free of subscription fees. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) arranged a partnership with the state-owned telephone operator, Telecom Egypt to collect fees for online calls. Use of the Internet for an hour now costs 20 cents, versus the prior fee of $4 per month for unlimited usage. ISPs were having difficulty collecting these fees, but are now sharing in 70 percent of the revenues collected by the phone company. The move towards a "free Internet" came in response to Egypt's miniscule Internet usage rate. Out of 69 million Egyptians, only one million access the Internet. As a developing country, Egypt risks falling further behind as the global economy becomes increasingly knowledge-based. This is a drive to increase Egypt's online presence. Source: Wired News,1367,52993,00.html

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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 primary and secondary school system. Similar processes took place in many countries around the world,1 adjusting education to the so-called "Knowledge Society" that was approaching at the end of the millennium. Many aspects of the Chilean Educational Reform are similar to other reforms in the world: new curriculum, better infrastructure, text books, more teacher training, more learning time at school, etc. Nevertheless, there are some particular aspects of the Chilean context in the 90's that offer a particular flavor: • Chile was initiating a democratic phase after a long period of military government. The three presidents elected since 1990 came from the same political coalition, and gave a high priority and continuity to the educational policies of the decade. The country had a relatively robust economy within the Latin American Region (GNP per capita of US$4860 in 1996). This situation offered a good framework for funding a large and long-term effort in education. The 90's were marked with high political and social consensus on the priorities in education, which implied a national relation between the political system and education.2

that the solution was not merely the massive provision of hardware. New technologies were seen as powerful artifacts that could act as new tools for improving and enhancing teacher practice within the school. Hardware provision needed to be part of a larger educational vision that included clear means for supporting teachers in the use of technology. The initial vision was built around the construction of a National Educational Network, through which teachers and students could develop professional and pedagogical communities. This network was called Enlaces, which means 'links' in Spanish. Teachers were expected to use technology to communicate with other colleagues, sharing problems and solutions, students were expected to participate in collaborative projects within their schools and with other schools, and computers were seen as a potential pedagogical tool that could support the teaching and learning process within the curriculum.3 In summary, technology was seen as playing several roles in education: • A pedagogical role: Technology can support learning at school from a perspective of 'how' students learn (facilitating certain learning situations that would be more difficult without technology), but also from a perspective of 'what' students learn (learning some concepts or contents that are easier to understand through digital and interactive representations). A cultural, social and professional role: Computer networks can enable the formation of new communities of practice. An administrative role: Computers can be a powerful tool for facilitating management and data handling procedures within the school.

All these factors allowed for the design and implementation of long term and consistent programs articulated around the Educational Reform. One of these programs was the Chilean initiative for introducing ICT in primary and secondary schools: the Enlaces Network.

• •

An important component of Chilean Educational Reform was the incorporation of information and communication technologies (ICT) into primary and secondary schools. At the beginning of the 90's there were no clear answers about how to conduct such a process in the whole country, but we knew

We were certain that it was important to have a clear vision of the roles of technology in education, but we were also certain that many change processes in education don't succeed if they don't get to an implementation stage: making it happen inside the school. This implementation stage implies

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dealing with many variables that are hard to consider - or even be aware of - from a design desk. Some of the most challenging aspects of the implementation stage were: an appropriate relation with the school principal, a respectful approach to teachers, an appropriate professional development process, a good understanding of the power relation between schools and local authorities, etc. Since we did not have the experience of implementing an ICT initiative in schools, the decision was to have an initial pilot stage working with a small number of schools (100 schools) during an extended period of time (5 years) before scaling up nationally. This is not an easy decision for a Ministry of Education, since working on a small scale in education is not popular and might not have high political revenues in the short term. Looking backwards we may say that it was a right decision for the long-term implementation of Enlaces.

Make it simple for the users Teachers were not coming from an ICT culture. Computers, operating systems, software modems and even keyboards could be powerful tools, but they could also be huge barriers for the adoption of technology. From the beginning, Enlaces tried to focus the tasks that teachers could achieve with computers, and not the mastery of the computer as and end. It was decided to buy the easiest-to-use hardware and software at that time (graphic user interfaces, easy to set up systems, etc.). This could seem to be an expensive choice in terms of hardware cost, but turned out to be a cost-effective solution in terms of usability. An easy to use graphic software environment was also developed La Plaza - which allowed users to engage in meaningful 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 national level, building on the experience gained in the past three years. The main lessons from this period were:

La Plaza (which means 'the central square') was a graphic representation of a common place for Chilean 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 Post Office is near the Plaza, important buildings are close to the Plaza, etc. Our computer Plaza was a point and click image, where users could go to a Post office (for sending emails), to a News Kiosk (for reading news), to a Cultural Center (for participation in interest groups), and to a Museum (for accessing software and information). (see Figure 2) • Focus on Teacher Training A key dimension of Enlaces work was "training teachers". The University that was conducting the pilot project established a teacher training team composed initially of university staff, but later made up mainly of teachers coming from the first schools in the project. Teacher training was organized around regular sessions conducted with teachers in their own schools for a period of two years. The first year was oriented mainly towards the use of the computer and software (electronic mail, word processor, electronic spreadsheet, painting programs, educational software), and the second year focused mainly on the pedagogical application of technology (collaborative learning, curricular projects, etc.). • Organizational aspects It was very important for the development of the project to have a good organizational structure that offered a balance between political decisions, design capacities, national articulation, trust, implementation efficacy and funding. This balance was achieved through the partnership established between the Ministry of Education and the University.

zone. Within each zone, the Zone Center established, in turn, agreements with other universities and institutions - 'Implementation Units' - in order to cover all the geographical regions of the country with a local presence. Along with the Enlaces National Support Network, the Ministry maintained a partnership with the Institute for Information Technology in Education at the University of La Frontera, which had conducted the pilot stage. The National Coordination of the project was established at the Institute (in coordination with a team at the Ministry), as well as a Research and Development Center, which supported the Ministry in the design of future steps of Enlaces. This National Support Network was central to the expansion due to some key factors: • • The implementation of Enlaces in the schools was the responsibility of institutions that knew the local schools' reality. Institutions appropriated this national initiative as a shared challenge. It was not just the implementation of an official policy from the government, but the implementation of a program felt as belonging to the whole country. A network of specialized teams thinking, reflecting and having direct experiences with technology in schools was established. The universities worked with school teachers for training teachers in schools (peer tutoring). This promoted the development of a national network of teacher trainers.

• •

One of the most critical moments in a project's implementation is when it has to grow from a small - and controlled pilot project to a massive, large scale, national program. Enlaces faced this challenge in 1995, when it began a national expansion to the primary education system and at the same time it started a national implementation in the secondary school system. A key issue for facing this expansion was the creation of the 'Enlaces National Support Network' that involves a partnership between the Ministry of Education and more than 24 Universities through the country. Following the scheme adopted for the pilot stage, 6 universities constituted specialized groups of people that would be in charge of providing professional development, technical support and development of materials at the regional and local levels. Each of these universities became a 'Zone Center', which was responsible for the implementation of Enlaces in a geographical

The early years of Enlaces, and the later national expansion, was built on a design for large urban schools: arrangement of computers within a special computer room, training groups of 20 teachers in weekly sessions at their own school, Internet connectivity through the telephone network, frequent technical support, etc. Almost 90% of Chilean students go to these 'urban' primary or secondary schools. The other 10% of the students attend small rural schools, with a very different context. Some of the most salient characteristics of rural schools are as follows: • They have a small population of students (an average of 27 students per school). • Several classes are taught by the same teacher in one classroom (66% have just one teacher). • In spite of the fact that a small proportion of the national population attend rural schools, the number of these 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 country). Most rural schools are located in places with difficult access (no public transportation). About 10% of rural schools do not have regular access to electricity. About 80% of rural schools do not have telephone communication.

Enlaces National Support Network, provided technical and pedagogical support to each school.6 In summary, the implementation of the Enlaces educational network has involved the following: • Providing three years of training to twenty teachers per school, for an approximate total of 80,000 teachers (70% of all teachers). • Reaching 72% of the schools, thus covering 97% of the student population attending state-subsidized institutions. • Supplying 51,000 computers to schools, allocated according to the number of students in each school. The equipment – chosen according to annually updated technical standards – includes multimedia computers, printers, modems and a local area network. Considering this equipment and the ones purchased by each school, the students/computer ratio in the country is 42. • Equipping schools with educational software to support their study programs. Annual bidding is held to supply schools with this material. The software includes productivity applications such as word processing, spreadsheets and graphics programs, along with educational software on topics such as the human body, space, science, math, geometry, scientific experimentation, Chilean history, world history, geography, literature, music, art, drama, physics, chemistry, the environment, etc. • Creating a Web site ( that offers a wide range of useful educational content and services for teachers and students. This site was conceived as an educational portal where teachers can find relevant and useful curriculum-oriented content (digital educational resources), forums on relevant issues and up-to-date education information (news, events, etc.). • Introducing ICT as a built-in part of the new curriculum for secondary schools. The use of ICT was defined as a transversal aim in the curriculum, indicating thereby that it should be used in all the core subjects (Language, Math, Science, etc.) and not as a subject by itself. A crucial step in the development of Enlaces was the Agreement that the Ministry of Education negotiated with one of the largest telephone companies in the country - Telefonica CTC Chile. The company agreed to provide telephone lines, email accounts and dialup Internet at no cost for a period of 10 years to all the schools in the regions where the company had a telephone network (the majority of the Chilean Schools).

The Ministry of Education has a special program for working with rural schools since 1992. This program involves methodological and organizational approaches that are suitable for mixed grade classes, and monthly meetings with teachers from nearby schools constituting a community of teachers called Microcenter.4 Within this context of Rural Education, in 1999 Enlaces designed a special ICT program: Rural Enlaces.5 This program involved a different organization of resources within the school (computers arranged as learning corners inside the classroom), and a different teacher-training program. Rural Enlaces constituted a network of teams within the Zone Centers that were dealing specifically with ICT introduction in rural schools. These teams work with rural teacher trainers - called facilitators - that visit each school once a month and work with the teacher and students inside the classroom, modeling different approaches to the incorporation of technology in pedagogical activities. Besides these 'in-classroom' sessions, the facilitator meets with all the teachers from nearby schools once a month in their already established Microcenter meeting. The first year, teachers also participate in special intensive workshops at the closest University, learning basic skills related to the use of computers and software. This professional development program is seen as a progressive process that takes 3 years, after which they keep a permanent basic support link with the Enlaces Support Network. In terms of connectivity, it was decided to begin Rural Enlaces with a focus of the pedagogical use of technology inside the classroom even if the schools did not have Internet access. In parallel, there is a task team designing a national solution for providing sustainable Internet access to all the rural schools - and communities - in the following years.



By the year 2002 more than 7,300 primary and secondary schools have been incorporated to Enlaces. Each of these schools received computers, local networks, educational and productivity software and free and unlimited Internet access. Additionally, the Ministry of Education, in a partnership with

In general terms, the results of the evaluations of the effects of Enlaces done at an early stage of the project 7 (between 1993 and 1997), coincide to show positive outcomes in 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 high level of motivation among students, generates a more horizontal social organization within the classroom, and enables students to feel proud of their participation in projects, with a corresponding increase in self-esteem. From the point of view of teachers, the comparative evaluation made of programs introducing computers into the educational systems in Costa Rica and Chile8 showed that Enlaces is a source of pride that opens doors for professional development, especially among teachers. School officials also valued the increase in equity that the project provides by outfitting schools with equipment that they otherwise would not have been able to acquire. However, a main concern among teachers is the heavy unpaid workload resulting from their participation in the Program. From a general perspective, evaluations made by the World Bank,9 UNESCO10 and the U.S. Agency for International Development11 coincide to highlight the Enlaces project as one of the successful programs in the Chilean Educational Reform. An important point in this positive evaluation is that the project has expanded its coverage to the national level without sacrificing quality or equity. Among the factors in this success, they mention the program’s focus on teachers, the construction of a social network of educators and pupils facilitated by user-friendly technology and decentralized support, and respect for participating schools’ autonomy and their decisions in the use of the program’s technologies.

We recognize that the task is far from being completed. We had provided just a basic seed that allowed schools and teachers to recognize the potential benefits of ICT. Technology has already been incorporated into the school culture, but it has not really incorporated into teachers' regular teaching practice. If ICT is to make a contribution to teaching and learning practices, we still have a long road to follow. The next steps of Enlaces are directed towards the effective Curricular Integration of ICT. Several task teams are working on priority areas (particularly basic skills of Literacy and Numeracy in primary education), not only trying to understand the potential benefits of technology, but more importantly the key knots in teaching and learning within the disciplines. That is, we are trying to answer the question: where and how can technology help the teaching and learning process within each discipline? The main idea is that we are not just providing resources and training, but that we have to design 'modes of action' for teaching with the use of technology, as mediators in the teaching process in the domains were technology can have an impact. We still have more questions than answers for the next steps in Enlaces, but we do know that this is not a neatly designed 'single shot' intervention, but a long term process in which we will have to continue working with schools and the national - and international - community to build new understandings and support networks for incorporating ICT for the enhancement of our students’ learning.

1 2

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. 3 Hepp, P., Enlaces: Todo un mundo para los niños y jóvenes de Chile, in La reforma educacional Chilena, J.E. GarcíHuidobro, Editor. 1999, Editorial Popular: Madrid. p. 289-303. 4 San Miguel, J., Programa de Educación Básica Rural, in La Reforma Educacional Chilena, J.E. García-Huidobro, Editor. 1999, Editorial Popular: Madrid. 5 IIE, Enlaces Rural "La informática como un recurso de aprendizaje para todas las escuelas rurales de Chile". 2000, Universidad de La Frontera: Temuco. 6 Laval, E., Informática Educativa en Chile: Experiencia y proyecciones de la Red Enlaces. Persona y Sociedad, 2001. XV(2). 7 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). 8 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. 9 Ibid. 10 Núñez, I., El Proyecto Enlaces (Chile), un estudio de caso. 1996, UNESCO. 11 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:
Trust then designed a more in-depth program with additional job-readiness training and training for businesses specifically for El Salvador. This program introduces the use of adaptive information and communication technologies (ICTs) for people with disabilities at a countrywide level in El Salvador with the goal of increasing their employment opportunities. Its engine is a cadre of volunteers and local staff who train trainers in computer technologies. These groups then replicate the training with their constituents. Local businesses are partners and ensure that the training given responds to the demands of the market and that the people who participate are able to find a job. This is the only program in Latin America offering ICT and assistive technology training as well as job readiness skills training to the disabled. All manuals and training modules were designed and tested with people with disabilities. Since the start of the Disability and Technology program in El Salvador in June 2001, The Trust has trained over 304 disabled Salvadorans and placed 35 people in new jobs. In addition, 45 program participants were promoted in jobs that they had before starting the program while 185 trainees are currently participating in job placement programs. The Trust has also trained 75 local firms on the issues related to employment for a person with a disability and trained over 27 non-governmental organizations in the use of these technologies. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Affairs funds the Trust's El Salvador program.

Victoria Martínez Orellana, a twenty-three year old Salvadoran, was born with a congenital deformity in the lower half of her body. For many years, she had to use her arms as crutches to move herself. Now, however, through the Trust for the Americas’ technology and job-readiness training program and the help of the Universidad Don Bosco and Gesellshaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (UDB-GTZ) project, she has a wheelchair and a new job at a computer center at a local school. Victoria’s story demonstrates the powerful impact of the new technologies on the life of a person with disabilities. Victoria joined the Trust’s Disabilities and Technology program in El Salvador in the summer of 2000. Through this program, she received training in computer skills and job-readiness that prepared her for her job. To get the job, she had to pass a series of tests on Windows, Excel, and Power Point. Based on her computer expertise and job-preparation skills she gained through The Trust program, she succeeded. “Various people had discriminated against me when I looked for a job,” explained Victoria. Her new boss, however, told her, “We don’t discriminate against anyone. I know you are capable of doing the job.” For decades, people with disabilities, like Victoria, have faced discrimination. In Latin America, people with disabilities have had less access to educational and training programs 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 information and communication technologies, makes job searching more difficult for them. For these reasons, the Technology and Disabilities program concentrates on training people with disabilities in the use of state-of-the-art assistive technology in order to facilitate their integration in the labor market. The Trust’s Disability and Technology program started as a regional program in four Central American countries that sent high-tech volunteers to train disability organizations and their constituents in the use of the new technologies. The

Victoria’s accomplishment is even more significant in the context of the larger unemployment situation in El Salvador and unemployment for people with disabilities. In Latin America, in general, people with disabilities face many challenges to fully participate in society as equal economic, social, and political players. In countries with high poverty rates, people with disabilities are often the last to receive services and support. Because many of these countries have significant unemployment and underemployment rates for the general population, people with disabilities face an even greater challenge finding meaningful employment. In El Salvador approximately 17% of its 6 million people have a

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disability and approximately 98% of those who have a disability are unemployed, as reported by Asociación Cooperativa del Grupo Independiente Pro Rehabilitación Integral (ACOGIPRI).1 Although poverty indicators in El Salvador have significantly improved since 1990 when the level was about 60% of the population, it still remains high at approximately 47.5%.2 El Salvador also has a high number of people with disabilities compared to other countries in the region. In most countries, one out of ten people or 10% of the population has a disability3 versus El Salvador's significantly higher rate of approximately 17%, as stated above. The civil war in El Salvador greatly increased the number of people with disabilities in the country and, unfortunately, there are new victims of undiscovered land mines left over from the war. El Salvador also has high poverty levels and, as a result, higher levels of people with disabilities. “The birth of an impaired child, or the occurrence of a disability in the family, often places heavy demands on the limited resources of the family and strains on its morale, thus thrusting it deeper into poverty. The combined effect of the factors results in higher proportions of disabled persons among the poorest strata of society. For this reason, the number of affected families living 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 employment 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 every twenty-five people employed. Businesses now have to comply with this new law. The country is at a moment where the government, NGOs, and businesses have started working together to increase employment for people with disabilities. Opening new opportunities for employment helps to decrease the high rate of unemployment in general. In each family with a disabled member there are two non-productive citizens: the disabled and his or her caregiver. If we provide proper training and job placement for the disabled, we will be returning two productive citizens to their society.

impact of computers is far greater than could have been imagined 10 years ago. A blind person’s computer can read out loud and suddenly that person has access to the Internet, e-mail, and e-books. A quadriplegic can write by speaking into a computer engendering a new route to communication with friends, family, and the world. With computers adapted to an individual’s disability, he/she can perform the same duties as a person without a disability rendering physical limitations irrelevant and disproving societal misperceptions. Armed with adaptive technology and computer skills, people with disabilities can enter the workforce. Assistive technology represents the best way – often times the only way – for people with disabilities to perform certain jobs that people without disabilities do in other ways. The cost of technology is a standard component of the expenses incurred by all businesses. It's hard to imagine a business without telephones, fax machines, photocopiers or computers. People with disabilities can easily use all of this equipment if an assistive device is added to some of them. Considering that these office systems represent labor saving devices, people with disabilities, restricted in their mobility, are best positioned to use these systems to their benefit and to the benefit of others.

The current Trust/DOL project focuses directly on increasing the supply of people with disabilities ready to enter the workforce and the availability of jobs for those individuals. It also addresses the wider issues faced by people with disabilities through strengthening the work of local disability organizations that fight to eradicate exclusion from education, remove architectural barriers, disprove societal misperceptions and advocate for changes to laws. This program cannot change the greater economic situation of the countries, nor directly address other problems such as limited access to education and architectural barriers. Instead, this program multiplies the impact of existing organizations that have already developed effective locally based programs. El Salvador already has organizations and national associations working on behalf of people with disabilities. Few, however, are already using ICT. Again, ICT’s potential for change in this situation is tremendous. The program has five inter-related components: 1.

The Trust for the Americas created the Disability and Technology project to combat these problems bringing the particular added value of the new technologies for people with disabilities. Computers contain the unique ability to transform the lives of people with disabilities and unleash their powerful potential for productive and meaningful work. The

High-Tech Skills Training
In daily training sessions, differentiated based on the participant's level, the Trust provides morning and afternoon sessions in basic computer skills, advanced com-

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puter skills and some adaptive technology. Students take a series of classes so that as they become more proficient, the classes increase in difficulty. In addition, trainers from each local disability organization participate in trainer of trainer sessions, which they then bring back to their own organizations. 2.

the bathrooms. This is highly unusual in San Salvador. The center is open for classes during the week and on the weekend for practice sessions. In addition, other local disability organizations can apply the training in their own organizations with the adaptive technologies that they have received through this program. The center’s computers are modified for blind people with specific software including screen-readers. All of the computers are connected to a central Braille printer. In addition, the computer center has a central scanner to use for scanning documents that are on paper so that the screen reader can read them. For the visually impaired, the center provides a text magnifier that amplifies size and changes the contrast of the text. For people with motor disabilities, the center has adaptive hardware that includes different switches, track rollers, and a mechanical arm. This hardware allows people who are missing limbs or have limited mobility to use a computer. In addition, the center provides adaptive keyboards in different sizes and that are pressure sensitive.

Job-Readiness and Job-Placement Training
The organizations and people trained in the high-tech training program also receive job-readiness and jobplacement training to prepare them to enter the work place. Since this may be the first job for many people participating in the program, they need skills and information on how to dress, how to write resumes, and how to address particular issues often faced by people with disabilities in the workplace. Some of the training also builds on their computer skills by showing them how to use the computer programs in an office situation.


Employment Promotion
The Trust partners with local businesses and existing programs to increase opportunities for people with disabilities to work in local businesses. The Trust also works with the Ministry of Labor, local nongovernmental organizations and government organizations to sensitize businesses to the needs of people with disabilities in the workplace and the benefits of employing them. It also works directly with local businesses to advise them on necessary adaptations. The Trust, in coordination with the Ministry of Labor, designed and launched an on-line job-bank for people with disabilities.


Technology Center for People with Disabilities
The Centro de Capacitación en Tecnología para Personas con Discapacidad has fourteen computers for students and is completely accessible for people who use wheelchairs including the entrance, the classroom, and


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 integrates all communication tools that enable the exchange 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 Development Marketplace and infoDev at the World Bank. The goal of this program was to work closely with existing disability organizations to train them in the use of the new technologies 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, Honduras 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 foundation. The main skills taught by the volunteers included software management: Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Internet navigators, Microsoft Front Page, Netscape Composer, email applications, database design and adaptive technologies (among them JAWS and Scan and Read for the blind and adaptive devices for people with low mobility). Also, training included the use of special designed equipment as Braille printers, Trackballs and special switches, Intellikeys and other special keyboards. Additional training for specific needs of small businesses run by people with disabilities included production and marketing strategies for graphic print shops and training in marketing and commercialization of products. One unique component of this program was that the hightech volunteers tended to be older than traditional volunteers, and had significant work experience and professional training. In particular, The Trust promoted South-South cooperation by recruiting Latin American volunteers, in addition to others. The volunteers came from Argentina, Venezuela, Holland, Spain and the U.S. Their ages ranged from 25 to 65 years, with 36 years as the average age. One third of the volunteers sent were women. The different profiles included IT experts, marketing experts, teachers, IT trainers for people with disabilities and a university professor. It is important to note that by the last deployment, 60% of the volunteers were Latin American themselves and others were U.S. citizens of Latin American descent. In addition, The Trust designed the program so that each volunteer not only trained their own organization but also worked with other local disability organizations to expand the reach of the project. The chart below shows the work of the volunteers in the different countries. The volunteers trained both people with disabilities and people without disabilities who work in disability organizations.

The following is a sample of work the Trust volunteers did with disability organizations in different countries. INFRACNOVI is an Honduran non-governmental organization that serves blind adults and children and provides them with education and health services, job training and placement. Before The Trust program, INFRACNOVI had outdated computers and no training in adaptive technology. The Trust sent a Spanish University professor who is an expert in adaptive technology for the blind, to train them in the use of these technologies and set up a new mini-computer center. Local universities and other institutions also participated in the training. TRANSITIONS is an independent living center in Antigua, Guatemala run by young people with spinal injuries. Many of the participants were injured in local violence, had injuries from accidents, or were born with a disability. In addition to creating a home where they can live independently, often for the first time in their lives, the group also provides medical services and educational outreach to other people with disabilities. The group has created a small graphics print shop to earn additional income. The Trust first sent an expert in computers and web-design to train this group and then sent a retired Dutch businessman from the Netherlands Management Cooperation Program and former manager of graphics print shops. He trained the Transition's staff in the development of their business skills to increase the income they receive from their print shop.

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

- Consejo Nacional de Atención Integral a la Persona con Discapacidad (CONAIPD) El Salvador - Fundación Teletón para la Rehabilitación (FUNTER) - Asociación Cooperativa del Grupo Independiente Pro Rehabilitación Integral (ACOGIPRI) - Asociación Transiciones Guatemala - Consejo Nacional de Atención al Discapacitado (CONADI) - Instituto Franciscano del NoVidente (INFRACNOVI) - Fundación Hondureña de Rehabilitación e Integración del Limitado (FUHRIL) - Universidad Francisco Morazán - Asociación de Padres de Familia “ Los Pipitos” - Centro de Rehabilitación Internacional (CIR) TOTAL




























The Trust’s program shows that ICT and assistive technology can help the disabled community diminish the gap between their needs for academic and job inclusion and the lack of appropriate training programs existing in most Latin American countries. The disabled community has been deprived of opportunities that encourage their professional development. The program provides a model for training the disabled community in the state-of-the-art in assistive technology and job-readiness. The program also has developed a strategy for creating awareness in the private sector about the need for increasing job opportunities for people with disabilities. Based on this model, The Trust plans to bring similar opportunities to people with

disabilities in other countries. Ultimately, civil society, local government and private sector, acting together, need to join forces to provide better services for this isolated population and to promote their full inclusion in the mainstream society. People with disabilities tend to be left out of development projects in spite of the fact that they are often the most disadvantaged group in a country. In spite of the powerful impact that adaptive technologies can have for the disabled population, they are also often left out of technology and development projects, as well. The Trust's program is an example of a project designed specifically to bring these technologies to the disabled population and to use them to improve their opportunities for employment.

Statistics obtained from Eileen Giron Batres, a representative of ACOGIPRI, an advocacy organization for those with disabilities in El Salvador. 2 Pan American Health, January 2000. 3 Taken from UN’s World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. 4 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

ICT Community Development and Business Specialist, World Links

Meddie Mayanja

The Context
The School-based Telecenter (SBT) approach developed out of a combination of motivational factors. In Uganda’s rural communities like most parts of Africa, there is general lack of basic ICT infrastructure. By the end of 1998, Multipurpose Community Telecenters (MCT) pilot projects had been launched with the support of IDRC/ITU/UNESCO at three different sites in Uganda. The broad mission of the MCTs was to study the efficacy of use of ICTs to promote rural community development. Early impact assessments and studies about the MCTs indicated steep challenges in management, content generation and sustainability, among others. It had also become clear that ICT community access points were more relevant to the community if the target community was allowed to participate in planning and implementation in appropriate means. Connectivity for MCTs deep in rural areas had by 2000 proved a serious challenge to overcome through ordinary technologies. In Zimbabwe, the World Links program1 was at the same time experimenting with another approach -- School-based Telecenters -- with a twin objective of introducing ICTs in the process and delivery of educational content and also providing communities with access to communication facilities and ICT training in the after-school hours, evenings, weekends and holidays. Based on this experience, World Links commissioned the development of a new week-long training program on the Establishment of School-Based Telecenters which it first pilot-tested in February 2001.

This training, delivered to headmaster representatives from fourteen secondary schools and one national teachers’ training college, was partly built on the Zimbabwe experience but also crafted to accommodate a different national setting, local MCT experiences, and an innovative technological pilot opportunity – a national satellite network to deliver highspeed Internet to schools in peri-urban and rural areas. The network, established by World Links through support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves fifteen SBTs. Of these, eleven use Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite technology to link to the Internet with at least eight computers on a Local Area Network (LAN). These sites are geographically well distributed around the country in the districts of Jinja, Iganga, Mbale, Soroti, Lira, Arua, Moroto, Hoima, Kabale, Masaka and Luwero. The four other school sites will be connected via spread spectrum technology off the VSAT hub from the school in Jinja.2 The bandwidth (256 Kbps “download”/32 Kbps “upload”) on 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 other US$200 per month per site for a two-year period). The schools raise funds from charging students termly tuition fees and other community user fees. On average, each student pays US $18 per year. A typical secondary school has between 800 and 1000 students around the year.

The Services and the Clients
Lowering the “student” user cost is one of the principal objectives for establishing a school-based telecenter. These sites will traditionally provide computer and Internetoriented training and services rather than the basic telephony or other client facilities (e.g., photocopying, fax) featured at most MCTs. The principal differences: the site location within schools, whose fundamental mission is to enhance

The School-Based Telecenters
A national SBT project was formally started in Uganda in September 2001 with a revised week-long training program.

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educational outcomes, supporting income from government and student fees, and the principle donation of hardware and software by project partners to achieve these goals. The attractiveness of the school-based telecenter model is building upon these foundations -- and then reaping the added benefits: maximizing resource use in after-school hours, greater community-school linkages, additional income to meet recurrent and expansion costs, and the ability to sustainably add further technology-based services over time. Generally, the computer- and Internet-based services vary depending on the needs and sophistication of the community. All these telecenters train students and teachers in the use of the computers and Internet supported facilities as tools for learning and teaching. Lango College Telecenter in Lira District and Kigezi High Telecenter in Kabale also receive a number of community users for Internet supported services. At Duhaga Telecenter of Hoima District, the user records for the last month indicate that there are clients from the community who have used the Internet to search on health, farming and business issues (e.g., rice prices; the area is known for upland rice growing). Ndejje Secondary Telecenter in Luwero district provides access to community institutions. For example, Ndejje University is one of the principal users. Without a computer lab or Internet access of its own, the university students and lecturers access Internet related services and research at Ndejje Secondary Telecenter. With their recently established school-based telecenter, many locals consider Moroto High Telecenter the most important 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 Northwest Kenya. Government, the NGO community and civil society from within Moroto and as far as Kotido almost 100 Km away use the telecenter.

In addition to general community users, selected SBTs will pilot high impact knowledge services for specific client groups. These include Telemedicine for the Moroto High Telecenter and E-commerce for Kigezi High Telecenter. The targeted training and product development activities at these sites are part of jointly coordinated pilot projects between the World Bank’s Energy for Rural Transformation, World Links, and Knowledge Economy programs.

Management Structure
SchoolNet Uganda, World Links’ national operating partner, provides the administration and coordination roles for the nationwide program. A national coordinator, technical coordinator, and the community development and small business specialist are available to provide technical back stopping to the network. At the school level, every SBT has a local ICT Coordinator who also doubles as a classroom teacher. A few telecenters have ICT Coordinators who are not teaching staff. The role of the coordinators is to oversee the daily operations (both technical and pedagogical) of the Telecenters and keep communication with other partners open at all times. All SBTs have management committees charged with the task of designing broad program direction. Different users are represented on this committee and particularly teachers, Board of Governors and Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs). The Head teacher is normally an ex-officio to the management committee. The World Links Organization provides strategic linkages and networking with related initiatives at the international level. School-based Telecenters have overcome one of the biggest challenges of the Community Telecenters -- administrative stability. The SBTs take advantage of the host schools’ administrative detail, which have contributed to sustainability planning. This approach helps to provide the community with access to ICTs facilities without necessarily carrying directly the total burden of management and operation of the facilities. Instead the community meets the cost indirectly but also collectively through the tuition fees of their children. The host school transfers such fees to the operation of the Telecenter and charges some user fees at the point of service to augment the operational budget.

The School-based Telecenter is a potentially strategic initiative that will have an impact on ways of helping the rural communities functionally cross the digital divide.

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In the five months of implementation (since January 2002), each of the eleven schools in the pilot project have a functional satellite node through which they are accessing the Internet. Additionally, the program has achieved the following: • The program has received full support from the Ministry of Education that paid duty taxes for the clearance of VSAT and associated software and equipment. The School-based Telecenter directly contributes to the Ministry of Education’s ICT Policy for Education that was launched in 2001. The head teachers have taken up responsibility to meet the running costs of the program at the Telecenter level. The Boards of Directors of participating schools are supportive of the initiative giving it an opportunity to be mainstreamed. All ICT managers/coordinators have been trained in basic business planning, technical management and pedagogical aspects of ICT integration in education. Teachers and students in host schools are undergoing IT training in integration of ICT resources in the learning and teaching process with a view of making education more relevant and enterprising. The education community in neighboring schools is benefiting from the same training programs. In several communities where there was no communication system to talk of before the SBTs were established now view the facilities as one of the critical elements of the community’s development. This is true for Muni NTC Telecenter in Arua district, Moroto High Telecenter in Moroto district, Lango College Telecenter in Lira district, and Duhaga secondary Telecenter in Hoima district. In Lira district local authorities are interested in distributing Internet related services from the Telecenter installation to wider community access. Regarding community access to the Telecenter, the IT coordinator at Kigezi High Telecenter, Ms. Gloria Akatukunda reported in April 2002 that “…Our out-ofschool market still remains for people who want to send

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 various churches, students on vacation and farmers.

There are several ongoing challenges to the project. These include the following: • Lack of reliable electric power -- Muni NTC and Moroto High Telecenters are located in northern Uganda where electric power distribution is still very limited and is switched on from 7.00 p.m. - 10.00 p.m. These Telecenters can only use fuel generators for power, which is expensive. One possible solution being explored is solar-powered systems for both Telecenters. • Adequate Time - Personnel who double as class teachers manage most of the planning and implementation of the SBTs. This often puts a lot of pressure on them, which can subtract from their traditional teaching loads and leave inadequate time for the effective management of the telecenters in the after-school hours. Further reducing teaching loads and/or underwriting full-time managing staff to alternate between day and after-school use are possible solutions being explored to this problem. • Identifying Community Needs – An early challenge has been fitting relevant services for the community within the context of the school-based Telecenters. World Links and SchoolNet-Uganda staff will continue working with the schools to help them identify client and service opportunities, particularly those unique to their location and communities.

The School-based Telecenter is a potentially strategic initiative that will have an impact on ways of helping the rural communities functionally cross the digital divide. Plans to develop an evaluation framework for the program is underway and very soon the vitality of the program will be confirmed.


World Links is a joint initiative of the World Bank Institute’s World Links for Development Program and the World Links non-profit organization ( and 2 Bloome, Anthony, “Wireless School Internet Connectivity,” TechKnowLogia, January – March 2002

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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 unemployment and poverty. This crisis is precipitated by weaknesses in educational systems and a failure to incorporate information and communication technology skills acquisition into youth development programs. Without the proper skills to survive in a technologically literate world, school dropouts are vastly unemployed. Furthermore, the lives of many African youth – particularly those with high unemployment rates – are infused with poverty, violence and deprivation. Some African youth are forced to subsist as child soldiers or as participants in ethnic, religious and political violence. The scourge of AIDS has also orphaned thousands of children across the continent, leaving many vulnerable to exploitation and displacement. These young people have little hope of receiving a basic education, let alone gaining access to critical technology skills that can ensure better employment and a brighter future. Like many African countries, Nigeria has been deeply affected by poverty, social unrest, and health-related challenges. Public schools are often the first to suffer when money is scarce. Pervasive corruption has also led to misuse of education funds. As a result, education is suffering in Nigeria and so are the lives of millions of young people. The problem of under-education in Nigeria runs deep in the general population. According to recent UNESCO estimates,1 about 25% of males and 41% of females ages 15 and over are functionally illiterate in Nigeria. And while those percentages are expected to drop slowly over the next five years, that still leaves over 22 million people without basic literacy skills. Few young people have used computers or know how to apply technology as a tool for learning in their daily lives and to improve their communities. A small number of fortunate schools have one or two computers, but often the computers go unused because they are outdated, broken, or teachers do not have adequate skills to teach the technology. Unless they have real and frequent interaction with computers, children are simply too far removed from practical reality to gain concrete technological skills and learning. In addition, technology training and courses are not part of the educational curriculum in the early stages of primary and secondary school levels, leaving a key window in early and catalytic learning development unopened. Broader community access to technology is also lacking in Nigeria. The use of technology in Nigerian communities is still limited. The cost of using technology tools in “roadside cyber-cafés” is prohibitive (the average monthly cost is about $40 for 20 hours of Internet service2) given that the average gross national income (GNI) per capita is only $260.3 Very few people use computers outside work or school. Of the over 120 million people in Nigeria, only 6.6 people per thousand have personal computers and only 200,000 are Internet users.4 Clearly, for a country of its size and international importance, Nigeria has a long way to go before its youth receive the technological education they need and deserve in order to be economically competitive in the global marketplace. Perhaps more than ever, Nigeria’s young people need new opportunities to gain access to technology as a tool for improvement of themselves and their communities. Because the government is not always able to meet people’s educational needs, the aggregate efforts by non-governmental organizations have begun to “fill in” in small ways to link youth, education and technology. This article describes one such effort – the Owerri Digital Village – and some of the facets of this program, which is managed by the Youth for Technology Foundation.

The Owerri Digital Village

The Owerri Digital Village
In September 2001, the Owerri Digital Village was launched in Owerri, Imo State, Eastern Nigeria. The center was established by the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF),5 an international non-profit organization based in the United States and Nigeria. The mission of YTF is to provide disadvantaged Nigerian youth in rural communities with access to technology. Taking a grassroots approach, YTF has begun to implement community-based technology programs by first gauging the needs of the community and understanding how technology can be used to enhance their lives, create jobs, slow urban migration and promote self-sufficient communities. Owerri, an underserved eastern Nigerian town, is about 600km from the former capital, Lagos State. The town of Owerri hosts five tertiary institutions, including a college of agriculture and a federal university of technology. Every year, hundreds of young Nigerians graduate from these schools with the hope of employment, career and a sustainable life. Unfortunately, these dreams often remain an illusion because the programs fail to offer skills training that can be immediately applied to local and international jobs.

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The first of its kind in West Africa, the Owerri Digital Village is an example of successful application of a targeted blend of information and communication technologies in underserved rural communities. The Village offers information and communications technology training at no cost to atrisk youth between the ages of 8 and 25. Many of these young people come from desperately poor subsistencefarming communities, have low educational achievement, receive little or no parental support and, in the case of the female children, are vulnerable to teenage pregnancy and abuse. The idea of the Owerri Digital Village is simple: Keep young people busy and they will learn and thrive. As the first of YTF’s community technology centers, the ultimate goal of the 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. It all begins by helping youth to develop selfconfidence, self-esteem, discipline, and teamwork and to respect and value themselves and others.

Community Support
In order to achieve real-life outcomes with technology, YTF’s staff members spend a significant amount of time 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 communication 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 functional with over thirty computer terminals, a number of classrooms, a snack area, a library, and an open court area for community events.

• TechKids – Introduction to Computers. Youth between the ages of 8 and 12 learn to use computers as a tool for learning. Program goals include improving critical thinking, information synthesis and problem solving skills among students through inquiry-oriented learning modules. • TechTeens – Computer Fluency Education. The TechTeens Program is designed to prepare students (ages 1318) for a career in the field of information technology. Participants gain the skills to use technology as a tool for learning and gain the necessary entrepreneurial skills to be future job creators. Prior to completion of the program, participants are expected to lend some of their technology expertise to local businesses in order to “give back” to the community. • TechEnhancement –Skills Enhancement Program. Participants in this program are typically civil servants who are enrolled to acquire the skills to make them better at performing their daily jobs. Many of these trainees come from local and state government offices. • TechCommunities – Community Enlightenment Program. This program is focused on rural women and will give them the skills necessary to improve their small businesses and communities. In particular, youth that participate in the Village’s programs are encouraged to bring their mothers in to experiment with the equipment.

Program Goals
The Owerri Digital Village has served as a prototype in Nigeria for a successful grassroots model for technology education and training. But the Village is a work in progress. As technology changes and the goals of Nigerian youth change, so the Village must change to meet these demands. Therefore, there is a constant need for new programs and ongoing refinement in the YTF teaching methods. This year, YTF anticipates reaching a number of goals to increase outreach, including the following: • Training 500 Nigerian youth, between ages 8 and 25 to use technology as a tool for learning and in their daily lives;

Current Programs
YTF’s training curriculum includes four core programs: TechKids, TechTeens, TechEnhancement and TechCommunities - a new program set to be launched in July 2002. Each program is designed to get at different cohorts of young people in the local area and to disseminate relevant training on using technology as a vehicle to self-improvement. The implicit foundation in all of the programs is that not just access, but access that is meaningful to the individual is the most compelling way to get results.

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• • •

Bringing 200 civil servants to participate in YTF’s “TechEnhancement” program to gain skills to allow them to compete in the global workforce; Reaching out to 50 local community-based and nonprofit organizations so they profit from the range of services offered at the Village; and Bringing students from 10 Owerri-area schools together to participate in the Global Classmates program.

access to and the use of technology is directly linked to social and economic development, it is imperative that young Nigerian women understand the significance of these technologies and use them, ensuring that they do not become further marginalized from the mainstream of their communities, their country and the world. The TechCommunities program will offer academic learning, vocational and technology training and adult education business management skills to empower women. Most of the adults participating in this program will be traders seeking computer training that will help them manage their businesses more efficiently. For instance, trader women will use the e-post facilities at the digital village to deliver messages to their customers in the villages when a new shipment or stock has been received. The training approach is specifically adapted to the needs of the adult woman semi-literate population, to allow them to acquire insight into what the new information technologies can offer and select the most useful tools to improve their lives. Through the TechCommunities program, it is hoped that local women will gain new levels of computer literacy and economic self-reliance.

Starting in July 2002, YTF will launch two new programs at the Owerri Digital Village, the first being the Global Classmates Program, which is made possible through a partnership with Digital Partners Institute in Seattle, Washington. The Global Classmates program will teach young Nigerians to produce and share information through information and communication technologies as they seek to further contribute to the outside world and promote cultural exchange globally. For example, students will be given an e-pal in another country and are assigned a joint project with goals and deliverables. Without ever meeting face-to face, a student in Nigeria could work with a student in a community technology center in India to develop a new application, website or work on a team project. By virtue of close collaboration towards a common goal, students receive critical intercultural communication lessons in the process. YTF hopes that access to the Global Classmates program at the Village will give youth a stronger sense of connection to the outside world. The program is meant to ensure that learning is meaningful for students, is connected to their personal interests and understandings about the world, and caters to a range of learning styles and abilities. In order to maximize the benefit from technology, a multidimensional approach is necessary to prepare students to ‘read’ the world and communicate through multiple modes of communication preparation for functioning in an increasingly digital world. Email, instant messaging, video clips, CD-ROM, and other multimedia are some of the ways students communicate. The second new program, TechCommunities, is aimed at training poor rural women to improve their standard of living by gaining employment skills. YTF has paid special attention to the discrepancies between male and female participation in technology education. Traditionally, men are more encouraged than women to pursue technical studies in Nigeria. In Owerri, many women engage in economic activity that is vital for the community, but their work could benefit from simple, yet effective applications of technology. Given that

The Road Forward
Nigerians are beginning to realize that their nation cannot continue to rely solely on its natural resource base of oil, which currently accounts for 46% of gross domestic product. The country also needs to take a bottom-up approach in ensuring its educational systems are structured to build leaders and entrepreneurs in the next generation. With over a third of its population between the ages of 10-24, young people will be the ones who have to articulate Nigeria’s interests in a globalized twenty-first century. 6 But they need the tools to do it. Technology alone will not erase the gaps in wealth and opportunity in Nigeria. Issues related to the digital divide cannot be solved piecemeal; they require comprehensive solutions that integrate people, processes and technology. Decisive action is needed in Nigeria and across Africa in order to stem the onslaught of social, economic, and political troubles. Blending education and technology is one of the best ways to start fighting these troubles where there is still the greatest hope – in the young. By reaching out to the local youth population, the Owerri Digital Village raises the standard for what young people want and expect from their educational experience. Starting in Owerri, change is happening one student at a time.

UNESCO, January 2002. “Estimates and projections of adult literacy for population aged 15 years old and above.” 2 Dr. Kolawole Olayiwola Country Profile NG -Development Policy Center, Ibadan. 3 The World Bank, 2002. “Nigeria data profile.” 4 World Development Indicators database, April 2001. 5 Youth for Technology Foundation – or 6 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

Illiter Is Computer Training Relevant for Illiterates?
The value and even relevance of training illiterate populations to use new information and communication technologies is often questioned, or dismissed as unwarranted optimism. In Senegal, Joko has responded to a strong demand for such training. The demystification of new technologies, the Internet in particular, is opening doors for economic development and giving disenfranchised communities new tools to live out their dreams. While Joko is still in early stages, the preliminary results are very encouraging. Since 1996, Senegal has also been one of the first SubSaharan countries to make significant investments in technology, and is currently benefiting from a relatively high rate of penetration and growth of technology-related services. Senegal achieved a much-cited success in spreading telephony without intense public investment. With its grassroots approach, Joko hopes to demonstrate that this dynamic can be replicated in the spread of Internet skills and services. Joko was founded by Youssou N'Dour, the celebrated Senegalese musician, to make the opportunities of the Internet accessible and relevant to Africans. In Wolof, a widely spoken native language in Senegal, the word 'joko' means 'connection' or 'union.' Hewlett-Packard (HP) e-Inclusion, as Joko's incubating strategic partner, provided seed funding and management expertise in the pilot phase for Joko to initiate and build their business. As Joko's ongoing technology partner, HP will work closely with Joko to expand their business. The company is also interested in testing innovative technology solutions in the local communities in which Joko works.

Ethnic Groups: Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4% French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka Muslim 92%, indigenous beliefs 6%, Christian 2% (mostly Roman Catholic)



Literacy rates: Total population: 33.1% (age 15 and -male: 43% over can read -female: 23.2% (1995 est.) and write)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 44.07% (male 2,279,996; female 2,252,255) 15-64 years: 52.88% (male 2,603,829; female 2,834,328) 65 years and over: 3.05% (male 155,877; female 158,644) (2001 est.) 50K FCFA/month


Computer Access:

Booming demand. Second best Telco infrastructure in SubSaharan Africa. More than 10,000 telecenters, 200 cyber cafés nationwide, 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 platform for local content development, training became a central 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 training at Lycée St-Michel, where he developed and trained students 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 Most of the adults participating in Joko literacy training are “commercants,” or trades people, seeking computer training that can help them manage their businesses. Merchants and small business owners are usually illiterate, and very often women. Women’s collectives are active in producing a wide range of agricultural products – such as dried fish, mangos, peanuts, and other crops varying on a geographic basis. Other women’s collectives create and sell traditional crafts. These collectives are typically a central economic force in their communities – their income is often the means by which families are fed. Male and female, illiterate trades people must hire certified accountants to oversee and verify their businesses. To write any letters or summary reports concerning their activities, they must ask for and usually pay for assistance. Most of the adults who have participated in the initial Joko training courses are responsible for managing, accounting or reporting for collective or individual business activities.

In August 2001, the Joko pilot was launched: an urban JokoClub in the Medina district of Dakar, a rural JokoClub in the village of N'Goundiane (near Thiés) and a community/local content website, In the first months of 2002, two additional Joko training centers were opened. Joko is licensing existing cyber cafés as JokoClubs, as well as building new JokoClubs, with the aim of having at least 50 JokoClubs across Senegal by the end of 2002. In its limited pilot rollout, Joko has successfully introduced more than 3,000 people to the Internet. Since their inauguration, the JokoClub pilots have been generating revenues sufficient to cover their operating costs – in itself, operational sustainability was a major goal of the Joko pilot. Now, with the pilot experience demonstrating the feasibility of achieving business sustainability, Joko is developing a strategy to enable JokoClubs to cover the full capital costs of future development. This business perspective is in sync with the growing awareness of African politicians and entrepreneurs that private investment, rather than continued dependence on aid, is necessary to break Africa’s cycle of poverty.

Training Approach for Illiterates
The Joko training team developed a training approach specifically adapted to the needs of the adult illiterate population, to permit them not only to acquire insight into what the new information technologies can offer, but also give them the ability to select the most useful and immediate skills for their own development. The usual incentives are to save money and more easily keep track of their merchandise. For example, a vendor who buys products in Mauritania and sells them in southern Senegal can use a spreadsheet to automatically calculate stock availability, purchase and sales prices, and overall profits for each product line. But in learning to do these tasks, adult participants are finding themselves unexpectedly on the path to literacy. The training courses designed for analphabetes are presented in French and translated into Wolof, the local language used by the majority of Africans in Senegal. Since the Wolof is the largest tribe in Senegal, people belonging to one of the other tribes in the region generally also use Wolof as lingua

The Emergence of Training as a Joko Service
When Youssou N’dour announced the Joko initiative in Senegal, one of his main messages to the Senegalese population was that the Internet is not just for elite users. In fact, the Joko slogan in Wolof is Joko, nok o bok – literally translating as “link up – the Internet is for everyone.” There was an immediate response from the communities to sign up for Internet training offered at the pilot JokoClubs. Since two-thirds of the Senegalese population is illiterate, the requests from communities for Joko to offer Internet initiation and access for “analphabetes” (illiterates) were strong from the outset. In Senegal, the term “analphabete” can encompass a range of literacy levels – some can read or write a tribal language, many are trained in Koranic schools and can read some amount of Arabic, and others have numeric capa-

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franca. French is used primarily to communicate with foreigners. A very simple introductory course is presented first in Wolof, explaining what the computer is and how it functions. Function keys are then introduced, to associate a symbol with an active effect on the computer’s operation. Training participants learn, in a hands-on fashion (generally two or three to a computer), that pressing a certain key results in a certain effect on the computer. Once these basics have been understood, the second level of training begins: learning the French alphabet. A large keyboard is painted on the wall of the JokoClub as a teaching tool, and a CD-ROM is used to teach the French alphabet, so that the sound and look of a letter can be learned simultaneously. This enables the participants to master the alphabet quickly. Another locally developed software program helps trainees learn keyboard skills. A sentence appears on their screen, and they copy it underneath. Voice-over explanations of the meaning of the sentences are provided in Wolof (and are being added in other local languages) to improve comprehension. Active assistance from the teachers helps each particular group or individual to learn the basic skills required to manage their own goals. The third level of the course covers arithmetic and calculation using spreadsheets. The training allows participants to • Navigate and operate computers; • Begin to read and write French; • Learn to use spreadsheets to calculate and track business proceeds; and • Use the Internet to send and receive e-mail communications and for research of information. The Joko courses in training illiterates are still in their infancy – it’s been just one year since the first pilot course began. Last summer, Joko partnered with the Institute Supérieur d’Entrepreneurship et de Gestion (ISEG), a private educational institute based in Dakar, to provide Joko’s “introduction to computers” course while the Joko facilities were being developed. This “training pilot” was offered free of charge, based on a grant from the Acacia Foundation and computer systems donated by HP. Over 500 youth from the Medina neighborhood of Dakar were taught at ISEG in May, to pave the way for the launching of the Medina JokoClub. The courses were taught in 18 different classes, with 18-24 students in each class. A group of 336 students met MondayThursday, and 246 children, ages 7-13, met Friday-Sunday. The breakdown of these initial courses was as follows: • One class of illiterates, taught in Wolof; • One class of beginners, with limited mastery in French, taught in French/Wolof;

• 15 classes of intermediate-level students who were comfortable with French but beginners at computing; and • One class advanced students, with good command of French and working knowledge of computer use.

Scope of the Program
The response was overwhelming, and over 1,500 people were on the waiting list by the time this first session ended. At the two pilot JokoClubs, prices for the initiation courses were set at 3000 FCFA initiation fee plus 3000 FCFA for a month of training. The Medina JokoClub reports teaching more than 1,000 new students, including 80 illiterates. Ngoundiane taught more than 1,200 students, 70 analphabetes among them. Ngoundiane reports that so many other rural communities have sent delegations to spend a week getting initial computer training that they are considering opening a “bed and breakfast” to accommodate them. These villagers say they feel at ease in a familiar, rural setting—so unlike the urban environment in Dakar. At the new training center in Thiaroye, an initial 212 students began courses in February 2002. Of these, there are 50 analphabetes who have just received their diplomas. In Kolda, a small town in the southern region of Senegal, 110 students have been in training since February, of which 30 are illiterate. For the younger training participants, more advanced courses are in high demand after the initial training. The number one request is for computer maintenance courses, with webmaster classes right behind. More advanced courses are more expensive, and vary in cost. The Joko training centers are analyzing the optimum pricing to be both self-sustaining and broadly accessible. As Joko expands its training facilities, new classes have an even higher proportion of illiterates. Overall, about 15% of new Joko training participants are illiterate. The Joko training staff is keeping watch on their progress to see how many of them remain involved with computers, and to report results in a more formal manner. But even now, it is clear that these disenfranchised men and women, young and old, are finding that they can better manage their personal and business affairs using basic computer applications. Many of these same people would have previously said that literacy and educational achievement were beyond their reach, but while learning to use the computers they are gaining basic literacy and math skills without even realizing it. By the time they recognize what they are learning they are well on their way to developing new skills, and have been reinforced about their own capabilities for learning and changing their lives.

“Push” or “Pull”
There is a legitimate debate about whether computers should be ‘pushed’ on the world’s poorest people. Technology is not food or water, and cannot in itself address the basic 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 remote populations are finding out about the Internet, through their expatriate family members and through other media. Jasmine Whitbread, Oxfam’s Regional Director in West Africa, related a telling experience last year. Oxfam had helped a very remote village dig a clean well for drinking water. At the ceremony to celebrate its completion, they asked the village chief what the next priority for the village would be. “Internet,” he responded enthusiastically, showing that even in the most remote districts, there is a pronounced social interest in getting Internet training and access. When pressed, he explained that he believes the Internet is necessary for the future prosperity of his people.

that she can sit without apprehension before a computer. Conscious of the demands of the business world, she has resolved to study French to reinforce and make better use of her new computer training. "Since the Joko computer training, I’ve come to understand that with a strong will, all barriers can be overcome.” When Dioma first came to Joko she did not know how to read or write, within two months she learned so many new skills that she now dreams of marketing her fashions to the rest of the world using the Internet. Dioma was among the first group of illiterates trained in the JokoClub pilot last year. When the second JokoClub opened in Ngoundiane, she became the instructor for the illiterate women there. Her personal success in learning computing made her the most convincing evangelist for her peers, and she now oversees training for women’s collectives throughout the emerging Joko training network. In April 2002, Joko conducted a network-wide workshop (“Porte Ouverte”) for “La Fête de l’Internet.” For a weekend, the JokoClubs offered free initiations to its Internet and computing express training modules. Its success was denoted by the presence of several government officials and nationwide media coverage, but perhaps the most significant result was that, in the following days, the inscription of illiterates jumped in all existing JokoClubs. The Senegalese population is loudly clamoring for Internet training. Joko will continue to expand its offering and to track the usage and ongoing development to report how the Internet adapts and evolves in response to their needs. It is intriguing to consider what possibilities Internet development skills could bring to a population traditionally removed from modernity. The most interesting question is what will happen when Africans start programming truly local applications, independently?

Changing Lives
The head of the women’s collective in Ngoundiane, Astou Gningue, participated in the JokoClub training. She reports that her group no longer needs to travel to Thies and pay others to create their vital business means of communications. They have built a spreadsheet to track their business activities, replacing a hand-written notebook. This has not only resulted in greater accuracy, but has also allowed them to send proposals for support to NGOs working in Senegal. Since the JokoClub started, Plan International opened a bank in their village to provide microloans to the women. The women manage more than 200 million FCFA in credit, and now USAID has also brought its support to the Ngoundiane Women’s Federation, adding a mutual fund of 100 million FCFA. The men of the village very proudly make it clear that the women’s initiative is bringing substantial new economic opportunities to their rural community. The potential to replicate these extraordinary results in other rural zones is one of the axes of development upon which Joko is placing strong emphasis. Dioma Mbodji is an analphabete clothes designer woman from the Medina quarter of Dakar. When the JokoClub Medina team was first canvassing the district to sign people up for training, Dioma was skeptical. She asked what good such an initiative could possibly do for her. All her life she had studied couture, a profession she inherited from her parents. Her full-time business activity is managing her tailoring studio and finding clients for her designs. At age 30, Dioma will tell you that her life has been transformed with the discovery of information technologies, now

1 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. 2 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 Students
Sarah Lucas, Education Consultant-1

From the horse-drawn library wagon in the United States in 1907, to the 21st Century ‘Malaysian Mobile Internet Unit,’ people have been finding innovative ways to provide educational access to all, despite difficult conditions or scarce resources. For example, we heard about Zimbabwe’s “Big Blue” in the July/August issue of TechKnowLogia [ er=12]—a 15-foot van that carries 10 computer workstations over rough rural terrain to underserved populations. Big Blue can operate the computers for a week at a time using power supplied by its own generator, and it connects to the Internet using dial-up or wireless connections as available. More than a library, Big Blue is essentially an extension of rural public schools that cannot afford to all be equipped with a computer lab, and is just one example of the innovative ways that educational and technological resources can be brought to specific audiences. This article takes a look at some examples of mobile libraries, and the variety of ways they can be enhanced and operated using the newest communications technology. You will find that there are as many ways to design mobile library services as there are communities to benefit from them, and more and more mobile libraries are becoming global libraries.

underused and understudied innovation, and that is the purpose of this article. Additionally, new technologies are expanding the potential for mobile libraries to offer more than just books and periodicals, but also Internet and computers. With the new technology comes new information for new needs, such as training or retraining for teachers and health care workers. The rationale for providing mobile library services is illustrated well in the case of Mongolian “Mobile Resource Centers.”3 These mobile libraries respond to the unique conditions of Mongolia’s culture and geography in the following ways: • The population is disparate enough that very few libraries could be located in areas accessible by everyone in a reasonable amount of time. • Resources are too scarce to build permanent stationary libraries for limited use. • Populations are nomadic, and so demographics are constantly changing, which affects the demand for fixed library services. • Though separated by large distances, populations are dense enough to provide a reasonable demand for library services in most major towns. • There is a desire for communication and education among rural populations, demonstrated by Mongolia’s high literacy and new government policy related to ICTs and education. A study comparing the cost of mobile library service in Zimbabwe with that of the fixed-library equivalent found that although initial capital costs and recurring costs (fuel and repairs vs. cleaning and decorating) were higher, savings were made in staffing and book stock such that the mobile libraries were about a third of the cost to operate.4 Mobile Resource Centers in Mongolia were actually not designed to function solely as public libraries, but rather as teacher training units and public outreach for the School

Why Mobile Libraries?
The underlying assumption that drives these ambitious projects is that people have always had need for information and a desire for literacy. The importance of library services in particular has been proven in international comparative surveys that rank the educational achievement of countries according to various indicators such as test scores, teacher qualifications, completion rates, etc. According to UNESCO, the factors that distinguished high-performing countries on these tests were “large school libraries, large classroom libraries, regular book borrowing, frequent silent reading in class, frequent story reading aloud by the teachers and more hours spent teaching the language.”2 To debate the worth of information or the need for knowledge is less useful, however, than to bring awareness to an old but

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2001 Educational Reform Project whereby core team teachers from partner schools travel periodically to deliver inservice training workshops to other schools. The project provided vans, equipment and learning materials for six regional education centers (regional branches of the Ministry of Education.) The project was designed so that vans would visit each village in the region at least twice during the year, at intervals of at least several weeks; during the first visit, books would be checked out by local teachers and citizens, and during the second visit they would be returned or exchanged for new books. However, some of the same conditions that make mobile libraries a necessity also make implementation extremely problematic. Certain villages are so far apart that it takes at least a day to travel from one to the next; road conditions are extremely poor, and require durable vehicles and frequent repairs; demand for books (especially in Mongolian language) far exceeds the scarcity of resources and in many cases there aren’t enough books to loan out from town to town before the vans are empty. Mongolia is also a good example of a country that may ‘leap-frog’ communications technology, since existing land-lines for telephone services are rare, making it an appropriate candidate for wired mobile library services using new technologies. Other countries have found ways to adapt mobile library services to their particular resources and constraints, for example: • The donkey cart library in Zimbabwe; • The Camel Caravan service of the National Library in Kenya; • The Mobile Floating Library in Thailand: Since 1999, the Mobile Floating Library has operated along rivers and canals to promote reading and water conservation and environmental 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 librarywagon 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 projections. 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 Decimal 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.

What’s New?
Of interest to TechKnowLogia readers will be the latest innovations combining mobile library services with IT services, making them mobile community telecenters. The donkey cart mentioned above, for example, will soon become a “donkey-drawn mobile electro communication library cart,” offering such services as access radio, television, telephone, fax, e-mail and Internet.7 The Mobile Internet Unit (MIU) in Malaysia ( was designed entirely by local designers, engineers and IT experts and contains 20 Pentium III workstations with CD-ROMs and headsets, a color printer, a fax machine, foldable seats, bookshelves, a television, projection screen and slide projector, a refrigerator and a toilet. Generators provide power, air conditioning and an alarm system. The objectives of the MIU are to promote ICT training and computer literacy to students and teachers, and to assess the impact of ICTs on the learning environment. The MIU was initiated as a joint project between the National IT Council (NITC), Education Ministry, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mimos Berhad and Automotive Corp (M) Sdn Bhd. The total cost of the partnership between UNDP, the government and other private sponsors is US$420,000. A similar project initiated at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak is building a Mobile Internet Boat to expose rural children to ICTs. In August 1999 the project began visiting 20 low-resource rural schools to give a series of 10 one-hour lessons designed to help students and teachers acquire ICT skills. The Malaysian government has been so pleased with the project that it plans to invest in up to 20 additional Internet Units. Mimos Berhad also expanded the impact of the project by donating one computer with free Internet access to each of the participating schools so that they could continue to learn while the MIU was away.

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Mobile Community Telecenter in Nigeria is a van that will carry laptops as well as library books on specified weekdays to the rural villages where users can access IT training, reading materials and the Internet (see image above). This mobile telecenter emerged out of a stationary community learning center (CLC), and targets health professionals in need of retraining. Where no Internet connections are available in the villages, copies of web-based materials are downloaded at the CLC and saved on the traveling laptops. Health and population statistics are also gathered and stored as the telecenter makes its rounds. The Mobile Telecenter-to-go in Ghana is a project sponsored by UNDP as part of its Internet Initiative for Africa. Financed by a number of public and private sources, the telecenter is an example of the potential for partnership between the government, the private sector and NGOs. The goal of the telecenter-to-go, which has been in operation since August 2001, is to bring ICT training and e-services to schools, businesses, farms and health clinics. UNDP’s Web site in Ghana is at: g01/index.html There are also plans to create an “info-thela," or cyber cafe on wheels in India’s Utter Pradesh region. The partnership between the Indian Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a part of the “Media-Lab-Asia” will provide battery ICT services on “tricycles” to remote villages whose users will benefit from upto-date weather and economic information.8

or UHF wireless solutions can transmit over 200 KM distances and provide upwards of 9.6 Kbps connectivity. Finally, there is satellite access, but the cost is still prohibitive for most Internet users. According to Best and McClay10 the current cost of a VSAT system is anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000. Mobile units typically use existing power sources as part of the partnership with the community, but where this is not possible, mobile units can be equipped with their own generators or even solar power.

To sum it up…
While it may sound like an ideal solution, there are nevertheless a few important points to consider in the actual implementation of mobile libraries. These recommendations are mostly considered with simple mobile libraries, but the lessons can be applied to mobile ICT resources as well. 1) The importance of policy and planning cannot be overstated. True mobile libraries must be treated with the same importance as regular public libraries. They should ideally be dedicated to providing library services and remaining stocked every day of the year, and the temptation to use the vans as transportation for other business should be avoided. However, service provision through integrated library services can maximize the utility of ICT investments and provide practical reasons for people to become users. 2) Emphasis on providing a service to the community in the form of a dedicated and informed librarian, fulfilling requests and dependable scheduling can contribute to increased demand and financing of the vans, and overall quality achievement. In the case of mobile telecenters, providing useful computer-based services—like Big Blue’s software offering training for the International Computing Driving License—can be a potential source of sustainable financing. 3) Financing should be obtained through private sources in addition to government funds. Private donors may contribute materials in kind, or they may help with operating costs; users may be charged membership fees or late fees, if possible. Providing additional services such as mail delivery, banking or health services can be an additional source of revenue, but may also interfere with dedicated library services, resulting in lower quality. Financing affects every aspect of the operation of mobile libraries, from recurrent costs like gasoline and staffing, to incidental costs for reparation and replacement of materials, and of course for adequately stocking the library with relevant resources. 4) Examination of the existing context and identification of the target audience must be undertaken in order to identify current information needs, existing sources of information and gaps in access. Library resources must be

How does it work?
Aside from ever-present financial limitations, there are few spots on the globe that do not have the potential for Internet access at present — (as a matter of fact, I submitted this article via the Internet from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in a town surrounded by several armed groups occupying territory in a country at war, cut off from international cooperation and with extremely poor transportation infrastructure). According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) (, in at least thirty countries today, the number of mobile subscribers is greater than the number of fixed telephone subscribers, and mobile phones are beginning to exceed fixed lines in a growing number of developing countries. Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), is a technology that allows mobile phones to browse Internet sites that are specially adapted to fit the mobile phone screen. Additionally, it is now possible to use a mobile phone for dial-up service at speeds equal to or faster than fixed-line dial-up.9 Radio connectivity is another option and one provider is TETRA []. VHS

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relevant to the lives of the users, and must meet the literacy, language, professional and technological profile of the communities, while providing enough ‘novelty’ to keep them interested and involved. Although catering to many diverse needs is ideal, it can also complicate scheduling and diminish the quality of resources for each specific user. The Mobile Resource Centers in Mongolia are an example of targeting resources and processes to a very specific audience; although they may in some cases include resources for students or the general population, they were designed to provide resources for teachers, and the operating schedule reflected that mandate. 5) Determining strategies and processes to be followed in terms of the schedule of library visits and staffing is a major concern, and can only be determined on a case-bycase basis depending on the distances between target communities. For example, some mobile library services simply depart from a home base in the morning, and return in the evening to restock, traveling a different round trip route every day. Others may spend a week on the road before returning to restock, but this requires lodging for staff members and can be extremely tiresome. The duration of stops is another concern; the bus may stop only long enough for people to choose and check out resources, or it may have to stay long enough for everyone in the village to have a chance to read the materials that they are interested in, and return them before departure. If the quantity of books is limited, then this may have to be the solution, since the library risks emptying

its stocks after just few visits if people are allowed to borrow the materials. Staffing strategies encourage include having a local community member be in charge of checking out, distributing and returning books that may be dropped off one box at a time, or chosen by the community member. Local trainers and maintenance staff should also be available at each destination, rather than relying on staff to travel with the van. And finally… 6) Marketing and public awareness is essential for making sure that users know exactly when and where the library will be on any given day, and what resources are available. In addition to the above considerations, mobile telecenters and libraries offering ICT services have an additional set of factors to consider, including finding reliable power sources, keeping delicate equipment in good condition, and ensuring the security of personnel and equipment when valuable items are widely known to be circulating. An additional alternative to consider is accessing the Internet using different types of hand-held devices such as the Simputer ( which can replace costly and delicate PC equipment. Finally, mobile internet services of any kind will not be possible without cooperation of the government in creating policies favorable to creation of ISPs and awarding affordable licenses.

Thanks to members of the listserv 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 accounts 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 2 Perraton, H. (2000). Open and Distance Learning in the Developing World. Routledge Studies in Distance Education. New York: Routledge. 3 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 Society: Ulanbaatar. 4 Doust, Robin W. "Provision of School Library Services by Means of Mobile Libraries: the Zimbabwe Experience." IFLA Journal 25, no. 3 (1999): 148-51. 5 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. ( 6 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. ( 7 8 According to Sharat Pradhan, Indo-Asian News Service, 12 Feb. 2002, via the GKD list-serve. 9 Michael Minges, Mobile Internet for developing countries. International Telecommunications Union, 10 Community Internet Access in Rural Areas: Solving the Economic Sustainability Puzzle (

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India’s “Hole in the Wall”

Key to Bridging the Digital Divide?
C.N. (Madhu) Madhusudan President, Strategic Alliances, NIIT USA Inc. email:

The world has become a global village thanks to advancements in technology. While it is a challenge to provide technology access to the under privileged, the bigger problem is what is increasingly referred to as the Education Emergency 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 headquarters 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 computer 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?

The Background
The mind of the child is perpetually active, absorbing and assimilating. Children absorb information, discover new learning and continuously change their mental maps with the new inputs. Play and experimentation are valuable forms of learning - self-structured and self-motivated processes of learning. Like with computer networks, when children collaborate their learning rises exponentially. If an invisible hand can gently direct them and help them move from one level to another, from one discovery to another, it could create an ever expanding self propelled method of learning that could outpace the effectiveness of any traditional learning model. Researchers at NIIT, a leading global software solutions and IT training company, had asked themselves many questions regarding the acquisition of basic computing skills by children. Did children have to go to formal schools to learn or could learning be achieved through incidental learning while children played, discovered and experimented? For incidental learning to happen, would technology and interesting content suffice or would a lot of human guidance be re-

quired? Could children who were illiterate or semi-literate be able to learn on their own or was basic literacy a prerequisite to learning with technology? These questions begged for an answer. The project team, led by Dr. Sugata Mitra, now the head of the Centre for Research in Cognitive Systems (CRCS), swung into action.1 Their target was the slum next door – a very different world from corporate R&D but providing the best audience profile for what they had in mind. The slum had a large number of children of all ages, most of whom were not familiar with the English language nor did they go to school. They cut out a hole in the wall dividing the NIIT corporate office from the neighboring slum and set up the prototype system, a kiosk with a color monitor, touchpad and Internet access. With no chrome and no glass and a very rugged exterior that matched the décor of a typical slum, the kiosk was not threatening. With this move, in spite of some cynics who dismissed it as a total waste of computing resources, the Kalkaji experiment was born.

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The Kalkaji Experiment
Construction of the outdoor kiosk
The kiosk was constructed such that a monitor was visible through a glass plate built into a wall. A touch pad was also built into the wall. The PC driving the monitor was on the other side of the wall in a brick enclosure. The PC used was a Pentium 266 Mhz system with 64Mb of RAM, a hard disk, a true color display and an Ethernet card. The kiosk had access to the Internet through a dedicated 2Mbps connection to a service provider.

• •

The children developed their own terms to describe the objects and events that they encountered while working on the kiosk. While the applications and web sites were referred to by their names, the arrow cursor was called a sui (needle, in Hindi), the crosshair was called a kaanta, daabna for clicking (Hindi equivalent of pressing), sabse rangeen button for the Start button on the taskbar, damroo for the hourglass icon, kaam kar raha hai when the hourglass rotated, and macchar ki dawai (insecticide spray) for the spray tool in Paint. The adults did not try to use the computer citing reasons 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 resulted in closing the program. There was also a new pecking order amongst the children 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 live in the slum right next to the kiosk. The majority was at the elementary school level (below Grade 8). They all went to some school (either the government-run school or welfare school nearby). Browsing the web was fun. The Disney website was a hit. Some were able to read the news, horoscopes and short stories. The Hindi news sites were very popular as were some Bollywood (India’s Hollywood) sites. Paint was very popular. Almost everyone used it to make pictures or write their own names. Seeing their own name on the computer was a big attraction.

Interesting Findings: The Power of the Discovery Learning Spiral
Certain common observations from the experiment reported above suggest the following learning process when children self-instruct each other in computer usage: 1. A child explores randomly in the GUI (Graphical User Interface) environment, while others watch until an accidental discovery is made.

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Then, several children repeat the discovery for themselves by requesting the first child to let them do so. While in step 2, one or more children make more accidental or incidental discoveries. All the children repeat all the discoveries made and, in the process, make more discoveries and begin to create a unique vocabulary to describe their experience. The vocabulary encourages them to perceive generalizations (“when you right click on a hand shaped cursor, it changes to the hourglass shape for a while and a new page comes up”). They memorize entire procedures for doing something, for example, how to open a painting program and retrieve a saved picture. They teach each other shorter procedures for doing the same thing, whenever one of them finds a new shorter procedure. The group divides itself into the “knows” and the “know-nots,” much as it did into the “haves” and “havenots” in the past. However, they realize that a child that knows will part with that knowledge in return for friendship and exchange as opposed to ownership of physical things where they could use force to get what they did not have. A stage is reached when no further discoveries are made and the children occupy themselves with practicing what they have already learned. At this point intervention is required to introduce a new “seed” discovery (“Did you know that computers can play music? Let me play a song for you”). Usually, a spiral of discoveries follow and another self- instructional cycle begins.





The power of today’s technology tools enables the creation of newer education models that can leverage multimedia, provide ease of access, support collaboration and sharply reduce the traditional constraints on access to effective teachers, teaching resources and cost structures. Today’s tools include Web pages and sites, email, bulletin boards, chat sites and chat servers, voice over IP, newsgroups, video telephony over IP, remote presence and mobile Internet access. The ability to deliver web-based learning services in the form of learner recognition, customization, mentoring, interventions and such other valuable inputs make it possible for economies of scale to kick in and hold tremendous potential for bridging traditional divides caused by resource and access shortages. The learning process need no longer be shaped by just the local teacher but can be transformed by technology, providing access to the best-of-breed resources without any geographical constraints.


Educa Can Minimally Invasive Educ a tion be the Illiteracy Buster?
The Kalkaji kiosk continues to be operational. The Kalkaji experiment has expanded to four other locations. The IFC – International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group - has joined hands with NIIT to test Minimally Invasive Education in eighty locations in India so that this paradigm can be fine-tuned to become the leading method of cost-effective and self motivating education for children around the world irrespective of their standing. The Kalkaji project has now matured into an independent company. In the first phase, the company will focus on measuring the impact of the kiosk on learners who are poor children in semi-urban, rural and slum areas. Special web-based curricula will be designed to provide a fun and discovery-based learning environment. Intervention designs will be tried out with the objective of minimizing interventions and using software to drive appropriate interventions. The end game is to derive a technology and learning model that can be commercially viable thus setting the stage for a global roll-out.


Technology – Powering Collab o ration, Resource Sharing and 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 Consultant1

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 information 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?
In any society or country, there are groups of individuals that are clearly “at a disadvantage”. What does that really mean? “Disadvantaged groups” are unable to take advantage of the many opportunities that may be available to others in society. There can be many different reasons for that. Perhaps they are poor and cannot afford basic necessities. Some may be physically or mentally disabled. Some may find themselves facing special challenges simply because they are women, or part of a minority group. Children and youths, particularly in poor neighborhoods, often find themselves facing many challenges and caught in a vicious circle of poverty, lack of

section of society will remain excluded from access by virtue of their relative poverty.”3 It is sometimes difficult to see how modern ICTs can be introduced in very poor environments where basic necessities such as electricity and clean water are lacking. It is difficult to imagine how modern ICTs could have a positive impact. Some argue that modern ICTs are a luxury in such environments and that more basic needs must first be addressed. Indeed, basic needs do need to be addressed, but waiting to introduce modern ICTs would be a mistake. The introduction of ICTs in such environments can actually help to address a broad range of needs within the community. ICTs facilitate the flow of information and the creation of knowledge. Knowledge is power. ICTs empower people.

“ICT disparities usually exacerbate existing ur disparities based on location (such as urdis ban-rural), gender, ethnicity, physical disability, age, and, especially, income level, coun and between "rich" and "poor" countries.”

What Can Disadvantaged Groups Do With ICTs?
ICTs are tools - they are powerful tools! Access to ICTs in 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 tool. Modern ICTs are particularly attractive to children and youths that are quick to learn the basic skills to operate computers, software and to browse the Internet. Adults often look at computers in a slightly different way as they realize that they need computer skills for most employment. For children and youths, computers offer unmatched opportunities to learn both within and outside of formal school settings. For children of disadvantaged backgrounds, often doing poorly in schools that fail to adequately address their

Source: “Spanning the Digital Divide: Understanding and Tackling the Issues.”

education and even violence and abuse. If the digital divide (i.e., the gap between information haves and have-nots) is likely to exacerbate existing inequalities within countries, it is essential that attempts to address it pay special attention to the groups that are most likely to be on the wrong side of the divide, those that are already in a disadvantaged position. “The use of new ICTs is likely to fall into well defined socio-economic user groups and a certain

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educational needs, computers are powerful motivational tools.


Learning through games

Educational games come in many sizes and shapes and often at significant costs. In Ecuador, Chasquinet has made available a collection of free game software donated by Cuba to all the telecenters that it has helped to establish.4 The first thing that children need to learn is often how to use a mouse properly. Simple games can enable them to quickly acquire the necessary fine motor skills. In a number of the telecenters established by Chasquinet that we visited during our field trip, the children were playing a game designed to learn colors.

and selling recycled paper to generate income for the telecenter. In the Guacharaca telecenter, the women are hoping to improve their chicken raising business by finding resources on the Internet and then using some of the resources to support the telecenter as well. Microenterprises can therefore also serve as a source of income to support telecenters, building a virtuous cycle of improvements, increased revenues and sustainability around the effective use of ICTs.

Key Findings from the Case Studies
Finding: Children and youths are a very appropriate target group for ICT initiatives. The range of beneficial impacts of ICT exposure and training on children and youth is extensive. In addition, children and youths are generally very enthusiastic about new technologies and very quick to learn new skills.
The Ninos de la Calle project in Ecuador has shown that ICTs can help to change the lives of children who had very few opportunities. Once introduced to ICTs, children quickly learn important skills and are exposed to a broad range of information sources, opening up new horizons and allowing them to make better choices for their future. Some who had dropped out of school decide to return to school. Others decide to pursue more advanced computer training.


Learning through exploration

Access to the World Wide Web allows students to get information that is often not accessible at their school or community library (if there is one). At the Niños de la Calle Telecenter in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, we came across children who were learning about animals through Spanish language interactive National Geographic software.


Learning through collaboration

Children who are not doing well in traditional academic settings can do much better when they learn by doing and experience something firsthand. Computers and the Internet allow students to collaborate across cultures and across oceans. Through email, chat rooms and other tools, they can exchange information and learn from students in far away lands. One such example of virtual exchange and collaborative learning is the RiverWalk project linking schools in five countries, including Brazil and Japan.5 (See RiverWalk Brazil: Virtual Journey, Real Learning, TechKnowLogia, January - March 2002 Issue.)


Learning work-related skills

ICTs can create income opportunities in a number of ways. First, as already mentioned, basic computer skills have become a necessity for many jobs in urban areas. Second, ICTs can facilitate the development and improvement of microenterprises within disadvantaged communities. In some cases, the ICTs themselves can become a microenterprise. For example, in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, a telecenter named Telenet Chicos de la Calle, was established as a microenterprise to serve the needs of the social sector, the community at large and create jobs for youths. The ICTs can facilitate the improvement of existing microenterprises or development of new microenterprises. For example, at the telecenter in El Panacillo in Quito, the youths that manage the telecenter are using the Internet to learn how to make and improve the candles they sell in the local market. In the telecenter at El Itchimbia in Quito as well, the youths are making

Finding: While the children and youths are motivated, it is important that their experience with ICTs be supported by competent and knowledgeable staff. While it can be argued that children and youths (particularly younger children) can teach themselves basic computer skills, this does not negate the need for qualified staff to guide and support the learning process. Indeed, this support and guidance are critical to the long-term success of these initiatives.
In San Jose dos Campos, Brazil, a local organization named FUNDHAS is collaborating with the Brazilian branch of Kidlinks (an international organization) to create a rich learning environment using the Internet. Highly qualified personnel facilitate the learning experience by focusing on the effective use of computers and the Internet to learn about issues that are important to the children rather than focusing on teaching basic computer skills. Not all organizations starting to integrate ICT projects into their activities have this necessary technological and pedagogical expertise. For example, the Working Youth Program

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in Ecuador (Programa del Muchacho Trabajador) is pressing hard to build up its own human capacity with regards to both technological and pedagogical issues related to the introduction of computers into existing programs that serve the needs of the youths of Quito and other cities in Ecuador.

Finding: Affordable technological solutions for access in remote areas remain illusive. There is a shortage of technical expertise in the adaptation of existing low-cost technologies for remote areas where electricity and telephone lines are inexistent. More efforts need to be channeled into identifying such expertise where it exists and developing it at the national level in countries where connectivity remains a challenge in rural and remote areas.6
For example, a local NGO in Ecuador called Chasquinet has been trying to help indigenous groups gain access to computers and the Internet. Many of these indigenous groups live in remote areas where there is limited electricity and there are no telephone lines. These areas must not be excluded from the information age. Yet it is difficult for Chasquinet to identify the appropriate experts and find financial resources to hire such experts to develop connectivity solutions in remote areas.

are now increasingly getting involved in ICT projects. On the other hand, ICT-oriented organizations are also trying to reach disadvantaged groups. They each have strengths and weaknesses and can be most effective if they combine their efforts through partnerships or networking.
A good example of partnership is the collaboration between FUNDHAS and Kidlink in San Jose dos Campos. FUNDHAS has the local knowledge of how to manage afterschool children’s programs in San Jose dos Campos and Kidlink has expertise in technology and cultural exchanges at the national and international level. By combining their expertise, they are able to deliver quality technology programs for children and youths from poor neighborhoods.

Finding: The importance of effective training and ongoing support for educators cannot be underestimated. Finding second hand computers or obtaining donations of computers is not difficult compared to ensuring that computers are used effectively to teach, learn and expand horizons and opportunities. More generally, providing access to ICTs is only a first step. Making sure that this access is transformed into productive use remains a key challenge.
For example, ProInfo is a Federal Government program in Brazil that provides training and support for primary school teachers in using computers for educational purposes. The Government of Brazil is planning a rapid deployment of computers in secondary schools. Unless support similar to that which has been provided by ProInfo to primary school teachers is provided to secondary school teachers, the deployment of computer equipment in secondary schools will have limited impacts and may even result in further resistance to technology in the future as less and less educators will be convinced of the benefits of technology in education.

Finding: There is no single model for sustainability. Sustainability must be achieved along different models based on local conditions. If the focus remains on disadvantaged groups, the communities themselves are unlikely to have the resources to ensure the sustainability of the ICT project. However, it often remains important for the community to contribute something, whether it is a locale, symbolic fees or volunteer labor. In some areas, the local private sector may be a good source of support but in other regions or countries the private sector will not be a significant source of support. In some cases, a microenterprise model can perhaps help sustain an ICT project. There are no simple solutions.
For example, the Committee for the Democratization of Informatics (CDI) in Brazil has been very successful at expanding its technology schools around the country. It has been most successful in doing so in a sustainable fashion in areas where there is significant private sector support. In poorer areas of Brazil, where private sector support is lacking, CDI has had to rely more extensively on international private foundations and other international sources of funds.

Finding: Combining strengths through partnerships and/or networking and networks is important. Organizations with long-standing experience working with disadvantaged groups

Finding: Replicability and expansion are not always the ultimate goal. Some projects are designed to address specific local needs and will necessarily have a local impact. Local impact, however, does not mean “minimal” impact. Other projects are meant to be expanded and are expected to have a national impact. Community-based ICT projects and initiatives need not be “replicable.” Indeed, they need to be developed based on local needs and conditions. On the other hand, national programs need to

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be based on an existing national structure and must take into account the human and financial capacity of existing institutions when contemplating large-scale expansions.
For example, Chasquinet supports small community-based telecenters in Ecuador. These telecenters are meant to serve small target groups and are based on community-level involvement and management. Their impacts are necessarily local and cannot automatically be replicated in other communities. On the other hand, programs such as ProInfo in Brazil are meant to have a national scope and national impact. The scale of operations, scale of funding, human and institutional capacity building issues involved vary greatly.

Even the projects that appear to be successful in terms of rapid expansion and deployment across the country such as CDI, their true impact will take time to materialize and concentrated efforts to capture. Measuring results in terms of the number of computers installed, demand for ICT services and satisfaction with training provided fails to account for the true impact of such projects. Few organizations undertake comprehensive evaluations of their impacts and when they do, the focus tends to be on immediate outcomes rather than on the expected long-term benefits of exposure to ICTs. Japan, among a growing number of donor countries, has expressed a strong commitment to helping address the digital divide in developing countries and is backing up this commitment with significant financial resources. The larger report 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 groups in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a special emphasis on Brazil and Ecuador as possible target countries. Through a review of ongoing projects in both countries, we were able to gain some useful insights into future ICT cooperation in Brazil and Ecuador as well as broader lessons learned to be applied in potential projects across the region and around the world.

Finding: Measuring true impact remains an illusive goal. Efforts must be made within existing and new programs to have clear and measurable objectives. In order to gain access to funding, most initiatives are forced into a cycle of reporting that invites overestimation of beneficial impacts of pilot projects and neglect of the true challenges being faced.

URLs of Projects or Programs mentioned in the article:
Committee for the Democratization of Informatics: ProInfo: RiverWalk: Kidlink: Programa del Muchacho Trabajador (PMT): Chasquinet: Fundhas:

1 2

Barbara Fillip can be reached via email at The study upon which this article is based was funded by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of JICA. 3 Andrew Skuse, “Information Communication Technologies, Poverty and Empowerment.” June 2000. 4 The games can be downloaded from the Niños de la Calle web site: URL: 5 The website for the RiverWalk project is located at 6 Finding low-cost connectivity solutions is an area of focus for activities of all major global efforts to address the digital divide, 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

Technology has become the leader in the socio-economic environment in the 21st century. In preparation for meaningful contribution in this century, we should all be prepared for the challenges of technology before us. Information Communication Technology (ICT) has proved to be the driving force in all economies through out the world. Jobs now require computer literacy and the need for everyone to have computer and technology skills has grown dramatically. The world has now become a place where information sharing is of paramount importance. We are all now used to the terms “Global Village” or “Superhighway” which simply refer to the way in which we are able to communicate effectively and efficiently without any barrier irrespective of the distances and times of operation. For all of us to succeed in ensuring that all our nations benefit from the use of ICT, 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 world of work. 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. Equity and access will also be very closely related to the community within which the school operates. Equity therefore is the provision of resources to all in a manner that does not disadvantage others while Access can be defined as the ability to enjoy the benefits of resources that are being provided without any discrimination whatsoever. In Botswana, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in the document ‘Equity in Education: Policy & Recommendations,’ defines equity as “the outcome of fundamental laws and policies which, when enforced, should guarantee fair treatment and access to resources and programs for all students as well as outreach for parental involvement. Furthermore the educational environment must teach and promote the positive self-esteem needed to enable each student to make a productive contribution to his or her school, community, country and world.” The Revised National Policy on Education (RNPE), a Government of Botswana paper No. 2 of 1994, which is a guiding document to all educational developments in the country, made recommendations on equity and access. One of these recommendations which is of interest here is as follows:

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REC. 1 (para. 2.3.17) The commission recommends that equity continues to be an explicit goal of educational policy and that the Ministries responsible for education and training should introduce appropriate measures to achieve greater equity. They should develop clear equity indicators and targets so that progress can be regularly monitored and reported. Based on the above, the government has made it a point to try and distribute educational resources in an equitable fashion through out the country. Learners are taken as agents of 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 supposed to be part of the community in terms of their operations 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 improve and expand educational opportunities for secondary teachers and students around the world. This program, specifically, 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.

sources. This is a facility with air-conditioning, network trunking and a dedicated circuit isolated from the direct mains. There are at present, 51 of the 205 laboratories equipped with computers. Out of the equipped schools, 15 were equipped by World Links for Development while the government equipped the rest. All the government equipped schools have 20 computers, with a server and a local area network while the WorLD schools still do not have the same compliment of equipment. We have plans to ensure that they are also not disadvantaged. Plans are also at an advanced stage to install computer equipment in all the remaining 154 CJSS.

Rural vs. Urban
Pupils should not be disadvantaged simply because of their 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 have been cases in the WorLD program where privileged schools in the affluent neighborhoods are chosen at the detriment of the rest of the schools in the country. This situation should not be allowed to prevail. Efforts should be made to level the ground especially when it comes to connectivity, which is the main reason for disparities in the World Links for Development program.

Is Equity Served?
There are several levels of equity to be observed in education, as equity can be addressed by assessing what causes the inequity and who is involved. It has been stated “Incentives systems only work if they are perceived as fair. Equity requires both that unequals are treated differently (vertical equity) and that equals are treated similarly (horizontal equity).”3 In this article, we would like to look at equity in the following categories: National, Rural/Urban, School and Classroom levels.

National Level
All schools should have access to the same facilities to provide equitable services to their learners. The government of Botswana, in their implementation of equity and access at the Community Junior Secondary School (CJSS), embarked on the expansion of facilities at this level. There are 205 of these CJSSs in the country and government has committed to ensuring that they all get a set of 20 computers, with a server and networking. A computer laboratory was therefore built for each of the schools so that they all have the same re-

School Level
At the school level, all learners should receive the same instruction and treatment to enable fair competition, as there are exams to determine any further development after basic education. All learners must also be able to compete favorably for any other work-related opportunities. The Revised National Policy on Education of 1994 made recommendations for the Junior Community Secondary schools as follows:

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“To develop in all children computer literacy and readiness for the world of work.” “Each student should take a Basic Computer Awareness Course.” It is at this level that we ensure that all students in the school are given the opportunity to learn basics in computers and their uses. There is a syllabus that is followed by all schools that covers some application software as follows: word processing, spreadsheet, graphics and database. The communications component, even though it is not covered in the syllabus, has been treated through other programs, e.g. Internet Learning Trust from the UK and WorLD. It is over and above this basic computer course that we then select a few students to undertake WorLD and IEARN collaborative projects.

Classroom Level
Gender becomes an issue as the girl child and the boy child would behave differently when it comes to who sits at the driving seat at the computer. It was reported at one of the World Links in Washington that boys have a habit of running to the lab to take charge of the operation at the computer. Other factors that come into play are the high achievers and low achievers. The high achievers are more often selected to participate in collaborative projects, as they will easily communicate with learners from other countries. Teachers will at all cost avoid selecting learners who will need a lot of assistance to participate in such projects. And therefore, the rest of the students spend endless periods of time at the windows peeping in to admire the computers and craving to put their hands on them. The computers are in this case reserved for 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 while those who really needed that help were left on the ledge. This is contradictory to what WorLD set out to achieve - to reach out to the disadvantaged and thus bridge the digital divide. The digital divide does not only exist between the developed and developing countries, but also exist between different individuals within the country depending on their location and position in society. Some of the students selected are already using computers at home and that is why they excel. In Botswana, because of government policies that are in place, WorLD activities are not only limited to the students who are selected to undertake collaborative projects, but there also is active teaching of all learners in the schools to acquire basic computer skills. The strategy of infusion is being implemented to enable all subjects to use computer skills for teaching and learning. It is with these foregoing in mind that we believe all students should really benefit rather than only an impressive few. We have been encouraging our teachers to at least form heterogeneous groups to undertake collaborative projects.

From a paper presented at the SchoolNet conference in Namibia in 2000 by the Botswana delegation it was noted that “The prerequisite for the creation of an information-based economy is the existence of an efficient telecommunications infrastructure. The poor state of telecommunications in our continent is presently the main constraint on the accessibility of many African countries to the global information infrastructure. There are only about 2 main telephone lines per 100 persons in Africa, compared with 7 in Asia, 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 37 in Europe and 66 in the United States. Though most countries in Africa have established Internet links, access is mostly restricted to the major cities and it is quite expensive, mainly because of the inefficiency of telephone services. The monthly cost of an Internet account in Africa is, on average, estimated to be about seven times higher than that in North America.” • Gender – The girl child must be empowered to compete equally and equitably in ICT, but not at the expense of the boy child. • Disparities – Let programs such as WorLD benefit both the very remote schools as well as the urban schools equally. • Implementation Capacity – It is easier to find resources and facilities in the urban areas than in the rural and remote areas but this must not be used as a reason to marginalize others. • Monitoring and Evaluation – Programs should be monitored and assessed to ensure that all the intended beneficiaries are reached. The World Links for Development is a very worthwhile program. Its methodologies and materials have really strengthened the Computer Awareness program in our schools. As a catalyst, we believe this program has achieved a lot and will keep on making a difference where other endeavors have not succeeded. We do not want to present a rosy picture in so far as equity is concerned. The country is still striving to address equity issues, but there are policies in place within which frameworks to guide implementation of equity are being developed.

Factors That Facilitate or Inhibit Equity
• Clear policy guidelines – Each country should look at how equity can be addressed and also come up with policies to guide implementation. • Operational Structures – It is very difficult to address issues of equity, but there must be structures in place with intentions to address these issues and also come up with strategies for implementation. • Resources for implementation – There are also implications regarding a number of resources to implement the policies, e.g. human resources, facilities, equipment and materials.

• Conceptualization of Equity and Access – Equity and access should be defined within the context of each individual country so as to guide any policy developed. • Infrastructure - Telecommunication regulations and costs

David Motlhale Ratsatsi (DSE, BSc Physics, MSc Instructional Technology, MBA), Coordinator, World Links for Development, Botswana, Email: 2 World Links is a joint initiative of the World Bank Institute’s World Links for Development Program and the World Links non-profit organization ( and ) 3 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 guidance in establishing the strategies needed to ensure that low-income populations could benefit from Internet connectivity. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), in collaboration with the FAO and ITU, conducted one of the studies focusing primarily on telecenters in Peru, includes findings from a survey of 1,752 adult users.1 Peru was selected as the focus of study due to the high number of individuals that use the Internet from public access points in that country. The second study, conducted by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), synthesizes the experiences of about 50 IDRC-funded information and communication technology (ICT) projects since 1997.2

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Successful Internet projects working at the local level should be used to inform public policy at a national level. Gender issues are often neglected and need to be addressed systematically. The Internet is dominated by business and government agendas and those who would use the Internet to encourage social change must find creative ways to promote their social vision over the Internet. Forming broad alliances for cooperation on specific projects is more likely to yield results than are individual or small group efforts, working in isolation. Unintended negative effects of ICTs include exacerbating existing inequalities, the imposition of dominant views, information overload, and detachment from real world needs. Problems or pre-conditions that existed in a society before the Internet tended to be amplified by the introduction of ICTs.


Study Findings
Major findings of the studies include the following:


A number of low-income users in Peru are benefiting from Internet use, but the population served has a substantial stock of human capital. Individuals with lower levels of human capital are less likely to take advantage of the Internet’s benefits without additional support structures. Providing Internet connectivity is not sufficient to foster democracy. A social vision of the Internet requires: " equitable access, which involves basic training and affordable connectivity; " an ability to make meaningful use of ICTs; and " social appropriation, that is, use of computers and the Internet to solve concrete problems and transform current realities. For each $100 invested in telecenters, one is more likely to obtain high-impact results if simultaneous investments are made to improve access, use, and appropriation, than if the $100 is more broadly allocated to improve only access, while expecting use and social appropriation to increase on their own. Factors that limit access in rural areas include an inadequate telecommunications infrastructure, humidity, low skills of client populations, and a lack of technical facilities and staff to maintain equipment.

Types of Telecenters
The IADB survey included several types of telecenters, including: commercial, franchise, university, school, NGOsponsored, municipal and multipurpose. Each is viewed as having particular advantages and disadvantages, as well as structural and policy decisions that are needed when considering attempts to bridge the digital divide.


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Commercial telecenters have limited capacity to benefit low-income populations with little education. Municipally-sponsored telecenters are more likely to be able to further local development, but independence and distance from municipal leadership offices is important to reduce the potential for political interference. University telecenters can offer social outreach to disadvantaged and community groups, provide training, develop locally relevant content and establish and facilitate virtual networks. Charging affordable fees for services supports sustainability. School-based telecenters can be structured to involve community members during off-school hours, but costs need to be shared by school system and the community.





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Financing Telecenters
Common features of successful ventures include transparency in financing, flexible but required payment (including in-kind services or equipment), and a decentralized administrative structure. State subsidies are likely to be required for poor populations, possibly using scholarships or voucher systems, instead of general subsidies for all users. Public franchise schemes tend to undermine local ingenuity and sustainability and are not recommended. Local administrators should have free reign in designing the structure and policies of local telecenters. Telecommunications Development Funds and Community Investment Funds have been successful and are recommended, and Social Investment Funds have been found to be useful for jump-starting the development of community telecenters. When privatizing telecommunications systems, States should negotiate rural coverage of telecenters by private providers.

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Provide training for under- or uneducated adult users when necessary. Public service portals aimed at meeting economic and social needs of low-income populations are a high priority. Such portals should use simple language and provide access to labor and self-employment opportunities. Content development for public service can be publicly supported but should be developed privately. A benefit beyond the increased content is the development of an indigenous IT sector. Content and telecenters need not be linked. Communities should take the initiative and be responsible for maintaining community information systems. There is a need for government policies to strengthen the legal and institutional framework to foster development of sites and Internet solutions that facilitate ecommerce, particularly by small and medium enterprises, especially with regard to secure, online payment mechanisms. States should encourage virtual activism. Civil society groups should be provided with support in getting their voices heard.


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Report recommendations include the following:

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Use of wireless technology to increase Internet access in rural areas. Secure government subsidies, since market incentives are not likely to be sufficient in sparsely populated rural areas. Incorporate telecenters into a comprehensive economic and rural development strategy that includes investment in complementary sectors. Target youth for information technology (IT) training interventions, since they are quick learners with the longest productivity horizon. This involves incorporating IT into the formal education system and training teachers, which is a critical factor to effectiveness of use of IT in schools. Schools can either serve as telecenters/community learning centers, or can be users of external telecenters.

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Latin American governments are struggling with formulating policies and providing appropriate ICT services to meet the needs of those groups that find themselves on the other side of the digital divide. Given limited resources and knowledge about whether investments in ICTs are worthwhile and what is needed to ensure that they are used productively, these two studies should prove useful in providing needed guidance to national and local policymakers concerned with meeting the social and economic needs of all their citizens.


Telecenters for Socioeconomic and Rural Development in Latin American and the Caribbean, by Francisco Proenza, Roberto Bastidas-Buch, and Guillermo Montero. Online at: 2 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 shared among those who work in development and communication. (1) Information and communication technologies (ICT) are vital components of development programs, with computers and websites as central actors in the 21st century. (2) For at least a generation or two, shared public facilities 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. (3) Access to these information resources is more than connectivity, and the social, political and economic aspects of access require as much attention as the technical and telecommunications aspects. (4) Cultural barriers especially impede opportunities for females to gain the benefits that can come from ICTs.

What will it take to change the access situation for women? In a recent infoDev interview, Nancy Hafkin1 cites examples of how women are using ICTs (particularly computers and the Internet) successfully. She notes, for example, that a women’s income generation project in South Africa has begun using the Internet to market “very fat chickens” in the nearby high-income communities. In this simple example, we have a clue as to a somewhat different approach to the gender divide in ICT access.

These barriers eventually may disappear as cultural practices begin to change. We are reminded of this possibility when we realized recently at commencement ceremony that a PhD candidate at Cornell University came from a family of 11 children in Kenya, and that six of her female and male siblings had also earned college degrees. When we asked how that could happen, our acquaintance attributed it to her father’s idiosyncratic counter-culture belief in education for girls and boys. But these kinds of cultural changes will take generations to ripple through society. Meanwhile, the gulf exists between women’s information needs and potentially vast amounts of relevant ICT mediated information. We need to look at some shortcuts to accelerate women gaining some of the benefits that come from ICTs. We have already done this regarding the issue of each person or household having an individual computer and individual connection to the Internet. We have accepted the telecommunications concept of “universal access” in which there is shared use of ICT facilities at a public place by individuals. We can accelerate women gaining benefits from ICTs by exploiting the concept of intermediaries. Richard Heeks2 of the Institute for Development Policy and Management in the UK's University of Manchester suggests that intermediaries are organizations or individuals "who own ICTs and who can act as gatekeepers between cyberspace and the organic, informal information systems of those on the wrong side of the digital divide." Heeks suggests that

Cultural barriers
The cultural barriers that hinder women’s access to ICTs, and especially computers and the Internet, are more problematic and complex than simply making computers available in a library, telecenter or other public facility. Those barriers include literacy, education, language, cost, locality, the perceived role of women, and technophobia. These are not inherent in the female condition as we can see in thousands of offices across the world (where men are often less competent in dealing with the computer programs and putting the fuel in the copy machine). Nor are they barriers uniquely experienced by females. But they are barriers that exist widely and more severely for women and particularly in Africa and some parts of Asia. Some of these obstacles are as resilient to change as female genital mutilation. They are deeply embedded in cultural practices such as denying school opportunities for girls, which is where the computers are most likely to be and where they will learn to read.

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good intermediaries bring more to the process than connection to information and communication data and hardware. Motivation is a key element. Heeks asserts that too often projects assume motivation is present and too often it is not. In designing ICT systems within development projects he suggests that it is critical that someone have an answer to the 'Why should I?' Why should I learn ICT skills? Why should I access ICTs? Why should I use ICT-borne information?

Intermediaries in an ICT strategy
Because it may take generations to bring significant and personal ICT benefits to a majority of the women in Africa and Asia, we propose a systematic use of intermediaries to deliver these benefits now. This is how. In India there are thousands of women’s self help groups (SHGs) involved in a wide array of micro-economic enterprises. Many have been 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) has a membership of more than 200,000 women in some 790 villages. SEWA helps these members organize into groups or cooperatives so that they can cooperate to build stronger enterprises. The promotion of women's SHGs is seen as an effective means to empower poor women and enable them to participate in and drive their own development. SHGs are now recognized as a key transmission belt for development efforts by the state and the civil society. Such village level collectives are a preferred institutional mechanism because they are gender sensitive, participatory, cost-effective and grassroots organizations. Many of the women in these groups are not benefiting from ICTs because of the cultural barriers noted above. We see as an innovative initiative aimed at broadening their access to ICTs, to have representatives of (and in) SHGs trained in ICT use -- for example, in "information seeking” on the web, using e-mail, and working with self-learning and distance learning multi-media packages. As we look toward operationalizing this approach, existing community-run telecenters

would be the focal point of a SHG’s activities. A scenario might unfold like this. A group of SHG representatives is trained to use ICTs, with the training material built around micro-enterprise management. The SHG representative would then perform four roles: (1) serve as an information source on micro-enterprises for the SHG; (2) be the group’s and individuals’ liaison with the telecenter for obtaining information 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 peer training within its groups so that SHG members might be motivated and empowered themselves to use the telecenter’s ICT services directly. This scenario sees the representatives as linking SHGs and the information resources available through ICTs (which may include, besides computer-based technologies, a range of other media such as audio and video recordings) and open paths to such newly emerging ventures as e-commerce and egovernance.

Beyond ICTs
As all readers of this journal are aware, information may be important and valuable, but there are other factors that also need to be addressed in an ICT-for-development strategy. The list depends on the circumstances but might include roads, markets, clinics, and credit. That is why, when we explore the SHG intermediaries approach in India, we are also exploring the establishment of facilities that can provide microenterprises with quality control mechanisms, packaging, and delivery services. And finally, while we are taking shortcuts across cultural boundaries, we recall the classic story that anthropologist Lauriston Sharp tells about missionaries working among Stone Age people in Australia. They provided steel axes to women in a society where men traditionally controlled the axes that heretofore had been made of special stone. The changes in power and responsibilities proved calamitous for the existing social order.


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


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Marie Fontaine, LearnLink, Academy for Educational Development

Likely to be last
In 19 seconds, a Google search for “women, development, and information/communication technologies” yielded 10,400 results. A quick scan of the first 10 or so pages of descriptions revealed a large number of articles focusing on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as tools for the economic advancement and social empowerment of disadvantaged women in developing countries. Indeed, one of the articles listed was an essay I had written on that theme.1 Clearly, the topic deserves attention. In the rush to computerize the world, women whom technology bypasses risk even greater social isolation, political marginalization, and resource impoverishment. Yet the literature is full of promising case study material, mainly descriptions of projects with worthy objectives indeed. One cannot help but conclude that the ICT movement must be achieving excellent progress on this front. But are these achievements merely small, isolated successes, or are they substantive stepping stones leading to equal ICT access and digital opportunity for women and men everywhere? Certainly, the trend in North America is encouraging. In 1999, 49.5 percent of all Internet users in the United States were women.2 Then, in the first quarter of 2000, the number of US women online surpassed that of men for the first time!3 Canadian statistics are similar. In 1994, for example, 22 percent of men were online compared with 14 percent of women. “By 2000, the proportion of men surfing the net had more than doubled to 56 percent, while the proportion of women had more than tripled to 50 percent.”4 Though the Internet population in other developed countries is still predominantly male, those statistics are changing as well. In Europe, for example, ICT use is skewed toward men, 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-

ence…largest in the more mature markets, such as Sweden at 46 percent, Britain at 42 percent, and Germany and France at 39 percent each….”6 The trend is ever upward, and one expects that, over time and as needed, European women will be equal Internet users with their male compatriots. Outside of OECD countries, however, the gender divide is thriving, with so few women online that, in some places, they do not even appear on the radar screen. While male use of the Internet is growing in developing countries, women are far less likely to have access to ICTs and, as with virtually every modern advance, far more likely to be the last to benefit from the opportunities ICTs can provide.

After changes upon changes, are we more or less the same? A digression….
Reading through the project descriptions on the Web, I was struck by how little the language about women and development has changed over the last 25 years. When I first entered the international development field, I was an avid reader of Irene Tinker, Ester Boserup, Fatima Mernissi, and other innovative feminists leading the way to a new model of development—one in which women mattered. At the time, I thought their insights into gender issues offered great promise for altering the course of human development. Little did I know that, a quarter of a century later, our publications, conferences, workshops, seminars, brown bags, and their 21st century equivalent—the listserv—still would be wrestling with the same concepts and complexities of change. The ICT phenomenon—and the growing gender divide in the developing world—is characteristic of many activities that still fail to reach “third world” women. Why? What is it about women in developing countries that continues to confound and defy development experts? Are the theories wrong? Are the approaches and models insufficient? Or have they just not been implemented properly?

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Beyond Access: How not to design development projects for women
Clearly, the model of individual ownership of computers that works so well in North America is limited in developing countries to the social and economic elite—and utterly unrealistic for disadvantaged populations. Telecenters,7 or community based, public Internet centers, have been touted as an effective solution to the access problem, and a variety of models have sprung up as pilots or prototypes around the world. Moreover, many telecenter projects have carefully and creatively crafted outreach efforts to attract women to the centers. “Preliminary evidence suggests that telecentres in developing countries,” however, “are not particularly effective in helping women…gain access to better economic, educational and other opportunities. Women use telecentres much less than men, and when they do use them, it is usually for non-Internet related purposes.”8 Dr. Eva Rathgeber, Joint Chair of Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa and a leading telecenter researcher, cites reasons for this failure that read like a 1975 primer on how not to design interventions for women: focus on machines that women find “unfriendly,” construct cramped premises with little privacy and no childcare facilities, hire male managers and technical assistants, choose an inconvenient location with unsuitable hours of operation, charge fees beyond the financial reach of poor women, and, perhaps most important, offer content that is perceived as irrelevant. In short, Dr. Rathgeber suggests that like other technological innovations before them, telecenters often are designed without adequate attention to the needs, capacities, and preferences of local communities in general and of women in particular.9 Accommodating local needs is a simple and basic tenet that all development professionals know. Yet in terms of women, Dr. Rathgeber believes it is not being done. “The knowledge exists,” she claims, “but it is not being used.”10

A lot of knowledge, a lack of success
Dr. Rathgeber’s claims correspond with the results of my search for a successful case study to share in this article. I had hoped to present a case study of a telecenter that women frequented equally with men and that met the information and communication needs of both effectively. Unable to find one, I must agree with her conclusion that none of the major actors in the establishment of telecenters “has successfully developed an effective methodology to address women’s different priorities and constraints.”11 Yet the plethora of articles, essays, reports, models, guidelines, and project descriptions on the Web suggests that ICTs finally may do for women what the print dissemination of Women in Development (WID) material has not. With the almost instant and unlimited availability of programming experience, cumulative knowledge, even nascent wisdom on which to draw, there is no excuse for ICT initiatives in general or telecenter activities in particular to fail women. To illustrate the elements that are critical to telecenter success for women, I chose not to search further for an existing case in point. Rather, I present a hypothetical telecenter minimodel that incorporates the essential features we know to be conducive to women’s participation. Drawing on first-hand experience with 28 AED/LearnLink-administered centers in Ghana, Benin, Paraguay, and Bulgaria,12 plus selected research and studies from the many excellent documents available online, this article describes a community telecenter deliberately designed to accommodate both men and women equitably. In the process, some of the common constraints to women’s access and usage are identified and addressed.

A wonderful drawing
A couple of years ago, the Canadian International Development Research Center (IDRC) ( produced a wonderful drawing of a telecenter, a comfortable, convivial place with men and women and children and goats and chickens 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 intimidating and inappropriate in a “low-tech” village setting, the center presented in the drawing appears to be integrated seamlessly into the surroundings. Rather than appearing 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 relaxed atmosphere blends in beautifully with the palm trees, grazing goats, and napping dogs outside, and men, women, and children of all ages are clearly comfortable inside, working, chatting, and learning together. The telecenter has been set up to harmonize with the village, building on tradition and accepted cultural norms and fostering a sense of familiarity among people of both genders. Second, with a house, a car, and a woman carrying a basket on her head, the physical location of the center appears to be at a community crossroads, not in an isolated spot difficult for women to reach. It seems that women do not have to travel far to use this telecenter but can walk there in the course of their daily activities. Moreover, while studies suggest that many people in communities with telecenters do not even know where they are located, one senses that the entire community knows where to find the center in the drawing. 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 the market to find the necessities of life, here, too, they obviously are engaged in meaningful activities—perhaps researching a topic for a school assignment, sending an email to a loved one, or checking market prices. The people seem to be aware of what can be accomplished with ICTs and to understand and appreciate ICT applications, and the community as a whole is taking advantage of the opportunities ICTs present. Clearly, the information and communication needs of the community have been ascertained, and the telecenter has been set up to meet the priorities and interests of both male and female users. These are not just “machines for men.”14 Childcare seems not to be an issue or problem. Indeed, children are clearly welcome, whether outside playing or inside with their mothers. While no organized child care is apparent—an addition that, if designed properly and affordably, would likely enhance the female friendliness of the telecenter—children seem not to be a deterrent to women’s use of the center. The “open door” atmosphere appears to extend to all age groups.

At this particular moment in time, the center in the drawing is accommodating approximately 20 people, some working alone and others in a group; though the center holds only ten or so computers, which seems to be sufficient. No one is waiting, and the space is roomy enough to provide people with enough privacy to do their work. Most important, women appear to be comfortable engaging in telecenter activities alongside men. While research suggests that women sometimes do not feel at ease with male technical assistants, the center depicted in the drawing reveals no such difficulty. Indeed, the staff is so integrated into the telecenter activities that, aside from two men who appear to be employees—one at the back with outstretched arms and another at the front door welcoming a women who is entering— differentiating between clients and staff members is not easy to do.

In the real world
While the happy telecenter cartoon illustrates how some of the logistical difficulties for women can be addressed, it does not depict the deeper, underlying obstacles to women’s ICT access and usage. Illiteracy, poverty, purdah, and other constraints related to time, mobility, finances, and social and cultural tradition—the same constraints that limit women’s equitable access to high quality education, health care, paid employment, and legal rights—conspire to keep women from participating in and benefiting from the information revolution. If telecenters are to offer women equitable opportunities for personal and professional growth, these longstanding and well-documented constraints must be considered from the outset, informing and factored into the creation of new telecenters at the design stage. Beyond addressing the obvious obstacles to women’s access and usage, ICT-specific concerns require attention as well. Some of these include the following: • Women’s awareness of IT functions and benefits; • Convenient, effective training in ICT applications; • Reliable hardware;

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• • • • • •

Appropriate software; Affordable opportunities for use; ICT policies that promote and enable women’s access Sufficient literacy and language skills among women—or access to mediators; Women’s ability to synthesize, organize, and apply information; and Women’s ability to produce and disseminate information as well as receive it.

Awareness adds orientation and demonstration programs to access. This approach takes time, money, and planning, but it reaches beyond the technical elite to other “early adopters” who, given the opportunity, will take the time to learn and integrate ICTs into their personal and professional lives. Diffusion involves a pre-planned, systematic program of activities designed to spread the message broadly. (The message 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 programs should focus on local needs and priorities, both in terms of the message conveyed and the method used for conveyance. What works in one environment may not work in another. Alternative delivery channels can be useful for reaching remote regions and populations, especially those lacking literacy skills. For example, information obtained through the Internet can be repackaged for distribution/dissemination/diffusion through more traditional means, such as radio, television, even face-to-face meetings or community theatre. Therefore, one need not have access to a computer per se to benefit from information originally gathered online. Sound access programs also go beyond the mere delivery of information. Once one gets information, what does one do with it? For women accustomed to minimal access to information, for example, information overload can negate the benefits. Follow through involving synthesis, organization, application, and distribution may be necessary. The vast majority of information available on the Internet has been produced in English-speaking countries. For nonEnglish speakers, this information has little value unless it is translated. Equally important, there is a lack of information from developing countries online. Locally produced material, in native languages and concerning topics of local interest, could greatly benefit development efforts at the local level and go a long way in attracting women to use ICTs.

Of the several approaches to introducing ICTs in developing countries—access, awareness, and diffusion—only the latter is likely to reach women effectively. Access involves making Internet, computing, and telecommunications tools available. Once the technical issues are solved, those who already understand the advantages of ICTs—a relatively small segment of the population—will use them. In this model, entry and start-up costs are relatively low, but the risk is that the digital/gender divide within countries will widen. ACCESS THROUGH OUTREACH AND AWARENESS
In Savalou, Benin, the “town crier” announced the opening of a new Community Learning Center (CLC) providing ICT tools for public use. The CLC also spread the word through radio interviews, strategically placed posters, brochures, newspaper ads, and open houses. In Asunción, Paraguay, the openings of new CLCs were gala affairs, accompanied by music, dancing, feasts, and the local priest, who blessed the centers. In Kumasi, Ghana, the Queen mother of Mampong Kronko, Nana Aboagyewaa Kente, cut the tape to the new CLC facility. Effective outreach, using traditional methods to market new ideas, is the first step in providing public access to ICTs. To reach disadvantaged communities, advertising access to computers may not be the most compelling draw. Initially, what appeals may be much more basic---the photocopier, the fax machine, even the telephone. With time, other functions become popular, too: desk top publishing to produce letterhead stationary---or even Christmas cards--laminating of business cards, designing logos. Introducing ICTs in remote, rural, and disadvantaged communities is best achieved by focusing initially on immediate, locally perceived needs, moving to more sophisticated applications through orientation and demonstration sessions later.

Women want access
A new survey undertaken by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN agency dealing with telecommunications, indicated that “…women from all regions of the world showed a striking solidarity in the belief that ICTs are critical to them in meeting their personal and professional goals.” More specifically, “99% of the women surveyed said that access to ICTs is important to women entrepreneurs, with 97% agreeing that ICTs helped them to meet their professional goals.”15 Even women who lack a specific understanding 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, donors, and practitioners to build on this hope by addressing the same old issues that have confounded development for

women for years—to approach development, finally, as if women really mattered. In truth, we know what needs to be 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 (,,5901_434551,00.html). Michael Pastore, “Internet Gender Gap Remains in Canada,” CyberAtlas, April 9, 2001 (,,5911_737081,00.html). “Men Still Dominate WorldWide Internet Use,” CyberAtlas, January 22, 2002 (,1323,5901_959421,00.html). “European Women Surf to a Different Drum,” CyberAtlas, March 25, 2002 (,,5901_997491,00.html). 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 Seminar on “Assessing the Impacts of Telecenters,” World Bank, March 7, 2002 ( Ibid. Ibid. Ibid.










LearnLink is a six-year global communication and learning systems activity funded by the US Agency for International Development and administered by the Academy for Educational Development (AED). Mary Fontaine with Richard Fuchs, “The Watering Hole: Creating Learning Communities with Computers,” TechKnowLogia, May/June 2000 ( 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 (




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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 development 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 information revolution. ICT development strategies, though, must address the central challenge facing developing 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 opportunities to reduce the costs of the provision of services to low-income people. In many ICT-related processes, 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 undermining 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 levels of government. In 1992, Estonia had just lost its major trading partner and was experiencing hyperinflation 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 equitable 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 useful point of departure. These are primarily “descriptive” tools, rather than prescriptive policy instruments. The resulting country assessments are valuable to private companies and investors, and to government officials that may want to learn where their country stands vis a vis others. They may also help officials recognize important determinants of ICT sector development.

The first two columns in Table 1 briefly reproduce the key questions addressed by two of the most prominent ereadiness methodologies presently in use. The right hand column presents a somewhat different set of questions, compatible with a more inclusive ICT development vision. eForAll explicitly addresses the way in which a Government might approach the development of a country’s ICT capabilities to combat poverty in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.

Table 1. From e-readiness to e-ForAll e-readiness
McConnell International Harvard’s CID Network Access
What are the availability, cost and quality of ICT networks, services and equipment?

e-ForAll Widespread Access to Networks
Are there widespread low-cost means for the majority of the population to access reliable ICT networks, services and equipment? Are there specific programs directed securing full access by low-income people and enhancing development impact of ICT use?

Are networks easy and affordable to access and to use?

Human Capital
Are the right people available to support e-business and to build a knowledgebased society?

Networked Learning
Does the Educational System integrate ICTs into its processes to improve learning? Are there technical training programs in the community that can train and prepare an ICT Workforce?

Democratic Networked Learning
Do the Public Systems of Formal and Vocational Education integrate ICTs into its processes to improve learning by the majority of the population? Does it train and prepare a Workforce that is computer and Internet literate and is capable of upgrading its skills frequently?

e-business Climate
How easy is it to do ebusiness today?

Networked Economy
How are businesses and governments using information and communication technologies to interact with the public and with each other?

Networked ForAll



Are small firms, microentrepreneurs, small farmers and wage workers being incorporated into the network economy?

Networked Society
To what extent are individuals using information and communication technologies to interact with the public and in their personal lives? Are there significant opportunities available for those with ICT skills?

Networked Social Development
Are national institutions that support social development and security making effective use of ICTs and social participation in their delivery of services targeted to low-income members of society?

Information Security
Can the processing and storage of networked information be trusted?

Is e-Readiness a national priority?

Network Policy
To what extent does the policy environment promote or hinder the growth of ICT adoption and use?

ICTs and Poverty Reduction in National Development Policy
Is poverty reduction a centerpiece of national policy? Does it encourage and facilitate the application of ICTs to reduce poverty?

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e-ForAll: A Public Policy Guide for Poverty Reduction
e-ForAll is a strategic public policy guide to the application of ICTs in the fight against poverty. It is founded on three basic principles: • The new ICTs have an enormous potential to improve the livelihoods of low income peoples by reducing the cost of providing services to traditionally marginalized communities and facilitating the build up of constructive social 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 society. Public policy should provide for the competitive and transparent enabling environment to facilitate ICT business development. e-ForAll should also include concrete programs to open opportunities for the poor to increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods, empower them through participation in the decision making process, and enhance their security from adverse shocks and health hazards. • ICT development for socioeconomic change will require considerable State support and financing. Nevertheless, in a developing country context, State support cannot proceed without regards to cost, impact and effectiveness. ICT initiatives to combat poverty must be suited to the low productivity environment in which they are to be applied, and any subsidies required must be cost-effective and result in sustainable benefits. Table 2 incorporates these principles into a model ICT development program. The list of activities is meant to be illustrative, not comprehensive, and their classification regarding impact on opportunity, empowerment or security is indicative. In practice, overlap is expected and desirable.

tent that provides services that traditionally bypassed lowincome people, and by content generated by people themselves giving expression to their needs and aspirations. The value of ICTs in combating poverty will remain very limited as long as participation rates remain repressed. At the present stage of development in which most developing countries face significant gaps in access to ICTs, providing connectivity, and complementary support to make that connectivity truly accessible to the poor over and above hardware, should have the highest priority in an e-ForAll policy agenda. Shared Public Access One of the most economical forms of providing connectivity to the poor is through shared public telecommunications access facilities commonly known as telecenters. The commercial variety of telecenters (cybercafes, cabinas públicas) is common in some cities (e.g. Lima, Mexico, Quito, La Paz), but practically nonexistent in others (e.g. Sao Paulo). This is mainly because spontaneous commercial spread of telecenters is conditional on specific circumstances that are not always present in a country or community: relative prices of alternative forms of communications, a dense low-income customer base, low cost technical know-how, and popular familiarity with ICTs. Even where commercial telecenters are located in urban marginal neighborhoods, well-educated young people frequent them, primarily. To reach the large mass of low-income people, most of whom have limited education and are unfamiliar with the new technologies, specific measures – promotion campaigns, start-up investment capital, training programs, and demand support during the initial stages while users become familiar with the technology - will need to be instituted. These measures are costly. They yield high social but low private returns. Private enterprises can help provide the services but cannot afford to bear their costs.6 State Support to Increase Access How can the State help connect a large proportion of its citizens to the Internet without creating inefficiencies or going bankrupt in the process? Urban and rural areas require different strategies. The principal driving force leading to growth in services and quality and to lower prices is competition. It is the opening of telecom markets to competition from cellular operators that has brought about rapid growth in mobile telephony; in some countries achieving greater penetration than fixed landlines. Competition is so important that some countries, like New Zealand and Australia, are doing away with their regulatory bodies and relying instead on commissions mandated to advance competition.

Widespread Access to Networks
The Significance of Access The revolutionary feature of modern ICTs – mainly the Internet and mobile telephony - is their ability to facilitate low cost interaction among network members. Most presentday calls for “content” miss this key attribute of the new technologies. Radio and television have been around for a while and constitute broadcast technologies; top down mediums. Whoever controls the content controls the message. The value of a broadcast network is proportional to the number of members. The value of a point-to-point communications network is, by Metcalf’s Law, proportional to the square of the number of participants.5 Point to point communication is needed to empower the poor with a voice online and the ability to network and build up 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 to Networks Are there widespread low-cost means for the majority to access ICT networks, services and equipment? Are there specific programs geared to address access requirements of lowincome peoples. Democratic Networked Learning Do public systems of education integrate ICTs and prepare a computer and Internet literate workforce that is capable of frequently upgrading its skills? Networked Competitive Development ForAll Are small firms, microentrepreneurs, small farmers and wage workers being incorporated into the network economy? Networked Social Development Are national institutions that support social development and security making effective use of ICTs in their delivery of services to the poor? ICTs and Poverty in National Dev. Policy Is poverty reduction a centerpiece of national policy? Does it encourage and facilitate the application of ICTs to reduce poverty? a Does the regulatory framework stimulate fair and transparent competition, and the participation of a broad range of operators? Are there country initiatives to bring connectivity to remote rural areas at a cost that is sustainable and affordable, both to the State and to users? Are there programs to increase awareness in the population of the opportunities that ICTs have to offer? Are there efforts to provide support, on a competitive basis, to socioeconomic development initiatives that make use of ICTs to service the needs of low-income communities? Are efforts being made to ensure that the formal school system, teachers in particular, are fully equipped to help students benefit from computerized and networked learning?


Opportunity/ Security/ Empowerment

c d



Are there technical training programs in the community to prepare a workforce that is computer and Internet literate and is capable of upgrading its skills frequently? Is primary and secondary education delivering the strong literacy skills that ICT skills must build on? g Are there programs that make use of ICTs to address the educational and training needs of low-income adults? h Do public institutions use ICTs to make job information available online to improve the performance of labor markets? i Are small firms and microentrepreneurs being supported and trained in the use of ICTs to improve their competitiveness (productivity, marketing service delivery) and develop strategic partnerships with other enterprises? Do microenterprise service providers (savings, credit, training, business development) make effective use of ICTs? j Are there national systems of public procurement that facilitate supply by competitive micro and small enterprises? k Are there low-cost opportunities for poor people to themselves apply ICTs to strengthen bonds with other peoples and community groups and enhance their incomes and security? l Are ICTs being used to improve the performance and service delivery of agencies entrusted with food security, public health, public safety, domestic violence prevention and counseling, and disaster prevention and mitigation? m Are there initiatives specifically targeted to incorporate traditionally disenfranchised groups (e.g. indigenous peoples, women, persons with disabilities, unemployed youths, small and landless farmers) into the Network Society.? n Are there efforts to develop sustainable e-Government systems to service the needs of the poor, and engage their participation in the design and operation of these systems? o Is the State implementing an effective system of decentralized decision-making to engage the participation of low-income and traditionally disenfranchised groups? Are ICTs being used to give these groups an effective voice? p Is poverty reduction a centerpiece of national development policy? Is there high level understanding of the role that the State needs to play in order for ICTs to help combat 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, sustainable, accountable and cost effective? Does the public have a say in deciding what programs would be of most value and in shaping their design?




Institutional Viability

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Competition may be advanced through improved governance of regulatory frameworks and appropriate institutional incentives (item a in Table 2). This is one area where international cooperation could be effective - e.g. through training of regulators and assistance to help decision-makers understand and improve regulatory governance. Given the limited levels of competition typical in most regional telecom markets, the auctioning of special incentives, awarded to operators that are willing to innovate and introduce flat rate pricing, might be a suitable market-friendly, transparent, sustainable and cost-effective way of stimulating rapid expansion of Internet use among middle to low income customers (item r in Table 2). A competitive regulatory framework alone will not suffice to lure operators to serve low-profit remote, economically depressed and sparsely populated rural areas. Three Latin American countries – Perú,7 Chile8 and Colombia9 – have established reverse auction programs that award subsidies on a competitive basis to operators that establish and run ICT services in low profit rural areas. Most of the auctions have been for rural telephony; but Colombia has already had two auctions to establish rural telecenters and the other two countries are planning similar programs (item b, Table 2). A suitable auction design is vital,10 not just to assure accountability, transparency and sustainability, but to increase competitive pressures by encouraging a large number of bidders to participate (item r, Table 2).

education programs could help strengthen graduates’ ability to meet the demands of a modern labor force (item f in Table 2). ICTs could also improve the capacity of State funding agencies to monitor - through computerized systems online the effectiveness of their vocational training programs and help them redirect funds to fields and institutions offering higher returns. • Initiatives like Joko Clubs in Senegal,13 are demonstrating that ICTs make it feasible and operationally viable to train adults with basic skills (item g in Table 2), including literacy, in very low-income environments.

Networked Competitive Development
Cotahuasi is located in one of the most economically depressed, remote areas of Perú, 400 Km away from Arequipa. Per capita income is about US$ 250/year, much lower than the national average. Travel to Cotahuasi through rugged terrain takes about 12 hours by car, if the roads are good and you manage to arrive. If you ask Manuel Tejada, Executive Director of AEDES (, a lead NGO working in Cotahuasi, he will tell you that he is not engaged in e-commerce, that he is only making use of computers and the Internet to make his job easier. AEDES has in fact helped identify buyers for the local organically produced Kiwicha in European markets, organized local producers to supply that market, and gradually built up an export business that last year enabled 235 families to sell abroad about US$ 350,000 worth of produce. There are many NGOs worldwide doing similar work with varying degree of success. Their support, as part of a transparent, efficient, competitive funding program based on merit, would be a high priority initiative under an e-ForAll development strategy (item i in Table 2). With markets shifting rapidly and jobs increasingly temporary, a key labor policy objective should be to increase efficiency in the functioning of labor markets and reducing the amount of time a worker spends unemployed between jobs. There are good job market sites in Australia (, Canada (, and the US ( Unfortunately, developing country job information and placement sites (item h in Table 2) tend to be poor in design and are underutilized, mainly for lack of access of workers to the Internet.

Democratic Networked Learning
ICTs cannot redistribute investment in education to better match economic returns and social requirements, nor can they prevail over resource constraints. ICTs also cannot overcome the discrimination that in some countries prevents indigenous peoples from earning as much as their nonindigenous counterparts, even after accounting for all skill related attributes.11 But ICTs, combined with sound educational planning and public sector management in partnership with private sector and civil society organizations, can help lower the cost of provision of educational services and make a marked difference in extending the reach of a country’s educational programs and improving the skills of the majority of the population. Here are some specific cases. • ICTs can contribute to educational reform by enhancing school information, monitoring and control systems, and thus facilitating the transfer of decision-making to local administrators and parents. • ICTs can also help train teachers and increase the productivity of teacher and student training. Teacher training (item e in Table 2) is a central feature of Estonia’s Tiger Leap initiative to improve computer education in all of the country’s secondary schools.12 • Computer and Internet literacy training in vocational

Networked Social Development
In 2001, workers of Latin American and Caribbean descent living abroad sent an estimated total of US$ 23 billion to their respective home countries. It is bonding social capital, nurtured by point to point communications (snail mail, telephone, and increasingly even if slowly, the Internet) that ties family and friends across national boundaries and motivates and keeps these remittances flowing.

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Also, ICT use by Government and international agencies can help reduce developing countries’ vulnerability to natural disasters and to other kinds of risks (item l in Table 2). GIS and remote sensing are making significant contributions to improving natural disaster warning and forecasting systems in India.14 Another example is the efforts being made by Governments, with FAO assistance, to develop a comprehensive Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) that makes extensive use of modern ICTs to help guide food security policy and programming.15 Unless programs specifically geared to low-income and disenfranchised groups are introduced, the social and economic impact of establishing connectivity will be less than desirable (item d in Table 2), and the depth of outreach - i.e. the ability to improve living conditions amongst the most excluded members of society - will be limited (item m in Table 2). One striking case is that of indigenous people. They have a distinct social history. Their authority, organizational structure, language and view of the world are different. They often lack the formal institutional structures to benefit from existing social programs or to operate with effectiveness in local markets. Reducing poverty among them, as well as among other traditionally disenfranchised groups, will require the institution of special programs (item m in Table 2).16 ICTs can contribute in various ways, as for example in Guatemala through the training of teachers in bilingual and multicultural education, developing early childhood educational training materials, and by strengthening the cultural identity of Mayan communities (

be supportive of broader efforts to decentralize decisionmaking and to give local communities resources and a voice in shaping local development initiatives (item o in Table 2).

Institutional Viability
Information and communications technology programs and projects involve many disciplines and sectors, making coordination across disciplines and partnership with different kinds of public and private institutions indispensable. Nevertheless, achieving effective coordination is complex, and distributing competencies is no easy task, even though it is essential (item q in Table 2). It may require a redesign of the way Government agencies interact with each other, with businesses and with civil society. e-Government initiatives are recognizing the importance of coordinating across multiple tiers of government and are establishing Chief Information Officers to avoid wasteful duplication of effort.18 In planning programs to expand access to facilities and online services to serve the poor, interagency coordination and partnership with the private sector and civil society are just as vital. Consider school-run telecenters: the provision of connectivity to school labs, operated as public facilities after school hours. Commercial telecenters everywhere get very little business in the morning, which is when most schools operate and could make use of the service. Although in principle an ideal way to share scarce connectivity resources, school telecenters have in practice proven difficult to implement. School systems are usually run under highly centralized authority, whereas telecenters thrive under local management and decision-making. National school administrators are weary of sharing their school’s equipment and connectivity, and they discourage the charging of fees by local school officials. Without the means to pay for operation and maintenance (be it through fees or direct support if Government can afford it) telecenter sustainability is compromised. Some institutional frameworks are amenable to shared connectivity. In Canada, there is no equivalent to an "Education Ministry." Decisions on ICT promotion are vested in Industry Canada, which does not have to compete with other agencies in order to put in place its SchoolNet Program ( Perhaps a more suitable alternative might be to turn the concept around; i.e. to establish telecenters in the vicinity of schools, run by an entrepreneur or local NGO, to service school needs during the morning (for a fee partly funded by Government), and those of the community afterwards (on a commercial basis).

Vision and Commitment to Empower and Serve the Poor
Translating the potential impact of ICTs on poverty reduction into reality will require a vision for the future that puts poverty reduction as a centerpiece of national and international policy, recognizes the threat of increasing inequality in the information age, and applies the power of ICTs to combating poverty (item p in Table 2). Beyond vision, successful promotion of ICTs for development requires awareness campaigns (item c in Table 2). The objective is not to promise the impossible, impractical or unaffordable, but to engage the population and increase awareness of the importance of ICTs and their usefulness in everyday life. These efforts must also lead to a commitment to make services available online that respond to the specific needs of the poor. These services need not be operated by Government directly and should not substitute private sector initiatives. The example of the most successful private initiatives (e-Bay being a prime example) should be followed, and engage the target clientele in defining service needs and operational requirements (item n in Table 2). These services should also

Concluding Remarks
ICTs are no magic wand. Reducing poverty requires leadership, a national consensus that acknowledges poverty as a

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major problem to be overcome, and the will of nations to invest and make concerted long-term sustained efforts to achieve equitable growth. The solutions to poverty are generally known and often require action in matters that have little to do with technology. What ICTs offer is an unprecedented set of tools; an opportunity for a win-win situation that makes the provision of services and the opening of opportunities for the poor to improve their well being less costly to achieve. It is, nevertheless, an opportunity that needs to be seized and built upon. e-ForAll is a guide for ICT policy design. Its recommendations, summarized in Table 2, aim to offer policy makers

practical and institutionally and economically viable recommendations that put poverty reduction at the forefront. eForAll is work in progress. Its application is being tested on a trial basis in Peru, with funding from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and in collaboration with the College of Communication of the University of Texas, Perú’s Ministry of Agriculture. the Organismo Supervisor de la Inversión en Telecomunicaciones (OSIPTEL), the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG-Perú), the Asociación Especializada para el Desarrollo Sostenible, AEDES, and the Centro Peruano de Estudios Sociales (CEPES). With adjustments for context, eForAll 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 valuable 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 (OAS-IACD). A fuller version of the article will be sited at: A Spanish version of the fuller version will be sited at: 2 Darling, Peter, “From Communism to Dot-Com,” EuroViews 2001. ($4) 3 Park, Han Woo, “Digital Divide in Korea: Closing and Widening Divide in 1990s,” November 2001. ( 4 McConnell International, “Ready? Net. Go,” May 2001 ( Center for International Development (CID), “Readiness for the Networked World: A Guide for Developing Countries”, (, “Comparison of E-Readiness Assessment Models,” 14 March 2001, ( 5 Odlyzko, Andrew, “The History of Communications and its Implications for the Internet,” (Preliminary version), June 16, 2000.( , page 30. 6 Proenza, Francisco J., “Telecenter Sustainability: Myths and Opportunities,” The Journal of Development Communication, No. 2, Vol. 12, December 2001. ( 7 Cannock, Geoffrey, “Telecom Subsidies: Output-Based Contracts for Rural Services in Peru,” Public Policy for the Private Sector Note No. 234, June 2001. ( 8 Wellenius, Björn, “Closing the Gap in Access to Rural Communications: Chile 1995-2002,” November 2001. ( 9 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. ( 10 Proenza, Francisco J., “Comentario al Proyecto de Bases Concurso Cabinas Públicas de Internet,” 2002. ( nza%2Epdf) 11 Patrinos, Harry Anthony, “The Costs of Discrimination in Latin America,” Human Capital Development and Operations Policy Working Paper. ( 12 Darling, op. cit. 13 See Carney, Lisa, and Firpo, Janine. “Internet Training for Illiterate Populations: Joko Pilot Results in Senegal” in this Issue of TechKnowLogia. ( 14 Gupta, Alok, “Information Technology and Natural Disaster Management in India,” ( 15 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. ( 16 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. ( 17 See Lieberman, Andrew E. "Bringing Mayan Language and Culture across the Digital Divide" in this Issue of TechKnowLogia. ( 18 Accenture, e-Government Leadersip - Realizing the Vision, 2002. (, pages 15-16.

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ICTs and Non-Formal Education:
Technology for a brighter future?
Anthony Lizardi The George Washington University
NFE distance education included the following: • It requires fewer teachers to reach a larger number of learners. • It does not require new brick and mortar schools, and can utilize existing schools during spare-times. • It allows learners to continue to earn a living while attending classes during their spare time. • It becomes economical once initial startup costs are paid because the marginal cost to enroll additional students is low. (Siaciwena, 2000). Early studies showed that there was no significant difference in performance between students who received ICT delivered instruction and those receiving face-to-face instruction (Blurton, 1999). Once distance education was accepted as a legitimate way to deliver NFE, it has continually evolved by experimenting with new communication technologies and media. Developing countries have a strong desire to build the necessary human capital that can support a market-based economy. Consequently, the desire for Internet-based NFE distance learning is continually growing (Menezes, 2000). There is now a proliferation of NFE distance learning institutions that provide courses to adult learners. For example, the University of South Africa (UNISA) now uses ICTs to offer relatively cheaply priced courses that attract students throughout Africa (Menezes, 2000). Established in 1997, The African Virtual University (AVU), started by the World Bank, now serves 12 English-speaking countries and three Portuguese-speaking countries via the Internet (Menezes, 2000). These virtual universities are delivering high-quality professional training via distance education on the Internet. The latest ICTs are also being used to develop virtual learning communities for NFE purposes. Virtual learning communities 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 Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) project “… links students, teachers, and the scientific research community worldwide in a virtual learning community to study the global environment” (Blurton, 1999, p 13). Another example of an innovative virtual learning community was the MayaQuest project (Blurton, 1999). This distance education initiative created an interactive learning expedition with five bike-riding explorers who were directed by the collaborative decisions of online learners

Over the past thirty years, Non-Formal Education (NFE) initiatives have effectively used Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for mass literacy campaigns, training of health workers, and rural community development projects. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Coombs and Ahmed, and Sheffield and Diejomaoh helped to define NFE as an alternative form of education that addressed learning that occurred outside of the traditional classroom environment in schools and colleges by adults and children (Anzalone, 1995, and Robinson, 1999). Recent innovations in ICTs like Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite communications, the Internet, and CD-ROMs are helping to create new innovative learning tools that will profoundly change the way NFE is delivered. This article discusses recent uses of ICTs in NFE, and will also examine implications for the future. Early distance education NFE projects used print, radio, television, audiotape, videotape, and satellite transmission as an efficient and cost-effective way to provide illiterate adults and out of school learners with educational opportunities. With the development of new ICTs, the delivery mechanisms of NFE now include: personal computers, the Internet, the World Wide Web, CD-ROMs, and DVDs (Kerka, 1996). The use of new ICTs in NFE has created serious issues in the provision of NFE. The emphasis on using the newest ICTs has begun to shift the focus of NFE away from local community development and towards individual life-long learning. The push to introduce new ICTs into developing countries may foster negative side effects associated with consumer-based economies, the continued dependency on technology from industrialized nations, and the shifting scarce resources away from poverty alleviating programs. The future use of the new ICTs in NFE in developing countries will greatly depend upon how well NFE practitioners manage the issues associated with the use ICTs in NFE.

Benefits of ICTs use in NFE
NFE distance learning programs using the latest ICTs are beginning to provide workers with the opportunity to pursue lifelong learning. By the end of the 1980s, enthusiasm for formal education’s ability to mobilize needed human resources for economic development in developing countries had dampened. NFE distance education was recognized as a way to meet the needs of out-of-school learners and adult workers (Siaciwena, 2000). The attractive advantages of

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(Blurton, 1999). Over an eight-week period, the explorers visited 21 Mayan archeological sites, and documented their adventures using digital cameras and written reports that were posted on the web. Virtual learning communities allow learners to interact and exchange information via the Internet, and have the potential to revolutionize learning by linking students across the world (Menezes, 2000). New and innovative uses of ICTs in NFE are beginning to emerge that could produce a brighter future for those who currently live in marginalized communities in the world. New ICTs of the Internet, CD-ROMs, and teleconferencing have the potential to reduce isolation, facilitate greater communication, increase access to high quality educational materials, and be an effective delivery vehicle for innovative instruction and personal development (Wagner & Hopey, 1998). The Internet can create new channels of communication that can reach neglected communities. The Internet can stimulate learner interaction and dialogue to create new interpersonal networks from a bottom-up approach using shared local knowledge (Richardson, 1996). By taking a community-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 foster cultural pride. Additionally, the project intended to create a learner-centered constructivist educational experience using desktop publishing software. The project began with constructing a community computer center led by a team of community volunteers. This was followed by the installation of donor provided computers and satellite equipment. A collaborative workshop, attended by village children, rural teachers, and community association members, was conducted to develop the capacity to learn how to use desktop publishing software (Bers & Best, 1999). The collaborative methodology used during the workshop fostered the collective effort to produce an online community newsletter. The completion of the newsletter helped to strengthen the cultural pride of the community, and to bridge the gap between technology and traditional village life (Bers & Best, 1999). Many of the goals of the project were accomplished, as villagers became owners of the technology they learned to use, and became information-producers rather than information-receivers.

Problematic Issues with ICT use in NFE
Barriers exist that prohibit the extensive use of ICTs in NFE in developing countries. These barriers are a result of issues relating to access, cost, and lack of locally developed content. The pressure for developing countries to allocate the necessary capital to develop the capacity to effectively use new ICTs may result in a lack of funding for NFE programs designed to build social capital. The first barrier that prohibits the extensive use of ICTs in NFE in developing countries is the issue of the digital divide. The digital divide quantifies the lack of access of ICTs in developing countries. In the 1990s, 90% of the people living in developing countries had not made a phone call, and 40% of these people did not have electricity (Latchem & Walker, 2001). The statistical data of worldwide Internet use is even more disturbing. Only 2.4% of the world’s population has access to the Internet, and the graph below (Figure 1) shows that 7 out of 10 Internet users in the world come from either North America or Europe (Bischoff, 2001).

One major factor that contributes to the digital divide is the physical geographic structure of the Internet. The Internet builds on existing telecommunication infrastructure, which biases access to major urban centers (Economist, 2001). Consequently, access to the Internet for the vast majority of people who live in the rural sectors of developing countries is nonexistent. As the Internet is evolving, mega data servers are becoming more consolidated in developed countries because these servers need to be near large power supplies and high-speed data communication lines. As a result, users in developing countries suffer from low data transfer-rates that limited their ability to utilize the latest multimedia innovations that run on the Internet. The digital divide is not just a result of physical limitations, but it is also related to levels of educational attainment. The second major factor contributing to the digital divide is the high costs associated with purchasing and maintaining computer equipment (McLean, 2001). The costs associated with ICTs will force many education ministries to make difficult 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 will be needed for formal higher education systems. Higher Education systems can readily take advantage of the use of the Internet, by gaining access to virtual universities from across the world. Consequently, focus on higher education needs may limit the growth of NFE distance learning programs that primarily focus on developing social capital in marginalized communities. To summarize, new innovative pedagogical techniques that utilized the latest ICTs have the potential to dramatically increase the participation of disadvantage communities to increase their social capital. But the current reality of the digital divide prohibits the widespread implementation of new innovative uses of ICTs in NFE. The desire to develop the human capital for a ‘knowledge-based’ economy may shift scarce resources away from popular education initiatives to the formal education sector.

ICTs have been used in NFE to provide distance learning opportunities to a large number of learners over the past few decades. Distance learning NFE initiatives have used ICTs to increase work-related skills and productivity, and to help to build social capital for community development. But the digital divide may limit the widespread use of ICTs in developing countries. Consequently, the introduction of new ICTs into socio-economically disadvantaged communities can create both positive and negative effects. Therefore, the future use of ICTs in NFE in developing countries will have to find a balance between the need to increase human capital for production in a ‘knowledge-based’ economy, and the needs of marginalized communities to maintain their social capital against the continuing pressure of globalization.

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 Erlbaum Associates. Bischoff, P. (2001, June). Access for the poor: bridging the digital divide. Retrieved on November 26, 2001 from Blurton, C. (1999). New directions of ICT-Use in education. In World Communication and Information Report 1999-2000 [On-line]. Available: 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 Menezes, E. (2000, June). Some views on technologies in education in the knowledge society. Paper presented at the First World TeleEducation Symposium for Developing Countries, Manaus, Brazil. Richardson, D. (1996, September). The Internet and Rural Development: Recommendations for Strategy and Activity. Retrieved on November 18, 2001 from 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 Learning. Wagner, D. and Hopey, C. (1998, September). Literacy, electronic networking, and the Internet. (ILI Technical Report TR98-10). Philadelphia, PA: International Literacy Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.

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Packet Radio:
Not for All

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

The Packet Radio
Packet radio is basically the use of Amateur Radio equipment (“Ham” equipment) often operating in the 2-meter (144-148 Mhz VHF) band (or in the UHF bands around 400 MHz) providing both just “over the horizon” and up to a satellite communication. A typical packet radio configuration involves a PC, a radio transceiver, TNC (Terminal Node Controller), omni-directional antenna, and some communication software. (see Figure 1) The TNC basically assembles and disassembles the “packets” of digital information and converts them for use with an analog radio—the modem function. It essentially allows a “Ham” radio to serve as a network transmitter. The majority of such networks use an AX.25 connection protocol and although they can operate at 56Kbps, interference, terrain, and atmospheric conditions often limit actual speed to 9.6Kbps. As importantly, particularly for remote areas, one can use a microphone with a Ham radio to conduct conversations. For many situations, that is sufficient for the transfer of small amounts of information, such as weekly contact, and exchange of simple data—for example drug requirements at a remote health clinic, exchange of educational supply demands, updates on requests for teachers, or requests for as-

In the rapid surge of interest in Internet for educational purposes, a great deal has been made of “broadband” connectivity—usually connections with speeds in excess of 56Kbps.1 The most popular broadband options have been cable connections to sites (usually provided by cable companies) and DSL with speeds in the 512Kbps range. Many of the poorer, remote users of the Internet have been left out of recent developments. One quarter to one third of the world’s population live in communities without affordable access to telephone “landlines” or wireless telecommunication services. Many of these rural sites will remain cut off from effective communication for 5 to 10 years. Those institutions with sufficient money have been able to establish VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) sites averaging about $5,000 per site, with connection charges up to $400 per month on a satellite. These VSAT connections can provide up to 512Kbps connectivity and thereby provide good, reliable communications, but their comparatively high initial and operating costs have kept them from all but the best-funded education and health efforts. Recent examples of their use can be found in Uganda (Star Schools), Tanzania, and selected sites in South Africa.

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sistance with diagnosis. Because packet radio has been in use since the early 1970s, it is a mature and well-supported technology, and makes use of equipment and materials that remain comparatively inexpensive. While requiring more power than cellular technology, most remote, packet radio installations can be run off car batteries supported by solar cells, a motor vehicle, or even “pedal powered” generators. Typical installations cost anywhere from $700 to $1,800 excluding the PC. The transceiver can be obtained for around $400 to $1000, the antenna is a single pole or a so-called dipole (a proper length antenna strung between two trees), a TNC, about $200, $400 for solar panels, or half that for a pedal powered generator, and $100 for assorted software. The best computer for use with this installation is a laptop. Many laptops can be purchased for around $1,000 and can be powered from the same source that powers the transceiver. If a satellite connection is not used, then the airways and hence operating costs are essentially 0.

mission from the government to operate in the 2-meter bands. This periodically slows implementation and is occasionally costly, but once achieved, allows for very low operating costs.

Examples of Use
Packet radio technology is most often used where rural communication is either very unreliable or extremely costly. In countries of recent application like India, Indonesia, or Tanzania, both factors have led to serious projects for use of packet radios. In India, the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada, under its Pan Asia Networking R&D Grants program, has introduced wide-area network (WAN) using wireless packet radio modems to connect local NGOs, CBOs, and selected individuals. The primary purpose of this effort was to provide Internet access through an alternative means from the unreliable and expensive landlines available in Madras, Madurai, Erode, Coimbatore, Salem, and Tiruppur. Initial tests involved exchanges over a distance of 60 kilometers. Extensive tests indicated that the most reliable transmission rate was 9.6Kbps, even though higher rates were attempted. As importantly, a number of the test sites became licensed as Internet Service Providers (ISP), which then allowed them to offer additional Internet services. By the end of the project in 2000, there were 12 functional nodes to support local NGOs at minimal cost. It appears that the most important effect resulted from the benefit of improved communication and the actual experience of operating a WAN using lower cost approaches.4 Indonesia has created one of the longer-lived packet radio based WANs. Linking eight organizations including the University of Jakarta, Institute of Technology Bandung and Indonesia Science Institute and several ministries, these groups used low-cost equipment to bypass expensive wirebased networks. The radio WAN has been used successfully for about eight years and has also made use of the aforementioned VITA LEO satellite for periodic connectivity to European Internet—specifically the University of Aachen in Germany. Importantly, a number of the Indonesian institutions have reverse engineered hardware and software and have mass-produced the equipment for much broader use in the more remote islands.5 In recent reports, these institutions have exchanged research reports, emails, and in selected instances much more extensive collaboration on scientific work. Some secondary schools have also participated in the network. Others used Internet access through this WAN to participate in the U.S. KidsNet science application project. Tanzania, also using interested universities, has established both satellite-based communication via more traditional ground-stations, and packet radio mobile ground stations for

Packet Radio Package
A long established group, VITA (Volunteers in Technical Assistance) also provides a prepackaged, easy to use, packet radio set-up for “store and forward” satellite connection (called VITA-CONNECT) for $3,000 (including 2-meter base station transceiver, omni-directional antenna, and software). In addition, there is a $495/year annual cost share that helps support the operation of the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite that receives messages from 4-8 times per day during its passes over the earth station. Data transfer occurs at 9.6Kbps and each station is allowed 350 Kbytes2 of data per week—enough to exchange over 160,000 pages of text information. VITA CONNECT allows access through VITAinfo, which provides users with Internet access—the results of searches are then provided as appended e-mail messages.3 VITA is also working now with the WorldSpace Foundation, to effectively use the WorldSpace all digital radio capacity, in a broadcast mode, to provide low cost listener feedback on multi-media digital transmissions. WorldSpace satellites, in fixed orbits, are now broadcasting to both Asia and Africa, and have provided 5% of their existing bandwidth for noncommercial purposes. WorldSpace uses a dedicated receiver, which is presently not compatible with the European or U.S. digital standard, but can be obtained for around $200$300 and is commercially produced in several configurations. Some health specific projects using digital download through a Public Health Channel are now active in: Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, using the AfriStar satellite. Because most of these packet radios operate in the Amateur radio bands, which are licensed within each country, almost all countries require either an amateur radio license, or per-

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both terrestrial and satellite uses. These connections were made to allow collaborative relationships with U.K. universities, particularly the University of Southampton. As the packet radio effort gained more experience, more rural areas became a part of the project. In the past in selected parts of Africa, training of packet radio operators and facilitation of the logistics of equipping and operating individual sites has often been a key problem. HealthNet is an electronic mail network administered by SatelLife, as a non-profit support to health communication. Based on a Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) Satellite (called HealthSat-2), the Net uses packet radio technology described earlier. The service provides gateway access to the Internet and specialty networks such as NGONET. There are working earth stations in virtually every southern and eastern African country as well as Ghana, Mali, Cuba, and Brazil. In its multiple years of existence, the Net has supported: a Library Partnership Program (allowing libraries in developing countries to access resources in the U.S. and Europe); Dialogue for Health, allowing dialog links between developing countries and northern hemisphere institutions; interactive publications such as HealthNet News; and research capability using CD-ROMS built around MEDLINE. The service, through SatelLife also provides GetWeb, which allows low bandwidth access to the Web by accessing through traditional email links. Often times, where land-lines are available, they are used to link ground stations to other sites nearby using FIDO6 store and forward technology—often depending upon the presence of funds to support toll charges. The Net has also supported selected distance education functions. As with many other packet radio networks, each requires some level of coordination, prior communication, and ad-

ministrative support to ensure that both the technical and programmatic needs are being met.

Summary Issues
Packet radio links generally provide three things: 1. Low cost introduction to connectivity that enhances distance communication—increasingly with slow but available access to the Internet and to email—important for any far-reaching projects. Proven technologies that have now adapted to new Internet protocols and software options. Email and restricted Internet access are clearly the most important uses for this type of technology. A means to provide a “thin” connection to multiple sites, rather than just waiting until major infrastructure investments are made by poor countries in either cellular, satellite, or land-line connections.



While the generally slow connection available through packet radios limits how much “return” data can be provided, these radios represent an important alternative in a world still limited by available funds and infrastructure. 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. Motivated educational and health enterprises are able to develop small systems that can grow organically. As importantly, they allow an organization to use voice exchanges—easy to use and an important back up.7 Packet radio will gradually fade as lowcost cellular and inexpensive satellite options emerge, but for the 5-10 year transitional period, it will remain a very workable option for poor, remote areas.


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 transmission 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. 2 One kilobyte is equal to 1000 characters. It requires about 10 bits to create one byte or character of information. 3 See 4 See 5 See 6 See 7 Some important references for additional information: • Packet Radio: An Educator’s Alternative to Costly Telecommunications, TCET (Texas Center for Educational Technology. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. 1992 • Texas Packet Operating Guide: Texas Packet Radio Society, Denton, Texas. 1993 • •

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

Web Page Accessibility
Accessibility has become a broad term within the past few years, used to indicate the needs of large groups of individuals with varied impairments: mobility, visual, hearing, learning, and other impairments. Each of these groups has special needs for access. For example, individuals with mobility impairments may require lifts, or elevators to offices above the first floor of a business, while those with hearing impairments require visual cues when a nearby phone rings. 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. For others, however, access can be dependent on a number of different factors. People with visual impairments must rely on the accessibility of the web page and on their screen reader to take into account the elements of web page design. Certain web pages, however, implement elements that have the potential to be inaccessible. In order to understand the reasons behind a page considered inaccessible, web page elements and their characteristics need to be examined by all parties involved: the web master, the screen reader manufacturer, and the end user.2

Frames are often used to denote a static location for topical links on a given web page. The most popular design consists of two frames: one frame containing the links and another frame where the main content of the site will be displayed when a link is clicked. Frames can be very beneficial for grouping related content on a web page, but access (moving between frames) can be difficult to traverse. Frames require a document source by default (the URL). Although web designers can do their part by adding a NAME element to a frame, screen reader manufacturers are able to take it one step further. For example, Window-Eyes will read the title given to an HTML document that is loading into a given frame as the name of the frame, providing the user with a dynamic title every time a new page is loaded into that frame. If the HTML document has no title, then Window-Eyes reads the name given specifically to that particular frame (this requires the web designer to add the name element). If neither a frame name nor an HTML document title is given, then Window-Eyes will announce “untitled” as the frame name. This is an instance where the screen reader manufacturer took extra steps in making sure that the user would always be notified of the presence of a frame, regardless of whether the frame or HTML document was named by the web designer.

Elements of a Web Page
A basic web page consists of ASCII text code referred to as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). This language contains tags that indicate to a web browser how a page is to be displayed. There are tags for bold text, italic text, paragraph breaks, line breaks, tables, forms, frames, and a host of other ways of manipulating the text on a page. Web pages may also contain other languages to assist in how the page acts or reacts to user input. Some of those languages include JavaScript, VBScript, JAVA, XML, CSS, and DHTML. Web masters decide which language will provide them with the results they are looking for while designing a web page. Screen reader manufactures also must take into account each of these languages, and how their reader will interact with a page designed in, or utilizing, a certain language. Understanding HTML, however, is critical to understanding other languages, and will contain most of the information that the web browser and screen reader will communicate to each other. The following is a list of HTML elements that some accessibility tools deem inappropriate for a web page accessible to individuals with visual impairment.

Forms are designed to allow users to input information, and have that information transmitted to wherever the web page specifies. Popular examples of forms are order forms, search engines, and web based e-mail. Forms allow users to conduct online tasks quickly and easily, but can be difficult to traverse if they are labeled incorrectly. Forms consist of controls such as edit boxes, check boxes, radio buttons, combo boxes, list views, text areas, and buttons. Creating a form that is accessible requires forethought on both the web designer’s and screen reader manufacturer’s part. When a web designer inputs a control into a form, he must also provide an indication as to what that control is. If an edit box, for example, has no field label, there is no way for a screen reader to know what that edit box should be called. On the other hand, the screen reader must be able to detect a field label and read it correctly to the user. Although 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 control in order for the label to read correctly.

Tables are a collection of horizontal and vertical cells containing information that is relative to a column and row header. The most common form of a table is a spreadsheet. Tables provide quick access to large groups of information, but location in a table can be difficult to determine. Tables are unique in that they serve multiple purposes. While tables can contain formatted information (such as a spreadsheet) they are most commonly used to created web page layout. Cells begin to contain groups of data, rather then single pieces of information. Many web designers use tables to align images, and to combine links into groups of links. If a table contains structured data, in say a textual graph, then it will be useful for the user to be able to determine where in the table they are currently residing. If a table is being used for the placement of images, however, the cell coordinates contain little or no useful information at all. Allowing a table to be accessible is dependant on both the web designer and the screen reader manufacturer. Web designers can add special tags to table headers and rows, and the screen readers can pick up on those tags to provide information as to the location of the currently active table cell.

font family, font size, font color, placement, padding, borders, and special filters can all be applied to make web pages more exotic. CSS rarely causes inaccessibility and has very powerful features, but has little implementation among screen readers. A page that takes advantage of CSS is not only aesthetic but also auditory. CSS includes a number of styles that can dictate the way a web page is supposed to sound. These elements can affect speech rate, pitch, tone, spelling, and pronunciation. A web designer could state that a block of text is spoken slower so that important information is not missed. Screen reader manufacturers, however, need to take into account that these elements may exist, and look for them.

Communicating for Improvement
Web masters and screen reader manufacturers must be able to understand why a web page works the way it does. Often, web designers will use HTML editors that show the page as it is being developed. This is a fine way to design a page, but the problem lies in the fact that the designer may not become familiar with the code used to render the page. Understanding the code provides the designer with knowledge to fix accessibility problems that the editor may not understand. Screen reader developers must also learn to interpret what the code is telling a web page to do. This knowledge will provide the screen reader with the ability to take into account many features that were once considered inaccessible. There are many tools available to examine a site and provide feedback to whether it is accessible or not. Although these tools are valuable, they are not an end all nor are they the final say on accessibility. The only way to understand if a web page is accessible is to have a number of different people try it out with their own respective screen readers. If a web page causes problems in one screen reader doesn’t mean that it will cause problems in another. Although the goal is to be accessible for everyone involved, it is also the responsibility of the screen reader manufacturer to provide solutions. Through education, and an increase in web design knowledge, and by incorporating accessibility into the design paradigm, web pages can easily become accessible without sacrificing the page’s functionality. Web designers need to become more familiar with the code that they develop, and screen reader manufacturers need to become more familiar with how web pages work. With these two forces combined, an inaccessible web page will soon become a thing of the past, and technology will once again be available for all.

Many people confuse JAVA and JavaScript. It should be noted that they are two very different languages, and the only thing that they have in common is the word JAVA. JavaScript is a web programming language that allows for a more dynamic and interactive web page. JavaScript is very powerful, and provides a number of accessibility aids but, when used inappropriately, can cause a web page to become inaccessible. JavaScript is mostly used for the manipulation of color, like the background color of a link when the mouse passes over it. One of the more powerful features of JavaScript is the use of its accessible features, such as the key press. For example, if a page contains a JAVA applet that is not accessible, the web designer can implement a JavaScript key press to perform a task that would bypass the JAVA applet, thereby creating access. Screen reader manufacturers may need to take into account the different results that JavaScript functions can have. JavaScript can be used in conjunction with DHTML to create dynamic text on a page that changes under certain circumstances. A screen reader must be able to tell when that content has changed, and voice the change accordingly.

Cascading Style Sheets are extremely popular for manipulating the styles of elements on a web page. Elements like

This article is adapted from the Proceedings of the California State University (CSUN)’s Sixteenth Annual International Conference on “TECHNOLOGY AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES,” March 19 - 24, 2001. Published with permission from the author. [Online] 2 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 assessment.

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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 (RESNA)
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 needs.

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

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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 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 publications.

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.

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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. Dependency 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 increased level of independence; and helps to reduce the demand on caretakers for individualized, intensive assistance.

The Many Functions of Handy 1:
Eating System – The ability to eat independently is a major challenge for persons with severe disabilities and, therefore, is one of the first concerns in the development of Handy 1. A scanning system of lights designed into the tray section of Handy 1 (see Figure 1) allows the user to select food from any part of the dish. Briefly, once the system is powered up and food arranged in the walled columns of the food dish, a series of seven lights begin to scan from left to right behind the food dish. The user waits for the light to scan behind the column of food that he/she wants to eat, and then presses the single switch that sets the Handy 1 in motion. The robot proceeds onto the selected section of the dish and scoops up a spoonful of the chosen food, presenting it at the user’s mouth position. The user may remove the food at his/her own speed, and by pressing the single switch again, the process can be repeated until the dish is empty. The onboard computer keeps track of where food has been selected from the dish and automatically controls the scanning system to bypass empty areas. The use of walled dishes ensures that the food does not escape when the spoon scoops into it. Drinking System - During early trials, it emerged that, although Handy 1 enabled users to enjoy a meal independently, many users stated that they would also like to enjoy a drink with their meal. Thus the robot’s design was revised to incorporate a cup attachment. The cup is selected by activat-

ing the single switch when the eighth light on the tray section is illuminated. Washing, Shaving and Teeth Cleaning System The Handy 1 self care system enables people with little or no arm or hand movements to achieve independence in important personal daily living activities, such as washing, shaving and cleaning their teeth. The self care system's human machine interface is based upon the Handy 1 eating and drinking protocol, i.e. a single switch input used in conjunction with a scanning control methodology. With this practical device, users are able to instruct Handy 1 to pick up a sponge, move it into the bowl of water, remove excess liquid, apply soap and bring it to the face position, rinse their face and dry it using a warm air dry option to complete the task. The system is fitted with an electric shaver, toothbrush and drinking cup. All can be picked up and manipulated by the user in any order. Once chosen, the shaver or toothbrush can be moved by the user to any part of the face or mouth to allow shaving or dental hygiene to be performed in an efficient manner. Makeup Tray - A questionnaire sent to one hundred women with motor neuron disease found that the activity they most wished to regain was applying their own cosmetics. In many cases the women commented that their caretakers were unable to apply their makeup to their taste and their inability to present themselves well left them with a feeling of frustration and loss of self-esteem. The Handy 1 makeup attachment (see Figure 2) is designed to enable women to choose from a range of different cosmetics. Briefly, the system works as follows: when Handy 1 is powered up, a series of lights adjacent to each type of cosmetics begins to scan. When the light is lit adjacent to the cosmetic that is required, the user simply activates the single switch. At this point the Handy 1 selects the correct brush or applicator and applies the correct amount of blusher, foundation, lipstick, eye shadow, etc. Once the make-up has been applied to the appli-

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cator, this is then taken to the appropriate face position where the user is able to apply the make-up.

enable a new color pen to be chosen. Users were able to draw by activating the single switch when the light adjacent to the pen color they wished to choose was lit. The “Artbox” prototype was tested successfully in schools for children with physical disabilities. There was a high level of user and teacher satisfaction with the Artbox and it was concluded that the system could have the potential of being a useful educational aid for children with severe disability. However, several areas for improvement were highlighted, particularly the time delay encountered with the linear scanning lights and the viewing angle of the drawing board, which proved difficult for some of the more severely disabled children. A second prototype is now under construction incorporating the feedback gained from the pilot study.

The Artbox Prototype3
A study conducted at a UK Motor Neurone Disease Association Annual General Meeting, found that many of the disabled people interviewed spent several hours each day in an intellectually 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 disabilities are not offered opportunities to develop and exercise their skills of distance judging, creation and spatial awareness. 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 awareness. The prototype was mounted on an adjustable stand to facilitate its use with children or adults sitting in chairs of different heights (see Figure 3). Briefly the system can be described as follows: around a conventional shaped artists pallet were placed eight different colored felt tip pens which were housed in special holders. A light was positioned alongside each holder to facilitate any color pen being chosen and picked up. On each of the four edges of the drawing paper a light was positioned in order to allow directional control of the pens once they were in position on the paper. Also on the pallet were three further light displays labeled “up”, “down” and “new pen.” Their function when selected was to lower and lift the pen from the drawing paper and to

The necessity for a system such as Handy 1 is increasing daily. Improvements in medicine and the changing age structure in the world means that fewer able-bodied people are caring for an even greater number of people with special needs. The simplicity and multi-functionality of Handy 1 has heightened its appeal to all disability groups and their caretakers. The system provides people with special needs a greater autonomy, and enhances their chances for a more productive and fulfilling life.


Adapted from the Proceedings of the California State University (CSUN)’s Sixteenth Annual International Conference on “TECHNOLOGY AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES,” March 19 - 24, 2001. [Online] Published with permission from the authors. 2 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. 3 The Artbox project is supported by Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust.

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Augmenting Communication with Synthesized Facial Expressions:
A Conttrroverrsiiall New Technollogy * A Co n o v e s a Ne w T e c h n o o g y
Egolf, Donald B. Egolf, Ph.D. Department of Communication, University of Pittsburgh

From Voice to Facial Expression
Approximately 20 years ago, research in speech synthesis began to pay off. Devices were created that provided a functional level of intelligibility. And soon thereafter, devices were produced that generated intelligibility scores virtually equal to live voice comparisons. Voice choices also became available, most notably female and male voices. These research efforts enhanced the lives of many individuals who could not use speech as a primary means of communication. Currently, a watershed mark has been passed in the research effort to synthesize a person's facial expressions in synchrony with that person's speech. Facial expression technology emerged from a sustained NASA-sponsored research effort at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA. G-Tec™, Graphco Technologies, Inc., has recently acquired exclusive distribution rights to the technology, which will be co-developed with JPL. The technology has been called “Digital Personnel™.”

What is a Synthesized Facial Expression?
Digital Personnel is a computer-based facial expression synthesizer. It synthesizes animated, life-like, facial expressions of an individual in synchrony with that individual's speech. The system is speech driven, that is, as an individual speaks the appropriate facial expressions are generated simultaneously. To initiate the system, an individual is asked to recite a phonetically balanced passage that has all of the English phonemes represented in a variety of phonemic contexts. As the individual recites this passage, audio and video recordings are made. Facial expressions accompanying each phoneme are tagged and stored. This storage constitutes the basic database. The database can be “tweaked” by having the target individual give samples of winking, blinking, nodding, etc. These responses can be added to give the synthesized face more animation potential. From this database it is possible to reproduce an individual's facial expressions as he or she 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 webbased customer support, e-commerce sales, video-telephony, news dissemination, advertisements, entertainment, and distance learning, among others. In these cases, the communication is enhanced by the addition of an animated person on the other side of the monitor. For instance, a technical support staff can be looking through documents while still appearing 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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cation. They have been accepted by expressions? One such person might their users and in varying degrees by be someone with a degenerative the users' listeners. The acceptance of disease like AIDS or Atrophic Would someone who is facial expression synthesizers in Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), for communicatively impaired augmentative devices will probably example. This person might want to want to augment his or her not come so easily. In fact, many "bank" his or her facial expressions in the early stages of the disease, synthe communication with synthe- people recoil at the idea. Reasons for this response include the following. shortly after a definitive diagnosis expres sized facial expressions? has been made. ("Banking" means First, a person's face is intricately having oneself videotaped reading a related to that person's identity. When phonetically- balanced passage.) you think of someone, what comes to mind? In most cases, This would provide the stored data necessary for synthesizit is likely to be a person's face. To present a face that has ing facial expressions. As the disease progresses and the been synthesized from a sample taken at an earlier age, as sufferer becomes weaker, he or she still could communicate might be done in the case of someone who has a degenerawith natural looking synthesized facial expression that would tive disease, or to take a series of videotaped samples from a appear in synchrony with his or her own voice or a syntheperson with severe dysarthria so that fluid facial movements sized voice. The communication could occur in a telecommight be made to accompany synthesized speech might be munication situation or in the presence of a communication seen as a kind of deceit. partner. Individuals with non-degenerative neuromuscular diseases like cerebral palsy, for instance, might also want to adopt the new technology. Many of these individuals already use synthesized speech. And although their neuromuscular involvement may preclude them from reciting a phonetically balanced passage, videos of brief facial expressions could be recorded and attached to a synthesized phoneme bank. This process would allow the individual to present a speechsynchronized animated face during conversation. Again this might be utilized in telecommunications or in the presence of a communication partner. A third area of application would apply to teachers, therapists, and trainers. These individuals may want to record a bank of phonemes using highly animated facial expressions. They could then use this bank to synthesize their facial expressions as they telecommunicate, in visual training products, or as they speak “live” in the classroom having their enhanced images projected on monitors. Second, research has shown that the face is the part of the body most intricately related to self-concept. Having one set of expressions without a device and another when using a device with synthesized facial expression capabilities may not only be confusing to others but also to the user as well. Third, certain rules of discourse would be broken if the facial expression synthesizer were used in the face-to-face conversational setting. The device user's listener would be put in the position of having to choose between listening to synthesized speech and watching speech-synchronized facial expressions generated by the user's device, or maintaining eye contact with the user while listening to the device. The former may appear to be insulting and mortifying to the device user; it might be viewed as a form of rejection. Advantages in the use of facial synthesizers are many. Synthesized facial expression capabilities offer the users a wider communication bandwidth in that the visual or nonverbal is there to complement the speech. It may make the users more competent communicators. The user might apply the synthesized facial capability in all situations, or limit it to telecommunications, be it on videophones or across the Internet. In the long run, the users will decide. It will be the responsibility of researchers to provide the best facial expression synthesizers to help users make the best decision.

Synthesized or digitized speech mechanisms, packaged in any number of augmentative communication devices are used as compensatory mechanisms by those for whom natural 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 “TECHNOLOGY AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES,” March 19 - 24, 2001. [Online] Published with permission from the author.

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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 digital divide get glimpses of the other side. From television and the news, they have created an image of the connected world of global communication and instant access to unlimited information. Firsthand access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) is still very limited for the vast majority of people in developing countries. Nonetheless, ICTs are beginning to reach even the remotest villages around the world, and more and more societies that have lived in relative isolation until recently are finding themselves with at least one foot in the global village. Stepping across the digital divide often means leaving something behind. In the rush to embrace the new, much of 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 allegedly better, but to get there, they leave behind a part of their culture, language, values, and identity. The current weakening of many indigenous languages and cultures is well documented. However, a countermovement has been building in recent decades. Shorris3 and others have written passionately about languages being lost, along with the cultural information their words hold. Despite the tendency toward assimilation, many observers do not feel that a single homogeneous global culture is inevitable, and that technology will play an important role in reversing these trends. James Hrynyshyn believes that “Global culture does not mean an end to local culture.” He predicts that aboriginal cultures will “find it easy to identify themselves in the global culture linked by the net,” and

that the Internet will make it easier to “preserve artifacts of their culture,” which will only make them stronger.4 The hypothesis that ICTs can be an integral part of the struggle to revitalize a language and culture has been put into practice in a number of innovative experiences around the globe. This article describes the “Enlace Quiché” project in Guatemala, which is working in Mayan teacher training high schools to prepare the country’s future bilingual (MayaSpanish) educators. By installing technology centers in these schools, and working with the students and teachers to create Mayan language instructional materials, they are showing that it is possible to bring their language and culture with them as Mayans cross the digital divide.

Guatemala: Peace, Bilingual Education, and Technology
Guatemala is the home of 21 Mayan languages. Their use has persisted despite colonization by the Spanish and a harsh 36-year civil war. Globalization has affected the Mayans, too, as Western clothing becomes more fashionable and less expensive than traditional dress. Cable television and international music have made Western pop culture very much a part of the local popular culture, lowering the popularity of the marimba and other traditional instruments. There is no question that Mayan culture has been weakened. Women continue to dress in elaborately hand-woven clothing with designs based on the Mayan cosmovision, but men have

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adopted Western dress. Mayans with little education prefer 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 languages will die out, and the population will assimilate into the mainstream. Many Mayans and non-Mayans alike believe 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, multiethnic fabric and guarantee the right to a culturally and linguistically 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 materials in Mayan languages are still being developed and standardized. Parallel to the ongoing debate around bilingual education, ICTs have become increasingly more common in rural Guatemala. Computer use is routine in government institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other organizations. Computer academies offering basic courses and desktop publishing services are sprouting up in most towns. Privatization of the phone company has lowered costs and spurred investment in infrastructure, helping Internet dial-up access to reach more and more people. “In Latin America Internet use is growing by more than 30% a year—though that still means that only 12% of individuals will be connected by 2005. Broader expansion is limited by low household incomes.”6 It is clear that ICTs will continue to reach more and more of the population. As a response to both of these trends, Proyecto “Enlace Quiché” began in 2000, operated by the Academy for Educational Development’s LearnLink initiative7 and financed as part of USAID-Guatemala's “Better Educated Rural Society” package.8 The first phase of the project had two principal 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 the development of bilingual instructional materials. With these goals in mind, the project defines itself as “The link between the Quiché teachers and the technology of the new century.”

Bilingual Intercultural Technology Centers

Figure 1 represents the project’s vision of the centers. The multimedia computers, digital cameras, tape recorders, video cameras, printers, and other accessories are the most visible elements of the centers. However, they are only the points of entry used to develop future teachers, in both learning to be and learning to make. This thought spawned the slogan, “Teaching with computers, not about computers.” The centers are located in each of the five participating schools, offering services to students, teachers, and the community at large. In addition to their normal course load, students now have an extra computer class, and teachers are beginning to use the centers to prepare materials. The project has provided training on integration of technology and course contents. In off-hours, students can use the equipment for class work and personal endeavors. Most of the centers offer courses and desktop publishing services to the community. Fees from these services help to support the centers.

Student Projects
During the 2001 school year, the project coordinated two yearlong activities with each school to help demonstrate the potential of the centers for creating bilingual, intercultural 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 program and an audio CD of radio programs. “Our Grandparents’ Thoughts” is the name given to the CDROM produced using Microsoft PowerPoint. Each school followed an interdisciplinary process involving interviews with local elders, digitalization of information and images, translation, editing, and production. Teachers from different courses worked together with the students, who gained practical experience in writing in the Mayan language as they transcribed the interviews. They learned more about their culture. The final product is also a valuable resource for other students in the same schools and around the globe, because it presents authentic information about Mayan culture.

More Digital Resources
In addition to empowering the teacher training schools to create their own instructional materials, the project created several demonstration products that show the value of ICTs in Mayan language instruction. The majority of students in the selected schools has oral proficiency in the local Mayan language but are just beginning to learn the written form. To help the students learn to distinguish similar, but distinct, sounds, the project created a CD-ROM with a series of interactive auditory discrimination exercises and games. The rich visual and audio effects and functionality of this software have made it very popular and effective. 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 example, 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, students transcribed the stories and translated them into Spanish. 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 professional layout and printed a limited number of copies of each book. While the books were being finalized, some of the same stories were used to make radio programs. A small group of students and teachers from each school worked with a consultant and technician. They wrote scripts; then the participants 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. This CD is accompanied by a teacher’s guide, which suggests simple post-listening activities such as making drawings of the listener’s favorite character. These stories have been aired on local radio stations to reach as wide a population as possible, including the many young children who do not attend pre-school.

A third CD-ROM holds six digitized books about Mayan language grammar. While the CD-ROM limits accessibility to those with computer access, it does provide an inexpensive means to reproduce and distribute specialized texts that otherwise might not be available. The HTML format that was used for these books also opens up the possibility of adding interactive exercises to each text. The Ixil grammar

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text has more than 30 interactive exercises so the reader can measure his or her understanding of each chapter.

Final Thoughts
The dawn of the information age is reaching the remotest villages. Odasz writes, “No traditional culture will be wellserved by denying the reality of our fast changing world, or the value of more accessible knowledge and education.”11 Warschauer adds that most indigenous cultures have relied on oral tradition, song, dance, chants, etc. “for passing down knowledge and cultural traditions from generation to generation ... . This blending of communication modes is obviously well-suited to a medium such as the Internet.”12 Wuagneux reminds us, “Knowledge sharing does much more than pass on information; it adds to the self-esteem and self-worth of those sharing, and allows group members to see each other as capable.”13 Our increasingly interdependent world faces many challenges. One of the most critical of these is how to reach equality in health, education, and economic levels, without sacrificing the human diversity that makes our planet so interesting and likely holds the key to our species’ continued survival. An important step is to help Mayans and all other indigenous populations to take ownership of ICTs and cross the digital divide without distancing themselves from their culture and language. Just as the Mayans’ cornfields and temples have been part of the landscape for centuries, we must ensure that Mayan language and culture will have its place in cyberspace.

Internet Connectivity
It is important to note that all of the student projects were carried out without Internet connectivity in the centers. The decision to delay connectivity was partially due to lack of affordable options. However, it also was seen as an advantage—it did not distract attention from the planned projects. It is no surprise that the schools now see connectivity as the next step. They have become aware that being connected will provide them with fast and efficient communication tools, instant access to local and global information, and a means to disseminate their work in preserving their language and culture. As of mid-2002, shared VSAT Internet connectivity has been secured for one school. Three others are in the process of acquiring a telephone line for dial-up access. The fifth, located in one of the remotest regions of the country, is still waiting for an affordable solution. Looking ahead to this connectivity, the project web page10 already includes a demonstration web page created by each school. During 2002, center managers will be trained in how to administer the school web page. Intranets also will be set up to make information available within schools without permanent connectivity.

Odasz, Frank. Echoes in the Electronic Wind: A Native American Cross-cultural Internet Guide. Dillon, Mont.: Selfpublished, 2000, p. 82. 2 Weinstein, Jay A. Social and Cultural Change: Social Science for a Dynamic World. Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon, 1997, p. 190. 3 Shorris, Earl. “The Last Word: Can the world's small languages be saved?” Harper’s Magazine (August 2000): 35–43. 4 Zellen, Barry. “Surf's up!: NWT’s Indigenous Communities Await a Tidal Wave of Electronic Information.” Cultural Survival Quarterly: The Internet and Indigenous Groups (1998). 5 MINUGA. Acuerdo sobre Identidad y Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas. Self-published, 1995. 6 United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2001: Making New Technologies Work for Human Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 7 See 8 See 9 Described in more detail in Fontaine, Mary. “Back to the Future: ‘IT’ for ‘ECD’ Among the Maya.” TechKnowLogia (September/October 2001). 10 See 11 Odasz, p. 82. 12 Warschauer, Mark. "Technology and Indigenous Language Revitalization: Analyzing the Experience of Hawai'i.” 13 Wuagneux, Dianna. “Learning Relationships & Community Wellbeing.” Cultural Survival Quarterly

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