The Bangladeshi mobile operator Grameenphone (of Telenor Group) has set up more than 500 Community Information Centers (CICs) across the country, offering low-rate, but high-speed voice, data and other communication services to previously unconnected people.
Set up with technical assistance from the GSM Association in 2006, Grameenphone CICs are equipped with a minimum of a computer, a printer, a scanner, a webcam and an EDGE-enabled modem to access the Internet. The CICs provide high speed Internet access in rural areas, where the nearest Internet facilities would otherwise be at least 20-30 miles away. The centres are extending connectivity to those who have no alternative access to communication technologies and to those with little to spend on such services.
The CICs are designed to be run independently as small businesses by local entrepreneurs. The centres are set up in selected rural areas around the country, and people pay a small fee to access email or Web pages. Together with partners, Grameenphone also provides microcredit if needed and trains the entrepreneurs so that they become aware of the full potential of their business.
Digicel, in partnership with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, is starting a new initiative which will deliver broadband internet service for free to communities and schools across the twin-island nation.
The initiative – entitled “Technology for Communication, Education and Empowerment” – is a joint initiative between Digicel and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and will use Wi-Fi technology to bring Broadband Internet into 3,000 homes across the communities of Grays-Green, Yorks, and Lower Gambles, as well as more than 5,000 secondary school students.
Digicel is partnering with the government to provide community computer access centres in 12 secondary schools, which will include the physical infrastructure as well as the furniture and air-conditioning. Each of these community access centres will accommodate at least 20 students. The initiative will significantly increase the number of households with regular access to the Internet as schools, homes, and villages get connected for the first time.
(Source: Caribarena Antigua)
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré and Mr Paulo Campos, Vice-Minister for Public Works, Transport and Communications of Portugal, signed an agreement that Portugal, through its e-School International programme, will provide comprehensive technological solutions for schools in a number of interested countries as part of ITU’s Connect a School, Connect a Community initiative. This announcement follows through on a commitment made by Portugal during the ITU World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF), in Lisbon in April 2009. Some twenty countries will benefit from this first phase, with the initiative supporting the launch of one connected school project per country.
Each project will test innovative approaches using ICT in the classroom, measure the impact, showcase the benefits and share lessons learned. The assistance to participating countries will include: 1) New laptops (up to a maximum of 50) for a group of students and teachers in one school per country, 2) Laptops equipped with software and educational content,3) A smart board in each classroom, connected to the laptops to facilitate interactive e-learning,4) Wireless modems along with a school server, 5) Broadband internet connectivity provided by the local partner.
A multi-partner, international group of experts will support project implementation, including the development of a national school connectivity plan.
(Sources: ITU news, Moneybiz)
Qatar’s vision to empower and enable people with disabilities through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is receiving a boost with Mada, the Qatar Assistive Technology Centre. Since the non-profit organization opened on June 1 this year, a number of individuals have benefited from its state-of-the-art resource centre, described as the region’s only one of its kind.
The centre features interactive assistive technology (AT) environments for the visually impaired, hearing impaired, learning disabled and people with disabilities.The Mada resource centre is a showcase of cutting-edge technology, including computer software that reads the screen for the blind, eye tracking devices that allows to control a computer with eye movement, voice recognition, switch solutions that allow a computer to be controlled with a single movement such as sipping or blowing through a tube and word prediction.
There are separate workstations for individuals with hearing, visual, learning or physical disabilities. Screenreader solutions such as Ibsar and Jaws enables blind users to read, on their own, printed books and documents as well as electronic files. Ibsar helps them write texts in both Arabic and English, in addition to saving and printing these texts in Braille. The software speaks the text on a computer screen in both Arabic and English. With a screenreader a blind user is able to access the Internet and read websites, or send, receive and manage e-mail.The Tobii eye-tracking computer allows someone with no physical control of their body, other than eye movement to take control of a computer through which they can communicate, control the environment, browse the web and even play games.
(Source: Gulf Times)
Tostan has come up with an intriguing way to teach basic literacy and numeracy, by tying it to the use of mobile phones, through their Jokko Initiative in Senegal. As part of this program, they teach basic literacy and numeracy to community participants, particularly women and girls.
They teach the cost-efficiency of sms texting relative to placing a call, which has immediate impact on the girls’ lives. They can use their newly acquired ability to read and write in their national language, Wolof, from the Community Empowerment Program, to compose and read text messages without assistance. Then, participants apply the skills they’ve gained to specific themes (such as health, agriculture, and the environment) relevant to their everyday lives. For example, to send text messages about vaccinations and awareness-raising campaigns, to make appointments at health clinics, and to ask for advice on matters concerning health and hygiene.
Tostan, UNICEF, and the Center of Evaluation for Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkeley, recently completed an evaluation of Jokko that shows great promise for using text messaging as a means for improving literacy and community development.
South Africa’s Vodacom has launched the VF 247 low-cost solar powered cellphone. Developed by Vodafone, this device has the unique ability to charge on the go and makes it possible for people to benefit from mobile communications even in areas where electricity is scarce.
The VF 247 is designed with an integrated solar panel, and the special built-in Sun Boost software ensures that the phone charges even when it’s not in direct sunlight. Charging the phone in sunlight for an hour or two every day should be enough to cover the power needs for average users, but if the battery runs low the phone can be topped up with a traditional mains power charger.
“Cellphones are the primary means of communication for millions of South Africans and thanks to our association with Vodafone we’re able to supply this new solar powered handset which makes it as easy and practical as possible for people to connect. In many communities, electricity supplies are intermittent or non-existent, but with this new handset people won’t have to worry about when they are next going to be able to charge the battery,” said Shameel Joosub, Managing Director of Vodacom South Africa.
The VF 247 is an easy to use device that has all basic voice and text features along with FM radio, torch and a colour display and can be purchased from your nearest Vodacom retail outlet for less than R300.
(Source:it news Africa)