Category: ITU



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)

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Nepal Wireless Project — tale of an ambitious leader


Connectivity and quality access to ICTs is essential for survival in this era of digital revolution. Mahabir Pun foresaw this in 1997, when due to his immense efforts his mountain village of Nangi in Nepal first embraced computers. A simplistic website connected his village to the digital world bringing along a large number of foreign volunteers to support his cause. The project had a humble beginning with donations of used computers from Australia, Singapore and Malaysia and several design topologies for wireless connectivity being tested, details here (all with help of volunteers). The computer was assembled into a wooden box integrating the discrete components. This was the beginning of digital age for students in Nepal.

By now, his initiative has evolved into Nepal Wireless Networking Project which has connected around 42 villages in rural Nepal through wireless technologies, creating new opportunities of education, agriculture, Tele-medicine and E-commerce for the villagers providing them with an opportunity to trade goods from live yaks to handicrafts. Numerous institutions and technology firms such as the Donald Strauss Foundation, the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology at George Mason University, the World Bank, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), smartBridges, Pacific Wireless, and others provided support in this endeavor.

Nepal wireless project is working with Open Learning Exchange for developing educational content in line of the national curricula. The main goal is to use the network for live teleteaching transmitted from one school to other schools in remote areas to overcome the shortage of quality teachers. Another aim of project is to link the health workers to the doctors and even doctors directly to the patients.

“We are using the wireless network for health, providing telemedicine services to the remote villages,” said Mr Pun.

The project is also helping establish communication centres in the Villages to enable the villagers to have VOIP calls for communication to other villages. The project has been replicated under the name of Makawanpur wireless networking project. A detailed report of the project is available here. The vision of Mahabir has inspired many people and now Himanchal Education Foundation is working to use the school as a community centre. Connected school through the wireless project would mean a connected community through connected school.


Hole in the wall started of as an interesting experiment by a computer scientist, Dr. Sugata Mitra (head of research and development at the National Institute for Information Technology Limited (NIIT)), in which he installed a high tech computer on his office wall facing a slum and left it for the children to explore it. Astonishingly children learnt surfing in a single day!

In 1999 the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank subsidiary, invested $1.6 million in a project entitled ‘Hole in the Wall’, in which computer kiosks were placed in urban slums so that street children with almost no education could gain access to computer technology. They found that the children would teach each other how to use these computers. The project encourages underprivileged children in India to learn from a web-based curriculum through Internet kiosks. The kiosks were installed in over 60 locations over three years (2000-2003). The aim was to improve education for poor children, with equal access for girls and boys..

NIIT went on to conduct further studies to determine if illiterate slum children could use the Internet without instruction. The ICT-education firm set up continuous video tape monitoring of the computer that they had set up. The video showed that young boys and girls from the settlement became highly proficient at using various features of the computer regardless of lack of proficiency in English, and without any instruction. Soon it became “an extension of their playground, where they can play together, teach each other new things, and more importantly, just be themselves”

Already ubiquitous in New Delhi and Mysore, the Hole-in-the-wall systems were then spread throughout the country including the underserved areas of Rajhastan and Jaipur and the difficult terrains of Kashmir. The Hole in the wall education limited (HIWEL) has now expanded and reached upto the northern states of Mizoram and Nagaland. Such is the popularity of the project that it has crossed the borders and become a part of the commonwealth connects program in Uganda and now (according to recent news) making its way for being piloted in UK.

HIWEL has been conferred the coveted ‘Digital Opportunity Award’ for its path breaking work in spreading computer literacy and improving the quality of education at the grass root levels, by the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA).

Dr. Sugata in his talk at LIFT 2007 explains the impacts and results of his hole in the wall experiments, while a candid review of hole in the wall is presented in an article in readers’ digest. Another video report by The Guardian shows the children exploring the computers and having fun in learning.

IT@school project – Kerala, India


With a population of over 31 million, the Indian state of Kerala — home to the IT@school initiative — has more people than many countries! IT@school, which provides ICT-enabled education to 1.6 million students per year in the state, is considered by some to be the largest educational program of its kind utilizing primarily free and open source software, thereby presenting a whole new model

According to the official website IT@School endeavors to enhance the intellectual productivity of teacher and the curricular comprehension of students. The work of the project saw 4 million students and 0.2 million teachers empowered in ICT through a network of dedicated 200 Master Trainers and 5600 IT Co-coordinators. IT@School is the nodal agency for implementing EDUSAT (first Indian satellite exclusively serving the education sector) network and runs an exclusive channel for education called ‘ViCTERS’ (Virtual Classroom Technology on EDUSAT for Rural Schools).

The project has now associated with BSNL to provide Internet broad band connectivity to all high schools in Kerala. The success of the Project can be visualized by the conduct IT practical examination in free software for about 4 million students, first of this kind in the world with so much vast resourceful deployment of free software. The efforts of Project saw deployment of adequate IT infrastructure to all schools including computers and other accessories. Single largest simultaneous deployment of FOSS based ICT education in the world.

The project also focuses on capacity building by providing hardware and software training to teachers along with special programs to teach them the use of ICTs in education. Infrastructure up gradation is also an essential part of the project along with several E-governance initiatives. So far the project has supplied 40,000 computers to schools along with laptops, printers, scanners and generators. A recent news report also suggests that the project will provide free digital libraries to schools in Kerala soon.

The IT@School Project, of Kerala’s General Education Department has joined hands with chip giant Intel, to deploy a dual language version of the Skoool Learning and Teaching Technologies website. The platform is expected to benefit teachers and students (and parents!) in the state by providing attractive educational packages in school level Mathematics and Science, as a free Internet resource.

A snapshot of the impact of project is seen in this video and an article here. IT@School Project, through its various initiatives, has enabled the educational system to make a paradigm shift to ICT enabled education from the conventional IT education. Michael Trucano the senior ICT and Education Policy specialist at World Bank has included this project in his list of ICT initiatives in his blogpost titled ICT & Education: Eleven Countries to Watch — and Learn From.

Village Connection Project (NSN)


Nokia Siemens Networks Village Connection is a connectivity solution enabling operators to capture the rural market potential by offering affordable voice and sms service to villages for a relatively low investment, serving a dual purpose: providing access and connectivity to remote areas while helping NSN to fulfill its target of reaching 5 billion mobile subscribers’ target. The project targets population with very meager income (less than $2 per day) and provides them affordable access by making it economically viable for the telcos (by significant reduction in CAPEX). The major advantage lies in the cut down in the prices of infrastructure and equipment.

“The coverage uses modular, compact GSM Access Points, comprising radio frequency, power and a standard PC with Access Point software.”

Such is the potential of this project that it introduces a new business model for telcos. Other vendors like Huawei is also considering the Village Connection solution. The local access point is generally installed with an omni-directional antenna with customer premises equipment (CPE) which can be hosted with a local entrepreneur, moreover, very little network planning is required. Diesel powered generators and solar panels ensure power access during electric supply outages. The solution ensures that local calls are switched locally and the billing services can also be pushed to local entrepreneurs handling the equipment.

The Village Connection solution supporting voice and SMS can be easily expanded into range of value added services. Internet Kiosks provide internet access to the locals through the village connection. The inherent IP connectivity of GSM access point ensures internet connectivity. The solution has been successfully implemented in many countries, starting from India and extending out to Tanzania (by Vodafone). The brochure of Village Connection can be accessed here.

Fundacion Omar Dengo, Costa Rica


The partnership between the Ministry of Education and Fundación Omar Dengo in Costa Rica is seen by many as a model for introducing, implementing and evaluating technology use in education. The Omar Dengo Foundation (ODF) is a private non-profit organization that has been managing and carrying out national and regional projects in the fields of human development, educational innovation and new technologies since 1987. Its different projects have benefitted more than 1.5 million Costa Ricans, including children and young people, students, educators, professionals, people from the community, and senior citizens, contributing to renovation of the national educational processes by introducing and taking advantage of digital technologies. A few programs of  ODF are highlighted below.

Through Innov@ Institute, the unit responsible for creating proposals for programming and the products and services offered, the organization has gained expertise in ‘education informatics’, ‘cognition, programming and learning’, ‘digital government’, ‘robotics and learning’, ‘entrepreneurship and digital productivity’.

Labor@: Centers for entrepreneurial practice” teaches the high school students, office productivity software, logical reasoning and effective use of ICTs in business – by providing a simulation of working in a firm, a part from, business management and entrepreneurial skills.

Explor@: Using digital technologies to foster youth talents” is collaboration of government with Walmart and Microsoft aimed to target 20,000 youth inspiring them to use ICTs for innovation. The project organizes workshops for electronic game design, digital newspaper editing, web-designing, disaster prevention, data processing packages and software.

The magazine Zon@ M is a digital newspaper distributed twice each year over the Internet, prepared by students in grades 7, 8, and 9 who participate in the Digital Journalism Club.

CADE program is an educational program designed to promote active citizenship. The program seeks to strengthen and develop deliberative capabilities in children and adolescents using digital technologies as didactical resources.

Robotica is an Educational Robotics Program providing a digital environment relying on digital technologies and inspiring innovation, creativity, thought, analysis, design and troubleshooting. The program also includes training for teachers and a discussion blog. The official website states the motive as:

“The purpose is to use the work done on projects to create a scientific-technological culture where the students prepare significant programming products, build prototypes related to industrial or technological process simulation, or recreate sites and events linked to their socio-cultural setting.”

New Millennium is a digital magazine for students published on the Internet in two annual editions. This project seeks for Costa Rican students to be creative and active Internet users, using this medium to express themselves and share what they have learned with boys and girls from around the world. In addition, it is an attempt for students to be able to appropriate the technology, i.e, know how to use it and build significant products.

Edunov@ explores the use of mobile technology in education.

Reviews of Omar Dengo Foundation’s project can be seen here, here and here.

Innovative ICT-enabled educational practices in Australia


Australia’s primary school students are now being equipped with the skills needed for the digital age. School students are now being switched on to some of the most up-to-date technology available, from laptop computers for students in years 9-12 to interactive whiteboards, video-conferencing equipment and even virtual classrooms.

The West Australian Education Department recently trialled a program that allowed students and teachers to download free information and resources through iTunes U – an area of the iTunes store offering free education content from top institutions around the world.

students using interactive whiteboard in a school in NSWSchools throughout Australia will be using the technology of interactive white-boards, which have the capabilities of connecting immediately to the internet so students and teachers can access information immediately. By connecting the whiteboards to a laptop computer and projector, teachers can also convert freehand writing on the whiteboard into text, and then print it for students.

The Victorian education department is now trialing virtual classrooms – a computer accessible, online learning environment intended to fulfill many of the learning facilitation roles of a physical classroom. The
Queensland Education Department has a similar concept in the Learning Place – a comprehensive online eLearning environment available to all staff and students with anywhere, anytime access through a dedicated portal.

Source: Sydney morning herald

MAB using TTS to bring internet to visually impaired


NormalText-to-speech (TTS) is an application that converts text on a webpage to synthesized speech so that people unable to read the text owing to their visual impairment could understand the web content with their hearing ability. Over the years, the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) has been working very hard to provide training in this aspect for blind people.

Rahim using internetAccording to MAB’s  ICT manager Encik Silatul Rahim bin Dahman: developed countries have made it compulsory through legislation for web content operators to conform to a set of design guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) in order to facilitate the “reading” of their content with the help of TTS technology. For instance, every image on the web page must be tagged with an alternative text so that visually challenged web users could “listen” to the text read out to them by the speech synthesizer.

Otherwise, what they might hear could just be jumbled up vocals that do not make sense to them. He pointed out that TTS is not only applicable to personal computers; it could also be applied to mobile phones.

Rahim was the first blind Malaysian to have received TTS training in the United States. He helped set up a training centre in Penang upon his return to the country in 1993,
while the centre at Brickfields began its operation in 2005. Another training centre was recently set up in Kuching, Sarawak this July. “I may be 100% blind but the internet has taken away 50% of my disability,” says Rahim.

Normally it takes a learner about five days to pick up the fundamental skills of surfing the net with TTS. There are some 30 computers at the centre open for visually handicapped individuals to use. There are currently 20,500 blind people
registered with the Social Welfare Department, of whom some 2,000 people or about 10% have received TTS training from the MAB. Other than providing training courses for local blind people, MAB also offers courses for people from other regional countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia. In addition to IT training, MAB also provides a broad range of other services to help the blind people, including rehabilitation, recreational facilities, pre-school programes, vocational training (woodwork, massage, reflexology, computer programming, etc.) as well as disaster relief.

Sources: MySinchew, The nut graph
(image courtesy to nut graph)


“Partners in Learning” is a global initiative designed to actively increase access to technology and improve its use in learning. Since its launch in 2003, Partners in Learning has touched the lives of more than 135 million students, teachers, and education policymakers in 101 countries.

Its program “Innovative Schools” helps schools around the world to move beyond the limits of the classroom and traditional learning models. For instance, In Singapore, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and Microsoft have initiated BackPack.NET, an ambitious five year program which encourages inquiry, creativity, and student-centered learning through advanced applications of technology in the classroom. It includes a pilot project that puts Tablet PCs into the hands of every student at a number of “pioneer schools.”

“Innovative Teachers” connects and empowers educators worldwide. For example, in India, Microsoft is working with education departments, colleges, and universities to incorporate pre-service information and communications technology (ICT) curriculum in a sustainable and scalable model. Already, 160,000 teachers and hundreds of teacher educators have been trained in ICT skills. The Innovative Teachers Network enables teachers to learn from one another and work collaboratively on new approaches to learning through national or region-wide portals. Today, on a daily basis, more than 400,000 teachers on 52 local networks connect and share ideas, practices, and professional development resources.

“Innovative Students” aims to provide students with access to programs and curriculum that help fully integrate technology into the learning process, both in school and at home. It also enables qualified governments to provide used computers and affordable software to underserved primary and secondary student households that aspire to own a PC. Microsoft is also supporting the Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) research project to contribute information and policy insights on effective education transformation.

Detailed information about Microsoft Partners in learning initiatives in five Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam can be found in this case study.

Source: Adapted from Microsoft Partners in Learning webpage and brochure.

UNESCO SchoolNet Project in South-east Asian Countries


SchoolNet is an initiative that promotes the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in learning through supporting the connection of schools to the Internet and by creating a network of schools. The UNESCO SchoolNet project, “Strengthening ICT in Schools and SchoolNet Project in ASEAN Setting”, was initiated in recognition of the need to assist teachers in integrating ICT into teaching and to facilitate participation of teachers and students in the Asia-Pacific region in SchoolNet telecollaboration activities.

The project was launched in July 2003 and focuses on three subject areas, languages, mathematics and science. SchoolNet activities have been piloted in 24 schools in8 participating countries of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) region: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam.

The UNESCO SchoolNet project aims to encourage use of ICT in teaching-learning, improve connectivity, expand access to the wealth of educational resources available via the Internet and establish and promote SchoolNet in the Asia-Pacific region. National coordinators facilitate project implementation in each participating ASEAN-region country. Project partners include Japanese Funds-in-Trust and ASEAN Foundation.

Source:UNESCO SchoolNet Project resource

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