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)
The Tanzania-based m-Education program called Bridgeit, locally known as Elimu kwa Teknolojia (Education Through Technology), involves an innovative process of disseminating educational programming directly to the classroom via a mobile phone. The program is a function of a multi-sector partnership involving Tanzania’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT), the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), the Pearson Foundation, the International Youth Foundation, Nokia Corporation and funded by a three-year $2 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Through the Bridgeit program, teachers are provided with access to a digital catalog of educational videos that are typically 4-7 minutes in length. The teachers download the videos from the server via a mobile phone connected to a television installed in the classroom. With each video comes a lesson plan crafted to allow teachers and students interact with the ideas introduced by the video. Hence, a typical teaching period would involve a viewing of the video followed by teacher-led exercises and activities aimed at reinforcing the ideas the students have just learned.
Leveraging the power of cell-phone technology, Bridgeit improves the quality of teacher instruction and increases primary school student achievement in math, science, and life skills. In Tanzania, over one year, Bridgeit has been implemented in 150 schools, training 1,544 primary school teachers, and benefiting 40,400 rural and urban students.
(Sources: ETD, IYF)
Technology experts from charity Telecoms Sans Frontieres are providing emergency telecoms services to the victims of the flooding in Pakistan.
TSF, which has been in Pakistan since 9 August, said it has been providing telecoms services to victims of the flooding to allow them to call relatives and friends abroad. Around 945 families have been provided with calls so far, according to TSF. “For many people, the call provided by TSF is the first call since the outbreak of the disaster,” the organization said. “Many victims have lost their mobile phone or are in places with no electricity to recharge or simply have no money to buy credit.”
According to UN officials, the Pakistan floods cover an area the size of England with up to 20 million people affected. At least 1,600 people have been killed, with health officials warning the toll could rise as water-borne diseases spread, TSF reported.
TSF said it has 8 mobile teams, equipped with satellite and GSM phones, in the districts of Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda and plan to operate in the country for at least a month. The teams are composed of one man and one woman to allow both men and women to make a call, TSF said.
TSF staff also provides support to OCHA/UNDAC and the other UN agencies in the inter-agency office in Multan, Punjab Province. This assignment is scheduled until staff from the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster and other OCHA partners (IHP) take over. TSF continues to coordinate with the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) as per further needs for ICT support to aid agencies.
Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) deployed to Haiti in January to respond the impact of the earthquake in the country. The charity specialises in setting up communications infrastructure to allow aid-agencies to communicate on the ground more effectively.
(Source: eweek europe, TSF)
Pakistan has been severely affected by unprecedented floods triggered by heavy rains. It has led to tragic loss of lives besides widespread loss of livestock, destruction of physical/communication infrastructure in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. Flooding has submerged whole villages in the past week, killing at least 1,600 people, according to the UN. Pakistan authorities believe more than 12 million people have been affected, with the figure likely to rise as flood waters head south.
Christian aid agencies have warned that the destruction of transport and communication links is leaving many victims of the Pakistani floods virtually “cut off” from outside help. Ashraf Mall, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Pakistan, said:
“It’s one of the biggest floods in the history of Pakistan. People need food immediately as they have lost their homes and possessions. But it is not proving easy to respond to this emergency. Bridges and roads have been destroyed and the disruption of transport and communication links is making assessments difficult, with many survivors effectively cut off from outside help.”
Some pictures of Pakistanis coping with the floods can be seen here. Some ways to help through your donations are listed here.
(Sources: SAMAA, Christian Today)
In cities and villages across Peru, basic information that was once nearly impossible to obtain – about municipal budgets, public services and elections – is now accessible through a few simple clicks of a computer keyboard. Comun@s, which stands for Municipal Communication at Your Service in Spanish, is a project designed by AED and implemented in cooperation with USAID and the government of Peru to bring more transparency and public accountability to municipal government through information and communication technology.
AED teams based in Peru travel to the municipalities to install computer equipment located in public kiosks, called Modulos Ciudadanos, and provide training on how to use them, including how the community can tap into new online systems established by Peru’s government. In addition, AED helps local officials create municipal Web pages with useful information for their citizens. The project provides training on the importance of transparency to officials and residents in 84 municipalities that are scattered across seven regions of the country.
“Through this project, people can actually approach their government, become involved in their government and feel empowered to take part in their government,” said Maria Victoria Pascual, AED’s chief of party in Peru. “They become a part of the future of their community.”
Information on the modules is available in three of Peru’s languages—Spanish, as well as Quechuan and Ashaninka. The most popular feature so far, Pascual says, provides users with information on how to obtain basic documents, such as driver’s licenses, national identification cards, and marriage certificates—and what those documents should cost, so that people trying to buy them aren’t taken advantage of at the local level.