Originally posted on Blackboard by Lana Abdulsamad
Roughly ten years ago rural areas in Colombia were facing a major issue – a lack of ICT in rural education. For example, Caldas, Colombia, a predominantly rural area of poor coffee farmers, did not have a single rural school with access to ICT at the time, a reality that was furthering the discrepancy between urban and rural education and development, and worsening the nationwide digital divide. In an attempt to address the situation a local private organization known as the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia took matters into their own hands and created an ICT initiative known as ‘Virtual Schools’. Focused on providing “free and safe access to information and knowledge in order to improve fair and equal development [of] rural communities,” ‘Virtual Schools’ had three main objectives: 1. increase access to ICT for both rural students and teachers and help develop the skills necessary for use of ICTs; 2. promote the use of the Internet for both communication with others, and for gathering information; and 3. keep the rural populace informed.
The project gained support from the local and national government, as well as private and public organizations, and since its 1997 implementation, over 1,000 teachers and 6,000,000 students use them in both urban and rural schools. The project has received international recognition for its undeniable success in achieving its goals, and is evidence of the ability of successful ICT projects to transform and improve the living situations of individuals, communities, and nations.