Tag Archives: computers

World Bank Blog: How to Design an ICT Program for Education

In a blog post posted on EduTech, a World Bank blog on ICT use in education, author Michael Trucano, a senior ICT and education specialist, relays tips for how to plan an ICT program that will make an impact in education. Trucano first establishes that the country in which a program would be implemented needs to have the infrastructure to implement and maintain it. He emphasizes that the students and teachers both need to see the benefit of using computers and technology in the classroom.

On that note, if this technology does not exist in the classroom already, how should it be introduced and monitored over time?

According to another blog post by Trucano, giving students computers is not enough. As the post cites, a paper by Felipe Barrera-Osorio, a World Bank Economist and Leigh Linden of Columbia University, after analyzing 97 schools in Colombia, they found that computers had little impact on performance. The issue is that the programs “[fail] to incorporate the computers into the educational process.”

The Digital Divide at Home

As students studying International Development, it’s often hard for many of us to remember that many of the “issues” we perceive to be challenges in only developing countries are actually also present in our own communities.

“Girard College Focuses on ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ During MLK Day of Service” helps us to remember that many Americans lack access to things that can improve their lives, especially technology. To commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.,  a day of service was held in Philadelphia, and one of the service initiatives included a donation of netbooks by Girard College to 150 residents of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The service also included helping residents learn how to use the computers, the internet, and to utilize online resources to help them find jobs and to apply for schools. According to the article, “‘Forty-one percent of Philadelphia households don’t have access to the Internet,'” a figure that seems, at least to me, astonishing for a relatively large city in the United States. The article stresses how important computer and internet skills are crucial to success in this modern era. 

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District also served its community on MLK Day by providing 50 students and their families with “free computer and internet access for one year.” The lucky students watched a video, “‘How computers are used in education today,’” an apt reminder of the wide use of technology in classrooms.This digital gift is important because many students do not have computers at home, which can make it difficult for them to do assignments and to keep up technologically and socially with peers who do have computer and internet access at home.

Finally, technology also factored into service on MLK Day in the Champagne, Urbana, and Savoy communities in Illinois. UC2B (Urbana-Champagne Big Broadband), “an intergovernmental consortium of the University of Illinois and the cities of Urbana and Champaign dedicated to building and operating an open-access fiber-optic broadband network throughout the Champaign-Urbana area,” was looking for a way to spend its “community benefit” funds. Through these funds, UC2B hopes to eliminate the “digital divide” in its communities. Although how these funds will be used has not been yet determined, suggestions have been made that echo what both Girard College and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District have done – donating computers and internet services and teaching community members how to use both. However, a more interesting suggestion has been to increase employment opportunities in the community by “provid[ing] job training for the installation of fiber optic material to area homes.” This would certainly help citizens in more than one way.

All in all, although our country does not have as significant a “digital divide” as developing countries, there are many Americans who are marginalized by their inability to access certain technologies. It is clear, however, that institutions and individuals are helping to close this divide, and as students, we can also help with this effort.

US Government Informs and Readies Citizens to Thwart Cyber Attacks

Click here to go to FEMA Ready.gov website page and view how this government agency hopes to educate US residents to thwart cyber attacks by terrorist organizations.

Cyberterrorism and cyber-attacks are not a new development, but, have been evolving recently into an increasingly volatile and serious threat to many countries. While searching for information about cyber attacks for this blog post I came across the United State’s FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) page in which it hopes to educate and inform residents of the US about the nature of cyber attacks, what some of the greatest possible risks are, how they can affect the average resident, and what one should do before, during, and after a cyber attack event.

I found this page very informational. While many have a bad taste in their mouth after saying FEMA, I think they are being very proactive and forward thinking by trying to inform the general population of the risks of cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are not something that many individuals have in the forefront of their minds, and some may not even be aware of the concept at all. By making it clear that all are at risk for cyber attacks and that even someone who thinks that they do not have important information or connections can be at risk and put others at risk through the use of their computer to infiltrate other computer networks remotely.

I also think how FEMA chose to organize its page, with tabs for what to do before (preparation), during (reaction), and after (assessment) a cyber attack, is very smart. They provide not only information that might cause fear in some or nervousness (the possible effects of an attack), but, also how to mitigate and prevent these attacks from happening. As I have learned in Public Health, whenever fear is used as a way to influence people, it is important to provide ways in which individuals can react to that fear in order to have a project which has impact, and FEMA does just that.

FEMA goes one step further by providing additional information and ways in which individuals can stay connected and ahead on this issue by signing up for listserv’s about cyber security. As cyber attacks become more and more common and destructive it will be interesting to see what additional measures government agencies take to inform their populations about the threat.

ICT Savvy Universities in East Africa

Within the education sector, ICTs are used to access information from many different mediums. This can be accessed from computers, laptops, mobile phones, e-readers, radio, etcetera. In East Africa, a recent list of universities has been announced, ranking the best “ICT Savvy” institutions in the region. Five Kenyan universities were among those top 100 establishments. Universities in Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania were highly ranked as well.

The Top Universities:

Makerere University of Uganda


Busitema University of Uganda

School of Finance and Banking of Rwanda

African Virtual University of Kenya

Makerere University

University of Nairobi

Mount Kenya University

Kenyatta University

The various universities were measured based on “how universities have complied with ICT in terms of embracing technology for both students and lecturers.” Between April and October 2012, a survey was created in determining which higher education institutions made the cut regarding ICT use in teaching and enhancing education. Face-to-face questionnaires were conducted in determining these factors. The universities that best met the practices of management, development, and sustenance of university education worldwide made the list.

What is interesting to note is that these universities in East Africa are keeping up with international universities in embracing ICT facilities. Kenya, in particular, has heavily invested in ICT compared to other African universities. Hopefully this spreads to include many more universities in time to come. This is exciting news within the education sector for ICTs.

IT@School Program in India

There are many ways that ICTs can play a role in making education more effective and efficient. However, as our examination of One Laptop Per Child policies a few weeks ago demonstrated, simply distributing technology to classrooms or children in the developing country is not sufficient. Instead, a more nuanced and holistic approach is necessary. In India, the IT@School program addresses some of these concerns.

The IT@School program was begun in 2001 by the government of Kerala, India. It is intended to foster ICT-enabled education in the state. The program is multifaceted and includes a focus on: e-governance, content development, field level mechanisms, capacity building, FOSS initiatives, and impact studies as a means of evaluation. Some of the specific projects of IT@School include: a centralized textbook indent system, e-textbooks, a centralized resource website for students, an animation movie making initiative called Animation Training Program for Students (ANTS), ICT training for teachers, and online registration forms.

This project addresses many of the topics we have discussed in class– like open source and open content (e.g. FOSS) and training needs (via ICT teacher training). It also has a strong monitoring and evaluation component, which is key to any successful development initiative. It focuses on sustainability of its technology through “Hardware Clinics” where the computers and other equipment are repaired right in the schools. IT@School also addresses infrastructure needs by creating a unique scheme for electrification of classrooms and providing broadband internet connectivity for teachers and students. It incorporates an evolving constructionist vision of education– with school wikis for collaborative learning and student driven learning via projects like ANTS. This is a large-scale project– reaching over 12,000 schools– and seems to have thought through many of the common pitfalls of ICT-based education projects in the developing world.This unique and holistic approach to ICT-based education focuses on using ICTs to enable learning, not just the learning of ICT skills but learning as a whole, and may serve as a model for other ICT4education projects.

Chile: Donated Reused Computers for Isolated Indigenous Communities

Click here to go to article about organization that started a computer donation program to aid isolated indigenous communities in Chile.

After the 2010 earthquake in Chile in the Alto Bíobío region in the southern Andes found themselves disconnected from the national communication network unable to send and receive reports on the regions status after the major disaster. This article discusses this challenge along with the many other challenges faced by a Mapuche indigenous community in Southern Chile because of a lack of connection to communication methods. Having traveled extensively in Chile, and having studied with the Mapuche communities in the south of the country, I definitely agree that many of these communities are at a disadvantage to much of the rest of the country in terms of technology access, a digital divide. The article states that while the region has internet connection ability (they are connected) there are no points of access for the common person, people typically do not have internet in their houses, there are no internet cafes, and only a very small number of institutions have access points.

The InterConnection organization is a US based non-profit that provides points of access to the internet and has provided recycled computers to the Alto Biobio region in Chile. Similar to One Laptop Per Chile organization (OLPC) which is a nonprofit that constructs new computers to sell to developing countries, the InterConnection organization aims to provide computer technology to underserved regions. However, InterConnection uses donations of people’s old computers to serve their target communities. In Alto BioBio they donated computers to several schools and a fire station.

I really like the InterConnection model versus the OLPC model. The technology they are providing can be applied in various settings, not only primary schools. The communities being aided also are not responsible for buying computers, as in OLPC, which lowers the financial burden. The organization also states that they provide high-quality refurbished computers, so the ones being delivered worked well. I believe this InterConnection represents a flexible and sustainable way to bring computer technology to underserved regions.

The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age

Though the toll the internet age will take on newspapers is often debated, I’ve rarely thought or heard about the future for public libraries in the United States. As Uwin points out, historically, libraries were the main storage and access point for information across the world, especially for those who could not afford to purchase their own information. However, over the last twenty years the increase in the amount of published material and availability of digital technologies has changed libraries’ role forever.

In Unwine’s ICT4D he sites Klugkist as suggesting that in the future libraries will continue to be a gateway to information, but in particular an expertise centre, physical entity, and collection center for printed material. He reasons that libraries will not be replaced, they will merely transform their ways of accessing information–they will become digital libraries.

In the National Civic Review’s report on The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age, Ruth Wooden emphasizes that libraries do have a future in the U.S. Even with the vast amount of information available on the Internet, Wooden is sure that libraries will continue to play a vital role in communities. Strong public opinion surrounds the issue. For example 78% of those interviewed states that if their library were to loose funding they would feel “that something essential and important has been lost, affecting the whole community.” At this point libraries are more than just an access point for information–they are a safe haven, a place for children, a community meeting place. Wooden believes that libraries have been a relic of community engagement in the past and will continue to be in the future, regardless of the Internet. Additionally, most interviewed believed precisely because there is so much information available now (some of which you must pay for), that public libraries are a necessity to provide free information for anyone who needs it. Similar to Klugkist’s thesis Wooden emphasizes that in the digital age public libraries are a haven for low income community members, a resource for those who have no access to a computer or the internet at home. Wooden and Klugkist both believe that the advent of computers and the Internet will not displace libraries, if anything it will heighten a need for them.

The Improper, Hazardous, & Unconscionable Disposal of e-Waste

I’m not going to write much, as the visuals from this FRONTLINE report do more justice to the situation than my words ever could. I urge you to witness, through this video, the detrimental & irresponsible ways in which electronics from developed countries are dumped into developing countries, placing the worst cons of technology onto the people who rarely–if ever–experience its pros.

Combating the Digital Divide: An Example in Practice

Neighbors Link Computer Class

In the midst of a seemingly endless civil war, which ultimately lasted 36 years, many Guatemalans made the heart wrenching decision to leave the only land they’d ever known and seek out a better life in the United States. While the journey was dangerous and uncertain, it seemed better than the alternative: remaining a war-torn nation “marked by abductions and violence, including mutilations and public dumping of bodies,” where “the vast majority, 93 percent, of human rights violations perpetrated during the conflict were carried out by state forces and military groups.” According to Heifer International, “The Guatemalan Civil War claimed 200,000 lives and chased 1.5 million people from their homes.”

Incidentally, in the 1980s, a small number of Guatemalans began immigrating to New York and settling down in Mt. Kisco, a town some 40 miles north of the city. With continued violence, lack of economic opportunities, and social injustice in Guatemala, emigrants increasingly set forth to this town.

Today, over 1 in 4 residents in Mt. Kisco are Latino immigrants, some of whom had very limited access to education and are illiterate. Ironically, others were teachers in their homeland.

In 2000, a community center called Neighbors Link was established “To strengthen the whole community by actively enhancing the healthy integration of immigrants” through education, empowerment, and employment. Amongst the many programs offered at this center, there are “Skills Development” courses, one of which combats the digital divide that we’ve recently addressed. Regardless of prior knowledge–or lack thereof–students receive “personalized instruction in basic computer skills” while their children are looked after in the next room over.

I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering and interning at Neighbors Link, so I’ve seen first-hand the impact of these development classes. I think it’s important to remember that, while we talk about ICT4D in the context of developing nations, there is also a tremendous digital divide within “developed” nations that should not be overlooked!

Heifer International
Neighbors Link

ICT Education in Rwanda

ICT implementation in schools has the possibility of greatly increasing the educational development of the students. However, the impact of ICT implementation is largely based on the use and participation of the teachers. A program, which builds on the InterActive Education project and works in conjunction with DFID-funded project, aims to develop and evaluate strategies for effective implementation and introduction of ICT support in education. The main focus is on mathematics and science based learning. The program focuses on the building the teachers capacity on the possible uses of ICTs in the classroom. In May 2006, various schools in both rural and urban areas of Rwanda were studied in order to examine the teachers knowledge of ICTs. The study found that in some schools the computers were being used by the students and the teachers were staying after to learn more themselves; however, in many schools the computers were very old and barely ever used. The program created an “interactive and iterative model of teacher development [that] involves a partnership of teachers, teacher educators and researchers working together to evaluate and develop ICT-based scenarios for learning science and mathematics” (Sutherland, 229). By instructing the teachers on how to use spreadsheets, simulations and other teaching tools, they became more equipped at being able to teach the students more in the future. The program seems to provide a successful way of using teachers as a method of ICT introduction into the classroom. It is important to remember that the teachers will not always use the skills they learned in the seminars and that constant communication with the teachers is vital in order for the success of the program. Integrating ICTs in the classroom by educating teachers is one of the best and most efficient ways of guaranteeing the success of ICTs in education. A lot of focus must be placed on the educational development of the teachers so they in turn can teach their students.

For more on the ways the InterActive Education project is helping nations worldwide, click here.