Tag Archives: e-education

Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach in Uganda

BOSCO Uganda
Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach

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For decades war has been raging in Northern Uganda. With civil casualties ranging in the hundred thousands, thousands of child abductions and many millions of refugees, this war has been labeled to be “the world’s most forgotten humanitarian disaster”. Today, in total a number of 53 IDP camps (Internally Displaced Persons Camps) provide the safety of shelter for approximately 2 million war refugees who live under inhumane conditions in total poverty. But projects are being setup to better the lives of these people and aim to develop a prosperous future for them.

BOSCO (Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach) is such a project initiative that aims to give these IDP’s a voice; a chance to access and share information, and the possibility to connect to others and the rest of the world through the use of ICT. In short, the project provides internet access and VOIP (Voice Over IP) telephone access to, at the moment, 20 of the 53 IDP camps in Northern Uganda.

A common problem noted by Kevin Baily  is that when supporting development through ICT, most of the time:

  • Schools and IDP’s have no access to the power grid
  • Computers they get are produced in 1990s and consume large amounts of energy which schools and IDP’s cannot afford
  • Regions that are connected to the power grid don’t have the infrastructure supporting the use of the computer and internet, this is like “providing a car without wheels”.

But BOSCO provides means for a sustainable ICT infrastructure by providing low-power PCs that can run on a 12 volt battery charged by a small solar panel and by transmitting the internet signal over radio waves that can reach to places 60 miles from the central hub. Next to the technological support for the ICT infrastructure needed to accomplish the project, BOSCO also provides a training program that educates the local community in using the ICTs to “articulate and communicate their own needs better than any outside actor”.

They have developed a web 2.0 style strategy in providing these means for education. The educational model consists of the following steps:

  1. It starts with the formation small user groups willing to learn the uses of the computer and the internet to gain competence
  2. They get email and gain access to the BOSCO intranet and are encouraged to post pictures, write blogs and create educational content to the BOSCO Wikispace. This space is accessible to children and adults in schools, community centers and IDP camps involved with BOSCO.
  3. Collaborators from the rest of Uganda and across the entire world get the opportunity to log onto the wikispace to view and share user content created on the Wikispace.
  4. Collaborator input is linked back to the volunteer groups and the North Ugandan Users of the space, creating a circle of information interaction.

This initiative connects both people in the most impoverished rural areas of Uganda to the rest of the world and the other way around. Giving the people in those places voices to be heard across the entire globe, giving them the means to communicate their needs, questions, and thoughts. Giving them the ability to access, create and share information, and next to that providing the world with the awareness of their living standards and ways of life.

For more information on the project go to their homepage! 
For up to date reports, keep track of their Weblog!
And collaborate on their Wikispace!

See here an inspiring segment from Global Challenges aired by CNN International, about the impact of a BOSCO related ICT installation in rural Uganda.

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Lack of research widening digital divide, Uganda ICT minister says

By Edris Kisambira, IDG News Service\Kampala Bureau
21 Oct, 2008

A lack of ICT research and limited cooperation and information sharing among research groups is widening the digital divide between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world, according to Uganda’s minister of ICT, Ham Mukasa Mulira.

Collaboration between Africans and the rest of the world is important with regard to the development of ICT in Africa, he said at the opening of the EuroAfriCa-ICT Awareness Workshop in Kampala on Monday.

The EuroAfriCa-ICT project presents an opportunity for the sub-Saharan region to explore new areas of collaboration, like joint research, ICT application development, mentorship and industrial attachment, Mulira noted.

“Europe has a lot of expertise in undertaking research of different kinds related to science and technology, which could be of great advantage to many young researchers in the region,” added Ugandan Prime Minister Appolo Nsibambi.

According to Nsibambi, Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to reap benefit from e-health, e-education, e-commerce and business process outsourcing.

“In order for these to take root,” he said, “it is very important that research provides the foundation for the implementation of such projects.”

However, Mulira pointed out in his address that the biggest challenge confronting the sector, especially in eastern Africa, is the lack of access to international undersea cable systems.

“This has inevitably denied our people access to the cheap international bandwidth due to the sole dependence on satellite, which is expensive and limited in capacity,” Mulira said.
Ongoing regional undersea cable initiatives such as EASSy (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System), TEAMS (The East African Marine System), SEACOM, and Uhurunet are expected to address the bandwidth constraint by end of 2009.

With proper infrastructure in place, Mulira noted, universal access will become feasible, allowing developing nations to leapfrog ahead.