We now have a firm location set for Operation Connect – Buea, Cameroon.
Cameroon is an ideal place for Operation Connect. The economy is strong enough that schools and communities could realistically be expected to support and maintain a computer lab. However, their ICT progress is so sparse that each region may be significantly impacted and improved through cooperative interventions.
Cameroon is the 10th largest economy in Africa and has been growing steadily since 1995 with the support of several government reform and IMF (international monetary fund) that are still growing in strength. Cameroon also enjoys strong levels of stability and has been in a state of peaceful growth for over a decade. These strengths have been part of the support behind Cameroon becoming one of the top 10 countries in net additions of internet users in Africa between 2000 and 2008. Despite this, lack of access and training in computer techology have been cited as contributing factors to the underdevelopment of both the Cameroonian ecnonomy and educational sector. The government is also clearly interested in addressing the technology gap that separates Cameroon from so many valuable opportunities.
In an effort to tap into the benefits higher computer literacy provide, the Cameroonian government, lead by President Paul Biya, has required computer science be taught in secondary schools. However, on average only 4.1% of households even own a computer (far fewer than even many of the UN’s “Least Developed Countries.” In Africa, Cameroon is 23rd in terms of percentage of households with a computer. Figure 3 (attached at end of document) shows the large disparity in internet use in Cameroon compared not only to the world, but also other developing countries. Buea, a city totaling about 150,000 people, is the capital of the southwest province of Cameroon and was once the colonial capital of the former German-controlled “Kamerun” from 1901 to 1919. The city is home to the only Anglophone university within Cameroon (University of Buea) and a significant number of ethnic groups. However, even here only about 5% of the secondary schools have computers installed in their schools. It is an ideal community to assist because all progress made here will affect not only the immediate Buea region but many villages that surround this city. The lack of publicly available computers (only 5% in secondary schools) consequently harms not only this community but multiple others. The general need and receptiveness on the citizens’ parts to advance forward in the ICT age strengthens not only the likilihood but the necessity for a successful project.