The team intends to travel to the Cameroonian city of Buea to assist in the building and supplying of a new computer lab at a school/community center that will be used by many students and adults. The computers that the team will help provide are Inveneo designed fit-PC2’s. These computers are unique in that they are specially designed for developing regions that may only be able to power the computers through low power means such as solar technology. These computers consume less energy and are engineered to withstand the harsh climate and handling conditions in Cameroon. Despite the low-power benefits the computers provide, they are still capable of handling practical tasks like modern operating systems, office applications, internet browsers, and DVDs/CDs. In addition to helping build/supply the computer labs, the team will play a large role in providing the training of IT instructors at the lab. These instructors will be able to manage the lab long after we are gone and will also be responsible for training other teachers, educators, and students to develop computer literacy in surrounding communities. These local instructors will continually provide a steady stream of computationally educated citizens rather than segmented groups of educated students.
The IT instructors will be trained to use both Linux and Windows (XP or Vista) operating systems. All instructors will also be trained in: computer basics, Microsoft (MS) Excel, MS Word, MS Powerpoint, MS Access, email, and the internet. Advanced training in Web Design (HTML and CSS), Networking (A+ Certification), Hardware & Software Maintenance, Desktop Publishing (MS Publisher and QuarkExpress), Photo editing (Adobe Photoshop), and Computerized accounting will also be made available for instructors who readily pass through the basic training and are ready to advance further. Two non-profit organizations, Help International (HINT) and Develop Africa, have agreed to partner with the team to assist in the developing and planning of the computer lab. HINT will also provide substantial assistance in the training/locating of IT Instructors.
After training the IT instructors at the computer labs, the team will then be able to follow the IT instructors’ efforts to observe how they and the community use both the newly trained instructors and the computers to impact the Buea community. The team will also investigate other Cameroonian cities and analyze how communities are affected by the presence (or lack thereof) of ICT. We are extremely interested in how new technology is accepted and received in developing communities. We intend to research the impact of newly added computers on the community and how the technology is also being used to address economic and social problems. We will pay special attention to the impact on job competitiveness, classroom teaching techniques, and social habits (recreation, idle behavior, etc) as well as how the computers are being used in the community to address a myriad of other problems.
This project is exciting because it will illuminate some of the ways in which modern technology may be integrated into communities. By focusing on a nation that is technologically struggling despite the relative strength of its economy, this project will hopefully highlight the means by which some of Africa’s more complicated problems may be addressed through human cooperation rather than passively donating goods and resources from a distance. However, simply analyzing and reporting the Cameroonians’ struggle is both insensitive and irresponsible. The nature of this problem combined with the skills and resources the team has obtained obligates that we approach this unfortunate crisis not as passive observers but as active components of the solution. The most effective way to combat this challenge requires addressing the shortage in ICT availability. Through this effort the team hopes to come together not as the misfortunate and their chronicler but as two worlds united to overcome a formidable challenge.
Dr. Abdessadek Lachgar (a chemistry professor from Morroco) identified one of the greatest challenges to students successfully attempting to start new projects in Africa to be the lack of a framework or blueprint from which they may draw experience/guidance. Though this project will strive to provide that precedent, it will also provide a means by which students may discover other paths that combine scholastic curiosity with an attentiveness to improving the universal condition of man. We will formally outline our analysis in a paper and will present it at any conference/research symposium where its inclusion is appropriate.
Additionally, the future goals of this project will benefit the Winston-Salem community. The Forsyth County Computer Training Bridge, a volunteer group of experienced computer users and IT professionals who volunteer to teach computer skills of varying levels to adults at Forsyth County public libraries for free, has agreed to partner with the team to try to connect the citizens of Buea with students/schools/mentors in the Winston-Salem community. We also hope to maintain an interaction with the students/instructors in Buea long after we have returned to the United States. We strongly believe that connecting students (and teachers) from different cultures and backgrounds will be an enormous benefit to each community involved and will provide benefits far beyond simple computer literacy.
The team plans to be in Buea for approximately 78 days. We anticipate that lab space setup and computer installation will be complete within 30 days. Training of teachers can begin immediately after installation is complete.