Peace Corps

2000 PROJECT STATUS REPORTS

Global Summary and Promising Practices

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE


Overview
The PSR Information Technology Global Summary for 1998 stated that - at that time - Peace Corps did not have statistics on Volunteers’ activities in promoting Information Technology (IT) in their work. It was safe to conclude, however, that where there was a computer and an Internet connection, Volunteers were teaching people how to use them, and that where there was no computer or Internet access, Volunteers were trying to help counterparts and communities to obtain them. For 2000, the statistics in the PSR submissions confirm the original statement and confirm the 1999 conclusion that the demand for IT skills is increasing at an exponential rate:

  • More than 1300 Volunteers (out of 7300 Volunteers and trainees) are actively involved in promoting IT in their projects,
  • More than 14,000 host country counterparts and project participants have directly benefited from the Volunteer’ IT activities, and
  • More than 750 host country institutions were strengthened by Volunteers’ assistance in integrating IT into their operations.

Peace Corps is embarking upon its fifth decade of helping its host country partners to bridge divides. Helping the underserved populations of our host countries gain the benefits of improved access to knowledge, skills and technologies that will empower them to improve their lives is what Peace Corps does. The Year 2000 was one in which Peace Corps and its host country partners began to recognize and act upon a major convergence. The burgeoning demand of the host countries’ populations, especially their young people, for more equitable access to empowering technologies met the availability of thousands of computer and Internet savvy Volunteers serving in neglected areas. As former Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider noted, “Virtually every Peace Corps Volunteer sworn in today is adept at using computers, integrating information technology, and accessing the Internet. In many respects, they are comparative experts when they arrive in their overseas communities… They can turn the traditional pattern of the poor getting technology last, upside down.”

Promoting Information Technology was heretofore a frequent and growing Volunteer ad hoc activity and had been recognized as an agency priority. In 2000, Information Technology became one of the agency’s two most important initiatives. Peace Corps country programs were called upon to take a more strategic approach to integrating IT into projects and using Volunteers’ IT skills to the benefit of the host country agencies and communities regardless of the program sector of the activity. In making Information Technology an initiative, however, Peace Corps did not abandon the less fortunate populations with which it always has worked in embracing IT, nor did it abandon its commitment to grassroots development.

“We have launched the Peace Corps e-Initiative to expand the role that our Volunteers play in bringing the power of information technology to the task of poverty reduction,” stated Director Schneider. “The key elements are the following: local community presence, intimate knowledge of local customs and language, and demonstrated success at grassroots project development and execution. We will enable technology projects that are financed by other organizations to become accessible to students and businesses that are not in the main square of capital cities, but beyond the end of the road in distant villages. We also are proposing to harness IT to help resource-poor communities advance their development goals in education, health, environmental protection, agriculture production and small business enterprises, and municipal development. We want Volunteers to prepare projects to do just that.”

In order to assist country programs and counterpart agencies and organizations to program IT into their activities, Peace Corps introduced some innovations. First, in the Volunteer Delivery System, Peace Corps created a new recruiting category for IT that will allow posts to specify their needs for generalist Volunteers with IT skills or for IT specialists in a number of technical areas. In some cases (such as the Belize Information Technology Teacher Training Project), entire projects are built around groups of IT specialist Volunteers. In other cases, IT specialists may be assigned to specific technical assignments along with generalists with IT skills, and they will also serve as technical support resource persons for their fellow Volunteers and their counterparts.

Second, the Information Technology Training of Trainers package was field tested in Kenya, Cape Verde, Belize, and Haiti in 2000 and will be ready for general distribution in early 2001. The IT TOT trains computer and Internet literate Volunteers how to teach the skills that they have brought with them to others. Internet training was introduced into staff training for the first time to help staff use IT in their own work and better understand the value of IT in projects.

And finally, Peace Corps recognized that community computer literacy centers, micro and small business web page design centers, and school-based IT learning centers assisted by Volunteers are multiplying around the world without support but that the demand is enormous and growing. It is a fundamental truth that one cannot implement IT without hardware, software, and connectivity in addition to the transfer of skills. “We want to find ways to offer support and believe the numbers of those projects will be multiplied ten-fold,” stated Director Schneider. Peace Corps undertook the ePartnership Initiative in 2000 and the Director challenged America’s high-tech corporations to assist Peace Corps’ partners at the grassroots level to obtain the basic equipment and infrastructure necessary to participate in the globalizing information-based society. America Online was the first corporation to respond to the appeal and committed to fund at least 120 community information centers (“Peace Packs”) in 2001 and 2002. Top


Africa

In Africa Region, all countries but one reported Volunteer activities in support of host country efforts to integrate information and communications technologies (ICTs). Education and Small Business Development projects have afforded the greatest number of Volunteers the opportunity to do so. The percentage of ICT activity that in Education (40%) corresponds roughly to the percentage of all Africa Volunteers in that sector. The percentage of Business Volunteers in ICTs (28%) is considerably higher than the percentage of all Africa Volunteers in that sector. The phenomenon of community radio in Mali and other countries has perhaps increased the percentages of Health (18%) and Environment (11%) Volunteers in ICTs.

The same five country programs - Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe - are the leaders in ICT integration as they were in 1999. With few exceptions, however, most other posts demonstrated a marked increase in interest and activity.

Galen Day is a Small Enterprise Development Volunteer with the CLCAM (credit union) in Tanguiéta, Bénin, which, like most other credit unions, had no computerized system for tracking credit. Professional time is wasted in hand preparation of accounts and statements, delaying the recovery of bad debts by 2 months or more. Galen created a database in Microsoft Access as a solution to this issue. The results of Galen's efforts were noted by the head of the credit union national federation, who said, "…He revolutionized our way of working. Thanks to the computerization of credit tracking it is faster and easier to prepare financial statements and to identify those who are late in making payments and to take the necessary corrective actions."

Volunteers Cathy Seeley and Dave Thomas are math/science teachers in the Northern and Eastern Regions respectively of Burkina Faso. They have a common goal of promoting information technology in Burkina Faso even though they work at sites almost 500 kilometers apart. They are convinced that technology awareness and access to information are becoming an increasingly important part of literacy. They support technology efforts in their schools and even at regional levels and are transferring computer and Internet skills to counterpart teachers and students. They also used their expertise for software and hardware troubleshooting. Enthused with Cathy’s initiative, the Regional Director of the Northern Region sent a letter to the Peace Corps asking for more support in this area. Cathy facilitated the donation of ten old computers from the US Embassy to her School. She also secured one laptop from her church for her counterpart. To foster collaboration, Cathy organized a meeting with fifteen colleagues in attendance to assess the status of the four participating schools in terms of talents and skills among teachers, available equipment in schools and support the Ministry of Education and local NGOs. Following the meeting, Cathy participated in the Peace Corps IT conference in The Gambia and brought back useful ideas to be shared with her fellow volunteers and teachers.

Volunteers in Cameroon taught computer science in five different secondary schools and at the Advanced Teacher Training College in Bambili. They taught about 860 students and 23 Cameroonian teachers the use of the World Wide Web and e-mail. They organized a workshop with the Ministry of Education at which 10 Volunteers and 72 Counterparts were trained in computer use, e-mail, and data entry and were introduced to the Web and to Global Positioning System technology. They are now using all these acquired techniques and expertise in implementing the GLOBE program in 11 schools in Cameroon. They share atmospheric and other scientific information with other GLOBE schools throughout the World and receive GLOBE scientific information from other countries. Over 40 Cameroonian Math/Science teachers are now using the GLOBE protocols to provide hands-on science practical in the schools.

Small Business Development Volunteers in Kenya teach basic computer literacy at the Institutes of Technology. The majority of Volunteers have ventured into other IT-related activities such as website development, Internet training, setting up of computer training centers and cyber-cafés, market linkages through the Internet, and use of digital cameras to post products on the Internet. A total of 15 Volunteers and 15 counterparts participated in an IT “Training of Trainers” workshop to upgrade their skills as computer instructors. Two Computer training centers have been set up. Over 500 students have benefited from IT training by the Volunteers. Fifteen counterparts have continued to provide computer literacy training to staff, students, and community leaders in various parts of the country. One Volunteer acquired 1000 donated computers from a college in the U.S. for distribution to Kenya schools. Another Volunteer acquired donated computers from the U.S. and set up a training center within a Community Library.

Volunteer Sean Lee worked with a shoemaker to improve the design of a sandal. To meet the quality and standard determined by the e-commerce partner, World2Market, Sean connected the shoemaker with Namayiana Maasai women’s group to produce beaded sandals and exported them to the U.S. making a profit of $400. Sean then demonstrated another e-commerce tool. He showed the group how to put the item up for sale on e-Bay, the Internet auction house using digital photos. It fetched a profit of $14. The women have learned and appreciated the importance of e-commerce in expanding the market for their products. They have also learned that it pays to be creative.

Working in collaboration with a VSO (British) volunteer, Volunteer Renice Jones helped sponsor selling of crafts on a website, Global Crafts that features products from Ziwa, Pendera Weavers and Temak Women's Group in the lake town of Kisumu. The Volunteers showed the groups how to take photos of the products, gather prices, create a website, and establish systems for credit card use and to fill the orders. similar groups working with Volunteers have been invited to sell crafts on the site. In addition, Renice has undertaken to upgrade a computer center at her site, Kisumu. The center’s main objective is to train unwed single mothers as well as to generate revenue through training community members. The computer skills will enable the 30 members of TEMAK (Teenage Mothers Association of Kenya) to be more competitive in the job market.

Eleven Volunteers in the Community Development project in Lesotho have been placed at Farmer Training Centers and Vocational Institutes. One of their roles is to introduce computer use at the schools to help modernize their accounting systems and record keeping. They assist institutions in writing proposals for buying computers and in computerizing school records, student records and accounting systems. The schools’ efficiency in record keeping has improved. Volunteers teach students and teachers basic computer use, accessing information using the Internet, and use of standard office productivity applications, such as word processors, spreadsheets, presentation, messaging and collaboration tools. They promote computer awareness and teach basic repair and maintenance of the computer hardware and software. One Volunteer at a Technical Institute is working on computers as his primary assignment. In addition to teaching, he is working as an advisor to the school management in modernizing the schools' computer system and also as an Instructor to students and to Ministry staff in his district.

Volunteer Kelvin Quan in the town of Kita, in western Mali is working with a cooperative of physically handicapped individuals to coordinate artisan activities. He also works with a local hotel to help establish an Internet cafe. The association is donating its computer for use by the Internet cafe in return for a percentage of the overall profits. The handicap cooperative is planning on using the Internet to market its products on-line. Prior to this initiative, Internet services were only available in the capital city, Bamako. The work of Volunteers like Kelvin is opening up world markets to small artisans and associations as well as giving the people of rural Mali unprecedented access to information.

Volunteers Cordes Towles and Kathleen Fox helped to develop a promotional website for Cordes' counterpart agency, a sanitation and community development organization based in Bamako, Mali. This site promotes awareness of the group’s clean-up activities and helps them move toward their goal of building Mali’s first waste treatment plant serving thousands of Bamako residents.

Volunteer Kathleen Fox organized three women’s groups in the Malian regional capital of Segou to start selling their craft products online. The women were previously unaware of the Internet. Together they photographed and scanned their products, developed an information organization scheme and form for each product, submitted the information to three different national artisan websites being developed by aid organizations and set up an online order system. This will greatly effect the sales potential of over 100 women now currently reliant on the limited tourist market. Ms. Fox also trained several other people in the use of e-mail and the Internet for marketing and research purposes.

Water and Sanitation Volunteer Jon Richart helped establish an intranet LAN system for his counterpart agency, ACTION Mopti, a non-governmental organization working in water and sanitation in the regional capital of Mopti. Jon taught two Malian counterparts basic troubleshooting for the LAN and gave independent computer classes to employees of the NGO. His work allows his agency to work more effectively as a whole and has increased its capacity to serve the city.

In the ten last years, the new private private and community based broadcast FM stations that have sprung up in Mali have brought about major changes in Malian society. More than 75 % of rural citizens listen to these local FM radio stations. Peace Corps /Mali, in collaboration with USAID and the local union of private and community radio stations, organized training sessions on how to produce radio programs on a variety of development topics. Four Malian trainers conducted sessions for 145 participants, including Peace Corps Volunteers and staff, 80 agents of radio stations, and 20 Volunteer counterparts. An overwhelming percentage of Volunteers in all five sectors now have access to radio stations throughout the country. Many have successfully written and presented radio shows on development topics as means of reaching a large and diverse audience. They have started an environmental education series of broadcasts on local radio stations. Small Enterprise, Health, and Environmental Education Volunteers have contributed to a bank of tapes available for rebroadcast on local radio stations around Mali. Volunteers have worked with 15 local stations serving 25 communities and about 7500 people so far.

In Mauritania, Peace Corps reports encouraging news, including the creation in the Government of a Ministry of New Technologies.

Volunteers in Namibia are assisting in the organization of school/community computer resource centers. This effort includes acquiring 3-15 machines and then installing them in a classroom or office; providing basic training to teachers, staff, learners and community members outside of school hours. In addition, Volunteer science teachers have prepared learners to participate in a nationwide Insect@thon which aims to catalogue insect species for the Natural History Museum in a computer database. A computer and Internet connection for a year are awarded to schools that catalogue the most insects.

Volunteer Laura Wilson obtained 15 computers and 3 printers from Hewlett-Packard South Africa to establish a computer lab at her school. The school used its fees for electrical wiring of the lab. She trained 12 staff members and 15 community members in computer skills. A Namibian colleague has taken the responsibility for teaching the classes with technical support from Laura. Local businesses contributed funds to network the lab and make it Internet-ready. After visiting the lab, the Hewlett-Packard representative promised Internet hook-ups for 2 locations in the village and a computer for the community center. Next year a basic computer skill class will be added to the official curriculum of the school.

Sénégal has one of the most developed telecommunications infrastructures in Africa. Volunteers serve with organizations (NGOs) that work with IT and community cyber-centers. They have assisted with cyber-center start-ups, initiated Internet, word processing, and spreadsheet training, and participated in radio programming. They support local government efforts to better manage their resources with IT tools such as GPS. Peace Corps/Sénégal has initiated a partnership with Association of Telecenters in Sénégal.

South Africa Volunteer Jennifer Erie replaced a volunteer who had arranged a donation of 15 computers to a local primary school. During the past year, she helped the local school staff to turn the computer room into a community training center. During the school day, students and teachers receive computer training. After-hours and on Sundays, the school offers a variety of computer classes to the broader community. More than 90 community members have completed the basic training course and received certification. The cost of the training is a great deal less than similar programs in the area. As a result, the classes are always full and the waiting list growing. The center has been operating at a break-even level. Peace Corps will provide business training to the center staff in order to promote management for sustainability.

In Tanzania, one Volunteer is posted to a community Telecenter where he is involved with community education and access as well as introduction of computer technologies to local businesses. Volunteers conducted a teachers' workshop entitled, "Conquering the Computer," at which a manual for classroom use was created that explains how to operate a computer. Similar materials were also created at an additional secondary school in Zanzibar. These materials have been made available to other interested Volunteers for use in their schools.

Information technology programs in The Gambia have recently blossomed due to the combined efforts of several volunteers. Volunteer Marc Maxson, is a math/science volunteer who taught chemistry and physics to Grade 10 and 11 students at Gambia High School in Banjul, the capital, during his first year of service. This academic year, Marc is devoting his service to introducing Information Technology in Gambian schools. First, Marc and fellow Volunteers Heather McKinley and Jean Galbraith conducted a country-wide survey of all high schools, health offices, and education offices to assess the current amount of equipment, access, and needs. The results of this survey, the first of its kind in The Gambia to date, have been distributed to schools, government offices and NGOs in an attempt to foster collaboration and aid the Gambian Government in its efforts to infuse computers into school curriculum. Marc established an Information Technology Consortium and also edits a new IT newsletter for Volunteers in The Gambia and other West African countries.

Marc is currently working to increase student access to computers at six schools in the vicinity of the capital. Based on the dialogue with each school, Marc proposed 6 different approaches to providing basic computer instruction to high school students. Nearly 250 students and 12 teachers, about 50% of whom are female, have already been directly involved in these six test projects. In six months, he intends to compare the strengths of the different approaches in a report intended to help the Department of State for Education incorporate computers into the Gambian curriculum.

Volunteer Jackie Francy is renovating a classroom at the Rural Development Institute to serve as a Community Computer Resource Center. She has twelve donated computers and is teaching computing skills to 16 students (3 female), to prepare them to serve as teaching assistants once full-scale classes with teachers, students, administrators, and community members begin. Word of her project is spreading and over 100 people have inquired about registration, some from as far as two hours away. She is writing a computer instruction manual and is an active member of the Information Technology Consortium in The Gambia. Volunteer Francy recognizes the importance of recycling computers that are considered obsolete in the United States and has taught herself how to piece together (and often tape together) old computer parts. She is also helping the junior secondary school to keep a computer lab afloat that was started by a previous volunteer.

Karen Premo, Small Business Volunteer posted in the capital city of Togo, Lomé, works with an NGO ("WAGES) that provides savings and credit services to small-scale businesswomen. Karen designed and conducted staff training in accounting and in the use of Microsoft Excel and Word software. She designed and conducted an impact study to collect information used internally and published in the organization's annual report, and developed a brochure to increase public awareness.

Two Volunteers teaching at the University of Zambia’s School of Law under the Lawyers for Africa Program of Cornell University have been active in maintaining and upgrading the Internet Law Server under the Zambia Legal Information Institute. The law server contains hundreds of Zambian Supreme Court and Higher Court decisions along with basic legal frameworks including the Constitution, statutes and articles from the Zambia Law Journal.

Peace Corps/Zimbabwe is collaborating with the World Bank’s World Links for Development (WorLD) program. This program has established twelve functioning computer centers in Zimbabwean towns and cities. Each center has a network of eight to ten computers, a printer and Internet access. WorLD emphasizes the use of the Internet as a learning tool and is in the process of bringing the School Net Program to the centers to allow teachers and students to collaborate on educational and cross-cultural projects. WorLD works with and is supported by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture (MOESC). It also works with the Better Schools Program/Zimbabwe (BSP/Z) and the Computer Society of Zimbabwe. Peace Corps/Zimbabwe has worked with the MOESC for nearly ten years and with BSP/Z for one year. In the future, it plans to work with other organizations and institutions that may need Volunteers’ help in this area and to spread its IT influence from urban and peri-urban to the rural zones.

Aaron Nighswander, an English Teacher at Zhombe Secondary School in Zimbabwe was the sole computer teacher during his first year at the school, instructing 517 students in basic computers. He was instrumental in the training of 28 faculty members and one other teacher who became the second computer teacher. Working with his head of school and counterpart, he successfully sourced monies for 52 computers and the construction of a multi-media computer lab. He designed multi media lesson packages to be used if hard-copy materials could not be found or were too expensive to be funded by the school. Top


Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia

Education and Business projects dominate programming in this Region and the percentage of Volunteers involved in ICTs (46% and 37%) reflect this fact. The desire for Web presence on behalf of environmental agencies and NGOs and partnerships with GLOBE, I*EARN, and others may be reflected in the percentage of involvement in ICTs by Environment Volunteers.

The largest number of Volunteers working with ICTs is in the EMA region. This fact appears to reflect the relatively easier access to computers and to connectivity in a number of countries in this region as compared to the other regions. The opportunity for Volunteer ad hoc activities in ICTs has typically been significantly greater in this region. In the 2000 PSRs, however, a number of countries reported changes in Volunteer site placement strategy from urban and peri-urban sites to small-town and rural sites. These new sites may have less IT infrastructure and connectivity and as a result fewer opportunities for ad hoc ICT activities.

One Volunteer assisted his organization (Baltics Small Equity Fund) in starting the first “First Tuesday” meeting that was held in Tallinn, Estonia, and approximately 95 people attended. First Tuesday is Europe’s definitive business start-up portal for companies in the Internet and new media industries, best known for its events, generally held on the first Tuesday of each month in each city in which it has a presence.

Volunteer Dana Dunne helped create of a web page together with two orphanages in Ust Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan. Through the web page institutional and individual donors may support orphans with in-kind donations. There is a system of handling donations that is all administered by the orphanage staff and local volunteers.

During 2000, Volunteer Chris Pemberton has undertaken an Internet Training Initiative to strengthen the Information Technology skills (particularly Internet) of local citizens in the Kyrgyz Republic. To this end, he has directly trained 20 people in Karakol and 2 in Bishkek in various Internet skills ranging from basic use of the Web to how to write and publish web pages. Recognizing that the biggest bottleneck to training more people was the supply of Internet access, Chris partnered with IREX and helped to create an Internet Training and Access Center at the NGO Leader in Karakol. The Center opened in September 2000 with 5 computers and a dedicated line to the local Internet Service Provider. This center provides free Internet access and training to all citizens of Karakol (70,000+ people). Also, the NGO hired a Russian system administrator and trainer to manage the Center and conduct training in the local language. As of October 2000, 25 people have been trained in the Center in computer and Internet use. More than 20 people are trained every week at the Center. By the end of 2000, 300 people will be trained at the Center.

Another aspect of the Internet Training Initiative is Volunteers’ work with Kyrgyz Style, an NGO supporting local artisans by exporting and marketing Kyrgyz handicrafts to Western markets. One Volunteer trained two employees in Internet use as well as the basics of creating Web Pages. Another Volunteer facilitated production, sample-making and export procedures. The Kyrgyz Style employees then published a catalog of Kyrgyz handicrafts on the Internet. An American e-commerce company held a meeting in their New York office where their merchandising team viewed the website that the two employees created. As a result of having such easy access to the Internet catalog of Kyrgyz handicrafts, this e-commerce company placed orders for samples and inventory of Kyrgyz handicrafts. The end result was $10,000.00 worth of sales and a 146% increase in Kyrgyz handicraft exports to the United States in just three months. To view the results of this project, visit www.eziba.com and search for Kyrgyzstan. Steady orders are expected for the future.

Morocco Volunteer Wendy Schumacher is in the Information Resource Management program and uses her skills as a professional librarian to develop computer-assisted teacher training for students in seven pilot teacher-training colleges throughout Morocco. The project uses a “train the trainer” approach where teams of six from each of the pilot schools are trained in progressively complicated computer skills and are provided with French/Arabic manuals developed in-house to present the materials to future trainers. These trainers, in turn, will train other faculty members, fellow students and community members. The project also provides the computers and other multimedia equipment to the pilot schools to enable students throughout the Kingdom to be able to work together on-line and have access to continuing education lectures and chat rooms available for graduates through the web site Ibtikar. The word Ibtikar means “innovation” in Arabic and the project will be the first Arabic education web site in the world. Schumacher has helped establish the project web site and helped the pilot schools to organize their existing materials to plan for the information explosion to come. Another Volunteer, Fritz Boyle, designed and put on the web a tutorial called How to Design a Website.

Romania Volunteer Michelle Shefter is a very active member of her community; a small town on the Black Sea coast called Eforie Sud. She organized a small web design club where students would meet once a week and developed a web site with information on tourist attractions on the Black Sea coast. Michelle coached a team for ThinkQuest (an international competition for educational web site design) whose members committed to sharing their newly developed skills with other students in the upcoming year, thus becoming themselves leaders of a web design club.

Volunteers in Russia (West) organized a Seminar on “The Role of Libraries in the Transformation of Russia to a Democratic Society." They developed and designed a booklet cataloging useful web-sites and web databases for information access in the field of library science. They trained 40 librarians on the use of the Internet for information access and dissemination as related to their profession. Librarians from small Russian cities were able to sit at a computer terminal at the Internet Training Center and have “hands-on” training on the Internet. They were not only introduced to basic web exploration but were also shown useful web-sites for information access as related to library science. In addition, the conference reports and ensuing discussions addressed how information technology plays a significant role in the transformation of libraries to modern and active parts of a democratic society.

In 1998, a TEFL Volunteer was instrumental in introducing the International Educational Awareness Resource Network (I*EARN), an Internet writing project funded by the Soros Foundation, in Slovakia. He did this by encouraging a Slovak colleague to become involved. Since then he, his counterpart, and 5 other Volunteers have conducted a number of trainings and seminars in eastern Slovakia exposing almost 600 students to the many possibilities of the Internet. Through the program, students from eight Slovak schools have attended camps and conferences; three students and the Slovak colleague were able to take part in the international I*EARN conference in Puerto Rico.

Two 4-day I*EARN Environmental Camps have been organized in Slovakia, and hosted over 100 students and 30 teachers from 14 countries focusing on an examination of the impact of tourism on a national park. As a result of its many successes over the last year or two, I*EARN is now well established in Slovakia and run entirely by the Slovak colleague as the country co-ordinator. TEFL Volunteers are actively involved with the project, working with their students at their schools as well as participating in the Environmental Camps.

Volunteer Sarah Hymowitz is working at a rural health center in Turkmenistan that received a donation of a digital camera, a computer, scanner, and color printer. She is conducting training and helping to acquire appropriate software to ensure the best possible use of these resources. The center staff will be engaged in data collection (something rarely done in Turkmenistan), documentation (pictures of health problems), and materials development for health education (brochures, Powerpoint shows, flyers, etc.). Volunteer Katie Slattery training the head of a local women’s NGO basic keyboarding and word processing as well as using the computer to track income and expenses for the NGO.

TEFL Volunteer Paul Gatchell utilized a small SPA grant as start-up money for a fledgling “Internet café” in the small town of Rohatyn, Ukraine (population 8,000). The SPA grant provided computer and initial Internet connection. Community members who use the Internet are charged a small fee in order to provide free access for the students at the school. He has also organized an English Internet Club for 6th and 8 th grade students.

Uzbekistan Volunteer Computer Specialist Mychael Lawlor advised health ministry employees on how to install and configure software for the Ferghana Region's data center. Lawlor trained three of these employees on database development using MS Access, network administration, and system maintenance. Other accomplishments included designing databases for tracking physicians' attendance at continuing education courses and developing a database for analyzing a survey of over 80 medical clinics and hospitals. This survey measured worker satisfaction, medical supply inventory, facility maintenance records, hours of operation, etc. Six specialists were also trained to work in the district computer centers. These individuals, in turn, trained approximately 20 assistants. Training included working with different software programs, networking essentials, basic troubleshooting techniques, system administration/maintenance, and computer center operations management. The records of 600,000 residents from six districts in the Ferghana Region were entered into the population database. They trained three highly skilled system administrators, six mid-level system administrators, and 40 data-entry operators. Lawlor also assisted one bank, a business, and a training center with their computer needs. Top


Inter-America and the Pacific

The Inter-America and the Pacific Region is the home of Peace Corps’ first stand-alone Information Technology project: the Belize Information Technology Teacher Training Project, which is scheduled to increase to 30 Volunteers in 2001 and to remain at tat level for several years. IAP Region is also home to the most developed strategic approach to IT programming. Beginning with the IT elements of the Pacific Initiative and followed by the Caribbean Information Technology Initiative (CITI) in 1999, IAP Region drafted its own strategy for implementing the agency Information Technology Initiative in 2000. This strategy is intended to provide guidance to staff and Volunteers as they undertake to integrate ICTs and to serve as a basis for discussion with potential partners.

The profile of Volunteer participation in ICTs generally reflects IAP’s specificities, including the significance of Youth Development as a programming element.

A group of 13 Volunteers are assigned to the Belize Ministry of Education to assist with the training of over 1,700 teachers countrywide as well as to assist with the training of primary education students in basic computer literacy. These Volunteers helped to conduct district level needs assessments in addition to helping to draft a basic national computer literacy curriculum for implementation in January 2001. They assisted with the installation of over one hundred and fifty (150) computers in six (6) District Center computer laboratories where teachers receive their training. For this project, Peace Corps/Belize is taking advantage of Peace Corps’ recruiting outreach to persons with specialized IT training and experience and now requests Volunteers with degrees in Computer Science.

Volunteer Suzanne Haxer is the pioneer Volunteer for the first full-fledged Information Technology (IT) project implemented by the Peace Corps. She is assigned to La Immaculada Catholic Primary School in the Northern District of Orange Walk. She teaches basic computer literacy skills to teachers and trains counterpart teachers to teach computer classes to students in the future. In addition, she teaches an introduction of computer literacy skills to upper division school students. The number of teachers and students are evenly divided by sex. Upon graduation last year, the Standard Six (Grade 8) students attended summer school at Muffles College. They were signed up to take the first course in Computer Science, but due their intermediate skills, they were placed into the Second Form level of Computer Science. Likewise, teachers are now using the computers to create efficient grade books, type tests, enrichment materials, notes to go home, all with increasing proficiency.

Classes are now being provided to all students from Standard Three to Standard Six (Grades 5 to 8). This will allow students to graduate from primary school with intermediate to advanced computer skills. In the future, these students will be very competitive in the application process not only for high school, but also eventually in the job market. Volunteer Haxer has paved the way for more Volunteers to participate in this new initiative. Recently Peace Corps/Belize collaborated with the Ministry of Education to train over three thousand teachers (all primary and secondary school teachers) in basic computer literacy. The new Volunteer IT-Teacher-Trainers received their Pre-Service Training at Volunteer Haxer’s computer lab. The IT project will be Belize’s single largest project within the next year.

Volunteer Josef Carlson is a trainer at the Cayo Community Computer Center, a non-profit organization where he devises activities and approaches to aid in the basic instruction of computers for children and adults. He has also assisted in gathering information on grants and in writing proposals. In September, he made a presentation to the San Ignacio chapter of the Rotary Club to inform members of his computer center’s classes and to formally request their assistance in acquiring an air conditioner for their classrooms. Currently he works in tandem with another instructor to create and present meaningful classes for people of different ages and backgrounds. In the short time that he has been assigned to the center, much growth and development has taken place. They recently completed construction on a new classroom and will soon be receiving more than 20 used computers from the United States, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service. During his time here, his own skills have improved. Now people in the community approach him with computer-related questions.

Many agriculture and microenterprise Volunteers in Bolivia are helping their counterparts learn to use the Internet to conduct market research and develop websites aimed at increasing their own market potential. Several Volunteers are teaching basic computer courses in schools and universities. Others have initiated ambitious projects at local schools establishing computer centers and helping educators incorporate information technology into both curricula and library/educational resources. Many Volunteers are working with their counterpart agencies and/or local municipalities to help them use their Information Technology resources more effectively.

There are 200 computer laboratories in schools around the Dominican Republic in poor urban or rural areas. Most of these laboratories are unused, due to lack of technical expertise in starting up the laboratories and in actual use of the computers.

Steven D. Traylor is an agroforestry Volunteer working in the small rural community of El Hoyazo, a community with no electricity, located in the municpality of Pedro García in Santiago, two-and-a-half hours north of the capital city of Santo Domingo. He has undertaken a very important development initiative at the community level, consisting of his collaboration in the establishment of a computer laboratory powered by the renewable and environmentally friendly energy of a solar panel system. As a direct result of the establishment of this laboratory, Steven was able to teach computer classes to rural children and youth (boys and girls). This has become a significant breakthrough for the young population of the community of El Hoyazo, because they have realized that there are alternative ways of living besides subsistence agriculture. Up to now, 100 youths have become computer literate. Probably the most important result of this project is the sense of pride, self-esteem, and self- reliance that has been awakened in this group of young people. They now have access to a skill that otherwise would have been seen as unachievable and inaccessible because of the urban and elitist nature of computers in the Dominican Republic. Hopefully, it will bring stimulus for them to explore a brighter future with a stronger sense of dignity and self-confidence.

As a community education volunteer in the rural community of Los Toros, an agricultural community of about 4,500 people that is dedicated to community development, Volunteer David Smith has focused his work on a community library and computers. He has done an extensive community diagnostic, started training youth and adults in basic computer classes, worked with USAID in disaster mitigation workshops, trained teachers in English education, researched and received donations of computer software in Spanish, and researched ways of bringing Internet to a community without phone lines. David has been a role model for other volunteers hoping to work in Information Technology and he is an integral member of the newly formed Peace Corps Dominican Republic Volunteer Tech Committee. On a visit to the Dominican Republic in October 2000, Peace Corps Director Mark Schneider traveled to Los Toros to talk with David, the local youth Information Technology Committee, and other community members. David’s project will serve as a model for new Information Technology Volunteers and Peace Corps Dominican Republic, as well as for the rest of the country.

Several Volunteers on St. Vincent taught computer classes to children and young people - both students and school leavers - in various communities. Subjects ranged from the teaching of basic computer skills to advanced program knowledge, focusing on the Microsoft Office Suite. Another Volunteer helped to set up an abuse database for the Ministry of Housing and Social Welfare Department to allow easier access for all child abuse cases pending. Volunteers Jeremy Jepson and Casius Pealer designed and put into action a web site to assist the local craft artisans in selling their products worldwide. Their focus is on Vincentians living abroad and previous visitors to the island who enjoyed the uniqueness of St. Vincent.

The Youth Skills Training Program has been extending its program in Information technology. Another Volunteer has been assisting the Information technology unit of the Ministry of Education in servicing and assembling used computers. He has also been training staff at the ministry as well as teachers in various schools around the island in the use of the computer in daily activities and record keeping. Some of the schools are beginning to use the Internet as a learning resource for both students and teachers. The focus of most of these computer training activities has been on basic word processing and the use of the Internet with a special, more advanced computer training program for high school graduates.

An e-commerce web-site is offering a number of products from groups assisted by Peace Corps/Ecuador Volunteers at The Ethnic Shop.

In addition to selling various handicrafts, such as recycled paper cards produced by women’s groups, the site offers an outstanding recipe book and nutrition guide produced by Peace Corps Volunteers, “Buen Provecho”. This book has always been distributed free to Peace Corps/Ecuador Volunteers, but will now be more widely available and some of the revenue will go to funding scholarships for girls.

Other Volunteers are also promoting the Internet as a marketing and communications link for groups they work with who have products to sell. One Volunteer helped to set up a web page for the small museum to help attract more visitors. Another volunteer taught a women’s group to use the computer to improve the management of their project. On an individual basis, several volunteers who have access to computers at schools or community centers provide instruction for counterparts and/or young people, or incorporate the computers as a part of a community resource center. One Volunteer, a retired veterinarian, demonstrated the use of GPS (Global positioning System) technology for tracking of cattle herds and vaccination data.

Volunteers in Guatemala, like Michael Edward, are teaching computer classes to children who are learning how to use Windows 97, Office 97, and math and encyclopedia learning games. Volunteer Marisa Rinkus has trained personnel of the Purulhá municipality and children on how to use the computer and CD-ROMs, as well as how to research a topic and use the library resources. Volunteer Brian Williams, in collaboration with the regional director of the Defense of Nature Foundation, designed a web site for the “Bocas del Polochic” wildlife sanctuary.

Volunteers and counterparts at the Forest Service and other organizations in Honduras have access to computer systems which include Landsat Imagery and GPS/GIS equipment. This was donated by the German Government and is available at the National Forestry School. They used it to digitalize biophysical and socio-economic information used to produce maps for watersheds and protected areas. These maps show boundaries, watershed delimitation, potential and actual land uses, vegetation cover and forest types, soil slopes and contour lines, and infrastructure such as roads, trails, communities and other facilities. They help in the assessment of damage by Mitch and landslide maps. Maps are then taken to the field for ground verification and field work. Also, Information Technology available at various places and sites was used to design and produce environmental education materials such as manuals, booklets, posters and leaflets.

Municipal Development Volunteers and community partners performed a number of activities when training municipal and NGO personnel in better Information Technology practices. These activities include but are not limited to:

  • Eleven Municipal Development Volunteers have conducted a participatory assessment of the computer skills of each municipal employee.
  • Based upon the assessment and interest level, the Volunteers are developing training programs for the interested municipal employees that includes: word processing, spreadsheet management, Internet access, e-mail use and any other needed applications.
  • Eight of the eleven Volunteers have already begun carrying out these training programs.
  • Each of Municipal Development Volunteers has found it extremely easy to begin their service helping municipal staff learn better Information Technology practices. These better practices range from basic training in word processing and spreadsheet use, to more advanced applications such as digital maps, GIS and AutoCAD applications. Municipal Staff have been able to incorporate these new Information Technology practices into their daily tasks and have improved their efficiency and skills.

Municipal Development Volunteers David Kanthor and Hung Pham placed in Juticalpa, Olancho and Danli, El Paraiso, respectively, accompanied a community partner from each of their municipalities at training in the use of the Geographic Information System (GIS) computer application (ARC VIEW). This training was created in order to participate in a United States Geographic Service project that will target 40 Honduran municipalities that are members of a USAID municipal development program. The number of Volunteers participating with their counterparts will eventually rise to 15. The object is to facilitate and provide follow up for the training of at least one employee in GIS computer application in each municipal government in order to aid in the areas of cadastre (property tax system), risk mapping and municipal geographic information collection and dissemination.

Concepción de Maria, Choluteca is a former mining town located in the Southeastern corner of Honduras near the Nicaraguan border. With the aid of Volunteer Matthew Colburn, the New Fight (Nueva Lucha) Mixed Cooperative and the community are quickly moving into the world of computers and the CyberAge. Matthew has been training employees how to use programs such as Excel and Word. With the help from a Catholic Relief Services grant, the cooperative is now “online.” Internet has become an important asset in the office’s communication system speeding contact and facilitating the flow of information between the cooperative’s office in Concepción and their main office Tegucigalpa. Matthew is now helping to create a web site for the cooperative to aid them in finding markets for local producers and artisans. Matthew teaches Information Technology class at the local high school where he works with 10 teachers and 50 students who are learning the basics of Windows, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. A new Internet connection at the school has allowed them to venture onto the World Wide Web. Matthew is helping students navigate on the Web and learn the benefits of e-mail.

In Jamaica, 45 of 48 Volunteers surveyed use computers in their project assignments, including teaching of computer literacy in schools, setting up computer labs, promoting the use of the Internet for communication and educational purposes and, in one case, a major database of the wastewater treatment plants across the island detailing their equipment, service records, problems and operational status.

Access to computers at the community level, however, is still limited and Volunteers are active in encouraging capacity building in computer literacy, acquisition and use of computers at various levels. Large portions of the population are yet to appreciate how computers can be linked to what they do, or the potential advantages it can afford. Volunteers have a major role to play at the community level in raising the consciousness and linking computer use to localized activities. Volunteers have been using the IT curriculum that they learned from the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) Productivity Centre Information Technology for training counterparts and community members at their sites.

Christopher Perkins is a Volunteer in the Library Development, Technology and Reading program in Yap, Micronesia. The purpose of the program is to develop libraries in connection with reading and technology. Christopher helps to develop programs focusing on computer education and library resources for three different groups within the Yap community. In the first step, the program will educate teachers on how to incorporate computer resources into their classrooms (e.g. for lesson plan development, class projects and continuing education). The second step is to develop a computer education curriculum that will be implemented with the New Baseline Curriculum that is being developed primarily for incoming freshmen at the Yap High School, who have no computer background. The third step is to reach out to the larger community to educate people who want to learn basic computer skills. In the first stage of computer education all three levels will include classes in: Internet research techniques, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint. The next stage will include advanced application usage along with multi-media projects (Final Cut Pro, HyperStudio), design applications (Adobe Illustrator), and desktop publishing (Indesign, PageMaker).

Christopher is training teachers and students on the basic fundamentals of computers. Although a majority of schools on Yap have computer labs, most labs are not utilized by teachers, students or the larger community. The foremost obstacles facing these groups are the lack of necessary skills to access and use this new educational resource. This creates a gulf between the available technology (which Yap has) and the capability of people using it effectively (which is not happening). Christopher is laying the groundwork for computer education.

Volunteers in Nicaragua have helped to develop two Websites

The also helped create two brochures using desktop publishing software a one client database and electronic forms for microcredit NGOs. They are teaching the use of computer software for accounting in three cooperatives and helping to prepare a production graphic analysis and a package label for a milk cooperative.

Michael Jackson is an Education volunteer at St. Mary's Vuvu High School in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. The PNG Department of Education undertook to introduce computers in all secondary schools by the end of 2000.With the full backing of the Provincial Education Board and the headmasters of all the High Schools in the Province, Michael and his counterparts set up a Database System in his school and have helped other schools replicate their efforts. They helped schools to use computers not only for office administration purposes but also for assessment databases and other essential school records. The headmasters could see the need for computer skills used in schools and agreed to support Michael in this endeavor. Administrators can quickly bring up all current information without the need to search through the file cabinets. Other positive results include more compact storage of students’ personal information and grades and fewer transcription errors. Because the end goal of the project is to increase efficiency and accuracy of assessment strategies in the school, the ones who will benefit the most will be students.

John Sarreal was assigned to work with a multipurpose cooperative of farmers, teachers and merchants in Curuguaty, Paraguay, when it was going through hard times and was involved in an economic and operational restructuring. A Spanish NGO was providing technical and financial assistance to help save the cooperative including the provision of computers. John helped the cooperative leaders in the process of buying computers and software and trained them in their use. The heavy customer activity of the cooperative's grocery and general goods store and the regular member account activity posed the biggest accounting and operational problems. After studying the operations of the cooperative and identifying where a computer could be utilized, John made recommendations on the types of computers needed with the appropriate software and hardware specifications. With some money left over from the computer purchasing funds, the coop was also able to buy scanners and bar code readers to computerize the store's operations. The accounting system used by the cooperative historically had always been six months behind. Once the computers were in place, John developed a software program to record the daily accounting activities and keep track of inventory. The program allows for all transactions to be recorded immediately. With the implementation of this project the cooperative was able to bring its accounting up to date diminishing the possibilities of mistakes or decisions taking without complete information. The project was so successful that the program was extended to other cooperatives about the same size and operations as the coop in Curuguaty. CREDICOOP, a second level cooperative, was contacted and an agreement was reached between them and Peace Corps to assist in the promotion of the project. Peace Corps gave CREDICOOP the software required to develop the program and John trained two of their computer technicians on how to operate and manage it. In the agreement, CRECICOOP has to provide the program free of charge to cooperatives interested in utilizing it.

In addition, Peace Corps/Paraguay, has designated a Volunteer Coordinator for Information Technology.

The Tupou High Business and Computer Education Center is a the most significant facility in Tonga dedicated to the teaching of business and computer skills to students who will go directly into the work force or continue their education at a university abroad. It has 22 personal computers with access to the Internet and plans to add 25 more. There are four Volunteers assigned to the Business and Computer Center: Neal Draves, Jennifer Slack, and Brenda Drew and Ren Nelson, a married couple. Jennifer is teaching Marketing and Business Communications to 20 students. Neal and Brenda are team teaching Applied Computing, a course that includes web site design, and Software Principles to a total of 19 students. Neal is also responsible for the computer laboratory, a job that includes maintaining the computers and network and repairing all computers on campus. Neal, Brenda and Jennifer are designing and implementing a school web site and an introduction to the Internet course for the staff at the high school and Business Center. This last course is particularly important to the education of over 400 students because the library is small and the staff will learn how to utilize the Internet to enhance their teaching. Ren and a New Zealand volunteer are team-teaching the course in Organization and Management to 10 students. Ren is helping to draft a mission statement for the Business Center with a view to developing a community education program to meet the needs of people for life long learning. Ultimately, the Business Center will become a Community Learning Center, the first in Tonga. Top



Volunteer Roles in Information Technology

As increasing numbers of Volunteers became involved in Information Technology in 2000, most have played the same roles as their predecessors. What has changed for many Volunteers is that IT has now become a more formal and explicit part of their projects where previously most activities were ad hoc. Volunteers’ IT skills are more formally recognized as being resources of value to the host countries and to their projects.

Almost all Volunteers continue to transfer IT skills and provide other services in information technology in the context of an existing project. There are a number of typical roles that Volunteers play in regard to computer and Internet use:

  • Volunteers teach counterparts, students, and other project participants, in classes, one-on-one or in small groups, to use computer hardware and to use basic productivity (word processing, spreadsheets, and database) and connectivity (e-mail, Web browsers) software.
  • Volunteers teach students and counterparts how to design and establish Web pages for agencies and NGOs, and for businesses to participate in e-commerce.
  • Volunteers help to set up and run school computer laboratories and teach counterpart teachers to take over responsibilities for the facilities and the teaching.
  • Volunteers help to set up and run sustainable community or school/community computing centers, with a particular view to serving youth.
  • Volunteers teach groups of entrepreneurs to use e-mail and the Web to promote their businesses and to communicate with customers. They teach them to use productivity software to improve the internal management efficiency of their businesses.
  • Some Volunteers teach skills in the use of specialized technical software and hardware to colleagues, such as introducing epidemiological database programs in health ministry regional and local offices.
  • Other Volunteers are help students participate in environmental and writing programs such as GLOBE and I*EARN that involve the use of IT in collaboration with students in other countries.

In 2000, additional Volunteer roles in IT were identified.

  • Volunteers’ IT expertise is valuable to the host countries at the national as well as the local level. One important role that some Volunteers play is to contribute to the integration of IT into host country agency programs at the national level. Volunteers in Belize and The Gambia participate in committees that are developing the computer and Internet training curricula, materials, and standards for the public schools of those nations.
  • Volunteers in several countries identified community radio as a powerful tool for dissemination of valuable information via a medium that is widely accepted and used but that is now adapted to local environments, cultures, and languages. Volunteers work with host agencies and local radio to disseminate information on heal1th issues, including HIV/AIDS, on agriculture, and on the environment. Volunteers at Peace Corps/Mali and at posts in the Pacific Islands are active in radio and interest is growing at other posts.
  • Many individual Volunteers are extremely active in assisting their host agencies and communities to obtain the computer hardware, software, and connectivity required that will allow them to participate in the global information-based society and economy. They help communities to solicit funds and/or equipment from local sources, from their own sources in the United States (families, churches, employers, etc.), from the Small Projects Assistance (SPA) and Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), and from other sources. Demand still exceeds supply from these sources, and the “America Online Peace Packs” program administered by PCPP is designed to allow greater numbers of Volunteers to assist communities in this way.
  • Increasing numbers of Volunteer “techies” are playing specialized technical roles. Some are doing so full-time, such as the IT Teacher Trainers in Belize. Others are playing a technical specialist role in addition to their primary assignment, such as the Volunteer science teachers in Burkina Faso who are also network technicians and helping set up networked computer laboratories in secondary schools.

In looking to the near future, the number of Volunteers playing both generalist and specialist roles in IT will increase substantially. In addition, another Volunteer role is likely to re-emerge from its largely discredited status in recent years: that of vocational and professional educator. As more host country young people become not only IT literate but aspiring “geeks,” the need is emerging for IT professionals and technicians to make local systems run and to obtain the maximum benefits from networked computers. The Cisco Networking Academy systems (national and local academies) train young people for high-paying and significant jobs. There are equivalent programs in other IT areas, sponsored by government, private companies, or NGOs or some combination of these. Supporting these efforts with Volunteers who are IT educators at the local level and who help to relate community-level IT to these institutions will soon emerge as a legitimate Volunteer role. Top


Recruiting and Availability

The vast majority of opportunities to integrate Information Technology into Peace Corps projects continue to be able to rely on the computer and Internet skills that Volunteers bring with them. Almost all Volunteers are “tech-savvy” in their ability to use various Internet and productivity applications. They need only to be taught how to teach their IT skills to others and how to facilitate the integration of IT into the host agency’s programs.

Among these “tech-savvy” Volunteers, there are many who have additional IT skills. The challenge is to identify those skills in order to assign Volunteers to sites where their host country agency will be able to benefit from them. Examples of such situations are: health Volunteers like those in The Gambia who are proficient users of epidemiological software programs; small business Volunteers who know how to create Web pages and are familiar with e-commerce; and Volunteers like those in Burkina Faso who have computer networking experience that might be valuable in helping to network school computer laboratories.

Various posts have begun distributing questionnaires to arriving trainees and to current Volunteers in order to assist the staff in site assignments and project IT strategy development.

As Peace Corps program managers became more “strategic” in their integration of IT in 2000, Volunteer opportunities for specialists in various IT fields (who proudly call themselves by the once-disparaging term, “geeks”) began to emerge. These opportunities generally fall into two scenarios - each of which corresponds to a familiar Peace Corps programming technique employed in other technical sectors.

  • There are opportunities for stand-alone new projects that serve Peace Corps’ traditional partner populations using highly skilled and experienced professionals. The Peace Corps/Belize Information Technology Teacher Training Project launched in 2000 is an example of such a project where the services of experienced IT teacher trainers are required.
  • Many posts are “seeding” IT specialists among IT generalists in projects where IT is being integrated. These specialists are assigned to a particular position within the project that requires greater IT competencies and experience than those possessed by generalists. These specialists are also technical resource persons for the host agency and for fellow Volunteers.

During 2000, Peace Corps created a new recruiting and placement category for IT specialists. Previously, no such category existed and a specialist interested in joining the Peace Corps might have difficulty in identifying an assignment that used his or her skills. This innovation was publicized by the Peace Corps Director as part of the Information Technology Initiative in interviews on the radio and in the press, including one in the October 2000 issue of Wired magazine. While the supply of info “techies” available for Peace Corps Volunteer assignments is not limitless, there are already indications that this pool of potential applicants will be more than adequate to respond to host agency needs. The proliferation of short-term IT volunteering opportunities in the private sector is witness to the desire of numerous “techies” to help bridge the “digital divide.” During 2001, posts’ experiences in using IT specialists in both scenarios provide useful information for further refining the criteria for appropriate assignments for “techies” and for improved recruiting strategies. Top

Training

The posts that field-tested the Information Technology Training of Trainers package report that it is a valuable and appropriate tool for them to use in integrating IT into programming. It serves both those Volunteers who are teaching or training in a formal setting and also those who are training counterparts, colleagues, and other project participants. The IT TOT package was shared as a “working draft” with other posts during 2000. In all cases, the posts demonstrated that they understood that the package is not “shelfware” but rather is a practical tool that requires the input of considerable country-specific content and the adaptation of the design to project needs. For example, Peace Corps/Cape Verde extended its IT TOT to include not only a practicum where Volunteers taught counterparts but also a mini-practicum where counterparts taught local children!

In order to integrate the IT TOT package into their training repertoires, a number of posts require assistance in identifying and mentoring local IT trainers to assume responsibility for future IT TOTs.

Volunteer participants in the IT TOTs were almost unanimous in identifying the “next step” that is required for IT training. “Our colleagues and counterparts not only want us to teach the how to use computers,” they said. “They expect us to know how to repair them!” There is much troubleshooting, repairs, and upgrading that can be performed by the user. Skills in these areas are at a premium in the communities where Volunteers typically are posted to serve the underserved. Therefore, the computer hardware and software troubleshooting In-Service Training package (dubbed “Where there is no geek …”) is scheduled for development in 2001 in direct response to feedback obtained from IT TOT field test participants. Top

Projects

The Education sector remains the largest single participant in IT activities and there are numerous indications that IT in this sector will expand more rapidly than the others. Governments from Guinea to Papua New Guinea are reported in the PSRs to have undertaken to computerize all secondary schools, but as noted by a Micronesia Volunteer, even those fortunate enough to obtain the hardware are in dire need of training.

The next most rapid growth is occurring in the Business Sector. Volunteers’ activities center on two areas: teaching the use of productivity software to obtain efficiencies and transparency in credit unions, microfinance units, and businesses; and the use of Web pages for marketing, especially crafts exporters and ecotourism sites.

Two sectors that (with some notable exceptions) are generally lagging behind but that should embrace ICTs are health education (including HIV/AIDS) and environmental education. Peace Corps/Mali and posts in the Pacific are very involved in community radio and others (Togo, Zambia, etc.) are moving in this direction. Wireless solutions in these two sectors can be very effective for public education.

Municipal Development has turned out to be a growth area for IT - especially in Central America and Cape Verde. Peace Corps/El Salvador noted that "Municipal Development is an ideal situation for the incorporation of IT programming," and this statement is echoed by several other posts with MD or similar projects. The operational efficiencies that can be achieved by IT can considerably improve the quality and the timeliness of services to citizens. Volunteers in these projects also have found opportunities to introduce the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies. Top

Lessons Learned and Promising Practices from Posts

There were a number of phenomena and trends observed in the PSR submissions and all of the IT Initiative reports. Some are a continuation of trends identified in 1999.

  • Telecenters - There is a proliferation of demand for community-level IT activities - telecenters, school/community resource centers, municipal IT facilities, and small or co-op businesses. Many posts echo the sentiments expressed by Peace Corps/Lesotho, that stated, “The problem is a lack of funds to purchase the necessary equipment. We are exploring ways of assisting the schools in acquiring computers, used or new, in order to expand the computer literacy program at the schools and, secondarily, to reach out to community organizations.” It is a fact of life that promoting IT requires hardware, software, and connectivity.
  • Networking and Partnerships - Efforts at networking with both programming partners and private corporations laid the groundwork for the ePartnership Initiative and continue to support it. The ePartnership Initiative’s appeal to private high-tech corporations has already succeeded in attracting new partners. The needs expressed in the PSRs correspond perfectly to the “AOL Peace Packs” and other similar programs. Peace Corps participation in networks of IT partners and potential partners of all kinds has been extremely useful and must continue and expand. The Jigsaw Coalition, the InfoChange Foundation, the Inter-Agency Working Group on Internet for Economic Development, and the White House e-Commerce Working Group are examples of venues where Peace Corps participation and, in certain cases, leadership, has helped to gain recognition for Peace Corps as a valued partner in efforts to bridge the digital divide.
  • Shipping - In addressing community IT needs for hardware, the question of shipping and customs clearance remains an important one. Local purchase is by far the preferred option.
  • Web Page Development - Assisting in Web page development and teaching Web skills has continued to be an important IT service that Volunteers provide. This is particularly true for businesses and groups who want to participate in e-commerce or NGOs that want to tell their stories in hopes of obtaining funding for community social, environmental, health, and other activities.
  • Basic Hardware Repair and Upgrading - Among the participants in the Information Technology Training-of-Trainers sessions, opinion was near unanimous that the Volunteers needed to acquire skills in software and hardware troubleshooting, upgrade, maintenance, and repair. In the area of software, advances have been made at posts, especially at Peace Corps/The Gambia where a ‘Troubleshooting In-Service Training” was developed and has been conducted several times. There is still work that remains to be done on the software side, and basic hardware troubleshooting, repair, and upgrade needs to be added. The “Where there is no geek …” in-service training package to be developed in 2001 will address this area of need more comprehensively.

In addition, a number of new trends and phenomena emerged in 2000 that bear watching and, perhaps, emulating.

  • Post IT Committees and Coordinators - Several posts in all three regions indicate that they have formed post “IT Committees.” Peace Corps/Armenia has done so, and has designated a staff “IT Coordinator,” while others, such as Peace Corps/Paraguay, have designated a Volunteer for this role. Such initiatives are welcome opportunities to marry Volunteers’ IT skills with the programming skills and experience of their APCDs in order to integrate IT into projects in a rational and sustainable way.
  • Regional and Sub-Regional Strategies - IAP Region’s emphasis on Information Technology is “paying-off” statistically in numbers of projects integrating IT, numbers of Volunteers involved in IT as part of projects, and numbers of host country participants benefiting from Volunteer activities. This region’s experience tends to indicate that strategic approaches to IT integration at the regional and sub-regional level that provide guidance and support but are not prescriptive can help obtain very positive results.
  • Urban vs. Rural Access - EMA Region Volunteers have typically had much easier access to computers and the Internet than Volunteers in other regions and hence Volunteer ad hoc IT activities have tended to be the norm. A number of EMA posts indicated that they were moving away from more urban placements to sites in smaller towns and rural areas. As this happens, Volunteers are likely to have less access to computers and Internet connections and their IT roles may begin to more closely resemble those of the other regions, including a growing need for “AOL Peace Packs,” etc.
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Materials Development

IT Training-of-Trainers - By the end of 2000, the Information Technology Training-of-Trainers (IT TOT) package neared the end of its eighteen-month development period that began in 1999. The IT TOT presumes that Volunteer participants are already computer and Internet savvy, but that they do not necessarily know how to teach their IT skills to others. It is intended to be conducted over a five-to-six day period during pre-service training or as an in-service training. It consists of: a two-day training-of-trainers session focusing on the use of adult learning theory and practice for the transfer of computer and Internet literacy skills; a period of supervised lesson preparation; and, a two-day “practicum,” in which Volunteers use their newly-acquired training tools and techniques to train a group of counterparts or students from the host-country. Four country programs - Kenya, Cape Verde, Belize, and Haiti - field tested the IT TOT in 2000. Periodically, lessons learned from these experiences were harvested and used in revising and refining the IT TOT package. Working drafts of the package were circulated widely. A number of posts used working drafts in designing and implementing their own local IT training. By the end of 2000, IT TOT development was complete and the package was ready for production and general distribution by April 2001.

Troubleshooting - Volunteers and staff at a number of posts developed IT-related materials that they have shared with other posts and that will be valuable resources in further materials development. Volunteers in Kenya and Tanzania, for example, have developed curricula and materials for teaching the use of word processing and spreadsheet applications in secondary schools. Volunteers in The Gambia developed and conducted a computer software “troubleshooting” workshop. Volunteers in Kenya incorporated materials from The Gambia and elsewhere with their own text to create a Peace Corps/Kenya IT Handbook for training and for post-training reference that other posts want to emulate.



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