Global Resource & Information Directory

iStock_000014310599_SmallThe GRID Report, published today, highlights some of the digital inclusion initiatives and projects across Latin America and the Caribbean which provide children with access to technology. With increasing numbers of children becoming connected, the report also compares some of the region’s online safety initiatives.

Many initiatives involve giving children their own connected devices: known as one-to-one computing. A large number of One Laptop Per Child projects have been undertaken across Latin America in recent years, with all children in Uruguay being given their own laptop by 2012.  The same year, in Brazil, 176,000 units were distributed to students as part of Intel’s Classmate PC program.

The report notes that while methodology across the region varies, most programs have focused primarily on deployment for the first phase. The safe use of technology is more commonly a second-phase activity. National projects involve partnerships between government, industry and NGOs to deliver all aspects from equipment to training.

In addition to highlighting country-level initiatives, the report also highlights activities being undertaken at a regional level. RedNATIC (the Network for the Right of Children and Adolescents to the Safe and Responsible Use of new ICTs) is a group of organizations from civil society across Latin America. Its members are committed, to its Theoretical Framework for the rights of children and teens to a Safe and Responsible Use of ICT. RedNATIC comprises members from Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Costa Rica, Columbia, Mexico and Uruguay.

Children across the region can benefit from the Interactive Generations Forum, whose mission is to promote the use of technology to improve people’s lives. It provides educational resources and training, and a range of online safety information is included in its Families section. The forum is the result of a partnership founded in 2008 between the telecommunications provider, Telefónica, the University of Navarra and the Inter-American Organization (OUI).

Another NGO which works across the region is Chicos.net: one of the member organizations comprising RedNATIC . Founded in Argentina in 1998, its work in the area of digital inclusion covers a number of formats. It has produced a number of pieces of research about children’s use of technology and the Internet. A 2012 comparative piece, produced with Save The Children Sweden, looks at the usage of the Internet by children aged between 8 and 10 in Argentina, Paraguay and Peru. The organization has also produced Internet safety campaigns and educational resources on a variety of related topics.

Further information about all the organizations and initiatives mentioned in the report can be found on the relevant country or region page on GRID. Links point to English-language content where possible, but also to a wealth of resources in Spanish and Portuguese. These are updated frequently, with GRID’s home page showing the most recently updated pages for ease of access. In addition, following FOSI’s Mexico Roundtable event in 2014, FOSI published a guide to a number of Spanish language online safety resources, covering topics from safe cell phone use to cyberbullying and online privacy protection.

Past GRID Reports can be found on GRID here.

Microsoft Digital Citizenship Footprint 2014Microsoft’s Digital Citizenship Footprint 2014 includes 131 countries around the world where research conducted for GRID has found digital citizenship or online safety and similar activities to have taken place. In the last blog, we highlighted the major 4Afrika initiative and in this piece we look at what one smaller part of that means for the community of Laikipia County, Kenya.

The announcement was made in February of 2013 that Microsoft had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and Kenyan Internet Service Provider, Indigo Telecom Ltd, to bring low-cost electricity and broadband to some parts of rural Kenya.1 ‘Mawingu’(Kiswahili for cloud) is the first time2 that solar-powered based stations have been used together with TV white spaces, to deliver high-speed Internet access to areas which were not connected to the electrical grid.

TV ‘white space’ (TVWS) is unused analogue spectrum on frequencies set aside for television use and partly developed by Microsoft. Broadband delivered in this manner can travel further and has a stronger signal than traditional wireless methods, with the signal also passing more easily through buildings and some of the obstacles that the terrain may provide.  The base stations also enable people to charge their mobile devices so that they can keep them running, even if they do not have other access to power. Since around 70% of Kenyan households are not connected to the electricity grid, charging devices is an important consideration and future plans involve using solar-powered charging stations which could be run as co-operatives, putting profits back into the community.

By January 2014, seventeen wifi hotspots had been deployed in Laikipia County, with a total of 50 planned in all.3  Laikipia County has around 60,000 inhabitants and the project aims to initially handle a subscriber base of around 6,000, with increased capacity to follow.  So far, county offices, the local office of the Kenya Red Cross, Gakawa Secondary School and a community cybercafé have all been connected to the Internet.

It is planned that one primary school and two secondary schools will benefit from Mawingu in Laikipia County by the end of the project.4 Schools are equipped with solar panels, hardware, software and the training needed to ensure that children benefit from the project.  Pupils learn to use tablets and eReaders, as well as commonly-used software products, helping to equip them to join the digital economy.

In another education-related project, WorldVision’s Be the Spark, Microsoft is joining with it, the British Council and Intel, to create community centers where children across Africa will gain access to technology, learn skills and benefit entire communities.5 The pilot phase of the project will be rolled out to ten primary schools in Kenya, before launching in other countries.

Bridging the digital divide is just one way in which Microsoft’s citizenship activities work to make the world better.  The global approach also extends to the online safety community, and its Safer Online Twitter channel surpassed 100,000 followers earlier this month.6 With social media having an increasing impact on people’s lives, the company’s online safety advice and messages will now reach more people than ever before and facilitate common dialogue between Twitter users based all over the world.

To learn more about this and many other digital citizenship, online safety and digital literacy initiatives, visit the country pages on GRID.


Sources

1 http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft-green/archive/2013/02/04/thanks-to-solar-energy-microsoft-provides-broadband-access-to-rural-kenya.aspx (last accessed June 18, 2014)
2 http://nethope.org/programs/global-broadband-and-innovations/mawingu-project (last accessed June 18, 2014)
3 http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Microsoft-links-remote-areas-to-the-Internet-using-solar-power/-/1248928/2213556/-/ni5n7dz/-/index.html (last accessed June 18, 2014)
4 http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_on_the_issues/archive/2013/02/04/bringing-low-cost-off-the-grid-broadband-access-to-rural-kenya.aspx (last accessed June 18, 2014)
5 http://www.britishcouncil.org/organisation/press/expand-microsoft-partnership (last accessed June 18, 2014)
6 http://blogs.msdn.com/b/securitytipstalk/archive/2014/06/12/microsoft-is-building-a-global-online-safety-community-one-tweet-at-a-time.aspx (last accessed June 18, 2014)

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