Breaking the Silence of War in Northern Uganda through ICTs and Collaboration
BOSCO-Uganda is an organization breaking the silence and isolation caused by war using collaborative ICT solutions. We install solar-powered PCs and long-range WiFi Internet in schools, health clinic
Beginning in Northern Uganda, we can overcome the isolation of rural communities in war-affected regions using Web 2.0 technologies with low-power PCs and long-range WiFi Internet connectivity.
Northern Uganda has been in conflict for two decades: "the world's worst forgotten humanitarian disaster," according to the former head of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In northern Uganda, 30,000 children have been kidnapped into brutal soldiery or sexual slavery. No one would put up with such treatment of their own children, yet the prospects of the young in Northern Uganda are much like the prospects for refugee children throughout the world. Meanwhile, collaborative technologies in more prosperous areas too often focus on recreational entertainment and casual socialization, threatening to institutionalize the forgetting that has occurred and rob younger generations of a vibrant sense of purpose. But there is a richer function for collaborative technologies: the isolation of both the privileged and the deprived can be overcome with the same strategy. No one forgets or tolerates brutal or neglectful treatment of friends. Providing low-power, solar, wireless access to web 2.0 collaboration tools can build ties that bind and heal both classes of isolation.
The Archdiocese of Gulu and its international partners, BOSCO-Uganda have launched an effort to connect isolated IDP camps with a network of collaborating user groups equipped with a low power, solar powered PCs with long-range WiFi internet connectivity and access to VoIP telephony. We work with experienced partners to identify key change agents, who in turn form user groups and craft a constitution to guide their efforts at each site location. Collaborating from the start with local and international partners, these user groups document their local stories, articulate local needs, and propose local solutions, all this done in the public eye using simple collaboration tools (Wikispace.com, Skype, the Google suite of collaborative services). As they draw others into these collaborative efforts, they begin to organize their assistance to newer users, turning traditional ICT training on its head, collaborating first, which is IC2.0T (Information, Communication and Collaboration Technology, or IC2T) training. As these user groups develop, additional workstations and training are brought to users who have already cut their teeth with 21st Century online collaboration experience. Documenting their local stories (digital ethnography) as the first steps toward creating a collaborative environment restores proper attention to war-scourged cultural elements, enables greater cultural sensitivity from remote partners, and safeguards against the loss of cultural diversity, particularly when taking place under the watchful guidance of stable and experienced local shepherding. Furthermore, these efforts succeed in providing an outlet for self-advocacy on the most local level. For example, rural farmers are using our Wikispace to post small-scale funding proposals that can be edited and transmitted to the appropriate authorities, all in the public eye (link). Efforts in 20 sites are succeeding; nothing but funding keeps us from spreading this approach throughout the North of Uganda.
What we have accomplished:
BOSCO has connected 20 sites: local schools (primary and secondary), health clinics, community centers in former IDP camps, local government offices, NGO and CBO offices, making up its collaborative online community. We also connect all these sites through a high speed Intranet content management page where the sites can share content, post on common message boards, and share information relevant to beneficiaries.
Web 2.0 Train the Trainer program: We have developed a Web 2.0 curriculum and manual based on our experience training in the rural areas. This manual takes into account the fact that ICT learning is accomplished best by “doing” and that “doing” in the 21st century takes place on the Internet, utilizing Web 2.0 applications like Wikispaces.
We have recruited over 40 site volunteers who carry out training at their respective sites following our curriculum. After completion of training courses, the trainees will become certified as Web 2.0 volunteer trainers and will in turn carry out their own trainings at their locations.
Lives are changing and hope is being restored at the most local level:
- Community development proposals are being written for farming supplies and posting them on our collaborative network Wikispace (e.g. http://bosco-uganda.wikispaces.com/Organic+Farming); this includes a recently funded request for traditional musical instruments to help a youth group perform cultural reconciliation through music and dance performances for formerly abducted youth
- Schools are writing proposals to fund student scholarships and classroom equipment, e.g., “The need for desks” seen at: http://bosco-uganda.wikispaces.com/The+need+for+desks
- Users are documenting and sharing stories about life in the IDP camps, helping to end the extreme isolation Acholis have endured after 20 years of civil war
- Schools within Uganda and the USA are collaborating online by sharing stories, insights, and lesson plans
- Human Rights Volunteers in IDP camps from our local partner Human Rights Focus are accessing the Internet for the first time in order to enhance their human rights monitoring and reporting in their communities
- NGOs (non governmental organizations) and CBOs (community based organizations) are linking to our network to provide more efficient and effective services to their beneficiaries, especially in the rural areas.
BOSCO’s Next Objectives:
- Install 5 new rural community sites with solar powered PCs and long range WiFi Internet connectivity, linking them to the current BOSCO network of 20 sites.
- Implement BOSCO’s Web 2.0 Train the Trainer program at each new site, providing youth and adults with valuable community-building skills, job skills, and communication skills which will strengthen post-war development from the most local levels.
- Upgrade ADSL bandwidth to all sites to ensure that bandwidth is meeting the demand in providing an efficient and useful ICT Web 2.0 training experience.
Why BOSCO Uganda?
This work has not been done before because no one has invested in collaboration where communication infrastructure doesn’t previously exist. We can leap over infrastructure shortcomings now, using wireless Internet and solar powered PCs. It will continue to be successful because the community is taking the local initiative to train each other and collaboration will naturally occur with gentle guidance from BOSCO staff. Grass roots community members continue to proceed with what they were already doing in their respective fields while using a more efficient and broad medium (i.e., the Internet) to achieve their intended results.
Northern Uganda has been in conflict for twenty years which has led to the destruction of infrastructure and educational resources. Communities have been broken down due to displacement, captivity, and exile. In this process a rich culture has been nearly destroyed. Before the war, communication and information was culturally passed on through homesteads using common traditions and practices, which also served to pass on valuable communication to the wider region. The conflict has made this nearly impossible. The conspiracy of silence is now the norm, especially from the Western world—voices and stories have been lost or silenced.
Re-establishment of the infrastructure and enhancing economic growth are key areas for the planned recovery process. Therefore the project considers communication and access to information as vital necessities for the ongoing development efforts in northern Uganda. About 90% of the targeted Acholi region consists of rural areas with limited infrastructure, no access to grid electricity and almost no access to information through internet and related communication facilities.
According to a study on Business information systems design for Uganda's economic development: the case of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in northern Uganda , SMEs are lagging behind in using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). There is a lack of familiarity with changing technology - especially the Internet. Although the SMEs are making a fundamental contribution to Uganda's economy, they face serious challenges, such as insecurity, inadequate electricity, lack of trained information professionals and appropriate technology to access electronic information. This situation is not any different from what other sectors like education, health etc that toil to attain social-economic transformation and development face. Furthermore about 70% of all Internet usage is concentrated in urban areas leaving rural areas (and thus the majority of the population) with very little access to communication services. Central Northern Uganda, specifically Gulu and Amuru being the target areas of the proposed project, is significantly lower than the national average due to the above mentioned insurgency and 21 years of conflict in the region.
From July to December 2005, the MacArthur Foundation dispatched assessment teams to Uganda to identify programmatic interventions that would give children and youth the tools to gain better access to income generating activities, schooling, human rights, and justice. The result of this effort was a comprehensive, forward-looking plan that set out major steps for developing formal and traditional justice mechanisms to deal with past human rights crimes, while recognizing the importance of investing in Uganda’s greatest asset: the energy and creativity of its children and youth. The recommendations set forth in this report provide concrete opportunities for donors to offer support to thousands of children and youth in northern Uganda and to set them on the road to a productive life. Even modest funding now will help local and national institutions provide critical services to those most needy and give young people access to educational scholarships, information technologies, and entrepreneurial programs. Young people need to be helped; an investment that will serve current and future generations of northern Ugandans as they rebuild their war-ravaged communities and seek to provide a better life for their children .
Current funding and revenues for BOSCO-Uganda allow the organization to maintain its current 20 sites and training programs. However, a funding award from Africa Rural Connect of $20,000 would allow BOSCO-Uganda to expand to 5 new sites and undertake its Web 2.0 training program while upgrading the current bandwidth capabilities to support 5 additional sites with low power (solar PCs) and long range WiFi Internet capabilities.
Cost per site for 1 low-power PC, VoIP phone, solar power system, long-range WiFi connection and installation: $3,200 per site
Total Cost for installation of 5 new sites in BOSCO network: $16,000
Cost for upgrade of ADSL Internet bandwidth from 512 kbps to 1 Mbps: $300 per month
Total cost for 1 year of increased bandwidth: $3,600
Total cost for 1 year of Web 2.0 training at each new site: $400
TOTAL BUDGET FOR AFRICA RURAL CONNECT AWARD: $20,000
The five new BOSCO sites supported by this award will allow Web 2.0 training at each sites and a provision of technical equipment (Solar powered PC, VoIP phone, long range WiFi Internet). ADSL Internet bandwidth will be increased by 2 times the current capacity to support additional usage on the BOSCO network. After one year, BOSCO presumes that it will cover the cost of the ADSL bandwidth upgrade by connecting a local NGO to the BOSCO network which will help subsidize the monthly Internet fees. This initiative will be self-sustaining because the only recurring cost is the ADSL bandwidth purchased every month, which will be subsidized, as mentioned above by larger partners making use of our network.
BOSCO-Uganda’s current network does not require private sector initiatives. However, BOSCO does raise revenue by involving strategic partners as part of its Internet collaboration network. For example, international NGOs operating in Gulu are connected to our network (e.g. Caritas Intl., War Child Holland) as well as other local institutions such as local government offices. These groups pay a competitive rate for Internet connectivity to BOSCO while we provide their staff with collaboration resources that benefit their program beneficiaries. This helps subsidize the monthly costs that we pay for ADSL bandwidth and allows us to provide bandwidth to other rural community sites and schools (former IDP camps) at no cost to those users.
We market ourselves to local organizations and institutions online and by maintaining an online presence (bosco-uganda.org; bosco-uganda.wikispaces.com; bosco-uganda.blogspot.com) sending groups fliers about our services and programming, and by maintaining a presence at various sector meetings and workshops. In the Gulu area, we actually have more demand for our services than we can meet at our current bandwidth limitations.
Furthermore, our beneficiaries are trained in Web 2.0 collaboration literacy, which has a regional marketability as a job skill desired by various NGOs and civil sector organizations. Many organizations in the field of public health and development, for example, are looking for trained workers who could create online intelligent maps about the outbreak of disease or hotspots of conflict. These are job skills that are marketable for the 21st century and rely on local knowledge to produce the intended results.
Plan and Execution:
The target audience is mostly youth students but also includes other professionals and community members in rural northern Uganda, including teachers, PTA members, etc, (see “Real World Impact” section below).
Political support already exists because BOSCO-Uganda has built up tremendous political capital with the local government institutions, the Uganda Communications Commission, and the Archdiocese of Gulu (which provides legal status for the local organization). Because of the nature of Ugandan civil society structure, social (non-profit) organizations operating under the umbrella of any Archdiocese, are largely given a free pass when it comes to government intrusion, threats of shutdown, bribe schemes, etc. For this reason, BOSCO has a tremendous advantage on other small non-profit organization trying to operate.
BOSCO-Uganda already has Unicef as a partner organization mentoring us through the various metrics for success of our programming. This will continue to be utilized in any new programming we undertake from other sources.
Provide constant access to modern Information and Communication Technologies; and contribute to addressing development issues affecting rural communities of Northern Uganda with active participation of children, youth and other different general publics.
5 new BOSCO ICT sites established; and contribute to community development also geared towards widening the scope of service delivery. Establish new ICT sites; with several computers
At least 120 community members have their capacity built through access to developed content and skills training using the web2.0 training manual; with the support from the existing trained ICT volunteers; Access and acquired knowledge from educational, social and other content on the BOSCO web. Community members conduct Peer to Peer Education sessions for community members
Real World Impact:
Within the last decade Uganda has decided that every village should have access to at least one borehole for water. Boreholes are places where communities meet to fulfill basic needs and share cultural experiences and stories. They are also meeting places for youth. An achievable 1 year outcome is to establish a vibrant collaborating user-group (with constitution) to function as a borehole, a source of life and a place of meeting for every major IDP camp (some 60) in Northern Uganda. The early half of that group should post a complete list of every CBO and NGO working in their area, and establish new or stronger collaborative ties with some of them; they should also have developed and begun to implement an IC2T training plan. Because wikis have embedded statistical tools, preliminary outcomes such as growth in number of users and frequency of contact will be easy to monitor.
The following outcomes will take place at 5 new site installations in Gulu and Amuru Districts of northern Uganda.
Project Duration: 12 Months (2nd March 2010 to 1st March 2011)
Project Beneficiaries: (1530F/1000M)
Direct Beneficiaries: (Rural)-Children and youth
Indirect Beneficiaries: (rural/urban/adults)
In school children: ( 420F/280M )
Out of school children: ( 210F/140M )
School Management Committees: (60F/40M)
In school youth/students: ( 420F/280M )
Out of School youth: ( 210F/140M )
Total = 1260F/840M Total = 270F/160M
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