April 8, 2004

Network Integration To Aid Impoverished

Print More

Four panelists gathered in Olin Hall yesterday for a discussion on the role and impact of computers and network integration in developing countries around the world.

The speakers, ranging from professors to graduate students, presented an array of topics that covered cultural factors involved in the integration of information technologies along with the implementation and distribution of updated computers with Internet access. The purpose for providing these resources is part of a global plan to aid countries that have been devastated by war and poverty in the past decade.

Making computers available will not only educate and give disadvantaged peoples more opportunities, but also help integrate societies and cultures as well.

“This summer, we’ll hopefully have the Muslim students working with the Catholics — that wouldn’t happen before,” said Doug Mitarotonda grad.

Mitarotonda spent a semester in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mitarotonda worked with a program called “Friends of Bosnia” that allowed him to teach a Java computer class to sophomores in a Bosnia high school and adults who were interested in furthering their knowledge.

The purpose of Mitarotonda’s teaching was three-fold: it helped to integrate races and cultures, to develop information technologies across the country and world and to allow for entrepreneurship and more success locally and nationally. Entrepreneurship recently became an option because many countries have dropped the socialist regime that had been governing them and changed to a capitalist society.

Prof. Royal Colle, communications, discussed the necessity of making computer access available to all people from all cultures. “There are a lot of women who don’t have access to information technologies,” Colle said. “Why should we wait another generation or two to get them access?”

Colle’s plan involves having telecenters, which are non-profit cyber cafes, in the cities of these developing nations. By making Internet access available to children and women, Colle argued that the entire society would benefit both technologically and socially. Colin Maclay, director of International Technologies Group, agreed with Colle on the goals of computer technologies with society. “It’s about crossing boarders — disciplinary and social,” Maclay said.

Maclay, who was visiting from the Beckman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, was a co-founder of Sustainable Access in Rural India. Maclay led the group in establishing and distributing information technologies to individuals and businesses throughout India. Through his help, people have been able to integrate world-wide via the Internet which helps their business prosper economically.

While the other panelists are concerned with the implementation of computers and their technology in foreign countries, Harvey Scott grad is involved with gathering the computers that are being shipped overseas. As the founder of project “Computers for Africa,” Scott refurbishes obsolete computers in the United States and ships them to developing nations, such as Senegal and Bali. This program not only provides more computers to areas that are lacking, but by doing so benefits all society by increasing the entire global network.

The majority of the computers that Scott’s organization receives are installed at local cyber cafes overseas. Along with providing free computer and Internet access, these cafes provide hope of a more integrated and successful future for these developing countries.

Archived article by Carl Menzel
Sun Contributor