November 26 2009: the Fourth day! For those who are starting to be bored by the journey of the Web Foundation in East Africa, don’t worry, this is almost the end !
This day was a second day dedicated to field visit. Leaving Bushenyi early in the day, as usual, at 8:00 we headed to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Unfortunately this was not for enjoying nice bird or wildlife watching or for some game drives, but to meet with our host of the day, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), directed by my friend Lawrence Zikusoka and his wife Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka.
We visited the nice telecenter ran jointly by CTPH and the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) , and then had a very interesting meeting with representatives from the local communities, Lawrence, and some CTPH staff. Here again, the potential and barriers for accessing the Web are quite similar to those we heard in other places:
- Having local content in local language is a critical aspect for the community to benefit from the Web. CTPH is maintaining a community portal in local language and this is considered as a very important resource by the community
- CTPH is also involved in linking schools in the community from schools in the United States. See a summary of the experience. Here again the potential of the Web to enable exchanges between students and kids from different cultures is seen as a great opportunity.
- Web and IT skills in general are seen as a great value to improve employability of people, and CTPH offers training and certificates on Web and IT technologies for people in the community
The meeting was also attended by John Silco from Rwenzori Consortium (RWECO)-RICNET. See their blog post about the meeting. John is running a project on e-governance and transparency. The project, called e-society, is running in the Kasese district and helps, on one side, the local government to put online its data and news (see the Kasese local government site, and also helps NGOs, citizens to access and exploit these information, and send feedback. See a more detailed description of the project . This new initiative is very interesting, and inline with one of the topic the Web Foundation is interested in. It will be interesting to see in the future the impact of this project.
The last part of the day was a loooonnnnggggg drive till bwindi. I think it was like a 4 hours journey, but on a very rough track! We were completely exhausted at the end, but we had a chance to visit CTPH current and future facilities in Bwindi, and to meet with local staff. We learnt about the story of the CTPH telecenter in Bwindi which was training people on IT technologies, and giving them minimal experience to use the Web. Unfortunately, the telecenter had to close because the offices they were renting were called back by the owner. The community protested against the close, and expressed their needs. Hopefully beginning of January, it will reopen in the new facilities. It was good to know that people really feel the needs for the telecenter, and give and important value to accessing the Web.