African Initiatives: School Connectivity

Mobile Rural Infobanks: A Pilot Project for Community-based Computer-Assisted Learning System at the Basic Level of Education in the Volta Region of Ghana

Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 09:24:55 EST
From: "John Afele" <jafele@mail.waoe.org>
Organization: Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Canada
To: utsumi@columbia.edu

Here is a piece of the document I have attached. This will give you the entire idea from here (myself, my colleague Kofi Anani, and the views we have found so many to subscribe to).

The Proposal aims to test the hypothesis that global knowledge can be converged within a target rural African community, as brain power, to decode and integrate indigenous African knowledge into modern knowledge as a synthesized or enhanced local knowledge for resolving local crises, leading to human capacity enhancement, rural poverty alleviation and environmental rejuvenation for peaceful coexistence in human-human and human-environmental system sustainability.

Brain Convergence, powered by convergent IT tools, would translate into an Indigenous Index Structure. Such a knowledge network would include indigenous institutions of African knowledge and the modern formats. The network would be part of the physical, social, and philosophical bases for establishing a connectivity scheme among perceived global knowledge and research centres, similar centres in Africa, as well as access to a specified or target community in rural Africa. That is, to map out the possible connectivity nodes within the target region, as to location, available and required resources (human and physical), and the required contents, which would provide the mechanisms for brain convergence in national-international research systems linkages.

The revolutions in information and communications technologies (IT) offer unique opportunities for Africa to reverse the chronic human indignity, economic malaise and environmental degeneration it currently faces. That the revolutions in IT would engender a stable milieu on the continent, within which economic upliftment and resurrection of dignity for all communities of Africans could occur, however, Africa has to sow the seeds which these technologies would nourish to bud and blossom. For that to occur, it is presumed that global knowledge, when accessible to Africa's deprived communities, would enable rural sub-Saharan Africa to govern itself, build the human resource capacity it needs, improve health care and delivery, prevent and resolve crises and, utilize and manage the natural environment more efficiently while engaging in income-generating activities.

These institutional linkages would necessarily reach Africa's rural communities which account for 70% of the population. For example, elements within national research and academic systems, e.g., in water, agriculture, health, education (formal and adult learning), and engineering, which are more easily connected to respective international centres of learning, would actively be coupled to indigenous counterparts for accessibility to the majority populations who are practitioners of a predominantly indigenous knowledge system.

Thus regional and municipal hospitals which might be connectivity centres in healthcare (telehealth nodes) with external centres, e.g., WHO and CDC, would also reach Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA's) who are the highest level of obstetrics among the majority populations and indigenous healers who are health officials for 80% of most communities, and synthesise dental products from the traditional chewing sticks; technical and engineering institutional linkages would include second-cycle technical and vocational institutes, toolsmiths and rural artisans (who are the indigenous engineers of rural technologies, e.g., agricultural implements such as hoes), for example in design of hand-held solar-energy dependent motorised-hoes to replace the quintessential hoe and machete as primary tillage tools; national financial institutions would be cognisant of the indigenous social capital systems of susu and fidodo in the design of rural banks; educational systems linkages would supplement rural classroom lessons with virtual school teachers and textbooks even as Mobile Infobanks or Information Feeder Routes, and also providing counselling to rural African teenage girls and boys on STDs; national agricultural systems for rural agriculture would provide weather charts and tracking of disease epidemics with Geographic Information Systems, and knowledge for cultivation of mushrooms instead of hunting for them from the wild; e-Commerce would mean market conditions to African traders not only on export crops but on local market situations, for example when the producer has harvested, the nearest market prices and to arrange for transportation to market to minimise post-harvest losses, and providing communication tools for members of indigenous social capital groups organized for farm productivity, micro-credit schemes, etc., to more effectively make decisions. Yet a highly desirable outcome would be ability to strengthen indigenous civil society, the pinnacle of which is the indigenous African governance structure which is the repository of the African knowledge system and basis of the survival and mobilization of rural African communities.

The Knowledge Network Partners for which connectivity is sought in the proposed research include, but not limited to, those listed in Table 1 [elsewhere]. Since 1997, the proponents have attempted to define The Indigenous African Perspectives on Sustainable Livelihoods and the necessary international and local network units whose activities would translate into a synthesis and application of knowledge which would be relevant to the cultural and philosophical platforms of the target region in promoting sustainable livelihoods. For example, these perspectives have led to an on-going exploration of affiliation between the Sustainable Livelihoods Program of the Bureau for Development Policy of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the University of Guelph.


John Afele has served as a panelist of the World Bank's "Technet Think Tank for Identifying Critical Technologies for Developing Countries" (Feb 15 - March 15, 1999) http://www.vita.org/technet/tec4/tec4arch. These perspectives also have been encouraged by members of the United States Congressional African-American caucus, such as Representative Carrie Meek; Malik Chaka (professional staff, House sub-committee on Africa); Florida State Legislators Beryl Robert-Burke and James Bush III; Mr. Melvin Foote, Executive Director of the Constituency for Africa http://www.cfanet.org; the Foundation for Democracy in Africa http://www.democracy-africa.org/, and the Africa Leadership Forum http://www.africaleadership.com. The perspectives are also encouraged by Caroline Wagner, Special Assistant to the Director of the Science & Technology Policy Institute, and Senior Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation http://www.rand.org/centers/stpi and Prof. Takeshi Utsumi, Chair of GLObal Systems Analysis and Simulation Association in the U.S.A. and Laureate of Lord Perry Award for Excellence in Distance Education http://www.friends-partners.org/GLOSAS/.

John Afele has provided the background paper for Africa's participation in Emerging Global Electronic Distance Learning (EGEDL '99) which held an International Workshop/Conference at the University of Tampere, Finland, August 9 to 13, 1999 http://library.fortlewis.edu/~instruct/tampere/draft_5.2.html or http://www.uta.fi/EGEDL/outline/

IAPSL is also a member of "ICT for Rural Development" working group of Arbeitsgemeinschaft fuer Tropische und Subtropische Agrarforschung-Council for Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research (ATSAF e.V.) http://www.dainet.de/gil/engl/ with whom we are co-organizers of a Symposium on "IT and Development" to be held within the 2nd Conference of the European Federation for Information Technology in Agriculture (EFITA/99) on September 28, 1999, in Bonn, Germany.

We are members of the Ghana Computer Literacy and Distance Education Project (GhaCLAD) http://www.ghaclad.org of which John Afele is chair of the Grants and Research Committee http://www.ghaclad.org/about/committees/grants.htm. IAPSL is also providing the structural framework for extending telehealth programs from local hospital nodes to unconnected rural communities under the Africa Telemedicine Project design http://ccen.uccb.ns.ca/nairobi which is a joint initiative of the Africa Telemedicine Consortium and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

A micro-credit scheme, which is based on the indigenous Ghanaian forms of social capital (susu and fidodo), is being developed by the group for PlaNet Bank (Paris) and the Ghana National Investment Bank.

John and Kofi have also contributed to a book [Now and in the Next Millennium,1990s-3000 CE: Assessing Africa's Scholarly Publishing Needs and Industry 1999 Edition, Journal of African Religion and Philosophy (JARP)] which John co-edited, and have made presentations at several international fora, both real and virtually, e.g., the Global Knowledge for Development Listserv http://www.globalknowledge.org/ A preliminary survey as to receptivity within the target area and among Ghanaian institutions have been undertaken.

John C. Afele, Ph.D., Program Director
The Indigenous African Perspective on Sustainable Livelihoods
Department of Plant Agriculture, Crop Science Division
University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1
Telephone:(Bus) 1-519-824-4120 ext 3934/8164
(Home) 1-519-831-4862; Fax: 1-519-763-8933
JAFELE@plant.uoguelph.ca, jafele@uoguelph.ca


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