South-South ICT-Enabled Traveling Workshop, India (1)

Day 1 in India

The day (November 28) started with an interesting journey (which can pass for a sightseeing experience in India) to Pillaiyarkuppam, where the MSSRF Rural Knowledge Centre (RKC) Hub is located. On arrival, Prof. Arunachalam welcomed participants and invited them to introduce themselves – name, country and project. Participants were from Ghana, Paraguay, Phillipines, India, Nigeria, Uganda, and Bangladesh; and projects include civil society-led community initiatives, government-led projects and private sector efforts. After the introductions, Rinalia (GKP Executive Director) spoke about the Global Knowledge Partnership and their continued support for the South-South Exchange program, which is running for the third time.

Prof. Arunachalam then explained the “Speed Geek” concept which involved participants sharing their stories with revolving groups during a 6-minute period for each group they discuss with. This was a particularly informative string of sessions and its first segment (before coffee break) involved presentations by six participants. The RSSF Village Resource Centre, Tata Consulting, a multistakeholder effort from the Phillipines and the Lagos Digital Village were involved in the first “speed geek” cycle. During coffee break, participants were able to take networking outside the meeting rooms and it was obvious that the networking dimension of the workshop is fully on course.

After coffee break, participants of an MSSRF-hosted workshop for volunteers from different villages joined the workshop participants to share their experiences. It was an interesting session with a brilliant mix of cultures, languages, experiences and expressions. Participants then proceeded to the next set of “speed geek” sessions. These include an Hewlett Packard initiative which gives eGovernment support to rural populations by providing 250 government schemes meant for rural people through a portal. Claudia from Paraguay also spoke about the PC bus project – a Junior Achievement project working with underserved high schools. Students are taken through a program tagged “Personal Economics” (which teaches them how to run their own finances) and some of them are selected to join the “PC Bus” (a huge international traveling bus provided by a private sector organisation, and furnished with PCs and internet access). After this, some of the students are awarded a scholarship for 3-month training on Information Technology skills. They also have 3-month internship opportunities in supporting companies, or can start their own business with support from JA Paraguay.

The “speed geek” session also had a presentation on One World South Asia – an organisation that helps network other organisations, uses community approach and empowers communities through knowledge exchange. They give a voice to the voiceless and are involved in an MSP project research (learnings from MSP projects in various parts of the world). They are also involved in Mission 2007, a multistakeholder partnership that seeks to establish 600,000 knowledge centres in Indian villages – and has been described as one of the largest upscaling project in the world. Shafiu Shaibu also spoke about the Social Enterprise Development Foundation, a farmers’ cooperative support program which has operations in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia – and has its headquarters in Tamale, Ghana.

After lunch, Prof. Arunachalam invited Rinalia to speak on the Global Knowledge Partnership. She hinted on the nature of the GKP as a multistakeholder network, and explained membership terms for non-profits (North and South) and private sector organisations (with 500 employees, or more). GKP has a community of diverse projects, including youth-oriented organisations, international organisations, private sector institutions, and more. GKP also provides a platform for inter-regional co-operations. She stated that GKP holds a strong interest in tri-partnerships involving governments, communities (and NGOs working in them) and the private sector. The GKP has defined its focus for the next 5 years, and it is focused on innovation in the area of ICT for Development (education, poverty reduction, capacity building, and more).

Participants then moved to the last set of “speed geek” sessions. Presentations at the sessions include the discussions with Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, which seeks to connect rural people with low-cost access and they believe that access to ICTs should be basic human rights. The “Farmers’ Suicide Hotspot” project was also discussed. The project started in order to solve the problem involving farmers who had been committing suicide due to heavy losses. The project enjoys a lot of support through community participation, and advises farmers to manage existing resources without necessarily exposing themselves to unsustainable practices. One World South Asia got a second mention – but this time, with a focus on local content. Rural dwellers bring their local content to the Village Community Centre, where they upload the content as an online publication. The limitation of the online content brought the need for a biweekly newspaper publication, which has now been followed by a 15-minute radio program. Some feedback letters (in local language) and publications (on farming, gender, cattle health, herbal treatments, etc) were shown to participants.

The next “speed geek” session discussed Bangladesh Friendship Education Society (, which focuses on (local) Knowledge Management and works with teachers and youth on ICT training. They organize events to ensure that rural people share their local knowledge with neighbours. Jim (GKP secretariat) spoke about the focus of GKP on ICTs for Development – and vision of achieving an equitable and sustainable society. Various partners (members) meet at a global forum that discusses issues such as challenges and opportunities and GKP also organizes regional meetings, with one having been hosted by the MSSRF. He stated that how much each organisation gains from the network depends largely on how much is given as input. He also spoke about the Youth Social Entrepreneurship Initiative (YSEI) which provides funding up to $15,000 and mentorship support to youth-led social enterprises – and is presently open (until November 30, 2005) to young people living in South East Asia. The last discussion was on the MSSRF National Virtual Academy, which engages in capacity building for key community leaders.

After the evening coffee break, participants gathered to review the day’s “speed geek” discussions. Prof. Arunachalam invited feedback on the seventeen “speed geek” discussions and some participants gave feedback on the 2 projects that interested them the most – and the reasons for the same. Nancy was then invited to summarise the day’s activities, and she asked participants to respond to her statements by standing around there points that were clearly marked “Yes”, “Some Extent” and “No”. Statements include “Speed geek was very helpful,” and “I got new learning experience through this exercise”. The workshop gave room for participants to ask questions about projects that they had listened to earlier in the day.

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