Beyond the Net

Helping Rural Libraries in Armenia to Embrace the Digital Age

Although there are a large number of rural libraries in Armenia, the majority of them do not have computers or Internet access. Librarians are forced to deal with manual book circulation and lack of management programs. Residents are mostly unaware of the resources housed in the libraries. It became evident that libraries needed a technological shift to break from their current working routines and embrace change.

In 2015, The Internet Society Armenia Chapter started a pilot project to provide rural libraries with computers, software and training. The project team installed 20 computers with library management programs and estimated that, in order to cover all libraries, they needed to reach the number of about 1,000 computers.

In 2017, the Chapter started Computers, services and Wi-Fi Internet for rural libraries, a project supported by the Internet Society Beyond the Net Funding Programme, that aimed to install more computers to improve the librarians operation and provide lightweight library management programs as well as WiFi access for visitors. The project was presented at the national IGF on October 10, 2018.

Igor Mkrtumyan, President of the Armenia Chapter, explains how their project is helping to address the needs of rural communities within the global context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 (Quality Education) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

“During the first stage of the project we installed 50 computers and trained 50 librarians.” says Igor. “The computers are equipped with lightweight library management programs that allow to subscribe members, register books, organize the book circulation, search requested books, track the movement of books and control the books check-in and check-out as well as quickly receive any required information. Each computer donation is certified by a contract signed by library authorities. By the end of the project we had 16 Wi-Fi routers installed, 120 computers equipped with library management programs, 200 hours spent on software installations and 70 librarians trained.”

What kind of training did you provide?
“The library management program we developed is very easy to install and has a simple interface, as well as an inviting setting for the users. We provided training sessions and workshops. We repaired 33 computers and spent 190 hours for software installation and training. We also provided IT services, as many rural libraries need not only to learn the library management software, but also the basics of operating systems and computer hardware to be able to solve minor problems.”

What was the mayor problem and how did you solve it?

“The major problem in rural areas is the absence of computer service skills. Very often libraries, even having computers, stop using them when problems arise.  It was clear that they also needed help in troubleshooting and repair, operating system and applications installation. Providing the installed systems with support services is a matter of primary importance. We developed a method using Teamviewer, a remote support desktop tool.  We have constant phone contact with librarians and try to respond to their needs as soon as possible. Each day we are receiving 3-4 phone calls and assisting rural libraries with Teamviewer sessions.”

How the community responded and how will you continue the project in the future?
“The rural community is excited about the project and there is an ever-growing demand. Thanks to the grant received from the Internet Society and the notable achieved results, we are now able to continue the project with the support of the “Armenian Internet Registry” that is now funding us to further work with libraries on their development.”

We’re looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how you can empower your community using the Internet. The Beyond the Net Funding Programme funds projects up to $30,000.

Community Networks

New Case Study: The Impact of a Community Network on Improving Education in Pakistan

Two years ago, the Internet Society and COMSATS Internet Services, a local Internet service provider in Pakistan, ventured into Chak-5 Faiz, a rural village in the Punjab province, 25 kilometres from the city of Multan. At that time, some of the villagers had to walk two kilometres to access the Internet. Little did we know, tucked away in this village was a hidden treasure at the Government Girls High School in Chak-5 Faiz. At the school, we discovered a fully-equipped computer lab with nework facilities that was locked up and unused. It was unused because no one knew how to set up and use the equipment in the lab.
As part of a pilot initiative of the Wireless for Communities Programme, we worked with the local community to establish an Internet connection at the school, and there has been no turning back since. Teachers and students have been making full use of the Internet by accessing information, developing their digital literacy and finding innovative ways to use the Internet. The school connected with Tele Taleem, a local organisation based in Islamabad that specialises in online education, to improve the quality of teaching as well as students’ learning experience. This led to the offering of a series of online supplementary education sessions by teachers in Islamabad to 40 sixth-grade girls at the school over a three-month period. The curriculum was tailored by Tele Taleem to boost the girls’ understanding of their existing studies in English, Mathematics, and Science. These online sessions were meant to supplement students’ classroom learning, and not replace them.
We have a new report available that explains the project, provides more data and information, and shows the impact this work is having on the students in the region. Please read and share: A Pilot Community Network in Pakistan.
We thank our partners at COMSATS Internet Service for their help with this project, and also all the people in Chak-5 Faiz who helped make this happen.
Economy Growing the Internet Women in Tech

Internet Access and Education: Transforming Lives in the Middle East

Internet access and the development of digital skills can transform lives of over 350 million people in the Middle East. With more than 60% of the population under 25 years old, the region is one of the most youthful in the world. However, at the same time, young people are the ones facing several challenges regarding education and employment.

In this context, it is imperative for the region to take actions, and the Internet is an opportunity to do it now. 

This week, I had the opportunity to speak at a panel entitled “Digital Skills for the Labour Force and Entrepreneurs,” at MENA Innovation 2018. The session was moderated by Selim Eddé, from Google, and had the participation of high-level representatives from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

While it was clear that there are many ways to overcome the challenges of the region, all panelists agreed on one key aspect: the importance of education and entrepreneurship for building the future that the region needs.

For the Internet Society, three key factors need to be taken into account:

  • Internet access: the lack of access in the region is still a barrier that we need to overcome. However,access to the Internet not only means connectivity, but also it means better prices and better quality. Only an Internet that is accessible and affordable to everyone will provide the tools that our society need to develop digital skills and make the most of the digital economy.
  • Digital skills: ensuring the development of skilled, trained, and engaged people who can create, sustain, and maintain infrastructure is what we do at the Internet Society. For our region to be prepared for the future, we need to equip our people with the technical skills to support the development of technology and infrastructure. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is one platform that everybody can engage in to create open standards for the Internet.  There are very few engineers from the region who contribute to the development of the Internet.

Another challenge that we see in the region is the integration of women in STEM at an early stage. Women are not encouraged to pursue a STEM career, and if they do it only 25% of graduates participate in the workforce. For many participants and representatives, the digital gender gap is one that we need to break.

  • Local content: A lack of Arabic and local language content makes it harder for those with limited language skills and less education to get the most from the Internet. It is essential that people find and create relevant content and usable services in their own languages and, to do so.

Changing the Mindset

To move things forward in the region, we need to change the mindset of the community first.  When our parents want us to become successful government employees, we will never become entrepreneurs and take risks and chances to succeed.

All four components together can build an enabling environment that encourages young people to adopt and productively use the Internet and in a way that will benefit them and the region as a whole

Creating this environment, it is not an easy task. During the three days of the Summit, we learned about many different governmental initiatives that are already making a difference at the national levels. But if we want our region to thrive, we need to work together: governments, companies, and civil society organizationsConsidering the number of young people in the region it is also crucial to include youth in the conversation.

As it was said during a session: “If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, work together”. Only by working collaboratively, the region can become drivers of innovation and shape its future to the needs of the youth of the region.

MENA Innovation 2018 took place in Cairo, 29–31 July, and was organized by Brains Innovation Summits with the support of the Egyptian government. The three-day event counted with the participation of Ministers of Education and ICT from different countries of the Middle East and Africa. The theme of the meeting was ICT innovation in education for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGSs). The Internet Society was part of the official delegation of the Summit.

Help close the digital gender divide. Join the SIG Women

Artificial Intelligence Internet Governance

How to Reform Basic Education for a Digital Future: Views from a Multistakeholder Group

In June 2018, in the city of Panamá, a parallel session was organized by the Internet Society during the international meeting of ICANN 62. This session had the aim of promoting a key discussion underlining our digital future: the impacts of technology and the Internet on future jobs.

This article is an outcome of the discussion carried out by a particularly diverse table of young people* from different stakeholder groups that choose the subject of “the future of education” as its central debate point.

The question that drove the debate was: what should basic education look like in the future? This inquiry originates from the fact that the mainstream method presently deployed across the world assumes memorization of information as the most substantial part of the learning experience.

Even schools that attempt diverging methodologies still need to invest in that route to some degree, as the selection processes of most universities and many job opportunities rely on some form of standardized testing.

A glaring problem with this approach, though, is that memorization is something that most machines are incredible at, while most humans can only hold on to a certain amount of information in a reliable manner.

So, why are we so focused on teaching the young how to excel at tasks that will inevitably end up being outsourced to machines in one way or another? This system almost works towards reinforcing the fear we have of being replaced by machines, rather than alleviating it.

With that in mind, one potential path to take is placing more emphasis on a curriculum that teaches and contributes towards the development of what could broadly be defined as Philosophy. Within this far-reaching subject matter lie concepts such as analysis, ethics, law, logic, politics, and other building blocks that assemble the skill we find to be the most necessary for the future of basic education: critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a toolset that enables the understanding of emergent technologies such as Artificial Intelligence as merely tools to achieve our development goals, seeing as the questions that machines set out to answer are invariably made by humans.

Even in a scenario in which a machine generates its own questions, those will still be based on the perception of the humans who code it and on the content of the organic datasets it learns its key concepts and language from.

Several other issues can also be helped along by incentivizing critical thinking. For example, the Internet is becoming so ubiquitous that the dichotomy between online and offline shows clear signs of deterioration. The digital is ceasing to be a layer on top of so-called real life, and is becoming as much a part of it as anything else.

The children born in the realm of the digital do not seem fully aware that online and offline life are one and the same, and that the consequences of what they do virtually are likely to reverberate in the flesh.

How to deliver all of this knowledge, though? The developing world still struggles with the challenge of achieving decent levels of literacy, but it seems more and more like there will be no time to catch up; the world keeps moving ahead at an accelerated pace.

One of the only logical strategies for developing countries is to prioritize digital literacy alongside what we normally understand as literacy. This means, of course, that there needs to be reasonable access to the Internet available, and this task is a collective undertaking that all stakeholders need to participate in to some degree.

In the midst of this competing processes of globalization and digitalization, it is important to remain attentive to the development of better and more efficient policies that are forward-thinking.

As stakeholders of varied specialties, those who are currently involved in global processes such as that of Internet Governance occupy a unique position that enables them to be in contact with diverse points of view and life experiences, and need to carry out more discussions such as these to enable actors to generate informed change within their own spheres of influence.

The attendees were Salvador Camacho (Intellectual Property), Jennifer Chung (Domain Name industry), Mark Datysgeld (Commercial sector), Jelena Ozegovic (Country Code operator), Isarael Rosas (Government) and Martin Valent (Non-commercial sector).


For an Internet to exist for the good of all people, it must be shaped by each one of us. Learn about Internet Governance and why every voice matters.

Beyond the Net

Leading Uruguayan Students to Thrive in the Future Economy

Current researches show that children are exposed to both increased risks and increased opportunities when accessing  the Internet and using apps and social media. The UNICEF’s “Children in a Digital World” 2017 report takes a comprehensive look at the different ways digital technology affects children. It is critical that children have necessary training in digital literacy to acquire the skills to minimize risks and to confidently navigate the web to maximize their opportunities. Evidence suggests that technology has benefits where positive human forces for learning are already in place.

The Internet Society Uruguay Chapterin partnership with the The University of the Republic and the Consejo de Formación en Educación and financial support of the Beyond the Net Funding Programme has taken significant steps to help children and teenagers to develop digital skills in a creative and innovative way in three of the nineteen segments in which Uruguay is politically divided, Paysandú, Rivera, and Salto. Their project  Flor de Ceibo Conecta2 aims to train young people from disadvantaged communities using digital resources in creative and challenging learning classes to help them improve their everyday lives and expand their chances for a better future.

María Julia Morales González, project manager and professor at the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Space of the University of the Republic, reveals the motivations that led to start this project: “Since 2008 we have been working on the issue of social appropriation of ICT by citizens. Our previous project, Flor de Ceibo, started in 2008 as an initiative of faculty members from the University of the Republic. While exploring the reasons behind the violation of freedom and rights of citizens in our country, we started to rethink the strategies that promote the responsible use of ICTs. We are convicted that the digital divide can be reduced with actions that facilitate the social appropriation of technologies and the development of digital skills. That’s why we decided to work with disadvantaged communities that are generally characterized by multiple negative outcomes.”

How your community will benefit from this project?

Flor de Ceibo project ended in February 2017 and only because of the financial support received by the Internet Society Beyond the Net Funding Programme was possible to continue with a new one called Flor de Ceibo Conecta2 . We will continue to work on our goals, incorporating civil society in the process. The project aims to empower children and adolescents in the meaningful use of ICT, fostering the use of ICT for citizen participation, access to education, exercise of freedom, and the defense of their rights. Uruguay government has taken significant steps to narrow the access and connectivity gap with actions and public policies directly addressing this areas. But according to academic studies, the historically disadvantaged departments in the north of the country are less developed due to the lack of undertakings that create employment for the population.  It is expected that during the development of this project these populations will acquire the skills to empower themselves on the use of ICTs to be self advocates of their knowledge and thereby enhance citizen participation in a country where infrastructure is almost universally given.

What are you are working on at the moment?

During the first year, we worked with 4 and 5-year old boys and girls on the subject of healthy eating and with adolescents on citizen participation and cybersecurity topics. At the beginning of 2018, we started collaborating with territorial actors and institutions. We actually have six teachers from two institutions, the Education Training Council, and the University of the Republic, which intervene in formal and informal education across different disciplines.

We work with a participatory methodology in three phases:
a) diagnosis and construction of demand
b) intervention in territory
c) evaluation

These phases are not linear and overlap on occasions, as well as sometimes we need to adjust them depending on different territories and realities. The evaluation is continuous in order to adjust the interventions.

Read the Flor de Ceibo Connecta2 Project Blog and follow Beyond the Net on Twitter!

Artificial Intelligence Human Rights Internet Governance Shaping the Internet's Future

Future Thinking: Getachew Engida on Digital Divides

Last year, the Internet Society unveiled the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future. The interactive report identifies the drivers affecting tomorrow’s Internet and their impact on Media & Society, Digital Divides, and Personal Rights & Freedoms. In April 2018, we interviewed two stakeholders – Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Augusto Mathurin, who created Virtuágora, an open source digital participation platform – to hear their different perspectives on the forces shaping the Internet.

Getachew Engida is the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO. He has spent the past twenty years leading and managing international organizations and advancing the cause of poverty eradication, peace-building, and sustainable development. He has worked extensively on rural and agricultural development, water and climate challenges, education, science, technology and innovation, intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity, communication and information with emphasis on freedom of expression, and the free flow information on and offline. (You can read Augusto Mathurin’s interview here).

The Internet Society: You have, in the past, stressed the role that education has played in your own life and can play in others’ lives. Do you see technology helping to promote literacy and education in all regions in the future?

Getachew EngidaEducation unleashes new opportunities and must be available to all. If it were not for educational opportunities, I certainly would not have been where I am today. Though coming from a humble and poor family, I was given the opportunity to go to public primary and secondary schools that also had feeding programs thanks to UN agencies. I benefitted from scholarships to undertake higher education that made a huge difference to my career progression.

Technology, indeed, is a great enabler and allows us to reach the marginalized and those left behind from quality education. But while connectivity is increasing at a rapid pace, educational material lags behind, particularly in mother tongues. Appropriate and relevant, quality education, combined with technology, will be a potent weapon to drastically improve access to education and eliminate illiteracy around the world.

How can we ensure that future generations are taught the right skills to flourish in future workplaces, which will demand a thorough command of digital skills?

No doubt, inclusive knowledge societies and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without an informed population and an information-literate youth. Digital skills constitute a crucial part of quality education and lifelong learning.

UNESCO believes in empowering  women and men, but particularly youth, by focusing specifically on what we call “Media and Information Literacy” (MIL). This includes human rights literacy, digital security skills, and cross-cultural competencies. These skills enable people to critically interpret their complex digital information environments and to constructively access and contribute information about matters like democracy, health, environment, education, and work.

As the media and communications landscape is complex and rapidly changing, we need to constantly update the substance of media and information literacy education to keep pace with technological development. The youth need, for example, to grapple with the attention economy, personal data and privacy, and how these and other developments impact them through algorithms and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Facing increasing concerns about the misuse of information and disinformation (‘fake news’), propaganda, hate speech, and violent extremism, we see an urgent need for a concerted effort from all stakeholders to empower societies with stronger media and information literacy competencies. In this way, the targets of malicious online endeavours will be able to detect, decipher and discredit attempts to manipulate their feelings, networks, and personal identities.

What role does the UN in general and UNESCO more specifically have to play in promoting and protecting human rights online? How does UNESCO navigate tensions between different interpretations of human rights online – e.g., first amendment fundamentalism in the US versus more balanced approaches in Europe?

One of the great achievements of the United Nations is the creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law—a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people can aspire. In the digital age, the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council have constantly updated this human rights mandate by issuing a number of resolutions to promote human rights equally online and offline.

UNESCO, in turn, is the UN agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression, instructed by its constitution to promote “the free flow of ideas by word and image.” UNESCO also recognizes the right to privacy underpins other rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, association, and belief. We work worldwide to promote freedom of expression and privacy both online and offline.

UNESCO has taken a lead to flag Internet freedom issues at a number of key conferences and events such as the upcoming RightsCon gatherings, the annual WSIS Forum, and the Internet Governance Forum. We also do the same at UNESCO World Press Freedom Day celebrations each year on May 3, and meetings to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information, on 28 September every year. To provide member states and stakeholders with cutting-edge knowledge and policy advice, UNESCO has commissioned a number of pioneering policy studies, the Internet Freedom series, too. They shed light on issues such as protecting journalism sources in digital age, principles for governing the Internet, and the evolution of multistakeholder participation in Internet governance.

How do you see emerging technologies, such as IoT or AI, impacting sustainable development and the future of our world? As we promote connectivity, do we risk cultural and linguistic diversity?

AI could profoundly shape humanity’s access to information and knowledge, which will make it easier to produce, distribute, find and assess. This could allow humanity to concentrate on creative development rather than more mundane tasks. The implications for open educational resources, cultural diversity, and scientific progress could also be significant. In addition, AI could also provide new opportunities to understand the drivers of intercultural tension and other forms of conflict, providing the capacities to collect, analyze, and interpret vast quantities of data to better understand, and perhaps predict, how and when misunderstandings and conflict may arise. In turn, these can all contribute to democracy, peace and achieving the SDGs.

However, AI and automated processes, which are particularly powerful when fuelled by big data, also raise concerns for human rights, especially where freedom of expression and the right to privacy are concerned. Internet companies have begun to use AI in content moderation and in ranking orders for personalized search results and social media newsfeeds. Without human values and ethics being instilled from the start during the design stage, and without relevant human oversight, judgement, and due process, such practices can have a negative impact on human rights.

AI is already beginning to shape news production and dissemination and shifting the practice and value of journalists and journalism in the digital age. Internet and news media companies, especially whether they intersect, need to consciously reflect on the ambiguities of data mining and targeting, as well as Big Data business models for advertising in the attention economy.

There is therefore a crucial need to explore these issues in depth and to reflect on ways to harness Big Data and AI technologies in order to mitigate disadvantages and advance human rights and democracy, build inclusive knowledge societies, and achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Current societal mechanisms including moral and legal frameworks are not geared to effectively deal with such rapid developments.

What are your hopes for the future of the Internet? What are your fears?

I hope to see a free and open Internet which is accessed and governed by all, leaving no one behind and making the world a better place for future generations. To do this we have to continuously counter emerging divides, such as linguistic capacities of computer recognition of speech which is making great strides in English, for example, but which leaves many other languages on the periphery. We need a proportionate response to the problems on the Internet which does not  damage “the good” in countering “the bad.” We should expand and maintain connectivity as the default setting in the digital age, and do everything possible to avoid the increasing tendencies of complete Internet shutdowns in certain regions or places. We need better respect for personal data and privacy from both corporate and state actors who track our online data. We need strong journalism online to counter disinformation, and we need heightened media and information literacies for everybody.

My fear is that Internet as a double-edge sword: if not properly harnessed, it might end up being used to regress, rather than to advance, those classic values we cherish such as a private life, transparency, and public-interest journalism. Without dialogue amongst all stakeholders, we could see the Internet and related technologies being exploited to pose severe challenges to peace, security, and human rights. Such fears need to be offset by maintaining a sense of proportion whereby the good of the Internet significantly dwarfs the bad, and where we can increasingly utilise existing and emerging digital technologies to achieve the planet’s agreed development goals by 2030.

What do you think the future of the Internet looks like? Explore the 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future to see how the Internet might transform our lives across the globe, then choose a path to help shape tomorrow.

Beyond the Net Community Projects

Chapterthon 2017 Winner: Closing the Digital Gap

We are excited to announce the winner of Chapterthon 2017.

As we truly believe that Internet Society and our community have an important role to promote the use of the Internet for education, we organized the Chapterthon 2017 on Digital Schools.

Chapterthon is a global Chapters marathon, where our chapters can participate by developing a project within a timeline and budget to achieve the common goal of improving education by using the Internet.

During the past months, 31 Chapters from all the regions have worked hard to extend the education benefits of the Internet to their communities. Connecting schools to the Internet, teaching coding to girls, training teachers and parents, raising awareness about the safe use of the Internet, developing an online platform for a school and helping to create educational, and local content are just some examples of the amazing work our chapters have done.

Each project has proven us once more that the Internet plays an important role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on Education. Each project has contributed to shaping the future of children, parents and teachers.

While all the projects have left an important mark on local schools, the Internet Society community members have voted and selected the best project. This year Chapterthon winner is the Internet Society Turkey Chapter for the project Coding Sisters, which had the aim of optimizing the opportunities for girls to be involved in STEM field.

The project, focused on closing the digital gap in the country, was developed in the Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. There, 42 girls from middle and high schools and 30 university students received coding lessons and almost all of them stated that they want to keep learning how to code. Coding Sisters is a proof of how the Internet is a powerful enabler not only for education but also for gender equality.

We would like to thank all the chapters for all the energy and efforts they have put to complete the projects. You are all heroes for us and especially for your communities. We would like to also thank Wikimedia Foundation for partnering with us and making this Chapterthon real.

Congratulations to the Turkey Chapter and thank you all again for taking action and shaping the digital future in your communities!


Watch the video of the winner Coding Sisters:

Related information

Economy Growing the Internet

Unlocking the Internet for Education: Policymakers Hold the Key

Education is the basis for individual empowerment, employability, and gender equity. Unfortunately, it is not available to everyone.

In 2015, the international community agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which commits countries to addressing these challenges. Such commitments require innovative approaches that go beyond simply building more educational institutions. At the Internet Society we believe the Internet is a key piece of that puzzle, which is why we are pleased to release a new paper, “Internet Access and education: Key considerations for policy makers”, to help navigate some of the opportunities and challenges.

The Internet has great potential to not only expand access to, but also improve the quality of education. It opens doorways to a wealth of information, knowledge, and educational resources to students and teachers. It also promotes opportunities for learning beyond the classroom – a critical feature to promote the lifelong learning that the future demands. A skilled workforce that utilizes ICTs effectively is a key factor in the global digital economy and for harnessing its natural resources for sustainable growth. Education is where it starts.

This Internet Society briefing describes ways in which policymakers can unlock that potential through an enabling framework for access to the Internet, identifying five priorities for policymakers. Together they represent what we see as key considerations for unlocking access to the Internet in support of education:

  • infrastructure and access;
  • vision and policy;
  • inclusion;
  • capacity;
  • content and devices.

Access to the Internet is not, of course, the answer to every challenge posed by education. But by working together, policymakers, technologists, and education stakeholders can develop the right policy approaches to maximize the Internet’s contribution to education.

Join us on 6 December for a Community Forum that will consider some of the most challenging questions relating to the impact of the Internet on education: Can the Internet in education close the digital divide?

Please read and share our new policy paper: “Internet Access and education: Key considerations for policy makers”.

Community Projects Human Rights Women in Tech

The Internet Society and Wikimedia Team Up to Empower Everyday Heroes

The best education materials are inclusive, equitable, and high-quality, and they promote lifelong learning. One of the best tools for sharing these types of materials is the Internet. However, the body of education materials currently available online is not yet as inclusive and equitable as it could be.

So many of us default to looking online for anything we want to know. Wikipedia alone covers more than 40 million articles in nearly 300 languages. With this scope, it can sometimes feel like things that haven’t happened online haven’t happened in real life. And that’s a problem — especially because so many of the facts that don’t make their way online are about women, people of colour, and the global south.

The good news is: We can help. Today, we are proud to announce that the Internet Society and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia and the Wikimedia sites, are collaborating on a new competition called the “Chapterthon,” to support projects that extend the education benefits of the Internet to more people around the world.

To participate, any Internet Society Chapter can propose a project within a timeline and budget to achieve a common goal for the development of education and the Internet. This proposal can be made jointly with a local group of Wikimedia volunteers, creating a great collaboration opportunity between the Internet Society and Wikimedia volunteers worldwide.

No one knows more than you about the kind of content people in your community wish they could find online. Now is your chance to get it there. By posting local content that matters to people where you live, you are doing your part to help shape the Internet into one of the world’s most valuable tools — a tool that could help close the gender gap, and bring equal education access to people everywhere.

Your proposal could spark something we never thought possible. Maybe it’s an online lecture about the best way to grow crops on local soil. Maybe it’s instructions about how to use the Internet in a language that lacks those instructions. Maybe it’s training local leaders to set up an Internet cafe. Whatever you see missing in your community, we want to support you in answering that need. The strongest proposals will win a grant of $2,000 USD to realize their visions, and one final project will win $3,000 USD.

Events like the Chapterthon help us reach beyond our usual space, but we can’t do it without you. If you want to be part of making the Internet a truly equitable and inclusive resource, please help us include a diverse array of people who use the Internet to make change in their communities.

You can find additional information and proposal forms on the Internet Society website. We look forward to seeing what you make happen!

Joyce Dogniez, Senior Director, Global Engagement, Internet Society
Jorge Vargas, Regional Manager LATAM, Strategic Partnerships, Wikimedia Foundation

Beyond the Net Community Projects Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

How the Internet changed the Nyirarukobwa Primary School

Sarah is 11 years old and goes to school in the Nyirarukobwa Primary School, together with about 1400 other kids.

She tells me that she joined this school this year because it has a very high success rate for the National Exam. Sarah said to me, “I want to go to boarding School,” which is what will happen when she passes the exam and goes to secondary school.

She is one of the 700 plus children who joined the Nyirarukobwa School over the last 3 years (yes the number of kids just doubled!!) because of its high exam success rate.

Wonder why?

Apart from a very dynamic and forward thinking school principal and very passionate teachers, the school received a grant through the Internet Society Grants programme in 2013 to get the school connected to the Internet and to get some computers and printers to train the teachers and teach computer classes to the children.

Robert Birushyabagabo (right), a member of the teaching staff, addressing an Internet Society delegation at Nyirarukobwa Primary School in the Eastern Provice of Rwanda on 11 May 2017. Birushyabagabo teaches ICT and maintains the school’s computers, which were donated by the Internet Society.

For three years the school managed to not only give computer classes to the students but the teachers also actively used the computers to prepare their classes, the exams, assignments, revisions etc.

Without printed assignments and tests the main knowledge transfer happens through the use of a massive blackboard and a lot of memorising and repeating.

Joyce Dogniez, Senior Director for Global Engagement at the Internet Society, with a teacher during a visit by an Internet Society delegation to Nyirarukobwa Primary School in the Eastern Provice of Rwanda on 11 May 2017.

The school says it helped.

But with success comes challenges.  Now there is not enough space for all the children, so they split the classes in morning classes and afternoon classes and move the computers into the principals office (they needed the computer class to accommodate for classrooms).

Robert Birushyabagabo, pictured on on 11 May 2017, teaches ICT and maintains the computers at Nyirarukobwa Primary School in the Eastern Provice of Rwanda. Overcrowding at the school resulted in the computer lab having to be converted to the classroom, and the computers are now in a cramped space that was formerly the headmaster’s office. The room is too small to use for teaching, so ICT lessons had to be stopped.

And sadly, as the grant funding ran out, they ran out of funding for the Internet connectivity.

Our local Chapter, the Rwanda Chapter is working with the school to identify options to restore the connectivity and plan for a sustainable long term solution.

This story of one school really shows the impact ICTs have on the quality of education, it shows that if we want to achieve the goals we set ourselves through the UN Sustainable Development Goals to ensure Inclusive and Quality Education (SDG4) we need to push for the use of ICTs and more particularly the use of the Internet.

This is also why broader Internet and Education policy plans are necessary.

The Internet Society launched a paper on Internet for Education in Africa last week in Kigali during the first African Regional Internet and Development Dialogue providing an overview of the impact of the Internet on education in Africa but also providing a score card for policy makers.

Together, let’s make sure that all the Sarah’s of the world get access to quality education by 2030!

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Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD) Explores Opportunities for Improving the Internet Economy in Africa

Following a successful first day discussing education at the first ever African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD) in Kigali, Rwanda, day two focused on the broader question on developing the Internet economy in Africa. In a mix of presentations and roundtables, delegates looked at the different challenges and opportunities for expanding the digital economy.

The Internet’s role in supporting economic growth has been recognized by many as a key factor in promoting a sustainable development and fulfilling the global commitments of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for a Sustainable Development. The topic is closely linked to the role of skills and knowledge, creating a natural connection between the discussions on education and the growth of the Internet economy. We see this in regards to innovation, but also in transforming traditional industries to take advantage of the Internet.

One of the key questions is how to not only get individuals online, but also businesses. The positive synergies in terms of increasing the availability of local content and demand for access, while also improving the efficiency of business operations, is a key aspect of this, giving the topic a broader focus than just innovation.

As pointed out in a report by the World Bank the Internet makes up 1.3% of GDP growth in developing regions (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, p.55). Of particular importance is to note that 75% of the impact of the Internet on growth is in traditional industries, showing the benefits of the Internet for the entire economy (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, p.63). Keeping this in mind, it is important to look at the broader set of policies, ranging from infrastructure investment to e-government services that can facilitate and incentivize businesses to go online.

And as we have seen this week, such efforts benefit immensely from a supportive governance where all of the stakeholders involved can share their concerns and visions. It is the critical third leg of a successful enabling environment for the Internet to grow.

But Africa is also a leader and an inspiration. The innovative startups, and the new businesses that flourish in its path, are all unique and like most innovations, they emerge from a local context to address specific needs. From new solutions to connecting rural areas and providing e-government services in Rwanda to transformative financial services in Kenya (M-PESA). Governments were urged to innovate policies and entrepreneurial visions to keep the ecosystem functional and growing. Africa is already taking leadership that should inspire the rest of the world.

Growing the African Internet economy would require commitments of multiple stakeholders, a clear vision and deliberate policies from Governments to leverage ICTs across all sectors. Institutions of learning especially higher education were identified as catalysts in steering innovation and entrepreneurship growth and that re-thinking education and future of work is critical in growing African economies.

In wrapping up this final day of the first African RIDD we would like to extend our thanks to all the speakers and participants, the Rwandan Government, our partners not least the many participants and presenters that joined us online! who made this event a success. As Africa’s infrastructure and user base grows, the need to coordinate and manage Internet growth and development becomes increasingly important.

View all of the presentations from the African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD).

See also:


Development Growing the Internet Human Rights

African Regional Internet & Development Dialogue Tackles the World of Education

Dates 8-9 May, Kigali, Rwanda

The first ever African Regional Internet Development Dialogue (RIDD) was launched in Rwanda, Kigali on the 8 of May 2017, placing SDG 4 on Education at the center of the conversation of the first day of the meeting. Delegates had an opportunity to explore how the Internet can provide quick wins for education, but most importantly come up with real solutions that can be implemented immediately.

For Africa a skilled workforce that utilizes ICTs effectively is a key factor in determining its competitiveness in the global digital economy and fully exploiting its potential for sustainable growth. It is the basis for social and economic development, and the foundation of an Internet for everyone.

But Sub Saharan Africa faces considerable challenges in education, ranging from the absence of quality teachers, outdated or unavailable learning and teaching materials, to inadequate physical space (school infrastructure) for fast-growing learners.

Over 110 million school children between 6-18 years of age are out of school in Africa. Thirty-seven million young people require technical and vocational training and/or other forms of education that facilitate paths to their employment. Only about 6 percent of secondary school graduates find places in higher education in sub-Saharan Africa

The African RIDD is a collaborative initiative of the Internet Society, UNESCO and the Rwandan Government. The dialogue is meant to create a space for multiple stakeholders from across Africa to discuss various opportunities and requirements for entrepreneurship and innovation on the Internet for the socio-economic development of the continent. This high-level meeting is a gathering of technologists, policy makers, Internet players, and Internet Society chapters fellows from all regions of Africa, gathered to discuss actionable recommendations of how Africa can leverage Internet in addressing education and the Internet economy.

The Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4) commits countries to addressing challenges and attaining universal pre-primary, primary, and secondary education and gender equity, and promoting youth learning for employability. Such commitments require innovative approaches that go beyond simply building more educational institutions. It involves using educational technology in various ways. As emphasized by Dr. Indrajit Banerjee Director, Knowledge Societies Division, UNESCO ”without the Internet, the traditional way will take a century”.

But the challenge is multifaceted and will require collective effort from multiple stakeholders each bringing their competences. Hon Jean Philbert Nsengimana the Rwandan Minister of Youth and ICT emphasized the need for collective effort and committed government.

The day concluded with key recommendations from participants ranging from improving infrastructure to incorporation of ICT into education policy. Importance was placed on the need to have a regional common vision and strategy in the addressing challenges in the education sector. More on the African Internet economy shall be discussed in day two.

Follow the event remotely.

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