In a country where much of the population lives without reliable electricity, the world of ICT is a mystery. In villages where safe water, reliable transportation, and access to health facilities are daily challenges, computers quite simply were not a priority. However, following global trends in an increasingly technical world, Tanzania recently began to shift it’s own delivery of information almost exclusively to the internet. University registration and higher education loan applications are now accessible ONLY via the internet. Banking, immigration, and employment entities are making a slow but sure shift into a more technical reality here too.
Rural village dwellers were baffled -not knowing anything about computers, how to use them, nor how to gain access to them. With the cost of one hour of internet access at other facilities equivalent to a day’s pay, we watched as thousands of potential university students from rural areas were excluded from proceeding due to their lack of computer skills and internet access.
It was in response to these challenging dynamics that Jifundishe opened the Sudler Computer Lab at the Jifundishe Free Library in 2010. The lab is equipped with six HP netbooks, all internet connected, and a program to teach individuals how to use the internet for educational purposes.
The netbooks are powerful enough to give us what we need functionally, and efficient enough to run on our limited solar power. The computers are all loaded with Fusion, an application designed to teach computer skills in the developing world. Students are now able to access important information such as National exam results, financial aid requests, and university applications. Elieshi Mbise, a staff member at the JFL has been trained to help students research the internet and use the lab for their studies. This lab offers the only free public access to computers and the internet that we know of in the entire country.
Since it’s opening in December 2010, we have introduced basic computer classes, tech support services, and internet strategy programs. Now that the lab is up and running, it has become apparent that technology, when properly introduced and utilized, can indeed be a vital key to enabling educational development.