Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Community Outreach Projects as a Sustainable Way of Introducing Information Technology in Developing Countries

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Community Outreach Projects as a Sustainable Way of Introducing Information Technology in Developing Countries

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Outreach is an effort by individuals in an organization or group to connect their ideas or practices for the benefit of other organizations, groups, specific audiences or the general public, while a community consists of people with a common interest, usually living in a particular area. A Community Outreach Project (COP) is a project carried out by organizations or groups in order to transfer their knowledge and skills for the benefit of a deprived community (Weide & Zlotnikova, 2013). There are many examples of COPs run all over the world, a classification is provided by Weide and Zlotnikova (2013). In this paper, the focus is on COPs which involve the introduction of Information Technology (IT) in developing countries. Our particular interest is in COPs that are based on cooperation between students from universities in developed and developing countries. We refer to this cooperation as a knowledge bridge. The concept of a knowledge bridge is explained later in this paper.

According to IFAD (2009), sustainability means ensuring that the institutions supported through projects, as well as the benefits realized, are maintained and continued after the end of the project. Carroll and Rosson (2006) define sustainability as a dynamic process in which IT professionals, designers, and researchers work with community groups in ways that give them greater control over technology in their organization. Sustainable IT projects are those that can pay their own way, generally without reliance on government funding (Hearn et al., 2005; Lennie et al., 2005).

Researchers Identify several kinds of project sustainability:

1. Technical sustainability (Etta & Wamahiu, 2003; Young et al., 2001);

2. Financlal/commerclal/economlcal sustainability (Etta & Wamahiu, 2003; Ripamontl et al., 2005; Young et al., 2001): breaking even, profit-making, etc.;

3. Social sustainability (Hearn et al., 2005; Lennie et al., 2005; Mayanja, 2006; Simpson, 2005);

4. Organlzational/lnstltutlonal sustainability (Mayanja, 2006; Ripamontl et al., 2005): matters related to the running and management of the project, Including capacity building, Infrastructure maintenance, etc.;

5. Managerial sustainability (Etta & Wamahiu, 2003; Young et al., 2001);

6. Policy-related sustainability (Mayanja, 2006): a conducive policy environment, related to connectivity, IT infrastructure, etc.

In this paper, we restrict ourselves to technical and organizational sustainability of the IT Introduction in a low Infrastructure situation. The general objective of this study Is to develop an approach to the sustainable Introduction of IT In developing countries through COPs. This general objective is broken down Into specific objectives as follows.

1. Objectives related to the Introduction of IT :

a. To propose a framework for the sustainable Introduction of IT In educational organizations in developing countries.

b. To develop a mechanism for ensuring technical and organizational sustainability of the IT Introduction.

2. Objectives related to the Community Outreach Project:

a. To identify the content of the COP course to be delivered to young professionals as part of their training.

b. To develop mechanisms and tools of coordinating activities between young professionals from developing countries and their counterparts In developed countries.

3. Objectives related to linking the sustainable Introduction of IT and Community Outreach Projects:

a. To propose a model of a knowledge bridge between developing and developed countries.

In achieving the stated specific objectives 1a, 1b and 3a, the dominant method used is extensive literature review and analysis. The literature sources included both published papers and unpublished documentation on the E-readers Project. To achieve specific objectives 2a and 2b, the following methods have been employed: questionnaires; face-to-face interviews; direct observation; group discussions; experimental teaching. …

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