On april 23 there was a meetup to talk about A Call 2 Action: United Universities. Firmin Soutime, Vanessa Nigten (our back-up coach) and myself (Cheryl van Kempen, the initiator) decided to end this call 2 action, because there was little support, the idea was hard to explain to others and it was too ambitious for us to realize within one year.
The idea, although very innovative also went against some basic instincts we had about the worth of university degrees in developing countries: although a university degree ofcourse is worth a lot, especially when accredited by European standards, it is especially worth a lot to people who want to emigrate to more developed countries. It is well known that university degrees are no guarantee to find a job or to start your own company in many developing countries. So how useful are these degrees then?
We intrinsically favored a more bottom-up approach to development, and the many discussion that were had in the light of United Universities brought up many aspects of what people in developing country actually need to change their lives.
“I witnessed how the first computer in any of these 52 villages was handed over to a school teacher”.
In March of this year, while visiting Burkina Faso with Association Faso (http://faso.nl), I had the chance to witness a life-changing event. As. Faso helps a community of 52 villages in rural Burkina Faso. This year, the support is taking the form of computers and internet dongles amongst others. I witnessed how the first computer in any of these 52 villages was handed over to a school teacher. The only people who have ever touched a computer in these villages are the teachers. They were educated in the capital or larger cities, but even they barely ever work with computers. What I saw was people suddenly getting access to a wealth of information, but barely knowing what wealth of information exists virtually, or how to access it. But also not knowing about the threats that the internet might form. Another problem that remained unsolved was who was going to pay the internet bills. As. Faso agreed to pay the bills for half a year or so, but after that an internet-café-like setup would have to generate income.
I realized there and then that not only would the community benefit from a website that would guide them during their first steps over the internet, the association would benefit too. If the internet would work, communication would go a lot faster and people could become more informed and empowered. That would definitely benefit collaboration and thus realization of the other projects of the association and community.
Thus was born the idea for ruralweb.info
(the URL is presently being registered)