Australia’s Digital Hubs Directory

Australia has been a leader in broadband adoption by creating the Department of Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy.  This government ministry is providing $13.6m USD available in grants to communities to increase broadband adoption and digital inclusion programs.

A component of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN), the Digital Hubs Program is an initiative tied to these grants to aid local communities to improve their digital literacy skills and increase their broadband adoption.

The Digital Hubs Directory was created to facilitate communities applying for these NBN grants and organizing digital inclusion initiatives.  This site provides information about the impact of broadband-based solutions regarding topics ranging from health to education, and home uses to business solutions.

This directory allows NGOs and other organizations to add their best practices and broadband-based successes to the growing list that provides detailed information about and how they impact and support Australia’s NBN

Visit the Digital Hubs directory at: http://digitalhubs.aiia.com.au or read more about it at: http://www.newsmaker.com.au/news/11322

Public Policy Framework Helps Provide Direction for Libraries Regarding Digital Inclusion

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, the University of Washington Information School, and the International City/County Management Association have developed a comprehensive framework to help libraries identify, evaluate, and improve services regarding digital inclusion and digital literacy.  More and more individuals without computer access at home are turning to libraries as a conduit to access the Internet.

The document, “Building Digitally Inclusive Communities,” is the product of over 100 organizations’ comments and ideas.  The document highlights five important principles: Availability and affordability, public access, accessibility for people with disabilities, adoption and digital literacy, and consumer education and protection.

The document provides high-level guidance to furthering the digital inclusion discussion in local communities and directs readers to additional helpful resources.

View the document at: http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/DIC-FrameworkGuide.pdf or read more about it at: http://www.nlc.org/news-center/nations-cities-weekly/articles/2011/july/new-icma-resource-facilitates-digital-inclusion-in-local-libraries

The Broadband Commission’s Online Sharehouse

In response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s directive to encourage the UN to meet the millennium Development Goals, The International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO set up the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.  The Commission’s mission is to advocate for the inclusion of broadband on the international policy agendas and is working to increase broadband access internationally.

One tool that the Broadband Commission has developed is a user-driven database of best practices ranging from case studies to policy recommendations.  This database, the Sharehouse, has over 200 searchable initiatives from reputable organizations such as the Brookings Institution and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.  Each submission is categorized by themes on which the submission touches upon, such as Infrastructure or Policy and Regulation, includes information about the project’s geographical coverage or area reported upon, and other classifying details such as time scale, partners, and points of contact.

The Broadband Commission’s Sharehouse is an outstanding example of how the international community can learn from each other through the stewardship and guidance of the United Nations and other international organizations.  Visit the site at: https://www.itu.int/net/broadband/Sharehouse/Search.aspx

The UK’s Digital Inclusion Network

The United Kingdom shares a similar demographic distribution to the United States in regards to Senior Citizens and digital inclusion.  One way a group of NGOs are trying to bridge the digital divide is through their program called the Digital Inclusion Network.  This group, founded in 2006, consists of more than 200 member organizations that provides computer and Internet training to Senior Citizens.  Member NGOs sign an MOU and participate in this network by sharing best practices and local information and receive start-up support including toolkit, learning materials and resources, and opportunities to network and create partnerships.

This partnership organization is managed by AgeUK, an organization that provides information spanning financial advice and health advice, to public policy research and funding regarding Senior Citizens.  The Digital Inclusion Network is a fine example of networking local NGOs which know its constituents best, to best serve and address issues involving digital inclusion.

For more information, visit: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/services-and-practice/computers-and-technology/digital-inclusion-network1/

NGO WebOrganic Benefits from new Google Datacenter in Hong Kong

Google will inject US$300 million as a long-term investment in its Hong Kong datacenter that will go live in early 2013, said the company after the ground breaking ceremony in Tsueng Kwan O Industrial Estate last week.

The company said it will also launch a community program in Hong Kong to provide annual grants ranging from US$5000 to US$50,000 to organizations that focus on the issues such as technology literacy and innovation, renewable energy innovation, and new economy entrepreneurship.

To get this effort started, Google is making a grant of USD50,000 to Hong Kong-based NGO WebOrganic to support their efforts in providing affordable laptops and digital literacy programs to underprivileged children in Hong Kong, the company added.

WebOrganic’s main focus is to promote eLearning to the underprivileged and give those people that were formerly without access to the internet.  The company regularly teams up with organizations in the Hong Kong area to further these goals.  It also provides technical support for internet problems for the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society and supports training and mentorship programs for the YMCA and other groups.  The company supports an impressive 150,000 students from lower income families.

Google launched a website on the facility at http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/locations/hong-kong, where people can ask the firm questions and find more information on the project, and job opportunities, the firm noted.

See the original article:  http://www.pcworld.com/article/245982/google_invests_300_million_in_hong_kong_datacenter.html

Read more about WebOrganic:  http://www.weborganic.hk/EN/node/6

Broadband in Brazil: A Multipronged Public Sector Approach to Digital Inclusion

With 35 million fixed and mobile broadband subscribers, Brazil ranks among the top ten countries worldwide by total number of broadband users. Its large population, however, places the country’s broadband penetration outside the top-50 worldwide. This report explores the challenges, opportunities and successes that define Brazil’s Information and Communication Technology experience.

Regionally, Brazil is slightly above the Latin American average in terms of penetration, but behind Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Speed of access follows a similar pattern – Brazil is better than the regional average, but below US or European levels. Likewise, Brazil has relatively good international fiber connectivity, although it is not as well connected as some of its neighbors. Similarly, prices for telecommunication and broadband access are lower than other countries in the region yet still relatively high compared to North America and Europe, especially outside the major cities. Phones, computer and telecommunication equipment are also significantly higher in cost, partly due to import duties on IT equipment, further reducing affordability of access among the lower-income groups.

In an effort to help to improve coverage and reduce the cost of broadband access, the government has begun a major broadband infrastructure development initiative which has set ambitious targets to triple broadband uptake by 2014. The largest ICT infrastructure project ever carried out in Brazil, called the National Broadband Plan (PNBL), it aims to ensure that broadband access is available to low-income households, especially in areas that have so far been poorly served.

Read the report (pdf): http://www.infodev.org/en/Document.1128.pdf

Read more: http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.1128.html

CodeNow Teaches Students How to Code

CodeNow (a non-profit organization) focuses on developing the next pioneers in technology by teaching underserved youth foundational skills in computer science and programming with the objective of narrowing the current digital divide. The organization teaches high school students the basics of computer programming and computer science in free, extra-curricular, off-campus trainings and boot camps. Each student who completes their program receives a netbook, mentoring and assistance finding internships.

Working with numerous partners, the organization successfully launched its pilot program in DC in August.  In 2012 CodeNow will expand to four cities.

As founder Ryan Seashore says, “coding is the new literacy, it gives youth the ability to create and innovate.” This fantastic program gives high school students the tools to Win the Future.

To learn more about their program, go to CodeNow.org or follow them on twitter @CodeNowOrg.

Read more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/28/codenow-champion-non-profit

Public-Private Partnerships to Bridge Africa’s Digital Divide

Innovative partnerships involving governments, software giants and telcoms will accelerate connectivity and bridge Africa’s gaping digital divide.

Experts who met at a just concluded third edition of the Africa Public-Private Partnership Conference in Nairobi hailed the potential of structured collaboration between the public and private sectors to transform Africa into an ICT hub. Zaki Khoury, the Regional Manager, Global Strategic Accounts, Middle East, North, West, and Central Africa as well as Pakistan and Turkey at Microsoft, underscored the potential of public-private partnerships to promote universal access to ICT services in Africa.

Khoury noted that Africa is a frontier market that has attracted investments in ICT sector as the GDP of many countries expand. “We have ICT hubs in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. This calls for a revaluation of our business model to engage more with governments and private companies and leverage these partnerships to accelerate connectivity,” says Khoury.

He continued “Microsoft adopts public-private partnerships to maximize on the resources, leverage our technology and scale up our execution together with governments and other companies.” Khoury stressed that structured public private partnerships are critical in addressing social challenges such as provision of quality education and health services.

“These partnerships have boosted quality and competitiveness of the education system. They have increased collaboration among students alongside connectivity with teachers to create greater knowledge forums”, remarked Khoury.  Mainstreaming ICT in the education sector in Africa will boost skills and competitiveness of the youth in the job market.

Khoury vouched for digital learning in schools to prepare students for a knowledge based economy. Microsoft has partnered with Kenya’s Ministry of education under a “Partnership in Learning” project to develop digital curriculum for schools.

“We will in the next three years help Kenya progress towards digital literacy,” says Khoury. He cited the “Microsoft Digital Literacy” initiative that has helped streamline technology enhanced learning in schools.

Read more: http://www.africasciencenews.org/en/index.php/technology/45-hitech/245-public-private-partnerships-to-bridge-africas-digital-divide-says-microsoft

JobScout Teaches Job Skills Using Online Game

JobScout is like many of the start-ups launching on a daily basis in Silicon Valley, except for the fact that many of its users do not even know how to use the Internet yet. A project that has been supported and seed funded by the California State Library, JobScout is a platform that provides an interactive online environment that uses game design to teach job-hunting skills and the digital literacy basics that are necessary for finding employment. Users will be able to get support in the pilot phase at nearly 140 pilot sites at library branches in California, including locations in Los Angeles County and San Jose. The libraries, a place of resources and community for many potential users, will provide entry points and guidance for new users.

Users earn badges for lessons completed and can track success and progress. Characters greet users as they enter and complete lessons. A job aggregator lets users know of the latest jobs available in their area that meet their interests. A resume builder function enables users to create a resume and print it to submit. A variety of resources for job hunting are contained in one database, streamlining the job seeking process.

The basics of the Internet that are second nature to some are thoroughly covered: Opening and using email, submitting a query on a search engine and using Facebook and LinkedIn to create profiles and find job opportunities. While the content is geared towards users finding, applying to and acquiring jobs, the lessons teach skills that reach far beyond their immediate goal.

The system’s do-it-yourself methodology and technology that learns with the users as they use it will provide an educational experience parallel to other platforms that have proven successful online. A variety of online initiatives, whether Khan Academy for math and sciences or Code Academy for the advanced Internet user who wants to pick up programming skills, have proven that self-paced and enjoyable online learning experiences are the future of education, regardless of the subject.

True access includes the appropriate infrastructure, access points, hardware and digital literacy skills to be a participant in our online community. In an era of development and companies focusing on “social,” inclusion is critical.

The platform launches this Wednesday with a live demonstration online and can be found at jobscout.caltrail.com.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-gagnier/digital-literacy-internet-access_b_1129884.html