Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tamale-Part 2

Robin standing in front of one of the EBC Centres.

It has been a week since we got back from Tamale, but I feel like there's a lot that I never got around to writing about. The most important aspect of the trip that I haven't mentioned yet was that Robin and I have also inherited the EBC project from previous QPID interns (see my first post for a full description), so while we were up in Tamale we had the chance to speak with some of the entrepreneurs about how their businesses are going and how we can spend the portion of our time that is devoted to the EBCs most effectively. The Easy Business Centres were filled with bright colours and familiar technology, and we were greeted with warm smiles and enthusiastic Ghanaian hospitality. Each business owner had a wealth of comments on changes they’ve made to their business, recommendations for when KITE expands the project, and suggestions for how we might spend our time with the EBC project. I was so impressed with the creative ways that they have used their equipment - one person promotes events on the walls of his EBC and does computer repairs, another runs a stationary business, another a secretarial business... Talking to the entrepreneurs, there are definitely mistakes that have been made along the way (and I’m sure that I will add a few of my own during my own time working with them) but I was struck by the genuine enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs for their businesses and their willigness to keep working away at the difficulties that face them. The best part about the project is that it builds the capacity of everyone it touches – the entrepreneurs, who build their own resourcefulness and business savy to make their centres a success, the community members who are learning how to use these trecherous but powerful machines for the first time, and the Ghanaian companies that make most of the technolgy used. Even KITE has embraced technology not previously used (for example, Microsoft Access), as part of implementing the EBC project.

You know it's "rural ICT" when....there's a goat scratching its butt against the EBC centre =)

Many times during my own work at KITE, I have found myself armed with little more than a google taskbar and just enough basic knowledge to understand what I was reading. It reminds me every day of the value of the ICT that we are bringing to the rural communities. So far using little more than the internet I have fixed a webcam and 3 problems with Microsoft Word, taught myself how to use Microsoft Access, convinced a Nigerian NGO network to promote a KITE project to their thousands of members, and am building a guide on analyzing and ranking development projects that uses the same practices as the Asian Development Bank (which they were so kind as to post online). There is such a wealth of information on the internet, and I am left wondering how to bring more of it to the community members that for the most part are only using the internet for email ....

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