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Current Projects

Our past and current research portfolio contains a variety of projects that contribute to our overall understanding of how ICTs can impact the social and economic development process. It consists of elements including: core research that illustrates the impact of ICTs; the creation of tools that global leaders can use to help guide their decision-making; outreach in the form of seminars, teaching, policy advocacy and advice for policy makers; participation in international forums and policy discussions; dissemination of findings through writing in leading academic and mainstream journals and presentations in conferences and symposia; and on-the-ground projects that explore the impact of ICTs on people's lives and promote their effective and appropriate use.

Global Networked Readiness for Education (GNRE)

A schoolteacher in Guatemala wants to find out how other teachers are using computers in their history classes. A high school principal in Botswana is curious about how others have dealt with the administration issues that arisen around her school's computer lab. A staffer to the Education Minister in Thailand needs more data on the impact of computer investments on learning. All three want to know where they stand relative to others worldwide.

We have created an online resource that addresses these needs, and we seek to publish a global report analyzing the impact and use of information communications technologies (ICTs) in education in the developing world. Some of our research foci include: infrastructure and access, teaching and learning environments, attitudes and perceptions, and assessment of basic and effective use of ICTs in educational environments.

Over the past decade, the goals of preparing citizens for the global "knowledge economy," "information society" or the "21st century workforce" have become increasingly prominent on governmental agendas, particularly in terms of the incorporation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) into learning systems.

In the developing world, where there has been increasing pressure to "catch up" to the more developed countries, the addition of ICTs in schools has become a central element of national and sub-national education policy and practice. Ministries of education, public, state, and municipal-level school authorities as well as private school organizations have invested substantial amounts of money, time and energy in the goal of preparing their youth to participate successfully in a technology-savvy workplace.

Few reliable statistics exist that illustrate the status of ICT for education programs in developing countries. In an effort to address some of these shortcomings of monitoring, evaluation, and data collection, and to provide insight for policymakers, the ICT for Education Program of the World Bank Institute and the International Technologies Group (ITG) at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, with the support of the Education Development Center, launched a pilot survey in 2003 to directly solicit user experiences of ICTs in developing world schools.

We completed the development and deployment of surveys to 11 developing countries with the assistance of national coordinators in Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the Gambia, India (state of Karnataka), Jordan, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, South Africa, and Uganda. A combination of over 5,000 students, teachers, computer lab supervisors and heads of schools participated in the study—providing us with the largest collection of data on the use of ICTs in education in the developing world.

Read more about the project and our continuing progress at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/gnre/.

Networked Readiness in the Republic of Panama

Working with the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Government of Panama, ITG is working together with local stakeholders to initiate policy change and implementation in support of more effective use of information and communication technologies. Panama's unique attributes, inlcuding its position at the crossroads of the America's, canal (including vast associated and undeveloped lands and a significant proportion of global trade passing through it), numerous undersea fiber optic cables, substantial banking industry and service economy, progress oriented population, vast tourism potential and urban-rural disparities, make it a challenging and exciting environment to work in.

With the project only recently underway, our current focus is supplementing past research to identify the key action areas, foremost among them are a national ICT strategy and the Internet Para Tod@s program to integrate technology into the formal education system.

As Panama gears up to invest tens of millions of dollars in installing computers and Internet in over 600 of its public schools, this analysis examines the primary challenges the project faces, with particular focus on developing an institutional structure that would be politically, operationally and financially sustainable in Panama's complex socio-political environment.

SARI

The Sustainable Access in Rural India project (SARI) seeks to show that viable markets exist for information and communication services in rural poor areas by inventing and deploying innovative technologies, assessments, and business models. The ultimate goal is to link these activities to sustainable human development objectives. SARI's founding partners include the edevelopment group at the MIT Media Lab, the TeNeT Group at IIT-Madras and the I-Gyan Foundation. 

There has been a great deal of enthusiasm about the value of information and communications technologies but precious few unqualified successes and little or no rigorous evaluation. The SARI project counts on a collaborative and interactive research agenda. The key research areas include: 1) technology, applications and content, 2) assessing social and economic impacts, 3) and business models for financially viable and self-sustaining access.

Through the development and introduction of appropriate and enabling technologies and applications, SARI will foster economic development and improve health and learning. It will do so in a financially sustainable way, even as it reaches into the poorest and most disadvantaged communities. SARI's diverse partnership of universities, non-profits and the private sector has begun to implement a unique project that will begin by wiring approximately one thousand neighboring rural villages in each of two Indian districts. 

Why connect so many villages? SARI's magnitude is essential because it will allow us to benefit from the Network Effect, which will be far more empowering than a few connections placed only in more urban areas. The large number of users helps support financial viability by aggregating demand, develops richer content and community by integrating and aggregrating people, and provides a powerful environment for research. 

 

 
 

International Technologies Group • Berkman Center for Internet & Society • Harvard Law School itg@cyber.law.harvard.edu
1587 Massachusetts Avenue • Cambridge, MA 02138 • USA
Copyright 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College


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