Thanks to funding from the Internet Society Community Grant Program as well as from the Information Society Innovation Fund (isif.asia) a computer learning lab has been established at the Chuuk Women’s Council!
Our goal in establishing a computer lab in the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC) is with the aim of empowering and connecting, with ICT, the women of Chuuk State, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The Chuuk Women’s Council is an established umbrella organization for the different women’s organizations across Chuuk State, which promotes women’s leadership, education on health and gender issues, environmental conservation, practical skills-building for employment opportunities, and the preservation of traditional and cultural crafts. Given the existing strengths of the center and the breadth of the programs already on offer, we believe that the technology of this computer lab will serve to complement and enable this organization that is already extremely successful in its non-technical endeavors.
In planning the computer lab, we looked at five key ways to assure long-term sustainability:
- Computer Hardware (Rugged, Portable, Low Energy Usage, Good Performance & a Webcam)
- Software (Office Software, Typing Aid, Basic ICT Skill Modules, & Virus Protection)
- Internet Access (WiFi, Bandwidth)
- Training (Basic ICT, Email, Web Searching, Office Software)
- Support and Maintenance (Shares, Onsite, Software/Hardware Repair & Remote Troubleshooting)
With our solution requirements and guidelines, a plan was developed and agreed upon with project partners.
It is our hope and intent that this computer lab at the Council’s facility, accompanied by trainings in how to make use of the technology and the Internet, will greatly enhance the existing CWC offerings and will empower Chuuk’s women to use ICT’s communications and information capabilities to enhance their own quality of life and improve their own communities.
The CWC has an existing room within their facilities designated to serve as the computer lab: where the sewing classes currently take place!
Thanks to the mobility of the laptops comprising the lab, they will be able to utilize the room as a sewing room in the mornings, and as a computer lab in the afternoons, with the added bonus that the sewing machine bases can very conveniently serve as “desks” for the laptops. Alternatively, the laptops can easily be brought to any room within the CWC to be used for training, education, or any ICT skill based needs that will help the staff accomplish their tasks.
We started on-the-ground in Chuuk by preparing the laptops at iSolutions, Chuuk’s only cyber-café and computer repair center, as well as a company co-founded and directed by project partner TR Mori. Many of the iSolutions staff helped out with standardizing the programs (listed below) loaded on the laptops, password-protecting them, and installing Reboot Restore RX on each of them for virus protection/removal upon reboot.
We selected Intel Classmate Laptops for the lab, because they are quite energy efficient (important on any small island!), have a speedy processor and long battery life, and are wrapped in a ruggedized and durable housing—not an insignificant point, given that they will be moved each day to create the computer lab/return to a sewing room.
The programs/features installed included:
- Windows 7 OS
- Web Browsers (Chrome and Internet Explorer)
- Office Suite Software (Open Office)
- Communications Software (Skype)
- Rapid Typing
- Multi Media (webcam software and a multimedia video player)
- PDF viewer
- GCF Learn Free
- MicSem Videos
Once the laptops were ready, we headed over to the CWC for a meeting with the staff, to talk with them and inquire what they had in mind for the computer lab. They were all quite interested in the technology, and were eager to improve their own computer skills.
We asked them what they hoped to be able to do with the computers, as well as spoke about the possibilities for the women who live in more remote locations to be able to use the technology. They expressed that because of the strong person-to-person networks they already have in place, any local chapter of the CWC, from one of the Lagoon Islands for example, could request a training session to take place. They believed this would prove very popular.
In the meantime, we got started on helping them develop their own computer skills that afternoon. They eagerly jumped in, using the Rapid Typing program, listening to music, using the video camera, and trying out Open Office.
We returned the next day, set up the lab, connected the laptops to the Internet, and held our first training session in the brand new CWC computer lab. Since our “students” had already used the laptops the day before, they were not timid to try anything.
Since we had Internet connectivity today, we surfed to the web, and the two women who didn’t yet have email addresses were already attempting to use Facebook (where they soon discovered they’d need to obtain email addresses in short order)! We tried out the Rapid Typing program again, and then it was time for some multi-media: We watched some videos from MicSem and GCF Free Learn—which proved to be very popular and entertaining.
When I said goodbye to them, they all called out goodbye back, but they hardly even looked up as our team left, they were so engrossed in using the laptops, and certainly not ready to stop after a few hours! That was fantastic.
We are working on editing a video that we made about this experience, so watch for the video to be posted. We also anticipate a return visit in November of this year and to reporting back on how and for what the learning lab is being used. In the meantime, we also looking forward to hearing more about developments at the CWC’s computer lab in real time; how the staff are using the laptops/lab, when the training sessions for community members will start, and even more exciting developments I couldn’t possibly predict!