4.1 Access to information and training – from rural to national
ICTs have multiple roles in training, capacity-building, learning by doing and community-building, all of which can be provided through community ICT centers. A variety of tools provide an effective and efficient means to deliver informal training courses, more sophisticated qualification-driven learning, learning by communicating with others, or from reaching out to see what others are doing. As management expert and author Peter Drucker wrote, learning is a life-long process of keeping abreast of change, and one of the most pressing tasks is to teach people how to learn.
One interesting example of formal e-training is the ongoing qualifications provided by the African Medical Research Foundation’s (AMREF’s) virtual nursing school, which serves thousands of nurses across Kenya. As of 2008, e-Learning became the preferred mode due to its interactivity, cost effectiveness, ease of revision and ability to achieve the goal in less time and at a lower cost than the residential programme. It also enabled continued service provision, instant application of learning and improved quality of care. The second example (Maarifa) exemplifies the multi-layered nature of using ICTs for learning.
Content example: Health qualifications for nurses in Kenya (hyperlink)
In July 2008, the Kenyatta National Hospital and AMREF41 signed a memorandum of understanding to support an effort to upgrade the certification of 500 Enrolled Nurses to Registered Community Health Nurses, through AMREF’s Virtual Nursing School (AVNS). AMREF committed to training the nurses over the following five years, using computer-based training modules. The nurses would upgrade their skills while continuing to work, using a supervised e-course that blended theory with clinical experience at one of the more than 100 computer‐equipped training centers in eight provinces. These centers covered several rural, remote and marginalized districts (e.g. Garissa and Dadaab refugee camps in the North Eastern Province of Kenya).
This is a public-private partnership with the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK), AMREF, Accenture, the Kenya Medical Training Colleges, several private and faith-based nursing schools and the Ministry of Health, all collaborating in delivering a country-wide eLearning programme for nurses. The programme commenced in September 2005 with four schools and 145 students aiming to upgrade 22,000 Enrolled Community Health Nurses (KECHN) from ”enrolled” to “registered” level within five years. Enrolled Nurses (ENs) comprise 70 per cent of the nursing workforce and 45 per cent of the health workforce in Kenya. They are the first point of contact for communities, but are inadequately skilled to manage new and re-emerging diseases like HIV/AIDS. This has necessitated continuing professional development to improve nursing care standards in line with health-related Millennium Development Goals (4, 5, and 6) and enable them to respond effectively to disease diversity and complexity.
Building on its success, in April 2010, AMREF, the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) launched an e-learning programme to enhance the management capacities of HIV and AIDS organisations in Kenya. In partnership with Kenya’s National AIDS Control Council (NACC), the programme will be used to build the capacities of 7,000 NACC managers in effective health leadership and management.
Content example: Farming and rural empowerment in East Africa
Initiated in 2007, the Maarifa Centers42 (Maarifa is the Swahili word for knowledge) are a project by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), an organization that aims to facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences, and knowledge among communities to enhance learning for improved socio-economic empowerment through multi-media tools. The project involves the establishment of community knowledge centers (CKC) in the rural areas of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda that, in partnership with other agencies, seek to bring ICTs to rural communities to enable their documentation and sharing of local knowledge - in particular, knowledge relating to farming and natural resource management.
There are 10 Maarifa Centers, eight in Kenya, one in Tanzania, and one in Uganda. The centers have been established to increase access to information on the part of rural communities, enabling them to turn their experiences into knowledge and lessons learned. Each center is equipped with basic ICT tools (computers and Internet access) to enable information generation, access, and dissemination. The centers have a resource area containing materials such as newspapers, journals, books, research reports, electronically stored information (CD-ROMs), audiovisual materials (DVDs), compendiums, and all types of web-based resources. At the Maarifa Centers, community members can access and share information on how to improve their livelihoods through new technologies for farming, livestock keeping, coping with environment and climate change, and current marketing information. The centers also offer information related to health, gender, and HIV and AIDS.
The centers offer basic ICT training to community members, many of them young people who have graduated from secondary schools, as well as primary school pupils, many of whom have formed information clubs. The centers also act as information access points for community development workers who provide agricultural and related extension services in the region. They use the centers to acquire free (online) development information and to send weekly reports to their ministries or organizations, but also benefit from basic office services such as typing, photocopying, and free Internet access.
A typical Maarifa Center is managed by a selected advisory committee of about 5-8 members drawn from local community stakeholders. According to ALIN, the selection process ensures that the membership is gender-balanced, represents interests of special groups, and has diverse background. ALIN's volunteer programme supports the running of the centers. The volunteers work at the center for one year and are supervised by local host partner organizations. They are generally young graduates in mass communication, agriculture, environmental studies, or community development. The volunteers manage the center's activities, coordinating the collection of development-oriented local knowledge and experiences and training local communities on the use of ICT tools. The Maarifa Centers also support the active involvement of women. In order to enhance the capacity of women to play an active role in development initiatives and to reverse the trend of their insufficient inclusion, especially in the dry land areas, ALIN promotes the integration of women in development and information support.