|Discussion: Lessons learned - Pros and Cons of the project|
What has worked / what has not worked in the process of realisation of
The advent of modern Information Technology in the Tonga area creates a dilemma
and challenge again: the digital divide is tending to be replicated by the
still limited number of people having access to the newly established
ICT Centres. There are still the haves and the have not’s, 1 and 0. The ongoing
outreach and extension programme is, therefore, crucial for encouraging people
to visit the centres, make use of their services and be trained. Ongoing cultural
exchange is vital for linking up with friends and relatives abroad.
The Tonga.Online project has learned that the huge divide in access to
information technology between the people of Binga and the rest of the
world includes all technologies. Typewriters are unknown, even radios and
audio cassette players are rare, and the simple idea of ‘play, record, rewind
and eject’ is new to many people. A simple fax machine is new to most people.
Only a telephone is understood and used for communication. Almost nothing
is known about computers, except that they are now being used widely in the
rest of Zimbabwe and the world.
A few misconceptions are that computers are very scientific and require
a high standard of education to use, and people are surprised to find that
this is not so. Similarly, a special effort is needed to show children and
parents that IT is not a ‘male’ activity, but that girls and women are equally
able to participate and benefit.
In spite of all this, the communities involved have welcomed the Tonga.Online
project, and are doing what they can to support it. While even the words "computer"
and "centre" are meaningless to some tribal elders, they welcome
the development in education, although blindly. Many older members
of the community are illiterate and know they may not have access personally,
but will also benefit through younger members of their families; they have
given their approval and cooperation in raising attention through music and
The distribution of Alpha
Smarts to Siachilaba and Siansundu schools which offered first exposure
in an extremely non-intimidatory approach (small keyboard size only),
has proved that vital commands like "enter", "backspace",
"delete" and "save" can be easily understood by small
rural children with no previous exposure. Within a short time of operation
and training, the communities will have ‘leaped’ over some 100 years of information
technology development in the world, and literally catch up with everyone