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[liberationtech] Project Rachel Increasing Access to Namibian Laws (and more)

James Davis davis at cs.ucsc.edu
Wed Jan 28 12:09:49 PST 2009


This is tangential to the online law initiative, and somewhat tangential 
to liberationtech, but... Do you have a pointer to an evaluation study 
to show that RACHEL or any other similar initiative has been effective 
along any metric? The general feeling I get from talking to people is 
that these sorts of computers in schools, and rural kiosk initiatives 
have all been failures. Not failures technically, but socially and 
economically. I have reports saying they aren't used, don't enhance 
education, aren't financially sustainable, etc. Of course we can produce 
individual examples of kids who had their life changed when someone 
spent $10,000 to install infrastructure in their village. However I 
would be very interested in finding a report with a careful evaluation 
showing that sticking a computer in any disadvantaged location is in 
fact good for solving any social problem (when compared to other 
existing solutions to that problem, and taking cost into consideration). 
I, like almost everyone else, thinks it _should_ be a good idea. But I'm 
a computer science professor, so of course I think a computer is the 
solution to anything. However, as far as I can tell the facts on the 
ground don't back up that gut reaction. I'm now interested to learn why, 
precisely, the gut reaction doesn't match the reality.

-james

Adam Tolnay wrote:
> Hi Lauren,
>
> Thank you for letting us know about the Open Access to Namibian Law Initiative.
>
> One of the concerns mentioned in the press release was access to this corpus for those who are not connected to the Internet.
>
> This reminded me of a project supported by CISCO to bring WiFi enabled servers filled with locally necessary content to schools and other areas where the internet is not hooked up. 
>
> See write up below.
>
> I know the engineers in charge of Project Rachel, so please let me know if you would like an introduction.
>
> Sincerely, Adam
>
> http://worldpossible.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=70&Itemid=89
>
> The RACHEL Initiative
> Remote Areas Community Hotspots for Education and Learning 
> A world Possible Program to advance Education through Technology in Emerging Countries.
>  
> Goals 
> Leverage the large volume of open and free educational courseware and libraries available online and make them accessible to Emerging Countries communities with no internet access or very limited bandwidth.
> Empower these small communities by deploying a pre-packaged, self-contained, scalable and highly mobile Educational Servers Solution that can be accessed by basic wireless laptops (OLPC type) or wired PCs.  
>  
> Background
> Education is the key enabler for the human development in African countries.
> 50% of population 17 years old or younger. Most very eager to learn and get educated.
> There are very large number of online and free educational resources in the Internet. But:
> No internet access in most rural or remote areas.
> Where internet access is available there is very limited bandwidth.
> Many educational institutions have plenty of computers, many networked, but very limited bandwidth to the Internet.
>  
> Solution Description
> Ultra-mobile, self-contained, pre-packaged solution(Server, courseware, router, switch, wireless access point).
> Can be transported in a school backpack.
> It addresses worst-case scenario of locations with no available internet access. Just a power outlet required.
> If Internet connectivity is available with a minimum bandwidth the Rachel Server will make available links to complementary internet resources also.
> No large capacity storage required in students computers. Or no storage at all. 
> Upgradeable. New educational packages or courseware can be added/updated by CDs.
> All material accessible via a web browser on a student computer connected (wirelessly or wired) to the Rachel Server.
> The Rachel Educational Web Portal is the main point of entry to all educational content.
> Ideal for self-paced learning.
> More of a Mobile Public Library than a formal school program. 
> Initial Focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines courseware.
> Other content: World literature classics, media. 
>  
> Benefits Summary
> Promotes the motivation and intellectual curiosity of the community, which will be exposed, in many cases for their first time, to the capabilities that 21st century technologies can provide to the learning experience, which, in itself, is another valuable learning experience. 
> Enables independent self-starters and motivated children and individuals to pursue their learning interests.
> Benefits both students and teachers, as the teachers will gain exposure to new learning tools to complement local programs and materials. It won't replace teachers, but will support them as well as parents on their current educational efforts.
>  
> Deployment Scenarios
>  
> Scenario 1: Remote area. No internet access available.
> Children go to the Educational Hot Spot (like in an existing school, or a public building/space). 
> They are provided an OLPC-type laptop, connect to the Rachel network, launch the EHS Portal site with their web browser and start an educational program or course, or consult an encyclopedia, or read educational content/documents, or any other self-paced learning.
> Tutors guide first-time students/visitors.
> Motivated community volunteers are trained to operate the Rachel box, and will serve as tutors.
>  
> Scenario 2: School with networked computers (LAN).
> A high school or college campus has plenty of computers, which are connected to a LAN. The on campus network is very good but the internet connectivity is very poor: low bandwidth, lots of hops to the most popular online resources (mostly located in the US), packet drops.
> A Rachel server is plugged to the network, which makes available immediately a rich online library and educational courseware to the whole campus/school. 
> The Rachel server also provides a web 2.0 set of communication and collaboration tools (Wikis, discussion groups, Blogs platform) that can be used for school projects and to publish students and teachers generated content.
> The Rachel server can be updated with new courseware sent to the schools by CDs.
> Some advanced students and school staff volunteer to maintain and update the platform, as well as to administer the new web 2.0 tools and promote its utilization within the school.
>  
> Rachel Server Technology
>  
> Pre-packaged solution components:
> Small footprint server hardware (like Mac Mini, Linux laptop, etc.).
> Minimum hardware: 1GB mem, 1GHz CPU, 20GB Storage, NIC.
> Router/switch (4 port)/wireless access point (i.e. Linksys WRT310N, Apple Airport Extreme, etc)
> Network cables.
> 110/220 v power adapter + power cable + world plug set.
> Backpack to store/hold/carry the whole package.
> UNIX type OS (Linux, BSD, Mac OS/Darwin).
> Apache web server.
> Web 2.0 tools installed and configured: tikiwiki (Wikis, Blogs, discussion groups)
> Rachel courseware package installed and configured.
>  
> Courseware:
> Encyclopedia: Packaged Wikipedia for Schools.
> Many excellent free educational content and open courseware is available online. We are looking for many of these quality educational content providers to generously contribute their content to this initiative.
>  
> Courseware Guidelines
>  
> All content is to be hosted in a web server, and only accessed online from a web browser. (no installable PC/Mac software. No dependant on Internet connectivity for any function)
> Acceptable content from courseware contributors:
> Self-contained:
> Flash Games (including enclosing HTML pages).
> PDF documents.
> HTML content of any number of levels (directories).
> Media: Educational videos (flash,QuickTime, avi), audio (mp3).
> If using server side technologies (like interactive educational games) the runtime must run on a UNIX OS (PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, etc.)
> If using a database it must be MySQL.
>  
> Volunteers Action Items
>  
> Courseware content:
> Define an initial and flexible content structure to be used in first Rachel pilot.
> Research / identify / log suitable Courseware content providers. 
> Contact courseware providers to request contributions to the initiative, based on the initiative courseware guidelines. Establish relationship. 
> Incorporate content into Educational Portal part of the Rachel Server.
> Server platform:
> Define detailed hardware and software requirements and configurations for the Rachel Educational Server.
> Create a fully functional prototype on an existing computer
> Document platform support and maintenance details (to enable local team support).
> Create matrix of possible hardware components to be used as the server platform. (Reference for donations requests)
> Cost estimates of hardware packages configurations.
>  
> Contribute
> Contact us at  info at worldpossible.org
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Lauren Gelman" <gelman at stanford.edu>
> To: liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
> Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 1:32:29 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
> Subject: [liberationtech] fyi
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Namibian Justice Now on Internet - by John Ekongo  
>
>
> 28 January 2009  
>
>
> WINDHOEK – As the Internet becomes widely acceptable globally, Namibia must grab the opportunities availed by the Internet to inform its citizens through the World Wide Web. 
>
>
> It is against this background that the Ministry of Justice in partnership with the University of Namibia Law Faculty and Stanford University, California, USA, pioneered a programme called “Open Access to Namibian Law”, a programme aimed at placing Namibian laws on the net and thus make it accessible to many people. 
>
>
> Justice Deputy Minister Utoni Nujoma said the Internet has become a part of everyday life for a lot of people and it must therefore be harnessed to ensure that Namibian laws are available over the Internet. 
>
>
> “Putting our laws on the Internet will help to bring Namibia into the world justice community,” Nujoma said when he delivered his opening remarks at the launch of the Open Access to Namibian Law Summit on Monday in the capital. 
>
>
> Nujoma opined that the summit will not only ensure that Namibian law is freely and openly available on the Internet, but also will go a long way in promoting the rule of law, while ensuring that every Namibian citizen becomes conversant with legal issues. 
>
>
> However, he appealed to stakeholders to consider the disadvantages without Internet connectivity. 
>
>
> “Communication forms the basis of individual and societal existence and should be managed in a manner that secures the fair, balanced and harmonious development of all people and with particular attention to the needs and aspirations of the most disadvantaged in our society.” 
>
>
> He added that it would be unfair to exclude members of society who have no access to the Internet. 
>
>
> “We should keep in mind that not all people have access to the Internet and thus we would fail them if we do not consider other means that will ensure that they too have access to Namibian laws,” added Nujoma. 
>
>
> The programme is funded by the US Government through its Windhoek Embassy. 
>
>
>
>
>
>
> Lauren Gelman   
> Executive Director 
> Center for Internet and Society 
> Lecturer in Law 
> Stanford Law School 
> (ph) 650-724-3358 
> http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu / 
> gelman at stanford.edu 
>
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