The world's poor need the Internet by Dwight Wilson, Honduras RPCV

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The world's poor need the Internet by Honduras RPCV Dwight Wilson

The world's poor need the Internet by Honduras RPCV Dwight Wilson

The world's poor need the Internet

Thursday, July 19, 2001


I do not see eye-to-eye with Bill Gates about the potential of the Internet.

I was convinced by an announcement last month about wave heights and weather conditions in the Bay of Bengal over the scratchy public-address loudspeakers in the Indian fishing village of Veerampatinam.

Last October at a Seattle conference, Gates said that to the 1 billion people living on a dollar a day, necessities such as immunizations, primary education and clean water were of higher priority than gaining access to the Internet.

Part of me agreed. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Honduran village in 1982-83 and saw the benefits of access to health care and education.

But part of me disagreed. For two days prior to Gates' presentation, speakers from around the world had described information technology programs benefiting the poorest of the poor. Last month, I traveled to several villages in India to see some of these programs. I have returned to Seattle convinced that the real Internet revolution has only just begun.

Veerampatinam is one of eight villages taking part in a project developed by the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation. Each morning, information on weather and market prices, job opportunities and news is downloaded at a central hub office and forwarded via an Intranet to the eight villages. Weather comes from Information about wave heights in the Bay of Bengal comes off the U.S. Navy's Web site. That information tells fishermen where the best catches are and whether the sea is too dangerous.

The Internet kiosk is located in a building donated by the community and staffed by volunteers. These volunteers post prices for fish and produce at various local markets. The volunteers also write down the day's headlines on a blackboard outside the kiosk.

Virtually all the villagers have been impacted by the daily catch off the Internet. With $120,000 grant funding from the Canadian government soon to run out, the challenge now is to find ways to make the kiosks financially self-sustaining.

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Story Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Honduras; Internet; Speaking Out



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