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Computers, Access to Information, and Education in Developing Nations

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Computers, Access to Information, and Education in Developing Nations


In most developing countries, computers are quickly becoming a part of the school in the dissemination of knowledge. Udai Singh, et al (2006), �computers-in-education projects range from small, isolated, computer kiosks in rural villages to large-scale, high-end, computer installations in wealthier urban schools.’ This observation is supported by Kashorda and Waema (2007) in their work on the e-readiness of the various higher education institutions in Kenya where they note that middle-level colleges, but in affluent regions, for example the United States International University (Africa) ranks higher in computer and general information communication technology use than any other in Kenya (p.74). The same is repeated in India, Brazil and other developing countries. What all scholars agree is that computers supplement teacher shortages as well as familiarizing underprivileged children with technology (Pawar, et al, 18). This paper seeks to look into how computers improve access to information and education in developing nations. The definition of a computer in this paper is �programmable usually electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data’ while a developing nation is one �that has a relatively high standard of living, achieved primarily through social, economic, and technological infrastructure.’

Computers And Access To Information And Education

Osin (1981, 86), deals with the questions why and how in trying to investigate how computer as a tool is being used in education in developing nations and the purposes for its use (p.2). acknowledging the difficulties facing developing nations, like adverse poverty, he first tries to justify why computers should be prioritized together with other needs like those of addressing poverty, concluding that вЂ?the only way to reach a long-term solution for the economic problems of the population is to raise the educational level…for the low socio-economic groups (Ibid, 2). These views are echoed by Kashorda, et al (2005) who note that the effective use of information communication technologies, especially in higher education would help train university level labor force that can effectively take part in the knowledge-driven economies in the world today (p.7). This calls for such things as digital libraries for helping in the access and flow of information in resource-poor learning institutions. Unlike the standard, вЂ?brick and mortar’ libraries where only catalogs are computerized thus enabling search for physical books, digital libraries are huge collections of information objects that are organized in an easier to access format for anyone interested in the information stored there. A digital library doesn’t need to be “housed” in a building and the inhibitive costs that come with the institution of a library вЂ" it’s dexterous and encourages more access and evolves easily and quickly. Witten (2002) sees digital libraries playing a вЂ?compensation role’ to the failure of traditional knowledge distribution and access mechanisms to supply knowledge where it’s required. He continues to say that developing countries need digital libraries more as the web is not easily accessible to many in these countries hence вЂ?it disenfranchises’ (p.3) them. But perhaps his most important viewpoint to consider here is the role he says libraries playing вЂ" facilitating free and open knowledge distribution. This is where libraries take up their role in enabling free flow of information (Ibid, 3), taking into account the common understanding that these are democratic, and non-sectarian entities that are self-governing, guided and led by the desire to spread knowledge to as many people as possible. They may do this by taking up the challenge to fit in the information age where the internet is a real threat to them but instead turn this into an opportunity. This may be in the form of what Mason, et al, 2000) describes as вЂ?cooperation between the internet information providers and libraries’ like exemplified by the cooperation between California State University and University of California and others. Specialist librarians provide links to professionally authored papers on the web via Infomine.

Computers can be used in various ways in the education sector in developing nations. Osin and Lesgold (1996) note that increasing competitiveness on the global scene calls for top quality labor force that’s well informed on new developments and requirements for maximum participation in the business, academic and other fields. They also note that nowadays computers are contributing to what they call individualized interactivity where they mean the ability of the computer to adapt to the needs of individual learners (p.3) in the South American context. However, this is still the case in other developing nations like Kenya. For instance, the government of Kenya in its National ICT Strategy for Education and Training (GoK, 2006:10), sees the role of ICTs on the education goals as вЂ?increasing resources and improving the environment for learning.’ The same report notes also another important role of the computer: aiding in acquisition of skills by students вЂ?for competing in the emerging global “knowledge” economy,’ (Ibid, 11) close to what Osin (1996) suggests as a major application of computers. But how can computers be integrated better in schools in developing nations?

One of the ways is through creation, maintenance and integration of open-source software for educational establishments. Witten (2002), says �open source software is a powerful ally for librarians who wish to extend liberal traditions of information access.’ Projects carried out through the open source model reveal their source code at no cost so others can �view, modify, and adapt’ and the software can’t be taken in private hands for profiteering causes. Open source software is crucial in the promotion of learning and general information and knowledge flow. And owing to the problems noted by Osin (1996) as unique to developing countries, like crowded classes, lack of basic educational infrastructure (especially in rural areas) and teachers and poor teacher training, the computer becomes handy when applied in such areas as computer-assisted learning. Here, a learner acquires skills through self-guidance or computer guidance via friendly software at their own pace. Here is where



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