II. Bridging the Global Digital Divide
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Canada Making a Difference in Asia-Pacific
Pan Asia Networking
Established in 1994, Pan Asia Networking (PAN) is the oldest of IDRC's current ICT programs. PAN's early support helped organizations use ICTs for communications and networking and in developing Web-based tools and applications. It also helped establish the first Internet services in Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia and Vietnam.
Today, the program places more emphasis on applied research related to community uses of ICTs, particularly those practices that lead to more equitable access, and policies that encourage public and private sector investment in ICTs. This includes such things as piloting village information centres, researching open source software and promoting local language content on the Internet. Another priority is to look at innovative ICT applications for developing countries in areas such as e-commerce, distance learning and health.
PAN programming takes into account Asia's diverse mix of economies. It directs support at least-developed countries to build their capacity to participate in the new economy. At a broader level, PAN encourages networking and collaboration by the growing community of ICT pioneers in the region. In 2003, one such collaboration, involving IDRC, the UNDP's Asia-Pacific Development Program, Orbicom and Southbound, resulted in the publication of Digital Review of Asia Pacific, covering 27 economies.
PAN also helps its partners contribute their research results to the policy-making process of various Asia-Pacific economies.
Pan Asia — People Power Through WiFi
Dr. Onno Purbo regularly attracts hundreds of people to his seminars in Indonesia on how to build community-based ICT networks through wireless fidelity (WiFi). The author of more than 40 books, Dr. Purbo posts all his how-to technical information on the Web, free for anyone to download. "I don't believe in equipment power; I believe in people power," says the self-described ICT evangelist. The decade-old grass-roots technology movement has resulted in more than 4 million Indonesian Internet users, 2500 WiFi outdoor installations, 2000 cyber cafés, and over 1500 schools connected to the Internet. Dr. Purbo is currently a Research Fellow at IDRC.
Pan Asia — From the Net to the Loudspeaker to You
At a temple in Veerampattinam, India, loudspeakers have been erected among the statues. They are one innovative way that a project by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation uses traditional and new technologies to provide information that empowers villagers.
The loudspeakers broadcast weather forecasts, downloaded from the Internet, that are potentially life-saving for local fishermen. Other information available includes agricultural techniques, market prices, government programs and local bus schedules.
This innovation shows how the delivery of relevant information contributes to rural development. "As a single intervention, information and knowledge empowerment can give a quantum leap in terms of improving the security of livelihoods," says Professor Swaminathan.