From Aid To Empowerment: How “Project Hello World” Is Closing The Digital Divide In Nigeria
Rural development remains a concern of many developing countries despite impressive advances in technology and increase in intensive developmental policies. Sustainable development and poverty alleviation in rural areas depend on effective common resources management and local governance.
A successful example of NGOs promoting economic activity in the local environment and lifting ignorance off people’s life is Project Hello World in Suleja community of Niger State, Nigeria. The ten months old project in Suleja, is a proven success and one that has reached children in the school system, community members, district and community leaders- Christians and Muslims alike.
Katrin Macmillan, who has a background in media and aid agency consulting, and Dr. Geoff Wells, an expert in community technology education and sustainable building technology, founded project Hello World. They both believe that every community has the cultural capital to begin solving their problems.
The Project Hello World could be likened to the MTN Resource Centre in some federal institutions like University of Lagos, where students access educational files and research works on their relevant fields of study online.
These resource centres enable students build on their knowledge by accessing the catalogue with their internally generated username and password within the time frame of two hours on weekdays.
Olalekan Paul Ibrahim of RuralReporters.com embarked on a trip to Suleja community, where the solar-powered computers called Hello Hubs are installed, and spoke with community leaders, members, district head and students of the community.
The Local Government Model Primary School, Ang. Gyan, Suleja, which houses the Hello Hubs is said to be the most famous school in the community according to the head teacher of the school, Comrade Lawal Salihu.
Comrade Lawal was posted to be in charge of the administrative duties of the school on 1th February, 2014. The head teacher expressed his pleasure on the Hello Hubs, while commending the Suleja Community Support Officer, Mr. Aliyu Zubairu, for accommodating and welcoming most of the community members to use the facility freely and properly.
His position as the head of administrative affairs in the school avail him the duty to protect the hub from vandalism, theft and destruction.
On the process it took before the project was installed in the school’s premises, he said: “Like I told you, I met the project already in existence and I am definitely sure the former headmaster was told the importance of this Hello Hub before it was installed.
“The local government chairman that decided the school should host the Hello Hub is an indigene of this community and also an old pupil of this school. The Hello Hub is centrally located and has been helping youths of the area to use the facility adequately.”
Mr. Aliyu Zubairu, the Suleja Community Support Officer, shows his strength of support to users of the Hello Hubs. Children between the age of five and fifteen are seen making remarkable efforts in beating deadline in typing educational words. Users of the hubs have mastered how to operate the facility in a professional way.
Those that have been trained sit side by side with fresh members, tutoring them on how to use the mouse and master typing skills. Mr. Aliyu ensures all users of the Hello Hub have their username and password so as not to tamper with other users account.
RuralReporters.com verified that the Hello Hub computers come loaded with educational programs and activities for children aged two and up, with some resources including KDE Education Project, GCompris, Tux4kids projects and an application-filled Ubuntu Software.
Although the team at Hello Hub also boast of internet enabled facilities, our reporter could not verify this, as he was informed that the facility ran out of data few days before the coverage.
Meanwhile, the presence of the reporter at the centre drew the attention of District Head, Community Leaders and some other users of the hub who were eager to express their feelings.
Shuaibu D. Muhammed (District Head of Kachalla)
“We are very grateful for getting this computer centre here and we are achieving a lot from it. Since it has been established, our
community has improved a lot in computer browsing and typing. Most of the community members come here to access the web rather than visiting the café to waste their money.
I need this project to continue and I want our government to support this project. If we can get three of this Hello Hubs here, it will improve more lives in the community.
We call on the government to support this project as to ensure it doesn’t vanish. It should be improved upon because computer brings improvement to the world.”
Mallam Adamu Bala (A Community Leader)
“The project has helped the community positively. I will rate it 95%. Even some of us, leaders, we do come here and sit with our children, watch them on how to operate the computer and we are very happy with this project because some of our children that were sitting down redundant at home are now making use of the resource centre to learn.”
Mr. Ibrahim Al-Hassan (A community Leader and Head teacher of different schools)
“The facility has helped a lot and the establishment of Hello Hub has given the community members an idea of what a computer is. Like me personally, it makes me to know how to type; I can type my name, other information and with this again, I can connect to the internet, open my e-mail account, and read some news. If this facility could be translated to Hausa version, many of the community members will come in to have access to it.”
Community Empowerment Through Access To Information
Mr. Ibrahim narrated how the Hello Hub helped the community members see pictures of the installment of Mallam Lamido Sanusi as the Emir of Kano on the Internet. He added that he and all the elders in the community came to the hub to see the pictures and all of them could not hide their joy.
“Somebody said he wants to see certain event and I have to type through Google and the events came out so they were surprised and that made them to understand computer is really something one needs to learn about.”
The economic value of the Hello Hub has disproved rumours and falsehood in the community. With the right channel to information, community members no longer pay attention to rumour and doubts, rather, they make use of the facility to access news sites and read facts and figures on happenings in the society and the world at large.
Salifulah Halidu (A JSS 1 student of City Academy, age 13)
I can browse and make use of the internet to support the things I want to do. I started using this facility two weeks ago and I come here every day between 3pm to 6pm.
The Hello Hub has helped me to know how to type and use Google to search topics on assignment given to us in school. There was a time we were asked to give meaning to Social Studies; I came here to use Google to know the definition.
Khadijat Abdullahi (An SS2 student of Women Day College)
The Hello Hub project has helped me in my academics. It has helped enhance my typing skills and I can also browse many things on the internet using Google. I also refer some of my friends to come here and make use of the facility which they do and they have never felt disappointed.
Wasila Adamu (A resident in the Community)
I was here when the project was established. I have been making good use of it and I can type accurately and fast. I visit Google and ask history of things I wish to know about. I also make use of the facility to access my social media account.
It was on this computer that I read about the death of the previous Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, I also read about how he ruled Kano State. We thank God because our leaders love us. If they don’t, they won’t allow this project to be built and I wish this continues.
Zaliha Shuaibu, a 20 year old lady is among the few students Mr. ALiyu, the Suleja Community Support officer is training to be in charge of the Hello Hub when he is not around. Her duty is to teach others how to type, browse and she is specially trained to tutor married women who are restricted to associate with men outside their home.
On how the project has helped her, she said: “I am still under training but can type very fast.”
Mohammed Hawal Jubril (Another Trainee and an SS1 student of Technical School, Suleja)
The Hello Hub project has helped me in many things. Before, I don’t know how to type, but now I can type very well and also teaching people how to do same. I can also make use of the internet. It has helped me so much in my school. When they give me assignment, I sit down here and do it especially Chemistry. I make use of this facility to solve questions on my assignment.
Previously, my position in school is between fifth and fourth, but since I have been making use of the Hello Hubs to learn more academic work online, my position in school is now third and I hope to be the first next session.
I could also remember when the news of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak was spreading; I came to use the Hello Hubs to read on the virus and with the information gathered, I went back to the community to educate them on how they can curtail the spread of the virus.
As a trainee, Jubril is now training many other young users on how to use the facility to enhance their skills and improve on their learning.
“I register for new intakes here; I open a username and password for them so they can have their own account. I have registered many people and also teach them how to log in into their account.”
Suleiman Dauda (One of the Trainee)
I’m one of the students that train here and I also train others that know nothing about computer. I teach them on how to operate and boot the system, how to operate the keyboard, mouse, the command to give to the system, how to use Google and how to extract the relevant information gotten on the internet to notepad.
As it is now, some of them are just seeing computer and with them coming down here for training, they know the usage and usefulness of computer. Some of them can browse, search the Google, and do not need to go to the café.
When asked if café operators won’t see the establishment of Hello Hub in the community as threat to their business, he said: “They will see it but one thing they should understand is this, every body want things to be easier. Users of the Hello Hub still have to go to the cybercafé to print what they are able to gather online because the facility here does not make provision for printing.
The project came like an opportunity for us because all of us were not here before, we were elsewhere and some of us were at home. With the help of God and the project, some of us do create time to come down here and have some knowledge no matter how little it is.
Huzaifa Lawal (16 year old resident of the community and student of ANG. Gayan junior secondary school 3)
The project has helped me. I use Hello Hubs to learn how to type and browse the internet. I normally check news and sometimes get answers on assignment given to us in school. Before I don’t even know how to type, but now I thank God, I can type very well.
About Project Hello World
171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all children left school with even basic reading abilities, yet 134 million children have never been to school. 32 million of them are in sub-Saharan Africa – a number equivalent to all the primary school children in USA, UK and France put together. Project Hello World builds digital schools to bring child-led digital education to those without access to formal schooling. Basing our work on the research of our Board member, Sugata Mitra, the winner of the 2013 TED Prize, we work with local communities to design and build Internet-enabled rugged, outdoor computer kiosks for education, connectivity, community journalism, business and play. Our founding belief is that development must be led, defined by, and serve the community, and all of our work is in service of that belief. Our pilot project in Suleja, Nigeria is ten months old, and a proven success. We are reaching children in the school system and out of it, homeless and housed, Christian and Muslim alike. We are a UK-registered charity with a track record of community development projects in Africa. Our team comprises technologists, educators, economists, programmers, policymakers and community liaisons. Our board includes world leaders in education technology and community development. Have a look at one minute of project Hello World in action: http://youtu.be/_8mygrERY2s