Towards Addressing The Digital Divide

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a real need for computers

computers in useIn 2003 Professor Derek Law, Norman Wagstaffe and Shona Cameron of the University of Strathclyde's Information Resources Directorate were commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to carry out a study on the usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) within Malawi. The survey identified a real need for computers and appropriate software in educational and hospital environments, plus the provision of good practice with respect to systems support and maintenance.

This study was the starting point for the Malawi Millennium Project's involvement in the use of ICT in Malawi. The first batch of 108 computers, donated by the Glasgow City Council, were sent to Malawi in 2004. They were cleaned, completely refurbished and tested and appropriate operating systems and software installed by staff at the University of Strathclyde. In summer 2004 Norman Wagstaffe and Shona Cameron returned to Malawi to visit five of the seven institutions benefiting from the computers. These five visited were: Malawi Polytechnic; Bunda College of Agriculture; Chancellor College; Kamuzu College of Nursing; Chikwawa Hospital. The other two institutions to benefit were Ekwendeni Hospital and Mchinji Orphanage. The uses ranged from environmental health and water sanitation through to patient databases and nurse training.

A one day workshop was delivered during the visit at the Malawi Polytechnic and attended by 12 IT support staff from the various constituent colleges of the University of Malawi. The aim was to train IT support staff to use disk imaging software to manage teaching clusters and stand alone computers with common hardware specifications.

In 2006 30 refurbished computers, donated by the University's Law School, were distributed to the schools in Malawi that are benefiting from the Malawi Millennium Project's 'making wonders' initiative. These computers are used for various purposes, ranging from administrative to pupil projects.

Contact : n.wagstaffe@strath.ac.uk