In a modest building of less than 400 square feet known as the Blossom World cybercafé in Kangundo, a small town of 10,000 in Kenya, a non commercial, public-private collaboration between the Kenya ICT Board and Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) launched the Pasha centres. The center is designed to model a community-focused format that will be self-sufficient by using technology in the form of a Web 2.0 collaborative online platform for the Digital Village Pasha Program led by the board.
This initiative falls under the Kenya ICT Board's Digital Villages Project (DVP) also known as "Pasha Centres." The overall goal is to enhance the livelihoods of local citizens and encourage new micro-enterprises by providing access to information, education and new markets.
When Blossom World officially opened on July 28, 2009, and a thousand people from Kangundo turned out en masse to get a closer look, no one could have been prouder than Jim Wynn, Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) director in the area of emerging markets and the public sector.
The word "pasha" means "to inform" in Swahili, and the goal of the centres, explains Wynn, is to provide a ready source of vital information to Kenyans in the areas of basic education, vocational training, health knowledge, and government services. The connected communities will create a platform to facilitate collaboration and innovation, as well as provide valuable lessons in understanding Internet usage at a local level.
In emerging countries, ensuring people have access to technology that allows them to address their own issues is key to creating innovative solutions that work locally. What we are learning is that people need to help themselves in advancing economically and socially. We need to go beyond providing technology products and invest in ensuring citizens are able to make informed decisions that improve their lives.
I recently participated on a panel at MIT on Internet Innovations in the Developing World and heard from Bola Olabisi, Founder and CEO, Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network, say: "Give us something small, something fast, something affordable, and listen to what we want, not what you want to design and put up..."
I would add to that we have to look at the bottom-up. We can't change other people. Nobody can change you. But people can change themselves if you give them the tools and ability to change.
What has your experience been?