There are a billion people on this planet being left behind!
Despite receiving international aid these impoverished countries fail to experience growth. A new approach is necessary. U-TOUCH is a non-profit organization bringing to the people in developing nations free access to computers, training and the internet improving lives through technology and eMentoring.
Statement of the Challenge: Multiple challenges face the citizens of northern Uganda where the wake of a 20 year brutal war has left a devastated generation with a lack of community infrastructure, extremely high levels of unemployment and where poverty is the norm. Surveys have indicated that one out of three youths in northern Uganda had been abducted and forced to become “child soldiers”.
“During the rebels activites in the region, many people suffered, others lost relatives up to now vandalism of peoples’ property and so much destruction. It’s in 2007 that my family started to return to our original home that has becomed ghost villages. By then we either commuted in the bush or we travel 5-6 miles to Kitgum town. From there we spent the night anywhere varanders, hospitals and even outside just on the ground.
As the war continuously went rampant AIDS also is taking the footmark of the war. This war also affected education in some areas. For example, my PRIMARY SCHOOL’S OFFICE was burnt by the rebels, many documents were destroyed and we spent more than 3 years home without learning.
My grandparent also was captured when he went to the village from the camp to visit in the morning and murdered by the rebels, 2 km away from the village. It was the 4th day that his body was found and a log used for murdering. During these days, they normally captured youth and tie them together with ropes like the slaves carrying heavy loads deep in the bush. By the way, I was one of them.
I stayed in the bush for 2 weeks when I was captured in the evening when I was with my grandmum, but I managed to escape when we met an ambush of the Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UPDF). There were serious war.”
Okot, A. Kitgum, Uganda
- 97% of Ugandans do not have access to the internet.
- Illiteracy rates are at alarming rates, particularly with females.
- Over 75% of school aged girls and women cannot read.
- Those who can afford to pay for school fees are provided with few books and are limited to a “talk and chalk” method of instruction.
A woman in Africa has a one in 16 chance of dying in childbirth as contrasted with world standards of one out of 30,000. One of the most salient concerns is the inaccessibility to quality health care and health education for Africans. The majority of deaths associated with poor maternal health, HIV infection and malaria can be prevented by access to relevant and useable health information. Community members want to transform their communities, though they lack a vision of success and have no means to acquire skills that could lead to economic, educational and health development.
With the lack of basic needs, why provide computers and internet access? It is reasonable to question, with the lack of basic needs, isn’t it more appropriate to send food, clothing and provide shelter. Why provide computers and the internet? It is true that U-TOUCH’s model represents a paradigm shift from conventional thinking and charitable efforts in Africa for the last 50 years. Based upon respect of the abilities of the people in Africa, U-TOUCH is providing technological tools and support for Ugandans to take responsibility for solving their challenges.
The wise Chinese proverb comes to mind:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Computers and the internet are powerful tools that provide opportunities for people to improve their social and economic well being. U-TOUCH provides the resources and opportunities to effectively confront the “dependency syndrome” created in the last generation.
U-TOUCH, in the context of Digital Library Centers, provides:
- Computers with internet access
- Computer training
- Life Skills training
- Entrepreneurship training
Community members are guided to envision a successful future, provided a framework to set and achieve their goals and given the technical tools and personal support and expertise to become self-reliant.
The U-TOUCH system works. It changes lives. It provides access to learning. It builds technical competency. It fosters hope. It improves personal and community wellness. It promotes economic and academic success.