With Internet access and proper education, people across the world can learn skills and gain knowledge that will help them participate in the global economy. Unfortunately, almost 2.3 billion people—more than a third of the world’s population—do not have access to the Internet. To address this problem companies like Cisco have partnered with NGOs in developing nations to establish Community Knowledge Centers (CKCs).
According to Cisco, CKCs use the latest technology to make education resources available and affordable to people living in underdeveloped regions of the world.
Many children living in these regions do not have access to or do not obtain a proper education. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 56 million people between the ages 15 to 24 have not finished primary school. A UNESCO report explains that these children need, “alternative pathways to acquire basic skills for employment and prosperity.” One of those alternative pathways is Community Knowledge Centers.
In 2000, the South African government built hundreds of technology centers in historically disadvantaged communities with the hope of providing internet and technology access to its citizens. However, most citizens did not understand how to utilize these technologies for productive purposes. As a result, many of these centers languished. But in 2009, South African NGO, Siyafunda, partnered with Cisco to transform 3 of these technology centers into CKCs with the hope of educating the underserved.
To achieve this, Cisco created the framework for training, partnerships and mentoring programs while Siyafunda developed relationships with online universities. The partnership and frameworks were very successful. By 2012, the organization was managing 70 CKCs throughout South Africa and plans to be operating 150 by 2015. Many students have graduated with degrees in technology-related fields and some have gone on to manage their own CKC.
Speaking about the success of their CKCs, Alfie Hamid, Corporate Affairs Regional Manager for Cisco, said “The CKCs offer an alternative pathway to higher education. [Students] can go to distance learning, sessions with tutors, and support sessions with instructors. We’ve literally brought the university to the doorstep of the underserved.”
For those living in less developed regions of the world, access to education is often a problem with few viable solutions. With this new model of Community Knowledge Centers and the growing availability of online learning resources, access to education is becoming more readily available. Hopefully this will create new economic opportunities and growth in those places where for too long people have been unable to properly develop their knowledge and their capabilities.
— Daniel Bonasso