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ICT for Integrated Development in Siwa

Overview

Siwa Oasis is one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements located in the heart of western desert of Egypt. Having 23,000 inhabitants where the majority are Berbers, Siwa citizens still follow traditional customs especially those related to gender inequity.  Hence it was essential to adopt various radical ICT4D interventions in order to effectively reach out the target groups especially severely marginalized women.

Working with a vision of enabling remote communities though providing access to essential services, ICT-TF initiated a comprehensive model for enhancing such marginalized area through utilizing ICTs in cross- sector developmental fields.

 The Integrated ICT for Development program has innovatively implemented  a number of interventions using a lot of highly customized applications toward women empowerment, the enhancement of the children’s health status, modernizing education, and increasing employability in Siwa Oasis.

Goal & Objectives

Goal:

Empowering the local community in areas of literacy, education, health and SMEs through small, integrated, and focused interventions using ICT.

Objectives:

Support the illiteracy eradication, using ICT, through enlarging the scale of the Tabluter.
Utilize ICT tools in promoting health care awareness, providing advices and remote assistance to local community in Siwa.
Support education via equipping 6 schools with computer labs focusing on creative education technologies.
Promote Siwan agricultural and cultural handicrafts, which is famous, through a mini SMEs portal
Create a network between the above 4 interventions to ensure integration and impact on the socio-economic development of the local community.

 

Pillars of Siwa Program

ICT for Education

To overcome the educational challenges the ICT-TF aligned with its partners, namely Vodafone Egypt Foundation and the Ministry of Education, to provide an enabling environment for modernizing the educational system.

ICT-TF has established 6 Smart Schools fully equipped with IT labs and 27 PCs in each server connected to a local area network and a broad band internet gateway. Besides, the program delivers a series of training for teachers and administrators, to promote appropriate uses of learning technologies such as Schools Management Systems (SMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS). Besides introducing the ICDL to teachers and students to increase the capacity of educators to plan, monitor and implement policy-level decisions, as well as projects and programs.

ICT for Illiteracy Eradictaion

In Siwa Oasis, customs and traditions forced young girls to  drop out of schools and stay at homes at early ages. Also these same customs prevented women from leaving home to go to IE classes. The program developed a new innovative ICT solution “ the Tabluter” to reach out girls and women in their own homes and teach them about daily-life issues, how to read and write in Arabic and build their knowledge. The Tabluter is A customized ergonomic embedded computer on a tableya which constitutes customized comfortable embedded single CPU that runs for four independent users.

ICT for Health

In order to enhance children health status in Siwa, the program has developed The “Tele- consultation on Child Health” solution, which aims to reduce child morbidity and mortality in their district. Through Public Private Partnership, the Siwa main hospital has been connected to the Pediatric Department of the El Shatby Hospital in Alexandria. In cooperation with the WHO, the hospital and clinics has been equipped with video conference hardware solutions connected to broad band internet & webcam. It is worth mention here that the WHO and the university of Medicine in Alexandria, play a significant role in providing up to date specialized content that helps in the awareness as well as teaching good health practices within Siwa.

ICT for Micro/Small and Medium Enterprises (M/SMEs)

The Integrated ICT for Development program was created to enable local people to create economic opportunities for themselves through ICTs, and promote local marketing products on the internet. This would lead to the recognition of Siwa products in local, regional and international markets. Siwa Shop is an E-Market Portal aims at promoting SIWA Products on-line in order to enlarge the virtual marketplace of the M/SM Enterprises established in SIWA. www.kenanaonline.com/siwa .Such ICT tools open up new era for women  as they enable them to work from homes while utilizing flexible working hours and the privilege of their location. This could potentially improve women status in the labor market and mitigate employment gender gaps, yet each has its relative limitations.

Location

Siwa oasis is located in the northwest part of the Egyptian Western Desert, at about 900 km from Cairo and 300 km from the Mediterranean coast, and is administratively part of the Matrouh Governorate. The Oasis has a length of 75 km from east to west, a width between 5-25 km and it is located in a depression starting at sea level and reaching 20 m below sea level. The oasis is the focal point for most human activity in the region. The oasis is located within the Siwa depression (about 980 km2), one of a series of depressions occurring along the boundary between the Miocene plateau to the north and the Eocene plateau to the south and extending from latitude 29° in the east to Jaghbub, Libya in the west.


Results

The program contributes in breaking down many barriers and making a difference to the lives of all of Siwa people especially women. This is done through offering a range of activities to help them participate in the social and economic life of the local community. Moreover, it developed a set of interventions that challenge the way people think about distance and help overcome its disadvantages in learning, healthcare, commerce and culture. It is taking technology to a whole new level, focusing on designing factors to make them much more usable and effective than they are now, and to enable new activities over distance that weren’t possible before.

Remote Telemedicine

Telemedicine initiative makes an enormous difference to the quality of Siwian people's lives. It helps to develop the healthcare services through the following

  • Providing better access to emergency provision and medical diagnosis.
  • This model enables remote consultations which saves patients the cost and trouble of travelling to a hospital with specialist diagnostic facilities outside Siwa.
  • Helps patients with long-term conditions to monitor and manage their conditions in Siwa local hospital, and at the same time their results are being monitored by healthcare professionals in Alex central hospital who communicate with the local doctors in Siwa about patients' conditions.
  • Increases and improves the quality, speeds of delivering healthcare services and activates the use of e-learning mechanism in building the capacity of general practitioners in Siwa.
  • Till now, more than 50 children benefited from the tele-consultation services, while 7 doctors from Siwa Central hospital were trained on the Remote-Diagnosis-procedures, in addition to e-medical learning, and using the software for diagnosis, while 3 medical staff was trained on how to operate the tele-consultation system.

 

ICT4IE- TABLUTER

Tabluter is the program most radical intervention created specially to eradicate Siwian women illiteracy without breaking any social taboos . the ICT tools success is attributed to the following:

  • It Works from homes, women regularly trained on IE official curricula, basic IT knowledge, and general awareness modules.
  • The e-content is directed towards raising general awareness on everyday activities including health, education, political rights, environment, and family care, in a way that improves these women ability to deal with every day challenge.
  • It has proved to have the potential of significantly increasing women's skills and enhancing their abilities to employ ICTs to empower themselves towards better employment opportunities, higher income and welfare of lifestyle.
  • It's worth mentioning here that after the 1st training round, all Trainers, especially women, were hired.
  • Some Siwan women have educated others like Bahia El Said who succeeded not only to duplicate the training on more than 300 women in the Siwan community but also to inspire them to play a more effective role in the development of the Siwan community.

ICT4M/SMEs and Siwa E-Shop

ICT-TF designed an E-Marketing Portal which allows the trained M/SMEs to handle the various stages of product design, quality control and marketing via the internet and promote their products online. The using Siwa E-shop contributes to chieve the following impact in Siwa community

  • Developing small and medium enterprise (SMEs) sector and enhancing job opportunities in Siwa and opens many prospects for entrepreneurs and SMEs in Siwa; especially for women entrepreneurs.
  • It has a positive impact on gender gap through facilitating the engagement of women in the labor market and women's empowerment and capacity building in numerous ways related activities require essentially intellectual abilities rather than physical abilities and also allow for more flexible working conditions, women could enjoy comparative advantage when compared to men.
  • It provides swian entrepreneurs with greater and wider market access, better information and cost-effective means to promote businesses by eliminating the cost of middleman in the process of selling local products.
  • Through technical support efforts and capacity training program delivered from the local NGO (SEDEC), there were 1000 Siwan SMEs owners who has begun to market their products online since the launching of the portal earlier in 2010.

Smart School Initiative

  • The Smart schools in Siwa help in transforming the way people experience education in such marginalized society.
  • it enables teachers to educate young children of Siwa according to high technological standard and making learning relevant to their lives and interests.
  • The program succeeded in Modernizing 6 schools in Siwa with complete ICT solutions (computer labs and internet connectivity) ,
  • improving IT skills of 1128 students and building the capacity of 41 teachers on ICDL, teaching methodology and environmental awareness. I
  • the dropout rate out of the schools in Siwa has been notably decreased, especially for girls.

AGFUND Prize

AGFUND International Prize for Pioneering Human Development Projects was established in 1999 by the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND), with the aim of inciting and encouraging innovation and creativity in the areas of human development.
 
In this sense, AGFUND Prize is an innovative approach and a strategic instrument to exchange successful experiences to strengthen the mechanisms of development cooperation and project funding with special emphasis on the most prominent factors that militate against development and affect the vulnerable groups, particularly women and children in developing countries. 
Each year, the Prize Committee selects the thematic focus for the Prize, taking into account the diversification and non-repetitive of themes. This year's theme is Information and communication technology (ICT) for rural and remote communities.

Siwa e-Shop

ICT-TF designed an E-Marketing Portal which allows the trained M/SMEs to handle the various stages of product design, quality control and marketing via the internet and promote their products online. The portal provides them with the chance to enhance their skills as well as expand their markets through the use of technology as a tool, which will reflect on their economic benefits. Moreover, this enhancement includes the ability to make the Web Space more like a catalogue with categories and photo listings. It also allows the publication of a newsletter whereby each SME will be able to keep up a list of its opt-in customers emails to keep them informed about new services or products.

IE Classes

This is a story that revolves around a girl called Asmaa Mohamed Youssif who lives in Abu Shrouf village; 30 kilometers away from Siwa. This village is very small and poor. Around  850 people live there. Most children especially girls, from the age of 16, are prevented from going to schools as vocational, commercial and general high schools are located in Siwa and traditions prohibits girls from going to places outside the village. In the morning, Abu Shrouf’s people are isolated from the outside world; they don’t watch T.V or listen to radios, not because they are working, but because electricity only works at night.

Surrounded by these unfortunate circumstances, Asmaa strived towards changing her future. Despite the fact that she grew up in a large family (24 members) that is very strict towards traditions, she insisted on completing her education in Siwa. In the beginning, her parents were against that but the strength of her deliberation eventually made them give in. In Siwa, she joined the commercial high school. She used to travel around 60 kilometers every day  until she graduated and had her diploma. But that was not enough to satisfy her ambition, she wanted to gain more skills and knowledge, so, she took computer classes at Siwa Association for Community Development and Environmental Protection. There she learnt everything about computers and was offered a job as illiteracy eradication teacher to educate others in her village. By this, she was able to meet her needs as well as that of her family.

However, she looked at her job not as source of money but as a way to better women’s status. In her attempt to do so, she raised women’s awareness on the importance of education. As a result, large number of the village female inhabitants joined the illiteracy eradication classes.  After teaching many classes, she found that teaching women how to read and write is not enough if there are no employment opportunities available for them. After thorough thinking, she came up with  ideas on how to empower those women and enrich her poor village; one of these ideas was to establish a center for traditional handicrafts. She communicated this idea to her managers who adapted her initiative and helped seek funds for such center. Right now, most women in her village work at this center, and consequently, the village became richer. 

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