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Promoting Economic Development




Feb 21, 2001


Sam Carlson

Dear Bob and other D-D-Economics list-serve members,

I apologize for my silence. I've been reading your contributions with great interest, listening to voices from "the front" of the digital divide in the U.S.

As an education and job-training program addressing the digital divide in developing countries, World Links faces both similar and different issues as those you all face. Rather than go too deeply into these in narrative form, I prefer to let these emerge while addressing Bob's question.

>Question: Are there specific examples or vignettes we could use to reinforce >our position on the use of trusted agents in the community that have led to >applications of technology resulting in economic opportunity?

In Zimbabwe, we have 30 community tele-centers up and running (open to schools during school hours and the community during non-school hours). World Links works closely with the Zimbabwe Opportunities Industrialization Center (ZOIC), a local non-governmental organization established to encourage and support entrepreneurship and micro-enterprise training, a community response to employment creation demands in Zimbabwe. Technical support is provided by the Opportunities Industrialization Centers International, a US-based non-profit.

I would like to make two key points here: first, our belief in ZOIC as a trusted agent in the community and second, our shared belief that linking schools with ZOIC is a win-win. Young entrepreneurs in a global economy based on information need more than entrepreneurship training: they need a solid general education; a comfort level working with people on-line from different cultures (with different languages); peer-to-peer networking opportunities with other youth (most easily found in other high schools); and dynamic information-reasoning skills (so they can find, evaluate, process, create a business plan, communicate and act on new opportunities).

In other words, we believe that simply providing technology and technology training will not result in economic opportunity. That has to be combined with more general education for a new set of "information age vocational education and training":

  • basic skills (literacy, numeracy, civics, etc.)
  • digital literacy (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.)
  • information reasoning skills for life-long learning and productivity (gather, evaluate, analyze, synthesize, visualize and communicate knowledge; and skills for problem-solving, teamwork, and flexible learning) global knowledge and outlook
  • entrepreneurial and job creation skills, knowledge and attitudes.
The combination leads to new synergies between education and enterprise, with both catalyzed by technology.

Regards to all of you,

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