By Kevin Howell
As technology continues to advance and spread across the globe, a digital divide remains in developing countries.
More than 3 billion people have internet access, and more than 5 billion have mobile phones. However, only 40 percent of the developing world has internet access, compared to 81 percent of the developed world, according to the International Telecommunication Union.
The disparity can have a profound effect on education, as technology is vital for communication, learning, and development. To keep children in developing nations from falling further behind, many groups are providing affordable technological solutions for educational development.
Here are some education projects engineers are implementing to help close the digital divide in developing countries.
DIGITAL LITERACY IN INDIA
While India is known for its thriving technology centers in Bangalore and Delhi, many residents in rural areas struggle with literacy, let alone access to technology. About 30 percent of the rural population lives in poverty and children have limited access to books and computers.
IEEE volunteers have been tackling the problem in one village since 2013. Backed by EPICS in IEEE grants, volunteers and a group of New Jersey high school students planned and designed a digital classroom for the village of Paushi.
Over the years, the engineers created a library, installed computer equipment, and provided tools to teach students digital literacy and English. A new building completed last year enhances distance learning opportunities.
ELECTRONICS EDUCATION IN ARGENTINA
A group of students from the National University of Cordoba in Argentina is helping high school students prepare for careers in engineering by facilitating instruction in electronics. Helped by an EPICS in IEEE grant, the university students designed, developed, and constructed modular educational kits that covered the basics of electronics.
The kits included user manuals, practical experiments for lessons, as well as materials such as measuring instruments, power supplies, generators, and RF amplifiers. Most importantly, the materials are affordable so the educational program can be sustained.
EQUIPPING TEACHERS IN THE PHILIPPINES
Taking advantage of mobile technology, BridgeIT uses mobile phones to deliver educational resources to teachers. Teachers receive a mobile phone through which they can access and download educational content and training material.
The technology not only provides educational content in text, video, and audio formats, it also allows teachers to connect with each other for support and professional development. All content is stored on BridgeIT’s server.
Started in the Philippines, the program is now being implemented in 10 countries.
Engineers not only play a vital role in providing technological solutions, but also educational ones. By providing access to affordable and sustainable educational resources, engineers are helping developing countries prepare for the future.
Do you have an idea to help a developing community’s educational needs? EPICS in IEEE provides funding for engineer-related community service projects. Submit a proposal for your project.