GOA, India, 28 July 2005
Travelling down seven tracks, an estimated 220 participants from Latin America and the Caribbean take the fast-road to picking up essential tech skills that promise to make it easier for the region to communicate with less hiccups, and help build the much-needed not-for-profit networks and content-sharing links that serves the people of this continent.
Venezulean APC member EsLaRed is behind the VIII Latin American Workshop on Networking Technology (WALC 2005), held in Mérida, from July 25 to 30, 2005.
This is part of a series of workshops — called WALC, after the Spanish acronym for ‘Latin American Workshop on Networking Technology’ — held in a series by EsLaRed in several Latin American countries.
The last one was carried out in the south-eastern Peruvian city of Cusco, in the Sacred Valley of the Andes mountain range. "It was a very, very high level training about ICT, not only in its technical aspects but in social ones too," vouches Carlos Alberto Saldarriaga Vidalón, of CEPES of Peru, another APC member, recalling that event.
This year’s event, the important international event has been hosted at the Faculty of Engineering, at the Universidad de Los Andes de Venezuela.
Skilled Venezuelan and global co-ordinators aim to train key players to plan and set-up internet services in their country or region.
Organisers hope that the series of these programmes will build a "critical mass" of professionals in setting up the infrastructure needed for creating efficient networks and building cyber-bridges in the region.
Most importantly, it could help grow individual and institutional bonds in a way that contributes to building multiple regional cradles for the internet in a region facing information poverty and poor communication flows, like most other Southern parts of the globe. It also aims to identify and establish individual and institutional links for internet-based regional and national cooperation.
These workshops have an emphasis in hands-on aspects and new developments — like wireless technologies and the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).
Over the years, EsLaRed says over 2000 participants have joined-in their training activities, many of whom are currently in key roles in their home countries. Besides, its has helped build a social network of trainers during the thirteen years of activities. This encompasses “men and women from Latin America and the Caribbean with a common goal of using ICT for the development and community problem solving, which has proved a big success."
EsLaRed’s "high-level" training in ICTs in Latin America has been continuing since 1992, and the group has been working in collaboration with APC members including Colnodo from Colombia, CEPES of Peru, and the APC Latin American ICT policy monitor initiative.
Grounding for participants covers a wide range of themes and topics.
For instance, its July 2005 workshop has tracks specially meant for those interested in wireless data, networking, web development with free and open source software (FOSS), content development for Latin America and the Caribbean, internet routing techniques, the internet and society, securing computer networks, and, free and open source software-based GIS (geographical information systems).
Objectives differ from one track to another.
The wireless data networking track seeks to provide participants with "the tools and techniques to install, maintain and update wireless data networks with security levels comparable with wired networks".
It will focus on topics ranging from transmission system fundamentals, to electromagnetic spectrum, wave propagation, power budget, antennas, wireless data networking standards (802.11 and WiFi, 802.16 and WiMax), radio link design, powering and grounding considerations, securing wireless networks, mesh networks, two-way satellite access and VoIP (voice over internet protocol). As a case study, this track look at the Merida state wireless network, which was set up with participation of EsLaRed.
For their ‘hands-on workshop’, participants configure equipment to attain the performance described in theory, and install several services in a wireless environment including VoIP. They build a low-cost antenna as part of the general strategy of presenting free/open source software (FOSS) and cost-effective solutions.
Other workshops offer as intensive, and wide-angled, perspectives.
In their track, those looking at web development with free and open source software (FOSS) encounter TCP/IP, technological trends in Web services, standards evolution, a review of HTML, desired features of a high-quality service, web server configuration, secure transactions, configuration of Web servers for commercial transactions, CGI programming, basic concepts of Perl and Java Script, Java technology fundamentals, servlets and JDBC.
Content developers meanwhile review some of the main portals, newspapers, magazines, journals, university digital libraries, specialised documentation centres, bulletin boards, country and socio-cultural web sites.
Its goal: understanding what information each one holds in their possession, how to publish it, and in what format. Then comes the question of research methodology — or, finding the right contents. Further, one needs to go into organising sources by way of indexes or bookmarks. Quality control, editing, reviewing, style correction, and uniformisation of the language used… these are other concerns anyone working on this subject needs to be familiar with. Then, there’s the social responsibility for information handled.
Another interesting track will look at the relationship between internet and society. Free and open source software-based GIS is — in another track — aimed at web-developers, engineers, researchers from the natural sciences, and just about anyone working with spatial information.
EsLaRed says its emphasis is on the practical aspects of the technologies and their recent developments — like wireless technologies — along with the intention to contribute to the impressive and fast-growing Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) global community.
[‘Free software’ is about freedom and liberty, not price. Free software’s ‘four freedoms’ offer users the right to run, study, redistribute and improve a software program. Not-for-profits globally have been looking to FOSS as an option because of what it offers, and also the ideological promise of ‘alternative software’.]
In July-end in Venezuela, over 200 participated 17 countries of the region. Besides, 30 instructors from the Americas and Europe also took part in the event, being held in a historic and touristic region of Venezuela.
Said APC’s Valeria Betancourt: "WALC’s goals include building strategies to promote collaboration and discussion among regional key-players involved in public policy. APC’s LAC ICT Policy Monitor Project — with the collaboration of (other groups including) WNSP-LAC, ITDG-LAC, Nuevared.org, LACNIC and the CLARA Network — will host the Track 5. This time, the track will focus on reviewing Latin American and Caribbean ICT policy strategies, discussing their development and mechanisms and experiences for multi-stakeholder participation in ICT policy processes."
Colnodo director Julian Casasbuenas, replying from Bogota in Colombia, added: "Colnodo will be participating in two tracks — web content development in Latin America and the Caribbean and GIS using Open Source Software".
Casasbuenas said the first would train participants in the usage of content-management solutions, like ActionApps — that make updating and maintaining webpage an easy task.