By FN for APCNews GOA, India, 04 April 2007
South Africa-based APC member Community Education Computer Society (CECS) is working to build a free knowledge and ICT literacy portal as part of its wider goal to promote "ICT Literacy For All".
"The vision of the portal is to provide access to free learning resources for information and communication technology (ICT) literacy using free and open source software to enable people to change the conditions of their lives for the better," said Arnold Pietersen, CECS executive director, during an APCNews interview in March 2007.
Not just another portal
Taking an innovative approach, the portal’s principles will be open standards for interoperability of knowledge and learning resources; freedom to study, use, modify and freely share content; and collaborating and sharing.
"The primary beneficiaries are those who want to learn how to use free and open source software and ICT training organisations who want to access material for conducting training," said Pietersen. The portal will improve access to online information in a particular field by highlighting the best of the most relevant resources.
CECS expects them to include telecentres and open source centres (GNU/Linux internet and computing access centres) in Southern Africa especially individuals and organisations with whom CECS is working in nine southern African countries. "But of course, it will have a far wider use and impact," said Pietersen.
CECS will be working in partnership with the Meraka Institute, which grew out of a national strategic initiative from South African President Thabo Mbeki’s 2002 State of the Nation address, where the concept of an “ICT university” was first floated.
Said Pietersen "We are now at the stage where we have drafted a concept document and would like to inform others about the free knowledge and ICT literacy portal. If anyone would want to contribute to the project by way of commenting on the concept document, provide free training resources – materials, web addresses, mailing lists – they’re welcome to."
Training at the workbench
The open source content-management software Joomla – which makes it easy to build collaborative websites – has already been installed on the computers of CECS’ service provider, as well as on a desktop computer, to allow for offline updates.
"This project provide us with an opportunity to raise awareness about free and open source software as well as building skills concretely. In our quest to conduct training in how to use pieces of software such as Open Workbench (for project scheduling) or NVU (for building and updating websites), we realised that there is no material which can be used for training purposes," said Pietersen.
He sees this as an opportunity for his group to develop FOSS training materials, test, rework, train others and make the materials available for others to update and change under a Creative Commons licence.
Communities of learning
The community of practise will include individuals, trainers, organisations who are conducting FOSS training courses. Pietersen expects these communities will "enable sharing of problems, experiences, insights, tools and best practise."
He adds that the community of learning will include those trained on a particular programme and who will be brought together by mailing lists or forums to support one another. "They will be able to share training experiences, exercise, improve the training materials," he adds.
CECS’s other current project include the implementation of an ICT literacy project in seven southern African countries, conducting courses on free and open source software such as TurboCASH, ICT trainings for mathematics teachers and sourcing of funding for the testing of their refurbishing manual.
TurboCASH is an open source accounting software package developed by Pink Software, a South African company. It has been continuously developed since April 1985, and was released under the General Public License (GPL) in July 2003.