By APCNews GOA, India, 19 May 2005
When residents of part of the city of Rosario voted, unusually, for an ICT project, Nodo TAU shouldered the task. Apart from a seven-train-a-thousand approach, what’s also interesting is this project was launched at the promptings of a citizen-voted ‘participative budget’.
"Based on our previous experience in ‘popular education’, the city asked Nodo TAU to train seven people. They, in turn, will train a thousand more," the group’s Danilo Lujambio told APC.
‘Popular education’ is a paradigm born in the region. "TAU has experience in popular education and ICTs. Our training and material are strongly based on free software and popular education. We also show some operations with proprietory software," said Lujambio.
Training the seven trainers is nearly complete.
Rosario is the largest city of the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, and the second most populous in the country, with a population of 1.2 million, a position it shares with Cordoba city (the largest being Buenos Aires). It is 300 km north of Buenos Aires on the Parana River.
Since 1995, the city of Rosario — which divided into six administrative districts — has carried out a program aimed at decentralization and maximixing citizen feedback.
In parallel, the city set-up what is calls a Participative Budget. Citizens have a say in deciding how to use a part of the the city’s annual budget.
Last year, the western district voted over an un-traditional priority. It wanted to finance, in the 2005 municipal budget, an initiative offering computer training for people of that district, with an eye on improving job access mainly for the young.
TAU picked up the opportunity, thanks to its experience in this field.
Nodo TAU — http://www.tau.org.ar — was founded in October 1995. It began as an initiative of social activists who encouraged community-based organisations to use ICTs in their work.
This organisation says its mission is to bring information and communication technologies to individuals and organizations working to combat exclusion, poverty and discrimination.
They provide connectivity, training and support to the NGO and trade union sectors, as well as to individuals.
For this project, TAU has developed materials based on the goal of "ICTs for social transformation". It is based on both free software and proprietary software.
TAU is also involved in providing training for teachers at Rosario’s middle schools, and the teachers work at centers which will be receiving computers as part of a national plan. Incidentally, TAU points out that it had itself criticized this national plan "for the way in which it was implemented".
These computers will be equipped with both the mainstream Windows operating system and the alternative GNU/Linux operating system (OS). GNU/Linux, often also referred to as simply Linux, is among the most famous examples of free software or open-source developoment. Initially, it was developed mainly by individual enthusiasts, and has more recently gained the support of IT industry mammoths too. It is seen as an alternative to proprietary versions of software, and particularly suited in areas of the world where otherwise the high proprietorial software prices can act as a steep barrier, or result in large-scale illegal copying of software.
TAU says it is training the teachers to use GNU/Linux in the schools. GNU/Linux is the most prominent of the ‘Free’ OSs, which is seen by some as being particularly apt for the talent-rich, resource-poor countries of the
"In addition we are running the first course at the Nodo TAU Free Telecenter for people of the neighborhood. It covers word processing, electronic mail, spread sheets and internet-usage," said a TAU spokesperson.
This ‘free telecenter’ runs on free software, and was built with support
from the Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural
Now in its fourth year, an introductory training course has just been completed by 17 coordinators of community computer telecentres. It includes three modules: Digital Exclusion — the new face of poverty; Telecenter Management; and The Political-Educational Purpose of Telecenters.
A few months ago, TAU launched a redesigned site at http://www.enredando.org.ar which includes new sections and a more dynamic interface, as well as other changes which it has been mulling over.
Incidentally, Rosario was a small village until 1850, when it was established as a port of entry. In colonial times, the city was first known as Pago de los Arroyos, and later as Villa del Rosario.
Following the decline of much of the city’s once extensive industry, which occurred during the 1990s — and a series of complex factors — much of Rosario’s population fell under the poverty line.
Since the recovery of the national economy that followed the 2001 collapse, Rosario’s economic situation has somewhat improved.
Rosario is an important educational center on the national and international level. It is the home of the Universidad Nacional de Rosario (UNR) since 1968, and of a regional faculty of the Universidad Tecnolo’gica Nacional (UTN), which are both public and free; also the Universidad Cato’lica Argentina (UCA), the Universidad Austral, the Universidad del Centro Educativo Latinoamericano (UCEL) and the Universidad Abierta Interamericana (UAI), which are private institutions.