Interfacing Technology At The Grassroots

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Sun, Feb 13, 2011 — Jaideep Majumdar


 Education in the broadest sense is an act or experience that has a formative affect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual.  The word education has been derived out of educare (Latin) meaning "bringing up", which is related to educere - "bringing forth what is within" and ducere-"to lead". A wide variety of definitions and systems of education are now in vogue. Education being a dynamic activity has spread out laterally beyond the traditional formats to the more non-traditional evolving options. Worldwide there are many initiatives, which could be categorized as a form of alternative education, to provide empowerment through social enterprise to people from low-income, rural and underprivileged communities.


Centre for Digital Inclusion (CDI) is one such leading social enterprise in the world that uses technology as a medium to fight poverty, stimulate entrepreneurship and create a new generation of changemakers. Working in the Latin American countries of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay - the CDI works to transform the lives and strengthen low-income communities by empowering people with information and communication technologies.


Founded by Rodrigo Baggio in 1995, the Centre for Digital Inclusion is one of the pioneers of digital inclusion movement in Latin America. It is based in Rio-de-Janeiro, Brazil. CDI's fight is against exclusion. The endeavor to bring people from the lower strata into the mainstream is what drives them to continue their fight. Every CDI community center ties up with an existing grassroots level organization which provides the infrastructural support while CDI provides free computers and software, implements educational methods, trains instructors and monitors the schools. The programs educate individuals and provide a basket of technology services to communities. This helps equip people with real skills which help them in the modern labor market. The initiative also increases community development and mobilization, autonomy ownership and entrepreneurial behaviors. At present there are 803 self-managed and self-sustaining CDI community centers across Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Jordan and the U.K., which are monitored and coordinated by 33 regional offices. Other than the community learning centers, CDI's all encompassing presence is found in psychiatric clinics, hospital for mentally and physically disabled, as well as youth and adult detention facilities.

The impact of CDI's social-educational approach has been yielding result and are creating ripple effects through many indigenous communities. Examples of Ronaldo Monteiro, a prisoner in Brazil transforming from a felon to a computer instructor inside the jail and becoming a social entrepreneur after release speaks of the effects of such an initiative. Ronaldo's daughter Tatyana learnt computers inside the prison when she visited her father. Now she is a teacher in a women's prison in Rio - which demonstrates the ripple effect that it is creating.

The Centre for Digital inclusion has been an experiment to change the set pattern and to reach out for the betterment of the masses lying in the lower strata of the socio-economic ladder. The organization has grown to become a network on 1.3 million people in 15 years and has adopted a model which integrates grassroots level with the global platform. The methodology and approach has been different from the traditional forms and the organization's credibility is backed by the 60 plus awards that it has won internationally. CDI founder Rodrigo Baggio has been individually bestowed with many awards by prestigious organizations and media houses. CNN, Time and Fortune have hailed him as one of the world's ten "Principal Voices in Economic Development"

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