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Acacia Initiative: Communities and the Information Society in Africa
Institution: International Development Research Centre
Theme: Citizen Engagement
Implementation Date: Jul 01, 2001
Summary: Acacia is an initiative of the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that helps sub-Saharan African communities to develop the ability to apply ICTs for their own social and economic development. It is designed as an integrated programme of research and development plus demonstration projects to address such issues as applications relating to community needs, tools for local content creation, infrastructure and policy.

Acacia aims to:
•    Demonstrate how ICTs can enable communities to solve their development problems in ways that build firmly on local goals, cultures, strengths and processes; and
•    Build a body of knowledge capable of identifying the policies, technologies, approaches, and methodologies instrumental in promoting the affordable and effective use of ICTs by marginalized groups, such as women.
To achieve these goals, national strategies are being implemented in each of four countries: Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. These strategies have certain features in common: broad participation of stakeholders in debates about ICTs and development; recognition of the need to address a broad spectrum of policy issues; interest in content to meet educational, business and environmental needs; private-sector participation in Acacia activities; interest in school networking to support formal and informal learning; and a variety of community access mechanisms.
Under the Acacia Initiative, several large-scale projects are under way, including:
•    The SchoolNet South Africa Programme, which aims to test various connectivity models and to develop an understanding of the educational processes, benefits and constraints relating to the use of ICTs in education;

•    Mozambique Pilot Telecentres in Manhica and Namaacha, which focuses on providing educational resources to the most disadvantaged groups in the two communities;

•    Application of ICTs and Decentralization of Health Services - Phase I: Telemedicine Pilot Project, the purpose of which is to introduce new ICTs and enable the control of such technologies with local health practitioners. The telemedicine facility will service distant and underprivileged communities outside Dakar; and

•    Economic Empowerment of Women through ICTs in Uganda, a project that involves  combining online and offline databases and other information sources on a variety of issues to increase women’s entrepreneurial opportunities with ICT training for women and technical assistance for using these databases.

Impact: In South Africa, only one per cent of the schools was connected to the Internet in the less developed parts of the country. With the implementation of the SchoolNet Programme, the number of schools with an Internet connection increased, thus providing children with additional reference materials and tools.

In Mozambique, the pilot telecentres of Manhica and Namaacha stimulated the local economy and provided educational and job opportunities for young people. In Namaacha, the community created a revenue stream from the use of the Internet by the tourists who came to the city.
In Senegal, the telemedicine pilot project provided important, up-to-date health information to community doctors and health practitioners, thus enhancing the community’s health care system.
In Uganda, women used the ICT training that they received to enhance their entrepreneurial capacity and were able to have greater access to the financial trade possibilities afforded by the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Source: IDRC
Project Home URL: http://www.comminit.com/

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