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World Links, Greenstar International and Virtual Souk

November 15, 2000

This session was chaired by Roberto Chavez who shared his insights and experiences in working with ITCs and moderated the session.

The panelists discussed three ways in which information and communication technologies (ICTs) are being used to bring educational opportunities, connectivity, income generating opportunities and market access to less-serviced communities to form bridges across the digital divide. The speakers explained how using ICTs can lead to community based development and reach those often left out.

Bob Hawkins explained how linking schools and educators around the world can help build bridges towards greater inclusion. World Links for Development provides connectivity in under served areas and links teachers and students in developing countries with those in industrial countries. Mr. Hawkins explained how World Links provides access to education, equipment and training, and also how it allows girls to collaborate along with boys in an anonymous environment as equals where they do not feel intimidation.

Powerpoint Presentation

Next, Paul Swider of Greenstar International shared how his company promotes community development by bringing energy and connectivity to communities off the grid. Solar powered community centers provide internet connections, health facilities (including telemedicine) a classroom complete with distance learning equipment, and a business center. By investing in the local infrastructure and enthusiasm of the villagers, Greenstar helps local development by providing the capacity for income production through e-commerce.

Azedine Ouerghi described how Virtual Souk provides artisans access to international markets through a network of NGOs and cooperatives. This technique of linking artisans to the internet not only provides opportunities for income generation, but also for empowerment, self-confidence, and capacity building. By cutting out the "middle-man" artisans are able to increase their returns from 65% - 80% from the usual 10%. Mr. Ouerghi pointed out that while women were not specifically targeted, they make up 85% of the artisans using Virtual Souk. Virtual Souk is an experimental market.

The private sector-driven new economy presents this network of NGOs and cooperatives with the challenge of how to promote women's entrepreneurship and micro-business in the high-paced, increasingly competitive environment of e-commerce.

This is the second seminar in the series "Gender and the Digital Divide."

Updated: 6/9/04

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