Community Technology Learning Centers: Bridging the Digital Divide
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can be a powerful tool to support social and economic development. Most people in Thailand and the region, however, still do not have access to this technology or do not yet know how to use it effectively. K.I.Asia’s Community Technology and Learning Centers Development Program, supported by Microsoft and Thailand’s Bureau of Community College Administration, is aimed at building capacity and empowering those on the wrong side of the digital divide by providing access to computers and ICT training through Community-based Technology Learning Centers (CTLC).
These centers, set up under K.I.Asia’s supervision with computers and other ICT hardware and software, address a critical need for underprivileged Thais to learn the necessary ICT skills and gain access to computers to improve the way they work. This allows them to contribute more effectively to local economic development as well as improve their own lives. Besides basic IT skills training, the centers provide training related to new business creation, business management, business plan development, accounting and the role of information technology in business and the community.
By providing access to technology and training to adults, the CTLCs also help to bridge the gap between parents and children. While the children learn about technology at school, adults are often left behind, increasing the generation gap and the communication problems within families. As a way of promoting life-long learning and community harmony, the CTLCs offer a safe space for adults to learn new skills.
With the support of its partners, K.I.Asia provides not only hardware and software, but trains CTLC managers to help them integrate ICT into local social and economic development. K.I.Asia’s CTLCs seek ways for ICTs to improve the lives of the people that come to the centers. To encourage sustainability of the centers, K.I.Asia provides training in business management in addition to supporting the technological training. The community colleges, facilitated by KIAsia and sponsored by MS Thailand, offer courses in basic computer literacy at greatly reduced cost to the community. These courses range from typing and basic word processing to using Excel spreadsheets to balance a budget. They also include tips on using the Internet for information and communication.
With the financial support from Microsoft Thailand’s Unlimited Potential Program, KIAsia has partnered with the community colleges in Mae Hong Son, Sakaeo Ranong, and Phang-nga provinces to create sustainable community technology learning centers. These CTLCs are housed at community colleges in each province. The CTLCs in Mae Hong Son and in Sakaeo were opened two years ago and have been well-received. The CTLCs in Ranong and Phang-nga community colleges were opened last year with much anticipation from the community members.
In addition, K.I.Asia recently established the first of several mini-CTLCs in Lam Kaen subdistrict, Phang-nga, where K.I.Asia’s Tsunami Recovery Action Initiative is focused. These centers will be located in areas of need, including housing projects, public schools, and community meeting rooms, to enhance physical proximity of the centers to the community members. Each center in Lam Kaen has two computers, software, phone lines, and an internet connection.
The mini-CTLC in Lam Kaen is managed by a committee made up of one representative from each of the village’s occupational groups. KIAsia provides business training, including business plan creation, f