In a knowledge-based society, digital technology is a gateway to economic and social progress. Yet two-thirds of the world’s people today live in countries with less than three percent PC penetration. Billions do not have access to high-speed communications, a good education, or meaningful digital content and services.

The Intel World Ahead Program aims to enhance lives by accelerating access to uncompromised technology for everyone, everywhere. Focused on developing communities, it integrates and extends our efforts to use technology to help people improve their lives, societies, and economies.

“We were able to bring a spark of excitement and hope in the lives of a thousand students and their 19 teachers in a small town near the western border  of Bangladesh, where electricity is undependable and many kids do not get three square meals a day,” said Intel employee Bibhuti (Bob) Banerjee.

Arriving from 3 different U.S. locations and India, the four employees first met face to face as a team in their Dhaka hotel over breakfast, before spending the day at Save the Children USA’s Dhaka office to discuss the project and finalize their plans.  Save the Children USA told them that only 2 of every 3 children entering 1st grade will go on to 6th grade in Bangladesh.  The Intel groups came to help launch the classmate PC pilot program with the objectives of improving classroom scores and reducing dropout rates through the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in primary schools.

After driving to Meherpur, Bangladesh, they spent the next day visiting Ujalpur and BM Model Primary Schools to set up the classmate PCs.

There were about 800 students in grades 1-5 in two primary schools to be trained in 3 days and the Intel team had only 25 classmate PCs for each school.  The team started brainstorming. Was it possible to train all of them? Should they select a few from each class? Did it make sense to train grade 1 students? How about dropping grade 5 students, as they are leaving school in 3 months time? Finally they decided to give every student a chance to work on a classmate PC, by sharing it among two or three students for a 1 hour session.

Students in a queue entered the classroom, rushed to occupy seats and grabbed the classmate PCs to experience them. The Intel volunteers started with basic introduction of the computer: What is the screen, keyboard, touch pad, etc., and then showed students how to play a keyboard learning game (press the letter written on a balloon to burst it).

“They were playing with so much of excitement that the classroom became uncontrollably noisy,” said Surya N. Misra, one of the Intel volunteers. “Soon there were calls from everyone as we didn’t tell them what is to be done to enter next level of game. Once we trained them to press the spacebar twice to enter next level, they never asked help again…these children were really smart and fast learners.”

Securing Volunteers

To ensure that the volunteers in the Intel Education Service Corps will function well, meet the needs of the host country organizations, and are adept with teaching technology, they must have at least one year of Intel service, secure their manager’s approval to participate, be able to commit to the full program, and have had a successful most recent evaluation.

In addition to these required elements, Intel looks for volunteers who have:

  • Demonstrated passion for service, teaching, and education
  • Excellent team skills, both as a member and as a leader
  • Flexibility to adapt to the local environment and living standards
  • Ability to function well in diverse cultural settings and organizations
  • Comfortable working in front of large groups
  • Knowledge of local language and/or culture
  • Demonstrated expertise aligned with differing volunteer roles, such as ability to set up and maintain school-wide wireless networks (both intranet and internet), classroom teaching experience with K-12 students, or PC programming or IT support experience

Contributing in Kenya

The Intel volunteers arrived in Kenya on a Sunday night Kenya time, after 3 plane transfers, missed connections, and lost baggage. They flew to Kisumu on Monday morning to be received by Alphonce Okuku, Director of Kageno Trust, at the Kisumu airport and arrived at Rusinga Island, on Lake Victoria, on a Monday afternoon after a car and ferry ride.

Kageno Trust has a solar-equipped vehicle that’s used to charge up to 14 Intel-powered classmate PCs and a teacher’s PC. It also powers a wireless router that connects the teacher’s computer to the classmate PCs. Rusinga Island has no electricity or running water, so the computer program facilitators drive the vehicle to schools around the island to give students an opportunity to have hands on computer training.