Education on-line for development
Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM
Adjunct Lecturer, Australian National University
For the The Sixth Annual United Nations Internet Governance Forum ANU Remote Hub 3pm, 29 September 2011
The United Nations Internet Governance Forum 2011 is considering how to provide access to knowledge and content via the Internet in developing countries, for education and development. The main obstacle to access to knowledge and content on-line in both developed and developing countries is education. A bootstrap process can be used, where existing Internet access is used to provide better education, which then stimulates economic development and makes faster Internet access affordable.
The Internet was introduced to the government, community and business sectors in developed nations by the education sector and this process can be actively supported in developing nations. An example of how education can be provided on-line at low cost to help development is the work being done on ICT Sustainability. Using open access course content and open source software, professionals are being educated online to improve government and industry energy energy efficiency, in a way which allows for disabilities and multilingualism.
Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM
Tom Worthington is an IT consultant and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University. His green technology on-line course is used by universities in Australia and North America and won him 2010 ACT ICT educator of the year.
In 1999 Tom was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. Also he is a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Learning from Internet Governance
Current Internet governance issues are around the division of power between the USA, Europe and emerging economies in Asia, particularly China. The Internet was designed in the USA and the World Wide Web in Europe. Even where there was a deliberate attempt to be inclusive the results were limited. As an example, the Internet was designed to work primarily with the English language and, to a less extent, other European languages. Even when Unicode was introduced to allow other languages, it had the US ASCII character set built in, making it easier to use for English than Asian languages.
Like previous international standards based systems, the Internet is governed mostly by a set of non-government procedures, set up by non-government personnel, later endorsed through formal national and international processes. Tensions in such international standards process are not unique to the Internet and are well documented, both for the Internet and with previous standards efforts.
Kenneth R. McConnell's book "Fax: Facsimile Technology and Systems" (1999) describes the disputes between the USA and Japan over the development of fax standards. Carl Malamud's 1992 book "Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue" discussed the dysfunctional nature of international telecommunications standards, which held up adoption of the Internet. Marc Levinson's book "The Box" discussed commercial and national rivalries in developing the ISO shipping container standard.
Rather than seeing the Internet as an ungovernable mess which needs to be brought to order by the imposition of government control, it should be seen as a good example of how practical compromises are made between competing interests to achieve a workable result. Had national government policy been followed, the Internet would not exist today and it is unlikely that the proposed alternative (OSI) would be providing the benefits the Internet does. Internet government practices could be useful emulated for other international and national government activities.
Bootstrapping Education and Development Via the Internet
- Do not wait for broadband: use available Internet for education,
- Use educational institutions to introduce Internet to community, government and industry,
- As Internet access improves, use if for education more.
There is a temptation to think that a lack of broadband Internet access will hold up its use in developing nations. The usual assumption is that major IT companies, attracted by government, will provide the infrastructure. However, in Australia, UK and the USA, the Internet was developed in the research community, with government funding and then introduced to government and industry. The major impediment was not the availability of Internet equipment, but decision makers understanding what it was at high levels and of staff understand how to use it at lower levels.
The process of the introduction of the Internet in Australia is described by Roger Clarke in "Origins and Nature of the Internet in Australia" (2004). My direct experience of what happened in Canberra, in the mid to late 1990s is touched on in Internet in Government - for IT Practitioners (1995).
Open access online course content
- Free open source Australian developed Moodle education software is available,
- Open access course-ware which meets web accessibility standards can be written,
- Moodle also supports multiple languages and the accessible course-ware can be machine translated.
The Internet was introduced to the government, community and business sectors in developed nations by the education sector and this process can be actively supported in developing nations. An example of how education can be provided on-line at low cost to help development is the work being done on. Using open access course content and open source software, professionals are being educated online to improve government and industry energy energy efficiency, in a way which allows for disabilities and multilingualism.
The open source Australian developed Moodle education software is available free (used by ANU and ACS). Open access course-ware can be written for distribution via Moodle, in a format which meets web accessibility standards. Moodle also supports multiple languages. The accessible course-ware also lends itself to being machine translated into other languages. While not as good as human translation, the machine translation is better than no access.
As an example of open access course material, ICT Sustainability is provided free online or a postgraduate course offered by the Australian Computer Society, Australian National University, Open Universities Austrlaia and Athabasca University (Canada).
Open Access Online Business Model for Australian Education
- Current business model of international students coming to Australia is under strain,
- The Australian Governments' Flexible Learning could be expanded internationally
- Students would do studies on-line at home, some locally and some in Australia
These are notes for "Education on-line for development": http://www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/education _online_for_development/
Presentation slides are also available.