(KI Media) Friday, January 25, 2008
KhmerOS selected as one of the two best projects using ICT to improve economic development
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The KhmerOS/Open Schools Program initiative - a Cambodian collaborative project - was selected as a finalist for the Stockholm Challenge/GKP Award. It was nominated as one of two projects that best use information and communication technology (ICT) to produce economic development. The Sweden-based Stockholm Challenge Award is the most prestigious award evaluating projects that make use of technology to contribute to the advancement of developing countries.
The Khmer Software Initiative (KhmerOS) is based in two simple beliefs: there is no economic development in countries that do not use technology; and, there is no widespread use of technology if it is not available in the language of the country.
As there was no commercial software in Khmer (Cambodian) language, Spanish engineer Javier Solá started the KhmerOS initiative in 2004, translating and producing free computer applications in Khmer language (word processing, spreadsheets, internet software, e-mail, etc.), as well as training materials and large amounts of documentation. The Linux operating system was also translated to Khmer.
Several thousand private and public sector teachers, as well as government officials, were trained on the use of the free and open source applications. This was done together with the Cambodian National ICT Development Authority during 2005 and 2006.
Many of the central and local administration bodies started using the software in their everyday work, as using software in English was not a viable option.
In 2007, the Open Institute - the non-profit that houses the project - and the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport signed an agreement to start-up the Open Schools Program - Cambodia. This new programme aims at integrating the use of ICT in the field of education. The first activity of the programme consisted in training teachers in pedagogical centres and all the high schools that have computers (28% of total) in how to use and teach Khmer language free software. A textbook was produced and is being distributed to all participating schools. Cambodia thus becomes the first country to only use free software applications throughout the education system.
The project has also produced Khmer script keyboards and several books in Khmer. In order to approach sustainability, the technology for the keyboards has been transferred to local computer vendors, who are already manufacturing and selling them. The content of the books is licensed to anybody who wishes to print it for profit. Other aspects of the project are also looking for interested third parties that will turn aspects of the project (that now require funding) into businesses that make the system sustainable.
The KhmerOS initiative has reached its 2004 goal of allowing Cambodians to use computers in their own language. It has meanwhile refocused its efforts on the education system. As part of the Open Schools Program, the Ministry of Education and the Open Institute will develop a master plan for ICT in education this coming year. It is expected not only to expand the use of computers to all high schools over the next four years, but also allow the use of ICT to improve the quality of education by using multimedia and open and distance education, all in Khmer language.
For Javier Solá, founder and coordinator of the NGO side of the project, "the most important success factor of the KhmerOS project has been the ability of bringing together the development know-how of NGOs with the technological expertise of the free and open source software community.” Solá also enthusiastically mentions “the experience and vision of the Cambodian government, creating a project that has interested commercial stakeholders, leading to the sustainable low-cost use of local language ICT in education, government and local society, strongly reducing the digital divide."
For more information, please visit:http://stockholmchallenge.se/
Posted by Khemara Jati