The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented its 2011 Access to Learning Award of USD1 million to the Arid Lands Information Network, a project helping connect rural communities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Inveneo reports that Microsoft will also provide ALIN with a donation of over USD270 000 worth of software and technology training to help the organisation better serve the local community.
ALIN runs 12 Knowledge Centres – known as Maarifa Centres.
These centres provide information access and practical information, particularly in the area of agricultural development. A Maarifa centre is a room or a remodelled shipping container where communities access information resources.
The centre is equipped with computers and internet access. It is an information hub where local knowledge is documented by communities with the support of field officers and shared widely.
The vast majority of people in these regions are small-scale farmers who need information about issues such as drought, pests, and finding markets for their crops. The centres offer information geared toward the communities’ specific needs.
Maarifa Centers also address health issues such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, ways to improve people’s daily lives such as how to create an energy efficient biogas stove, and administrative requirements such as applying for an official identity card or getting tax exempt status.
Some people have used the centers to create groups for the disabled, earn advanced degrees online, or create thriving small businesses.
In Uganda’s northern regions, Maarifa Centers employ Inveneo High-Performance Computing Stations installed by CLS Limited, an Inveneo Certified ICT Partner, to to help community members gain information to improve their health, increase their incomes, and better their lives.