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Plone eases NGO access to ICT in South Asia rural areas

by xavier last modified 2009-06-30 11:41

OneWorld South Asia developed on Plone, an open source Content Management System (CMS), a customized technology solution named Ek Duniya Web Services. Through Ek-Duniya, OWSA seeks to exploit the democratic potential of the internet, making it accessible and useful to the communities that need it the most. Ek Duniya is already reaching over 70 organizations in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This article outlines benefits open source software brings to society.

CECOneWorld South Asia, the south Asian centre of OneWorld International Foundation, works to facilitate human rights and sustainable development in the region by leveraging a range of media and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs).

According to team that manages the Ek-Duniya initiative at OneWorld South Asia, "Plone gives us the freedom to design appropriate solutions for target groups working on a range of development issues across the country. We have helped develop web spaces for activists working on the human rights of dalits, tribals, women, children, and also for groups working on development equity, social justice, health, education and environmental protection.

Considering the bandwidth constraints and other technological bottlenecks that characterize the use of ICTs in rural areas of South Asia, our team has customized various products to facilitate content acquisition through mail, enable RSS feeds, create photo albums and share audio content. Thus Ek-Duniya is being continuously upgraded through a two-way relationship with our users, where we constantly learn from them and they from us.

Ek-Duniya helps grassroots communities and intermediate civil society organizations to have a quality web presence not only in English but also in local languages; in time they have been successful in using their websites as platforms for development communication and advocacy.

This initiative has enabled south Asian civil society organizations to:

  • Improve flow of local information at the grassroots.
  • Enhance the use of ICTs as a strategic communication tool especially in Indic languages – to exchange knowledge resources and experiences – thereby strengthening the civil society efforts for sustainable development, poverty reduction and social justice.
  • Support the development of an online community of development practitioners in south Asia to lobby for proactive state and civil society action on issues affecting the marginalized, to advocate for better transparency in governance, and to facilitate pro-poor policy discourse.

Ek-Duniya incorporates user-specific training that provides input on content management, graphics design, e-communication strategy, as well as hosting & site management. It also includes post implementation handholding support to reinforce the newly acquired skills and to resolve any difficulty in partners’ work on the web.

Ek-Duniya has reached over 70 partner organizations in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Building on these experiences and learning, OneWorld South Asia continues to work at extending Ek-Duniya to the wider civil society fraternity, including organizations working on Tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction, and the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP).

Some examples of organisations which have taken advantage of OneWorld South Asia’s services under the Ek-Duniya Programme include:

  • People’s Action for Development (PAD) : This is a bilingual site (Tamil and English) for people in the Tsunami affected coastal districts of TamilNadu in south India. PAD operates pro– nature interventions for strengthening food and livelihood security through conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Since the Tsunami hit these districts in December 2004, focus has shifted to rehabilitation and reconstruction.
  • Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) : The Global Call to Action against Poverty is a global network of organisations engaged in inspiring people to hold world leaders accountable and to work together with civil society in the fight to end poverty. This global, multilingual website in French, Spanish, Arabic and English acts as a centre for campaign related information and collective action.
  • Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group : Kalpavriksh is a well established and well known grassroots NGO that has taken positions on a number of environment-development issues in India, more often than not confronting the state through measures ranging from protest letters to street demonstrations.
  • Centre for Education and Communication : CEC-India is a resource centre for labour, which aims to benefit workers in the unorganised and informal sectors. It has grown to be a centre for workers' education and participatory labour research.
  • Health and Nutrition Information Centre : This is the official website of the Department of Health, Puttalam District in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka. In line with the vision of using information to create the best health service delivery system in the country while contributing to building a healthy nation, the website provides relevant health related information on a wide range of topics.