Project FOCUS is partnering with local organizations in rural Southwest Uganda to launch an Internet Cafe, providing access to information and communication previously unavailable to residents of the region. The Cafe will also provide technology skills training, a revenue source for a local community-run primary school, and allocate space and tools for the production of creative multi-media projects.
Web access provides communities with the opportunity to improve social welfare and claim their voice in the global conversation on strategies for rural development. With this service, the local populace will benefit from direct links to job, educational, weather, and health information, as well as more efficient markets for produce and products.
Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan warns of the danger of excluding poor rural communities from the Internet: “People lack many things: jobs, shelter, food, healthcare and drinkable water. Today, being cut off from basic telecommunications services is a hardship almost as acute as these other deprivations, and may, indeed reduce the chances of finding remedies to them.”
In a time when most development strategies are being created and authorized from behind desks in Washington D.C., the Internet Cafe initiative is a culmination of a running partnership between Project FOCUS and Ugandan service organization ICOD (Integrated Community Efforts for Development) aimed at implementing community-lead, sustainable development projects in the southwestern district of Lyantonde, Uganda, a region that continues to be heavily affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Looking forward, Project FOCUS and ICOD see this service as a financial and physical foundation for change in the region, as the Internet Cafe holds significance both for direct participants and the broader economy. The two organizations have their sights set on supporting growth and stability in the key sectors of community development – education, health, agriculture, business – and will continue to champion locally developed solutions to local challenges.