When we, the founding members of ECIE, began working on the Internet our focus was primarily toward Peru as we are all of Peruvian heritage. We started out with a global vision that we could enlist the help of expatriate Peruvians living around the world to join together to provide help to the rural sectors of Peru. The rural sectors of Peru are the areas with the highest poverty index in the country and are the sectors of the country that are mostly ignored by governments. We believed at the time, that the Internet could be used to provide an alternate and effective means of education to an area where even basic education is sparse.
When we began working with the International Decade on Natural Disaster Reduction in presenting a series of Internet based seminars, we began to see the potential and the need for reaching people at the local level to provide them with valuable information that previously would have been difficult for them to obtain. This is the reason that we have concentrated on simple e-mail based seminars, because those are the tools most likely to be found even in the most remote regions of the world.
As the Internet grew and as the technologies for the delivery of information became more sophisticated, we began to see efforts by world agencies to provide Internet accessibility to many rural sectors of the world, but we have also seen that many times the visions used are based on a global vision rather than a local vision. Each community has their own vision of what their needs are and how best to achieve them. When outside agencies come in to offer them new tools for changing their lives, that vision is based more on the agency’s vision of what they perceive the needs to be. The results are often not as successful as imagined because the visions are not always the same as the local vision.
In 2002, we were fortunate to be a sponsor for bringing Mino, to speak at a conference held by the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. Mino, the Delegate Leader of the Ashaninka indigenous community of the central jungles of Peru has become an international figure in telling his story about how his jungle community was transformed when they embraced technology and the Internet.
He would tell the story how through the use of the Internet, they were able to discover a little known law that allowed for easier entrance exams to colleges to indigenous peoples. He would tell the story about how his community began to use computers to preserve their customs and language and how they were able to begin to define their own future. He would tell us how his people would share their knowledge and their discoveries with neighboring communities. All the things he would tell us about his community’s use of computers transformed their lives and we came to realize that this was the embodiment of an empowered community through the use of technology.
What inspired us most of all was the local vision that the Ashaninka had developed for their own future and it made us realize the important of having that local vision whenever global projects are planned. It is a vision that is developed at the local level and among the people who are most affected. While we may have a global vision for what we believe technology can accomplish, it is the local vision that will determine its eventual success because if the local vision is not in sync with the global vision, global strategies can not be imposed on local peoples without them having local strategies that address their immediate needs.