Renewable World is pleased to announce that the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) one of our East Africa programme partners, has received the 2011 Access to Learning Award of US$1 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in recognition of their commitment to providing access to information and technology in hard to reach communities in East Africa.
Visitors to ALIN’s 12 Maarifa (knowledge) Centres use the technology and other tools available at the centres to gain information to improve their health, increase their incomes and improve their lives. The centres particularly focus on the area of agricultural development as 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. Deborah Jacobs, Director of the Global Libraries initiative for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognised the importance of the centres in a speech she gave at the award ceremony in San Juan, ‘thousands of people in these remote communities of Eastern Africa are improving their lives through the information available at these centres […] all knowledge workers can learn from this inventive model of delivering targeted, customised information’.
Renewable World is bringing added value to the work of ALIN through building their capacity in the use of renewable energy; this will enable them to take their Maarifa Centre model to areas where they would not previously be able to run the centres such as the village of Nyakasimbi where Renewable World is supporting the organisation to install a hybrid wind-solar system to provide appropriate and affordable source of power to upgrade the facilities of a very basic centre. We are also working with them to enhance both the impact, in terms of local economy stimulation, and sustainability of their centres through supporting the development of small scale enterprise which will operate out of the Maarifa Centre.
Microsoft, a partner of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of its efforts to help public libraries connect people with relevant technology and skills, will provide ALIN with a donation of over US$270,000 worth of software and technology training curriculum to help the organisation serve the local community. ALIN will use its award to expand its network of knowledge centres, upgrade its hardware and software, increase the number of computers available to its users, and expand on the training and education provided to its community knowledge facilitators. Renewable World looks forward to supporting them in this endeavour.