Jimma University Project Recap

By Carolyn Turney

WiderNet Project director Cliff Missen traveled to Ethiopia in September 2013 to complete the second installment of a two-part eGranary and computer literacy training at Jimma University.  The entire project consisted of two five-day training sessions at Jimma University in December 2012 and September 2013, where over 120 librarians, researchers, and students were trained in the use of computers and off-line digital resources.

Missen was joined by the WiderNet Project's Ethiopian Field Associate, Mulugeta Assefa, who managed logistics and assisted with the trainings.  "We also got extraordinary help from the staff at the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa," reports Missen.

This project formed out of a partnership between WiderNet, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, and Jimma University. Initially conceived as a single training on developing curriculum from the eGranary Digital Library, the project expanded into building a computer lab at Jimma University with workstations gifted by WiderNet supporters.

“We understand access to digital information in Ethiopia has always been challenging and requires a concerted effort from concerned institutions and individuals," states Teklemichael Tefera, Director of the Information Resource Center at the United States Embassy in Ethiopia.  “The eGranary has come as one of the best solutions to address most of the challenges related to connection speed and the high costs associated to it.  [WiderNet] helped to expand the access facilities, trained so many young students and staff, and embarked the necessary practical skills in order to deal with technical issues related to computers and networks. “

During the first five-day training, WiderNet Project staff worked with students and staff of the Jimma Information Science school, focusing on digital course delivery. They covered the best practices for digitizing and creating local content, as well as collaborating with instructors to build custom, culturally-appropriate curriculum built on local and eGranary resources.

Then WiderNet shipped a cargo container of donated computers, laptops, printers, books, and other hardware and software to furnish new University computer labs.  The shipment included 237 computers, 294 flat screen monitors, 240 keyboards, 34 laptops, 100+ printers, 3,000+ books, fiber optic cables, network cables, tool kits, lots of spare parts and other general IT supplies. The labs will serve the formal education and job training needs of the 35,000 enrolled students at the University.

The second five-day training had 65 university and high school students, almost half of them women, setting up and installing the donated computers  Every participant took a computer completely apart and reassembled it, cut and crimpled network cables, installed the operating system and software, and configured their computer to be on the network

This project proved to be a highly productive collaboration to implement an innovative, yet sustainable solution to the digital challenges that face institutions like Jimma University.  We accomplished the goal of setting up new labs and providing tools for students to improve their skills in order to pursue IT career paths. All the partners hope to be able to collaborate again to build upon the successes of this project.