Committee to Democratize Information Technology (CDI)
CDI has developed a socio-educational approach to teaching IT. Students learn how to use computers and software while discussing social issues of particular interest to their community, such as human rights, environment, sexual education, health and non-violence. The idea is that IT can not only be a route to job opportunities (and income) for disadvantaged people, but can be a tool "to broaden their minds, to help them understand their reality, point out new directions and raise their self-esteem." The model is community-centric - it is based on the concept of helping people help themselves by learning about technology and the ways that the information and opportunities it provides can help them to address specific challenges within their communities.
Concretely, the training courses typically involve 2 several-hour sessions per week over a 3-month period. Local involvement is key; the courses are staffed by residents of the communities in which they are offered. The programme provides the teachers with training; they, in turn, train others back in their communities. The students, most of whom are in their teens or early twenties, pay a fee of approximately US$10 per month for instruction that focuses on word processing, accounting programmes, spreadsheets and computer graphics. The classes are held in rooms made available free of charge by churches, community organisations and schools. CDI trains the future teachers, who, in turn, will train others back in their communities. Business firms from around the world donate the computers and training manuals that the programme uses; the computers are maintained by volunteer members of CDI's directive committee.
This interpersonal training is only one part of a broader strategy that involves setting up self-governed computer and citizenship schools - Schools for Information Technology and Citizenship (EIC - Escola de Informatica e Cidadania). Drawing on local involvement, these schools are set up at the request of community groups in favelas (slums) and other low-income communities. The process involves: feasibility studies; teacher training; the provision, installation and maintenance of donated hardware; and counsel in developing a plan for making the school self-supporting. The strategy places strong emphasis on the self-management, financial independence, and sustainability of each school. Although there is continual monitoring and exchanges of information, CDIs in each state are autonomous and - while they follow the same guidelines - they adapt teaching to local needs. Once the community has arranged the classroom, received the computers, and trained instructors, the latter personnel publicise the school on local radio stations and through pamphlets and notice boards. "Often people choose classes because they trust a specific instructor, who is a friend or neighbor."
Technology, Economic Development, Rights, Youth.
"The information technology revolution that is changing the world couldn't be further away for favela residents. Out of a population of 170 million, Brazil has 4 million internet users, almost exclusively among the rich."
CDI has expanded nationally and internationally, with regional offices in 19 Brazilian states and in 8 other countries on 3 continents. As of early 2006, there are 971 autonomous and self-sustaining EIC schools using CDI's methodology and model concept. In an evaluation, carried out by an external consultant group, 86% of the students said that CDI schools had a positive impact in their lives, such as by motivating them to return to regular schools, make new friends, or stay away from drugs.
CDI obtains financial resources through partnerships with the private sector, philanthropic organisations and government - including Philips, Vale do Rio Doce Foundation (FVRD), Accenture, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Business Incubator Development (BID), W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Avina Foundation, World Bank / Infodev, Microsoft, Telefônica Foundation, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) Foundation, Unibanco, Esso e Politec.