Anita Roddick introduces 5 stories on innovative approaches that new digital technologies provide to assist in community action – ranging from emergency aid when disasters strike, to monitoring environmental changes.

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Going Solo – Nigeria

Modern Pentium-powered PC systems, with a standard cathode ray tube monitor, can swallow up to 500W of mains electricity. The power requirements of standard systems may explain the persistence of the ‘digital divide’ between Western countries and less developed countries, with many rural areas unable to maintain a reliable supply of electricity. Rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa also often have a hot, dusty environment that can harm the delicate construction of most computers. The Solo computer, undergoing trials in rural Nigerian communities, has been designed to challenge both of these barriers.

Teenage Clicks – Ghana

Education for all has become accepted as a basic human right. Knowledge is a valuable commodity, and access to good quality education that caters for the ‘Information Age’ is essential for all. The educational systems of past decades are being replaced by a more inclusive and dynamic system . Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have a role to play in this evolution, and for the Global Teenager Project they are providing a useful tool. The concept of on-line ‘Learning Circles’ enables students to interact in a global forum of information sharing and knowledge creation.

Sri Lanka Calling

When the Asian tsunami struck it completely devastated coastal communities in the south and west of Sri Lanka. For the survivors a priority was to re-establish contact with family members to let them know that they were safe. This is where the NGO Télécoms sans Frontières (TSF) came in, bringing mobile equipment to those survivors so that they could make telephone calls, send faxes and e-mails, and connect to the internet.

Action Plan – UK

When disasters such as floods, earthquakes or hurricanes strike, whole areas can be cut off as roads are destroyed and power and telephone lines are severed. As aid arrives to these disaster zones one of the first priorities is information – where services located, are they working, what transport is available, where can refugees be placed? An integrated Geographic Information System (GIS) run by MapAction provides a solution for hard-pressed emergency aid workers in these desperate situations.

Walk on the Wild Side – UK

Britain’s ancient woodlands are under threat, not least from global climate change and increasing pressures on land resources. It is important to have a record of the changes occurring in the natural environment, so the UK Phenology Network is working with nature enthusiasts and conservationists to record what they see outside their window.