WiRED started its education mission 25 years ago in Croatia, one of six countries in the former Yugoslavia. Soon after we set up computer facilities in a school in Vukovar, Croatia, the U.S. Department of State asked if we would expand the project into several other countries by supplying computers and training local high school teachers how to use computers in education. Those other countries included Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania (not formally in the former Yugoslavia).
At the same time WiRED was working on the two-country project discussed in this story, we had projects underway in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. The common element in many of WiRED’s projects at the time was the need to deal with conflicts or the significant aftereffects of conflicts. A common element in all conflicts is that people see each other as different by race, religion or political ideology. Nicaragua had recently ended a war, known as the Revolution, that took at least 30,000 lives and left many people wounded physically and psychologically. The battle lines in that conflict were drawn around political ideology.
WiRED began working in Kenya in the early 2000s, under a developmental grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Our initial objective was to determine if we could use computers to teach young Kenyans about the prevention of AIDS, at a time when the mysterious illness was killing thousands around the world and decimating entire villages. We have written extensively about WiRED’s HIV/AIDS prevention programs in other posts on this Website.
For a second time, WiRED collaborated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFTs) on a computer project to assist educators who, because of war, were isolated from colleagues outside the country. Our first project was in Freetown, Sierra Leone (link to Archive story), and this second AFT project was in Baghdad, Iraq. With AFT support, we set up a computer training facility where officials at the Iraqi Teacher’s Union could learn computer basics, then instruct teachers in and around Baghdad how to operate computers and the Internet.
WiRED’s work in Montenegro, one of the former Yugoslavian countries, began in 1998, when we installed computer training centers in six high schools. That project was funded by the Tatjana Grgich Family Foundation and the Medtronic Foundation with coordination assistance from the U.S. Department of State.
2003 was a busy year for us. We were actively working on large programs in Kenya, Nicaragua and Honduras, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo, and we just started a major program in Iraq to provide physicians and students with access to medical libraries. We had not yet begun arranging live teleconferences between Iraqi and American doctors, but that was in the active planning stage and would begin soon.
On November 24, 2003, in collaboration with the American Federation of Teachers, WiRED installed a computer training lab in the Ahmadiyya Muslim School in Sierra Leone.
WiRED’s work in the Balkans started in 1997 and picked up pace through the late nineties into the early 2000s. We followed our programs in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo with Internet access facilities in Montenegro, a country of truly stunning natural beauty from the forested mountains to its coast on the Adriatic Sea.
The following story describes how the Community Health Information Centers (CHICs) we installed throughout Kenya in the early 2000s evolved within the first year from a simple library, offering health information, into a more integrated resource providing a learning center serving the needs of physicians, patients, students and ordinary community members.
Twenty years ago to the month, WiRED opened a Community Health Information Center (CHIC) in a small Kenyan village, called Butula. Most of our other CHICs were in larger towns and cities, but Butula was different, and it presented an opportunity for us to test the range of our novel concept to use computers to present science-based, medical and health information.