|ASSET: Creative Solution to a Tragic Problem|
|Written by Michael Fones|
|Wednesday, 30 January 2008 08:55|
More than ever, Information technology has become an important economic engine for urban communities in India. Private and public enterprises, large and small are experiencing its benefits, and large investments are being made in the development and implementation of IT. However, the specific community that ASSET is focusing on, namely the Children of sex workers and the sex workers themselves have been left out.
Even where computer access is available, children of sex workers (Csw) are denied access because of who they are and also it is costly, and the children lack the basic skills to make it a useful resource. Computer literacy among Csw is envisioned as a means of improving employment prospects than a tool for improving community life. ASSET aims to demystify technology by helping Csw to seek it out and embrace all its potential.
Available and accessible information technology can play an important role in promoting social change. ASSET hopes to empower local communities to collect their own data on unemployment, health, or other issues and use the data make their voices heard. Computers are an important means of accessing information to connect small communities with the larger society and economy. IT efforts in many communities are adopted as a top-down, private enterprise approach that treats local communities as consumers of a service. They do not integrate small communities by giving them a stake in technology development, and these initiatives tend to deepen the divide. And since social issues are not the priority of the large multinationals and private companies that so far dominate IT development, there has been little effort to promote the use of IT tools for social good and poverty alleviation.
ASSET offers locally-driven computer literacy training, and plans to work with parents to set up community-owned IT cooperatives to ensure democratic access.
Working with the parents, ASSET provides the community members with training in simple IT processes like the use of the computer in collecting and storing data followed by methods of analyzing the information.
Participants will their new skills to collect and sort data on the frequency and prevalence of diseases in their area, and then present the information to the authorities in support of their demand for better health services. After the successful completion of the pilot project in Chennai, ASSET plans to implement similar programs in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
ASSET is very focused on finding and developing special software to meet specific local needs. Access to hardware is just as crucial as skills and software in these communities where computers are expensive and scarce. ASSET has found generous partners who have donated desktop PCs and laptops. Volunteer organizations have been tapped to assist with outreach to support training and education programs. ASSET is also working with local colleges and institutes to invite socially oriented youth with special skills in software and web development, media, fundraising and other relevant areas to get involved as volunteers. To ensure the democratic dissemination of information technology, ASSET plans computer service centers that are run on a cooperative model training community members in hardware, hardware repair, and organizing social networks around computers to further integrate IT into community life.
The belief of the founders of ASSET, Inc. is that every child, irrespective of parentage counts. Their mission is to give children access to education which is not available to them through traditional means and to emphasize on structural intervention aspects of using technology to enable sex workers to dream of a better future for their children. This gives them something to live for and so adopt healthy behaviors.