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Rural Computing in Peru

The BBC reports on the Agricultural Information Project for Farmers of the Chancay-Huaral Valley, 80 kilometers north of Lima, Peru. Combining computer training, agricultural information, and wireless access, the 14 telecenters will be open to the region's 13,000 rural inhabitants and 18,000 students.

The project is notable for a number of reasons. All of the software used is free/open source, community training has been attended by men and women equally, and each of the 14 telecenters cost only $3,200. The driving force behind the project is to get farmers communicating with each other, sharing knowledge and ideas:

One of the key elements of the project is the Agricultural Information System, with its flagship huaral.org website.

There, farmers can find the prices for local produce, as well as information on topics ranging from plague prevention to the latest farming techniques.

The system also helps the inhabitants of the Chancay-Huaral Valley to organise their vital irrigation systems.

"Water is the main element that unites them all. It is a precious element in Peru's coastal areas, because it is so scarce, and therefore it is necessary to have proper irrigation systems to make the most of it," Mr Saldarriaga told the BBC News website.

The information network also allows farmers to look beyond their own region, and share experiences with other colleagues from the rest of Peru and even around the world.

This appears to be a textbook example of how to integrate information networks in the developing world -- the inclusion of training, the use of free/open source software, and (most importantly) the emphasis on communication among the users, not just consumption of centralized information and entertainment. It's a pilot project, so organizers are watching closely to see how well it works before implementing it elsewhere in Peru. Fortunately, it sounds like they've taken the correct first steps.

(Via SmartMobs)


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Comments (1)

Thank you for this, Jamais Cascio and friends.

Some of the groundwork for this has been laid by DeSoto's work in getting property rights to the underconnected. I sure wish them Great Good Grace in sifting thru the information that can enhance their practices simply, cleanly and leapfrog our diastrous turn into reductionist chemical scientism, leapfrog into careful biological habits with composts, aerated compost teas and any methods which might resonate and intensify traditional understandings. This bypasses so many of the complications of modernity, jumping toward complex grounding in those nourishing traditions that we all need to stand well.

May information enhance any of our native intelligence and move underneath hubris toward knowledge, to then be cultured into wisdom over the epochs....


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