|Halls of Knowledge Open to Communities in Three Malian Cities
May 5th - 7th, 2004 saw the official inaugurations of three new Community Learning and Information Centers (CLICs) in Bougouni, Kadiolo and Segou, Mali. These three centers are part of a USAID/Mali funded initiative to open 13 public access telecenters across Mali.
These CLICs are intended to be vital resources for the community to gain access to information and communication tools and content such as political news, health information, agribusiness resources and market information, email, word processing and spreadsheets. Each CLIC is hosted by a local organization, selected based on their capacity to be available to the entire community without discrimination, and also their ability to effectively manage the CLIC.
Each CLIC is also expected to gather and create local content (especially in local languages) in digital formats and to share this content with the other CLICs and with other organizations throughout Mali.
The communities have already coined their own local names for their CLICs, referring to them as halls or houses of knowledge.
The CLICs are Launched
The three inaugurations began on May 5th. USAID and the CLIC team inaugurated Bougouni's CLIC Kunafoni Jakatu (Hall of Information in Bambara). The team then traveled to Kadiolo to open the Kaceme (Hall of Knowledge in Senoufo) CLIC on May 6th. May 7th, they celebrated the opening of Segou's new CLIC Donniya Bulon (House of Knowledge in Bambara).
USAID/Mali was represented by Dennis Bilodeau (ComDev SpO Team leader and CLIC Project CTO), Oumar Doucoure (MIS), Sidiki Traore (Democratic Governance team), and Moussa Kante (Accounting). Angela Reading, USAID Washington Desk Officer for Mali, attended the Segou ceremony. Mme. Aminata Maiga Fofana (CLIC Project Coordinator) and Moustaphe Doumbia (Outreach and Sustainability Coordinator) represented CLIC project team.
The local communities went to great lengths to welcome USAID and the CLIC team - a traditional Balafon orchestra greeted the visitors in Kadiolo and Nahawa Doumbia, internationally known Malian musician, held a live concert as part of the Bougouni celebrations.
At each of the three inaugurations, local politicians, officials from host organizations, and community leaders welcomed the USAID and CLIC team, and reaffirmed the commitment to open and free access by the community, regardless of race, religion, political views, or gender. The purpose and equipment of the CLIC was described to the audiences, with special emphasis on welcoming women to use the computer centers.
USAID and the CLIC team, during their speeches, stressed the need for local content creation and dissemination throughout Mali. They answered specific questions about the construction and Internet connectivity at each CLIC location, and the difference between this CLIC and a cyber-café.
The team also explained the reasons for selecting these communities to host the CLICs -Kadiolo, for example, was chosen for its proximity to two borders - Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, and its lack of communication infrastructure.
After the official ribbon cutting by representatives of USAID and local political leaders, a tour of the facilities were given and the local organizations hosted either a reception or lunch for attendees.
Different Communities, Different Contexts, Different CLICs
These inauguration celebrations underscored the commitment and excitement felt by the communities for these CLICs. Intended to be sources of information for the community, the CLICs represent the diverse contexts the CLIC project is working.
Bougouni and Kadiolo are smaller cities where Internet access is not currently available, due to poor or non-existent infrastructure. The CLIC project is testing a variety of alternative connection methods, including the use of satellite transmitters. The Bougouni CLIC is being hosted by the local Mayor's office, and as a result will focus on providing key government and civil society information and services to the local citizenry. In Kadiolo, the host for the CLIC is a local radio station, the primary source of news for most of the people in the region.
Segou is Mali's second largest city and already has Internet access through cyber-cafes. However, the NGO community is significantly underserved in this city and the focus of the Segou CLIC will be on providing services for civil society development. As a result, the host organization for the Segou CLIC is a field office for a well-known Malian NGO, ASDAP (Association de soutien au developpement des activites de population).
No matter where the CLICs are hosted, they will offer the same variety of information in all development sectors: health, education, democracy and governance, civil society, economic growth and communication for development. Self-sustainability is also a critical program goal - the CLICs are expected to offer fee-for-use services and cover their recurring costs.
CLIC Mali Partners
Core partners in the implementation of the CLIC project are USAID/Mali, the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and the Institut Africain de Gestion et de Formation (INAGEF), a Malian NGO, which is responsible for the daily management and oversight of the project. World Links, a US-based Resource Partner, is providing training and equipment provision.
Other vital partners in this initiative are the Malian Ministries of Education, Health, Territorial Administration, Communications and New Information Technologies, and Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, the Mali Office of New Information and Communication Technologies, and the US Government's Education for Development and Democracy Initiative (EDDI).
AED was awarded the Mali CLIC Project for a period of two years from May 2003 - May 2005 (Award No. 688-G-00-03-00038-00 under the dot-ORG Leader Award No.GDG-A-00-01-00014-00).