Tuesday, April 11, 2006

You need to create an Educational Information System for kids aged 8-16 in Bangladesh. You have a budget of $500,000. Go.

That's the gist of an assignment we got in class today. Wow, I was pretty excited about it! We actually have a guest professor - who is the professor for the other section of this class. I've been hearing the other class complain about this assignment since last week but when I heard the description I was a little sad I'd missed out! An information system for a developing country!? Come on - how cool is that!

And difficult too. When the assignment was given to us today it wasn't as official (won't be graded, etc). I think the professor chose these random countries (Sierra Leone, Somalia, Bangladesh, etc) because he didn't actually want us to know everything about the place and to 'solve' the problem easily. Of course in our group there is one guy who has lived in SE Asia for almost 10 years before coming to school, a girl from China, and me. Oh, I just happened to know about Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, an NGO in Bangladesh that uses boats to bring mobile libraries, schools, and internet-enabled computer labs to poor communities in a Northern Bangladesh watershed. =)

But even with the knowledge we did have, we didn't know everything. Does the religion and culture of the country allow girls to be educated, or only boys? Does the country have the infrastructure to support computers and internet access (do they have reliable electricity)? Should our 'information system' be book-based? The climate is very humid which can wreak havoc with paper and books and computer alike. Can we design a system to handle this? Will it be sustainable? Will our system run through an NGO, the government, or some school district? What does education look like in the first place? Should this be focused on a city, or out in the rural areas?

And the list goes on. This is the beginning of project development, a very complex process.

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