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Bridging the Digital Divide AC3

As a part of its charter to contribute towards education of lesser privileged children, sflc.in runs a project called Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3)

Basic computing knowledge has become a prerequisite in the job markets. We see around us a digital divide. This digital divide is between children who have an access to computers; its knowledge; and the world wide web, and those children who though functionally literate have no operational knowledge of computing.

New Gurupanpallaya, Sudarshan Layout is a slum like any other in the booming IT hub of Bangalore situated off Bannerghatta Road. It is here that Ambedkar Community Computing Center ( AC3) started on July 6, 2008.

Based on community computing model, it is an empowerment initiative within the local community to bridge the widening of the digital divide using FOSS. At AC3, the children are taught how to operate computer, work on basic applications, which allow them to prepare documents, spreadsheets, use GIMP for images, and more. Over and above these, they are taught to access internet, use email, search the web, use chat and do other such basic tasks. All these are done with the help of free and open source software.

After successful completion of the basic course and proper evaluation, AC3 encourages the higher courses to be organic. Each student is encouraged to identify their areas of interest and the core staff at sflc.in helps them pursue their interest in the field.

With AC3 we have seen a sea change in our students. Coming from backward castes with an economic scarcity they have made the most of the opportunity and the time at AC3 has led to an improvement in their entire outlook toward life and their own future.

Each of our students have many stories of how they overcame their digital divide. They now operate computers with the ease and skill expected from children of their age of the developed world.

AC3 has been covered by various newspapers from its inception. One such link is http://www.hindu.com/2008/12/15/stories/2008121550260200.htm.

We seek to extend the reach of this project to more such slums and take this community computing model to as many under privileged children as possible. It is also proposed that children demonstrating willingness should be further trained in higher skills. We also propose to start an active Mentor and Entrepreneurial Incubation cell. Under this, IT industry volunteers will be assigned successful graduates from AC3, so they may be guided in their professional life skills. Technical and infrastructural backup to aid such entrepreneurial spirit will also be provided.

AC3 is at present limited to one center and a bunch of professionals from sflc.in who have dedicated themselves to quality education of slum children. With the introducion of proficiency certificates being handed out and placement-cell guidance, these students shall become equipped for jobs in information technologies companies. The impact is far more than mere education. It offers these children a chance to have a better future and escape the vicious poverty cycle, thanks to the freedom of free and open-source software.