Digital Doorway

Contact: Ronel Smith
Project home page

The joint Digital Doorway through DST/CSIR (via the Meraka Institute) undertaking aims to introduce computer literacy into the ambit and experience of all South Africans through the implementation of the concept of Minimally Invasive Education. The aim is to provide people in rural and disadvantaged areas with freely accessible computer equipment and open source software, enabling them to experiment and learn without formal training and with minimal external input.
The initiative seeks to verify results in the South African context, of research conducted in India*, indicating that children possess the cognitive ability to acquire functional computer skills without formal training. The project entails providing access to a multi-terminal multimedia computer system, which provides access to various applications and information. Similar findings in South Africa could serve to inform policies and methodologies to introduce alternative mechanisms for computer literacy. It could also suggest another pathway towards building human capacity in support of the advancement of the Information Society in South Africa and its adjacent regions.

Researchers at Monash University's Centre for Community and Social Informatics and Centre for Community Networking Research are becoming involved with the implementation of the project in several ways:
  • to support the development of community-based research methodologies in conjunction with the Meraka Institute for R&D into the DD project in South Africa
  • to support the implementation of the Digital Doorway as a social justice and community change project in an informal settlement (i.e. an extremely poor urban community), near the Monash campus in Zandspruit South Africa
  • to work with indigenous communities in Australia to implement the Digital Doorway concept and computer system in conjunction with indigenous communities as means of promoting formal and informal learning in high needs communities.

Contact: larry.stillman AT For a concept paper, this draft paper
One of the more controversial issues to be considered is the idea of a multi-user social computer rather than the individualised model as found in the One-laptop per Child project. See in particular, the Pal article for a recent discussion.

Some references to discussions about the DD include:

Gush, K. (2004). Open Source and the Digital Doorway. Paper presented at
the Idlelo Conference, Cape Town. Cape Town, CSIR.

Gush, K. (2008). Towards a more personalised user experience and better demographic data on the Digital Doorway public computer terminals. 5th Prato Community Informatics & Development Informatics Conference 2008:ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality? Conference CD, Prato, Italy, Centre for Community Networking Research, Monash University.

Gush, K., G. Cambridge, et al. (2004). The Digital Doorway - minimally invasive education in Africa. ICT in education conference Cape Town.
Pal, J., R. Patra, et al. (2009). "The Case of the Occasionally Cheap Computer: Low-cost Devices and Classrooms in the Developing Regions " Information Technologies and Internation Development 5(1): 49-64.

Stillman, L. (2008). Is there an ideal type? Developing planning and evaluation models for a digital social inclusion project: Digital Doorways, South Africa 5th Prato Community Informatics & Development Informatics Conference 2008: ICTs for Social Inclusion: What is the Reality? Conference CD, Prato, Italy, Centre for Community Networking Research, Monash University.

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