Njideka, This is an interesting initiative and the notion of scanning
handwritten letters is a nice innovation as it permits a more direct
communication of content.

It's not clear from your third point,

> 3) The youth agents will have a customized form they will use to
> document the message(s).

.. if this means translating or transcribing.  One goal I think would
be to reduce or eliminate the need for translation (with the inevitable
interpretation and transformation of content, however benign the

Another thing to keep in mind is that the language of the letters might
also be by the sender's choice - not just limited in the case people
haven't learned other languages - and indeed some people may wish to use
more than one language in a single communication. Is it possible that
the young people involved are or could be trained in transcribing the
local languages of the area (presumably mainly Igbo, but others as

This brings up also the degree to which the computer center is able to
facilitate composing of text (e-mail in this case) in languages other
than English. I.e., if one wanted to send a letter in Igbo or another
Nigerian language, how easy is that (or is scanning the best option they
have?). Of course the receiving end has related issues (re utf-8 mail).

Another possibility that would be interesting but would require a small
investment (relative to the computer cost, but not to local income or
perhaps your project budget), would be to find a way to use audio
e-mail. There exists good software for this but it is not terribly
popular in the Northern countries - might it be interesting to users
whose cultures have stronger oral traditions? To make this work one
would probably have to use something like a minidisk recorder to record
messages in the villages to upload and send as e-mail attachments
(.wav, .mp3).

Altogether, the extent to which the young people's intermediary roles
are for transmission of content without the need for transformation
means less work for them and increased directness of the communication
they are facilitating.

As one might say in one of the languages of SE Nigeria: Jisie ike!

Don Osborn

"Njideka Ugwuegbu" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:

> I am a Digital Vision Fellow at Stanford and the focus of my work is to
> develop a rural messaging service that will give villagers a voice to
> the world.
> What I am proposing is a youth-led process to help villagers that don't
> use computers or the Internet, but want to "communicate" with their
> loved ones outside the village (in other towns or even in the Diaspora).
> The process will begin at the Owerri Digital Village, a community
> technology and learning center in eastern Nigeria. 

> What the program hopes to achieve is the promotion and empowerment of
> marginalized youth through ICT skills training for creation of "socially
> responsible citizens", access to computers and most of all the
> satisfaction of doing something that the community places a significant
> value on.

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