In 2002-03, Terrawatu partnered with the World Affairs Council of Seattle, Washington for a global classroom project called “Linking Lands: A Partnership between Seattle and Tanzania.” Funded by the Education for Development and Democracy Initiative (EDDI) within USAID, motivation for this project emerged from the ubiquitous discussion on globalization and one of its biggest challenges – how do we really understand the lives of people in very different worlds who we now interact with in political, economic and social arenas?
The Linking Lands Project linked teachers and students in the United States with their counterparts in Tanzania. Terrawatu coordinated a Seattle Team teacher study trip to Tanzania and a Tanzanian Team teacher study trip to Seattle. The Linking Lands Project included seed money to install an Internet-capable computer lab in a Arusha school. Terrawatu worked with USAID and a European partner to construct the first of its kind ‘computer lab in the bush’ in East Africa. Construction included extending electricity poles to a refurbished school classroom, installation of a radio tower to provide Internet signal, networking of thirty donated desktop computers and IT training of local teachers.
This original Linking Lands project sparked great interest in secondary schools and teaching colleges throughout the Arusha region for IT for education. Since 2002, Terrawatu has worked with over a dozen government and community schools to install computer labs and train IT teachers. The Global Technology Academy of Washington State has continued to visit our project sites in Tanzania, bringing updated computers and teaching technology classes.
The Internet is now more widely available in Tanzania and provided using less expensive technologies than ten years ago. Smart phones and tablets linked to the Internet are now important devices for education and communication in both urban and rural Tanzania. While investment is still needed to improve technology infrastructure and access, new avenues are opening everyday.
In 2013, Terrawatu received a large grant from Google to support local technology teachers and the computer labs in our schools and educational facilities in Tanzania. The Terrawatu Internet Café / IT Centre, located just outside the main Arusha town area in Mianzini, has employed dozens of local youth, mainly women, and has trained hundreds of students now employed in companies that seek workers with IT skills. With the grant from Google, this IT Centre was upgraded to become a hub of technology services. With a passport picture machine, new printer and digital camera the new business generated from these inputs allows the centre to cover its own electricity costs. The grant has also enabled Terrawatu to hold workshops at the IT Centre to advance the IT skills of schoolteachers who teach at the computer labs installed by Terrawatu.