NGOs, particularly grassroots and smaller NGOs, are constantly seeking assistance in gaining a web presence. Too often the expertise is too expensive or too far away to be of any practical value. But now, help is at han in the form of ItrainOnline.
ItrainOnline is a joint initiative of eight organizations with exceptional expertise in computer and Internet training in the South. And their position is that: "While there is an abundance of information on using ICTs on the web, our experience has shown that is difficult to locate high quality and appropriate information that is suited to the ways development organizations and civil society groups in the South learn about and use ICTs. ItrainOnline responds to the need for a single source on the web containing a selection of the best and most relevant computer and Internet training resources for development and social change.
By pooling our resources to create this site, the ItrainOnline partners can reduce any overlaps in our online content and training programs, learn from each other, and better focus our investments in ICT training. Most importantly, we can ensure that learners and trainers in the South have a convenient entry point on the web for the resources and tools they need."
ItrainOnline states that its "initiative aims to assist civil society organizations (CSOs) and other development actors in developing countries to confront the challenges posed by new information and communications technologies (ICTs). In seeking to overcome skills gaps in development, it connects people and know-how with the needs of ICT learners and trainers. ItrainOnline aims:
- To provide a selection of the best and most relevant computer and Internet training resources for development and social change.
- To provide access to high quality and appropriate information that is suited to the ways development organizations and civil society groups in the South learn about and use ICTs.
- To concentrate on training and "how-to" guides for development organizations and civil society groups.
The eight partners who comprise ItrainOnline are:
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Bellanet International Secretariat
International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD)
International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)
The materials and annotated links to high-quality resources are in English, Spanish, French and other languages. And the topics range from "computer and Internet basics to highly technical areas and the ways that civil society and development organizations can increase their impact using these tools."
Because ItrainOnline is committed to the free and fair sharing of development information, its site is An Open Content site. The information and annotations on their site are free, and can be reproduced, translated, and disseminated without restriction. Also, most of the material described in the collection is free.
Now, this article may be very elementary to those of you who are reading this article, but it is hoped that you will spread the word to those NGOs who need the information that ItrainOnline has to offer. The ItrainOnline site is organized into Seven Major Content Sections And each of those sections is further divided according the requirements of each topic. A general idea of the content is as follows:
The pages in this section offer tools and resources to help build the basic skills needed to make effective use of computers and the Internet.
Resources to help you understand how your computer works, how to maintain computers and use them safely, and how to protect your computer from viruses.
Office Productivity Software
This section takes you to articles and tutorials which will help you use common office productivity software such as MS Word and Excel. You will also find information on Open Source alternatives to mainstream commercial software.
Internet and E-mail Basics
This section contains a number of resources on Internet and e-mail basics, selected for their clarity and ease of use. Topics covered range from general introductions to the Internet, to guidance on specific tools such as e-mail and web browsers.
Finding Information Online
Finding useful information on the Internet requires a combination of familiarity with the search tools and resources available, an understanding of search strategies and language, and persistence. This ItrainOnline section aims to provide tools and resources to help guide you find the information you need, and to evaluate the quality of that information.
Using the Internet "strategically" means to get what you or your organization needs from the many possibilities offered by the latest online software and tools.
Strategic Use of the Internet
Topics include using the Internet for activism, knowledge management strategies, conducting research online, and strategic technology planning.
Building Online Communities
Internet-based group collaboration tools range from simple e-mail to sophisticated multimedia environments. The resources in this section will help you choose and use appropriate software for you groups, and help you develop the facilitation skills needed to build an online community.
This section offers resources on a wide range of issues which face Internet users, from non-Latin character sets and encoding to developing web sites for multilingual audiences.
A growing number of organizations are turning to Free/Open Source software for everything from computer networks to office productivity tools. This section includes articles on the importance of Open Source, links to source of Open Source software, and resource on Open Content.
These sections offer resources on the basics of web design and management, as well as more advanced resources on web programming.
Resources to take you through the whole process of designing a web site, from learning HTML and page design tools, to designing usable web sites and writing for the web.
Web Site Usability and Accessibility
Resources to help you make your site easy-to-use and accessible to the widest possible range of users. Topics include usability and usability testing, writing for the web, and designing for accessibility.
Web Site Management
Resources relating to the ongoing management and maintenance of web sites, including site promotion, evaluating sites and using web statistics, web servers, and site security and privacy.
Databases are an important tool for managing information, keeping track of contacts and projects, sharing information with remote users, and even automating the updating of your web site. This section provides resources on databases from basic to advanced levels, including information on content management systems.
This section offers resources on the general, technical and content aspects of taking audio online and broadcasting via the web.
This section provides general information about the current applications and future opportunities of video on the Internet. These links will introduce you to new multimedia terms, help you understand different online video formats and highlight innovative examples of websites that successfully use video.
This section provides resources on community radio basics, technical tips and tricks, along with programming ideas and resources.
This section points to resources on setting up, sustaining and evaluating telecentres, or "community multimedia centres", as they are sometimes known.
These pages provide resources and information on more technical topics - but they are not exclusively for technical staff!
This section points to materials which will be of use to both those new to online security and privacy issues, as well to more advanced users. Topics covered include viruses, network and server security, encryption, and Internet security in the workplace.
The term "computer network" can refer to anything from two computers connected together, to large-scale Local Area Networks (LANs), to the Internet itself - the "network of networks." This page offers a small collection of links to introductory and general resources on the topic.
The high cost of conventional "wired" infrastructure is an obstacle to those looking to harness the potential of ICTs for development and social change. Wireless technologies offer tested, low-cost options to complement conventional infrastructure.
RESOURCES FOR TRAINERS
These sections draw on the ItrainOnline partners' experience in training and materials development, offering a collection of resources for trainers which focus on Internet and ICTs training in NGOs and community organizations.
Resources to help you to become a more effective trainer and develop training strategies for your organization.
Multimedia Training Kit
The Multimedia Training Kit is a series of modular training materials for use in workshops developed by ItrainOnline partners and others. The materials share a common easy-to-use format, and are freely available for non-commercial use.
Annotated links to resources on specific topics, from Internet basics to advanced technical skills. All resources listed include materials specifically for trainers, such as handouts, slide shows, and workshop outlines.
RESOURCES FOR WOMEN
This section is just so long, I can not even begin to describe it. And there are other areas of the ItrainOnline web site, but this article is not able to address them all. So, you will just have to go to ItrainOnline to find out what's there. And while your're there, you just may learn something.