WorldSpace Foundation bypasses communication barriers in developing countries to provide education and social development programs through the cost-efficient use of highly sophisticated satellite technology.
WorldSpace Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., was created in 1997 to use digital technology to provide information to millions of children and adults in developing countries. The organization's target audiences are people who are disadvantaged by poverty, illiteracy, geographic isolation, and lack of information.
After an initial period of research and development, WSF launched its audio and multimedia services in Africa. These services have demonstrated the efficacy of the foundation's unique ability to reach people in rural and other geographically isolated communities. Program operations are scheduled to begin in the Asia-Pacific region in late 2001 and in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2002.
WSF has two major programs currently in operation in Africa: the Africa Learning Channel (ALC) and the WSF Multimedia Service. The foundation also administers a French-language educational audio channel called Canal EF that is geared toward French-speaking audiences in Africa.
The Africa Learning Channel: This is WSF's flagship project is a collective audio channel that combines programming from African NGOs and producers for broadcast to audiences in rural and isolated communities. The programs cover educational and social development topics such as HIV/AIDS prevention, micro-enterprise development, environmental conservation, and conflict resolution.
WSF Multimedia Service: Although there are several NGOs and multi-lateral agencies working in Africa that are equipped with the hardware to access the Internet, they are faced with unreliable connections from prohibitively expensive ISPs that make the transfer of large, graphic-heavy files virtually impossible.
The WSF Multimedia Service enables these groups to transmit Web-based material to targeted audiences in Africa. Text and images supplied by the group are digitally formatted and transmitted via the satellite to the computers of its target audience. The data is downloaded through a WorldSpace receiver connected to the computer by a special adapter. As much as 600 MB of data can be downloaded in a day at a rate of about 64 kilobits per second.
Over the past fifteen months, WorldSpace Foundation has leveraged the financial support from its donors to make the following possible:
1.2 million people across Africa receive regular broadcasts of humanitarian and educational programs that will help them impact their own development.
The Africa Learning Channel documents the groundbreaking social development work of African groups and serves as a forum for Africans to communicate with Africans about common issues and problems.
Health professionals throughout Africa read the latest research on such devastating diseases as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
SATELLIFE and the African HealthNet Partners Health Knowledge Network use the WSF multimedia service to distribute peer-reviewed material on topics pertaining to clinical medicine and public health to medical practitioners in Africa.
Community health workers share ideas and experiences to eliminate the crippling effects of trachoma.
Helen Keller Worldwide uses WSF multimedia to share the experiences and ideas of Helen Keller field workers and its partners in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of trachoma, a preventable eye disease that can lead to blindness.
National meteorological services share critical material on climate and weather with agricultural extension workers.
RANET is a collaborative effort to ensure that hydro-meteorological and climate information is readily accessible, via radio and the Internet, to meteorological and extension services. After experiencing the expense and unreliability of Internet transmissions, RANET began using the WSF multimedia service to transmit public domain observations, imagery, bulletins, and forecasts from a variety of sources.
Teachers download training materials to provide information and hope to people isolated by two decades of civil war in Sudan.
UNICEF/Operation Lifeline Sudan is teaming up with WorldSpace Foundation to provide training and classroom support materials to teachers and students in Southern Sudan.
Grassroots community workers exchange training materials and information on effective development practices and projects.
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is a network promoting the sharing of information among community-based workers in the dry lands of Africa. ALIN uses the WSF multimedia service to facilitate the exchange of "best practices" and capacity building materials.
The WorldSpace Foundation Web site provides a more detailed description of the technology and the foundation's activities in Africa, lists WSF's current partners for both the ALC and the multimedia service, and provides links to the Web sites of those who have an Internet presence. There is also information about how to support the foundation.
Funds are needed to increase the foundation's audio and multimedia services in Africa. Over the next two years, WSF would like to enable ten million people across Africa to have regular access to Africa Learning Channel's humanitarian and social development programming. The organization would also like to expand the menu of multimedia content for Africa to include such items as agricultural training materials and training manuals for municipal officials.
Using WorldSpace technology, WSF will also launch a reliable and cost-effective digital satellite communications tool for social development and humanitarian organizations in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. Funds are also needed to conduct planning and outreach in these regions and to test initial programming.
Last but not least, WSF is also seeking assistance with capacity-building and organizational development. As its programs grow, WSF must expand its infrastructure in the regions to fully support program development.