Comment to www.ekhayaict.com
You say "To break through, one needs to set up a positive spiral, taking small steps to improve conditions so that people involved feel and are in control. But external help is definitely required for the first steps."
I agree with this whole heartedly. The only way to drive technological assimilation into a rural culture is to have volunteers on hand to provide expert help as well as ideological vision. I'd even go a step further to say that the volunteer program needs to be extended for as long as a full generation. At least. To provide ongoing skills transfer and cosmopolitan role models, as far as possible.
It used to be that there were missionaries who would educate (and somewhat colonialize) the native populace in rural areas. This is now the age of the technological evangelist and missionary.
"Indeed, wiki-books and localized content are very important. There are people working on that sort of thing, for instance translate.org.za, and several departments at Rhodes."
I'm more than marginally cynical about the number of startup wikis duplicating (at best) the work of already established portals who are able to better leverage the power of existing communities and resources.
There are, for example) www.curriki.org - sponsored by Scott McNeally and with a membership of over 30,000 growing strong, and www.wikieducator.org - supported by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and unofficially part of Wikmedia (Erik Moeller) - which aims to have a free and open curriculum online by 2015 (it only has 1,140 subscribers so far).
Then there's moodle.org with a community of over 200,000 teachers which is becoming the defacto CMS (Course Management System).
Oh and MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching - www.merlot.org) seems to be pretty successful - but obviously one needs significant bandwidth. :-(
wiki.tsf.org.za/iCommonsiCurriculum ?! RIP?
There was also a South African startup called eduwiki mentioned in Russell Southwood's Balancing Act a week or 2 ago - but their focus on the SA syllabus is far too narrow to build a community IMHO.
All local content and language courses should fall under a broader "commonwealth" of learning umbrella.
But which one is it going to be?
Dr. Sugata Mitra conducted something called the hole in the wall experiment in India where rural kids were given unrestricted access to computers and the internet. . . with some interesting results:
""They don't call a cursor a cursor, they call it a sui, which is Hindi for needle. And they don't call the hourglass symbol the hourglass because they've never seen an hourglass before. They call it the damru, which is Shiva's drum, and it does look a bit like that."
"The educational value of the internet is not just content, but access to other communities and cultures as well."
One of the best use case scenarios I've come across is TEFL correspondence exercises with other classes from non english speaking countries. Email and web based community forums (drupal, joomla, wordpress, etc.) can also be used highly effectively... especially if combined with a translation facility. (http://www.websters-dictionary-online.com/translation/Xhosa/ is the best I've come across so far - but I'm hoping Russell Kaschula's Xhosa translatathon at Rhodes a few weeks ago may scale up some day to create a full open online dictionary.)
Anyhow. I've lost count of how many sites, wikis and forums I've registered on - and I still don't see much /useful/ educational material freely available for a 3'rd World school with a computer lab.
All help with the free content crisis gratefully appreciated.
Peace & Love