WITH an initial input of just $2,500 - the price of a second-hand Toyota car - Mauritius has set up a computer network aimed at transforming the tiny Indian Ocean country into a cyber island.
The technology procured in April 2001 from the University of British Columbia in Canada and modified by academicians at the University of Mauritius will enable every peasant to access various types of information necessary to lead a comfortable life.
Prof. Alain Senteni, the director Virtual Centre for Innovative Learning Technologies (VCILT) said the Virtual Campus platform - a management tool - they acquired from the University of British Columbia was an on line module with a collection of websites equipped with study guides, content materials, practical exercises as well as assignments.
With the technology in place, President Sir Anerood Jugnauth, pronounced a mass Computer Proficiency Programme (CPP) aimed at transforming the island of 1.2 million people into an IT island.
"The programme started by the government announcing that all PCs (Personal Computers) in public schools were at the disposal of the public," Mr. Hootesh Ramburn, the CPP programme manager told Education Vision.
"Initially there was resistance from the schools that they would not open their gates to outsiders because they would break down the facilities.
"But with government commitment and sensitisation that attitude changed," added Ramburn who is based at the Royal College Curepipe, one of the training centres.
Ramburn also said the government offered a start up fund of 5m Mauritian rupees (US $180,000) or sh360m for training primary and secondary school teachers together with their families.
Prof. Indur Fagoonee, the Vice Chancellor University of Mauritius, said VCILT has assisted in the training of instructors and developing content for the communities.
"We have tried to reach the masses as much as possible. Where there is no (internet) connectivity we are using CR-ROMs to deliver the information," said Fagoonee.
He said they have been overwhelmed by the demand for ICT training. Since the inception of the programme, he said 30,000 people have already been trained while 14,000 public servants have been registered for the next batch.
At the Royal College where a group of women were undergoing instructions, Ramburn said, the demand is so high despite a nominal fee of 700 rupees (sh48,000) for a full module of 48 hours spread over two months. "Because of the high demand, we put people on the waiting list and contact them on a first come first serve basis," he says.