April 2004

A community software solution framework

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Today, in the knowledge age, the importance of information and communication as key enablers of economic and social prosperity has been widely recognized. A number of efforts to harness the power of ICTs for the benefit of resource hungry poor communities have been made by governments, NGOs and many international development agencies.

Many projects have been undertaken by various national and international agencies and NGOs to address the needs of the underprivileged through the use of ICTs especially the use of Internet and web site development, in such community centres.  Some of the limitations of these experiments are, lack of awareness and knowledge, literacy and lack of access of ICT in local languages. Solutions are often projects with setting of connectivity to Internet and setting of local language web sites. These often are time consuming and demands special skills, thus impacting sustainability of such projects. Such web sites are often managed by a single person, rather than with community participation.

Effective communication within and among community is a necessary ingredient for empowering the communities. However, these web sites invariably focus more on information retrieval and less on providing facilities for community communication and participation. Searching for relevant information on the Internet is time consuming, costly, requires knowledge of English language and also requires special skill set. Even when information has been gathered, its relevancy and authenticity cannot be judged immediately. This problem is further compounded by the low standard of living and low literacy of the underprivileged section of the society.

Last but not the least, research data on access habits of community members is severely lacking. Such data, if made available, can greatly enhance the effectiveness of ICTs in improving the lot of the underprivileged.

eNRICH was developed by NIC in response to the need expressed by UNESCO to address the above challenges in its cross-cutting theme project ictPR (ICT for Poverty Reduction).

eNRICH is a generic and yet easily customizable web based software solution that acts as a gateway to a community's own world of knowledge, communication and empowerment. It enables communities to quickly and efficiently build their own gateway website, enriched with their own local content and connected to knowledge sources and services that are tailored according to their own information and communication needs.

eNRICH addresses all of the above issues in the following ways:

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