Bahai News - UN agency's partnership helps Baha'i in quest to bridge the digital divide
UN agency's partnership helps Baha'i in quest to bridge the
UNITED NATIONS, 15 November 2000 (BWNS) -- While heads of state were
meeting at the United Nations Millennium Summit, the UN Office for
Project Services (UNOPS) announced a partnership with an organization
founded by a young Baha'i to help people in developing countries make
greater use of the Internet.
At a New York press conference 7 September 2000, UNOPS announced the
launch of the Digital Service Corps, a private-sector partnership with
the nonprofit Global Technology Organization (GTO), whose founder and
president is Neysan Rassekh. Digital Service Corps will send volunteers
to developing countries and countries in transition, to conduct intensive
training programs in the use of the Internet as a community development
tool. Reinhart Helmke, executive director of UNOPS, introduced Mr. Rassekh
as a "young social entrepreneur of the dot-com generation" who is bridging
two "gaps" through the Digital Service Corps - the generation gap at the
United Nations and the digital divide in the developing world.
Now in his twenties, Mr. Rassekh was born in Portland, Oregon. His family
left the United States when he was four years old to settle in West Africa,
where they helped to strengthen the Baha'i communities in Senegal, the
Gambia and Mali. He later attended Maxwell Baha'i School in Canada. Mr.
Rassekh holds a bachelor's degree from the Wharton School of Business and
a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he focused on
the use of technology for development in Africa.
"My generation of Americans grew up taking computers for granted. By the
time we got to college, most of us were regularly doing research on the
Internet," Mr. Rassekh said. "To work in development at the grassroots,
my family lives in Mali, one of the poorest countries on the planet. I
have seen firsthand how extreme the digital divide really is. I know there
are thousands of people like me who would gladly give four to six weeks of
their time to personally contribute to closing that gap. That is why I am
sure that GTO's Digital Service Corps will be a success."
UNOPS reported that in May, GTO completed a successful pilot project in
Mali. A team of three professors and 30 students from the University of
Pennsylvania, armed with refurbished computer equipment and the
accessories needed to connect to the Internet, spent four weeks in Mali
and trained 120 carefully selected professors, primary- and secondary-school
teachers, students and teacher trainers. The team established four computer
centers, now operated by the Victory Foundation, a Mali-based organization
whose mission is to promote innovation in public education.
The day after the press conference, Mr. Rassekh introduced President Alpha
Oumar Konare of Mali at a roundtable discussion on public-private
partnerships convened by UNOPS and Global Leaders for Tomorrow of the
World Economic Forum. At a news conference after the roundtable, the
president thanked the Global Technology Organization for its efforts and
the impact it had in his country.
Moreover, contacts at the United Nations Millennium Assembly and the State
of the World Forum, which was also taking place in New York that week,
afforded Mr. Rassekh the opportunity to meet with several heads of state
and foreign ministers. Five of them invited Mr. Rassekh to look at
implementing GTO projects in their countries in the coming months.
©Copyright 2000, Baha'i World News Service
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