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Students & graduates help develop nations use technology to provide services & meet education needs

Carnegie Mellon Universtity : 11 August, 2006  (Technical Article)
Eleven students and recent graduates of Carnegie Mellon University are spending 10 weeks in the Cook Islands, Palau, Micronesia and Sri Lanka to help government and nonprofit agencies develop computer systems that will allow them to better serve their citizens and maintain vital information. Students will leave for their host countries after spending several days at an orientation session in Hawaii.
The trip is part of a program called Technology Consulting in the Global Community and is based on an undergraduate course in which students work with local nonprofit organizations to implement technology and information systems that meet the organizations' goals. The course is part of the university's TechBridgeWorld initiative, which aims to help developing nations design and implement technology that can enhance suitable and sustainable development. The students represent the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, the School of Computer Science and the Information Systems Program in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

'My motive is to provide a new educational opportunity in which talented students can get a sense that technology exists to solve people's problems, and it also provides a valuable resource, in this case, for small developing countries,' said Joe Mertz, an associate teaching professor in the Heinz School and the School of Computer Science. Mertz teaches the technology consulting course.

Four students will work in the Cook Islands, four in Micronesia, two in Palau and one in Sri Lanka. In the Cook Islands, students will help the government digitize its laws, develop systems to manage welfare and border control information, and develop electronic government policies. The Micronesia group will train the medical and technical staffs in four state hospitals to use and maintain computer clusters that were installed recently by the World Health Organization. The two students going to Palau will work with the Ministry of Education to develop a student information system and train staff to use Linux computer clusters in local schools. In Sri Lanka, a student will help a nongovernmental organization use the Web to disseminate information about its programs and fundraising.

'Many universities offer the chance to go abroad but only a university like Carnegie Mellon offers the chance to go to another country and actually work while both learning and teaching those around you,' said Justin Cinicolo, a graduate with a double major in human-computer interaction and information systems. Cinicolo will be working in the Cook Islands.

Emily Eelman, who graduated this spring with a master's degree in public policy and management, will be working in Sri Lanka with The Ys Menette's Club Dehiwala, an organization that works with unwed mothers.

'Last summer, I worked at the United Nations Secretariat in the Division for Sustainable Development. One of the things I learned was how important technology is for civil society organizations around the world,' Eelman said.
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