10 years of digital inclusion at the IT Cup centre in Miarinarivo

Publication date: Sep 08, 2022

After landing at Ivato airport, the airport of the capital of Madagascar Antananarivo, there are still a few hours of taxi brousse to the west to arrive to Miarinarivo. There, on the main square (or Place Be), you take the stairs on the left side of the Town Hall to go up to the first floor. In front of the communal offices equipped with typewriters, a young Madagascan engineer welcomes us in a cramped room, where we discover 6 computers connected to the internet. It is the end of 2011, and the citizens of Miarinarivo can finally access the internet thanks to the joint efforts of Télécoms Sans Frontières and the IT Cup.

The IT Cup Centre in Miarinarivo would be inaugurated in February 2012. This program in the Itasy Region is in line with the governmental programs initiated by the Ministry of Telecommunications, Posts and New Technologies.

"We are very proud to see the IT CUP Centre celebrate its 10th anniversary. This proves that this project, born from a collaboration with Télécoms Sans Frontières, was not only innovative but could also be sustainable by responding to a real need of young Madagascans with regard to new technologies", analyses Karim Mokhnachi, president of the IT Cup. "The Internet is everywhere on the globe, it is now part of the education of anyone wishing to inform themselves, learn or be entertained, and this from their youth. We are happy to have modestly contributed to the digital development of the Itasy region, hoping that the IT CUP centre will continue to grow over the next 10 years, to support the local population and their children.”

Thus, for 10 years, the centre and its team have been creating social links around digital technologies applied to local issues. The first activities set up have been of course linked to computer science training: the local team trained by TSF would welcome users and assist them in their daily tasks. A few months later, the need to train young people in the use of digital tools led to the start of a partnership with the general secondary school of Miarinarivo.

Other partnerships would follow, notably with the Alabri Centre, which welcomes many children from the city in boarding and day schools, and offers them many activities.

"Originally, the IT Cup centre in Miarinarivo responded to the very low level of digital access in this region. Today, if this access is progressing more and more, a digital divide persists, as shown by the many requests we receive, in terms of equipment or connectivity. But we are also, and mainly, involved in training and raising awareness of a responsible use of digital technologies, which is often very poorly understood! This leads to reluctance and mistrust. Initiatives such as the Safer Internet Day, organised regularly with our partner Alabri, give young people access to more complete and concrete information on the Internet and digital technologies, showing them the risks but also its possibilities from a sustainable development perspective," explains Monique Lanne-Petit, Director of TSF.

For 10 years, the IT Cup Centre has grown and become a central player in the digital scene in Miarinarivo. Many young people come every week not only for the trainings, but also for the different activities, among which the after-school support, the technical club, digital cartography, which are supported by partnerships with local but also national organisations, notably OpenStreetMap Madagascar and EducMad.

A significant fact that confirms that the IT Cup Centre is rooted in the values of TSF: young Madagascan volunteers regularly come to strengthen the team of the centre, often to acquire a first experience in animation while practicing and improving their digital skills. It is a valuable resource for the IT Cup Centre as well as for these young motivated Madagascans, who are committed to raising awareness among their peers about a responsible use of digital technologies.

Indeed, this is the objective of the IT Cup centre: to encourage social links through digital technologies, always with a link to local issues. If the challenges are numerous, the opportunities are no less, as Irinah Arson, in charge of the IT Cup Centre since 2015, explains: "Thanks to the daily contact with young people, we see what their digital practices are, which shows us their knowledge and gaps. The need for digital awareness is very present among the young people of Miarinarivo, but we also know more and more players in the field of education, awareness, and even training or recycling that give us real perspectives in our activity, and also for the young beneficiaries of the centre!"

The Madagascan population faces several challenges: widespread poverty, increasingly frequent extreme weather events (drought, cyclones), and limited political perspectives. In this context, the IT Cup centre will continue to take part in encouraging local initiatives as well as in the training and awareness-raising of young people through a responsible and targeted use of digital tools.

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