SEED in Ecuador
SEED in Ecuador
December 2003 [Ecuador]
SEED program volunteers connect schools in Quito, Lago Agrio and El Coca to the Internet
The greatest achievement of the SEED team in Ecuador lies in having succeeded in connecting some of the most remote areas of the equatorial Amazon basin to the Internet. By providing Internet connectivity these schools are now able to offer their pupils access to information, knowledge and relationships that were previously beyond their reach.
Schlumberger has operated in Ecuador since 1934. The company employs more than 460 people there, principally in the cities of Quito, Lago Agrio and El Coca. Since 2002, Schlumberger volunteers on the SEED program have connected more than 4,000 children in Ecuador to the Internet, in a country where only 8.14% of the population has access to a telephone line and only 1.9 % to their own computer.
Setting up the project
The SEED project first came into being when Manuel Paz and Teresa Azpura, with Schlumberger Spouses Association (SSA), identified schools in three cities where Schlumberger is represented in Ecuador which would be suitable for inclusion in the project. The selection criteria were as follows: the number of pupils who would be able to benefit from the program, the socioeconomic group of the pupils, the level of interest and motivation shown by teaching staff, the public funding status of the school, the possibility of extending the school's connectivity out to other educational, health or municipal institutions and finally the quality of the school's infrastructure to ensure that it could accommodate a computer room.
After making numerous visits, the members of the SSA finally selected three schools, which met all the criteria. These schools were already offering teaching in IT and were equipped with computers, but had no access to the Internet. The schools selected were:
- Unidad Educativa Pacifico Cembranos in Lago Agrio in the Amazon basin, which received its grant in April 2002,
- Escuela Mixta Gral. Miguel Iturralde in El Coca which received its grant in September 2002
- Colegio Nacional Eloy Alfaro to the north of Quito which received its grant in January 2003.
In total, 4,275 schoolchildren aged from 5 to 18 years, mostly from underprivileged backgrounds, are enrolled at these 3 schools.
Once the schools were identified, the SEED teams, in conjunction with the heads of the school carried out a needs analysis, and assessed what would be the best connectivity solution for each of the schools. Then the grant allocated by the SEED program for a two-year period was released to enable the necessary hardware (servers, network cards, modems, etc…) to be purchased, to fit out a computer room (painting, electricity, cabling, air conditioning, installation of desk-top computers, etc…) and finally software installation and configuration of workstations.
The schools have been able to develop their IT courses and to use the Internet within the framework of their current teaching. Another source of satisfaction is that the schools have been opened up to their local communities, and the people living around the three schools have been able to take advantage of IT courses and access to the Internet.
On a day-to-day basis, members of SEED are increasing the number of local initiatives and are working constantly to improve conditions for the schoolchildren. They call on the goodwill of Schlumberger employees at all levels to give of their time or share their expertise but also on that of certain Schlumberger suppliers.
For example, the Schlumberger Finance department advised the schools on various aspects of tax reform, and on March, 15th 2003, over 25 Schlumberger employees, their spouses and 10 professional painters from the company RHR, who were in charge of refurbishing the Schlumberger offices in Quito, took part on a voluntary basis in a day organized by the SEED volunteers to repaint the Eloy Alfaro school in Quito. And last June, the members of SEED sponsored the opening of a kindergarten at the Miguel Iturralde School by donating toys and puzzles and organizing a day of celebrations with clowns, games and a huge tea. The team also raised awareness of the benefits of the Internet amongst parents, teachers and children at the schools.
A really close relationship has developed between the SEED volunteers and the children in the schools and, buoyed by its success, the team is planning to select a new school in Tena, in the Amazonian jungle. It is also busy preparing its projects for 2004, such as promoting and launching scientific projects for the Science Fair, installing an online continuous assessment program and putting the finishing touches to web sites for each school.