The Ségou Villages Connection project in Mali is taking an interesting turn, in partnership with a UNESCO heritage preservation program [fr]. Boukary Konaté, a 2011 Rising Voices grantee, is currently cruising up the Niger river aboard a traditional Malian barge, docking every day in a new village to train school children and villagers to use the Internet.The Loire-Niger Rivers programme [fr] supported by UNESCO-France and the Pays de Loire Regional Council, documents and preserves the Niger river cultural heritage, involving local fishermen and villagers. A 2-week tour of the villages, aboard a traditional Malian barge has been organised to show a traveling photo exhibition. The Ségou Villages Connection was invited to join the team to expand this outreach initiative by training school children to the Internet along the way. Boukary Konaté is currently aboard the ship cruising upstream and is posting photos and dispatches about this experience.
In Sekoro, a fishermen village, capital of the former Bamana kingdom, no one had ever heard of the Internet or seen a computer. Besides, there is no electricity. Boukary Konaté taught the children how to search the Web on his solar-energy powered laptop and smartphone. “They were baffled by the fact that you can access knowledge without traveling: it travels to your place, via the Internet” he says. One little girl (pictured below) did not hesitate for a second when asked what she wanted information about: “C.A.N.” (The Africa soccer cup 2012).
Further up the Niger, in the regional capital Segou, Boukary Konaté gave a presentation on the knowledge and collaboration opportunities given by the Internet in the Bandjougou Bouaré high school, in front of more than a hundred students. Students were then asked to search Google themselves, on a personal topic of interest. Here are a few queries, saved by Boukary: “How to find the square root of prime numbers”, ‘The life and deeds of Keita, king of the Mandingo empire“, “Books written by Malian writer Issa Baba Traoré“; “Biography of Shaka Zulu, bravest warrior of South Africa.” “(Pop star) Rihanna“. And one of the teachers searched for TV series “Prison Break“.
Drawing from past training sessions in the Ségou district organised by Ségou Villages Connection, Boukary travels equipped with a mobile internet USB drive to access the Web, and a portable solar-cell to charge his laptop and smartphone. He finds this a lightweight and quite satisfactory solution to connect in remote places, and even blogs on the river Niger! You can follow Boukary Konaté's daily updates and pictures on Facebook.