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China to have world's first tuition-free online university

May 19, Beijing

With over 20 students registering in the first 48 hours, the world's first tuition-free, non-profit online university, University of the People(UoPeople) began enrollment this month, with a major boost from Chinese students

In fact, during the last two days, 27 students from across China registered with UoPeople, which provides higher education to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. The students come from 20 different Chinese cities and towns, from Handan in north China to Shanghai in the east to Harbin in the northeast part of the country.

Currently, about 200 students from over 51 countries are enrolled in the only two undergraduate programs the university offers -- Computer Science and Business Administration. Reshef, who is an Israeli entrepreneur, said he hopes to expand the programme to include 15,000 students in four years.

UoPeople, which has the backing of the United Nations' Global Alliance for Information and Communications Technology (GAID), incorporates a pedagogical model which draws on e-learning, social networking coupled with open-source technology.

As developing countries continue to invest heavily in improving broadband infrastructure, online universities have a unique opportunity to reach populations who typically would not have access to higher education.

UoPeople is perhaps one of the leading innovations in ICT and education development. Reshef said he came up with the idea when he started working as chairman for, a free online study community, where students help each other with their homework.

At a time when more people have access to information via the Internet but the cost of higher learning continues to skyrocket, Reshef said a low-cost online university made the most sense. To gain eligibility, students must have a high school diploma and demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing English apart from having a computer and Internet connection. Reshef admitted that the university was unable to cater to many rural populations without access to the Internet but added that the courses did not include audio or video to ensure that even the slowest broadband connection would work.

Reshef said he hoped to raise 6 million U.S. dollars for the Pasadena, California-based institution. While he is speaking with potential donors, he is currently the only private donor with an investment of 1 million dollars. While UoPeople might be "tuition-free," students do need to pay a nominal application fee, which runs between 15 dollars to 50 dollars, and examination fees, which run between 10 dollars to 100 dollars per exam. Students must take around 40 exams during the course of their degree. The sliding scale, which is based on the World Bank's Standard of Living, is not the most ideal system, Reshef admitted, but it keeps administration costs manageable.

12 Minstries and Departments of Bangladesh provide eServices

May 26 Dhaka:

In a review meeting on 'E-governance Quick Win', held at the Prime Minister's Office on 25th May, government officials informed that at least 12 ministries and departments of Bangladesh are currently providing eService to the people.

The services provided by the department range from information about income which the rural people and people in the remote areas get through Union Information Center (UIC), and Agriculture Information and Communication Center (AICC) to PDP and Titas Gas bill payment through electronic system, land phone bill payment and information on polling centers, the meeting informed.

Other successful e-Governance initiatives include utility bill payment through electronic systems, PDB and Titas Gas, landline phone bill payment through SMS, railway passenger information through SMS, polling station information, daily market price, computerized billing system of Dhaka WASA and other government forms

In May and June 2008, secretaries of various ministries and divisions identified 53 innovative citizens’ services - at least one from each ministry/division – which might be delivered using Information and Communication Technologies. Not even one year on, review meeting on Monday, has found that many of the initiatives are now in their final stage
The meting was organised by UNDP-funded Access to Information Programme 50 officials of different ministries and departments took part in the meeting with Secretary to the Prime Minister's Office Mollah Wahiduzzaman in the chair.

Bahrain International e-Government Forum 2009 Opens

26 May, Manama

Under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Information and Communication Technology (SCICT), the Bahrain International e-Government Forum 2009 started on 25 May between 1830 and 2015 at the Isa Cultural Center. The inaugural session will be attended by a large number of eGovernment and IT officials, experts, and decision-makers from Bahrain and abroad.

Winners of the eGovernment Excellence Awards and the Arab e-Content Awards were announced at this inaugural session, and His Excellency, the Deputy Prime Minister presented the awards to them.

The session included several other activities and presentations. At the start of the event, H.E. Shaikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa; Forum Chairman A. Majeed Al Gassab; and director of the division for public administration and development management at UNDESA Haiyan Qian, delivered brief speeches on the Forum's objectives and the role it plays in realizing the objectives of Bahrain’s eGovernment. They reviewed Bahrain's experience in this field and discussed the pivotal role that the ICT sector plays in achieving prosperity for countries and raising the standards of living for their peoples. eGovernment Authority Chief Executive Officer Mohammed Al Qaed will deliver a presentation on the eGovernment Program, its achievements and future plans.

In the second part of the session, a short film about the eGovernment program was shown and Peter Bruck, World Summit Award Chairman, delivered a speech on Bahrain's experience in organizing eContent and ICT awards and the international standards followed.

At the conclusion of the session, the patron of the forum honoured the winners of the Arab eContent Awards and the eGovernment Excellence Awards. He also presented Appreciation Awards to all speakers, official sponsors, and organizers of the Forum.

The Forum was organized by the e-Government Authority in cooperation with the Bahrain Society of Engineers, the Bahrain Information Technology Society, and the Bahrain Internet Society.

The Forum was attended by senior eGovernment Authority representatives, an elite group of international eGovernment strategists and decision-makers, UN experts, ICT leaders from the public and private sectors, technology associations, representatives of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce, academics, and specialists.

Government to come up with a Five Year Plan Plan for Digital Bangladesh

26 May, Dhaka

The government of Bangladesh is in the process of devising a five-year work plan for development of the country's information communication technology (ICT) sector to help achieve its goal of 'Digital Bangladesh'. This was informed to the media by Finance Minister AMA Muhith.

"We will give a work programme for the next five years, where the objectives of achieving our Digital Bangladesh will be stated," Mr Muhith told newsmen Monday after a meeting with a delegation of local computer and software operators at his ministry.

Implementation of e-governance, development of manpower, and development and protection of local software industry will be top on the proposed five-year work plans, the minister added.

He, however, observed that for the successful implementation of e-governance, the entire government functionary would have to be integrated with the computer networking.

To help achieve such objective, the government will take necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted budgetary allocations for development of the country's ICT sector.

About the proposals made by the local ICT leaders, the finance minister said all the existing taxes, which are now in force at some limited stages, will go from the next budget.

India: 50 government websites to be made disabled friendly

New Delhi, May 28

Disabled rights groups have approached the IT ministry with a list of 50 government websites like that of the Indian Railways, Central Information Commission and Income Tax Department which they want to be made disabled friendly.

"We have identified 50 organisations and departments in the government. We have sent a proposal to the IT ministry to make sites of these WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) 2.0 compliant, thereby making them disabled friendly. The ministry has shown a very positive outlook on this," Javed Abidi, convener of the Disabled Rights Group, told a news service.

According to Abidi, such a move would simplify the Internet interface for people with disability by making the websites compatible with the special software they use to access websites.

"With an aim to enable disabled people to be a part of e-governance, we came to a consensus on the list after discussions with various disability groups across the country. Simple things like booking a rail ticket will be possible for people with visual impairment once the site carries out technical changes," he said.

Abidi, who is also director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) - an umbrella organisation of various NGOs and civil society organisations working on disability issues - said that 99.99 percent of the estimated 5,000 websites and web portals hosted by the government of India listed by the National Information Centre (NIC) can't be accessed by people with disability.

At the e-governance conference in Goa Feb 12, it was announced that all government websites would be made WCAG 2.0 compliant.

These government websites would now enable web access to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities and photosensitivity.

The challenge, Abidi said, was to make existing sites WCAG 2.0 compliant and sensitise concerned government departments.

"While the IT ministry initiated immediate action and made India's largest sites - and - accessible to the disabled, the social justice and empowerment ministry continues to drag its feet. It is ironic that it is this ministry that is supposedly nodal for various issues concerning disabled people," he said.

Abidi added the website of the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH) was not accessible to visually impaired people.

"Similarly, the CCPD (Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities) website is still not accessible to people with disabilities. And they are supposedly the watchdogs for any Disability Act violations that may occur," he said.

Every 30th Indian has a computer

27 May Bangalore

As per a recent report “ IDC's Asia/Pacific quarterly PC tracker” in spite of the annual dip in growth rate of personal computers (PCs) in India, the country now boasts of one PC for every 30 of its citizens. PC shipment in India has surpassed 36 million units mark, representing a significant improvement over March 2007 when the country had boasted of one computer for every 50 Indians.

Indian PC market has grown by seven percent in first quarter of 2009 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2008, according to IDC's Asia/Pacific quarterly PC tracker. "Though the Year-on-Year growth rate of India Client PC shipments dropped by 19 percent (First quarter 2009 versus first quarter 2008), this is an improvement over the previous quarter, indicating that the market has perhaps already bottomed out," said Sumanta Mukherjee, Lead Analyst, Computing Products Research, IDC India.

A total of 1.67 million units of Client PCs were shipped during the first quarter of this year. Overall PC shipments to the commercial segment were maintained by demand from the Government, Education and Banking (nationalized banks) segments. The Government sector expects some more spending to happen after the formation of a new government. "With a number of significant government-funded education and e-Governance projects lined up in the coming quarters, a lot will hinge on how quickly the new government settles down to business," says Mukherjee.

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