[Menu]  [dDH]

Archive file

E-mail Project West Slavonia

Pakrac October 22, 1996

Overview of Proposed E-mail Project

In conjunction with Pakrac Secondary School and skilled local individuals, International Volunteers Pakrac has provided modems and e-mail software for schools in the Western Slavonia region of Croatia, and has set up a Bulletin Board System (BBS) in Pakrac itself. The aim of the project is to facilitate training in all aspects of information technology and in particular the use of e-mail as a communication tool.

Most of the NGO's in former Yugoslavia have been connected to e-mail on the ZamirTansnationalNet (ZTN) in the last 4 years. ZTN is a part of APC (Association for Progressive Communication) and therefore, allows direct access to international conferences covering issues such as peace, environment, human rights and development. In that period of time e-mail became the main tool for internal communication and exchange between the NGOs themselves and the outside world. The use of email allows many NGOs to save on phone costs while other organisations like UN agencies also make use of it.


The International Volunteers have enjoyed a close and mutually rewarding relationship with the local secondary school since arriving in Pakrac. In conjunction with United Nations Office Vienna and the Open Society Institute Croatia, six computers were donated to the school and a network with e-mail was installed. In addition to facilitating computer studies, e-mail proved a highly useful tool in English language lessons. A message asking for contacts was posted on US bulletin boards and over 400 replies were received from students and teachers. Although many students remain in contact, the school was so inundated with interest that the pilot scheme had to be curtailed because of escalating telephone costs. Local teachers have asked us to help restart the scheme and widen it to include an additional ten schools in the surrounding area. The e-mail project was partially refinanced and the International Volunteers installed a BBS system in the secondary school to meet the financial needs as experienced from the past. All installations of the BBS system were completed at the end of January 1996. We are now teaching e-mail to 60 students and 10 teachers at the school. The interest is growing quickly and more teachers and students are showing an interest in participating. We connected one refugee camp (Mala Gorica) to email and taught 25 Bosnian refugees how to use of e-mail. In addition we trained two refugees to be system operators. The refugees continually able to receive support from our project.

Recently teachers from schools (Osijek, Pozega) in Slavonia showed interest in email connectivity on an IEARN training which was sponsored by the Open Society Institute Croatia. Additionally teachers from the region of West-Slavonia (Primary School of Prekopakra, Technical, Economics and Grammar School Daruvar) have shown interest in connecting their students to Zamir-PK as a provider of IEARN conferences. As Email Project West-Slavonia we want to give students in the area the possibility to join IEARN and environmental projects. We support schools and refugee camps in their fundraising efforts and receive material donations. Through this we encourage them to be self-supportive.

We also give access to e-mail provider (Zamir-PK), as well as training and support to NGO's (Human Rights, women, peace groups etc) in the area of West Slavonia. They have expressed a great deal of interest in email. Therefore we are planning to organise workshops in teaching ways to use email in daily NGO work such as data exchange, coordinating activities and contacting other NGO's around the world.

Why an E-mail Project?

To improve skills & education, e-mail makes learning about computers enjoyable; it helps young people develop vital skills in information technology that give them some hope of future employment.

E-mail has already proved itself as a valuable tool in improving language skills, and as an information resource, it can be used for teaching a variety of subjects. Local teachers are particularly interested in linking up with schools in and outside Croatia.

To widen knowledge of peace, human rights and environmental movements in post Yugoslavian countries and worldwide, free "conferences" on these issues are available to all users. In addition users are required to subscribe to a "netiquette" that forbids discriminatory statements regarding race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality.

The e-mail project will be used to establish contact with the former `Serbian Krajina', where a large number of refugees from the former Sector West have returned to in the last few months. Despite political and technical difficulties, the vision of the project is to work in all areas, making contacts between those who are divided. CCIVS (a project of UNESCO) asked us to support establishing an email system for the schools, refugee camps and NGO's in East Slavonia. In the near future we would like to support them with our experience and technical assistance. Acting as troubleshooters we intend to travel within the region, providing support, training and offering assistance for participating schools and organisations.

In order to establish contact with others in post Yugoslavia countries, e-mail, via the ZTN system provides the least expensive and most simple form of communication with Serbia, BiH, Slovenia and Macedonia. In addition, e-mail provides links between the peace movements in those republics that have already been established. Zamir Transnational Network has BBS systems in Beograd, Pristina, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zagreb and now in Pakrac. Widening such dialogue to include school children and young people is now possible, and we view it as essential in helping to promote understanding, tolerance, and ultimately a just peace.

e-mail class Once the schools have an understanding of the e-mail system and networking possibilities, we want to encourage that youth from these established systems will use their skills in teaching youth who are in refugee camps. To establish an on going youth teaching youth system, it is important to provide the funding for the youth involved, as paying for using such a system is not a possibility for the youth in war effected areas. The plan is that the youth using the system will pay for the use of the system by assuming the responsibility of teaching, thus paying back in skills rather than monetarily.

E-mail can serve to further communication with a wider world. Since the war, young people in the area have little faith in the future; many are determined to escape to Zagreb, to Germany, to the USA, but have few possibilities to do so. International volunteers have brought a little of their world to them, new perspectives and different options; e-mail would extend this communication. Classroom to classroom link-ups have already happened (see above), providing education and enjoyment not just to young people here, but to others in the US and elsewhere who have little direct knowledge of the situation in post war Yugoslavia.

Meeting the Needs

The skills and experience to set up this project already exist in Pakrac. A long term volunteer with experience of setting up the Zagreb e-mail BBS is working along side others trained in working with young people. Volunteer Project Pakrac has already engaged two local teenagers and one teacher who are currently being trained and taught the necessary skills to teach and facilitate email as well as learning system operation. We are using as our model the IEARN `Student driven email system' which was developed at an Israeli school. This encourages full student participation in all facets of the program, from day to day system operation to training and lessons with a large amount of responsibility given to students.

Ideally, the Project would like to streamline the existing BBS system in the Pakrac Secondary School to facilitate the installation of BBS-linked networks in other area schools. Establishing similar networks in other local schools will keep communication lines among students and teachers in Western Slavonia open and cost effective. The astronomical costs of long-distance telephone service could be eliminated. The BBS in the Pakrac school serves as a crucial central point from which the surrounding educational instititions benefit.

We are looking for funding for a coordinator, a trainer and an installater. These positions already include internationals and locals.

Until now, Zamir-PK, a part of the E-mail Project West Slavonia has been funded by the Open Society Institute Croatia, UNDP/UNOV, and the Heinrich-Boell Stiftung. Materials such as modems, netcards, computers and software have also been provided by former volunteers of the Volunteers Project Pakrac. However, the support has begun to run thin, and the e-mail project is in need of further funding. The recent expansion in interest in the form of several schools neccessitates the presence of a more secure financial foundation.

Proposed Evaluation & Follow-up

The Project will be evaluated every three months, and reports produced for funders. Criteria for the evaluation will include:

Future Aim

Through the Email Project West-Slavonia we hope to create employment opportunities in Pakrac. Already there is a proposal to bring together an independent team to build computers in the region, write software, and further decentralise e-mail in Croatia by establishing BBSs elsewhere. The aim of such an endeavor would be to give possibilities for teaching skills in areas of hardware and software to youth and other local people. This is a way to meet the increasing demand need for having software in the local language, and diversifying the existing software produced by major companies to meet needs locally. Through maintenance training for existing computer systems in both hardware and software areas, it will be more realistic to expect that the systems will be sustainable by the communities for the communities.

Radio is another area that we plan to develop for the e-mail possibilities in the area. There is already a group of local people who have formed a radio club that has existed in this area for forty years. There is a big need to use radio systems in order to use e-mail in many areas here and in the former Yugoslavia due to no phone lines. Using a radio system in conjunction with e-mail has the benefit of creating communication possibilities where there otherwise are none, such as in refugee camps. Additional use of radio systems is much more economical. By establishing the radio / e-mail connection we would be able to support the local radio clubs already existing skills with radio and creating new communication possibilities.

"Cybernetic Cafe" is already an established idea we have seen in England. As defined by the model in England, the idea is to create a space where people can meet, exchange information, drink coffee, and use computers as well as e-mail. We believe the implementation of such an idea here in this area would create an environment for an information exchange that is relaxed and open, and serve to teach skills that would demystify the idea of machine in a non-threatening manner. People would be welcome to come to gather here regardless of their skills or lack of skills, to explore media and skills in computer use or simply find out from others what information is available to them that otherwise would not be available.

For Email Project West Slavonia:

Rafal Bociek and Burkhard Pranke

[Menu] [dDH]