Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An Eye-catching Project

It’s clear that usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is needed for e-government services because of its inherent nature of non-paper base in addition to its other aspects. But it also requires a public community which is capable, ready and willing to use those services. For this purpose investments in technological infrastructure and human capital should go hand in hand. There is an actual example on this subject which deserves a closer look: Turkey’ FATIH Project.

Turkey started an ambitious initiative which aims to give every student a tablet and put smart whiteboards in every classroom. The project is called FATIH. This is not the first project of its kind of course. And recent history is full of fruitless efforts of trying to use technology as a way of transforming education. However, failure is not always a good reason to quit. If there is a real need it can be seen as elimination of wrong ways on the pathway to a solution.

Turkish education system is highly centralised and public with a very low private sector share. Turkey has a very young population and the number of youngsters at the school age in Turkey exceeds a lot of countries’ total population. That is why turning them into a information society is a vital task. Strategy for Information Society (2006-2010) (SIS) is the first political document mentioning ICT applications in education and announced in July 2006. This document suggests widespread usage of ICT be a principal means of sustainable economic growth and generating a human capital which will use this kind of tecnologies effectively in turn. SIS asserts that usage of ICT in schools be a important solution to the problem and make a longlife learning possible after the school.

SIS gives priority to enhance usage of ICT in order to gain economic and social benefit. It also notes that it is vital to reduce digital divide by developing infrastructure and access capibility of people from home and schools as well as business offices, using ICT more an more in daily life easily and making people digital users. Data comes from Turkey indicate that there is still room for ICT devices to spread and it’s expected that FATIH expands ICT presence at homes and school, enhancing access capility. So even students coming from low socio-economic families can easily access information through those tools. Actually FATIH may increase internet usage ratio and so the speed of access to information.

In the emergence and develoment phases of efficient e-government applications, a public community who demands and uses this kind of services seem to be essential as well as technological infrastructer. Otherwise lack of sufficient demand may lead the authorities to loss of enthusiasm and focus. Turning all students to children of this age and equip them with tools by which certain modern skills can be gained, might be the main reason for using tablets in classroom activities. This new environment will create a new generation who will be accustomed to do all their works in a digital environment and at the end create a demand for ICT related services in every area of life as well as efficient e-government services. As demand for digital services increased, there will also be more innovation efforts and innovative production. It is also hoped that increased access and usage of digital technologies will improve cultural development, social entegration and democratic participation.

Using technology to achieve these kind of goals is just a starting point for the story. Only when do all of an education system’s inputs, processes and outputs work good as a whole, technology can add value to the system. Trained teachers, adequte content both in quantity and quality, adoption of the consept by all stakeholders, conscious, safe and measurable usage of internet are the key elements which make it more than a formal ICT entry into classroom,. However, there are lots of unanswered questions about the project itself and the government provides very few document regarding aims, inputs and outpust of the Project.

On the other hand the project has its own deficiencies in its both early and later stages which contradict with expected developments such as democratic participation. The project started a fierce debate, leading accusations that it is a political investment which is tried to be answered by the government by making references to the “one tablet per child initiative in 2011”. The government didn’t seem to welcome proposals or critics about the need for the project itself, elements of it, development and implimentation stages, outcomes, budget, regardless coming from opposition, NGOs, experts, academic community or parents. They take these comments as hostile efforts which aim to batter them, leaving important parts of the society in a position that they could not contribute the project for which a huge amount of taxpayers’ money to be spent. Whereas desicion-makers should be open to constructive criticism, be transparent and accountable, removing it from being a political project and turning into a project for the benefit of citizens. It is the most useful to create such environments to discuss advantages and disadvantages without feeling an administrative pressure.

To sum up, it’s obvious that there is a long way for the FATIH project. But in the event that there will be a successful implementation, it might be possible for the society to adopt digital applications in every aspects of everyday life, to demand well designed e-government services and continuous development of them, to gain more capability to make civilian applications like fixmystreet. As a result of all, the process that FATIH triggered may be able to evolve into a e-democracy.

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