WOS 3 / Sprecher / F - K / Joris Komen

Joris Komen

Born in Kisangani, (Democratic Republic of) Congo, raised and variously educated in Burundi, Holland, Nigeria and South Africa, Joris Komen was the curator of birds at the National Museum of Namibia from 1983-2000, and spent many years working on the endemic avifauna of southern Africa, undertaking a variety of bio-energetics, behaviour, bio-acoustics and taxonomic research. Much of this work has been published in local and international journals.

The Internet and computerisation of museum collection inventories irrevocably lured him from esoteric flights of fancy into information technologies, and he has spent considerable time and energy promoting the relevance of ICTs to African museums and, importantly, to schools in Namibia and further afield.

He established an Internet presence for the National Museum of Namibia, one of the very first African museum web sites, and one of very few museums in Africa with web-based online inventory databases. He coordinated the African Museum Internet (AMI) Project, which facilitated Internet access at museums in Africa. There are presently some 23 African Museums connected as a result of the AMI Project. Joris championed the use of incentive-reward mechanisms to provide ICTs to schools in Namibia by way of a biodiversity-oriented school
competition called Insect@thon. He was a founding member of Namibia's Internet Development Foundation (NAMIDEF), and has played a critical role in launching and driving SchoolNet Namibia, a welfare organisation and educational trust which is committed to providing sustainable internet access to all schools in Namibia. He is presently the executive director of SchoolNet Namibia.

SchoolNet Namibia was awarded the 2002 APC Africa Hafkin Communications Prize for people-centred information and communications technology (ICT) policy at a ceremony in Addis Ababa. "ICT policy decisions impact any citizen who wants to take advantage of the opportunities that can come with new technologies," Nancy Hafkin pointed out in her congratulatory message. "Will the national policy favour technology that is state-of-the art but not affordable to the rural areas? Will government provide service subsidies to the poorest or to the disabled? Will government encourage the development of software that the illiterate can use? All of these are the very real and non-technical questions that are determined by national ICT policy choices. SchoolNet Namibia has been a leader in demystifying ICT policy and bringing its realities to people in Africa."

SchoolNet Namibia's objective is to provide appropriate computer technology and Internet access to ALL schools in Namibia. Primarily a hands-on training and support organization, their successful introduction of computers and internet into over 200 schools since 2000 led SchoolNet to become actively involved in policy-making at the national level in Namibia. SchoolNet Namibia is an exemplary role model for the sustainable introduction of ICT across the
education sector. The SchoolNet model which includes the adoption of appropriate school computer technology, the use of open source and free software solutions, free Internet Service provision in partnership with local government-owned telecommunication agencies, and solar-powered school computer laboratories can be replicated by education systems across Africa. The Namibian government has recognised SchoolNet Namibia in its National Development Plan for 2000-2005 as a key actor in the roll-out of ICT in education and job creation.

Joris Komen, SchoolNet Namibia www.schoolnet.na joris(at)schoolnet.na

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