Helping the marginalised plug into IT

A group of Italian IT managers has been developing projects around the world to overcome the "digital divide".

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The initiative started in 2006 with Informatici Senza Frontiere (ISF, or IT Without Borders), a non-profit organisation whose primary objective was to use information technology knowledge and tools "to provide practical help to those who live in a situation of poverty and marginalisation", in the words of its president, Mr Dino Maurizio.

The association, which now has 300 members, works on several fronts: projects in developing countries, initiatives in prisons throughout Italy and laboratories in the crime-ridden Neapolitan neighbourhood of Scampia.

ISF's crown jewel is a project implemented in the village of Bemaneviky in Madagascar, where electricity is spotty and Internet connectivity is a pipe dream.

Thanks to ISF, a computer classroom has been born: 15 laptops, a projector, a multi-function printer and an Italian teacher, Mr Nico Tordini, who spent nine days training his staff.

To raise funds, the group allied itself with Monclick, an e-commerce company specialising in the sale of computer products and electronics. Together with the non-profit organisation Futuro Down of Benevento, ISF volunteers teach children with disabilities how to use computers, from e-mail to applications.

In another project, Bambini al PC (Children on PCs), young hospital patients in long-stay wards are able to continue to communicate with family and friends, as well as play games and keep up with lessons at school.

GIUSEPPE BOTTERO/ LA STAMPA (ITALY)