By Barry Ballow Director, Office of Academic Exchange Programs
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs U.S. Department of State
The Internet Access and Training Program in Armenia
G. Vahanyan, IATP/IREX Armenia Country Coordinator (IATP 2 and 3, 1999-2003), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Internet Access and Training Program in Armenia began its activity since 1997. IATP Armenia is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department and is administrated by American non profit Corporation of International Research and Exchange Board (IREX, www.irex.org). The main goals of IATP are: to provide free Internet access, to improve Internet resources in Armenian, to organize free training, to support the people to create an Internet network society, to provide the continuousness of the US educational programs alumni’s (hereafter - alumni) relations with their American and European partners. The program started with the establishment of 5 centers in: Armenian National Library, Architectural Institute, Gyumri College and Public Library of Lori region. In the frames of the program in 1997 was created the first in Armenia free e-mail service – “Hragir”, which had about 5000 users.
In 1998 one of these 5 centers turned into an open Web workshop first in the Caucasus. The purpose of which was to give opportunity to the members of public organizations, scientists, specialists and students to create and to locate on IATP server their own sites. The existence of the workshop stimulated the creation of Internet pages in Armenia.
Today the program opportunities are incomparably enlarged. In Yerevan and 5 other regions of Armenia there are 11 free Internet access centers: 3 - in Yerevan, 2 - in Vanadzor, in Gyumri, Tsakhkadzor, Yeghegnadzor, Kapan, Spitak, which are the part of public educational network in Armenia. In 2003 two more centers were forethought to be opened - in Sevan and Sisian.
The sites are equipped with 7-10 PCs, which are joined to the server, additional equipment (such as Web camera, Internet via Direct PC-system, digital camera, scanner and modem). This allows establishing public Internet for the first time in Caucasus, consisted of satellite antennas and optical lines, through which the head-office, three sites in Yerevan and all the regional sites (Shirak, Lori, Syunik, Kotayk, Vayots Dzor) are joined to each other. Ought to the above mention the velocity of the Internet connection will be increased for four times, which in its turn will allow the implementation of distance learning. The Internet has an opportunity to transfer TV programs and educational programs as well.
So, by IATP’s initiative and support, 14 state and 6 private universities and colleges, dozen of libraries, public organizations, schools, and other educational and cultural organizations are joined to the educational network of Armenia. The total number of PC’s joined to Internet is 220. The IATP sites provide the following services:
and holding of training, connected to Internet and informative technologies;
· Provision, addition and creation of online resources, including the US Educational Programs Alumni database (http://iatp.irex.am/alumnidb), where one can find information about more than 1000 specialists and scientists;
· Provision of news and online bulletins;
· Organizing of seminars, conferences and workshops;
· Realizing of small grants program, creation and implementation of educational resources;
· Provision of online forum (http://iatp.irex.am/alumniforum);
· Organizing of distance learning;
· Preparation and location of Web sites in Internet.
The number of the users of the program services was increased from 154 (in 1997) to 2242 (in 2003), the number of training courses - from 14 (in 1997) to 48 (in 2003). In general more than 460 Web sites were created during this period. Today IATP is the unique program, in the frames of which there are held free training courses and is given free Internet access. In Armenia more than 15700 persons - 0,4% of the population (students, scientists, teachers, journalists, lawyers, librarians) have free access to Internet. In the period of 1997 - 2003 there were held more than 800 lectures, 167 seminars and conferences devoted to the development and implementation of technologies, to the implementation of Internet, thanks to which more than 9700 people - 0,25% of the population - got Internet and E-mail skills.
In comparison with other programs IATP has a wide-spread regional network, where many specialists of the republic are involved.
The relative percentage of trained by IATP users to the population in:
The users’ monthly free used volume of traffic surpasses the summarized volume of traffic of all the universities and colleges of Armenia. The IATP staff includes 25 high qualified and experienced specialists, 3 PhD, 3 aspirants, 4 US Program Alumni.
In 2002 the members of IATP staff got 21 certificates (Microsoft, Cisco, Moscow High Technical University after Bauman, etc.). The representatives of the program participated in International and Armenian conferences and represented the activity of the program.
One of the important topics is the organizing of distance learning. The created educational resources are used in Yerevan State University, Slovenian University, Yerevan Academy of Fine Arts, Yerevan State Architectural University, Goris and Gyumri colleges, schools and other educational programs.
More than 460 Web sites are in Armenian and are dedicated to education, science, Armenian language, history, culture and art, sport, tourism, economy, 1700 anniversary of Christianity in Armenia, problems of Karabakh and Armenian genocide, law and human rights. In order to promote the Armenian language resources and to advertise Armenia through Internet, IATP started its Small Grants Program. The number of finalists of this program is 82, and among them - 26 NGOs, 4 representatives of mass media, 2 schools, 20 scientists, (http://iatp.irex.am/activities/finalists.html). The sites prepared by the finalists are dedicated to education (40%), culture, history and art (27%), tourism (17%), science (16%). Lets mention also that owing to Small Grants Program there were opened 350 job opportunities (for 3-6 months). 25% of IATP sites have hyperlinks on US Multilanguage portal (http://topsites.us). About 3000 users from US, Russia, Great Britain, etc. visit IATP sites.
By the request of Harvard University Central Eurasia Studies Society http://cess.irex.am and “Central Asian Studies World Wide” Resources for the Study of Central Asia Summary Highlights http://casww.irex.am sites were hosted on IATP program’s server. The program cooperates with the Ministry of Education and Science of RA. In 2002 for the first time in Caucasus region by the support of IATP the broadcasting of entrance exams on History was organized. It is planned also to work out, spread and promote educational e-programs (not only in Armenia but abroad as well). In 2001 by the support of IATP “Computer Graphics” department was established in Yerevan Academy of Fine Arts. It is unique in the Caucasus region. The educational programs and the standards of this profession were represented to the Ministry of Education and Science and were confirmed by it. There is forethought to open such departments in Yeghegnadzor, Gyumri and Vanadzor.
The Web sites of 15 state universities and their 10 branches were created in IATP Web workshop. Most of the regional sites (90%) were created by the support of IATP. IATP also supported the establishment of Gyumri Educational Complex and regional center of CISCO Academy. IATP partners are Pedagogical Association, Association of Educational Armenian Network, Open Society Institute, Eurasia Foundation, Word Learning and others.
The program cooperates also with Moscow State Technical University after Bauman in distance learning and knowledge testing, with St. Petersburg “Hipper Method” company in Armenia in distance learning. The worked out resources and programs can serve for the establishment of Armenia - Diaspora Virtual University. In order to confirm the success of the IATP lets judge by the following numbers: 48% of the users and 65% of the Web resources in Trans Caucasus provides Armenia, 41% and 17,6% - Azerbaijan, 11% and 17,4% - Georgia.
IATP got thanksgiving letters from universities, embassies, ministries, and students. IATP sites were visited by: The President of the Republic of Armenia Robert Kocharian (26.10.2001) - Center IATP/UNDP in Municipality of Vanadzor;
The Ambassador of US in Armenia (18.03.2002) - Center IATP/UNDP in Vanadzor, IATP center in Goris (12.06.2002), IATP center in National library (28.03.03). The Ambassadors of Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Belarus, India, Hungary - Yerevan, Gyumri, Goris, Yeghegnadzor IATP centers.