Mon, Aug 15, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Earthquake victims take advantage of computer training

921 RELIEF Several training centers set up in areas hit hard by the devastating 1999 quake are helping rural people gain new computer skills

CNA , TAIPEI

Eight "digital opportunity centers" established in four counties that were hardest hit by the Sept. 21, 1999 earthquake are contributing to narrowing the digital gap between recovering rural townships and urban areas, Vice Education Minister Fan Sun-lu (范巽綠) said yesterday.

Fan, who visited two of the eight digital centers recently on a fact-finding tour, said that some residents have turned from being "computer illiterates" into electronic literates who can even design their own Web pages.

After the devastating earthquake, which killed nearly 2,400 people and damaged numerous cities and townships in central Taiwan, the Ministry of Education, with financing from the Executive Yuan, established the digital centers in the rural townships in Miaoli, Taichung, Chiayi and Nantou counties.

Fan and Chen Chu (陳菊), chairwoman of the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), visited the Chingyun (青雲) community in Hsinyi (信義) rural township in Nantou County, and the Meilin (梅林) community in Kuohsing (國姓) rural township, also in Nantou County, to check out how the locals have been using the digital centers to learn how to use computers and related applications.

The centers began with training volunteers and "seed" computer teachers, who then taught the local residents -- mostly Bunun aboriginal people in the Chingyun community and Han farmers in the Meilin community -- computer and Internet skills, Fan said.

The residents learn basic computer skills, e-commerce and Web applications free of charge.

According to Chen, with the help of computers, farmers in the Meilin community are marketing the area's specialty -- lemon grass oil and related products -- to other cities and even abroad.

Noting that the digital divide is one of the factors affecting a nation's international competitiveness, Chen said the CLA provides information technology training to some 10,000 blue-color workers each year in an attempt to narrow the digital gap and raise Taiwan's overall competitiveness.

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