DIGITAL INCLUSION : HOW ARE POOR COMMUNITIES USING TECHNOLOGY IN THEIR FAVOR? PART 1

Are mobile devices and high-speed Internet networks already a reality in the lives of the underprivileged? How are these new information and communication technologies used to improve the quality of life of the population? The TecMundowas the field to investigate these issues and know a little more about the digital inclusion in Brazil.

It was in 2011 that the United Nations (UN) publicly stated that access to the internet should be seen as a human right . According to her, the global computer network “enables individuals to seek, find and share information of all kinds, instantly and cheaply,” and “to advance the economic, social and political development of nations, contributing to the Progress of humanity as a whole “.

Hoje em dia, todo mundo sabe que a web é uma poderosa ferramenta para exercer a democracia e garantir seus direitos como cidadão. Redes sociais e outras plataformas digitais vêm sendo usadas há tempos para dar voz àqueles que nunca puderam falar, disseminar culturas alternativas, tornar a educação mais acessível e servir como ponto de encontro para discussões construtivas. A internet também se provou o melhor meio de expressar suas ideias e opiniões, e é justamente por isso que ela vem sofrendo tantas tentativas de censura ao longo dos últimos tempos, especialmente em países politicamente conturbados.

Even though it is so important to the life of any person, only one of three citizens around the world has access to the web. In Brazil, according to a report developed by the UN itself, 42% of the population is disconnected – and only 11.5% of Brazilians have broadband. Our country still suffers from severe deficiencies in its telecommunications infrastructure, and the high cost of the data plans currently offered hinders its hiring by the less favored.

The situation is simple: as much as we see infinite technological innovations appearing daily around the world, few of them actually arrive in the life of the whole Brazilian population. Mobile devices, for example, have only become more popular recently, with the introduction of more cost-effective models and the inauguration of tax incentives such as the Law of Good. However, new technologies are still far from the everyday life of lower – class individuals .

The TecMundo was investigating that field projects are being developed to change this scenario and how communities underserved utilize new technologies to improve their quality of life in areas such as education, employment, health and communication. To this end, we focus our efforts on Heliopolis – considered the largest favela in the state of São Paulo -, which is highlighting innovative and interesting programs.

Heliopolis


City of the Sun

The territory of almost 1 million square meters in which today the community of Heliópolis is located passed through several hands until the City of São Paulo decided to use the region as a temporary shelter for 153 families removed from the slums of Vila Prudente and Vergueiro. The land at the time belonged to the Financial Management Institute of Social Security and Assistance Social (IAPAS). This is where the occupation started: other families started building shacks, and about 15 years later the number of inhabitants increased by 20 times.

After numerous disputes with grileiros in the 1980s, Heliopolis was acquired by the Metropolitan Housing Company (Cohab), which has managed the area since then and allows residents to remain there without paying rent. According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 92% of the population of Heliópolis is from Bahia, and it was from this northeastern state that the first inhabitants of the region came.

THE ORIGIN OF THE NAME

Heliopolis is a toponym, that is, a junction of two words of the Greek language: helios (sun) and polis (city). The community of São Paulo was so named because the majority of its first inhabitants originated from the homonymous municipality of Bahia, located 300 km from the capital, Salvador.

Hoje rebatizada como Cidade Nova Heliópolis (tendo recebido o estatuto de bairro somente em 2006), a comunidadeainda enfrenta problemas estruturais. Não há transporte público dentro da favela, já que as ruas são estreitas demais para permitir a passagem de ônibus — os moradores precisam se deslocar até as vias exteriores. Também faltam programas culturais, opções de lazer (como museus, cinemas, teatros etc.) e maior segurança para os habitantes, já que o tráfico de drogas é uma prática comum na região.

Despite this, Heliopolis has also been notable for receiving numerous programs to support and encourage the use of new technologies to improve the quality of life of the local population. Several private companies have shown interest in contributing to the economic development of the neighborhood, providing a better telecommunications infrastructure and offering tools to disseminate technological innovations in the region – believe me, the results are already visible.


Campos Salles: an example of overcoming

From “school to favela ” to a model of innovation in the education sector. Founded in 1956, the Campos Salles Municipal School of Elementary Education (EMEF) is located at 2,347 Estrada de Lágrimas, a famous avenue that crosses the community of Heliópolis and extends to the district of Vila Cristalia, on the border with São Caetano do Sul With approximately 400 students in each cycle (from 1st to 5th grades and from 6th to 9th grades), as well as almost 250 participants in the Youth and Adult Education (EJA) program.

Since 2012, the institution has been working with the Telefónica Foundation to implement the “Escolas que Inovam” program, which seeks to apply new technologies in classrooms and to improve students’ professional development. With around 200 laptops, a 100 Mbps internet connection and full support for the training of teachers to work with these tools, Campos Salles has since used digital platforms in its pedagogical plan and encouraged the participation of students in the virtual world .

“At 9:30 am, the hallways of the place were full of children, who ran to and fro displaying their smartphones”

Invited by Professor Eder, TecMundo paid a visit to the school during one of the school days. The idea was to closely check the work of some students in their classes of Robotics and Programming. At 9:30 a.m., the hallways were full of children running around with their smartphones. Without being embarrassed by the presence of this journalist, a group of five girls – who were probably between 7 and 10 years old – gather to take a selfie with a teacher.

Invited by Professor Eder, TecMundo paid a visit to the school during one of the school days. The idea was to closely check the work of some students in their classes of Robotics and Programming. At 9:30 a.m., the hallways were full of children running around with their smartphones. Without being embarrassed by the presence of this journalist, a group of five girls – who were probably between 7 and 10 years old – gather to take a selfie with a teacher.

INNOVATE TO TRANSFORM

Another school in São Paulo that was attended by the Schools that Innovate program was EMEF Amorim Lima, located in the neighborhood of Butantã, near the University of São Paulo (USP). Who supports Telefónica in these projects is the Natura Institute; The Vanzolini Foundation is responsible for modernizing the technological infrastructure. Finally, the Tellus Institute follows the transformation processes.

This is not the first time that the telephone operator invests in Brazilian education. In partnership with Qualcomm , Telefônica also maintains the Connected Rural Schools program – which, as the name suggests, seeks to guarantee access to new technologies in schools located in rural regions around Brazil (with a special focus on the Northeast). This includes training of faculty, implementation of computer labs, and free online courses for students.

While Eder is busy setting up a stereo, I can explore the Campos Salles courtyard. It is interesting to note that digital culture already flourishes in the new generation of the residents of Heliópolis, even if the average family income of the inhabitants is in the range of $ 480. Plates spread all over the campus encourage the sharing of school photos on social networks – even Even a special hashtag for the Cultural Show had been created. While a group of dancers prepares to enter the scene, other young people record all the action using varied tablets.

“They are school equipment,” explains Eder, who seems to be the stuff of the place when it comes to tinkering with technology. The 12 tablets were provided by the São Paulo City Hall as part of the implementation of the Pedagogical Management System (SPG), an online system that aims to facilitate the pedagogical follow-up of the students by parents and teachers. “But we saw that it did not make much sense to use them just for that. Today, for example, we distributed the tablets so that the students themselves could film the Cultural Show, “he adds.

Computers room

In the room dedicated to robotic experiments, a group of boys crowded into a table full of works done with LEGO pieces. The inventions are varied: a puzzle, a carousel and even a basketball game complex, in which you need to use marbles to hit the target. “The more you advance, the harder it gets,” comments Eder. A small motor causes the sight point to move vertically, complicating the player’s life.

All contraptions were made by students in grades 5 and 6, and used Garagino microcontrollers in conjunction with scripts programmed in Scratch. “The principles of the school are autonomy, responsibility and solidarity, so that all pedagogical work must be aligned with these three values. Before we even start assembling the projects , we need to think about how the groups will be created, observe how the students are talking, how the conflicts are being solved, etc., “explains Eder.

After pausing the interview to help solve a bug in one of the projects , the teacher explains that the coolest of the classes is that they pose several challenges for the students, who are already encouraged to use creativity to think outside the box. “There was a lot of that in that montage there,” he says, pointing to the puzzle. “The students complained that they wanted to give up, that they did not want to do it anymore. The cool thing is that they themselves see today the fruit of this insistence, “he adds.

GARAGINO? SCRATCH? UNDERSTAND

Based on the Arduino platform, the Garagino is a controller board focused on the development of prototypes and home electronics projects . Compact and much more affordable than the original gadget, the component was developed in 2014 by the Garage Laboratory, a Brazilian collective aimed at encouraging the maker / DIY culture in our country. While an Arduino (imported) costs about $ 60, the simpler version of the Garagino can be purchased for a modest $ 29 – that is, half the price.

Scratch is a visual programming language created in 2003 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Laboratory. Designed to be as user-friendly as possible for children (ages 8-16) and beginners in general, it uses a graphical interface to allow the programmer to create their software by embedding blocks – which symbolize different commands – into each other. Although Scratch was originally used to create games and animations, it can easily be adapted to other purposes and communicate with the Arduino platform.

It is amazing to see the excitement of the little ones playing with their own projects up close – an animation hardly seen during the application of traditional pedagogical disciplines. They run, debate, key in easily, and quickly resolve errors in structuring the code. Learning becomes fun and strengthens the inspiration for a promising future.

“They run, debate, key in easily and quickly resolve errors in structuring the code”

“I want to be an engineer or a computer technician,” says Adriel, who is 12 years old and in 6th grade. He was responsible for programming one of the projects . “I want to continue working with technology,” he promises. A little more timid than his fellow student, Kevin, 10, told us that working on his invention “was kind of difficult, but really cool.” The young man is in 5th grade.

“Eles perceberam que é preciso ter concentração para ter sucesso nos projetos. Às vezes, o guia pedia para usar uma peça com cinco bloquinhos, e eles usavam uma com oito ou com sete. Tivemos que trabalhar bastante no quesito atenção e foco”, relembra Eder, pontuando que os próprios alunos conseguiram se organizar para dividir as tarefas e fazer um trabalho em grupo. “Geralmente, eu fico só de longe olhando. Eles têm que encontrar o caminho sozinhos”, comenta.

Project with legos

For the teacher, the Robotics and Programming classes are also important because they encompass several other subjects, such as Physics and Mathematics. As these disciplines are “hidden” by a veil much more appealing to the little ones, teaching flows naturally. “We are finalizing these montages today for the Cultural Show and we will have others from next week. We have already been able to use the Arduino to control motors and LED lights, and the challenge now is to use sensors, such as touch and distance, “he says.