Sci-tech info centres drawing many locals

One year has passed since the day a project to build a system of scientific and
technological information centres was launched. This system, which initially
aimed for supporting community development, was set up with initial centres in
operation in Tan Phu Commune (Chau Thanh District), Phu Long Commune (Binh Dai),
Son Dinh Commune (Cho Lach), and My Thanh An Commune (Ben Tre Township).
For now, the
model has become a gathering point for rural residents, especially those who
need to learn better knowledge of bio-technology; cultivating and livestock
breeding know-how; new species of high-yielding plants and animals; advanced
farming processes that may be actually applied into daily life and production in
each specific locality.

As planned, each of the infromation
centres is installed a standardized computer specified with 2.8-GHz Pentium 4
chip, 256-megabyte RAM, 40-gigabyte hard disk, and a bundle of auxilary and
peripheral accessories and devices to make it full service for word processing,
quick information accessing and processing.

Besides, the centres are also
furnished with laser printers, telephones, internet cards, and other devices.
And the computers are all installed with the Windows 2000 and Windows XP
versions of Microsoft operating system, as well as smaller supporting
applications used for word processing, graphics designing and editing, internet
surfing, and online library browsing.

So far, the project has received
some 105 CDs containing 24,000 new sci-tech advances, and 185 sci-tech films
transferred from the National Centre for Science and Technology. This is a
relatively large database compiled from more than 300 consulting organizations
and 2 ,300 specialists in seedling and breeding farming and agro-product
processing.

The database has been providing
reousrces for the Service of Science and Technology's Office of Information
Resources and Intellectual Property to select and compile into books of
necessary and suitable information for the eco-social development of each
locality.

So far, 70 CDs containing 18,000
sci-tech entries and 27 CD-ROM containing 60 sci-tech films have been
distributed to the above 4 communes. Besides, each of the centres has also been
provided with 425 copies of the Sci-Tech Information compiled by the Service of
Science and Technology purported for agricultural and rural development.

24 computer professionals from the
above 4 communes have also been trained to service for better management in
order to ensure the effectiveness for the centres in the project. These
professionals are now commanding basic skills in network management, devices
maintenance and repair works, software, database and online resources
exploitation, and information editing and processing.

Each commune is allowed to construct
its own Website to introduce its natural conditions, administrative structure,
economic and cultural aspects, and investment opportunities. These Websites are
all designed to work as a portal, with highly graphic decoration, diverse pages
of information on household business, aquatic business, health care, education,
social and cultural aspects, civil services, and legal documents. There are
useful online tools such as search, sign-up access, feedback forms, and links to
other sites on the net.

Since they were put into operation,
the sci-tech info centres have served not only the local users of the mentioned
4 communes, but they also drew lots of users from adjacent communes to come
surfing the web.

To date, the sci-tech info centres
have provided totally 53,463 pieces of information for 3,435 people, 90% of
which focused on cultivating and culturing techniques, and the rest 10% are on
business, education, health, and market data. About 95% of the users receiving
information at the centres were farmers. A small number of them were small
vendors, students and some civil servants.

In some cases, users even were
provided with relevant information on their demand so they didn't need to spend
time surfing the net. And the information was mostly retrieved from the sci-tech
info resources available at the centres. There were also some of the information
extracted from other online resources.

As a test case, the attraction of
sci-tech info centres reflects a reality that rural areas truly need sci-tech
information. The reason is, today's farmers are more and more aware of the need
to update and apply new sci-tech achievements into their farm. So, the model of
communal sci-tech info centres is a crucial step toward upgrading rural
residents' awareness and production skills, and serving for the community
life.

Thanks to such sci-tech info
centres, more farmers are now not only sci-tech savvy, but they are also able to
put it into actual farming, says Mr Vo Van Tiep, Head of the Sci-Tech Info
Centre in Tan Phu, Chau Thanh District. He says, the commune has set up a
sci-tech info club drawing quite a lot of members, thus triggering a strong
movement of sci-tech application in the commune.

In Son Dinh Commune, Cho Lach
District, home to many traditional trade villages such as ornamental tree,
seedlings and agroproduct processing, quite a lot of householders and business
owners come to the centre to get up-to-date information. Many businesses have
expressed desire to put their trademark online, promising to support the centre
to further development.

Not only do they serve for
individuals and households, the communal info centres also contribute greatly to
helping public and state organizations in deploying campaignes at local level.
Helpful information from the info centres has been used as in periodic meetings
by local societies of farmers, women, war veterans, and youth unions, etc.
Various campaignes such as “youth for tomorrow development”, “Women overcoming
difficulties”, “excellent farmers”, “poverty alleviation in rural areas”, … have
been born thanks to information exploitation from the centres.

Ben Tre has now joined the national
movement to deploy the grand project to build community learning centres, which
is expected to bring all walks of life together to study, to share experiences
and to learn newest information serving for better production, life improvement.
In such a context, the development of communal cultural post offices and
sci-tech info centres in Ben Tre proves to be undoubtedly
crucial.

Sci-tech info centres have been
strongly developed in many other provinces, but for Ben Tre, it is still a new
model. So, many drawbacks inevitably remain in orgnizational, managing and
information exploiting works at the centres. A large part of staffs are not
adequately trained in computer manipulating, information editing and processing.
This has resulted in a bad state of inefficient worksmanship. And, last but not
late, insufficient investment has also badly affected the effectiveness of the
centres.

All these problems are expected to
be resolved in due time for Ben Tre's next step to multiply the model to all of
its communes.

Translated by Truong Hung