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IDB approves $8.5 million for innovative projects in Honduras to provide technology packages to poor communities

The Inter-American Development Bank today announced the approval of an $8.5 million soft loan to Honduras to finance a pioneer program that will apply new technologies for the development of educational and market-knowledge services in remote, low-income communities.

The program will supply "technology packages" that will bring educational vehicles to isolated communities that will include tools such as computers, software, magnetic media, cellular phones, and faxes, coupled with a renewable energy source, such as photovoltaic panels, to drive the electronic equipment. Technical assistance and training will be provided to apply the technologies productively.

The technology packages will give access to educational and business services in poor communities that were excluded from these benefits because of a lack of infrastructure and high distribution costs. Beneficiary communities will be required to prepare a community development plan demonstrating the value added by the new technological tools.

The program is expected to have a positive economic impact, particularly on microenterprise, on a pilot sample of 100 communities selected to receive the technology packages and put them into action. A community center in the target community will serve as a center for information, education, and business development services.

Based on the experiences of this project, the use of a technology package to achieve educational and business productivity could be extended to other communities. About 25,000 communities in Honduras are in a similar social, and economic situation as the 100 selected for the pilot project.

"This kind of project is critical for development takeoff," says the IDB Project Team Leader Pedro Sáenz. "Through mechanisms that are effective, simple to apply, and cost effective, the technology gap can be overcome. We can not allow the technology gap to continue: to do so is tantamount to excluding communities from basic opportunities of civic participation, education, health, employment and income, and especially their self-esteem."

Preliminary experiments by COHCIT have shown that the introduction of technology like the Internet in schools can lead to the discovery of previously hidden student talents and result in better overall school attendance.

The project will be carried out by the Consejo Hondureño de Ciencia y Tecnología.* Resources from the IDB loan will strengthen COHCIT’s capacity to lead, promote, and coordinate technological advances.

The IDB loan is for a 40-year term, with a 10-year grace period, at an annual interest rate of 1 percent during the grace period and 2 percent thereafter.

Local counterpart funds total $1 million.

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