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Municipal Councilor Emmanuel, Depute Datouo and PCV Angel Velarde

It took a few months, but finally (actually for the last 2 months or so) the Development Center of Bangou ville is operational.

The first part is a Computer lab where students and functionaries that live in Bangou ville can connect to the internet and type out and print reports and if they don’t know how, learn how to do those things. This is the first time internet has been available in Bangou ville and the first computer lab or any sort the village has ever seen.

When I first arrived in Bangou, a computer lab was the furthest thing from my mind. I remember thinking that a place with the level of poverty I was seeing, where many kids don’t have shoes, with no running water, inconsistent electricity, broken down school buildings as well as learning system, dust everywhere that made people sick, or mud during the rainy season, etc. The last they needed was facebook. But more than anything else, that is what they asked for most, when asked what they would like most in terms of development (they also asked for roads, but those are too expensive and the domain of the government.)

Also, a few months ago I started reading the Ben Franklin autobiography, a thin short work that probably wasn’t finished. Ben Franklin, probably America’s first development worker was the son of a printer from Boston who ran away to Philadelphia and with a short stage in England. In Philadelphia he eventually started his own printers shop and newspaper which became the biggest in Philadelphia. His greatest passion were books and thru them he was able to become a greatly educated man, where even Thomas Paine one said that Benjamin Franklin was probably one of the greatest minds in the world at the time, but was not recognized as such in England because his lack of formal education. He started the first libraries in the US in Philadelphia and gave the masses access to information. With libraries, everyone could find any information they needed. This gave them the knowledge to intelligently fight the corruption that was as rampant there at the time as in Africa today.

Today we are not limited by the number of books you can fit or afford, but thru computers and the internet, you can learn about anything. Sites like Google and Wikipedia, as well as news sites that report on the corruption across the country, people become informed citizens, and there is nothing more dangerous to a corrupt government than an informed citizen.

In fact, I was with Aladji, my cultural counterpart and general manager of AADB in Bangou and he asked me to come to the AADB office to look at some documents he’d found. He proceeded to show me print outs of news articles of recent corruption charges against the government. Aladji is from the SDF party, the biggest opposition party, and was even thrown in jail back in the 90’s for his political activism. He said he spent a long time reading and printing out articles from Wikipedia and articles connected to it. I’d never seen anyone so excited about Wikipedia before.

But it wasn’t about Wikipedia or some web site, it was about the access it had given him. In Cameroon, access is the most expensive thing to acquire, from meetings to tax information, etc. and Aladji had just found the key that corrupt people in power had been trying to hide for a long time.

And so now all of Bangou ville has the key.  AADB could not have done it alone; a French NGO started by Hyppolite Nkonguep provided the computers and money to build the building and Depute Datouo Theodore of the Haute Plateau, a congressman from Bangou and other elites from the village provided financial support. AADB for its part provided a brand new computer to act as server to the other computers, all of the networking equipment, electricity regulators and some financial support. Without AADB the computer lab at the Development Center would not be operational, but without Hyppolite and Association Solidarite France Bangou, it would not even have been an option.

For our part, when people come to surf the internet in Bangou ville, the home page to all of the computers is americansforbangou.org

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