A group of us are in Central and Eastern Europe this week, starting with two days in Moscow. It's snowing.
The highlight of our day yesterday was the official opening of an IDEA Center, a community-based computer center targeting unemployed, seniors, and people with disabilities. IDEA stands for "Information Dissemination and Equal Access" and is sponsored by Microsoft and Project Harmony, an NGO based in the US. There are over 50 of these centers across Russia, and the new Moscow center is essentially the showcase facility where they set curricula and manage the program. It is housed in a pedagogical library that was a mansion before the Russian Revolution.
Kati Fedotova, the director of the project, described how the IDEA Centers focus on digital literacy and community access. Each center offers on a monthly basis 24 hours of basic computer skills classes along with an additional 10 hours of training on career and capacity skills. All of these centers are located in libraries, giving new purpose to old buildings. The Moscow Center has 30 computer stations across 2 training labs and a walk-in room. Overall the centers have formally trained 17,000 people since last year.
The opening ceremony was apparently a big deal. Over 30 journalists attended, and two news stories ran on local television stations last night. We started with a meeting on a third floor computer lab where we met with the folks from IDEA along with Ann Martin, the executive director of the NGO. We were joined by leaders of the Russian teaching institute who manage the library and host the program. There is a very good partnership here. Will Poole then did some TV interviews and then there was an official ribbon cutting ceremony with Will, Ann and the leader of the teachers institute. Everyone then went downstairs to a converted ballroom where we held a panel discussion and a press conference. The whole event went about two hours, which included the time required for the translators we used for the Q&A
The ballroom had these cool Soviet-era fluorescent light chandeliers. I had never seen anything like them before.
We have one more meeting with an NGO this morning, and then it's off to Bucharest. And in case you noticed, I bought a camera.