Ometepe enters digital era

Zamora Terán Foundation hands out 5,000 special educational laptops to every elementary school student on the island. Ometepe is now wired and ready to learn

Thousands of school children and their families living on the volcanic island of Ometepe were ushered into the digital age yesterday thanks to an ambitious effort by Nicaragua’s Zamora Terán Foundation to provide special educational laptops to all elementary school students in the country.

In an effort to boost primary school enrollment, reduce poverty and close the digital divide in Nicaragua, the Zamora Terán Foundation yesterday handed out 5,000 XO laptops to all primary school students and teachers in Altagracia, Ometepe.

The massive laptop giveaway makes Ometepe the first “digital island” in Latin America, according to Zamora Terán Foundation, a nonprofit group founded as part of LAFISE BANCENTRO’s corporate responsibility efforts.

The XO laptops come preinstalled with all the education material related to the curriculums for grades 1-6, as well as other reference and learning resources. The laptops also have free wireless access everywhere on the island so students can access a specially designed Internet program with materials for educational investigations.

The XO laptops do not allow unlimited Internet navigation—a cyber-surfing block in place to prevent students from accessing inappropriate websites or wasting time on Facebook.  

The free, island-wide wireless connection is made possible by Amnet telecommunications, which has installed four large transmission towers in the urban centers of Ometepe, as well as 32 smaller antenna points at all the primary schools.

All teachers were also given laptops installed with teacher-training programs, to help them stay a step ahead—or at least on pace—with the children.

According to the Zamora Terán Foundation, each laptop will benefit six people—the average size of a Nicaraguan household.

“This is something that is very important for the children and population of our island—a day for the history pages of Ometepe,” Aurora Elena Alvarez, vice mayor of Altagracia, told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “First we become an UNESCO island biosphere reserve, and now a digital island.”

Since 2009, the Zamora Terán Foundation—an organization dedicated to helping children from low socioeconomic backgrounds receive the tools they need for a quality education—has implemented the “One Laptop Per Child Program” in 12 departments of Nicaragua. To date, the foundation has handed out a total of 26,000 XO laptops throughout Nicaragua, in communities in Managua, Masaya, Chontales, Carazo, León, Boaco, Chinandega, Matagalpa, Rivas, the RAAN and the RAAS.

The goal is to handout 500,000 laptops by the year 2015, in an effort to help Nicaragua meet its Millennium Development Goals.

The XO laptop program is considered exemplary in the world.