BUILD Latin America's Ecuador trip to implement KoomBook program by Matthew Johnson

by tuftsigl
Jul 05

This June, I had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador with fellow BUILD Latin America members, Cristina da Gama and Cami Rovalino, to work on our club’s project with Libraries Without Borders (LWB). BUILD has been partnering with LWB to implement KoomBook programs in communities in Ecuador without access to internet connection. A KoomBook is a small server that stores up to two terabytes of information such as Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and the Gutenberg Project and creates its own Wi-Fi signal that allows nearby devices to access that information. Our goal is to expand access to information and educational resources in areas of Ecuador that are remote or were struck by last year's earthquake.

I landed in Quito on June 18 to meet Cristina, Cami, and Kat Trujillo, our contact at Libraries Without Borders. Quito is nestled within the Andes at over nine thousand feet of elevation–making it the world’s highest capital city. The rolling mountains and scattered clouds that surround the city make for a strikingly beautiful view. After spending the rest of Sunday acclimating to the altitude and catching up on sleep after a long series of flights, we got to work on Monday morning.

Our first meeting was with the Canadian embassy in Ecuador to discuss a potential partnership. Lundin Gold, the Canadian mining company that would host us in the small, rural community of Los Encuentros later in the week, put us in contact with the embassy because they are working on developing a similar project in Ecuador with the Montreal university, L’École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS). The embassy and ÉTS aim to implement a Smart Land program, which provides internet access to remote communities, in Loja, a city relatively close to Los Encuentros. During our meeting with Richard York and Patricia Bustamante, two trade commissioners at the embassy, we presented our respective projects to each other. Ultimately, we determined that due to our similar goals, a partnership is worth developing.

Although the visit to Los Encuentros was not directly related to the primary purpose of this trip, this meeting felt like a valuable way to explore making our project in Ecuador with LWB more sustainable and far-reaching. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about our visit to Los Encuentros to meet with Lundin Gold and community members.