The TONGA.ONLINE project in Binga district / Zimbabwe + Sinazongwe district / Zambia
For the Tonga people like me, there is something deeply biblical about the word MULONGA, yet it is a modern story too. One of massive but unshared technology. One of plentiful water but perpetual drought." (Dominic Muntanga)
Since its launch in 2001, the Tonga.Online Project has focused attention on promoting a Tonga voice over the Internet. The aim is to provide people in the Tonga area of Zimbabwe and the Tonga across the Zambezi River in Zambia with access to the world’s most advanced communication tools, so that they may represent themselves to the outside world and reflect upon the social, political and economic environment of both the global and local village in which the Tonga live today.
The project derives its domain name, Mulonga (meaning River), from the local Tonga language. The name reflects the history and needs of the Tonga people. On one level, the Zambezi River, also known as Mulonga, has become a symbol that tells a modern story of the development of massive but unshared technology – the construction of Kariba Dam on Tonga homeland. Mulonga constantly revokes memories of how the Tonga people were displaced, 50 years ago, to make way for the building of this dam. Yet, even today, they are still bypassed by the huge commercial benefits from tourism and electricity that now derive from their former habitat, an environment which has transformed into the vast expanse of water known as Lake Kariba.
On another level, the constant flow of the Zambezi River is a symbol of continuity which, today, represents the needs of the Tonga people both to communicate amongst themselves and with others, and to preserve and develop their rich cultural heritage. The Tonga.Online Project seeks to establish and expand communication infrastructure with and amongst the Tonga by joining them with modern information and communication technology (ICT). A number of school-based telecenters have so far been established and these already cater for the larger community, with more schools having been earmarked for such kind of development – even across the lake in Sinazongwe district in Zambia. Most recently a computer centre and a community radio station has been established there, the latter by the Tonga.OnAir project, an initiative around Radio FRO in Linz.
Access to information has become a crucial question of political rights; hence the importance of this project as a tool to spearhead consciousness, continuity, empowerment and development amongst the Tonga people. The educational potential of the Tonga.Online Project is limitless especially for those in this remote part of the country where no institutions of higher academic learning exist. In a world where access to information has become a universal human rights issue, the Tonga.Online Project lends support to higher levels of human development in remote rural areas of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The project was initiated by Kunzwana Trust and the Austria Zimbabwe Friendship Association / AZFA with support from HIVOS, Austrian Development Cooperation/ADA, WorLD Links, Upper Austrian Provincial Government, HORIZONT3000, Rotary Clubs Belmont/Bulawayo and Linz. Of recent the project has been merged into Basilwizi Trust, an NGO based in the Tonga area and focussing on advocacy and education.
read more about the Tonga.Online project and actual developments: http://www.mulonga.net
and in an article for "Focus on International Library and Information Work" Volume 41 /3/2010 att.
Since September 2010 a group of Austrian IT experts from Funkfeuer Initiative in Linz have volunteered to assist not only with the establishment of the new public access point (PAP) at Binga RDC library but also by providing relevant training activities throughout Binga district. The opening of the PAP attracted an influx of users who needed assistance to get them started since news of the opening of the PAP spread like a veldt fire. As one user, Tendayi Ngundu pointed out in a posting to mulonga forum: "Now thanks to your project for bringing internet, i can now do my research, link up with the world and prove to the world that Binga District is not that backward after-all".
read more about the Funkfeuer missions in their blog (mostly German)