Global Development Learning Network

The Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) is a worldwide partnership of public, private and non-governmental organizations enabling knowledge sharing, dialogue training and consultations on development topics to the developing world. Through GDLN, individuals and groups design and deliver courses, seminars and other activities that cover the full range of development issues. Formed in June 2000 out of the World Bank Learning Network, GDLN began with 11 centers. Within a year, GDLN had grown to 28 centers with two-way videoconferencing capabilities and Internet access. Today, GDLN counts more than 60 centers around the world with 15 of them connected via satellite, and more than 30,000 people participating in GDLN events every year. Dialogues and learning exchanges have become a common feature among developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America sharing experiences about a variety of key development issues. Sonia Schmitt, technology education specialist with The World Bank Institute, spoke with Satellite Business Solutions and shared how satellite technology made possible the business goals of the GDLN.

Sonia Schmitt

Technology Education Specialist

Problem:
How does an organization disseminate information and expand connections to incorporate them into an already established business?

In its infancy, the GDLN spread its information by going through the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and linking to the centers by relying on the Bank’s existing communications network. It became clear that a larger network was necessary to meet the growing demand for connecting new centers where terrestrial did not exist. That is when satellite took a leading role in the process.

“Distance learning is always a challenge in the developing world because there are frequent connectivity problems,” says Schmitt. “But we still needed to connect leaders of the developed world with the developing.”

Solution:
Incorporate a satellite private network to meet specific connectivity needs.

GDLN was not looking to connect all 60 sites with satellite. At the time, 15 centers needed a communications infrastructure bridging them to the GDLN.

Through the centers, GDLN beamed an average of five to 10 learning programs across the globe each day. Likewise, these centers have facilities for videoconferencing, Web-based learning, and face-to-face interaction. Activities do not need to be delivered in a concentrated period of time because people can continue working even as they participate in events. This gives them the flexibility to read background materials; prepare real assignments related to their actual work; and interact with local peers for an enhanced learning experience.

“The satellite-based centers received a $7,000 monthly stipend during our FY04 to assist them with the satellite connection costs,” says Schmitt. The centers, however, have to pay for the equipment cost and maintenance that tends to run $1,500 and $2,000 per site per month. “Now, we are able to offer customized just-in-time training and provide local centers with satellite connectivity that in many countries is the only type of network linking them to the Internet and the rest of the world,” adds Schmitt.

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