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Connecting with computers

(18 July 2012) Prof. Dr. Volker Wulf and his team at the Institute for Business IT and New Media at University of Siegen initiated the first "come_IN" computer club at Palestinian refugee camp Jalazone.

"come_IN" is open to children and adults of various ages and origins. Working with computers should connect people, encourage them to learn together, carry out projects and establish relationships. The idea comes from the United States. In 1993 the first computer clubs were established there to offer at-risk young people the possibility of hands-on learning in their social environment. Prof. Dr. Volker Wulf brought this concept to his work in Business IT and New Media at University of Siegen. The concept has also been enhanced by an inter-generational approach. Thus, the first intercultural "come_IN" computer club was founded in 2004 at Marienschule of Bonn for joint integrative learning of people from various cultures and generations. Meanwhile, the computer club network spans seven schools and institutions at Bonn, Siegen, Dortmund and Kreuztal.

Siegen's team also took a step beyond federal boundaries. At the Jalazone refugee camp some seven kilometres north of Ramallah in the West Bank, a "come_IN" computer club has been launched. According to Mary-Ann Springer, reseacher, "The online network is perfect for seeing whether the club can work in the refugee camp." Jalazone was established following the Arab/Israeli war of 1948/49 to house Palestinian refugees. Today, it is home to some 12,000 people. The computer club was specifically founded for children, young people and their parents. It aims at enhancing the learning situation for participants and access to education and information. By acquiring technical skills, attendees will improve their academic and personal futures. Spare time and education thus go hand-in-hand. Initially 15 workstations will be available. The Jalazone computer club is meant to be the first in a network of intercultural computer clubs in Palestinian refugee camps. Konstantin Aal of the Institute for Business IT and New Media at University of Siegen is the person responsible for the project on site, while Prof. Wulf is the project sponsor. The project has seen an enormous response as more than 40 boys and girls and their parents have joined the club. To enable meaningful work, the group had to be divided into two. This summer, the computer club's organiser's will take the next step, according to Konstantin Aal: "We would like to connect the neighbourhood with the refugee camp." Jifna already committed to join the project, and children from Jalazone and Jifna will represent their hometowns in a joint summer camp project.

The partner of University of Siegen in this project is Najjad Zeenni Information Technology Center of Excellence (NZITCE) at the Birzeit University in Palestine. The centre was established in 2008 to support IT research and development as well as training and consulting services. The "come_IN" computer club is financed with funds from the Foreign Office. Christian Jetzlsperger, deputy head of the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Palestinian territories, was present at the opening in May 2012 along with Dr. Sabri Saitam, IT consultant to President Mahmud Abbas.