In May, 2018, Dr. Pritpal Singh, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, traveled to the Galapagos Islands with two Villanova University graduate students, three rising Computer Engineering seniors and Dr. David Lansdale of the Beyond Chacay Foundation. Working with Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) in Ecuador, with whom Villanova has a signed memorandum of understanding, their mission was to investigate the potential for a community intranet to share sustainable education resources among schools on the Island of San Cristobal, where internet service is unavailable. In October, Villanova and ESPOL were awarded a $53,000 grant from the IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee to proceed with the project.
The Galapagos Islands, located 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, are one of the world’s top ecological tourist destinations, and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and a protected area for the islands’ biodiverse flora and fauna. Every year these islands receive a growing number of visitors, through a combination of cruise-based and land-based tourism. Since 2008, there has been a significant shift from cruises to community-based options, putting the environment at considerable risk due to the difficulty of monitoring these visitors in comparison to the carefully monitored cruise excursions.
According to Dr. Singh, “It is imperative that the youth on the islands are educated in sustainable development to protect these valuable natural resources.” The opportunity to provide free, shared resources through a community intranet will build on the existing Education for Sustainability initiative being successfully run through Ecuador’s Ministry of Education. The intranet also will allow schools, administrators and members of the community to communicate, providing a platform from which the current and future initiatives of the Ministry of Education can reach the extended community and more significantly impact the education sector. In essence, says Dr. Singh, “We want to close the digital divide, enhance collaboration and encourage the sharing of resources.”