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CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
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Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
e-mail: mary-geraghty@uiowa.edu

Release: Immediate

UI instructor wins Fulbright grant to study access to technology in Nigeria

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa instructor has been awarded a Fulbright grant to spend the next academic year assisting the University of Jos in Nigeria in its efforts to incorporate computer technology into its classrooms and research enterprise.

Cliff Missen, a systems analyst for the department of physiology and biophysics and an instructor for UI International Programs, will spend ten months at the University of Jos teaching about computers, computer networking, and the Internet. He will also conduct research about the availability of new technologies in developing nations.

"My main goal will be to help hook the university to the Internet," Missen said, "giving Nigerian students and faculty at the University of Jos their first opportunity to access the myriad resources on the World Wide Web."

For the last four years Missen has taught a one-of-a-kind course, "Internetworks in International Development," at the UI. The course is offered through UI International Programs, which consist of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services that serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching. While he is in Nigeria next year, Missen hopes to teach his course -- which is also offered as a correspondence course via the Internet -- simultaneously at the University of Jos and the UI.

"Most of my course materials, including my lectures, are already on the course Web site," Missen said. "Ideally, we will have a teacher in both classrooms and the students at both schools will have a chance to compare their notes and discuss their readings with each other."

"The Internet is entirely about human communication," Missen added. "Everywhere we turn in the developing world we find examples of almost heroic human ingenuity to harness digital technologies to allow people to communicate with others. "

But much of the developing world lacks the telecommunication infrastructure of the more advanced countries in the West, so engineers in developing countries are turning to unconventional means to send Internet information, including short wave radio and satellites. "This process is called 'technology leap-frog.'" Missen said. "In some places, wireless telephones, still considered a luxury here, are the only option. I'm interested to see the impact, socially, economically, and politically, that these communication technologies will have in the developing world."

While in Nigeria, Missen plans to research the extent to which average Nigerians have access to the Internet. "Currently, access to the Internet is mainly limited to expatriates, Western-trained professionals, and the country's elite," he said. "I want to create ways of measuring when Internet access for common people becomes a reality and determine which strategies work best to accomplish this."

Michael McNulty, associate provost and dean of International Programs, said this latest UI Fulbright award builds on a strong tradition of collaboration between the UI and universities in Nigeria. "Cliff's research and educational projects with the University of Jos provide an excellent opportunity for the University of Iowa to strengthen its long-standing ties with several Nigerian institutions," he said. "Those ties have been developed over the last 25 years providing numerous faculty, staff, and students with firsthand experience in the Nigerian culture and educational system. Those experiences enhance the University of Iowa by bringing a global perspective to our classrooms and research initiatives."

Missen said that one barrier for his project will be the lack of computer hardware and software available in Nigeria. The University of Jos enrolls about 16,000 students but has only 200 computers, many of which are older 286 and 386 personal computers.

Between now and September, when he and his family leave Iowa City, Missen will be collecting computers, networking equipment, and software to take to the University of Jos. There is a very pressing need for instructional software and databases in all fields, especially medicine, at the University of Jos. "And last year's version of a program or database is still a vast improvement over what is currently available -- nothing," Missen said. "We'll take what we can get."

Those with hardware or software to donate can call Missen at 338-8542. His email address is cmissen@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu. The public portion of his Internetworks in International Development Web site can be found at <http://intlinet.ccp.uiowa.edu>.

The Fulbright Program, established under Congressional legislation introduced by former Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, is designed "to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."

Since its founding 51 years ago, the Fulbright Program has sponsored over 70,000 Americans who have taught, studied, or done research abroad as well as 130,000 people from other countries who have engaged in similar activities in the U.S.

For more information about the Fulbright program, contact United States Information Agency, Office of Public Liaison, (202) 619-4355 or visit the Fulbright Web sites at <http://www.usia.gov/education/flbthome.htm> or <http://www.iie.org/fulbright>.

7/7/98