Rodrigo

Citation

This profile was prepared when Rodrigo Baggio Barreto was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Fascinated by computers from an early age, Rodrigo Baggio is providing young people in favelas and other low-income communities with computer skills. After a highly successful pilot training program in two favelas in Rio de Janeiro in early 1995, Rodrigo and a small group of volunteer associates formed a permanent organizational structure for the work, which is growing explosively.

Rodrigo has developed training courses, which typically involve two several-hour sessions per week over a three-month period. They are staffed by residents of the communities in which they are offered. The program provides the teachers with the needed training and then pays them a salary of roughly $200 per month (more than twice the average salary of a teacher in the public school system). The students, most of whom are in their teens or early twenties, pay a fee of approximately $10 per month for instruction that includes word processing, accounting programs, spreadsheets and computer graphics. The classes are held in rooms made available without charge by churches, community organizations and schools in or near the targeted communities. Rodrigo has attracted enthusiastic support from business firms, which donate the computers and training manuals that the program uses; and the computers are maintained by talented and dedicated volunteer members of the program's directive committee.

Although a systematic evaluation of the program's outcomes has not yet been attempted, there is growing anecdotal evidence of its success on several fronts. Many of its youthful favela participants have found new, well-paying jobs, and others have been promoted to assignments that would not have been open to them without computer skills. Rodrigo and his associates also cite many cases in which participants have developed renewed interest in formal schooling, resisted strong lures to join drug gangs or participate in other illicit activities and otherwise manifested heightened self-esteem. In addition, many of the program's "graduates" are putting their computer skills to work in various community activities, including health education and AIDS awareness campaigns.

Not surprisingly, in light of such successes, the program has elicited immense and broad ranging interest. In each of the communities in which it is currently working, the numbers of young people eager to enter the program have far exceeded expectations, and several of the program's sites are now offering instruction on a three-shifts-per-day basis. The program has attracted considerable media attention, and scores of additional low-income communities (in Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere in the country) are eagerly seeking its services. Support from the business community, in the form of donated equipment and financial contributions, is brisk, and government agencies are also providing modest subsidies for the program's expansion into additional communities.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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