Danish Data-Bus for Women

2004-10-14 16:00:10 / News read 2501 reading
Data-bus in Denmark - an interview with Dorrit Munk Jorgensen by Zofia Lapniewska.

Zofia Lapniewska: In Denmark you have a special equipped bus, that is used as a place for the women’s computer trainings. In how many places have you been?

Dorrit Jorgensen: We got the idea in '89 and then we received funding from the EU. We had the open computer workshop for women in the biggest town of our country Odense, but the women from the rural districts didn't want to go so far away. It was also expensive for them to do the traveling, so we decided that it would be much easier to move one or two teachers there, than to move 20 women to our town. We've been to all the counties, in all 32 municipalities. It got two years to visit them all. We have also been in the small villages, so we've been in more than 50 places.

ZL: Approximately how many women you have trained?

DJ: Thousands during the years. In every place were about 20-60 different women. Depends on demands and place.

ZL: How long were the workshops?

DJ: At least 2-3 weeks, but very often 2 months. So it's very difficult to say how many people participated.

ZL: What was your role and how do you see the trainings now?

DJ: What we do is giving people real education, because it has always been our idea - not only to teach how it works and give a small confidence about it, but let them learn something that they can really use. Also because our entire target group was unemployed women and if they wanted to find a job they needed to learn how to manage the computers. At the end of the workshop students became better then me, because they really have to learn everything. If you are unemployed and looking for a job, you have to be very clever and even over skilled.

ZL: Can you describe the bus? How does it look?

DJ: It is an old passenger bus. It has been on the roads for 20 years - before we've bought it. Then we made completely re-decoration. Now it looks more like a big camper or a mobile home. There is room for ten computers - we are using regular computers, no flat screens. If you would do it today, you can arrange it in different way, you can use the small computers. But we had to do it in an old way and also leave space for 10 women, where they can sit down in front of the monitors. Then we have a little sofa, table and blackboard, overhead, video and coffee-machine. It has an office for a teacher that is also the driver, trainer and mechanic. Responsible for everything that the bus requires.

ZL: Were only women involved in that project?

DJ: Yes. Trainers and participants.

ZL: Can you tell us something about the past? When you've started?

DJ: We've started in 1990. From the very beginning it was a great success. Now we are still going on, but from this year it is open for men and women. Personally I miss the idea with the „women only".

ZL: What was the situation in Denmark then? Did people really need new technologies and your bus? Couldn't women be trained in their villages, at schools?

DJ: No. It was very often impossible. Women had to move 20 km to the nearest big town. We knew that they could do it, but it was a barrier. Also they were a little bit afraid of the computers. They didn't want to take that step, because it was unknown. When we were coming with the bus, we always placed it in the middle of the town, near the library, or the town hall, market place. Then some women were curious. Next days they were bringing their neighbors and friends. It is easy information-spread way in the village - from mouth to ear.

ZL: It means, that you didn't have any official promotional campaign.

DJ: We've just put a small advertisement in the local newspaper, and that was enough. The funny thing is that when women leave the bus-course, they are going to the town to have more training. What we do is giving them an initial training in the bus. In our Open Computer Workshop in Odense, or in another school, they could have further training.

ZL: Were the trainings for free?

DJ: Yes, they were completely for free and that was important for the women.

ZL: Who sponsored them?

DJ: In the first years it was EU, and then regional government said: it is so important, that we want to pay for it. We had already an organization in Odense, so it was not so expensive. We only had to pay trainers, diesel oil and insurance.

ZL: Can you describe the women-students of your trainings?

DJ: If you go to the country-side with the bus like ours, you have special atmosphere. You get to know women very well. All kinds of women. Many of them were never following a course before, so it was first training they had since school. That's very special for them. They also feel like on holiday, they bring cookies. For Christmas they had a party in the bus. It's very personal. Once we were in two small islands. In Funen we have so small islands that maybe only 80 people live on them. When the bus comes to such place, it's like a fest. Everyone knows that we are there and we are the part of the island-culture. Even after 3 years trainers are still invited for weddings and parties by those people. They were there only a month and still are so welcomed. Very special.

ZL: Do you have any women-student portrait still in your mind?

DJ: Once we had a student in our school that was more than 60 years old, 66, I guess. Normally people in that age are forced to have their pension. She said: no, I want to work! She has been cleaning lady all her life. When she was waiting for her new work she wanted to learn something about computers. The funny thing was that she was living in a very simple way, in a countryside, in a small house with no fridge, and recently they got electricity. That's not normal in Denmark. Everybody has fridge, tv-set and electricity since 50’s. She was really not a technocrat. But when she has learned about computers - she got completely crazy about them! Suddenly she was sitting at the graphic workshop, among all these young women, where we have the most difficult programs, and she was drawing in AutoCAD – amazing - concerning that we’ve only had programs in English. She was so good that she could help other women. Once she was helping young women with Page Maker and I asked: how can you help this woman with a program you don't know? She answered: I know how to transfer my knowledge from one to another program. She had this ability to use her knowledge. She was so happy, once she said: if I were 20 years younger I would have been a programmer. She has bought her own computer. Later she was in a ladies magazine. You are never too old.

ZL: Did you have any problems in the visited towns, or constrains from the local society?

DJ: The only problem is that the bus is so big, that it takes 10 parking places for normal car. Also the electricity for a bus and the internet connection. It's also something new in a countryside. For many people we were the first place, where they've tried internet.

ZL: How high is the internet usage in Denmark right now?

DJ: You see different figures, but it is always around 80-90% of all houses have internet. If I look around my friends and family, I see only the group of old people that don't have internet access. Besides, now in Denmark they are very eager to learn, so for them also data-bus goes around.

I think that we have spread the idea, also to other countries. They have data-bus in Tampere, Finland, the Nokia town. We have already the agreement with them. It is funny, because they thought that they were the first to have the idea and later they realized that we had already an old one in Denmark, so they came to visit us.

ZL: Was it your personal idea or the group of people to create such bus?

DJ: Actually it was my idea. I am old librarian and we have the buses with books in Denmark and it is not strange, so I thought: instead of books - we can put computers. At the beginning we had a problem with electricity. The buses with books go to the same places every week, so you can have a stationary power installation there. We go to different villages every 2-4 weeks and you cannot pay the fixed electricity. We had to make power in a different way. At the beginning we had a generator in the bus. It was the most complicated thing we had in the bus and it makes terrible noise. But we managed to do it. When we came to Poland, many years ago, we also used the generator, because you have another kind of power here.

ZL: In how many places you have been in Poland?

DJ: We came just to show the bus and tell about it, invited by adult learning centre in Poznan. But when we were picked up from the ferry in Szczecin, one man told us to visit some towns in Poland, so we've been in quite many places. We've been to Warsaw, Cracov… it was a great tour.

ZL: What plans do you have for future?

DJ: Now we have been integrated with a big organization – the adult education centre of Funen - and we are using the bus almost in the same way. As I mentioned before, now it is for women and men. Every time, when we are in the town we also have a counseling - to tell about our adult education centre. We hope that people will start with the bus and later continue in the centre, where they can have an exam. The possibilities for people now are bigger.

ZL: Thank you for the interview and I wish you good luck!

Dorrit Munk Jorgensen is working in The Department of Labour Market Affairs and Adult Education. It is a department is a section of the County Funen, one of the 14 regional authorities in Denmark. The department is in charge of the 10 adult educational centers in this island as well as activities in the field of job creation and training of unemployed people.

The department has initiated research and development in adult education in cooperation with the adult education centers in Funen.

She is involved in the Open Computer Workshop of Women in Odense - an institution which is involved in many international projects concerning unemployed women. Moreover the department has experiences with international projects though cooperation with The Association of Polish Adult Educators and The Association of Lithuanian Adult Educators.
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