About Us

The Gems of the Earth Network is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, recognized by the Internal Revenue Services of the United States of America as a 501-c-3 entity since 2006.

Our vision is the evolution of a global network of community centered people using cyberspace to support each other and promote social justice through environmentally conscious and sustainable progress.

Our mission is to promote digital access to further the well-being of people everywhere.

Our history started as a pilot project in 2002 when founder Marco Figueiredo lived for almost two years in an isolated rural community in one of the poorest areas of Brazil, the Jequitinhonha Valley. His objective was to show that digital inclusion could bring social and economic progress to remote communities on Earth.

Marco Figueiredo

Marco Figueiredo

His vision came from his work as a researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he helped build the Earth Observing System, a series of space satellites aimed at collecting information about our planet. He reasoned back then that the data collected from space would be most valuable if it could be accessed by all people on Earth, and the quickest path to achieve universal Internet access would be through shared public access centers, now known as  telecenters.

What started as a proof of concept, today is a self-sustaining and growing non-profit organization in Brazil called the Gems of the Earth Rural Telecenter Network. Supported by  our digital inclusion advocacy efforts, Gems of the Earth pioneered some of the first public telecenters to open in Brazil, one step ahead of the universal access program which the country has now embraced.

Our work  has shown significant results at the community level. We successfully introduced citizen journalism training in the communities which are part of the network. Our research in this area indicates that videoblogs are the most effective tool to engage populations where  functional literacy remains the norm. Thanks to this digital inclusion initiative, a large number of youth in the Gems of the Earth participating communities have graduated from online university programs administered by the Brazilian Ministry of Education. Young men and women who once had to leave their villages to attend college can now further their education without leaving home. Those who graduate with online degrees are now qualified to work in positions that were once the preserve of qualified outsiders.

Gems of the Earth has developed a close collaboration with professors Leonardo Ferreira of the University of Miami, and Paola Prado of Roger Williams University, co-founders of the Community Communicators Program. The journalism professors first tested their model program for citizen reporter training in the Dominican Republic in 2008. The program has since been expanded to the Sucre and Madalena regions of Colombia.

Leonardo Ferreira

Leonardo Ferreira

                          

Paola Prado

Paola Prado

The evolution of the Gems of the Earth project has been carefully examined and studied by scholars both in Brazil and the USA. Several articles were published analyzing the diffusion of ICTs in the Gems of the Earth communities. The project also influenced the creation of the Center for Community Informatics at the Loyola University Maryland.

Based on this deep and strong foundation, Gems of the Earth aims at evolving as a global network of community leaders that utilize ICTs to protect and promote community values.

Working to promote digital access in ways that further the well-being of people everywhere.