'In the 21st Century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right.'
Nelson Mandela

Since its launch in 2001, the Tonga.Online Project has focused attention on promoting a Tonga voice over the Internet. The aim is to provide people in the Tonga area of Zimbabwe and across the Zambezi River in Zambia with access to the world’s most advanced communication tools, so that they may represent themselves to the outside world and reflect upon the social, political and economic environment of both the global and local village in which the Tonga live.

The project derives its domain name, Mulonga (meaning River), from the local Tonga language. The name reflects the history and needs of the Tonga people. On one level, the Zambezi River, also known as Mulonga, has become a symbol that tells a modern story of the development of massive but unshared technology – the construction of Kariba Dam on Tonga homeland. Mulonga constantly revokes memories of how the Tonga people were displaced, nearly 50 years ago, to make way for the building of this dam. Yet, even today, they are still bypassed by the huge commercial benefits from tourism and electricity that now derive >from their former habitat, an environment which has transformed into the vast expanse of water known as Lake Kariba.

On another level, the constant flow of the Zambezi is a symbol of continuity which, today, represents the needs of the Tonga people both to communicate amongst themselves and with others, and to preserve and develop their rich cultural heritage. The Tonga.Online Project seeks to establish and expand communication infrastructure with and amongst the Tonga by joining them with modern information and communication technology (ICT). A number of school-based telecenters - or Information Technology Centers ITCs - have so far been established and these already cater for the larger community, with more schools having been earmarked for development – even across the lake.

Access to information has become a crucial question of political rights; hence the importance of this project as a tool to spearhead consciousness, continuity, empowerment and local development amongst the Tonga people. The educational potential of the Tonga.Online Project is limitless especially for those in this remote part of the country where no institutions of higher academic learning exist.

The project does also reflect the digital divide and other uneven development in the 'global village'. Those gaps and imbalances are not only a question of access to resources but also of the capacity to use these modern communication tools. In a world where access to information has become a universal human right, the Tonga.Online Project lends support to higher levels of human development.  
The project has been initiated by Kunzwana Trust and Austria Zimbabwe Friendship Association AZFA with support from HORIZONT3000, HIVOS, WorLD Links, AlphaSmart UK, HMH Kunstereignisse, Upper Austrian Provincial Government, Ars Electronica and Austrian Development Cooperation.

The bonds of friendship between people in Austria and Zimbabwe are reaching back to the seventies. By then the anti-colonial struggle as an expression of popular demand for political and social liberation was at its peak not only in Southern Africa and an inspiration for the democratic and social movements all over Europe.

Since the Zimbabwe tour of Austrian musicians Attwenger in 1993 the focus of attention and activities has expanded substantially into the field of cultural exchange. Subsequently a series of projects involving artists from both sides was undertaken in close collaboration with various artists and other partner.

A first culmination of this exchange programme was the encounter with Tonga culture from 1995 onwards, which saw a number of Austrian artists i.e. from Wiener Tschuschenkapelle or Stadtwerkstatt Linz visiting the area. In 1997 a project of six contemporary composers reflecting on the unique Tonga Ngoma Buntibe Tonkunst was launched. And a group of 30 members of Simonga >from Siachilaba village participated in the "Festival der Regionen" in Upper Austria province crossing the Dead Mountains / Totes Gebirge under the theme "Kunst.Über.Leben".

Now, with modern ICT more tools should be at hand and applied to promote Tonga culture, livelihood and local development along the great River Mulonga.

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