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I have seen the convening power of the IIC at work

I have seen the convening power of the IIC at work

IIC sponsored co-operation resulted in valuable satellite education projects around the world

In 1983 the Intelsat organisation, then still an international consortium, agreed to sponsor a global education project as part of its 20th anniversary celebration. With Richard Colino, the Director General of Intelsat, and John Howkins, we went to work on IIC’s international network and eventually convened a global panel of two dozen experts in media, telecommunications and education. The panel was tasked with arranging participation in countries around the world.

The idea was to demonstrate the new power of satellite communications as tools for education and health care. Testing would take place in countries around the world, focused on services in rural locations. This gradually evolved to become Project ‘SHARE’ (‘Satellites for Health and Rural Education’). The IIC and the advisory council played a crucial role in convincing local telecommunications and media companies that this was an experiment in satellite telecommunications that had merit and potential for the future.

As a result, between 1983 and 1987, over 30 individual projects were planned and executed
In China, satellite education and health care demonstration projects were initiated with 37 remotely located earth stations. The system grew over time, eventually reaching ten million students and villagers and nearly one million teachers.

Other projects included an interregional AIDS tutorial that featured some of the world’s leading medical researchers, and a global television broadcast that Intelsat provided free to the world community under the Project Share umbrella. With the help of CNN, broadcasters prepared short videos that focused on the environment, global population growth, health and medical issues. These were broadcast on a 24 hour basis to 130 countries, with programming produced by over 100 countries.

At the end of the project the IIC and Intelsat collaborated to produce a report which summarized the results, and noted some of the regulatory, administrative, financial, and standards issues that had to be faced. We found, for example, that the projects that had an on-going success after the tests and demonstrations were completed were the ones that included local programming and locally produced content.

Project SHARE was meant to last for two years. In the event, it carried on until 1988. I believe it proved, in the pre-internet days, the power of technology to expand global education in a whole series of ways, and demonstrated the importance of the kind of global co-operation that the IIC was created to provide.


Professor Joseph Pelton is Director Emeritus, Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute at George Washington University, and former Dean, International Space University. He is a futurist and author of over 50 books on space, telecommunications and society, including a Pulitzer Prize Nomination. He was twice a member of the Board of the IIC.

A full version of Joe Pelton’s article on Project Share can be viewed here

  • Wednesday, 07 August 2019

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