International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology, ICASIT, SPG’s “geek” center, is about to celebrate his 25th birthday. Prof. Steve Ruth, the founder and director of the center, believes that ICASIT has been successful because it has always stayed focused on its mission: studying the efficiency of various Information and Communication Technology (ICT) activities. “We are interested in the ROI of everything”, says Ruth, “from our early examination of expert systems, kiosks and BITNET (Internet predecessor) to our current emphasis on massive open online courses (MOOCs), social media, blogs and Internet deployment in poor countries.” ICASIT has always been a place for internships. During the past year alone there have been four student interns, developing ICT databases for online courses and working on other ICT tasks. The first ICASIT intern, John Redman, started a business in Alexandria in the early 90’s called the Redmon Group, which is now one of the most significant providers of multimedia services in the region. (Redmon Group is also celebrating its 25th anniversary) “ICASIT really helped me get started”, says Redmon, who developed CAP Build, an early planning system for the United Nations, when he was at ICASIT. Over the years ICASIT has received over two dozen grants from entrepreneurs, state agencies and especially from foundations. Several million dollars of funding came from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation in New York, for implementing overseas Internet programs in poor nations and also for studies of the Return on Investment of on line college teaching. Ruth is especially proud of the interest that has been generated from the ICASIT web site, which has written messages in five languages—French, Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Spanish–to greet visitors, in addition to his welcoming video in English. Over its history ICASIT has worked with dozens of partners and clients worldwide.
As to the future, Ruth is hoping to leverage a very successful project in central Nepal into a large grant proposal over the coming months. The Nepal wireless project began with a small investment in a tiny village and has now blossomed into a full-scale not-for-profit Internet service provider (ISP) which serves dozens of schools and hospitals with education, medical information and much more—an early app was an online yak bartering site. “I’m really proud of the Nepal project, because ICASIT assisted in several material ways, and now they have a full-fledged ISP.” Ruth has worked with the founder of the project, Mr. Mahabir Pun, who received the Magsaysay Award for community development, often dubbed the “Asian Nobel Prize” for his efforts. When Mr. Pun was at ICASIT in Arlington last year he visited Dean Mark Rozell and several other University officials. At the time Dean Rozell commented ”This is an amazing achievement—I hope we can find more ways to work together.” Professor Ruth would agree.