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DIGW in action: one story


Katie, a sixth grader in Flint, Michigan, doesn't have to go far to see a part of the world that needs help: "Where I live, my parents don't like me to go outside even to play over at my friend's house. There are ten broken-down buildings on the street next to mine." But when she thinks about the world around her, she doesn't just focus on her own neighborhood. She wants everyone to know about problems facing people all over the globe. And along with her classmates at Williams Elementary school, she has done something to that end -- she has made a game. In Katie's game, which uses a template based loosely on tic-tac-toe, players can learn, for example, that just one in three countries have gender parity in secondary education, or that despite the UN's goal of fighting HIV/AIDS, 15 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease.


Her game is part of DevInfo GameWorks (DIGW), a project that aims to bring data on the condition of humanity -- particularly data related to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals -- to a wide audience in an engaging way. DIGW does this by letting people play games that embed these data, but even more importantly, by letting young people like Katie construct their own games. The project was first conceived two years ago in Geneva, Switzerland by two University of Michigan - Flint graduate students working with the head of DevInfo, an organization that develops software tools for the compilation, display, analysis, and dissemination of human development data from around the world.


Few in the United States have even heard of the Millennium Development Goals, much less know how much progress has -- or hasn't -- been made around the planet. If Katie and her classmates have their way, though, that will soon change. Last week she and two of her classmates, Uniek and Chris, took their games to the state capitol and showed them to the kids and adults who had gathered for a state-wide student technology showcase. "People are always thinking about themselves," Uniek remarked, sitting on the steps of the capitol building. "When you play the game, it helps you learn," Katie joined in, "and then you can get involved."

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