BOSCO USA was founded by Gus Zuehlke in 2007. Gus had established relationships on prior visits to Gulu with the Archdiocese of Gulu, including the Archbishop John Baptist Odama and Fr Joseph Okumu who is now the BOSCO-Uganda Executive Director. In 2007, northern Uganda was benefiting from a tenuous ceasefire, yet nearly 1.7 million people throughout the region remained stuck and isolated in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps.
Gus discussed some of the needs and challenges the archdiocese and the people were facing. The Archbishop’s priority was to help the Acholi people of northern Uganda end the severe isolation they were experiencing in the camps. By connecting camp schools, community centers, parishes, and health clinics to the outside world through Internet, the Acholi people could begin to end their isolation by advocating for their own cause.
In 2007 Gus assembled an all volunteer Board of Directors and incorporated BOSCO, Inc. as a 501(c)3 not for profit organization. In April of 2007, with the help of Inveneo and BOSCO’s Founding Technical Director Ted Pethick, BOSCO deployed the first set of low power, solar, PCs with long-range WiFi Internet in 6 site locations.
Today, BOSCO USA has watched BOSCO-Uganda grow as they employ a Uganda-based staff and administration and have expanded the BOSCO network to more than 40 sites and have attracted partnerships from both local and international development organizations, including Horizon 3000, War Child Holland, UNICEF, the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development, Accenture, and Hewlett Packard. Accenture is the lead sponsor of the Connectivity, Electrification and Education for Entrepreneurship (CE3) program, which adds surplus renewable energy and entrepreneurial training to the connected environments BOSCO supports with local community partners.
Since the founding, BOSCO USA which is based in South Bend, Indiana, USA has taken on a distinct role from BOSCO-Uganda which is based in Gulu, Uganda. BOSCO-Uganda in Gulu handles the day-to-day operations of the organization and employs a local, Ugandan staff. BOSCO-USA consists only of a volunteer Board of Directors who are mainly responsible for these main points:
- Capacity building: BOSCO-USA periodically sends technical staff on training trips to Gulu; BOSCO-USA has also supported the work of a full-time Gulu-based communications envoy to report on-the-ground progress in Gulu
- Vetting of technology: BOSCO-USA is engaged in assessing the trends of low-power computing and wireless networking equipment and passes on equipment recommendations to BOSCO-Uganda staff. BOSCO-USA is also involved in shipping some equipment for deployments to Uganda
- Public Relations: BOSCO-USA actively promotes the BOSCO project in the US with media outlets and in various communities
- Fundraising in US: BOSCO-USA raised the initial capital to start the project and is involved in fundraising to support the work of BOSCO-Uganda in Gulu. To donate to BOSCO, click here.