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Horn of dilemmas

HORN OF AFRICA. CD-Rom for geography Age group 15-18. For PC Windows and Macintosh computers (dual format), promotional price Pounds 35 + post. From SCAIF (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund)5 Oswald Street, Glasgow G1 4QR. Tel: 0141 221 4447.

Just a browse through The Horn of Africa reveals countless causes for this being one of the poorest regions of earth. This CD-Rom tackles common aspects of countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia in health, human rights, women and education., via many screens of text and rich, colourful photographs.

For example, a topic on People and the Environment tells of the pressures that strip the land of vegetation and lead to soil erosion and deserts. It mentions how population movements affect the environment and how the harsh climate, poor soils and crop pests do nothing to help.

Illustrated case studies look into agricultural development projects, the growth of cotton as a cash crop and why the immunisation programme in Somalia failed. There are figures on population, infant mortality and so on, making this a one-stop shop for lesson planning. The text is well written, and everything has a nice "designed" feel to it. In some respects it is ahead of its peers. You can take notes on a notepad, save a page of text to disc, and it's very easy to use. If you branch off the main thread of a story, there's a nice bookmark feature that gets you back easily.

The trouble is there is little need to branch off. Things do not link in ways that make the use of this special medium. For example, a CD-Rom shouldn't need a separate glossary to define terms like migration and urbanisation - you expect to just click on the words. The background music and recyclable text just about make this more than a book.

* For more on development and the environment contact your nearest Development Education Centre or the Development Education Association. Tel: 0171 490 8108

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