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Vol II | Issue 2 | June 2008

Face2Face Michael clarke, Ahmed m m Eisa, r chandrashekhar, H k pamarthy

Telecentres: towards sustainable development in asia-pacific Clovis freire

key to resource mobilisation: bangkok workshop, april 2008 Vignesh sornamohan

1,000 ideas to make telecentres work

29-31 July 2008 Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, INDIA

Contact Person: Vignesh Sornamohan: Mobile No: +91-9999654458, Email: For Exhibition or Sponsorship Enquiries: For Registration Enquiries:


2008 29-31 July 2008 Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, INDIA

Can rural India empower itself with IT? Find out this July at Telecentre Forum India 2008 The Indian Telecentre Forum 2008 (ITF 2008), fifth in the series of Telecentre Forums organised by CSDMS, will provide a platform for all key stakeholders representing the government, the private sector, the civil society, Telecentre practitioners and leaders, technology solution providers, social investors and funding agencies to join and discuss the achievements, challenges and the progress in the telecentre movement. The forum will create a common ground for equitable learning which will facilitate a process of overall development of the country. It will shape the way forward for the telecentre movement within India, and make it an example for the world to learn from.

Key Speakers .

D Purendeswari Minister of State for Higher Education, MHRD, GoI

Ashis Sanyal Senior Director, DIT Min of Comm & IT, GoI

Prof M S Swaminathan MP & Chairman, MSSRF

Dr Basheerhamad Shadrach

R Chandrashekhar Additional Secretary, DIT Min of Comm & IT, GoI

Chetan Sharma Founder, Datamation Foundation Charitable Trust, New Delhi

S Abbasi Senior Director, DIT Min of Comm & IT, GoI

Rufina Fenandes CEO, NASSCOM Foundation, Mumbai

Aruna Sundararajan CEO, CSC Programme, IL&FS

• The Need of New Technologies and Innovations in the Areas of Content and Connectivity A Close Examination of Telecentre Movement in India • Upgrading the Skills of the Grassroots Managers Demystifying Social Enterprise Model • Examining the Role of NGOs in Common Services Discussions on Achieving Balance between Financial and Social Objectives Centres Programme Asian Telecentre Leaders Knowledge Sharing Session • Will Mobile Phones Take Over Telecentres?

Key themes • • • •

International Supporting Partners

Supporting Partner is a global community of people and organizations committed to increasing the social and economic impact of grassroots telecentres. The founding investors include Canada’s International Development Research Centre, Microsoft, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.The association will bring a knowledge sharing session for Asian telecentre leaders, an open conclave of service centre agencies, State IT secretaries and a high level delegation from Africa and village, at eINDIA2008. eINDIA 2008 Presented by

Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications & IT Government of India

UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development

knowledge for change

Ministry of Human Resource Development Government of India

Department of Agriculture and Co-operation Ministry of Agriculture Government of India


Volume II | Issue 2 | June 2008

Features 5 Editorial 10 Towards sustainable

development in AsiaPacific

Clovis Freire

16 Revitalising the

telecentre movement in Europe

Lize De Clercq

1000 Ideas to make telecentres work 60 Distance learning

J E Hinostraza, Rodrigo Garrido,

C Labbe, J H Reyes and F M Garcia

45 TARA Akshar: Towards literacy in 30 days Kunal Tyagi and M S Ahluwalia

49 New hopes and emerging

collaborations: 5th EATLF

Kiringai Kamau

Face2Face 6 Steering a new ICT4D and GKP era ahead Michael Clarke

Vignesh Sornamohan

telecentre: Community support to the rescue once again Peter Balaba

70 Readers’ Corner June 2008

Facilitated by Kenneth Keniston and Kentaro Toyama

35 Telecentres run as small,

local businesses make a good model to ensure sustainablity!

Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Sriram Raghavan

Country Focus 26 Philippines: Towards

socio-economic development through Community e-Centres Maria Teressa M Camba

21 From Minister to

Telecentre Practitioner Ahmed M M Eisa

Grassroots Story 38 Celebrating grassroots 40 Transforming rural India:

600,000 villages; over 100,000 telecentres R Chandrashekhar

telecentre managers Shanika (Sri Lanka) and Suheib Babiker (Sudan)

Vignesh Sornamohan, Juanita Kakoty

Knowledge Resources 67 Choike: A portal on southern civil societies

69 Telecentre online 62 Boosting rural

58 Re-building Nakaseke

marginal farmers through telecentres

Vignesh Sornamohan

53 Key to resource mobilisation: Bangkok Workshop, April 2008

JosĂŠ Avando Souza Sales

61 Wealth creation among

31 Investigating the socio-economic impact of public access to ICT in Chile

through telecentres

Telecentre Debates

entrepreneurship through telecentres H K Pamarthy


Cover Page

Photo Credit: You can download the complete version of the magazine from 


Editorial Guidelines telecentre magazine will contain articles and features with valuable insights and in-depth analysis on various aspects of telecentres. Authors are requested to follow the following guidelines while sending their articles to telecentre magazine.

enclosed with the article. Hard copy photos are also accepted and must be enclosed with no staples or pins attached. For electronic versions, photos must be numbered, dated and duly credited and captioned. Details about the author(s): Manuscript must contain a separate coversheet with the name(s) of the author(s), contact information of him/her/them including email, telephone numbers and brief biodata. The Editor reserves the right to reject, edit and adjust articles in order to conform to the magazine’s format. No remuneration is paid or charges levied for contributions.

Research articles/features: •

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Articles/case studies should not exceed 2500 words. For book reviews and event report, the word limit is 800. (longer articles will be considered only in exceptional cases.) It must contain an abstract of the article of maximum 200 words. All articles/case studies should provide proper references. Authors should give in writing stating that the work is new and has not been published in any form so far.

• • • •

The Editor telecentre magazine CSDMS G-4, Sector 39, NOIDA (UP) 201 301, India Tel +91 120 2502180-85 Fax +91 120 2500060 For more information contact:

Subscription Form

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Reports or notes on conferences, workshops and seminars on ICT or related fields must be 800 words in length. Mention the theme, venue, date, and name of the organizer(s). The reports or notes must contain relevant photographs of the events covered. The conference held in the past two months of the forthcoming issue will be preferred. Provide the URL of the organiser’s website or a link to the papers.

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Submission of the manuscripts: All manuscripts are to be submitted directly to the Editor, telecentre magazine, preferably by email at as an attachment, prepared as a Word file, or by posting CD-ROM with two hard copies in A4 size paper to the address given below. The texts: The texts must be typed in ‘Times New Roman’, 12 font size, at double space. Use standard Oxford English Dictionary spellings (use ‘s’ instead of ‘z’). Relevant images/photographs: Relevant images/photographs must be scanned at 300dpi at a minimum width of 5 inches and those must be sent in TIFF format. Hard copies of submitted photographs should be of high quality in a recommended size of 5 inches by 7 inches. Please mention the credits and captions on the back of the hard copies. Passport size photograph(s) of author(s): The passport size photographs in Tiff format of the author(s), taken against a light background, must be

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Please use photocopies of this form as required. telecentre magazine, G-4 Sector 39, Noida 201301, India Tel: +91 120 250 2180 to 85 Fax +91 120 250 0060 Email

Editorial Telecentres: Effective Agents Of Financial Inclusion!

Volume II | Issue 2 | June 2008

Advisory Board Senior Advisory Group M P Narayanan President, CSDMS Gerolf Weigel Director, ICT4D Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Switzerland Michael Clarke Director, ICT4D International Development Research Centre Canada Akhtar Badshah Senior Director, Global Community Affairs Microsoft Corporation, USA Florencio Ceballos Programme Manager,, Canada

Editorial Team Editorial Advisor Basheerhamad Shadrach Senior Programme Officer,, New Delhi Editor-in-Chief Ravi Gupta Executive Director, CSDMS

The upsurge of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) ushered in digital inclusion across the globe. Donor-dominated telecentre models and government-funded/subsidised initiatives ensured a direct redressal of the ‘urban-rural’ divide, especially in the developing countries. Free access to digital information and services was made possible. This negotiated the urban-rural divide. But down the line, questions about the sustainability of telecentres emerged. How to induce longevity in the telecentres? In an attempt to answer this, the corporate sector model stepped into the telecentre eco-system, with economic sustainability as the primary goal. To substantiate the argument, one can take the case of ‘EasySeva’ in Sri Lanka and ‘Citizens’ Centres Enterprise’ in India. The EasySeva project was launched in May 2007 by Synergy Strategies Group (SSG), a US based company, after it won the bid of USAID’s Last Mile Initiative. An EasySeva centre is owned by an entrepreneur, who is part of a franchise. In return for franchise fees, the entrepreneur receives bulk purchasing, training, technical and marketing support from the franchise. The franchise also acts as a platform whereby entrepreneurs can access microfinance and leasing services through Sri Lankan financial institutions.

Editor Jayalakshmi Chittoor Programme Coordinator, CSDMS Content Editor Vignesh Sornamohan ( Research Associate Juanita Kakoty ( Editorial Consultants Christine Prefontaine, Partha Sarker, Mariana Rethen, Community Content Facilitators Vignesh Sornamohan Esther Nasikye Eiko Kawamura Leonce Sessou Karim Kasim Designers Bishwajeet, James, Om Prakash Web Management Zia Salauddin Subscription and Circulation Lipika Dutta (

Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies, 2007

Except where otherwise stated, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution 3.0 License

Partners Partnership The ‘telecentre magazine’ is produced by the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies in collaboration with Published quarterly, it provides an in-depth review and analysis of the role of public access to technology, focusing on research findings, innovations, and current thinking and debates.

Social Investors

Citizens’ Centres Entreprise (CCE) started in April 2005 and is an initiative of Hand-inHand Microfinanace, a not-for-profit organisation based in Tamil Nadu, India (See p. 62). The organisation identifies enthusiastic entrepreneurs from its Self-Help Groups, builds their capacity through training, and provides micro finance support to set up the enterprise. The entrepreneur has to invest a small portion of the total investment to promise continued interest in the enterprise. In both the models, small entrepreneurs got the opportunity to get integrated to formal financial institutions and get included. These successful Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) endeavours prove that high quality ICT services can be provided in rural areas on a profitable basis. Telecentres can be effective agents of financial inclusion. Such models, therefore, should be analysed to assess the feasibility of their reproduction in different parts of the world. In this issue, Michael Clarke talks about the future of IDRC and, and ICT for Development. Clovis Freire emphasises the role of telecentres for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. He also highlights the UNESCAP’s role in the region. We have covered the recently concluded 5th East African Telecentre Leaders Forum (EATLF), held at Khartoum, Sudan on 9-11 June 2008, and an interview with Ahmed M M Eisa. In order to celebrate grassroots level telecentre managers/operators, we have introduced the Grassroots Story as a ‘Photo Tribute’. This issue celebrates Shanika and Suheib Babiker from Sri Lanka (Asia) and Sudan (Africa) respectively. Hope you enjoy reading this issue; and we sincerely invite suggestions for our improvement.

Ravi Gupta

June 2008

face2face with Michael Clarke


Michael Clarke

Steering A New Era Ahead Ravi Gupta, Vignesh Sornamohan and Juanita Kakoty

Photo Credit: CSDMS

Michael Clarke Director, ICT4D Division IDRC

Photo Credit: Eiko Kawamura

through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) rather than accessing ICTs per se. The way I see it, in the future, the ‘I’ and ‘C’ in ICT4D will remain upper case, ‘T’ will become lower case and ‘D’ will become even larger. In other words, access to information and communication for development will become the prime concern within ICT4D in the coming years. Among all players in this space, GKP is in a better position to broker such sharing among the stakeholders. As the chairperson of GKP, I am in the service of and responsive to the committee and community. The committee is going to have some new members on board. But, the larger goals and the democratic character of the committee are not going to change.

8How do you see the programme fitting into the overall agenda of IDRC?

Michael Clarke, Director, ICT4D Division, International Development and Research Centre (IDRC), Canada has been elected as the Chair of the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) Executive Committee in April 2008. He succeeds Walter Fust, Director-General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Clarke holds a PhD in Parasitology from the University of Guelph and has assumed progressively senior roles in the management and direction of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) programmes over the past 15 years. He has been involved in the areas of curriculum development and medical education. He is the founder of the Canadian health and clinical medicine journal, ‘Open Medicine’. In a brief interview with telecentre magazine, Clarke articulates the future of ICTs for development, his new role at GKP, and the trajectory of

As far as is concerned, it plays the role of strengthening human and financial resources of the global telecentre movement. The was set up as a programme. The idea was to launch it as a 5-year project, which will come up with its own sustainability model at the end. The IDRC granted a one-time funding to this programme. The programme has a strategic advisory group to advise on the key decisions and with their guidance there is an ongoing work to develop strategies directed towards making a self-sustaining model. In the meanwhile, some initiatives, which have a strong IDRC character within, have been identified.

IDRC: Empowerment through knowledge •

8How do you see the future of ICT4D and your new role in the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP)?

It’s very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. It’s very difficult to say where ICT4D is moving. Initially, access was the issue. Contrary to popular perception, access is still the issue. But it’s not the access to infrastructure anymore; it’s about access to ideas, people, networks, conversations, information, etc. Therefore, the focus would be more on enabling people to access knowledge

June 2008

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) was created by the Parliament of Canada in 1970 to help developing countries use science and technology to find solutions to their socioeconomic and environmental problems IDRC aims at creating a local research community, which will build healthier, more equitable and prosperous societies. It is guided by a 21-member, International Board of Governors and reports to the Canadian Parliament through the Minister of Foreign Affairs IDRC is active in more than 55 countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. It funds applied research, provides expert advice to researchers, and builds local capacity in developing countries


8Recently, IDRC and Gates Foundation have initiated a joint research project on public access to ICTs. What are the research issues that the project is focusing on?

Basically, the project will develop research methodologies that don’t yet exist. It will address questions like: • • •

What are the observable social and economic impacts of public access to ICT? What is the magnitude of these benefits? What is the relationship between costs and benefits in providing free public access?

The project has brought together international researchers to develop ICT4D as a bona fide research area. It is challenging, because it seeks to develop new ways of researching ICTs in development. The objective is to see if empowerment through knowledge happens, and also,

“Even though the was set up as a programme, the idea was to launch it as a 5-year project, which will come up with its own sustainability model in the end” hopefully, to prove this point. The current notion is to keep libraries as open spaces for shared access to information. But in case of such open spaces, the key challenge is what

kind of intermediary should exist and how to train them? We can hope to benefit more from this research.

8What is your ‘Open Philosophy’? How does it link to ICT for development?

The ‘Open Movement’ was born out of the ICT Movement. It has provided new thinking around the notion of proprietary versus public domain intellectual property. Open business models have emerged. The organisations are collaboratively building business plans and putting it out in the public space.

“IDRC and Gates Foundation have initiated a joint research project on public access to ICTs. It has brought together international researchers to develop ICT4D as a bona fide research area”

8What are the and IDRC telecentre initiatives in Africa?

There have been a lot of initiatives in Africa. But, the question is, how do you evaluate the contribution of these telecentres to development in the African region. The programme has immensely contributed to the African telecentre movement. The IDRC and are also bringing together telecentre practitioners from Asia and Africa, so that they can learn from each other.

8You were in Rwanda last week working with telecentre practitioners. Do you see a bigger role for telecentres, globally, for providing access to telemedicine?

GKP: The multi-stakeholder network for promoting knowledge and ICT4D •

Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) is the world’s first multi-stakeholder network that promotes innovation and advancement in the field of knowledge and Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D). GKP brings together the public and private sectors, as well as the civil society organisations for sharing knowledge and building partnerships GKP was founded in 1997 and comprises over 100 members, across 50 countries. It is governed by an elected Executive Committee and supported by a Secretariat based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia GKP operates globally, especially in the following eight regions --- Africa, Europe, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, North America, Oceania and South Asia. It is directed towards activities and programmes vis-a-vis access to knowledge, education, poverty reduction and resource mobilisation

Globally, the telecentres can play a key role in disseminating health related information. But, when it comes to access to health care facilities, there is still a lot that could be done by telecentres. For instance, the trained health practitioners can provide most of the health care services throuh telecentres. It is not entirely clear to me how telecentres will be able deliver these services but there is no question that telecentres can function as information access points for those seeking validated, evidence-based information about health issues.

8What are the recent developments on the ICT and health care front?

Most of us know that health care is an information rich industry and Information and Communication Technologies have a place naturally. There is a growing awareness that effective management of health care service delivery is now predicated on an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) platform. The scope is widening. There is an increasing demand to engage with health care delivery management services and applications. This engagement has to be at both the national and international levels. IDRC is currently working on different health related projects all over the world. We are making sure that the projects we are working on comply with international standards.

8How do ICTs play a role in mitigating the risks of climate change and what are the emerging research issues pursued at IDRC?

The issues around climate change and global warming are well evidenced, researched and documented.. We are also looking at ‘bio-surveillance’, as a northeast sector monitoring exercise. We are considering a project that will involve aggregating data from the fields of primary health care, agriculture, and the environment. to monitor and predict adverse likelihood events and to set a model to monitor climate change that could provide solid evidence for informed policy making.

8Rockefeller Foundation has recently initiated a huge e-Health programme. Is IDRC going to be a part of it?

Yes, we are aware of it. Currently, IDRC partners are engaged in this initiative and I will be participating in the upcoming Bellagio conference on eHealth in July.

8What are the emerging ICT4D issues which are being looked at by the IDRC?

“Contrary to popular perception, access is sill the issue. But it’s not so much about access to infrastructure anymore; it’s about access to knowledge --- ideas, people, networks, conversations, information, etc.” In terms of technology, we obviously have to pay attention to connectivity. It is still important. However, one of the big questions that came up in the discussion with the Gates Foundation was, what are the consequences of providing high-speed broadband connectivity removing any bandwidth constraints? How does that create an impact and how does that change priorities in developing countries? Therefore, there is a whole range of questions, issues and concerns around the availability or non-availability of broadband access.

8In this age, mobiles are becoming ICT tools that are already in the hands of the poor, even before they lay hands on the computer. This has been observed in the remote parts of Africa as well as Asia. Where do you fit telecentres in such a scenario?

It is true that mobile phones have a far greater prevalence in remote and rural areas than computers. But, the range of activities and services that will go on in a telecentre can very well exploit the benefits of the mobile phone. It is not a case of ‘either or’, it should be both. Greater connectivity requires the presence of both mobile phones and telecentres. q

June 2008

Photo Credit: CSDMS

We need to move beyond the focus on access to technology. Our research partners are telling us now that the prime focus now should be on access to knowledge through ICTs. In fact, we have projects in Asia and Africa to address the issues around access to knowledge. It is exploring different issues around intellectual property, copyright policies, livelihood issues. The project focuses on enabling new competencies and business opportunities.

Quick Scan • • •

Future of ICT4D: Shared access to information, ideas, networks, etc. Public access to ICT: Research commission to assess the socio-economic impact of telecentres on communities Health and telecentres: Telecentres can function as information access points for those seeking validated, evidence-based information about health services Mobile phones can complement telecentres

T E L E C E N T R E I niti a ti v e s


Towards Sustainable Development In Asia-Pacific

Photo Credit: ESCAP

Clovis Freire

Telecentre leaders take group photo during meeting to discuss the establishment of knowledge network of telecentres in Asia-Pacific (Bangkok, Thailand, September 2007)

Clovis Freire, Information Technology Officer, Information, Communication and Space Technology Division, UNESCAP discourses on the possibilities of telecentres to scale up rural beneficiaries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Background Asia and the Pacific is one of the world’s most dynamic regions with a record of impressive rapid economic growth. China and India, the region’s economic locomotives, are expected to continue to stimulate growth in the rest of the region while developing economies are expected to grow at a robust 7.7 per cent in 20081. This is the region that has contributed most in reducing poverty in the world. It has reduced the number of poor living on less than USD 1 a day from 1.25 billion in 1981 to 641 million in 20042. More impressive is the fact that the decline in the number of poor in the region has happened despite the growth in the population by 760 million people since 19903. Despite this positive economic prospect, Asia-Pacific still is a region of great disparities. Social, environmental and economic imbalances are, regrettably, the hallmarks of the region. Close to one billion people in the Asia-Pacific region lack access to electricity, while one in every six persons lacks access to safe and sustainable water supplies. One quarter of a million mothers die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth while some four million children die every year before reaching the age of five4. The region is a major contributor to climate change, whose impact will hit hardest at the poorest developing countries5. In terms of economic imbalances, despite the positive economic prospect already presented, income inequalities have risen in 12 out of 20 countries of the region, for which trend is available6. The decline in poverty in the region has been impressive 10


but it has slowed since the late 1980s. In China, half of the aggregate decline was in the first half of the 1980s. In India, only six million people were taken out of poverty after 1999, a period of rapid economic growth7. It is well known who has been left behind: the rural poor, the largest group suffering from these imbalances. If one is to address poverty, one has to tackle rural poverty. And if one is to tackle rural poverty, one has to urgently turn attention to the problems in the agriculture sector. Agriculture is the main livelihood of the poor, providing employment to 60 per cent of the working population in Asia-Pacific. The 2008 Economic and Social Survey by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) shows that improving agricultural labour productivity would enable one third of the region’s poor – 218 million people – to rise out of poverty. Despite these facts, since 1980s, there have been massive reductions of public investment in rural infrastructure and an erosion of public services for the rural poor8. Role of telecentres in increased agricultural productivity: a two-pronged strategy ESCAP has proposed a two-pronged strategy to make agriculture economically and socially viable, and reduce poverty and inequality. First, agriculture needs another revolution. Connecting the rural poor to cities and markets, promoting technology transfer, and investing in human capital to increase agricultural productivity would be part of the strategy. Second, facilitating job creation out of agriculture by empowering the poor, particularly women, with the skills to tap labour market opportunities, and by promoting rural non-farm activities and regional growth centres9. So, having rural poverty in perspective, what is the role that telecentres can play towards inclusive and sustainable development in the region? The main effect of the access to information and communication technologies (ICT) by rural and disadvantaged communities is the empowerment of these communities in pursuing their own socio-economic development. Rural access to ICT through telecentres can improve agricultural productivity by connecting the rural poor to direct markets, and by giving them ready access to June 2008

Asia-Pacific: Facts  The Asia-Pacific region covers 39 countries – 24 countries in Asia and 15 Island Nations in the Pacific 1  Compared to 69 per cent of the North American population and 38 per cent of the European population, only about 10 per cent of people in Asia-Pacific access the Internet 2  The region is lagging behind in the use of ICTs not only due to unavailable affordable hardware and connectivity, but also because computing is still primarily in nonAsian languages 3  The region is home to about half of the world’s spoken languages 4  21 of the 30 most spoken languages in the world are also from this region 5  The Human Development Index Value in East Asia and the Pacific was 0.771 and in South Asia was 0.611 in 2005 6  The GDP per capita (PPP USD) was 6,604 and 3,416 in East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia respectively in 2005 7  The adult literacy rate, in 2005, was 90.7 per cent in East Asia and the Pacific, 59.5 per cent in South Asia 8  Life expectancy, in 2005, stood at 71.7 years in East Asia and the Pacific, and 63.8 years in South Asia 9 Sources (


(Internet World Stats 2006a;


(Digital Review of Asia-Pacific 2007-8, p. 43;


(UNESCO 2004;


(Katsiavriades and Qureshi 2006;












information on the prices of inputs and products. Better information would also give farmers a sense of market demand and of seasonal variations in produce and prices so that they can adjust their production. One example is the e-Choupal telecentres, established by ITC Ltd., an Indian company. The ICT-trained local farmers operate these telecentres. These telecentres facilitate

A stocktaking exercise conducted by UNESCAP has identified around 13,000 telecentres in the Asia-Pacific region. But, to have one telecentre serving every 5,000 rural people in the region, it would be necessary to establish more than 450,000 new telecentres

The telecentres can also be leveraged to boost productivity by facilitating rural and remote delivery of education and health services, which is not normally available. One example is the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Science, which runs a distance education system to train farmers on the outskirts of Beijing and in the rural areas of Xinjiang and Tibet. Since 2002, its centres have provided more than 600,000 farmers with remote education by satellite11. The Indian Space Research Organisation also uses satellites to provide remote health services for the rural poor. The medical history of patients in rural areas is sent to specialist doctors, who study and provide diagnosis and treatment during video-conferences with patients. More than a million patients in rural areas have received health services through this system12. Harness telecentres to boost rural non-farm activities Telecentres can also facilitate the development of rural non-farm activities. In Malaysia’s remote Bario district, telecentres have improved livelihoods by facilitating the development of eco-tourism. The once-isolated community, now, communicates with potential tourists directly through e-mail and confirms bookings for accommodations online. More youths are staying in Bario to run the tourist accommodation and tourist activities13.

Photo Credit: ESCAP

other farmers’ access to good practices in agriculture and to market prices for commodities. Better market information helps farmers to decide when and where to sell. By purchasing directly from the farmers, ITC made the channel more efficient and created value for both the farmers and the company. The farmers benefit from accurate weighing, faster processing and timely payment. By 2007, more than 6,500 e-Choupal telecentres were operating in about 31,000 villages 10.

Telecentres for education and health services in remote, rural areas

Villagers in Nepal take group photo after meeting to assess how ICT can help to develop their community (Futung Village, Kathmandu, Nepal, November 2007) 12

Photo Credit: ESCAP

Villagers in rural Bhutan participate in activities to discuss the establishment of telecentres (Wangdue Dzongkhag, Bhutan, September 2007)

The provision of ICT services in rural areas is a non-farm activity. Rural entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this trend by offering ICT training and computer access to rural communities, as one sees in many examples of ICT Kiosks in South Asia such as the micro franchise model adopted by Drishtee, a non-governmental organisation in India whose business plan promotes rural entrepreneurship14. One may be able to present a lengthy list of ICT applications that have the potential to foster social and economic development. The problem is not in finding use for the technology, but how to make it available to the rural poor. ICT connectivity in rural areas is significantly lower than

in urban areas. Rapid advances in mobile technology and its growing uptake in the region present great opportunities to make ICT accessible to the rural poor. The use of mobile phones requires minimal literacy while basic phones are within the reach of an increasingly large population. By the end of 2006, mobile phones have become affordable for 1.2 billion people in the region, representing almost 50 per cent of the world’s mobile subscriptions15. Mobile phones are also integrating other technologies, such as photography, music, video, geographic positioning, and Internet access. In the future, these technologies will open up a wide range of new opportunities for provision of services in rural areas.

UNESCAP and telecentres •

It is promoting regional cooperation on the application of ICT for development in the Asia-Pacific region through its programme on Information, Communication and Space Technology

It seeks to transform selected telecentres in Asia-Pacific into hubs of global information network

As part of its initiatives, UNESCAP has conducted consultative meetings with telecentre stakeholders in the AsiaPacific region, and it will launch the knowledge networks of telecentres in the second half of 2008

UNESCAP and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are jointly working, with a total budget of USD 1.2 Million, to build the capacity of national institutions on the establishment of telecentres in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal

UNESCAP has launched the Telecentre Online Database, which offers free access to information on telecentre projects in the Asia-Pacific region. It covers more than 80 telecentre projects in 19 countries, which amount for around 13,000 telecentres

June 2008



Telecentres: Shared access at low costs However, the cost of access is still very high in rural areas. The establishment of telecentres for shared access to ICT seems to be the promising ways to bridge this rural-urban digital divide. Although the actual facilities and usages vary across telecentres, generally they provide access to telephones, computers, e-mail, and the Internet. Another important characteristic of the telecentres is their potential for providing services that promote the development of the communities they serve.

Telecentre Online Database, launched by UNESCAP, offers free access to information on telecentre projects in the Asia-Pacific region. It covers more than 80 telecentre projects in 19 countries, which amount for around 13,000 telecentres. The database is expected to be used to support research, exchange of information, and collaboration among people working in the field of telecentre development But sustainability and scalability are the major challenges for the establishment of telecentres. A stocktaking exercise that is being conducted by ESCAP has identified around 13,000 telecentres in the Asia-Pacific region16. To have one telecentre serving every 5,000 rural people in the region, it would be necessary to establish more than 450,000 new telecentres. The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) that is being implemented in India for the establishment of 100,000 Common Services Centres (CSC) is an innovative initiative that addresses scalability/sustainability challenges. The individual countries can learn from this and other PPP experiences to develop and strengthen their own rural ICT programmes. The role of civil society, private partners, and services related content in telecentres In terms of content, telecentres should be a platform to deliver relevant services to the rural poor. Services that are in the realm of government, such as education and health, are good examples. In that regard, the main challenge seems not to be related to technology. According to the United Nations Global e-Government Readiness Survey 2008, which evaluates how ready the Governments of 192 countries in enhancing the delivery of services to their citizens through the use of ICT, success or failure in such e-Government initiatives is less a technological issue and more a people issue. In particular, the ability to change


public service cultures and motivate public sector workers to new ways of working17. Telecentres can facilitate the provision of services to the rural poor, but the challenge is in making these services available in rural areas in the first place. In practice, there are trade-offs as governments weight up how much they are prepared to spend to achieve a given level of service coverage. As a result, some services are not extended beyond the urban areas. This may be, at first look, economically rational but it results in wild disparities between the urban and rural areas. One of the most direct ways in which the government can address poverty is by ensuring the availability of services, either providing them directly or sustaining a framework for provision through the private sector or civil society18. Role of ESCAP and telecentre stakeholders towards inclusive and sustainable development To achieve inclusive and sustainable development we need collaboration and active participation of all stakeholders. ESCAP is promoting regional cooperation on the application of ICT for development in the Asia-Pacific region through its programme on Information, Communication and Space Technology. As the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region, ESCAP provides a regional forum for Governments and other stakeholders to share good practices, lessons learned, analysis, knowledge and experience on ICT for development. This is part of ESCAP’s continuous efforts to assist member countries to build institutional and human capacity, and to create an enabling policy and regulatory environment towards the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) objectives. Amongst the initiatives related to telecentres in the region, ESCAP is promoting the establishment of knowledge networks of telecentres. The aim is to transform selected telecentres into hubs of global information networks to

UNESCAP and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are jointly working to build the capacity of national institutions on the establishment of telecentres in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal with a total budget of USD 1.2 Million share and disseminate knowledge related to key areas of sustainable development such as employment, education, gender and health. As part of this initiative, ESCAP has conducted consultative meetings with telecentre stakeholders

in the Asia-Pacific region and it will launch the knowledge networks of telecentres in the second half of this year19. ESCAP and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are jointly working to build the capacity of national institutions on the establishment of telecentres in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. With the total budget of US$ 1.2 Million, this initiative aims to establish telecentres, develop local content and applications and build capacity of local administrations and community members in the four participating countries20. ESCAP has also launched the Telecentre Online Database, which offers free access to information on telecentre projects in the Asia-Pacific region. Covering more than 80 telecentre projects in 19 countries, which amount for around 13,000 telecentres, the database provides a platform for taking stock of telecentre projects in the region. The database is expected to be used to support research, exchange of information, and collaboration among people working in the field of telecentre development21. There are numerous challenges for countries in the region to scale up the establishment of telecentres, not only in technical aspects, but also at policy and institutional levels. During the process to strengthen the capacity of national institutions in the region, to leverage telecentres for sustainable development, particularly in rural areas, the cooperation between ESCAP and other telecentre stakeholders will be further enhanced. q Quick Scan • • • •

Rural accesss to ICT through telecentres can improve agricultural productivity More than a million patients in rural areas have received health services through telemedicine Telecentres can facilitate the development of nonfarm activities like, eco-tourism, ICT training, etc. The challenge in the provision of services through telecentres is in making these services available in rural areas

Author Clovis Freire is the Information Technology Officer at the Information, Communication and Space Technology Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) e-mail: The article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.

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Referances 1. ESCAP, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2008, pp. v, Sales No. E.08.II.F.7 2. ESCAP, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2008, pp. 122, Sales No. E.08.II.F.7 3. ESCAP, Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2007, pp. 1, Sales No. B.08.II.F.1 4. ESCAP, ADB, UNDP, A Future Within Reach 2008 – Regional Partnerships for Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific, Sales No. E.08. II.F.15 5. ESCAP, Energy Security and Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, pp. 20, 2008, Sales No. E.08.II.F.13 6. ESCAP, Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2007, pp. 104, Sales No. B.08.II.F.1 7. Ibid ii 8. ESCAP, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2008, pp. 129, 137-139, Sales No. E.08.II.F.7 9. ESCAP, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2008, pp. 145151, Sales No. E.08.II.F.7 10. Sachin Sahay, “Mission e-Choupal”, Presentation to the ESCAP Consultative Meeting for the Establishment of Regional Knowledge Network of Telecentres in Asia-Pacific, 27-28 September 2007. Available at: meeting/cmap2007/India_Presentation_eChoupal.pdf 11. Jianxin Guo, Sufen Sun, Changshou Luo,”Transformation Digital Divide into Digital Opportunities for Rural Population - Research and Practice of Rural Distance Education and Information Service in Beijing”, US-China Education Review, ISSN1548-6613,USA, Jan 2005 12. Satyamurthy L.S. and Murthy R.L.N., “Indian Telemedicine Programme – Efforts towards integrating the stakeholders for realizing a technology based health care delivery system”, presented at the APT Regional Workshop on Telemedicine 6-9 February 2007, Chiangmai, Thailand 13. “Guidebook on Developing Community e-Centres in Rural Areas: Based on the Malaysian experience”, ESCAP, 2006. Available at: http://www.unescap. org/icstd/applications/projects/Malaysia_CeC/docs/guidebook.pdf 14. Mishra, Mamta and Mishra, Swapna. “Equity within ICT.” Paper presented at the ESCAP Consultative Meeting for the Establishment of Regional Knowledge Network of Telecentres in Asia-Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. September 27-28, 2007. Available at: Drishtee.pdf 15. Calculation based on data from the “ESCAP - Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2007”. Number of mobile cellular subscribers: ESCAP (2006) = 1.27 Billion, World (2006) = 2.69 Billion. 16. The ESCAP Telecentre Online Database. Available at: http://www.unescap. org/icstd/applications/cec/default.aspx 17. United Nations E-Government Survey 2008: From E-Government to Connected Governance, DESA, 2008, ST/ESA/PAD/SER.E/112 18. ESCAP, ADB, UNDP, A Future Within Reach 2005 – Reshaping institutions in a region of disparities to meet the Millennium Development Goals in Asia and the Pacific, pp. 45-46. Sales No. E.05.II.F.27 19. Information regarding this initiative is available at: icstd/applications/projects/DAKN/ 20. Information regarding this initiative is available at: icstd/applications/projects/ADB-CeC/ 21. The Telecentre Online Database can be accessed at http://www.unescap. org/icstd/applications/cec




Lize De Clercq

Photo Credit: Laurentiu Bunescu

Revitalising The Telecentre Movement In Europe

Participants actively engaged in the Telecentre Leaders Forum Europe held at Riga, Latvia on 8-9 April 2008


he telecentre-europe is a project for networking telecentres in Europe. Network partners have agreed in principle to coordinate efforts, seek solutions and integrate resources at an international level, in an effort to improve the capacity and management of community-focused telecentres. The vision of telecentre-europe is to become a viable network of telecentres and practitioners in Europe, to collaborate and share knowledge with counterparts within and outside the continent. Its vision is to provide participants with a unique opportunity to coordinate efforts, share skills, compare experiences, integrate resources, learn best practices and strengthen connections across the diverse e-Skills and e-Inclusion programmes. telecentre-europe can, therefore, probably be seen as a catalyst of the telecentre movement in Europe. Background The telecentre-europe network has grown rapidly since its emergence in June 2007, when telecentre practitioners from around the European Union (EU) gathered in Barcelona. They discussed new ways to grow and sustain efforts to support economic empowerment through e-Inclusion programmes in Europe. Today, the community includes more than 100 telecentre practitioners, programme leaders and development partners from Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and organisations that fund telecentre activities from 23 countries in Europe and beyond. 16

Riga Declaration The journey begins: Barcelona On June 19-20, 2007, more than 50 telecentre practitioners from Europe gathered in Barcelona to share best practices on e-Skills for employability programmes, and to discuss new ways to grow and sustain efforts to support economic empowerment through this field. They observed that the EU and NGOs, in the e-Inclusion programmes, have similar targets and, therefore, underscored the importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing among all key players. The participant NGOs resolved to establish a mechanism for knowledge-sharing, where telecentres can collaborate to develop training curriculum, monitoring and evaluation tools; benchmark the impact on communities; find funding opportunities and influence policy at the European level. The proposed strategy called for the creation of a network of telecentres that consolidates the voice of the NGOs working on e-Skills programmes, and provides a venue for collaboration and sharing: telecentre-europe. Accordingly, participants elected a task force to plan and create the telecentre-europe network, which would spearhead knowledge-sharing processes and provide a unified voice for all players as they engage with the EU on implementation of the Lisbon Strategy (2005) and Riga Declaration (2006). The task force has spearheaded a number of activities to share experiences amongst programmes and build a networking spirit. The task force also established major in-roads into EU eInclusion programming. Nevertheless, it realised that there was more to be done to enable the network provide valueadded services to its members and make it sustainable. The most urgent need was to create and build a community of people, who believe in the power of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as tools for

Lisbon Strategy In Lisbon, Portugal, March 2000, the European Union (EU) adopted a ten-year programme to revitalise growth and sustainable development across the EU. The Union set itself the goal to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth. This was to be achieved through a range of policies that is conducive to high growth, the internal market, investing in people and combating social exclusion. In February 2005, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced the relaunch of the Lisbon Strategy as a Partnership for Growth and Jobs. It simplified targets and reporting procedures, and announced a single National Reform Programme (NRP) for each country. Sources: Lissabon.html

June 2008

On June 11-13, 2006, at Riga in Latvia, the Ministers of the European Union (EU) Member States, the accession and candidate countries, European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries and other countries adopted a Declaration on e-Inclusion. The Declaration was a pan-European drive to use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to help overcome economic, social, educational, territorial or disability-related disadvantages. It aimed at ‘e-Inclusion’, with the target to halve the gap in Internet usage by groups at risk of exclusion. It also aimed to boost broadband coverage in Europe to at least 90 per cent, and to make all public web sites accessible by 2010. Sources: index_en.html, do?reference=IP/06/769

development, and appreciate the value of knowledgesharing. The journey continues: Riga On April 8-9, 2008, more than 60 telecentre practitioners from 43 organisations, representing 23 countries across Europe, met for the European Telecentre Leaders

The most urgent need was to create and build a community of people, who believe in the power of ICTs as tools for development and appreciate the value of knowledge sharing Forum (TLF-E) in Riga, Latvia. The Latvian Information Technology and Telecommunications Association (LIKTA) was the host. Professor Imants Freibergs, LIKTA Board Member and President, Latvia@World initiative, Meddie Mayanja, and Melissa Pailthorp from Microsoft welcomed the participants to Riga. Nick Batey, Representative, Directorate General for Information Society and Media, European Commission (EC) participated in the event and shared insights into EC issues. Nick underlined the importance of e-Inclusion and, emphasised the role of telecentres to the prosperity of Europe. One has heard of, “...telecentres are a social investment”, but he provided another dimension, “...telecentres are also an economic opportunity... Europe could reap Euro 35-45 billion over the next 5 years by investing in efficient telecentre activities that drive e-Inclusion...” At the meet, participants shared innovative practices on eInclusion and identified ways to help NGOs and telecentre practitioners find resources for sustenance. The agenda was interactive and collaborative, designed to share knowledge, seek insights and answers to challenges. Sessions featured



exciting projects and innovative practices, and also considered issues of strategy and sustainability of telecentre networking in Europe. All participants were encouraged to take up active roles to shape dialogue and help create event outcomes. Outlining an overview of the network

Opportunities ahead Gabriela emphasised long-term opportunities: more voice to collective work, a stronger telecentre movement, increased

Photo Credit: Spass Kostov

As the participants at Riga was a mix of experienced telecentre practitioners and newcomers, who were unsure if their technology centres and public libraries are indeed telecentres, Meddie Mayanja underlined the operational definition of telecentres: a place where people can get help to access computers, the Internet and other digital technologies to gather information, create, learn, and communicate; while it develops essential 21st century digital capabilities for better employment opportunities, or to improve and transform lives. Task force members Krassimir Simonski, Project Manager, iCenters (Bulgaria) and Gabriela Barna, Director, EOS (Romania) briefed participants on how the network started, what it has done so far and what appeal people to engage. Krassimir gave an overview of the development of the telecentre-europe network over the last year, highlighting the volunteer task force’s achievements: more and better communications, development of a strategy, mapping of e-Skills projects in Europe (inclusive of potential

network partners, their areas of expertise, and ways they may contribute), engagement with the EC on e-Skills, development of project ideas, survey of potential members, and preliminary work on a knowledge-sharing website. Gabriela gave her vision of the current state of the network, “This work is relevant only if it is relevant to everyone. We are project managers, telecentre managers, grassroots workers, and high-level workers. Everyone has something to bring and will have something to take home. We are united by a common commitment; we have a direction and a strategic framework, support and enthusiasm from prospective members, opportunities in the larger environment, and resources to build an online presence and vibrant knowledge sharing space. Let’s do this together and share everything we’ve got”. She, then, provided a vision of a way forward, “In the short term, let’s engage and define what the network can and should be for us... How do we want to share knowledge? How do we foster connections that support our work? What do we want from our network? How do we want to participate and contribute? This is our chance to get our network right and make it useful for us.”

Allison Hewlitt facilitates a group discussion among the participants


Photo Credit: Laurentiu Bunescu

The working group at the European Telecentre Leaders Forum TLF-E, Riga on 8-9 April 2008

TLF-E, Riga : Key Outcomes • •

• • • •

Gabriela Barna (Romania) and Pedro Aguilera (Spain) were elected as the Chairperson and ViceChairperson respectively Expansion of the Steering Committee (which was previously called task force). The Steering Committee will develop a Network Governance and Services Plan by June, 2008 Two smaller working groups on KnowledgeSharing and EU Advocacy were created The European Commission engaged with the telecentre practitioners, who have a key to the success of the e-Skills and e-Inclusion programmes in the Union Beyond the agreement to increase knowledgesharing, participants shared concrete experiences, strategies and discovered tools

collaborative dialogue through ‘café conversations’. At each table, a ‘host’ was elected who introduced, led and resumed the conversations the ‘guests’ at his/her table engaged in. When a first ‘conversation round’ finished, ‘guests’ changed tables, but the ‘host’ remained at his/her table and received new ‘guests’ from other tables. Each round was introduced by a key question launched by Pawel:  Reflect on a partnership or networking experience in which you were involved and share what contributed to its success?  What inspires you the most about telecentre-europe network?  What do you need from the telecentreeurope network to fully engage in work? It was a very smart way to share information and exchange ideas among different participants. And with a ‘host’ referring to the preceding café conversation, it was a quick way to receive a report and feedback of what participants said or proposed around a topic. Participants made to take charge

individual capacity, more resources, and the ability to make a difference. “We can create a knowledge base that the EU can use”, she said, “Then the EU strategy will be more relevant for us and our countries.” She passionately recounted her personal experience to illustrate the network benefits and what can be achieved together. The power of her presentation was visible; participants expressed the desire and enthusiasm to engage and know more. Café Conversations: A unique way to participate At Riga, three rounds of ‘café conversations’ were held. Pawel Makowiecki from Responsible Business Institute (Poland), introduced participants to the principle of June 2008

For the rest of the meeting, Allison invited participants to co-create the agenda. People put up their ideas, each of which would become a session led by the initiator of the idea. There was a palpable sense of enthusiasm and ownership. The rest of the day and the next morning were devoted to participants’ sessions. Participants sat in tight circles, sharing and asking questions. They dug on issues like European volunteer exchange programmes, sharing success stories and knowledge on e-Learning production, communication tools for knowledge sharing, sustainability planning, breakthroughs in fund-raising, European lobbying, e-Skills for employability, the future of telecentres, the ‘ideal’ telecentre, telework in telecentres, discussions on 19


network strengthening, collaborative actions, ideas for joint projects, development of partnerships, networking inside the network, etc. Ning: An effective social networking online tool Along one wall of the room, the organisers set up resource tables and a documentation centre with computers and printers. Allison provided session leaders with report-out templates, which were filled out, printed and put up on the wall so that everybody could review and catch up with discussions they might have missed. A specific outcome of one of these sessions was the creation of an online social network site for internal communication among members, ‘Ning’. It was the talk of the Forum. The site ( was immediately up and working, and this immensely informed the network’s options to the extent that at the end of the Forum, participants had signed-up and started inviting colleagues to thematic groups. A task group called ‘communications’ was also appointed to develop the ‘official’ website for external communication to sponsors, potential members, researchers, telecentre operators or managers, government institutions and development agencies. Outcomes of the Riga meet The structure of the event meant that firm decisions and actions were agreed throughout the two days. Every group and plenary session would potentially bring back an action. EOS and iCenters developed a proposal, which they presented at the end of the event. They planned to visit each others’ projects, exchange materials and develop joint monitoring and evaluation tools. The proposal was certainly what the network is pushing for – closer relationships, more collaboration and exchange of ideas within Europe. In fact, all participants marked knowledge exchange as highest priority. The other outcomes of the meet were:  Gabriela Barna (Romania) and Pedro Aguilera (Spain) were elected as the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson respectively  Expansion of the Steering Committee (which was previously called task force). Four members volunteered to join the committee to support planning and coordination of network activities. The Steering Committee will develop a Network Governance and Services Plan by June, 2008. Members later met to agree on working modalities  Two smaller working groups on Knowledge-Sharing and EU Advocacy were also created. They will help plan practical activities  The EC engaged with practitioners who have a key to the success of e-Skills and e-Inclusion programmes in the Union. Practitioners were equally energised to learn directly from the EC that their efforts are valued, and that the Commission wants to stay connected  Another important outcome was that, beyond the agreement


to increase knowledge-sharing, participants shared their concrete experiences, strategies and the discovered tools Human bonding: key to success One of the most important outcomes was that the network entered a new stage - active participation by members. This gave enormous confidence to the steering committee as practitioners expressed enthusiasm to engage. At TLF-E, many lessons and ways for the network to move forward were learnt. But the most relevant was, that, networks are about people who care for each other personally. Networks, as a form of organisation, do not provide much value if personal relationships, trust, and care for each other at a deeper level is not present in the group. It became very evident that we see value on a European network because the members care for each other as individuals first, and then, as community leaders and e-Inclusion advocates. For networks to be valuable, there needs to be a commitment to put that bit of extra effort, extra hours of work to share, learn, and take advantage of each other’s experiences. All of that exists simply because we consider each other friends and care about each other’s work. Competition is not a word to be found in this group. From Barcelona to Riga, to wherever else this initiative takes us, what is to be kept in mind is that: we are friends, we trust each other, and we want each other’s project to succeed just as our own. q Author

Lize De Clercq Community Content Facilitator- Europe The author has drawn insights from the blogs of Meddie Mayanja, Christine Prefontaine, and Maria Garrido Meddie Mayanja is the Sr Progamme Manager telecentre. org, Canada Christine Prefontaine is the Sr Communications Advisor,, Canada christineprefontaine42 Maria Garrido is a Researcher at the Centre for Information and Society, University of Washington, USA

face2face with Ahmed Eisa

The Visionary Ahmed Eisa

From Minister to Telecentre Practitioner

Photo Credit: GDCO

Vignesh Sornamohan

Ahmed M M Eisa Chairperson, GDCO



Chairperson, Source:





Eisa, City

Organization (GDCO), Sudan, in an on-line conversation with telecentre magazine,





Telecentre Movement, its challenges and possibilities

June 2008



Sudanese visionary leader, Ahmed Eisa has donned varied shades of leadership in Africa. He has been a political leader, and is currently a telecentre movement leader. He is the Chairperson of Gedaref Digital City Organisation (GDCO), a non-governmental organisation that has relentlessly worked towards inclusive Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled development in Sudan. It runs community telecentres equipped with high technical facilities. The Gedaref community, Gedaref State Government, National Information Centre and National Telecommunication Cooperation, besides many private sector individuals support it. Eisa received the i4d Award in 2007 for ‘International Information Award for Development’ on behalf of GDCO. 8You

have been an agriculture minister and now a telecentre movement leader. What made you become a part of the telecentre movement? I learnt to use computers when I was doing my Masters in Crop Production (Agronomy) at U.S.A. I used them to

type my thesis, literature review, to get information from large libraries (Los Angeles, Congress and London library), to get chemicals and other research tools. It saved my time and money. At that time, the capacity of computing was very low and the available operating system was only

DOS. There was neither Windows, nor Internet Protocol address. But, when I came back, I forgot everything, because, there were no computers in Sudan. In early 1995, Hamza Hassan taught me how to use the new generation of computers. From my personal experiences, I realised the potential of computers and its ability to create an impact on the people’s life. This induced me to start a telecentre programme for the differently-abled people in the rural areas of Gedaref.

8You have given a new dimension to the meaning of telecentres by catering to the special needs of ‘differently-abled’. What motivated you to initiate such a unique programme? When we set the objectives of Gedaref Digital City Organisation (GDCO), we thought about the digital divide and inequalities that exist in accessing information and communication technology (ICT). There are also digital variations created by fast revolutions in Information and Communication

Africa at a glance Population

896.6 million

Rural population

64.7 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa and 46.6 per cent in North Africa


53 (including 6 Island groups)


USD 692, 196 million

GDP Growth

4.2 per cent

GDP Per capita


Life expectancy at birth

50.8 years

Under five mortality rate

149 per 1000

Agriculture value added

USD 105,077 million

Major exports

Crude petroleum and Diamonds

Population with sustainable access to improved water resource

56 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa

Population with sustainable access to improved sanitation

37 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa

Telephone subscribers per 1000 people

Fixedline – 17.0, Mobile phone – 124.5 in Sub-Saharan Africa

Average personal computers

1 per 130 people

Internet user per 1000 people

29.0 in Sub-Saharan Africa and 84.8 in North Africa

Average Internet cost

USD 60 per month


Africa Development Indicators 2007, Source: ICT in Africa: A status report, Source:


Photo Credit: CSDMS

Ahmed Eisa receiving the i4d Award 2007 in the category of ‘International Information Award for Development’ on behalf of Gedaref Digital City Organisation (GDCO) for its pioneering work in establishing Sudan as a digital city

Technologies (ICTs). There are several causes and inequalities for this digital divide. Some examples are, the inequalities between the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’, ‘cities’ and ‘villages’, ‘male’ and ‘female’; and the ‘healthy sound person’ and the ‘differently-abled’. We were wondering, if it’s possible to provide a global language for the disabled. We decided to work with the hearing impaired, we thought of providing an alternative to the sign language. It resulted in the idea of enabling them with the benefits of e-mails, text chatting, video chatting and web cam conferences. GDCO provides free training to deaf people through the Internet, so that they can chat through messengers and communicate through e-mails globally. We also wanted to create earning avenues for the disabled, so that they could become self-dependent and help their families and friends as well. GDCO trained eight disabled persons, who in turn, started training their colleagues in a much shorter time. This better enabled them to seek and get jobs. A project for individuals with special needs was initiated in March 2007. The project aimed at eliminating the digital divide, poverty, and problems of capacity building among individuals

June 2008

with special needs; and at integrating them into society.


are the major challenges facing the African Telecentre Movement? The challenges are manifold. First and foremost, ICT is not part of our culture and, therefore, it is not seen as a priority. The second challenge is that of poor infrastructure and high cost of ICT equipments. Third, there is an acute lack of strategic and executable plans. Then, there is the perennial problem of poverty, coupled with poor community and government interaction.


relevant are the technologically driven services in Africa? Most of the technologies are relevant from a hardware point of view. But we have a problem vis-à-vis software, primarily because most of it is not in Arabic. And more than 70 percent of people in our community speak Arabic only. But there are considerable good evidences of technologically driven services in Africa. For example, on November 3, 2007, GDCO initiated a project at Gedaref Hospital that aims to digitally record patients’ medical

history and to establish a health database that enables the government to plan efficiently and reduce the treatment costs through the Internet. In this regard, GDCO has signed an agreement with the National Communication Authority to procure and initiate the required equipment that will enable the treatment of the

“Most of the technologies are relevant from a hardware point of view. But we have a problem vis-à-vis software, primarily because most of it is not in Arabic. And more than 70 per cent of people in our community speak Arabic only” poor via televised conferences and consultation. It is expected that by the end of 2008, the project will cover the entire Gedaref state with precise information about disease prevalence. GDCO has also launched a project for technically finding solutions to farmers’ social, economic, and health problems in pursuance of the advancement of development through IT. The organisation has undertaken this task to technically study the problems of agriculture and



The differently-abled: A few facts • • • • •

About 650 million people in the world live with a disability1 The number is increasing due to chronic diseases, injuries, car crashes, falls, violence and other causes such as ageing2 80 per cent of the disabled people live in low income countries, most are poor and have limited or no access to basic services, including rehabilitation facilities3 Not more than 10 per cent of the disabled people in the developing countries have access to rehabilitation4 UNICEF says that many children with severe or moderate disabilities are under-recognised or under-reported, and hence, not recorded in the statistics5







to establish a meteorological station to enable the provision of information for the farmers and researchers. GDCO is providing agricultural information in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture. GDCO has also launched a programme at the Mechanised Agriculture Head Office, where complete informations to serve the interest of more than 10,000 farmers were entered. In this respect, the organisation provided 15 computers for training and implementation of the said programme. GDCO has partnered with a an Indian company to visit Gedaref. The team conducted a study on the method of using the data through the Geographic Coordinates of the Project. This process will provide an electronic record to the farmer and the problems that he had faced in the area, as well as a record of production cost and the establishment of the Database for Agriculture in Gedaref. The organisation has also established an Information Centre at the Farmers’ Union with the aim to train and upgrade farmers’ leadership traits, to connect them with other parts of the world, and help them avail of the necessary information for the technical advancement of agriculture. In this regard, GDCO in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance of Gedaref state is


preparing for an International Bourse for the Crops Market.

“GDCO is providing agricultural information in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture. GDCO has also launched a programme at the Mechanised Agriculture Head Office, where complete information to serve the interest of more than 10,000 farmers were entered” GDCO is also trying to bring in innovation, development and progress through ICTs in the fields of e-

Governance and e-Learning. GDCO aims to take maximum benefit from the ICT to make education available for the entire Gedaref Society through Internet, and seeks (through e-Learning) to make available the e-Book and the e-Teacher. The organisation started its path with the Intelligent Schools and completed it with the support to Gedaref University, provided 100 computers for the Computer College and 20 other computers for the College of Society Development. GDCO has partnered with Gedaref University and the University of Phontes, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. To promote education in the entire state, GDCO is providing free training to all the students in the Computer College on computer maintenance. GDCO also provides free Internet research service to university students and professors. To promote e-Governance services in the Gedaref state, the organisation started providing a training programme to 90 policemen. At the end of the training, some of them will be selected in the sections connected with public services (such as Nationality, Passports, Identity Cards, Driving Licenses, and License Renewals). GDCO has established a centre at the police headquarters and allotted 20 computers for this purpose.

8What are the lessons that African telecentre leaders can learn from the global telecentre movement? The African telecentre leaders can learn a lot from the global telecentre movement, especially, vis-à-vis the sharing of knowledge and experiences.

GDCO’s efforts to include the differently-abled •

An alternative to the sign language: GDCO provides free training to the hearing impaired through the Internet, so that they can chat through messengers and communicate through e-mails globally

To create earning avenues for the differently-abled: GDCO trained eight differently-abled persons, who in turn, started training their colleagues for jobs

A project for individuals with special needs was initiated in March 2007, to eliminate the digital divide, poverty, and problems of capacity building among individuals with special needs; and to integrate them with the society

Other valuable lessons could be in regard to development of new partnerships; progress in telecentre sustainability; and national, regional and global networking.


your opinion, what are the biggest mistakes committed in the telecentre movement across the globe? First, we always talk about the ownership of telecentres, but what is difficult is their sustenance. Second, telecentres are constructed without clear and strategic planning. Computers and technology are provided to the community, but there is no knowledge about the content. Besides this, there is a lack of connectivity that hinders the

sharing of knowledge and experience. But, most importantly, there is a lack of clear and strategic planning.

8In a country like Sudan, do you think that financial inclusion can be promoted through telecentres? Yes, telecentres can definitely encourage financial inclusion, provided solid promotion takes place. For example, telecentres in Sudan are creating a new source of revenue for individuals with special needs. They can set up telecentres at home and can very well work from home. Telecasters from both the disabled and the community have the potential to make individuals and the community self-dependent. GDCO trained 8 disabled individuals, who in

turn, started training their colleagues in a faster way than before. So that they can get a job soon, they have shortened the period of training to one month instead of six months. Telecentres also help with several health insurance schemes.


do you think of the programme? is playing a great role in the telecentre movement. It has united the telecentre movements across the globe and linked them together. So, we have decided to ask them to deliver a speech in the opening session of the 5th EATLF, that will be held in Sudan in June 2008, in the presence of more than 300 participants. q Quick Scan •

Photo Credit: CSDMS

Telecentres in Sudan: Capacitybuilding and a new source of income generation for differently-abled GDCO is offering free computer maintenance training to students. The objective is to ensure the availability of computers at all times GDCO works in collaboration with the government agencies to ensure upscaling of its initiatives GDCO Information Centre connects farmers to the market

June 2008



c o u n t r y f o c u s : P h i l i pp i n e s

Towards Socio-Economic Development Through Community e-Centres Photo Credit: Commission on Information & Communications Technology

Maria Teresa M. Camba

Herald for the Philippine CeC Roadmap by Philippine CeC Program partners at the 4th Knowledge Exchange Conference on Community eCenter held on April 3-4, 2008 at The Heritage


Hotel, Pasay City, Manila.


With support from and technical assistance from the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) moved to create the Philippine CeC Programme Roadmap, which serves as the document guide for the collective aspirations of CeC stakeholders

The enthusiasm to bring the Philippine countryside into the mainstream of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), bred a variety of efforts and initiatives. The Department of Science and Technology (DoST) pioneered the MultiPurpose Community Telecentres (MCTs) in Agusan del Norte and Lanao del Norte, which function as a one-stop Internet access centre, public calling station, and reading/learning resource centre. In another instance, the World Corps Philippines (WCP) formed six Community Information Centres in Cebu, in the mould of earlier projects in India, Mexico and Kenya for community mobilisation, training, telecentre set-up, technology solutions, mentoring, and community integration. Then came the eBarangay project with a 100 Community eCentres (CeCs) of the Jumpstarting Electronic Governance in the Local Government Units (eLGU) Programme, Commission on Information and Communications Technology – National Computer Centre (CICT-NCC). Telecommunication exchanges in different telecommunications offices were transformed into CeCs. CICT also launched iSchools and eSkwela for providing computer facilities to selected secondary schools and school dropouts respectively. Other initiatives are the Tulay Project of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) and United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Last Mile Initiative, and Microsoft’s corporate social responsibility unit, etc. There are different initiatives across the country with the same social objective of serving the community. What is the possibility of a common unified direction for these CeC or ICT initiatives?

Photo Credit: Commission on Information & Communications Technology

Telecentre movement in Philippines: An overview

The CeC roadmap: Charting future progress With the support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and, and technical

The Multipurpose Community Telecentre Project responding to the challenge of capitalising technology to give Filipinos equitable access to knowledge and resources, bringing the rural villages out of isolation

assistance from the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), CICT moved to create the Philippine CeC Programme Roadmap, which serves as the document guide for the collective aspirations of CeC stakeholders. In July 2007, different consultation workshops were organised with all the CeC stakeholders in seven cities, to discuss, what was needed to set a common direction for the Philippine CeC Programme over the next three years. They deliberated on the key challenges facing the Philippines telecentre movement like, connectivity issues and power constraints hindering access; CeC sustainability linked to variables of political support, human/financial/ technical resources; information content discrepancies, interoperability, integration and coordination; social acceptance by communities; low literacy levels and lack of mechanisms for strengthening community participation in

Few ICT interventions in the Philippines • • •

In July, 2000, the government adopted the Government Information System Plan (GISP) for reforming governance through ICT 1 The Schools of the Future Programme is to promote better teaching, learning and management in basic education through ICTs2 The Science and Technology Intervention Program for the Poor, Vulnerable, and Disabled is an initiative to use technology to fulfill the basic needs of the poor by providing technology-based interventions to promote micro-enterprises 3 Maguinda Multipurpose Community Telecenter, is a rural facility initiative by the government for qualitative ICT intervention4 The Governement’s ICT for Education (ICT4E) Agenda is a learner-led personalised instructional model, than a teacher-led model 5 The Science Education Institute (SEI), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), conceived and implemented the Mobile IT Classroom (MITC) project in six regions, in 1999. The MITC, a special bus loaded with laptop computers, audio-visual equipment and learning software, goes around designated areas to make science learning through computers fun and easy 6 The Governement’s e-Nutrition project provides electronically accessible information on food consumption, nutrition and health status, and other essential indicators useful for policy-making, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation programmes 7

• • •








June 2008



decision-making; and the relationship of CeCs to Internet cafés. There was more than adequate legal basis since the concept of CeCs was anchored on legislation and policy documents such as The Right to Information in the Philippine Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the Millennium Development Goals, the commitment of the Philippines to the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Geneva Plan of Action, the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010, and the Philippine Strategic Roadmap for the ICT Sector 2006-2010. The roadmap: Guided by key principles The Strategic Roadmap was guided by the following: Participation: The participation of all CeC stakeholders ensures relevance, validity and credibility of the programme. The stakeholders’ participation began in the planning process and would continue throughout the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programme Inclusion: All stakeholder groups were engaged and continue to be engaged in the various phases of the crafting and implementation of the CeC Roadmap Focus on the unserved, underserved and vulnerable groups, especially children, women and senior citizens: The priorities for additional targeted CeC sites are the unserved and underserved municipalities Global perspective; Filipino in spirit: The Philippine CeC Programme promotes openness to global

• •

Photo Credit: CICT

A glorious day for the Philippine CeC Programme with stakeholder partners confirming their support through the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement at the 4th Knowledge Exchange Conference on CeCs


knowledge, technology and networks to assure their adoption and use for optimum development of the country and the Filipino spirit Respect and promote social values and cultural diversity: Due appreciation of community values and cultural norms fosters programme relevance, acceptance, and participation ‘A Community e-Centre in every municipality’: It is the Philippine CeC Roadmap Vision for the next three years or until 2010. Coupled with it is the vision ‘to promote development and to enhance productivity of the unserved and underserved communities in the

Philippines, thereby improving quality of life through the provision of access, network and a stronger voice through the use of affordable, appropriate, and critical ICT-enabled services.’ Objectives of the CeC roadmap To provide connectivity to all municipalities of the Philippines • To identify, develop and provide access to content that is responsive to knowledge needs of the target customers • To ensure availability of competent CeC knowledge workers; and • To institutionalise systems support for the development, scaling, sustainable management and operation of CeCs Grounded upon the four (4) action areas are detailed below, the Philippine CeC Programme will operate in achieving the 2010 CeC Vision. •

PhilCeCNet is a learning and collaborative community of CeC stakeholders for achieving a Community e-Centre in every municipality’ with the help of the Philippine CeC Roadmap Infrastructure: It includes both power and Internet access; the goal is to provide affordable and reliable Internet connectivity to all CeCs. This will include identifying prospective CeC sites and matching telecommunications infrastructure to the last mile for priority and quick CeC rollouts. It will also mean dovetailing with the Department of Energy (DOE) electrification programme and with telecom expansion programmes to bring in remote CeCs. The infrastructure support for the CeC programme will be anchored on public and private sector partnership. Content development: This will entail the inventory and linking of existing content in various CeCs, developing new contents to match the needs of communities, and beefing up CeCs to produce local content and sharing this with the network through the Philippine CeC web portal. Achieving this will open up access to existing knowledge and services, enable collaboration between public and private sector, local and global content providers, and transform CeCs into knowledge-based enterprises that communities can use to improve individual and community productivity. Capacity building: Crucial to the success of the CeC Programme, this targets the development of human resources. It is based on the philosophy, when competent CeC knowledge workers are available, the programme will be sustained. Action will flow along three avenues: standardisation of capacity building programmes for CeC knowledge workers through the ‘ Community eCentre Academy’; partnership strategies to

institutionalise CeC plan; and development and adoption of competency standards for CeC workers. CeC development and management: The managing and coordinative system that steers the implementation of the Philippine CeC programme along the directions set for it by the Roadmap is vital to the programme. Managing the CeC programme and developing CeCs along the strategic directions will be the mandate of the Programme Management Office (PMO). Strategies for CeC Programme Management The Roadmap calls for the following strategies in achieving efficient management of the Philippine CeC Programme: • • • • • • • •

Resource mobilisation for the CeC financing programme network Adoption of national standards in the management of CeCs Installation and support systems such as legal framework, national and local policies in support of the CeC programme Promotion of the ‘CeC fever’ for social acceptability of CeCs Application of economies of scale for efficiency in CeC operations Insurance of collaboration in planning and delivery of CeC products/services mix Activation and strengthening of the Philippine CeC Network; and Scaling CeCs in unserved and underserved municipalities, including tapping Internet cafes’ potential to transform into CeCs (Internet Café ++)

This is the Roadmap for ICT momentum in the Philippine countryside for 2008-2010. PhilCeCNet: To ensure an effective CeC programme In support of the commitments embodied in the Philippine CeC Roadmap, the Philippine Community eCentre Network (PhilCeCNet) was born at the Third Knowledge Exchange Conference on Community eCentres in September 2006, at Cebu Province. It sprung from a desire to harmonise the efforts of various CeC initiatives, to share knowledge and experiences, and to achieve a commonality of direction and operations for maximum impact. The PhilCeCNet is a learning and collaborative community of CeC stakeholders, contributing to the achievement of the Philippine CeC Programme’s vision of ‘A Community eCentre Programme in every municipality’. It delivers its mission through activities underscored in the Philippine CeC roadmap, to be facilitated through the Philippine Community eCentre Portal and the local telecentre academy, commonly known as the – Philippine CeC Academy. It is also a multi-sectoral partner of CICT in the implementation of the Philippine CeC programme.

June 2008

PhilCeCNet advocates stakeholder support for the Philippine CeC programme; recommends standards and operating procedures for CeCs; promotes knowledgesharing on best practices, researches and projects; establishes bonds between CeCs, CeC providers and partners, network members, and international CeC networks; provides services, expertise and resources to components of the Philippine CeC programme; and generates and mobilises resources for network operations. The network convenes with a General Assemby composed of nine (9) sector clusters, particularly the National Government Agencies (NGAs), Academic, NonGovernment Organisations (NGOs), Private Sector, Media, CeC Managers, CeC Users, Funding Agencies and Local Government Units (LGUs). The Assembly is the highest CeC policy-making body in the Philippines. An Executive Council headed by a Chairman, acts as the implementing unit of the network. The CICT, as lead agency for the Philippine CeC programme, is an ex-officio voting member of the council. The council is supported administratively by a network secretariat, under an executive secretary, that oversees day-to-day operations of the network. It implements council’s directives, makes tactical decisions for the network, and acts as its ‘animator.’ PhilCeCNet: Into the Future PhilCeCNet, in the future, would not only be the telecentre network in the Philippines, but also the professional organisation of CeC knowledge workers in the country. The Phil CeC Academy will be its training arm which will be responsible for developing and conducting CeC related courses, accrediting capability building institutions, providing training relevant to CeCs and certifying CeC workers. PhilCeCNet will play a major and critical role, as a multi-sectoral partner of the government, in achieving the country’s vision of a CeC in every municipality. KEC4: Towards socio-economic development through CeCs All the efforts in the past to close the digital divide and bring the benefits of development to the countryside have come A Digital Review of Philippines • • • • • •

GDP per capita in USD: 1,168 (2005) Computers per 100 inhabitants: 4.46 (2005) Fixed-line subscribers per 100 inhabitants: 4.18 (2006) Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants: 49.29 (2006) Internet users per 100 inhabitants: 5.32 (2005) International Internet bandwidth: 3,214.5 Mbps (2005)

Source: Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2007-8,



into fruition at the Fourth Knowledge Exchange Conference on Community eCentres (KEC4) held on April 3-4, 2008, at Pasay City. More than 200 participants - conference delegates, guests, resource persons, and organisers attended the two-day conference. The agencies represented were the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC), Association for Progressive Communication (APC), Bayan Telecommunications, Inc. (Bayan), DAP, Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD), IBM Philippines, Intel Technology Philippines – Corporate Affairs Group, Media G8Way Corporation, Microsoft Philippines, Molave Development Foundation, Inc. (MDFI), Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company/ Smart Corporate Business Group (PLDT/Smart), The National Library of the Philippines (NLP), UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines (UNACOM), UP-National Telehealth Centre (UP-NTC), and CICT. These 14 institutions signed the Declaration of the PhilCeCNet Partnership as witnessed by and the CICT. The selection of representatives to the PhilCeCNet’s Executive Council strengthened the network’s potential and upheld the multi-stakeholder partnership in the implementation of the Philippine CeC Programme. The executive council members, duly elected to represent preidentified sectors at the first General Assembly during the KEC4, are as follows: DOST-PCARRD (Government), University of the Philippines Open University (Academic), MDFI (NGO), Intel Technology Philippines, Inc. (Private Sector), AIJC (Media), Jimmy Calata, Provincial Government of Nueva Vizcaya (CeC Manager), Carolina Destacamento, CeC Calamba City, Laguna (CeC User), (International Development Agency), and Municipal Government of Infanta, Quezon (LGU). Aptly themed ‘Engaging Communities in Knowledgebased Development’, KEC4 marked an important milestone in the country’s commitment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as well as the pursuit of the WSIS Plan of Action. Alongside the conference, five historic events took place, namely; • • • • •

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CICT and the PhilCeCNet partners The launch of the Philippine CeC Roadmap 20082010 The launch of the Philippine CeC Web Portal (www. The launch of CeC Academy; and The launch of the PhilCeCNet

Through these efforts, the CICT and its partners from the knowledge and information industry and the local communities are committed to championing social and economic development through the Philippine CeC Programme.

Outcomes of KEC4 Regarded as the highlight of the KEC series that started in November 2005, the conference aimed to enable knowledge sharing across CeCs in the country and to discuss the major components of the Philippine CeC Roadmap among important stakeholders in the local telecentre arena. The KEC4 brought together key players in the Philippine CeC Movement and increased the collaboration among the PhilCeCNet partners and members. The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the CICT and PhilCeCNet partners has made the partnership formal and public. It has forged the commitment to support the implementation of the PhilCeC programme through collaboration, expert advice and other resources to help realise the goals of the roadmap. This will give a new direction in the Philippines telecentre movement. Conclusion The telecentre movement in the Philippines, therefore, considerably hinges on the CeC Roadmap for a huge extant and impact. The CeC Roadmap seeks to consolidate telecentre initiatives in the region; provide an online mechanism whereby stakeholders can share resources, information, best practices and lessons with each other; and activate and expand the Philippine CeC network. q

Quick Scan • •

PhilCecNet: The quickest telecentre network in the region. It owes greatly to the active role of the government CeC Roadmap 2010: It evolved after a series of consultations in different parts of the country. The Roadmap clearly envisages the implementation plan

Author Maria Teresa M. Camba has over two decades of experience in the government service and the field of Information Technology. Maria is presently Director, Field Operations Office, National Computer Center. She also serves as Programme Director of two national ICT programmes namely, the Jumpstarting Electronic Governance in the Local Government Units (eLGU) and the Philippine Community e-Centre Programme. e-mail:


Telecentre research

Investigating the Socio-Economic Impact of Public Access to ICT in Chile

Biblioteca Pueblo Nuevo Tomas Guevara N 109, Temuco


J. Enrique Hinostroza, Rodrigo Garrido, Christian Labbé, Jairo Hott Reyes and Freddy Mora García

Photo credit: IDRC


This article has two parts. Firstly, it describes the proposal for the implementation of the first phase of the international project titled “ICT and Public Access: Investigating the social and economic impact of public access to Information and Communication Technologies” in Chile (May – November 2008). Secondly, it dwells on some key outcomes of a pilot survey conducted in 42 Public Access Points in Chile, as a part of this international project. This initiative is part of a global project, sponsored by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The project is managed by the programme at IDRC, and the overall research coordination is provided by the Centre for Information and Society, University of Washington Information School. The project aims to investigate the impact of public access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in different areas, such as, education, income, heritage, health and civic engagement. Public Access to ICT Infrastructure in Chile Chile has been one of the leading countries in Latin America to implement public policies aimed at strengthening the availability and use of ICT in the country. In the early 1990s, the Enlaces Project was a pioneer in the introduction of computers and Internet in the educational sector. By the mid 1990s, Chile already started to provide public access to ICT, implementing public access in deprived June 2008



the perspective of its impacts, as well as to re-define priorities and strategies to foster the effective use of ICT in Chile. Research Project Phase I: An Overview The first phase of the project will include pilot studies in three countries: Bangladesh, Chile and Lithuania. These countries were selected due to a large presence and variations of public access to ICT initiatives, which makes it possible to test the research methodologies under various different conditions. The aims of phase one are to produce a landscape study and inventory of public access to ICT infrastructure and use in the three countries, and to come up with research design that can be used to assess the social and economic impacts of public access to ICT.


Considering these objectives, the project in Chile was designed so as to consider the following six stages: Children at the Public Access Point, Biblioteca Villa Austral, Araucanía Region

areas through telecentres, public libraries (e.g. Biblioredes programme), computer labs in schools (e.g. Enlaces Opened for the Community Programme) and other facilities. In the early 2000, Chile had a public-private agreement regarding the priorities and strategies to develop the ICT sector, called the ‘Digital Agenda’. Finally, by now, Chile is

The project is managed by the Instituto de Informática Educativa (IIE), which is responsible for the coordination of the project, fieldwork, and international interaction and coordination. Additionally, it considers the participation of a national level committee, which includes members of the government, civil society and representatives of the main Public Access Point (PAP) related initiatives still among the leading countries in Latin America in terms of availability of ICT. Within this digital development, since 1992, the Instituto de Informática Educativa (IIE), of the Universidad de La Frontera, has played a key role as a research and development agency in contributing to the design and implementation of ICT in Education Policy (Enlaces) and public access to ICT initiatives (Community Telecentres). As a result of these initiatives, and based on a conservative guess, at the moment in Chile, there are approximately 5,000 Public Access Points, including government and private initiatives, as shown in Figure 1.

• •

• •

Start-Up: This stage includes activities such as the conformation of the national level team, and other administrative tasks Development of a country background report: The purpose of this stage is to collect and report background information in areas such as policy, infrastructure, economic status, etc. Development of an inventory of facilities: The purpose of this stage is to generate a national database of public access to ICT facilities in Chile Develop a better understanding of public access uses, actions and users: The purpose of this stage is to understand and characterise the activities occurring in a sample of public access facility and to develop a map of the information ecology around these facilities Develop plausible research designs for the project: Based on the purpose of this stage, to come up with plausible research designs (including hypothesis, research questions and methods) that could be used to identify the social and economic impact of public access to ICT. This stage will include the pilot testing of

Given this framework, the project ‘ICT and Public Access: Investigating the social and economic impact of public access to Information and Communication Technologies’ constitutes both an opportunity and a challenge, since it opens a space to critically analyse ICT related policies from Figure 1: Number of public access points to Internet in Chile 32

Telecentre And Infocentre Initiatives In Chile

BiblioRedes is a programme of the Chilean Direction of Libraries, Archives and Museums, Dibam that allows the people to become active agents of the cultural and social development of its locality and to overcome the isolation barriers, by means of the use of ICT. It is present in 387 Public Libraries throughout the country, from Visviri to Port Williams, including the islands territories. All of them have computers and a broadband connection to Internet. BiblioRedes is possible thanks to the commitment of the 292 municipalities with which it has agreement and to the resources that the Government of Chile provides. This initiative was initially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through a donation of USD 9.2 millions. From its inauguration in November, 2002, BiblioRedes has been a protagonist of the National Campaign of Digital Alphabetisation that aims at the incorporation of the Chilean society into the digital age. 

Enlaces Opened for the Community is a programme of the Centre for Education and Technology (CET) of the Chilean Ministry of Education that encourages schools to make their computer labs available for community use and to provide ICT skills training to the parents and community members. The CET provides each participating school with ICT skills training materials and resources to finance the course teacher. Until 2008, approximately 950 schools participate in this programme (10 per cent of the total).

The Chilean Association of Telecentres is an initiative that supports the implementation and development of civil society initiatives that provide public access to ICT in Chile. It is partially financed by; and in 2008, the association operates six initiatives that run more than 100 telecentres. The initatives are: Maule Activa, Red de Telecentros Comunitarios - Universidad de Concepción, Comité para la Democratización de la Información (CDI), Red de Información Comunitaria - Instituto de Informática Educativa - Universidad de la Frontera, Corporación El Encuentro Peñalolen y el Programa Redes. a number of research methodologies and instruments, constructed as a part of the development of the plausible research designs Close-Up: This stage includes activities such as the preparation and delivery of the report on Phase One, preparation of the project for phase II and other administrative tasks

Currently, the project is carrying out the first two stages.

The project constitutes both an opportunity and a challenge, since it opens a space to critically analyse ICT related policies from the perspective of its impacts, as well as to re-define priorities and strategies to foster the effective use of ICT in Chile international interaction and coordination. Additionally, it considers the participation of a national level committee, which includes members of the government, civil society and representatives of the main Public Access Point (PAP) related initiatives. Public Access Points: Results of the Pilot Survey in Chile As a part of the preparatory work for the project, during April 2008, the Chilean research team designed and implemented a pilot survey among the telecentre operators

June 2008

Photo credit: IDRC

This project is managed by the IIE, which is responsible for the coordination of the project, the field work and the

Biblioteca Villa Austral, Araucanía Region

at 42 Public Access Points (PAP). The objective was to identify the aims, types of users, services provided by the venues and perceptions of impact from the operator standpoint. The sample considered a variety of locations, including venues belonging to government initiatives (Biblioredes, School-based PAP), civil society funded initiatives (Chilean Association of Telecentres), as well as private PAP (Cybercafés). The following sections present the main results of the survey. Regarding the aims declared by the operators, these were categorised into six groups:



1. Education: To support students’ school related work 2. Digital gap: To develop the ICT skills of particular groups (parents, women, etc.) 3. Social development: To help reduce the isolation of the community and its members 4. Social gathering: To constitute a social meeting point for the community members and its organisations 5. Empower entrepreneurship and civic engagement: To facilitate and encourage access to funding opportunities, government services (taxes), public biding opportunities, and other services 6. Entertainment: To provide access to stand alone and online games Regarding the services provided by the PAP, by large, the operators declared that they provide access to ICT and support for the students (schools). Additionally, some of the operators declared that they offer services, such as, support for the development of projects (mainly government related), support in the use of government services (e.g. taxes) and additional paid services (e.g. printouts, scanners, C.D.s and fax). In relation to the users, the following table shows the types of users identified by the operators: Categories of users


Individuals Enterprises Government institutions Government programmes Civil society

students, teachers and farmers construction, taxis and wood municipalities, hospitals and army housewives neighborhood associations and elderly people groups

Finally, the following table presents the operators’ perception of the impact of the PAP: Dimension Economic Educational Social


These areas, which also interact with each other, constitute a first glimpse to the potential impacts of these initiatives and will be used as an initial guide during the first phase of the project. Conclusion In summary, the impact of public access to ICT is still to be uncovered since in many cases the apparent and more obvious uses of these facilities, although interesting, entail ramifications and consequences that go far beyond the actual use of a simple tool affecting peoples’ social, cultural and economic conditions and potentials. In this framework, the next step of the project tries to deepen the understanding of the use of ICT in PAPs, in order to envision these ramifications and based on these, to elaborate and test hypotheses of potential impacts that consider them. q Authors J. Enrique Hinostroza Director Instituto de Informática Educativa - Universidad de La Frontera e-mail:

Rodrigo Garrido Researcher Instituto de Informática Educativa - Universidad de La Frontera e-mail:

Impact • • • • • • • •

access to better job increased family income educational improvement motivation to acquire ICT improving parent-child relationship strengthening self-esteem improved access to information social synergy

Based on these results, and being aware of the exploratory nature of the survey, the main areas of impact that can be identified are the following: •

community are invited, allowed, and encouraged to become active participants of the information society not only as individuals, but also as a group Access to new opportunities: Users are pointed at new possibilities and are guided to take advantage of the government and private services available in the Internet

Empowerment and capabilities: Users are trained not only to use ICT, but also to take advantage of it Inclusion and social cohesion: Members of the

Christian Labbé Researcher Instituto de Informática Educativa - Universidad de La Frontera e-mail:

Jairo Hott Reyes Researcher Instituto de Informática Educativa Universidad de La Frontera e-mail:

Freddy Mora García Researcher Instituto de Informática Educativa - Universidad de La Frontera e-mail:

Telecentre debates


Telecentres Run As Small, Local Businesses Make A Good Model To Ensure Sustainability!

Photo Credit: Kentaro Toyama

Facilitated by Kenneth Keniston and Kentaro Toyama

Children at n-Logue Kiosk

In the introduction to the Telecentre Debates (March 2008, pp. 31-33), we provided a working definition for telecentres: “Telecentres are those entities which exist primarily to provide the general public access to computing and/or the Internet, with the explicit intent to serve a developmental purpose.” In this issue, we move onto our first debate! The statement is ‘Telecentres run as small, local businesses are a good model to ensure sustainability!’ The focus of the debate is on whether telecentres should be operated by local entrepreneurs, or by paid employees of a larger corporation, or perhaps some other model. The local entrepreneurs have good knowledge of their communities, and exactly because the success of the telecentre depends on their diligence and talent, they are motivated to make their telecentres work. Corporations, on the other hand, are better equipped to make the connection between organisation partners such as governments, and they can impose a measure of quality of service. In this issue of telecentre magazine, we are absolutely delighted to have two beacons in the world of rural telecentres to debate this issue. Making the case for small, local businesses, we have Ashok Jhunjhunwala, whom many consider the godfather of the telecentre movement. Jhunjhunwala is a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, where he leads the Telecommunications and Computer Networks group. He has been a proponent of technologies for rural development since the early 1980s – long before ‘ICT4D’ became a widely understood acronym. Among many other activities, Jhunjhunwala is the founder of n-Logue, which led the charge in promoting the for-profit model of rural telecentres. These telecentres are owned by local June 2008

entrepreneurs, networked by local service providers, and supported by a central organisation. Arguing against a local-enterprise model and for a company-managed model is Sriram Raghavan, President of Comat Technologies. Comat is best known for being the Karnataka state Government’s partner in implementing the Bhoomi project. Bhoomi is one of the developing world’s most hailed e-Government projects. It completely computerised Karnataka’s land-records system, opened telecentres in rural sub-districts, and accomplished all of this at a profit for Comat and at a sustainable cost to the government. The authors’ unshakeable dedication to their cause is evident: Raghavan writes, “India’s rural populace is isolated and there is an urgent need to bridge the rural-urban chasm we have inherited over generations.” Jhunjhunwala, meanwhile, begins with two indictments about telecentres, but continues undeterred, “It may be hard to argue that these centres could be a good model for rural social enterprise. Yet, I will do just that. Learning from early failures is essential for any social effort.” The stakes are pounded deeply into the ground: Jhunjhunwala avers, “Dispersed centres can run well with the energy of the entrepreneurs driving it.” If telecentre operators are telecentre owners, he argues, they are better motivated to work towards success. Raghavan, however, “strongly oppose[s] this point of view.” He believes that only the patience and resources of a corporation can endure the long gestation period required to nurture a telecentre. Despite these contradictory stances, its also worth emphasising similarities – in fact, it’s worth noticing that there is much more agreement than disagreement. Both argue that there is a lot that can be done to address telecentre affordability, favourable regulation, and connectivity infrastructure to rural areas. They also share a concern that the appropriate services are not fully developed for the rural market, with untapped possibilities in education, banking services, etc. Also interesting is that while there is discussion about the place of technology, neither author suggests that deficiencies in technology are a bottleneck to successful rural telecentres; instead, they emphasise the need for well-implemented processes. Most significantly, there appears to be a mutual, if subtle, acknowledgement of the strengths of the different models. One middle solution, which both Jhunjhunwala and Raghavan raise as a potentially viable model is that of the franchised telecentre, backed by a corporation that ensures good processes and well-developed services. 35


Entrepreneur-run Rural Telecentres: A Good Model To Ensure Sustainability? We start with two facts: • ‘Entrepreneur-run rural telecentres have seen more failure as enterprise than success over the last seven to eight years...’ • ‘They have had little large-scale social or economic impact so far...’ With such a record, it may be hard to argue that these centres could be a good model to ensure sustainability. Yet, learning from early failures is essential for any social effort. The mobile revolution1 in developing countries required that technology, affordability, regulation, and demand fall in place before possible exponential growth. Since 2000, there have been many efforts to set up rural telecentres, but let us examine how the four drivers have fared. The availability of affordable technologies for telecentres is a challenge. Although Personal Computers (PCs) have become rugged for rural use and come down in cost, usability remains an issue due to security and maintenance problems. Connectivity is still a struggle, though wireless technology can bring bare broadband to villages today; and reliable and affordable power supply is still an issue. Policy and regulations with regards to rural telecentres has also been weak. Connectivity to rural telecentres, especially to the average-sized villages, is still not a viable business proposition. Operators are attracted to urban areas, where money comes easily. It would, thus, be prudent to allow zero-cost licenses to local companies who focus on rural connectivity. Countries like India have discussed it, but is yet not a reality. However, it is the fourth factor – needs and demand – where most telecentre efforts have gone wrong. Models todate have been push-based, and there has been only meager demand in the villages. The Internet alone is not enough2. It has to cross the barriers of literacy, affordability, and computer literacy. Therefore, the key to rural Internet usage is services designed for rural people. Efforts so far have either been simple website development or mere tinkering, instead of creating services desired by a villager, and for which he/she would be willing to pay. In rural areas, the primary needs are education, healthcare, and livelihood. Can telecentres build their business around serving these needs? Internet-based coaching for schoolboard exams, spoken English, and computer skills would be highly desirable. Further, vocational skill training for sales and physical security jobs have a great pull. The same is true of healthcare. Doctors hardly practice in rural areas. Local health practitioners could use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for delivery of healthcare services. Remote diagnostics is possible, but within the means and grasp of villagers. In the late 20th century, ICT and inexpensive transportation helped manufacturing shift from the West to East. Later, ICT-enabled services were delivered and shifted to countries like India, creating wealth and development. Could rural 36

Ashok Jhunjhunwala is Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Chennai, wher he leads the Telecommunications and Computer Networks group (TeNeT). This group closely works with the industry for developing a number of Telecommunications and Computer Network Systems. Jhunjhunwala received the Padma Shri in 2002 and is a Fellow of Wireless World Research Forum, Indian National Academy of Engineering, Indian National Science Academy, Indian Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Committee. e-mail: areas go through the same trajectory? Nascent efforts have begun in India. Small Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) units are being set up in rural areas. Similarly, ICT is being used to migrate manufacturing to rural India; especially where human skill and labor is emphasised. Distributed, outsourced production can, thus, become a reality. Telecentres have other uses as well. In agriculture, they could be used to mitigate risks, streamline purchase and sale, and obtain relevant advisories. ICTs could also help provide low-cost finance to the villagers3. These services, in addition to routine services4, will certainly be profitable for telecentres. Further, as they become business, training, and healthcare centres for villages, they would usher in social transformation. The key is to develop these services and deliver them well. As operator-assisted Public Call Offices (PCOs) in India have shown, dispersed centres can run well with entrepreneurs driving it. They know that, better the service, greater their gains. To maximise profits, they keep centres open for 16 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, telecentres deliver a variety of services and would require processes to be welldefined and fine-tuned for quality. It may, therefore, be desirable for entrepreneurs, instead of being independent, to become franchisees of companies specialising in these services. Such entrepreneur-run telecentres, indeed, have the potential to transform rural areas worldwide. References 1

Efforts of pushing mobiles in Rural Areas of developing countries failed in nineties

and have succeeded only in the last few years. 2

As youngsters in rural areas get to learn use of Internet, there is some demand now.

But a simple calculation will show that a single PC telecentre would need to charge USD 0.4 to USD 0.5 per hour for Internet, to break even. This is barely viable to the Top of Pyramid in the villages 3

Much hyped micro-finance provides loans at interest rates in between 25 and 40

per cent in most villages. 4

Telecentres anyway deliver voice and IP telephony, Internet services, ticket booking,

bill payments and photography.

Corporations Ensure Consistent, Credible And Sustainable Rural Telecentres Sriram Raghavan, is the President and Co-founder of Comat. Sriram holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering. He heads the new initiatives and monitors the organisation’s revenues. He is an advisor to the Government of India on strategic initiatives for the rural sector. Sriram is the brain behind ‘The Billion Dollar Group,’ the focus group on solutions and services for the bottom of the pyramid market. An evangelist for social entrepreneurship, he is an active advisor to non-profit organisations like the ‘Sustainable Business Institute’ and ‘Startup EPA’, both based in Silicon Valley in the United States. e-mail: For the nearly 700 million people in India’s 600,000 villages, connectivity is the need of the hour. Governments, corporations and individuals have rightly gauged the tremendous potential in India’s clichéd ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (BOP) to bridge the rural-urban gap. Providing this base with affordable goods and services will stimulate commerce and development. This, in turn, will fundamentally change the paradigm ‘rural poor’. Allowing the benefits of organisation, logistics, IT and scale to permeate rural India will spark the much-anticipated economic revolution. Until now, telecentre services are delivered at the taluk or district level, where aggregation and consolidation happen. Hence, these services are not directly accessible to the rural citizen. In time, Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies snapped this trend by building large distributor channels. Their high margins made this a viable option for people along the chain. These telecentres are useful to deliver information-based services such as desktop publishing, digital photography, e-Commerce and Internet surfing. These services are standardised and can be set up effectively in most locations. The demand and margin on these services, however, is very low.  Therefore, in order to ensure a sustainable business model, personalised services like, education, banking, financial services, trading, etc. need to be added to the portfolio of information-based services. While many endorse the statement ‘Telecentres run as small, local businesses are a good model to ensure sustainability’, I strongly oppose this view-point. Small operatores face challenges in generating seed capital and investment, establishing adequate infrastructure, building credibility and ensuring sustainability. First, to set up a rural telecentre, the affordability barrier is extremely steep. Significant levels of investment are required on the user side to get started - PC, modem, telephone line, ISP connection charge, the recurrent costs involved etc. On average, the total cost of setting up a basic telecentre is estimated to be around INR 50,000 to INR 100,000. June 2008

This is a huge task given that return on investment is not guaranteed within a short-term period. Second, infrastructure needs focus. The emergence of low-cost wireless networks and access devices have, to an extent, helped bridge infrastructure gaps in rural areas, linking the informal economy to well-established markets, distribution channels and transaction platforms.  Voicemail and voice recognition software have bridged the literacy gap. The e-Commerce systems tailored for rural markets have eliminated intermediaries, providing transparency and reduced corruption. The real challenge lies, however, at the grassroots level. With small business operators providing rural telecentre services, there is a lack of consistent service delivery. Contrary to a physical product, service delivery is key when it comes to information-based services. With this being the criteria, this segment has certainly not attained necessary scale in terms of infrastructure. Third, the key to longevity and endurance for any business is garnering credibility. Whilst it is true that information delivery is standardised, service deliveries that are essential to the common man are not delivered. Lack of efficiency in redressing citizens’ complaints, inadequate domain knowledge, corruption and malpractice are common reasons for locally run telecentres to down their shutters. Lastly, telecentres run by small business operators are often not commercially viable business models over a short period. Comat is testimony to the success of ‘company owned - company operated’ models. In fact, when operations commenced in Karnataka, it initially attempted to run locally owned kiosks that provided government services. This involved maintaining government stationery, moving cash, and handling complaints and grievance redressal. But, it met with little success, as challenges such as inability to monitor work discipline and cash movement, lack of physical supervision on whether the centre was opened, and inability to prioritise services were faced.  Local operators would not prioritise services, and they neglected beneficial services like financial and trading services. Franchising rural telecentres is also a possible alternative, though one must point out that legal mechanisms have not yet evolved to shield the service provider from poor-quality service. There is no legal recourse available to the service provider. Experience indicates that corporations can address investment, infrastructure, credibility and sustainability of rural telecentres effectively. The private sector can undertake the risk of long gestation periods especially if supported by a fair and transparent regulatory regime. Private sector telecentre models have achieved successes by addressing the growing need for value-added, cost-effective educational services (e.g., basic ICT literacy, advanced computer skills, and e-learning modules). Given this, it is an obvious conclusion that a tightly controlled franchise model or a ‘company owned - company operated’ model is the ideal and feasible way forward for rural telecentres. q 37

Grassroots story


Vignesh Sornamohan and Juanita Kakoty

Editor’s note: In this issue of telecentre magazine, we have attempted to make the Grassroots Story a ‘Photo Tribute’. The editorial team has strongly felt the need for celebrating the grassroots level telecentre managers, who are changing the lives of the local community. In this issue, we cover Shanika and Suheib Babiker from Sri Lanka (Asia) and Sudan (Africa) respectively. In the following pages, we seek to capture a day at the telecentre in Shanika and Suheib’s lives. A DAY IN THE LIFE OF SHANIKA, SRI LANKA 1




Shanika runs the Nenasala telecentre in the Rathnapura district of Sri Lanka. She set up the centre with the help of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA). The centre provides access to Internet, telephone, content learning, and other valuable information at very reasonable costs. Shanika, who is an extraordinary entrepreneur, is only 25 years old. An amazingly gifted young woman, of great determination and grit, Shanika is paralysed from neck downwards. She is also a successful writer and translator for leading Sri Lankan newspapers and magazines.

1 Shanika

leaving for the telecentre. Her father carries her


2 The telecentre site 7

3 The telecentre opens for the day at 8 a.m.

4 Shanika with her staff Photo Credit: SOUL, Sri Lanka

5 Shanika instructing members 4

of her staff about proceedings of the day

6 Courses underway at the telecentre

7 Shanika leaves for home at the end of the day at 8:30 p.m.




5 2

6 3

Suheib operates a GDCO funded telecentre within a special school in Khartoum, Sudan. The centre serves the hearing impaired. It offers courses, available for free, on MS Office, basic Internet, and computer operations. So far, 70 people have already been trained, and 30 people are currently under training. Suheib trains the special students with the help of Alsadik Abdalgani, who translates Suheib’s instructions into sign language.

1 Suheib arrives at the telecentre at 8.30 a.m.

2 The telecentre site 7

3 The telecentre opens for the day at 9 a.m.

4 The telecentre staff 4

5 A student in one of the batches

Photo Credit: CSDMS

6 Suheib and Alsadik instructing a class

7 Female students leave after the last batch ends at 3 p.m.

June 2008


face2face with R Chandrashekar


Transforming Rural India:

600,000 Villages; Over 100,000 Telecentres Ravi Gupta, Jayalakshmi Chittoor, Vignesh Sornamohan

About 7000 plus Common Services Centres (CSCs) have been operationalised in rural India so far. R Chandrashekhar, Additional Secretary e-Governance, Government

Photo Credit: CSDMS

of India in conversation with the telecentre magazine, talks about R Chandrashekhar, Additional Secretary e-Governance Government of India

8What led to the idea of establishing 100,000 common services centres (CSCs) in the villages of India?

The concept emerged in the context of delivering more convenient e-Governance services to the citizens. No such scheme could be conceived without adequate thought and attention to providing access to people in rural and remote areas. These areas lack adequate connectivity, personal computers, Internet penetration, and literacy, particularly Information Technology (IT) literacy. Therefore, unless special measures are taken, a large section of the population would be deprived of the benefits of IT and e-Governance. A window for access has to be created for the deprived people. The e-Governance is also trying to change the way in which government services are delivered. Therefore, the need was


management strategies, connectivity, power, infrastructure, knowledge, and the challenges of capacity building

felt to create a delivery system, with a footprint and scale large enough for its impact to be felt and visible across the country.

8Telecentre or IT related infrastructure has two typical challenges, electricity and core connectivity. How are they going to be tackled?

Electricity and last mile connectivity remain the two biggest challenges. It falls outside the scope of the CSC programme, per se; but on which success heavily depends. As far as connectivity is concerned, there are concerted strategies in conjunction with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India. There is a programme to rollout broadband connectivity to rural areas through fibre

optics. The programme tries to leverage nearly 30,000 rural telephone exchanges and use wireless connectivity for the last mile. It is under way and, by mid 2009, this connectivity should be available. Some states, like Gujarat and Kerala, have well-adopted short-term local solutions to address the connectivity problem. Though in the long run, it may not be optimal in terms of cost, such short-term solutions are available where the need is felt. Most of the telecentres initially begin with certain services that can be provided even with a non-connected mode. The connectivity comes a few months or a year after the telecentres become operational. Coming to the question of electricity, there are two ways to solve the problem. One, have special arrangements with the state to ensure power supply, which is not very realistic. The other solution is to find a local or innovative solution, which is more possible in the case of CSCs. There is a strong network to come up with low power consumption devices, particularly for the developing environment. Similarly, the laptop computers cost slightly higher but do offer back-up against power shortage for a short period of time. However, in parts of rural India, the problem is not the lack of power for a few hours, but the availability of power for a few hours. Therefore, the availability of laptop computers, alone, may not completely solve the problem. We have The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) as a partner agency in planning energy requirements. They have come up with some innovative solutions using solar systems that provide about 350 Watts of power at reasonable costs. We are looking at innovative solutions from the more remote areas too. Basically, we need a combination of different approaches to deal with the power and connectivity issues. I do believe that these are difficult, but not insurmountable problems.

CSC Implementation Status as of May 01, 2008

The Government of India has initiated the Common Services Centres (CSC) scheme to establish 100,000 telecentres in 600,000 villages of India under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP). The scheme envisions CSCs as the front-end delivery points for integrated services to rural citizens through publicprivate partnerships (PPPs). The objective is to combine social and commercial goals of the government and the private sector to benefit the rural and remotest corners of the country, through both ICT-enabled and non ICT-enabled services. So far, 7,000 plus CSCs have already been rolled out in the villages of India. Numbers of CSCs established so far: State-wise, as on April 15, 2008 Jharkhand 4506 West Bengal 1521 Haryana 920 Bihar 9 Tirpura 2 Total


8The main aim behind CSC programme is to provide rural population with e-Services, at affordable prices. Apart from infrastructure services, this requires capacity building of the rural masses. Has the Ministry taken any steps in this direction?

The CSC programme has been devised by considering the problem of capacity building and lack of preparedness among people to benefit from Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Given the literacy and IT literacy levels in our country, it is going to be a while before everybody is literate enough with IT competencies to access the services and information themselves. It is also going to be sometime before everybody can afford a computer to draw these benefits. Therefore, the CSC has the concept of ‘assisted access’, whereby one can derive the benefits without being literate or IT literate. Irrespective of one’s economic and literacy levels, a person has needs; and if there is a method whereby these needs can be met more easily or at lesser costs, one will opt for it. The CSC programme has been positioned in this context. In most cases, hiring local people from the village is preferred, even if this means lowering the qualifications. This is not a son-of-the soil theory, but a logical compulsion in the way the programme has been structured. But, still,

Source: Government of India

June 2008



8At the current implementation stage, are there a few agencies who are creating a monopoly of organisations in terms of rolling out the programme in various states?

Source: DIT, Government of India

There has been a debate about whether CSCs could be more effective if set up and operated by an organisation rooted in the local area as against an organisation, that specialises in setting up the infrastructure and not in local, voluntary or social services. A certain kind of professional competency, efficiency and scale is needed for an economical physical rollout. But, a locally rooted set of people is also needed to position the programme to local needs. Certain agencies have had a much larger presence than many other agencies, but this is not necessarily negative. Once these agencies come up to play, at a local level, they form the necessary relationships. In any case, the actual operators (village level entrepreneurs) are the people from the local area.

8How would you benchmark the progress? there is a strong need to build awareness both among the people who operate the system and among the local people as to what benefits can be provided, how they can benefit and leverage it. Though, I personally believe that none can give distinct knowledge to people as to in what ways they will benefit. This knowledge will evolve differently in different parts of the country. But, people need to find ways in which they can benefit; then use their own imagination, energy and local innovation to try and find things that they want.

The assessment, I think, is best left to people who aren’t the implementing agency, but are observing and monitoring the programme closely. The first level of success could be determined by whether the programme has been rolled out in a physical sense, i.e., if the infrastructure - the physical premises, computing facilities, personnel to operate, connectivity and power - has been set up in all the 100,000 locations. The advent of certain minimum kinds

“Electricity and last mile connectivity remain the two biggest challenges. It falls outside the scope of the CSC programme, per se; but on which success depends heavily”

8You would have worked out a large management system, especially since the CSC programme has been designed as a Pubic-Private Partnership (PPP) programme. What are the steps taken by the Government in this direction?

While conceptualising the CSC programme, its enormity was recognised as way beyond the competence of DIT to directly manage its implementation. Therefore, we chose to manage it indirectly and bring on board a national level agency to bring the necessary resources and competencies required to handle a programme of this magnitude and complexity on a nation-wide basis. In this context, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) has been selected as the national level service agency. There will be a lot of innovation and localisation as the programme is rolled out. Even if, theoretically, a centralised model of implementation and management is possible, it is not ideal. Therefore, in the implementation programme, the state governments were brought in, agencies were selected in a decentralised fashion, whereby those with a local root or a local presence or, at the very least, a local familiarity would come in. This enables greater bonding between the agencies involved in the implementation, the local environment, and the local government. So, the direct involvement of state governments is critical for CSCs’ success. The entire process of inducting implementing agencies were done by the state government, but under the programme structure designed and outlined by the Central Government.


of non-governmental services like, IT training, accessing examination results, agriculture-related market prices, requirements for agricultural practices, weather-related information, railway ticketing, etc. in the village is the other benchmark. The next benchmark is the provision of government information services, particularly the regulatory kind, like, getting examination/test results and various kinds of certificates: income certificate, caste certificate, nativity certificate, etc. This should progressively lead to more end-to-end services, where the entire application filing, receipt, acknowledgment, processing of the application and returning the services is done electronically. Of course, all of this will take time. But the point is, whether the trajectory has started; whether there is significant progress over time. What has been advocated and is a very encouraging sign Social Investments • • • •

The CSC programme has been approved at a total cost of USD 1 billion over 4 years Around USD 201 million is to be contributed by the Government of India Around USD 187 million is to be contributed by the state governments The balance resources are to be mobilised from the private sector


Nagendra Singhal Asst. Vice President – eGovernance, Zoom Developers Pvt. Ltd. Commissioned Service Centre Agency (SCA)

Common Services Centers (CSCs) are the retail outlets for services offered within an ICT infrastructure, based on Public Private Partnership. Extending the reach of the IT revolution to rural India would boost allround development. The challenge is not in setting up IT infrastructure or providing access to content and services to villagers, but establishing a sustainable business model with collaborative efforts of the SCA and the government. The key challenges in rolling out CSCs are; • Power, geographic remoteness and other infrastructure-based issues. For instance, good eGovernance applications will not benefit anybody in remote areas without supporting infrastructure • Lack of integrated services of the state and central departments and interdepartmental communication leading to the unavailability of Government to Citizen (G2C) services. These G2C services are not only important for the credibility of the centre, but also viability and sustainability of the centre • Lack of suitable skill sets, Internet connectivity, language barriers and low literacy • Rapid upscaling is another key challenge. At the conceptualisation stage, it was visualised that every six village will have one CSC. But in many states the ratio has changed, and now, encashment and survival of a CSC has become a major issue Linking the project with the Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP), under Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), for the capex, will expedite roll out and induce a new life to the entire concept. from all the states is, that, they have begun to put their heads together on this.

8Could you share with us how many centres have been rolled out so far?

The number has crossed 8,000, but, is probably under 10,000. By March-April 2009, it is expected to cross 75,000 going by the contracts, which have already been concluded in different states with the implementing agencies.

8Under this programme, 10 per cent of the CSCs are to be set up in the urban villages. Is that process also on or is it going to come up separately?

As far as the urban areas are concerned, the government does

June 2008

not provide any financial support to the urban areas. But the selected agencies are allowed and expected to establish centres in the urban areas that fall within the jurisdiction they are operating under. The number is quite fluid and entirely on the discretion of the implementing agency.

8What has been learned during the implementation of the programme?

Before the programme was finalised, almost one and a half years were spent discussing with the different agencies involved, and which could potentially have been involved, in arriving at an equilibrium between commercially driven entities, socially motivated organisations, people outside the system, and the government with its own priorities. However, at complete rollout, there will be lessons to be learnt and correctives to be applied. We need to observe this rollout phase a little more to see what comes out of it. Now, the focus is on getting the rollout done, ensuring that the connectivity and power issues are addressed adequately.

8Has the CSC scheme been perceived as a rural entrepreneurship programme?

Absolutely, because this programme has been designed as an entrepreneur-driven model. The minimum that this programme is going to create is 100,000 entrepreneurs in

“In parts of rural India, the problem is not the lack of power for a few hours, but the availability of power for a few hours” rural India, and a new idea of possible business because IT is not looked at as a business area there. I believe, the next phase of development is going to be entrepreneurship in knowledge or knowledge-based services. Right now, it is entrepreneurship in IT and IT based services. This entrepreneurship has to move to a metaphysical level.

8Do you see any need for a two-arrowed programme that covers (a) physical infrastructure and (b) knowledge exchange; a knowledge management programme innovatively developed by different states to exchange knowledge, training, capacity building, and documentation of innovations?

I think that there are two conflicting compulsions here. One is to look ahead and to strategise for the future, whether it is CSC 2.0 or whether it is ways of looking at integrating with civil society in a better way, and evolving more revised strategies for empowering rural communities. At the same time, thinking should not divert from the ground reality. There are some clear glimpses of what lies ahead as future challenges. But perhaps, it is a little too early to get into very detailed deliberations and discussions. There is a strong need, though, for a more inclusive dialogue even in the early phases, involving the civil society organisations and commercial entities. One example of commercial entities is the financial sector. There has been a lot of excitement in this sector because CSC programme is a huge advantage



Rural India at a glance  72.2 per cent of India’s population live in villages There are 6.38 lakh villages in India1  Approximate no. of rural poor in India is 222 million2  55 per cent villages don’t have electricity in homes, 85 perecnt have no sanitation facilities3  The per capita income of Indian villagers is Rs 12,000, while the national average is Rs 25,0004  The total number of community health centres in rural India is 3,168 and the total number of rural hospitals is 3,7535 Sources India





The Indian Economy Review 2008, p.62


to any financial inclusion programme. Therefore such a partnership is hugely beneficial to the CSC programme, the financial sector and the rural people. We are at stage zero in the evolution of such relationships, because more energy has been focused on meeting the immediate task.

8Technology gets redundant with time. Anything at

capability as a given. But it may not be so in every country. It is important for policy makers in every country to put down all relevant factors, see where they stand and then calibrate their efforts and programme to the requirements. There is no single prescription that will work for a large number of countries or, for that matter, even two countries.

8There is the question of authentication of certificates vis-a-vis government services. Does the CSC programme take into account the role of legally validating certificates?

This is a concern both inside and outside the government. There are different approaches adopted in different states. We have not issued any prescription for or against any method. For the moment, it has been left to the innovation of the state. But, take the example of the aviation sector, which slowly moved from printed tickets to electronic tickets. This happened because the consumer of that ticket is not the traveler but the airline industry. Similarly, most of the government certificates are not much for the consumption of the persons but the government For example, the consumer of a caste certificate or an income certificate is not the person but, the government department or a public functionary that requires that certificate. There are several approaches to solve this problem and we are looking at them. q

ICT Penetration In India

such a large scale means that your partners are ready to confront it. Is this part of your plan?

 India has an estimated 45 million Internet users, but only 10 million regularly use the Web for research and e-Commerce

The focus of the CSC programme has been on certain outcomes. Technology has been clearly and deliberately put as a means to those ends. These ends are largely related to human needs, developmental and economic, which do

 Of the 7 Asia-Pacific nations in the top 20 countries in terms of the number of Internet users, only China, Japan and India are in the top 5

“Coming to the question of electricity, one may have special arrangements with the state to ensure power supply, which is not very realistic. The other solution is to find a local or innovative solution, which is more possible in the case of CSCs”

 Urban India has shown a faster growth in terms of Internet reach  Short messaging Service (SMS) is believed to be the leading method of communication in India source:

not change much over time as compared to technology. So, even if technology keeps changing, it will enable us to meet the same requirements more efficiently, effectively, or at lower costs. There are enough levers and flexibility within the programme to enable that to happen, without affecting the fundamental nature of the programme

8What would be your message to a counterpart officer

Quick Scan •

in another country, who wants to replicate the CSC programme in that country?

A CSC-like programme needs to be carefully planned and tailored to that particular country’s needs, environment and circumstances; as well as to the local capabilities in terms of being able to deliver. In India, we take a certain amount of IT


CSC programme is one of the largest governmentrun telecentre upscale programme in the world Around 7,000 CSCs have already been established in 5 states of India Validity of certificates issued by telecentres could be easily addressed because it is the government who is the end-consumer

content and services

TARA Akshar

Towards Literacy In 30 Days

Photo Credit: TARA Akshar

Kunal Tyagi and Colonel M S Ahluwalia

Women undergoing training at a TARA Akshar centre

Source: TARA Akshar


Locations of TARA Akshar centres

Map depicting TARA Akshar centres in India March 2008

To address the issue of illiteracy in a meaningful manner and in a remarkably short time-period, TARAhaat, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) arm of Development Alternatives Group, has developed an ICT-based literacy tool: TARA Akshar. TARA Akshar is one of the fastest literacy programmes in the world that teaches completely illiterate Hindispeaking people to read and write in just 30 days. All it needs is a computer and a willing instructor who has undergone a week’s training. TARA Akshar has achieved unprecedented success in a short span of one year from its rollout. The success of the programme can be judged from the fact that by April 2008, nearly 45,000 rural women were made literate through 295 TARA Akshar telecentres spread over five Indian states - Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana. The programme achieved an average success rate of 98 percent and an average dropout rate of less than 1 percent. Currently, the project focuses on these five Hindi speaking states and is financed by the Department For International Development (DFID), the British Government’s development arm. It is implemented under the Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme, currently implemented in the six Indian states namely, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra. Development Alternatives and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) are the management consultants to the PACS programme. 45


Background The economic boom in India has ensured a lavish life to some people. But even after 60 years of independence, the country is home to the largest number of illiterates on earth. A whopping 400 million people still cannot read and write the language they speak. It is one of the major causes of the country’s socio-economic backwardness. Poverty and under-development are the associated ills of illiteracy. Literacy forms the cornerstone for ensuring equality of opportunity to all. It leads to increased self-confidence, self-esteem and awareness levels among the neo-literates. It allows people, especially women, to participate much more effectively in the development and decision-making processes at the grassroots. It also helps to increase the status of women in the family as well as in the society, and leads to gender equity. Without any concerted action, illiteracy can impede growth and development of the country. Valiant attempts have been made to increase the literacy level in India but the number of illiterates in the country is still enormous. Over one third of Indians above the age of seven are illiterate (World Bank Development Policy Review Facts About Illiteracy • • •

According to the UNESCO, there are about 1 billion nonliterate adults in the world1 98 per cent of the illiterate population lives in the developing countries2 34 per cent of the illiterate population in the world lives in India3


source: source:

1,2 3

2003). It can be attributed partly to the ever-growing population and partly to the failure of the government literacy programmes. Currently, in India, it takes between 6 months to 2 years to teach people to read and write. The poor and the marginalised, who constitute the majority of the illiterates in India, either fail to muster courage to enroll into a literacy programme or lose steam mid way and drop out because of the staggering amount of time and effort it takes to get literate through conventional methods. Most of the illiterates, especially adults, work as wage labourers, domestic household workers and farm labourers. They are often forced to migrate to towns and cities in search of work;

The poor and the marginalised in India, either fail to muster courage to enroll into a literacy programme, or drop out mid way because of the staggering amount of time and effort it takes to get literate through conventional methods so, they fail to complete a literacy programme. Thus, TARA Akshar seeks to bring literacy to the poor and marginalised in a short time and at affordable cost. TARA Akshar: New way of learning TARA Akshar trains students to recognise the sound of the letter. It is followed by training them in syllables, then lets them loose on words and sentences. The conventional wisdom is that the hardest part of learning is to recognise the combination of letters. But if the student has an instantaneous, instinctive, intuitive recognition of all the letters that he or she is reading, all the subsequent stages of learning to read become very easy. The astounding success that the TARA Akshar programme has met proves this point. TARA Akshar has come up with a method of teaching this first step of learning letters in a revolutionary way, by the use of memory associations embedded in animated movies. Learning is reinforced with other memory techniques, together with video gaming techniques. In TARA Akshar, the students do not have to memorise anything; rather he or she simply watches and plays, which in turn takes care of the memorising. TAARA Akshar is a Flash-based software that has been developed in-house by the TARAhaat team. The software uses morphing and memory techniques to teach completely illiterate people to learn, read and write Hindi (Devanagri) in 30 days . For example, the letter ‘d’ in Hindi is associated to one’s memory by a morphed image of two ears joined together. The entire alphabet is taught in this manner. This technique is also supplemented with audio-visual and voice-based content. Victor Lyons is the chief designer of the TARA Akshar Programme while working with TARAhaat. He spent 18 months perfecting the programme by piloting it in villages around Delhi. ‘We carefully noticed the students watching the computer. We learnt all sorts of fascinating information about the way people learn.’ TARA Akshar

Partnership with A symbiotic approach TARAhaat joined hands with (a joint initiative of International Development Research Centre, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and Microsoft) in 2006 to design a successful and efficient delivery model for TARA Akshar, so that its reach can be maximised. In this direction, a three-tier system has been devised. It is a computer-based model of delivery and involves participation of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), and Self Help Groups (SHGs). The first level of monitoring is done by the Head Office team based in New Delhi. The second level of monitoring is done through Master Trainers, who provide the requisite support, passage of information and monitor the implementation processes. Finally, the instructors and Quality Controllers implement the programme at the village level.The findings that will surface out of this patnership will be helpful for all product and service developers in the telecentre movement.


The telecentre approach At present, TARA Akshar is being offered through TARA Akshar centers located in small villages. These centers are not typical telecentres but have great potential to become telecentres and offer various ICT based services to the deprived people. As people become literate, they aspire for higher education and employable skills. TARA Akshar centres, which have a laptop computer and an instructor, if connected to the Internet become retail centres for the community and not only provide literacy but also employable skills. TARAhaat, which already has a network of more than 350 telecentres across India, has planned to offer TARA Akshar from its telecentres in near future. It will spread literacy among people and help enhance the customer base for other services available at its telecentres. “Its not just the software, its the whole administration of the project that is making it a success”, says Colonel Ahluwalia, the Chief Project Manager for TARA Akshar. “We train the instructors with a very intensive and thorough training course. An instructor trained by us really knows how to hold a class together.” The instructors are not

just left to get on with it. They are monitored by ‘Master Trainers’, who are their technical mentors and by ‘Quality Controllers’, who spend their weeks appearing at random, at different centers to do spot checks on the quality of instructor training. What’s next? TARA Akshar has provided literacy to around 45,000 females and the number is continuously mounting. TARAhaat and Development Alternatives are keen to help these women translate literacy into some kind of socio-economic benefit for them. For this, TARAhaat has already planned to bring the benefits of ICT to TARA Akshar learners. Some of the initiatives taken in this direction are as follows:  A financial literacy module is being developed to enable TARA Akshar learners to do mathematical calculations  The customisation of multimedia based Enterprise Development Module for neo-literates is being done. It will help train TARA Akshar learners, especially SHG Source: TARA Akshar

uses a combination of different media in order to attack the problem from as many media angles as possible. Students watch animated cartoon movies featuring the letters of the alphabet, who turn into characters that have adventures with each other. Students also play card games with special cards featuring letters of the alphabet. 100 minutes like this constitutes one day’s lesson. Students are required to attend one lesson a day, 6 days a week, until the 30 days are up.

Morphed images to aid memory in learning

TARA Akshar: Success Stories Maina Devi, Uttar Pradesh: 32 year old Maina Devi of Uttar Pradesh, India learnt to read and write with the TARA Akshar programme in 30 days. After the completion of her course, she wrote a letter of appreciation to ‘Colonel Babuji’, who is Colonel MS Ahluwali, Chief Project Manager, TARA Akshar. She profusely thanked TARA Akshar for erasing the humiliating stamp of ‘illiterate’ from her life. Jaina Bai, Madhya Pradesh: Jaina Bai Uike, 35 years old, lives in the village of Gunwant Nagar, in Athner, Betul, Madhya Pradesh. She is married with two sons and three daughters. Her husband Mishri Lal works as a labourer. They are living below the poverty line. Jaina was an illiterate, and in August 2007, she eagerly signed up for the TARA Akshar literacy course. Her husband was very supportive. Jaina Bai passed her reading and writing exam on September 24, 2007. Her confidence level increased tremendously. She was very happy that she was now literate, and fully resolved to make her children literate. After graduation, Jaina got elected as the Sarpanch of her village. She performs her duties as a Sarpanch very effectively and efficiently. She is very thankful to TARA Akshar for the difference it made to her life.

Source: TARA Akshar

Kanta Bai, Madhya Pradesh: Kanta Bai got affected by polio when she was 2 years old and was crippled forever. Her husband Bhaddu Lal also suffers from polio and runs a small retail shop. They have one son and five daughters. The family lives fairly below the poverty line. When a TARAakshar centre opened near her village Dori, Kanta Bai became interested in learning, especially because her fellow friends told her that TARAakshar teaches Hindi with modern techniques in just 30 days. She joined the center on August 17, 2007. Her disability never came in the way of her sharp mind. She successfully graduated and reached new levels of confidence, which she never could conceive of before. June 2008



Source: TARA Akshar

S.No 1 2 3 4 5 6


No of Candidates No of Candidates No of Candidates Answer Sheets Under Started Dropped Out Appeared Observation Bihar 11,658 251 11,407 0 Jharkhand 8,426 51 8,375 0 Uttar Pradesh 14,121 102 14,019 0 Madhya Pradesh 10,280 99 10,181 0 Delhi 94 14 80 0 Haryana 437 12 425 0




members on the entrepreneurship skills and, thus, translate their literacy into income generation  A new reading book and course - Swasthya Gyan Pustak – is being developed and will be published soon. The purpose of this course is to empower women to learn and use standard health measures to reduce child morbidity. Conclusion Anecdotal evidence from our 44,000 plus graduates shows a dramatic increase in self-esteem and consequent improvement in intra-family dynamics. More and more newly literates are coming forward and demanding more reading material. In most centres, reading clubs have been organised voluntarily by the respective Sarpanch or CSO; and reading material has been provided by either of them. The Panchayats or Pradhans support by providing a room for the centre’s building space, generator and extra reading material. There is a long waiting list of learners in most centres. ICTs have demonstrated the potential to empower even the most marginalised sections of the society. Providing ICT services to the rural poor and the disadvantaged communities can address problems associated with high levels of illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, low levels of production, and rural-urban migration. However, the biggest challenge is to develop highly innovative mechanisms and models that will facilitate access to ICTs for people at the bottom of the pyramid. The model adopted for TARA Akshar has not only helped in acquiring scales in a relatively short period of time, but has also made the delivery of the programme more effective. Today, close to 45,000 women have become literate in a short span of one year through 295 centres spread across five states in India. While the usage of multimedia and short time duration has ensured a low dropout rate, the unique Social Matrix of TARA Akshar Learners Percentage


Source: TARA Akshar

Minority Other Backward Classes Others Scheduled Castes Scheduled Tribes

4.00% 40.60% 9.90% 26.20% 19.20%

Over 100 Physically Challenged Women have been made Literate By TARA Akshar




Failed 162 85 43 46 11 19

No of Candidates Percentage Passed Achieved 11,245 96% 8,290 98% 13,976 99% 10,135 99% 69 73% 406 93%




delivery model has helped it to achieve a high success rate. Its not only about providing reading and writing skills but its also about transforming lives and transforming the nation. TARA Akshar has an answer to the plight of a person who can speak and understand a language but cannot read and write. The programme has huge potential to scale and transform the lives of people by bringing them through a journey of “Angoothe se kalam tak” (From thumb to pen). For more information visit and www. q Quick Scan • • •

TARA Akshar teaches completely illiterate Hindi-speaking people to read and write in just 30 days TARA Akshar is a Flash-based software that has been developed in-house by TARAhaat The software uses morphing and memory techniques. For example, the letter ‘d’ in Hindi is associated to one’s memory by a morphed image of two conjoined ears. The entire alphabet is taught in this manner

Authors Kunal Tyagi is Brand Manager, TARA Akshar. After a Masters in Business Management, Kunal joined TARAhaat in Development Alternatives Group and handled various assignments in the organisation. He has assisted the implementation of project Jyoti under Microsoft Unlimited Potential program, and various other projects with different organisations. Presently he is responsible for product management, increasing outreach and awareness of TARAhaat telecentres and expansion of TARAhaat network of telecentres. e-mail: Colonel M S Ahluwalia is Chief Project Manager, TARA Akshar. Ahluwalia has been an Indian Army officer, specialised in running training operations and was a seasoned flying instructor. His expertise in managing large-scale training operations has been vital to the success of TARA Akshar implementation. e-mail:

Telecentre Network

New Hopes And Emerging Collaborations: The Fifth East African Telecentre Leaders Forum Vignesh Sornamohan

Photo credit: CSDMS


Opening session of the Fifth East African Telecentre Leaders Forum


he East African region is a relatively dry area, strongly influenced by the Sahara Desert. The region has suffered from many social problems. The effects of war, combined with the severe climate, have placed increased pressure on the land and have had a heavy impact through deforestation. It is in this context that the telecentres in the region are functioning. The following article elucidates the key challenges and outcomes of the 5th East African Telecentre Leaders Forum (EATLF). The East African Telecentre Leaders Forum (EATLF) - Sudan, is fifth in the series of Telecentre Leaders Forum organised by UgaBYTES, in collaboration with (See box on left). The Gedaref Digital City Organisation (GDCO), Sudan hosted the fifth EATLF along with various other partners. The event took place between June 9-11, 2008 at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The uniqueness of Khartoum is that the Blue Nile and the White Nile meet here to form the River Nile. The event saw more than 20 international representatives and made it as one of the legendary EATLF events ever hosted.

June 2008


Photo credit: CSDMS


Participants at the 5th EATLF actively discussing the business plan for the telecentre academy

EATLF: A quick recap The biannual East African Telecentre Leaders Forum was first launched in the year 2006. Initially, it was started as ‘Ugandan Forum’, but, quickly building the strength of togetherness in the region, it became the East African Telecentre Leaders Forum. The UgaBYTES Initiative spearheaded this strategy, which its leadership learnt from the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), 2005. • •

The first EATLF took place on May 15, 2006, at Seeta Mukono, Uganda. It had seen more than 60 participants from the region The second EATLF took place between October 5-7, 2006, at Seeta Mukono, Uganda. It was attended by 75 Ugandans, 5 Tanzanians, 7 Rwandans, 1 Burundi, 9 Kenyans, 2 Americans, 1 British and 2 Canadian participants The third EATLF took place from June 3-4, 2007, at Siaya, Kenya. The event saw the participation of 45 telecentre practitioners, out of which 25 were Kenyans, 2 Tanzanians, 11 Ugandans, 2 Rwandans, 1 Sudanese, 2 Burundian, 1 British and 1 Canadian The fourth EATLF took place on November 4, 2007, at Uganda. It was participated by 48 telecentre practitioners. Among the participants were 18 Ugandans, 1 Sudanese, 7 Kenyans, 6 Tanzanians, 2 Rwandans, 7 Burundians, 1 Swedish and 1 Chilean

Telecentre Movement: The East African Scenario Since the event was postponed by a day, on June 8, 2008, we had an opportunity to understand the telecentre movement in the region. In his usual way of making things work, Shaddy quickly cooked up the agenda for the day. In his opening remarks, Shaddy introduced the global telecentre. org team and their roles and responsibilities. It was followed by a quick introduction of the participants. The first wave of telecentres in Africa started in the late


Africa has seen different telecentre models. Most notable of them are as follows: multi-purpose community telecentres (MCTs), school-based telecentres (SBTs), community technology learning centres (CTLCs), digital villages (DVs), community learning and information centres (CLIC), and community multi-media centres (CMCs)

1990s in Mali, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa. The telecentre approach presented an opportunity for addressing the digital divide and spur social development in developing countries. While each telecentre is different, the common focus is on the use of technologies to support community and social development – reducing isolation, bridging the digital divide, promoting health issues, creating economic opportunities, reaching out to people with special needs, including youths. The region has seen different telecentre models. Most notable of them are as follows1: multi-purpose community telecentres (MCTs), school-based telecentres (SBTs), community technology learning centres (CTLCs), digital villages (DVs), community learning and information centres (CLIC), and community multi-media centres (CMCs). Senegal has more than 9,000 telecentres, one of the largest numbers in the African region. Sonatel, a private telephone company supports these telecentres. In Nairobi, Kenya, Africa Online, an Internet Service Provider, set up more than 250 e-Touch telecentres. Very different from the aforementioned social enterprise model are the donorfunded projects. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have established most of these telecentres in the region. Most well known is the Nakaseke Multipurpose Community Telecentre in Uganda. In Mozambique two pilot telecentres were established in Manhiça and Namaacha (both in Maputo province), funded by the IDRC2. Sudan has more than 1000 telecentres distributed all over the country, set up under the Information Support Fund. The fund programme is managed by National Telecommunication Centre (NTI) and National Information Centre (NIC)3. The region is home to one of the largest numbers of pilot telecentre projects. It is important to note that most of the telecentre models in Africa have been designed with the support of development organisations and civil society organisations. Given this backdrop, the

What is EATLF?

The biannual East African Telecentre Leaders Forum (EATLF) was first launched in the year 2006. Initially, it was started as ‘Ugandan Forum’, but, quickly building the strength of togetherness in the region, it became the East African Telecentre Leaders Forum The first EATLF took place on May 15, 2006, at Seeta Mukono, Uganda. It had seen more than 60 participants from the region The second EATLF took place between October 5 and 7, 2006, at Seeta Mukono, Uganda. It was attended by 75 Ugandans, 5 Tanzanians, 7 Rwandans, 1 Burundi, 9 Kenyans, 2 Americans, 1 British and 2 Canadian participants The third EATLF took place from June 3-4, 2007, at Siaya, Kenya. The event saw the participation of 45 telecentre practitioners, out of which 25 were Kenyans, 2 Tanzanians, 11 Ugandans, 2 Rwandans, 1 Sudanese, 2 Burundian, 1 British and 1 Canadian The fourth EATLF took place on November 4, 2007, at Uganda. It was participated by 48 telecentre practitioners. Among the participants were 18 Ugandans, 1 Sudanese, 7 Kenyans, 6 Tanzanians, 2 Rwandans, 7 Burundians, 1 Swedish and 1 Chilean The Fifth EATLF took place between June 9 and 11, 2008, at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The event saw more than 20 international representatives

participants brainstormed on the telecentre market trends, target audiences and key challenges facing the telecentre movement. Telecentre market trends; target audiences Kiringai Kamau from VACID Africa moderated this informal discussion. The discussion identified the following as the key targets and potential groups for the telecentres: poor and marginalised sections of the society, farmers, students, religious institutions, hospitals, local enterprises, the disabled and the youths. Key challenges Pius Aggrey Omondi from Kenyan Telecentre Network (KenTel) moderated this session. This informal discussion elucidated the following key challenges facing the telecentre movement in the region. These are infrastructure (electricity and connectivity), sustainability, duplication of initiatives, lack of co-ordination, language (most of the languages are spoken), lack of commitment from the government, cost of maintenance, widespread illiteracy, lack of technical skills, relevant content, ownership by the communities, expert advise, research and development, and proper legislations. Followed by this, Satyan Mishra and Nitin Kumar Gacchayat of Drishtee, India and Souza Sales Jose Avando

June 2008

from Brazilian Telecentre Network (ATN) shared their experiences. The Fifth East African Telecentre Leaders Forum Opening session The forum started off with a welcome address by Ahmed M M Eisa, Founder, Gedaref Digital City Organisation (GDCO), Sudan. The opening session was graced by the presence of Hon Eisa Bashari, Minister of Science and Technology

Microsoft has donated 40,000 software licenses to the Brazilian Telecentre Network (ATN). Senegal has more than 9,000 telecentres, one of the largest numbers in the African region, supported by Sonatel. In Nairobi, Kenya, Africa Online set up more than 250 e-Touch telecentres. Sudan has more than 1000 telecentres distributed all over the country, set up under the Information Support Fund managed by the National Telecommunication Centre (NTI) and National Information Centre (NIC) and Hon Abdul Gadir Mohammad Ali, Minister of Social Welfare, Government of Sudan. In his keynote address, Eisa Bashri extended his complete support to set up the Sudan telecentre academy. Speaking at the forum, Meddie Mayanja, Sr Programme Officer, emphasised the key objectives and outlined the strategic importance of the forum. In his introductory remarks, Ahamed Abdul Gadir, Chairman, National Information Centre said that the Government of Sudan has liberalised the information and communication industries, which has led to the growth of telecentres in the country and the provision for practitioners to operate smoothly. Telecentre experiences: An East African perspective This session focused on sharing different telecentre success stories across the region. Meddie Mayanja moderated this session. Daniel Richard Methusela from Tanzania Telecentre Network (TTN) shared the different telecentre related research initiatives of the University of Dar e Salam. Rita Mijumbi, Uganda Digital Services, Uganda, shared the development centres initiative and emphasised the importance of strategic multi-stakeholder partnerships. Kiringai Kamau, VACID Africa, Kenya explained the innovative use of telecentres to improve the functional efficiency of co-operatives in the rural parts of Kenya. Yasir Elsadig, GDCO, Sudan briefed the GDCO’s telecentres to empower the hearing impaired. Nabil Eid, Syria shared the IT Clubs experience in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region. Guillaume Ruberintwari, Burundi briefed the opportunities for telecentres to work with the women self-help groups. National telecentre networks: A status update The objective of the session was to understand the current



status of different national telecentre networks. This session was also moderated by Meddie Mayanja. Karim Kasim represented the Middle East and North African (MENA) Telecentre Network. He said that this network was born during the Third Global Knowledge Conference (GK3) last year. Currently, the network is using different knowledge sharing tools to raise awareness among the telecentre practitioners. Souza Sales Jose Avando, Brazilian Telecentre Network (ATN) said that the country has more than 16,000 telecentres in total. The network has acted as an incubator for different services like distance education through telecentres, creating a bank account, etc. In another partnership, Microsoft has donated 40,000 software licenses to the network. In the near future, it has plans to work with the Mozambique Telecentre Network. Felician Bakoya Ncheye, Tanzanian Telecentre Network is working to deploy the wireless mess networks to improve connectivity in the country. Pius Aggrey Omondi of KenTel, Ndirima Falcon Godwin of Rwanda Telecentre Network, Muhamad Said Alkatim of Sudan, Nkurunziza Jean Paul of Burundi and Ndaula Sulah of UgaBYTES, Uganda shared the current status of their respective networks.

He further mentioned that will provide beneficiaries with travel and subsistence costs as well as other limited expenses for hosts, while telecentres or networks will share the cost of basic expenses. The global programme is part of the network building programmes that bring practitioners together on intensive learning and problem solving activities. Satyan Mishra, Managing Director, Drishtee, India and Nitin Kumar Gacchayat, Co-Founder, Drishtee, India shared their telecentre model with the participants and offered their support to replicate and upscale the social enterprise model in the African continent. Drishtee has franchised more than 4,000 telecentres in rural India. Key outcomes Telecentre networks went away with concrete opportunities for supporting staff exchange, knowledge sharing and strengthening operations at the national level Knowledge shared amongst practitioners from Brazil, India, Mozambique, Syria, Zambia, Somalia and Egypt Different collaborative initiatives launched between Brazil and Mozambique; India and Sudan Decision made to establish an East African telecentre academy in Uganda Sudan will establish the first telecentre academy in Africa

• •

The Telecentre Academy: An overview In this session, Basheerhamad Shadrach gave an overview of the telecentre academy. He said that the academy is aimed to introduce professionalism among the telecentre practitioners. The academy will supplement the telecentre. org’s efforts to support professional development needs of telecentre managers and practitioners across the globe. The academy targets four different groups namely, the telecentre operators, the policy/decision-makers, the network leaders, and the community at large. The academy aims to train 500,000 telecentre practitioners across the globe by 2012. In his concluding remarks, he raised three important questions and asked the participants to brainstorm on them. After this brief introduction, the participants separated into three small groups and brainstormed on the following topics: Group 1 focused on ‘why do we need the telecentre academy?’ Group 2 focused on ‘what and how of the curriculum for the academy?’ and Group 3 focused on ‘the business model for the academy’. On the second day of the forum, each group presented the key outcomes of its discussions.

• •

The way forward The event has given a new direction to the telecentre movement in the region. For the first time, the event was attended by the partners from Brazil and India. It added a new energy and enthusiasm among the East African telecentre leaders. The event also saw active participation by the government and private players. It shows the interest among other stakeholders in taking the movement forward. q References Mayanja, Meddie (2005), “African Telecentre Networks: An insider perspective”, i4d magazine, Vol. 3, No. 9, Accessed on: 14 June 2008, 1

Knowledge exchange: The need of the hour In this session, Betty Iyamuremye, Vignesh Sornamohan and Karim Kasim, Community Content Facilitators from emphasised the need for knowledge sharing and working together. They offered technical support to all the participants to share their story at the site. In the following session, Meddie Mayanja outlined the importance of telecentre staff exchange programme. He said that through telecentre networks, should support telecentre practitioners and network leaders on short-term placements, to travel, work, innovate and learn with peers at telecentre or network level until April 2009.


Benjamin, Peter (2000), “African experience with telecentres”, International Electronic Publication of the Internet Society, November/ December Issue, Accessed on 13 Jun 3 Sulah, Ndauala (2008), “The land of kindness and generosity host the 5th EATLF”,, Accessed on 11 June 2008, 2

Author Vignesh Sornamohan ( is working with CSDMS, India, as Community Content Facilitator – Asia for online community

knowledge sharing


Exciting Case, Leadership, Prospects, Implementation Plan

Key To Resource Mobilisation

Photo credit: CSDMS

Vignesh Sornamohan

Key participants and resource persons at the Capacity Building Workshop on Resource Mobilisation for Netwrok Partners held at Bangkok, Thailand on April 15-18, 2008


ow can national telecentre networks raise the resource needed to carry out its mission? How do they sustain the network? Where are the required resources? These are the key questions confronting telecentre networks, when they consider how to maintain their work and strengthen their sustainability. Developing a plan or strategy for resource mobilisation can lead to creative efforts in using the local assets to gain support for the networks. Multiple sources of funding can increase the independence and flexibility to implement programmes and reduce reliance on external funding. With increased competition for scarce grant resources, thinking of, and creating options for new, diverse, and

June 2008


Photo credit: Vignesh Sornamohan, CSDMS


Kunal Tyagi sharing the TARA Akshar programme of Development Alternatives

multiple funding streams will help the networks manage its programmes. Realising the emerging need,, in collaboration with International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and South Asia Fund Raising Group (SAFRG), organised a fourday ‘Capacity Building Workshop on Resource Mobilisation for Network Partners’. The objective of the workshop was to build upon the resource mobilisation capacity of network partners and to promote collaboration, networking amongst the telecentre networks. The workshop was organised between 15th and 18th of April 2008 at Richmond Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand. Opening session In his welcome address, Basheerhamad Shadrach (Shaddy), Sr Programme Officer, said that this workshop is an outcome of the Global Telecentre Leaders Forum 2007, organised by, where the participants identified ‘Resource Mobilisation’ as one of the key challenges facing the global telecentre movement. He applauded the various initiatives of Asian Networks. He mentioned that telecentre networks are important, because, they are the ones that testify and support telecentres, care for the underserved, develop channels to reach the base of the pyramid, advocate policy changes at the national level, and support the government in scale up. In his keynote address, Richard Fuchs, Regional Director, Southeast and East Asia, IDRC shared his twenty years of rich experience in the global telecentre movement. He shared with the participants the key things that were done right, namely, focus on people as much as technology, hire the community people, find local champions and support them, exchange skills among telecentre staff, and provide autonomy for telecentres and vision for the entire system. He also admitted the wrongs in the telecentre movement: metropolitan institutions can’t be left out of the


equations; research and development should be initiated at the beginning, not at the end. He said that the telecentre movement has come a long way from the early telecentres in mid 1980s.

(Because) the highest digital divide is in Asia, there is more focus on telecentres as points of access, more numbers of training and infomediaries. Telecentre will connect the diaspora and will increasingly become the distribution channels He pointed out that the future of telecentre movement is in Asia. Because, the highest digital divide is in Asia, there is more focus on telecentres as points of access, more numbers of training and infomediaries. Telecentre will connect the diaspora and will increasingly become the distribution channels. He categorically mentioned that ‘sustainability’ has to do with the capacity of people and institutions, not only self-financing. He asked the telecentre networks to work together, enjoy raising resources, remember the development mission, focus on the adoption model and not to take ‘NO’ for an answer. Learning from the workshop Fundamentals of resource mobilisation The objectives of this session were to understand the fundamentals of resource mobilisation, review principles underlining resource mobilisation, examine various resource mobilisation techniques, and the resource mobilisation cycle. Resource mobilisation is an art of getting people to give you what you want, where and when you want it, to promote and strengthen the networks. It is a management process of identifying those people who share the same values as our organisation and build strong, long-

term relationships with them. Resource mobilisation is not about money; it is about raising relationships. There are five income partners for an organisation namely, individuals, companies, trusts/foundations, governments, and earned income. The donors can give money, goods, time/expertise, voice, influence and information. Most of the resources are coming from individuals, rather than donor agencies. Good resource mobilisation strategy rests on four pillars: Strong case for support, Leadership, Prospects, Implementation Plan. An organisation must keep in mind the following questions: Are we well-governed and managed? Do we have a strategic plan? Are we clear about what exactly we want and for what? Can we demonstrate results? Can we provide the donor what is required in return? Resource mobilisation planning steps The resource mobilisation planning steps starts from the review of organisational strategic plan and current resource mobilisation work, determining of resource and funding needs, identifying potential donors, matching potential donors to organisational needs, reviewing/selecting resource mobilisation methods and resource mobilisation campaign planning. Creating, maintaining and strengthening relationships with donors In this session, Shaddy emphasised the strategic importance

Resource mobilisation cycle

of donor funds for gaining the momentum. He said donor funds are easy to access, relevant to times and limited conditionality. He listed down the Why? Who? When? How long? What? How? Who else? and What else the donors fund for? He requested the participants to communicate, involve, celebrate, brand and keep the donors’ relation as long as possible.

Photo credit: CSDMS

Resource mobilisation is not about money; it is about raising relationships

Randhir Dutta sharing the Rural BPOs initiative of Drishtee

June 2008



Resource mobilisation from the Corporate To take advantage of resource mobilisation from the corporate requires a new way of thinking, behaving, aggressiveness, and a strategic plan. There are five ways in which the corporate can assist in resource mobilisation: project money, sponsorships, cause-related marketing, payroll giving and in-kind support. Identifying the corporate near the project areas, both thematic and geographical, will help. It is necessary to do homework and have a story to share, have the list of activities, have the communication documents ready and package the needs well from the company’s point of view. It was emphasised that while mobilising resources from the corporate, one should never be apologetic while asking for money and believe in what one offers, first. Resource mobilisation from the Government Chetan Sharma, Founder, Datamation Foundation raised a series of questions on why telecentre networks have to work with the government. He said there are ways of mobilising resources from the government, namely; networks persuade the government to support by grants, government contracting the networks to do what the government wants to do, and the convergence of mission and income. He pointed out the various challenges involved in working with the government. He listed down the different advantages and disadvantages in working with the government. Resource mobilisation from the Individual This session focused on one of the unexploited ways of resource mobilisation. As pointed earlier, resource mobilisation from individuals is the major source of revenue for the development sector. It is necessary to have personal contacts and face-to-face consultations with major donors. Since Asia is one of the fastest growing and has 100,000 millionaires in dollar terms, the potential of resource mobilisation is high. The seven steps of major gifts are: identify, research, strategise, cultivate, ask, negotiate and continue to involve. The five criteria for success are: a strong and exciting case for support, urgent and compelling needs, realistic potential donors, strong internal and external leadership, and readiness for funding. Revenue generation approaches for telecentre networks In this session, Jacquline Loh, Sr Research Officer, telecentre. org focused on the different revenue generation approaches for telecentres. She said there are different models of telecentres emerging across the globe. They are penetrating into different market conditions. Telecentre networks care about scaling up, because, it can contribute to increased revenue generation. She listed down the different key lessons learnt from the telecentre movement and opened the session for discussions on the topic. They raised different approaches like running telecentres along with a grocery store, setting up rural Business Process Outsourcing as part of the telecentres, work with rural local government, training women on digital photography, etc.


Importance of mobilisation




The workshop focused on the importance of communication in resource mobilisation. Meddie Mayanja, Sr Programme Officer, said that telecentre networks are the bedrocks of the telecentre community. It provides a platform to solve day-to-day problems facing the telecentres, share knowledge and grow together. He suggested the telecentre leaders to have an impeccable communication team to constantly communicate with the global community and make their work visible. Communications strategy and planning An effective communication strategy and planning follows a vicious cycle. It starts from identifying the needs and objectives, understanding the context in which the communication is going to take place. The next step in the

Communication cycle

cycle is identifying the target audience; followed by the methods and means of communication. The fifth stage in the cycle is to benchmark the indicators of success and the last stage is to take stock of the communication that will feed to identify the need. Engaging the media Vivien Chiam, Partnership and Communications Manager, IDRC, Singapore said that engaging the media is necessary to publicise one’s work more widely and more frequently to the public. It draws the attention of policy makers. The comprehensive story makes one’s job easy. So, the easier one makes one’s story to be told, the better are the chances of getting air or print space. She emphasised the need for respecting deadlines; quick, easy to read stories; and media advisories with interesting visuals and sound bites. She also advocated the need for compiling a media directory and making friendship with local journalists.

Meeting donors face-to-face: A role play The objective of this session was to build participants’ skills and confidence in meeting with potential donors and to provide them with the opportunity to pitch and adapt their case to suit the type of donor they are meeting. The participants joined their organisational partners and were given 10 minutes to prove their case to two donors. The donors asked critical questions to the participants. This was followed by a brief discussion on the role-play. From the discussions, it was clear that most of the participants didn’t do their homework and never asked for the resources they needed. Open discussion participants





In this session the participants were asked to give their feedback on the workshop and their expected support for capacity building. The key outcomes of the session are listed below: • • • • • •

• • •

This workshop has opened new avenues of resource mobilisation for the participants Though the participants networked with various potential donors, they often failed to nurture the relationship They realised that it is important to have constant and persistent communication with the donors They needed hand-holding on reaching out to high network individuals Culture plays an important role in resource mobilisation. So, it is necessary to pitch the emotional and social aspects of the case for support This resource mobilisation workshop should trickle down to the individual telecentres level, and the participants requested to package it to meet the needs of individual telecentres If one demonstrates and communicates one’s work properly, the donors will come and look for partnership It is necessary to have an active and clear role for the board members of the organisation The resource mobilisation process should be under constant review and monitoring

Preparation and mobilisation plan




In the final session of the workshop, the participants were asked to prepare a resource mobilisation plan for their respective organisations, based on their learning from this workshop. Angelo, from PhilCeCNet, presented their resource plan with an expected resource need of USD 1.5 million. He said they would have a dedicated resource mobilisation committee. Isura Silva from Sri Lanka Telecentre Family Network presented his plan. He gave a

June 2008

sector-specific resource mobilisation plan and said that 80 per cent of the resources will be generated from the institutions. Ganga Vidya from Grameen Gyan Abhiyan, India and Mahmud Hasan from Bangladesh Telecentre Network emphasised the importance of multi-stakeholder partnership and resource mobilisation from its partners. Kunal Tyagi from TARAhaat (India) and Randhir Datta from Drishtee (India) gave a clear picture of their resource mobilisation plans with the proposed timeline and various communication strategies. Allen Tuladhar from Mission

There are five income partners for an organisation, namely, individuals, companies, trusts/foundations, governments, and earned income. The donors can give money, goods, time/ expertise, voice, influence and information. Most of the resources are coming from individuals, rather than donor agencies Swaabhimaan, Nepal presented the programme-specific resource mobilisation plan and listed down the potential donors. Gavashkar from ICTA Nenasala network, Sri Lanka presented his resource mobilisation plan for the rural BPO initiatives. q Best bloggers: The four-day workshop ended with recognising best bloggers and gifts exchange among the participants. The best bloggers were chosen from the different stories uploaded at the website during the course of the workshop. This was followed by gifts exchange; the participants brought different gifts without knowing who is going to receive their gifts. The best bloggers were: 1.Angelo, PhilCeCNet 2.Siddhartha, Drishtee 3.Isura Silva, Sri Lanka Telecentre Family Network 4.Ferdousi Akther, Bangladesh Telecentre Network 5.Tess Camba, PhilCeCNet 45 blogs on the Resource Mobilisation Workshop at Bangkok (15-18 April 2008) were created. Each of them makes a very interesting read. A direct link is provided here: http:// lisation+workshop%2C+bangkok%2C Author

Vignesh Sornamohan ( is working with CSDMS, India, as Community Content Facilitator – Asia for online community


knowledge sharing

Re-building Nakaseke Telecentre

Community Support To The Rescue Once Again

Peter Balaba

Ongoing renovations at Nakaseke telecentre

The community support Some students who were inside the building helped us a lot in rescuing the property. The community members, who saw the roof going off, came to our rescue. With their help, we moved the property to the other side of the studio.


23rd April 2008: It was another difficult day when strong winds blew off the Nakaseke telecentre roof. This is the second tragedy after the fire incident of 2002, which destroyed property worth a huge amount. The day started with a bright sun; however, the weather changed in the afternoon. At around 3 pm, the rain came with lightening, thunder and strong winds. At that time, I was busy in the business unit, where we do secretarial services like typesetting, photocopying, printing, scanning, etc. I was attending to one of our clients, Milly Kitimbo, Director of Jesus is Lord Complex, who came to follow up on her Radio advertisements and programmes. It started raining heavily and all of a sudden, one side of the roof went off. I did not notice what really had happened apart from the terrible sound from the roof. I saw the client running out of the unit, shouting, “Peter, we are going to die!” But I did not know how she escaped; the whole building was shaking terribly. Students at the workstation and those in the library started making a noise. I tried to run out of the building, but escaping through the main door was not easy, because every one inside was struggling to get through the same door. I went to the studio room and informed my colleague Senabulya, Radio Presenter, to quickly shut down and run out of the building. He was very slow and hesitant. Slowly, water started entering the studio through the Air Conditioning pipe. I did not know how God gave me the courage and wisdom to switch off the solar power. But, the generator power in the Uganda Telecom (UTL) unit remained on because I had no access to the Generator Room. The rain lasted for about an hour and half. I had to risk my self to run out of the building to buy airtime and inform some political leaders, the chairman, management committee and some other members of the management.

Photo Credit: Nakaseke telecentre

The tragedy

Photo Credit:



It started raining heavily and all of a sudden, one side of the roof went off. I did not notice what really had happened apart from the terrible sound from the roof. I saw the client running out of the unit, shouting, “Peter, we are going to die!”

The heavy rain severely damaged the phones, office files and important documents of the clients, and some computers were also damaged. Fortunately, we did not lose any book in the library, because we quickly pushed the shelves to the other side. I quickly called the Chairman, Local Council III and the Sub-County Chief, who immediately came to assess the

The heavy rain severely damaged the phones, office files and important documents of the clients, and some computers were also damaged. Fortunately, we did not lose any book in the library, because we quickly pushed the shelves to the other side situation. In the next two days, the Executive of the Local Council offered Iron Sheets to re-roof the building. The community members also showed their concern towards the project. Initially, I was worried that I would lose some properties, but nothing was lost and this gave me a good picture of the love and support provided by the community towards this project. One farmer, Ssebufu William, offered the roofing timbers at a lower cost. The Chairman Management Committee, Tuhairwe Samuel, together with some other members of the management, planned for the renovations. All the renovations were done on the telecentre expenses. Later, we received some support from the Wantok Company based in Canada. This is the company that supplied all the six Community Radio stations which were piloted by UNESCO in Uganda and other countries in Africa. Plans are under way to re-roof the entire building and also to do all the necessary finishing related to the ceiling, painting and the construction of the library room. A proposal for such activities has already been submitted to the National Library of Uganda to help us look for funding. Finally, we appreciate the community contribution, support and those who extended their massages towards renovating the Nakaseke telecentre in the time of difficulties. It should also be remembered that this new building was constructed with 25 percent financial support from the community in 2002, after the fire incident. q

Uganda at a glance • • • • • •

Sources (, (

Nakaseke: ICT achievements •

Author •

Peter Balaba is managing the Nakaseke Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) in Uganda. The centre is located 75 Kilometeres from Uganda’s capital Kampala.

Total population (2006): 30 million Population growth (annual percentage): 3.2 Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 77.8 Urban population in 2006: 13 per cent GDP growth, 2000-06: 5.6 per cent According to International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) most recent statistics, Uganda in 2006 had 6.73 mobile users per 100 people, and 2.51 per 100 used the Internet. The 2006 average for Sub-Saharan Africa was 12.75 mobile users and 3.1 Internet users per 100.

Farmers are now able to market their produce in primeprice markets. They seek information on prices from the telecentre The telephone is used to arrange for purchase of input and goods. Prior to the establishment of the telecentre, travelling traders were the only source of income and information National Operators (UTL and MTN) have provided public phones, enabling telephone users to increase. In 1999, there was 1 telephone line in the sub-county - at the telecentre. Now there are 40 subscribers on land lines and 30 cellular phone owners Women have gained skills from exposure to other women from distant places in areas like health and entreprenuership Partnerships and networking among NGOs, government agencies, and those who work in the private sector have been fostered. For example, the Nakaseke telecentre is now associated with two local telecentres - Buwama and Nabweru (established by the IDRC - ACACIA project) - and community radios stations in Uganda - Apac and Kagadi. The Telemedicine programme at Nakaseke Hospital has allowed for tele-consultancy with the national referral hospital and other hospitals abroad Schools have registered better performance in Primary Leaving Examinations as a result of the increased library use that the telecentre provides The regulatory body, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has followed up on the Nakaseke telecentre initiative by creating a Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) aimed at accessing communication services in remote communities


June 2008


1000 Ideas


1000 Ideas

To Make Telecentres Work José Avando Souza Sales, Kiringai Kamau

In the previous issue of telecentre magazine, we launched the idea of generating 1000 ideas to make telecentres work. We have been receiving encouraging support and feedback to make this section a lively place to encourage more ideas to flow. In this issue, we have attempted to package it differently to meet the expectations of the global telecentre community. We value your feedback! Ideas can also be submitted by email to

1. Distance learning through telecentres The Telecentre Information and Business Association (ATN) is the’s Brazil telecentre network. The network has facilitated a successful partnership between the telecentres and the Brazilian Institute for Information in Science and Technology. Under the partnership, the telecentres are offering courses on Digital Entrepreneurs and Telecentre Management. The institute develops the curriculum and course modules, to which the telecentres act as a medium of delivery. In the process of offering these courses, 35 per cent of the course fee that is charged from the students is shared by the institute. Till date, many students from rural Brazil have benefited from this partnership; and there are promises of further benefit in the future. The best thing about this partnership is that it allows telecentres to generate additional revenue. Quick tips: This initiative can be easily replicated in your telecentres too!

Why to replicate? The telecentres can

Photo Credit: José Avando Souza Sales

exploit the under-utilised infrastructure and can generate revenue in the process through training programmes Who canAuthors do this? Telecentre networks, telecentre managers, etc. How to proceed? Discuss the potential partnership opportunities with distance and opening learning institutes

For more information contact:

A telecentre run by the’s Brazil network, the Telecentre Information and Business Association (ATN)


José Avando Souza Sales Director General The Telecentre Information and Business Association (ATN), Brazil e-mail:

2. Wealth creation among marginal farmers through telecentres

Source: VACID Africa

Value Addition and Cottage Industry Development (VACID) Africa has developed technology business models for its telecentres with Octagon Data Systems Limited, an initiative of WillPower that promotes agricultural ICT support services. This collaboration has been in force since 2006. VACID Africa harnesses local human and investment resources for local investment in e-Infrastructure. In this way, it promotes investment in local value addition and cottage industries development. VACID Africa is more an initiative than an institution where people contribute their skills and knowledge to augment the activities of the producer communities, and help them contribute to the development of their localities. The VACID Africa telecentres are designed to provide training, especially to marginal farmers, in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and in the nutritional composition of local crops and diets available in the locality.

VACID Africa’s Telecentre Model

Quick tips: This initiative can be replicated in your telecentres!

Why to replicate? The telecentres can evolve an institutional framework for the promotion of wealth creation among small-holder farmers by promoting excellence through knowledge in value addition and investment Who can do this? Telecentre networks, telecentre managers, etc. How to proceed? To evolve an agricultural value chain driven initiative like that of VACID Africa, strength has to be drawn from a multiskilled base of researchers, economists, nutritionists, agriculturalists and ICT professionals. Partnerships have to be worked out with knowledge-based teams

For more information contact: Kiringai Kamau Chairman VACID Africa, Kenya e-mail:

June 2008


face2face with H k pamarthy

Hand in Hand Micro Finance

Boosting Rural Entrepreneurship Through Telecentres Vignesh Sornamohan and Aditi Pathak

Photo Credit: Hand in Hand Micro Finance


H K Pamarthy CEO Hand in Hand Micro Finance

Hemanth Kumar Pamarthy, CEO, Hand in Hand Micro Finance, Tamil Nadu, India talks about initiatives and involvement in the domain of telecentres. Hand in Hand Micro Finance is an NGO dedicated to the development of disadvantaged groups, especially rural and tribal, through grassroots action, research and education. The organisation works in ten districts of Tamil Nadu, India, and aims to build self-reliance by alleviating poverty through sustained income generation programmes. It complements income generation interventions by building and disseminating knowledge through research and documentation, and capacity building of practitioners. In this interview, Pamarthy elaborates upon the methods adopted by the ‘Citizens’ Centres Enterprise’ for establishment, mobilisation and sustenance of telecentres.




June 2008


Source: Hand in Hand Micro Finance

is Hand in Hand Micro Finance doing in the field of telecentres? Hand in Hand Micro Finance is a nonprofit organisation registered in 2002 as a Public Charitable Trust. Though the activities of Hand in Hand started with Child Labour Elimination, gradually we set up village knowledge centres. In Hand in Hand Micro Finance, we call them as ‘Citizens’ Centre’. We combine enterprise, knowledge and services. We call it an enterprise mainly because of the knowledge imparted and the services rendered. We charge a nominal fee, which is an income for the person in-charge of the centre. This makes the centre sustainable in itself. In a Citizens’ Centre, our interest is basically to help inculcate grassroots democratic values and to impart Information and Communication technologies (ICT) to the people who are interested. In the beginning, we first start a children’s centre in the village. We encourage children to come to the centres. The children are encouraged to work and play on the computers. Then slowly, the children are driven to learn the computer system. In rural areas, small children in the 5th grade are now quite comfortable with the mouse, monitor and keyboard. That’s how we impart knowledge. Secondly, when the children come to the middle school level, we encourage them to take a one-month basic certificate course. We teach them MS Office and Windows. In the long run, these children develop interest in being new generation entrepreneurs for our expanding Citizens’ Centres. We provide children education and if they perform well, then, we provide some sort of backward integration by taking them again in our organisation. We ensure a sustainable income generation and a knowledge generating enterprise. We encourage women and men to gather in front of the centres every month to discuss various activities and issues they face. We create awareness among the people on the importance of using their franchise. The Health and Hygiene programme had facilitated around 400 Medical camps benefiting about 56,000 patients. This becomes a

A map of Citizens’ Centres precence in Tamil Nadu, India

feat for not only real ICT knowledge imparting but for general knowledge imparting, whereby people can improve their lives.

8Could you share your experiences on moving from a social development model to social enterprise model? After studying several existing village knowledge centre models, Hand in Hand had formulated an integrated model of ICT in its Citizens’ Centre which typically has an IT kiosk with Internet, a functional library with information made available also on IT

related subjects, and a tuition centre. The centres’ goal is to inculcate the values of grassroots democracy by conducting familiarisation of government programmes, socioeconomic-health issues and facilitating discussions on relevant topics. The important goal, though, is making IT facilities available to the disadvantaged needy in rural areas, in an affordable manner (significant amount of concessions are extended to the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes students). What started in a small way in



“We encourage women and men to gather in front of the centres every month to discuss various activities and issues they face. We create awareness among people on the importance of using their franchise” respective villagers. However, on a micro level, especially while scaling up the centres, there are challenges. The scaling up has to be in depth that is by expanding equipment and facilities within the centre and in width. We realised maintaining our centres with recurring costs such as salaries, peripherals, etc., with little returns, proved to be unsustainable. This made us innovate in making the Citizens’ Centres, the “Citizens’ Centre Enterprises” (CCEs) by providing not only knowledge, but also the finance and equipment needed to start such an enterprise. Through this process, we identify enthusiastic entrepreneurs from our Self Help Groups and build their capacity through training. We later support them with micro finance to set up their Citizens’ Centre Enterprise in a suitable and viable locality, normally nearer to either a Panchayat office or a Registrar’s office or a High school, to enable the entrepreneur get steady and regular business opportunity. The entrepreneur is expected to invest a small portion of the total investment to ensure continued interest in the project. The micro loan is extended in the form of basic equipment such as a good computer with a CD drive, a printer and important software. The entrepreneur in turn will have to repay the loan with the most affordable interest rate in over 30 months.

an income after meeting the costs and other expenditure.


many centres do you run presently? We have established over 750 Citizens’ Centres Enterprises in the six districts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry namely, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Cuddalore.


is the cost of setting up a centre and how do you support them? It is well within USD 1000. We provide basic computers with CPU, monitor, keyboard and printer. We build the capacity of the operator, which is free of cost, where they learn about operating the computers. We also provide them with knowledge on the tariff that they can charge from the customers,

Photo Credit: Hand in Hand Micro Finance

Kancheepuram (Tamil Nadu) in April 2005 is now being scaled up through replication. Many of the Citizens’ Centres found favour with Panchayats (local governance bodies)who could identify a good location to setup the centres, run for the benefit of the


8What about the content? Do you look for content from outside? Presently, we have limited content and it is distributed by Hand in Hand Micro Finance. We procure content from

“Many of the Citizens’ Centres found favour with Panchayats who could identify a good location to setup the centres, run for the benefit of the respective villagers. However, on a micro level, especially while scaling up the centres, there are challenges. The scaling up has to be in depth, that is, by expanding equipment and facilities within the centre and in width” outside in bulk and then we distribute it. For example, if we want to preach total sanitation and health care, we procure CDs for our requirement and later we distribute it to our centres.


are the major suppliers of content for you? An organisation named Sankhya in Hyderabad. They have been providing us the content. Another organisation Franchising the Citizens’ Centre Enterprsie •

The cost of setting up a Citizens’ Centre is well within USD 1000

It expects the entrepreneur to invest a small portion of the total investment in order to ensure continued interest in the project

It extends micro-loan in the form of basic hardware and software

The entrepreneur can repay the loan in affordable interest rates over a period of 30 months

In case of an SHG, loan is given to only one member, but the entire group is mobilised for collateral support

8Who pays for the operator? Once it becomes an enterprise, the operator pays for it. The operator draws

so that it becomes, by and large, uniform services across the centres. The telecentres located in semi and peri-urban areas are forced to charge a little extra because of the rentals that they have to pay as compared to the other places; and because of this, there is no uniformity in the tariff charged from customers.

Photo Credit: Hand in Hand Micro Finance

Children using a Citizens’ Centre

called Dove InfoTech, the brand is Pebbles, comes out with a lot of content related to elementary education.

8What about connectivity? Connectivity is a big problem because at many places there is no Internet. But wherever there is connectivity, dial-up Internet connection is provided.


are the key challenges in upscaling? The scaling up has to be in-depth that is by expanding equipment and facilities within the centre and in width that is by expanding in more geographical

“The organisations Sankhya and Dove InfoTech provide us with the majority of the content” locations. The challenges faced in this regard are the finance needed for scaling up (where micro finance helps the start-ups), finding suitable human resources for teaching, training and handholding and availability of electricity in the rural areas. While these are the challenges, the impediments are certification/accreditation issues for the courses offered, language related issues for imparting and comprehending the

June 2008

courses and restricted or insufficient reach of Internet.


what extent is the social objective balanced with the economic benefits? In the centres run by us, it is always social responsibility that is on the forefront. We are not going for any economic pursuit, except for very nominal charges to cover the cost, and not for profit. For instance, our centres are unique in a way. If for a minute, you imagine that you are a villager and need to go for a birth certificate or agriculture income generation certificate, what will you do? You may go to the Panchayat (local governance bodies) office, maybe the nearest municipal office, and go round and round in circles. In the community, where our citizen centres are operating, our people are empowered in such a way that they know what is to be done. If they have to go for a birth certificate, they will say, ‘OK, here is an application to be filled. Go to this particular office and pay at this counter; go there fifteen days later with this much money and ask for the certificate. It should be ready. If it’s not ready, then go to that counter and ask them what has happened?’ This type of knowledge is being

imparted on a social basis and we were charging a nominal fee. Whereas, today, in the Citizens’ Centre Enterprise, they may take a little extra money, so that it can make their enterprise sustainable.

8What is the average income and expenditure per month? We are still in a pilot stage and, probably, I will not be able to comment on that. When we start a new Citizens’ Centre, the income can be as low as USD 9.5. This is absolutely location-centric. A new centre may generate USD 9.5 as

“We realised maintaining our centres with recurring costs such as salaries, peripherals etc., with little returns, proved to be unsustainable. This made us turn the Citizens’ Centres into “Citizens’ Centre Enterprises” (CCEs) by providing not only knowledge, but also the finance and equipment to the entrepreneurs” income after the expenditure and a six months old centre may generate USD 70.9 as income, because they also do a lot of other work.


Photo Credit: CSDMS


“A new centre may generate USD 9.5 as income after the expenditure. A six months old centre may generate USD 70.9 as income because they also do a lot of other work. This type of income occurs over a period of time” This type of income occurs over a period of time, and the CSCs usually make USD 70.9 - USD 94.5 after expenses.


do you link micro-finance and telecentres? We lend money to the Women

Self Help Groups (SHGs). We have designed our product in such a way that it takes 30 months of repayment. This means specific tailor-made, customised products have been made and micro-finance is provided to individuals who are part of the SHG’s collateral. In a group of twenty, may be only one member would like to open a Citizens’ Centre. We give the loan to only one member and try to bring in the collateral of the entire group. In the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the spread of SHGs are very high. The SHGs have to make accounts of their subscription and internal loans. These accounts can be computerised. For example, in a particular village, we have 8 SHGs and other NGOs have 15 groups in the village. These 23 groups can come to this centre, use the services of this centre to computerise their accounts, put it on the system and take a CD every month. So this acts as another micro-finance link. The third link is, we have recently developed a software called ‘Kulunidhi’ means ‘group fund’. Through this software, the SHGs will be linked to the banks. The SHGs can be rated by the bank,

who are giving them loans, or any other financial institution, from their own offices without even moving from their own offices. This is an innovative product, which we hope will succeed.


you have any idea about programme? Yes, I heard that it has been doing a wonderful job in the creation of telecentre networks and bringing them together. The networks in turn, facilitate in the packaging of content and services for the telecentres. This will ultimately result in the sustainability of the telecentres. q Quick Scan •

The CCE model proves to be a good example of financial inclusion through telecentres Users of a CCE telecentre pay a nominal fee for using its services. This is an income for the person in-charge of the centre

Photo Credit: Hand in Hand Micro Finance

Women and children working on computers at a Citizens’ Centre



knowledge resources


A Portal on Southern Civil Societies What is Choike? Choike is a portal dedicated to showcase the Southern NGOs’ work and social movements. It serves as a platform for citizen groups to disseminate information and promote knowledge sharing. The portal carries a number of important resources on telecentres. There are pertinent related links for categories into which the research papers, information, debates and dialogues have been catalogued: • • • • • • •

Telecentre lessons and experiences Evaluation and sustainability of telecentres Telecentres in developing regions Introducing gender in telecentre analysis Telecentres as a tool for rural development Telecentres for development: critical views Commonalities and differences between telecentres and cybercafes

Choike is a project of The Third World Institute, supported by Hivos. In this issue of telecentre magazine, we carry a few telecentre related articles from the Choike portal. Telecentres for Universal Access: Engendered Policy Options Author: Sonia N. Jorge Pages: 6 Source: In terms of access and services, especially in developing countries, ICTs fare much better in urban areas than rural areas. The magnitude of this digital divide has led to rethinking of universal service policies. But then, telecentre policy planning does not include gender as an integral part. Even telecentres that exclusively target women and their needs, face difficulties because of a lack of gender analysis and training to address the specific needs and demands of women. The article talks about why and how telecentres need to address women’s concerns and provide an adequate environment for women’s participation. It offers several suggestions whereby telecentres could adopt a more gender inclusive approach. Sonia reflects that telecentre projects must make an active effort to consider the disparate needs of women and men in the communities they serve, and the disparate literacy levels and language to develop different training curriculum for different user groups. Telecentres can benefit the lives of rural women by making them owners or mangers of community telecentres; by creating jobs for women in telecentres, where they can participate in community development activities and better incorporate womenspecific programmes within telecentre plans. This could supplement community-focussed programmes, such as, literacy projects, ICT training, farming information, trading information, government data, health information and projects. Policy makers should provide an incentive for businesses to locate in rural areas in the proximity of telecentres and to employ telecentre-trained workers. There should be skills training for the rural community so that members can develop their own business applications, like, the community-based Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the United States. Experiences from across the world shows that women use the telephone more than they use telecentres; feel more intimidated by computers; face difficulties due to lack of local language ICT content; and feel more comfortable with women trainers, and, in some cases, women-only training environment. For universal access and universal service concerns, policy decisions must ensure that women fully participate in the policy and decision-making processes and telecentres should

June 2008



focus on women, both as consumer and as owners or managers. Sonia suggests that women or women’s organisations should own or run 50 per cent of telecentres; government subsidies should integrate with public infrastructure projects; and discounted tariffs, such as in Africa, for certain telecentres and other public service customers, which are below the prices charged to other customers. Using Stakeholder Theory to Analyse Telecentre Projects Author: Savita Bailur Pages: 20 Source: Involving stakeholders is often seen as a means to more successful Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) projects. This paper uses the example of telecentre projects, especially Gyandoot telecentres in Madhya Pradesh, India to illustrate the application of a stakeholder perspective. The stakeholder analysis is used both as a best practice template to assess what has been done with stakeholders on an ICT4D project and as an analytical tool to understand who stakeholders are, their behaviors, and the ways in which they are managed. However, the paper also addresses problems with the stakeholder perspective: lack of openness among stakeholders, the problems of identifying who stakeholders are, and the subjectivity of stakeholder classification. Savita maintains that, in a general sense, the idea of “stakeholders” has entered both the language and practice of ICT4D projects. However, a full understanding of the term and the rigorous application of its conceptual underpinnings are rare in either the implementation of such projects or in the research and evaluation of such projects. She takes a deeper look at understanding and using a stakeholder perspective by dividing the paper into four sections. The first section discusses one particular type of ICT4D project—telecentres—and investigates the relationship between a stakeholder perspective and the current challenges facing telecentres. The next section provides the conceptual underpinning for the paper by presenting a comprehensive review of stakeholder theory and stakeholder analysis. In the third section, there is a case study of the Gyandoot project in Madhya Pradesh, India. This project has been functioning since 2000, and, as a relatively mature project in ICT4D terms, it provides a rich foundation for application of a stakeholder perspective. Finally, there is a discussion about the contributions and limitations of applying stakeholder theory. The paper concludes with the note that regarding further research, it would be interesting to analyse multinationals such as Microsoft, HP, Cisco, or even local software producers in developing countries to see whether the instrumental perspective of stakeholder theory is valid. Several such companies invest in corporate social responsibility. But, the question is, how does this relate to the success of the company? Rethinking Telecentres: Knowledge Demands, Marginal Markets, Microbanks, and Remittance Flows Author: Scott S. Robinson Pages: 8 Source: There are well-researched patterns of migration to the United States and Canada from the Latin American countries. Also, there is a regional pattern of migration to the industrial centres of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Cordoba from Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and the “interiors” of Argentina. Remittances economies now drive subsistence strategies in the countries of the South while fuelling labour-intensive industries in the North. The article proposes a novel way to link the First and Second World countries through the creation of telecentres using satellite or local Internet Service Provider (ISP) connection, which would be linked with microbanks. Such telecentres can provide digital remittance services between family members in places of origin and destination, besides


offering a set of generic financial, communication, education, information, and even e-Commerce resources. Scott lists and as two instances of Internet market by satellite services recently announced in Latin America, which are positively directed towards resolving the issue of connectivity. The issue of an appropriate software for secure remittance transfers and other banking and commercial functions is central to a project of this nature. Scott talks about the need for and nuances of an effective public key infrastructure - PKI (www.pkiforum. org) - which consists of three components: a certificate authority (CA), preferably to be installed in each country where operative; a registry authority (RA) for each institutional and individual actor in the network; and a repository of all certificates. The aim of such a system is to bring convenience and benefits both to the immigrant and his family members through the appropriate use of Information and Communication Technologies.

Telecentre Online Database What is Telecentre Online Database? The Telecentre Online Database collects existing research, evaluation reports, project documents and other information related to telecentre projects in the Asia-Pacific region. The database is a United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) initiative and offers free access to information on telecentre projects in the region. The online database provides statistical data related to telecentre projects in the region, like, • • • •

number of telecentres per country distribution of telecentres by type of telecentre distribution of telecentres by location distribution of telecentres by the United Nation’s Millenium Development Goals to be achieved

Partnership strategy The Telecentre Online Database has emerged out of the United Nations Development Account project, ‘Knowledge networks through ICT access points for disadvantaged communities’, being implemented jointly by the five United Nations Regional Commissions. The project aims to empower the poor and disadvantaged communities, especially women, by transforming selected existing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) access points into global knowledge hubs that provide, develop, organise, share and disseminate knowledge pertinent to these communities. Method of data collection The data collection began in October 2006-January 2007, by the ICT Applications Section of the Information, Communication and Space Technology Division of UNESCAP. The data was collected through the review, summary, compilation and synthesis of existing research, evaluation reports, project documents and other information available on the Internet. Another major source of information was the websites of the telecentres, donor institutions and implementing agencies. The database has the provision for users to contribute to it with information regarding telecentre initiatives in AsiaPacific. Browsers can even provide up-to-date information regarding a telecentre initiative that is already in the database. The procedure for such contribution involves completing an online form that can be accessed at the website. Key Pointer The database exclusively focuses on telecentres in the Asia-Pacific region. This online telecentre database can be accessed at

June 2008



Readers’ Corner

I really like to read the telecentre magazine, which carries write-ups from diverse sources. I think it is also time to learn from the experiences that are not so enthusiastic, because they can constructively help us in developing alternatives. I wish you success in making the magazine globally acclaimed and sought after. Ananya Raihan, Secretary General, Bangladesh Telecentre Network

The second edition looks excellent. I read it almost cover to cover. Congratulations on a nice launch and a second edition! Thanks for also including the sidebar about the Kuriyan/Toyama paper! I didn’t realise that was going to be in there. That paper is increasingly being used in ICT4D classes at universities. Kentaro Toyama, Assistant Managing Director, Microsoft Research India

The telecentre magazine specialises in development issues, capacity building, and rural development that benefit us greatly; especially because we are working towards the development of communities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. I always read the articles (in this magazine), which carry global experiences vis-a-vis the use of ICT for development, to promote economic and social development in countries around the world. Telecentre magazine includes valuable content, a lot of success stories, and individual and collective initiatives by development experts from across the world. I consider telecentre magazine as one of my favorites and always read it carefully so as to take advantage and learn from its content. I hope to contribute more articles in this magazine, regarding the use of ICT for development in the MENA region.

Send your inputs to

Sincere thanks to the telecentre magazine staff.

Nabil Eid, Manager, Salamieh Community Telecentre, Salamieh, Syria

The telecentre magazine looks nice and attractive. As telecentre operators and network leaders, our voice need to be heard in this global magazine. The magazine can be a  global platform where telecentre network leaders should exchange their experiences. I would suggest that several copies of this magazine be made available to various national telecentre networks around the globe. Paul Barera, Chairman, Rwanda Telecentre Network

Thank you for the publication and we are happy for the opportunity to serve telecentre magazine. Daniel Fink, Information and Communications University (ICU), Taejon

What a huge achievement this is! I am not exaggerating ... this is very impressive! Please pass on my heartiest congratulations to your team. Mark Surman, Partnership Director,

Thanks a lot for the telecentre magazine. I received the magazine and I am sharing it with partners who work with telecentres in Colombia. Olga P. Paz, Administrative and Project Coordinator, Colnodo, Bogotá, Colombia


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Telecentres Effective Agents Of Financial Inclusion! : June 2008 Issue