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Vol II | Issue 6 | April - June 2009


richard fuchs

Networking Telecentres in Africa Meddie Mayanja

The Global Impact Study of Telecentres: The Preliminary Findings Raymond Hyma and Frank Tulus

The PC is the best vehicle for providing e-Services to the rural areas Rohan Samarjiva, Sarah Nalwoga Mpagi


2009 25 - 27 August 2009, Hyderabad International Convention Centre, India

INTRODUCTION Indian Telecentre Forum 2009, now in its fifth year, is going to provide an opportunity to telecentre stakeholders, both regional as well as global, to meet and deliberate on the issues facing the telecentre movement, the journey till now, and devise new plans for the future. This forum, expected to follow a consultative mode, will also act as a platform to share experiences in order to come up with tangible solutions to the issues raised.


A Review of the Common Services Centre Programme

Telecentre Movement in India: Issues, Lessons and Best Practices

Capacity Building and Academy India: The Task Ahead

NEGP and Other National Level Development Programmes vis-a-vis the Telecentre Movement

People's Participation and Telecentres: The Indian Experience

Telecentres in the Age of Mobile Phones

Content, Services, and Connectivity: Taking Stock of the Indian scenario

Knowledge Sharing among the Telecentre Stakeholders

Localisation of Content, Services, and Grassroots Innovation

For exhibition and sponsorship enquiries, contact: Shipra Sharma,Mobile: +91-9891239809 Email: For further information visit us at or Write to us at




India's Largest ICT Event knowledge for change

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

Contents Volume II | Issue 6 | April - June 2009





Networking Telecentres in Africa


Poeta: Leveraging ict for Youth Development


Curriculum Commons Grant: Improving the Capacity and Sustainability of Community Telecentres


Mission2011: Building Inclusive ICT based Knowledge System


Curriculum Development for the Academy in Sri Lanka


The Global Impact Study: Preliminary Findings


The East African Academy Meeting: Expediating Knowledge Exchange


The First TLF-LAC: For a Stronger and Connected Telecentre Movement


Telecentre Workshops at Upper Egypt



Richard Fuchs: Pioneering Telecentre Movement into the Next Era



The PC is the Best Vehicle for Providing e-Services to the Rural Areas


33’s First Edition of English Blog Contest

1000 IDEAS


Telecentres as “ICT Access Commons”


Nenasala (Telecentre) at Railway Platform: Innovative Location! Innovative Services!



CSCs: Empowering Rural India Through ICTs



Umma Salma: ICT4D Soldier on the Move


Shinyalu Community Telecentre: Servicing the Communities

April - June 2009

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Editorial Empowering Telecentre Managers for Inclusion and Equity Volume II | Issue 6 | April - June 2009

Advisory Board Dr. M P Narayanan President, CSDMS Gerolf Weigel Director 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 Dr. Ravi Gupta Executive Director, CSDMS Sr Sub Editor Sabyasachi Kashyap Editorial Consultants Christine Prefontaine, Partha Sarker, Mariana Rethen, Community Facilitators Karim Kasim,Rasha El Baz, Sabyasachi Kashyap, Munira Morshed Munni, Cuchie Echeverria, Sandra Nassali, Francis Mwathi, Laia Fauro Gual, Leonce Sessou, Eiko Kawamura, Catalina Cruz Cuellar, Macarena Díaz von der Hundt and Luiza Caldas

Designers Bishwajeet, 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 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.

The Indian telecentre scenario has changed dramatically with the introduction of the Indian government’s Common Service Centre (CSC) program. Located at the bottom of the National eGovernance Plan, the CSCs are the delivery points for eGovernance and a variety of public and private services in rural India. After the recent announcement by the President of India to reposition CSCs as Bharat Nirman Common Service Centres at the Panchayat or local administration level speculations are rife. The proposed alliance between Bharat Nirman and the CSC agenda is going to have far reaching implications in the Indian telecentre context, firstly, in terms of the number of CSCs (they are going to double in numbers), secondly, the nature and scope of telecentre services, and thirdly trained manpower requirements. Bharat Nirman, roughly translated as “building (rural) India”, is a business plan for inclusive and equitable growth in rural India. It has two overarching themes: infrastructure development that includes roads, rural housing, irrigation, drinking water, electrification, etc. and connectivity that covers both voice and data. Hence, capacity building of rural youth to run these CSCs is going to dominate telecentre discussions and deliberations in the coming months. In tune with these recent developments, capacity building is the focus of this year’s second issue of the telecentre magazine where the overriding theme remains inclusion. This time, we are talking about inclusion through capacity building of telecentre managers and operators. This inference is derived from the observation that empowering the telecentre manager or operator through training, indirectly,empowers the whole community that she/he may be serving and helps in bridging the ‘digital divide’. Therefore, the articles selected for this issue center around Telecentre Academy’s efforts in various regions around the world, spanning from Asia to Africa to Latin America, and so on. There is also an article on Curriculum Commons Grant, which is a step in the direction of empowering organisations to develop curriculum and training materials suitable for the capacity building of the telecentre managers and operators across the globe. In the face-to-face section, Richard Fuchs, a pioneer of the telecentre movement, talks about the need to extend the reach of the Telecentre Academy to other countries, when sharing his thoughts on telecentres, 2.0 and Canada’s International Development Research Centre’s (IDRC’s) ICT4D programme area. Another highlight of this issue is an article on preliminary findings of the Global Impact Study on Public access to ICTs, supported by IDRC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This engrossing article has some important revelations to share, which will definitely impact future research in the telecentre domain. These seminal articles are further complemented by all the regular features that enhance the knowledge of telecentre practitioners and researchers alike, which is one of the prime focus areas of this magazine. We hope that this as well as the coming issues of the telecentre magazine would help in finding answers to some of the key questions posed by the telecentre community from time to time.

Social Investors

Dr. Ravi Gupta

April - June 2009

Face2face with richard fuchs


Richard Fuchs: Pioneering Telecentre Movement into the Next Era

Photo Credit: CSDMS

Currently, Richard Fuchs is based at Singapore as the Regional Director of IDRC’s South East Asia Office (ASRO). Along with his extensive experience in academia, public service, and the private sector, he is a name to reckon with in the field of telecentres and has contributed extensively to strengthen this movement in various parts of the world. His study entitled, “Little Engines That Did: Case Histories From The Global Telecentre Movement”, is a pioneering work in the telecentre field. Richard Fuchs joined IDRC in January 2001 as Director of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development Program Area. Before taking up this responsibility, he served as the Executive Director, and later as a Commissioner, Newfoundland Economic Recovery Commission. As the founder and CEO of the Enterprise Network Inc., a Crown Corporation, he was instrumental in setting up Canada’s first rural online and telecentre services. Another of his initiatives, Futureworks, a firm established in 1996 that specialises in the development of distance technology systems and services, won the Newfoundland and Labrador EXPORT award.

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Greetings from telecentre magazine! To start with, could you share with our readers your vision for the telecentre movement? Telecentres give people the digital skills they didn’t know they needed or couldn’t afford. That’s been the “vision” since the very first telecentre started in 1985. I think that a lot still needs to be done, perhaps in different places and in different ways, like people in the “back of the market”, who have limited access to digital tools, need a chance to learn and master the currency of the Information Age. Telecentres will help this happen. To what extent has the telecentre movement been successful? How would you assess the outreach and impact of the telecentre movement in terms of bridging the digital divide, eradicating poverty, empowering the weaker sections of society (social inclusion), stimulating economic growth and bringing isolated communities in the mainstream of social and economic development? It’s amazing that telecentres have grown in Africa, Asia, the Americas and in later adopting regions of the developed world without any particular design, grand plan or master strategy for this to happen. This substantiates the potential of this movement and shows that it has indeed had an impact on these countries’ socio-economic environments.

I think that a lot still needs to be done, perhaps in different places and in different ways, like people in the “back of the market”, who have limited access to digital tools, need a chance to learn and master the currency of the Information Age. Telecentres will help this happen. We hope helps to make this easier and more productive. The telecentre movement has been around for a quarter century and has been doing all of the important things which you’ve mentioned. They have been successful to the extent that telecentres continues to respond to community needs and people keep coming in the door. has been playing an instrumental role in strengthening the global telecentre movement for some

April - June 2009

time now. How much do you think has succeeded in its mission? has done a good job of elevating the visibility and importance of telecentres on international platforms. It has also helped to network local and national telecentre systems globally. But the job is far from done. The Telecentre Academy needs to be launched, and the 3 billion people who have mobile phones, but no Internet access, need to be reached by the next generation of the telecentre movement. In your opinion, what should be the role of governments in strengthening the telecentre movement in the developing countries, particularly in the least developed countries of Africa and Asia? The most important role for government is to create and enact enabling policy that reduces cost and broadens access. In Asia, India is a great example of how this has happened with mobile phones as is Uganda in Africa. In India the prices of mobile handsets as well as the tariff rates are constantly coming down. Coupled with the increase in teledensity, the positive effects are there for all to see. It has been well recognised that social entrepreneurship is very crucial for the development of telecentres across the world. In the current circumstances, how can social entrepreneurship be encouraged in developing countries of the world where political and social environment is not conducive for entrepreneurship/business? Social entrepreneurship is 90 per cent perspiration and 10 per cent inspiration. The current economic downturn hasn’t affected either of these ingredients in entrepreneurship, social or otherwise. So, I do not think there is going to be any major transformative impact of the current economic meltdown on social entrepreneurship. How do you see the future of telecentre movement in developing countries, considering that (a) developing countries lack many basic amenities such as electricity, human capital, physical infrastructure, etc., to name a few, and (b) for a sustained telecentre movement these things are vital? These amenities have been missing, or were in limited supply, in most of the places where telecentres have


Through, IDRC will continue to support the emerging telecentre landscape and ICTs in development. Its support may be expressed differently and, after more than a decade, IDRC will mainstream ICTs into many of its other global programming in the areas of environment, innovation, science and economic policy

Photo Credit: CSDMS

there will always be some core ICT4D programming at IDRC. Our Board of Governors will decide that through our current Corporate Strategy process.

grown over the last quarter century. Indeed, telecentres “make the market” for the absence of these amenities to be rectified by public policy and the market. Telecentres help build awareness for why these things are important and show creative ways to broaden access. They have the capacity to address the issue of lack of such amenities in unique and innovative ways. There are many examples around the developing world where telecentres have helped tackle these challenges in ingenious ways. How would you assess the role of IDRC in the emerging telecentre landscape of the world? It has been involved in promoting the role of information for development for more than three decades. As ICT tools by nature are very dynamic, where does IDRC find itself in this changing scenario? Through, IDRC will continue to support the emerging telecentre landscape and ICTs in development. Its support may be expressed differently and, after more than a decade, IDRC will mainstream ICTs into many of its other global programming in the areas of environment, innovation, science and economic policy. But I think,

Do you think telecentre projects are financially/ economically sustainable? In particular, when the world is in the midst of an economic downturn, how best can the movement (telecentre) be sustainably taken forward? Recent history has shown that, when the business cycle begins to move upward after a recession, companies retool the technologies they’ve been postponing even before they hire new staff. This is starting to happen already and many governments are supporting digital inclusion as part of their response to the economic downturn. Telecentres can help people, who need to retool their skills, or who need to learn digital skills for the first time, to be ready to take advantage of what comes next. In the emerging ‘Information Economy/Society’, how do you perceive the role of a telecentre? Could you elaborate in the light of the recently concluded WSIS in Geneva? There is a new “digital divergence” now on our landscape. Three of the four billion people, who use mobile phones, don’t have access to the Internet and this divergence is widening. While telecentres will always play their traditional skills and awareness raising roles, increasingly, they will become a bridge between the mobile phone and the computer. I use the imprecise methaphor of an automotive service station for the car. It will be a place where the mobile phone user can access much broader tools and resources. Over time, the mobile phone will become an Internet platform that more of us can use and afford. But that convergence is still a way off.

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What are the other emerging dimensions of the telecentre movement? Is there any sign of commercialisation and service diversification in the sector? Yes, for sure there are signs of service diversification and commercialisation in the telecentre movement. The Telecentre Academy is being developed on a costsustainable basis for the important service. What are the main prospects for the telecentre movement in your opinion? The most interesting thing about the telecentre movement is that the 3 billion people with mobile phones get to connect them to the Internet. This will be really exciting and transformative. With increasing convergence of technologies, we will have to wait and watch.

Photo Credit: CSDMS

Last but not the least, what message would you like to convey to the people involved in the telecentre movement at various levels, local, regional and global level, across the world? Listen to your community, connect them to the world and apply all of your inspiration (and perspiration) to your continued success. q

Quick Scan Could you throw some light on the emergence of the idea of 2.0 ? Yes, it’s coming soon. The principal “light” is that is going to continue for at least another 5 years. We’ve signed a Letter of Intent with the Commission on ICTs in the Philippines to serve as the host to the next generation of global programming. The “soft launch” for this will take place this October. How is 2.0 going to be different from its predecessor? 2.0 will be different in that it is embedded in the developing world and it will be able to be even more activist on behalf of national and regional telecentre systems. I think it will also be much closer to the private and corporate sectors as well.

April - June 2009

The three billion people who have mobile phones, but no Internet access, need to be reached by the next generation of the telecentre movement. Telecentres “make the market” for the absence of basic amenities to be rectified by public policy and the market. Telecentres help build awareness for why these things are important and show creative ways to broaden access. 2.0 will be different in that it is embedded in the developing world and it will be able to be even more activist on behalf of national and regional telecentre systems.

telecentre network


Networking Telecentres in Africa Meddie Mayanja

Map Credit: Google Maps

Photo Credit: Meddie Mayanja

This article presents highlights of the genesis of telecentre networking in Africa, the key players, activities, and challenges they face. It is based on the author’s long-term engagement with networking issues and’s contribution in building the telecentre community since 2005.

Participants at Telecentres Leaders Forum in Mali 2007

and economic impacts in communities they serve. Africa has more than 18 networks providing telecentres with services in French, English, Portuguese and Arabic languages.

Introduction A telecentre network is an alliance of telecentre practitioners and organisations, who have a stake in telecentre activities, and who believe in the power of working together to learn and address issues of common interest. As such, telecentre networks are forums for sharing experience and platforms for action to increase social and economic impact of grassroots telecentres. Indeed, networks are the most efficient way of ensuring telecentre effectiveness and sustainability. Telecentre networks may consist of telecentres, telecentre practitioners, telecentre networks, network support institutions and, service providers (innovators, development partners, researchers, content and service providers, etc). Networks are the nerve and connectors of this complex web of interdependent relationships aimed at helping telecentres to create stronger social


African telecentres and the genesis of networking Since the first wave of telecentres in Africa in the late 1990s in Mali, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa, hundreds of telecentres have sprung up. This is partly because the potential of telecentres to provide universal access to Information and Communication Technologies for Development is now being understood better. Over the years, applications, technologies, and organisations have changed greatly, which have helped to increase efficiency and relevance of these to the rural communities. There are several telecentre models such as; Community Multipurpose Telecentres (MCT), School-Based Telecentres (SBT), Community Technology Learning Centres (CTLC), IT Clubs, Community Learning and Information Centres (CLIC) and Community Multimedia Centres (CMC). In

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The formation of ATH was the first step towards networking telecentres within the African continent. It aimed to maximise their development benefits by addressing their challenges collectively addition, unlike in the first wave of telecentres that were started as pilots by ITU, IDRC, UNESCO, World Bank, and USAID, more and more telecentres are now being supported with local resources. This is, in particular, the case in Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Tunisia. As early as 1999, telecentre practitioners and development partners realised that telecentres could become much stronger partners in development if key challenges like connectivity, staff development, and access to relevant content, technologies and learnings from experiences were collectively addressed. This realisation led to the conceptualisation of some important initiatives that proved to be landmarks in the history of African telecentre networking. These issues were further addressed through some key meetings and conferences held in the African continent and other parts of the world. By 2000, informal discussions to create the Africa Telecentre Helpnet (ATH) had started. Two events accelerated the ATH process: the IDRC ACACIA programme’s meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in 1999, which aimed at setting up a Pan-African Telecentre Evaluation Framework; and the meeting of telecentre practitioners and development partners, held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France in April 2002 with support from IDRC, UNESCO, IICD and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the creation of a telecentre helpdesk and knowledge clearinghouse. This was the first ever global meeting to discuss the creation of a ‘telecentre helpdesk and knowledge clearinghouse’ where more than twenty telecentre leaders and practitioners from Latin America, Asia and Africa attended. Participants discussed the importance of telecentre networks and resolved to form regional (aka. continental) networks that would merge to form a global telecentre network. The spirit of telecentre networking received another boost at an ACACIA ICT African conference in Kwa

April - June 2009

Maritane, South Africa in April 2003. Taking the initiative forward from the conceptualisation stage to implementation, the structure, functions and resources of a telecentre helpdesk were defined at another event in Maputo, Mozambique in September 2003. As per the Maputo Declaration, the mission of ATH was “to establish a mechanism and structure to respond rapidly to problems and challenges faced by telecentres and ICT access centres in…Africa”. The African Telecentre Helpnet had achieved varied success across the continent by 2005, especially in Ghana, Mozambique, and Uganda, albeit with challenges. Good relationships among telecentre champions were developed, which later proved pivotal to networking. But above all, two main lessons were learned – that starting an African network (aka ATH) without national anchors was impossible and that national telecentre networks would need resources and sustained efforts in order to build structures, services, and partnerships. Leading telecentre networks and network support institutions • • • • • • • • • •

Afriklinks, Mali UgaBYTES, Uganda CAICC, Mozambique IT Trust Fund, Egypt Fédération des Télécentres Communautaires du Mali, Mali Le Réseau des Cybercentres Communautaires du Burkina, Burkina Faso Réseau des Télécentres Communautaires du Congo, Congo Kenya Network of Telecentres Rwanda Telecentre Network, Rwanda Tanzania Telecentre Network, Tanzania

Impact of in Africa The process of telecentre networking in Africa accelerated with support from, which was formally launched in 2005 at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), held at Tunis, Tunisia. The aim of is to increase the social and economic impact of grassroots telecentres by supporting organisations



and networks around the globe, who work with telecentres; provide the tools telecentres need to succeed; assist in creating locally relevant content and services, provide training opportunities; offering business and technical support; facilitating vital networking events; and providing access to the best research available. African telecentre networking efforts immediately got a boost with the commencement of flagship network building initiatives in Uganda (English), Mozambique (Portuguese), Mali (French), and later Egypt (Arabic).

The process of telecentre networking in Africa accelerated with support from, which was formally launched in 2005 at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), held at Tunis, Tunisia

Photo Credit: Meddie Mayanja

Participants at Arabic TLF in Cairo, Egypt December 2008

Additionally, supported the practitioners to develop deeper relationships, share experiences (online and offline) and build network structures. In this regard, its specific initiatives include: • Travel Grants Support for telecentre practitioners and network leaders: The travel grants enable telecentre practitioners and network leaders to attend events to discuss critical telecentre issues during Telecentre Leaders’ Forums in Sudan, Uganda, Benin, Egypt and Mali. These have served as platforms for sharing knowledge and experiences and learning from each other. These travel grants also facilitated their participation in international conferences and workshops, such as the eIndia, eAsia organised by CSDMS, and the Third Global Knowledge Conference held at Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. • Staff exchange programme support: The staff


exchange programme support provided the telecentre practitioners an opportunity to learn and share skills at network and telecentre levels, thereby helping them to connect with peers and mentors. The programme has benefited telecentre practitioners in Congo Brazzaville, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Mali, Mozambique, and Zambia. It also enabled them to have a first hand experience of telecentre operations in other countries. Telecentre events support: cosponsored workshops organised by networks to address pressing issues within the telecentre community. It made possible the organisation of the first ever Telecentre Leaders’ Forums for French and Arabic speaking telecentre communities in Mali and Egypt, respectively. Network development support: It enabled the networks to obtain technical support for institutional development and sustainability planning. Knowledge sharing: It facilitated knowledge sharing through telecentre helpdesks, and community content facilitators embedded in French (Mali and Benin), Arabic (Egypt), and English (Uganda) telecentre networks. The appointment of the community content facilitators, in particular, expediated the process of knowledge sharing among the telecentre networks. Peer-to-peer learning support: Africa was the first to evolve an organic continent wide network that transcended geographical and language barriers. Network leaders have regularly collaborated and shared experiences both face-to-face and online (monthly meetings) since 2007. They have supported each other in developing capacities in network management, fund raising and using online tools. For instance, the telecentre helpdesks in Mali, Mozambique

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Challenges to networking Network building is not an easy task. It requires time, efforts, and investment on the part of the telecentre leaders and practitioners. Once the network is created, it is even more difficult to sustain it due to challenges that crop up every now and then mainly because of the lack of basic ICT infrastructure in the developing countries. One of the main challenges faced by telecentre networks in the African continent is connectivity. Consequently, some telecentre practitioners have not been able to engage in adequate knowledge sharing because of unreliable or costly connectivity. The same issue has been blamed for relatively low use of online helpdesk services in all languages. Another challenge faced by majority of telecentre networks is resource constraints. In Africa, networks need more resources to build effective structures to facilitate knowledge sharing, find opportunities that the communities can use, and to build and nurture relationships with partners. There has been some success in diversifying resources, but overall, more needs to be done. Therefore, networks have taken up the responsibility of capacity building in resource mobilisation. Moreover, communication of network activities have been less effective. This is partly because of the apparent lack of capacity in this area within networks. Fortunately, network leaders understand that poor communication affects their collective capacity to build and retain partnerships, raise resources, and influence policy. This realisation has led them to conceive capacity building in this area, which is also underway.

April - June 2009

Photo Credit: Meddie Mayanja

and Uganda were collaboratively developed and have always shared software updates, user tracking systems and back-end technical support. Africa is also home to three editions of telecentre times – French, Arabic and English, which are available in both print and online versions. It serves as another tool of knowledge sharing. An overview of the knowledge sharing and collaboration practices adopted by the African telecentre community reveals that it is quite strong within the continent because practitioners and network leaders have invested heavily in building close relationships and helping each other over time. Local presenter at community radio in Xinave, Mozambique

Conclusion The formation of ATH was the first step towards networking telecentres within the African continent. It aimed to maximise their development benefits by addressing their challenges collectively. By the year 2005, in spite of some roadblocks, it was able to make an impact in countries like Uganda, Ghana, and Mozambique. The launch of and the support accrued to the networks contributed towards further strengthening this process. Initially, it seemed a challenging task in view of Africa’s linguistic, cultural, and geographical diversity and variations in the availability of basic ICT infrastructure in individual countries. Nevertheless, it can be safely concluded that the telecentre community in Africa has come of age. It has reaffirmed the belief that the aspiration of creating an African network is truly possible considering French, Arabic, Portuguese and English speaking communities have already been organised. In fact, the African network has been working successfully without a formal structure since 2007. So, the story continues. q


Meddie Mayanja

Meddie Mayanja is working as Senior Programme Officer, email: web:


telecentre initiatives

Poeta: Leveraging ict for Youth Development Asha Williams

Despite positive developments on many fronts, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean increasingly face social and economic challenges that threaten their prosperity. In several countries, youth are at the forefront of these concerns, with involvement in risky behavior. Young people in the region increasingly face elevated levels of unemployment, poverty and risk, posing a major threat to development in the region. Youth unemployment rates in Latin America and the Caribbean have increased by 23% from 1995 to 2005 . Studies also show that violence has grown in the region in recent decades, with youth disproportionately represented in this trend, both as victims and as perpetrators. Across the region, policymakers, educators, and other stakeholders are utilising various economic, educational and social strategies to engage youth and mitigate the risk they face. One of the strategies used to engage youth uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to educate and empower them. The Trust for the Americas recognises the immense value of using technology and technology centres to empower marginalised communities and facilitate their meaningful inclusion in society. The Trust’s Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas (POETA) initiative has been utilising this strategy for five years, through telecentres called POETA centres that provide skills training and inclusive spaces for people with disabilities and at-risk youth. POETA empowers vulnerable communities and builds the capacity of NGOs throughout the hemisphere. The programme provides marginalised populations, including at-risk youth, with ICT training, civic education and jobreadiness training to address their vulnerabilities. Through partnerships with local partner organisations to establish POETA centres, the programme also includes providing training to staff, improving the internal capacity of these organisations, and so on. This article will look at some of the strategies for youth empowerment, employability,


Photo Credit: POETA


A youth accessing the services in one of the POETA centres

and social integration experienced through the youth component of the POETA programme, as well as the need to promote telecentres as an inclusive space for development.

How the programme started and what it entails POETA began in 2004 as a pilot project in Guatemala through the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Programme to increase employment opportunities for persons with disabilities through ICT skills training. In its first year, two POETA centres trained more than 500 people and more than 25 local businesses became partners of the programme. As a result of this success, Microsoft agreed to expand the programme and the General Secretariat of the Organisation of American States (OAS) pledged to support the initiative. This three way partnership became “POETA”. The programme operated in Latin America for several years principally benefiting people with disabilities and facilitating their meaningful inclusion in the job market and in their communities. The success of POETA in Latin America enabled the Trust to leverage support to facilitate POETA’s expansion

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to six Eastern Caribbean countries to provide training to at-risk youth. POETA Youth provides training and capacity building to youth in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. POETA Youth Centres are also operational in El Salvador and Guatemala in Central America. Today, there are over 55 POETA centres in 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The POETA model is one that is both sustainable and creates maximum impact through partnership with local organisations (local partners) who implement training to target beneficiary populations. This model ensures that training is implemented by organisations and personnel with intimate knowledge of the challenges faced by the marginalised population targeted, and the communities where training is offered. The POETA Youth training model includes technology training, job readiness, civic education, capacity building of local organisations and creating awareness on youth development and ICT for Development (ICT4D) issues.

Using technology to facilitate meaningful change With so many challenges facing youth development, policymakers and programme implementers are faced with various options for tackling this important challenge. The POETA experience has confirmed that ICTs are an important and beneficial tool for facilitating meaningful youth inclusion and empowerment. ICTs are pervasive in every aspect of life today. Youth today need to know ICT tools to participate in education, employment, and even to be entertained. Recognising this, the Trust has focused on using technology tools, mainly through a POETA centre model, to provide youth with the skills necessary for employment, the confidence to make positive decisions and the tools to feel that they can be important contributors to their societies’ development. The importance of technology in every aspect of society today need not be explained. However, it is necessary to recognise that technology has significant benefits beyond helping people complete everyday tasks. ICTs can be effectively used to provide marginalised populations with the skills they need to actively participate in the education sector, employment and in social networks. In addition

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to providing youth with the skills necessary to help them overcome their challenges, POETA spaces are locations where young people connect with each other in a positive way. This holistic approach has allowed POETA centres to transform previously unemployed at-risk youth to young people with a positive outlook for their futures.

How young people view ICTs in their development Today’s youth may find it hard to imagine a world without technology. This is also reflected in their use of technology when compared to adult populations. In fact, a recent report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) found that young people globally use computers, the Internet and mobile phones to a much larger extent than the general population. Yet in the developing world, many young people have limited access to computers and other technological tools at home. The ITU also found that technology tools were less available in developing countries, when compared to developed countries, with most availability in schools. These youth, therefore, find it difficult to hone the technological skills necessary for further education and the world of work, limiting their ability to meaningfully

participate in society. This is particularly true for at-risk youth, with limited skills and little formal education. POETA centres are, therefore, important spaces where young people are able to use computers and the Internet to equip themselves with the skills they need. Youth participating in POETA training are well aware of



Capacity building of NGOs – Creating more effective telecentres Telecentres are critical spaces for improving ICT availability and facilitating development through the use of ICTs. With the high costs of technology for the impoverished and marginalised populations, telecentres are critical to improving access. In fact, policymakers have noted that establishing community access centres is an important tool for improving youth access and developing ICT for development in their economies. The POETA programme also recognises the importance of these centres as sustainable spaces where technology could continue to impact marginalised communities. The programme, therefore, partners with local organisations established in the communities where POETA training is implemented to ensure that training and outreach is effective. The programme also includes training and capacity building for local partner organisations in international donor reporting standards, marketing and outreach strategies and POETA centre management. This enables local partners to effectively establish additional partnerships and implement training to beneficiaries for years to come.

Raising awareness about the benefits of technology and telecenters

recognises the importance of spreading awareness about the benefits of technology and the telecentre model to facilitate the development and inclusion of marginalised populations. Government, private sector, and civil society stakeholders across the globe must constantly be reminded of the importance of ICT for development and the critical inclusive spaces that telecentres provide for facilitating development and empowerment.

Photo Credit: POETA

the benefits of the technology in mitigating their risks. POETA Youth participants, taking part in two online forums on the POETA Youth Web Portal in 2009, noted that ICTs help them overcome their challenges in a variety of ways. They noted that ICTs had positive impacts on their lives through facilitating learning, simplifying tasks, increasing awareness, diverting from delinquency, improving communication and providing a space for youth advocacy, among others. Youth also recognised that ICTs are vehicles for meaningful employment, staying out of trouble and improving their chances for positive development. These verbal records of POETA participants reveal that youth know how technology tools and POETA center training could help them overcome the challenges they face. The following figure depicts the various ways in which technology helps youth address their problems.

Participants of POETA Regional Stakeholders Meeting held in June 208

The Trust routinely encourages the commitment of policymakers to implement ICT4D policies; the private sector’s inclusion in the policy debate and to fund ICT4D programmes; and civil society’s use of ICT4D programmes to empower the marginalised populations they target. Through regional stakeholders meetings, workshops, training sessions, videos and other media, the Trust has been able to garner the support of over 200 partners in Latin America and the Caribbean for its ICT4D initiatives. These activities ensure that all major stakeholders are committed to utilising ICT tools effectively and encouraging the establishment of POETA centres and other telecentres to empower marginalised groups in the region. q


Asha Williams

Asha Williams is working as the Programme Manager of the POETA programme. email: web:

Finally, despite the programme’s impact, the Trust


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Curriculum Commons Grant: Improving the Capacity and Sustainability of Community Telecentres

Reema Singh Gideon

Introduction “We envision a world where people everywhere have the opportunity to access technology and join the knowledge economy on their own terms.�


With this vision,, in one of its efforts towards improving the quality and standard of grassroots knowledge workers, announced the launch of Academy: Curriculum Commons Grant of INR 50 lakhs (USD 125,000) on July 29, 2008. The announcement was made by D Purandeswari, Minister of State for Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, during her inaugural address at the eINDIA2008 conference in New Delhi. With an objective to meet the growing training needs of approximately one million grassroots telecentre managers around the world by 2012, the Academy is developing a continuous learning programme that would initiate an eLearning system with standardised curricula endorsed by a number of open universities around the world. In line with this objective, the Curriculum Commons Grant has been envisaged as a step towards developing appropriate curriculum for use in various nations where academies have been established. As a global initiative, an online repository and library of curriculum and training material has been developed to encourage their use, re-use, translation, and adaptation across the world. Since the launch of the Curriculum Commons Grant, the Academy received over 30 proposals from four continents, which were shortlisted by an expert committee that included Karishma Kiri of Microsoft; Maria Teresa Camba of Commission on ICT, Philippines; Kiringai Kamau of VACID Africa, Kenya, and Basheerhamad Shadrach of Thirteen organisations from seven countries were chosen to receive fifteen awards.

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Photo Credit: Reema Singh Gideon


A telecentres in Mozambique

The winners were contracted for a period varying between three to five months, to complete their work. It was observed that all participating institutions were passionate about the projects they were implementing under the grant and it was encouraging to learn about the work being carried out globally towards the development of grassroots knowledge managers’ training materials.

Experiences of the winners Out of the thirteen curriculum modules developed under this grant, the following two experiences from Mozambique and India would provide the readers with an insight into the work that has been carried out to improve the livelihood opprtunities and knowledge of these managers. All participating institutions have developed the curriculum with a view to build the capacity of the grassroots telecentre managers and ensure their sustanability. It is primarily need-based, with an objective to find solutions to their problems. The aim of one of the modules designed under the Grant is to empower both the government and private sector agricultural extension



Photo Credit: Reema Singh Gideon

Mozambiquan telecentre operators troubleshoot the IT hardware and software problems

Telecentre operators in Mozambique troubleshooting hardware problems

The Eduardo Mondlane University Informatics Centre (CIUEM) has a long tradition of supporting telecentres and similar community ICT initiatives in Mozambique. It currently manages the Community Information and Communication Support Centre (CAICC), whose mission is to support the growing national network of Community Multimedia Centres (CMCs), community radios and telecentres. CMCs bring together the capacities of telecentres and radio to complete the information and communication chain. The training course on basic preventive and curative maintenance techniques for community ICT activists was developed in a CD-Rom format for distance learning in response to the demand from the grassroots. The support strategy uses networking to increase the capacity of the members to resolve their own problems and assist them grow sustainably through mutual help, economies of scale, and by providing new and improved services to their communities. Investment in human resources through training and capacity-building activities is as important as investments in equipment

workers, who participate in community telecentre services in rural and peri-urban communities. The module intends to supplement these skills in view of the digitisation of extension service delivery, as agriculture remains and will continue to be the backbone of any country’s economy. The course as it aims at enhancing the capacity of


and buildings, since without the appropriate human skills, the material investments could not be utilised to achieve their full potential. CAICC chose basic computer maintenance as one of its priority training initiatives to cater to the demands from the network members, who were spending large sums of money and travelling long distances to get their equipments repaired, and whose ability to offer services were affected because of out of order computers and equipments. Quite often, the problems had simple solutions, but the community activists did not have the skills to diagnose the causes and repair these. At the same time, a growing number of community radios and other initiatives are using IT tools, such as computers and thus facing the same problems. Computers are also increasingly being used by public institutions, schools, etc, in the rural areas and those users face similar difficulties. In view of this, the CMCs and telecentres could offer some basic maintenance services, which would become a new source of revenue for them. Thus, it was thought that a basic computer maintenance course would both save and earn money for the centres, while simultaneously positioning the centres as local ICT focal points. The initial training course for community activists was adapted from CIUEM’s existing training course, and was taught in a classroom context as one-week long courses conducted in Mozambique’s three regions: North, Centre and South. This material was then re-discussed and adapted into a multimedia format for delivery via CDRoms. After testing, the CDs would be distributed free of cost for use in all centres. A final examination would be conducted in the provincial capitals, in collaboration with the Provincial Digital Resource Centres (CPRDs).

agricultural extension workers in using digital tools; at the end of the training course, they would be able to differentiate between analog and digital extension environments; describe the features and advantages of digital extension; compare between conventional and digital media; and maximise extension through online

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Brief Profile of Winners 1. Accessing e-Governance Services - 4C, Hungary: The objective of the proposed curriculum is to empower the telecentre managers to access various e-Government services. It aims to provide a simple step-by-step guide to the telecentre managers to reach the masses. 2. Knowledge Management for Community Development - Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, Philippines: The proposed curriculum is an interactive self-learning multimedia curriculum aimed at assisting telecentre managers to understand knowledge management skills and learn various ways of integrating people, knowledge processes and technology into a community knowledge system. 3. Curriculum Development for Thaitelecentre. org - Centre for Communication Development and Knowledge Management (CCDKM), Thailand: The proposed objectives of the curriculum include understanding the training needs of telecentre managers/operators and developing the curriculum for academy. 4. Basic IT Hardware Maintenance - Centro de Informatica da Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (CIUEM), Mozambique: The objective of the proposed curriculum titled ‘Basic Preventive and Curative Maintenance Techniques for Community ICT Practitioners’ is educate the telecentre managers to increase the efficiency and durability of IT hardware through preventive and maintenance procedures. 5. ICT for Social Entrepreneurship - Comet Media Foundation, India: The proposed curriculum aims to develop the contents on Science and Information Technology, Visual Communication and Design, and Social Perspectives and Entrepreneurship. The curriculum has been devised as a one-year diploma course on ICT4SE (ICT for Social Entrepreneurship). 6. Vocational Skills on Mobile Phone Repairing, etc. - Datamation Foundation, India: The proposed interactive and self-learning curriculum aims to help telecentre managers develop vocational skills on mobile repairing, candle making, Mehndi (Henna) art, and stationery items production. The content will be available in English, Hindi, and Bengali.

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7. Joomla Training - Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka: The project aims to prepare Joomla training material in the local language, Sinhala. The entire training module will be based on the Moodle virtual learning environment. 8. Telecentre Management - Egypt ICT Trust Fund, Egypt: The proposed curriculum aims to enhance project management capacity, ICT skills and produce state-of-the-art content for telecentre management. 9. ICT based Agricultural Extension - Faculty of Information and Communication Studies (FICS) and University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), Philippines: The objective of the proposed curriculum is to ‘Train the Trainers on ICT based Agricultural Extension and Community Development’ applications. The proposed curriculum will be divided into seven different modules ranging from Agricultural Extension to Social Capital Formation and ICT4D. 10. Entrepreneurship and Legal Literacy - Friday Solutions Private Limited, India: The curriculum includes modules on entrepreneurship, legal literacy for rural population and leveraging the Internet for employment generation. 11. Telemedicine - Humaclin Healthcare Private Limited and SATHI, India: The proposed curriculum aims to assist telecentre managers in operating the telemedicine system in their telecentre. The curriculum will also help them enhance soft skills to communicate with villagers and the consulting doctors. 12. e-Learning - ICT Agency of Sri Lanka and School of Computing, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka: The proposed curriculum aims to develop an e-Learning, Evaluation and Accreditation services guide in English and local languages to increase ICT literacy among the rural population. 13. Healthy Lifestyle - Rural Development Institute, India: The proposed interactive self-learning curriculum will include modules on Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health, Nutrition, General Health, Livelihoods, Rights and Entitlement, etc. Each module will be game based to facilitate easy learning and understanding of the subject .



Can telemedicine centres operate from telecentres? Humaclin Healthcare Private Limited (India) has developed a training module for Telemedicine Centre Managers to help them Operationalise Telemedicine Centres. The module was developed by Humaclin based on the experiences gained during the training of telemedicine centre operators in Tsunami Response Project and after having operated a telemedicine system in private sector in Madhya Pradesh, India. While their Tsunami Response Project was an emergency response project that predominantly included psycho-social services to tsunami affected population in Tamil Nadu, the Madhya Pradesh experience was about providing general medical services at a small town level. This training module with its tested approach, support material, and methods, constituted a comprehensive tool kit for effectively carrying out the training of the telecentre managers. It would help build the ability of telecentre managers to offer telemedicine services through telecentres. The incorporation of medical services would be a value addition to the telecentres established for providing IT based services. Alternatively, because of this training, an independent telemedicine system can be established and operated efficiently by the operator. The kit is need-based and has been developed with the participation of potential users. The telecentres set up in Orissa under the e-Kutir initiative were used for carrying out the need assessment of both the telecentre

As a global initiative, an online repository and library of curriculum and training material has been developed to encourage their use, re-use, translation, and adaptation across the world mutual reinforcement, mobilisation, and social capital formation. As a next step to encourage people to use the available curriculum , IDRC has developed an online repository, which can be accessed at www.telecentreacademy. org in varied subject areas, such as health, education,


managers as well as of the population catered to by these telecentres. The module could be used by multiple agencies for planning and conducting trainings in their regions, as it is easily adaptable to suit different patterns and situations within the health service delivery system. It can also serve as a self learning tool for interested rural youth. At the end of the training, a trainee would be able to operate telemedicine systems located at a telecentre, organise telemedicine consultation sessions, build good relations with village community and service providers, and act as the nodal point during community health emergency. The tool kit developed, is suitable for public, private and voluntary sectors both in normal time and in times of natural calamities/emergencies. As a next step, Humaclin is looking at the possibility of scaling-up these telemedicine centres by building the capacity of 50,000 telecentre managers in telemedicine services and operationalising telemedicine centres by providing healthcare services. The expected timeframe stated by Humaclin is four years, but it may also be completed within a shorter time period. The focus of this plan is on improving access to healthcare in remote areas to ensure equity in the distribution of healthcare services. The end results, as envisaged by Humaclin, is the development of a sustainable telemedicine network and services.

social entrepreneurship, telecentre management, etc. The curriculum is currently available in English language only, but in due course, in order to assist academies across the world in their attempt to fulfill the learning objectives of telecentre managers, it would be available in multiple languages. q

Author The author works with IDRC, in the collaborative social investment programme email: Reema Singh Gideon

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telecentre network


Mission2011: Building Inclusive ICT based Knowledge System

Emergence of the Idea Information and Communication Technology is undoubtedly making meaningful contribution to the cause of alleviating poverty since people’s access to information and knowledge, which is vital for improving livelihood opportunities. ICT for poverty alleviation has transformed from a buzz-word to a practicing phenomenon in many corners of the world. Bangladesh too has not remained untouched by the blessings of ICT. ICT started contributing to the development of Bangladesh from early 90s when the well-known “Polli Phone”, introduced by Grameen family opened the eyes of many development practitioners across the globe. Later, a few sporadic efforts by various development agencies, especially NGOs, showed the path to investigate more about ICT based information and knowledge system.At the begining of the twenty-first century, a few organisations started pilot projects to understand the link between information need and ICT. The efforts of D.Net’s Pallitathya programme, Win Incorporate’s ruralinfobd, BRAN’s Gonokendra Pathagar, Dhaka Ahsania Mission’s Gonokendra, Grameen Phone’s CIC, UNDP’s CeC are notable in this regard. It was well-thought by various development practitioners that putting ICT at the village end is not a solution; rather

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Photo Credit: Mahmud Hasan

Map Credit: Google Maps

Mahmud Hasan

An infomediary_ of a telecentre demonstrating_content_in Bagerhat

what and why people use ICTs is the determining factor. As revealed by all these researchers, there is one very important issue here – lack of livelihood contents in local language. So, developing locally relevant content and multiple channels of content distribution (online, CD based, mobile based, etc.) emerged as the main concern. Additionally, it was realised that since the rural people do not have individual access to ICTs; they need a common access point to meet their livelihood information and communication needs. Together, these concerns gave rise to the concept of telecentres in Bangladesh. Looking back, it can be said that since 2000, a strong ground has been created for spreading telecentre-based ICT for development activities in Bangladesh through a number of initiatives, which vary in terms of ownership, technology, target beneficiaries, service package, and business model/sustainability model. However, new initiators and practitioners face numerous problems namely: identification of right mix of ser-


Photo Credit: Mahmud Hasan


Arju Infomediary Pallitathya Kendra Nilphamari

vices and products, choice of technology, identification and training of appropriate persons for working in a telecentre, sourcing of financial resources [start-up and recurring], and identification of approaches for ensuring social sustainability. The telecentre practitioners and initiators face problem in getting information and guidelines about sourcing of locally relevant, customised and open content. Resolving technical problems, record keeping and financial management - performance evaluation and identifying scope of improvement are some other major issues for telecentres in Bangladesh. Also, the telecentre operators were ill-equipped to know about innovations and new solutions, which could reduce the cost of operations and enhance income opportunities. It was also felt that there is a need for an experience sharing platform so that the centres can excel in effectiveness of operation and avoid common mistakes. In the above context, a strong need was felt for launching a Telecentre Network in Bangladesh to address the problem of emergence and operation of telecentres. The common national platform was also conceived because of the need to make ICT based information and knowledge system a national priority.

Formal formation and stakeholders’ consensus In August 2006, D.Net, BNNRC and YPSA, with support from UNDP Bangladesh and, organised an event titled “Building Telecentre Family in Bangladesh, a workshop for Social Entrepreneur”in Rangpur. One of the outcomes of the event was the development of a common platform to share such good practices regularly.


Later, a core volunteer team started sharing the idea with some like minded organisations and individuals. With positive response from all concerned players, twenty members (organisations and individuals) formally formed the Bangladesh Telecnetre Network (BTN) on January 13, 2007, through a national stakeholders’ consultation. To validate the concept with the masses through consultations, BTN organised divisional consultations at Chittagong, Barisal, and Sylhet with hundreds of people. The head of the government, Chief Adviser of the caretaker Government, Fakhruddin Ahmed announced the launch of Mission 2011, in an event held on December, 2008, attended by the many other dignitaries from Bangladesh as well as from outside Bangladesh. The launch of Mission 2011 was able to sensitise key stakeholders about the importance of telecentre movement and motivate them to participate actively in expanding the network of telecentres and motivate grassroots institutions and individuals in participating in the telecentre movement.

The status of the Mission After the official launching of Mission 2011, BTN started mobilising various stakeholders to make the telecentre issue a priority for them. As a multi-stakeholder platform, BTN has developed a comprehensive strategy document to map existing telecentres as well as develop a list of potential venues for hosting telecentres. As of now (May, 2009), there are 2,117 telecentres in the country. The following table shows the division-wise telecentre penetration in Bangladesh : Division Barisal Dhaka Sylhet Chittagong Khulna Rajshahi

No of Districts 6 17 4 11 10 16

No of telecentres 88 594 126 486 270 553

Table 1: Division-wise telecentre penetration in Bangladesh

In addition to comprehensively mapping existing telecentres, BTN also mapped potential venues for telecentres and divided them into three categories, i.e., government, private and NGOs. The primary mapping

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provided a list of more than 60,000 venues in Bangladesh where telecentres can be hosted. The proportional distribution of potential venues is shown in the following diagram:

Diagram 1: Proportional distribution of potential telecentre venues

Partners After the natal mapping, BTN also identified major institutions to motivate them to invest in telecentre initiatives. BTN partners played a very crucial role in supporting these initiatives. Government

Telecentres received government attention quite easily as most of the government institutions in Bangladesh are prepared to initiate e-government projects. As a result, public sector organisations have undertaken the following steps: 1. Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, under the local government support programme, is going to launch 52 Union Information Centres in the premises of local government offices across the country in association with local organisations. D.Net is providing local language content free of cost to these centres. Local government ministry has undertaken a project to extend these UIC model to all 4,998 Union Parishads. 2. Agriculture Information System (AIS) has undertaken content development initiative in association with Win Incorporate, a member of BTN. 3. Ministry of Agriculture has decided to set up 10 pilot agriculture information and communication centres. 4. Ministry of Fisheries has planned to host 10 Fisheries Information and Communication Centres by 2009.

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5. 55 quick-win projects, to be integrated with the telecentres, have been undertaken by different ministries and agencies for providing citizen-centric services. 6. Ministry of Science and ICT is going to open at least five telecentres with financial and technical support from ADB. 7. Ministry of Post and Telecommunication has undertaken a proposal to host telecentres in 4,500 post offices. Besides, the government has undertaken several supporting policy and programmes to facilitate telecentres scale up. These include: 1. Increasing Internet penetration by deploying various options like WiMAX and reducing Internet cost in rural locations. 2. Creating special financing system for telecentre entrepreneurs. 3. Increasing the development of livelihood contents by the public sector. 4. Developing and enacting online payment system. NGO sector

The NGO sector has also welcomed the telecentre initiatives. Different local and national NGOs are taking positive steps to host telecentres. BRAC, the largest NGO in the world, has started converting their community libraries into telecentres. They have already introduced ICT and telecentre services in more than 800 locations and are planning to have telecentres in more than 2,000 locations by 2011. Bangladesh NGOs Foundation has undertaken a project to provide grant to 1,500 NGOs by 2011. They have already started the project and, so far, have supported 19 NGOs. Private Sector

With the success of Grameen Phone’s Community Information Centre (CIC) model, several private sector enterprises are also coming forward to support telecentres. Bank Asia, a commercial bank, is already sponsoring 13 school based telecentres and planning to support another 10 by this year. Several companies have developed ICT based content like health help-line, agriculture helpline, etc. which are giving telecentres new business opportunities.


Photo Credit: Mahmud Hasan


Chief Adviser Launching Mission 2011 BTN

International development partners

Though international development partners have not been very enthusiastic about the telecentre movement, many of them are supporting it too. Since the beginning, UNDP Bangladesh has been supporting BTN. They are now working with the government to facilitate the implementation of such initiatives by the government institutions. In addition, the World Bank is also getting interested in telecentres. Other international development partners are yet to be tapped for this process. International corporate sector

The Global Corporate Sector is quite active in Bangladesh. BTN signed an MoU with Intel Corporation to support at least 5,000 telecnetre entrepreneurs. Besides, they have introduced low cost solutions like classmate PC. Microsoft Bangladesh has been supporting BTN’s activities since the beginning.

Service development To support the national telecentre movement, BTN has developed the following online services: Online national reference desk for telecentre operators: The national reference desk, launched on March 30, 2008, was a milestone initiative of the BTN, (, and is a Bangla language web portal. This has been developed to address the common problems, as mentioned earlier, faced by the grassroots level telecentres, the newcomers in this field and the existing initiatives. The launch of reference desk started with the provision of support through telephone and web and email in case of any technical problem.


Gradually, new sections have been added, such as how to set up a telecentre, where to set up a telecentre, what are the telecentre models in practice in Bangladesh,etc. Since March 30, 2008, this online support centre has been used by 9,205 users. During this period, a total of 426 question-answers have been resolved. Now, the telecentre practitioners are demanding onthe-spot technical trouble shooting support, on which BTN is working. BTN has also published “Reference Desk User Manual� for the grassroots telecentres across the country. This bi-lingual (Bangla and English) guide book describes the way to access BTN online reference desk portal at Using this manual, the telecentre operators can learn about accessing online reference system easily. This manual was distributed among telecentres across the country. National telecentre database: As mentioned earlier, BTN secretariat has mapped the existing telecentres in Bangladesh. Based on the collected information, an initiative to develop a GIS-based telecentre database has been undertaken. Primarily, the database would be useful for a new initiator to select a location, where there is no penetration, thus avoiding unnecessary competition. Secondly, the database would be useful for researchers and policy makers to conduct study on the impact of telecentres. The database is already developed and integrated with BTN online system at Mapping exercises of content development institutions and coverage of content: The heart of the telecentre services is local language, relevant content and service provisioning for the users. In 2008, BTN Member, Win Incorporate, has undertaken a thorough research to trace all digital content related activities, conducted by various government, private and not-forprofit organisations. The outcome of this exercise is now being presented on ( index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=76&It emid=101&lang=en). Eventually, a separate website will be launched, which is under development now. This portal would be fulfilling the pressing needs of the grassroots telecentre practitioners.

Decentralisation: District wise BTN Resource Centres To assess the status of the movement, BTN organised the

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First National Telecentre Colloquium, spread over two days in November 2008. At the national colloquium, it was agreed by BTN members that the movement has got huge momentum at policy level, but awareness among grassroots level activists were still missing. To overcome the situation BTN members decided to host BTN Resource Centres at district level. As envisaged by BTN members, the main roles of the BTN resource centres are: promoting the idea of Mission 2011 – “building an inclusive information and knowledge system for all” which includes, inter alias, 1. Organising events for entrepreneurs and institutions 2. Guiding entrepreneurs and institutions, whether they are ready to take long term commitment for hosting public access to ICTs including telecentre and help them to have proper financial planning 3. Providing counseling in selection of a particular models of public access to ICT initiatives 4. Providing support in setting-up of a particular type of public access to ICT initiatives 5. Providing necessary training(s) for entrepreneurs or organisations hosting public access to ICT initiatives including telecentre 6. Providing technical support to telecentres. As of now, nine BTN members have finalised hosting BTN resource centres in nine districts. In the second phase, twelve other proposals from twelve organisations were submitted at BTN secretariat. These BTN resource centres are now mapping possible venues for telecentres within the district and developing a comprehensive plan to mobilise potential stakeholders to invest in telecentres. The launching of BTN Resource Centres truly shows the decentralisation of BTN’s activities across the country through its members.

planned tasks. The level of participation of the tack force leaders and members were inadequate, which resulted in carrying forward some of the planned tasks to 2009. In several task forces, the lead organisations failed to ensure deliverables within the stipulated time frame. Getting policy makers involved in this process is always a tough job. BTN, along with its members and partners, always tried to mobilise top level policy-makers by orienting them about telecentre activities. As bureaucrats change their ministries quite frequently, the long advocacy efforts go down the drain. So, the advocacy and mobilisation process needs to be restarted. It is always important to mobilise international development partners for any national development agenda. For the telecentre movement, BTN continued to have the support of UNDP Bangladesh since inception. But telecentres don’t figure in the priority lists of other development partners.

Conclusion Within two years of its inception and operation, the BTN has received huge recognition as a national platform. As a result BTN became a part of ICT policy review process and three BTN members became members of the highest policy making body in the ICT sector, National ICT task force under the Prime Minister’s Office. The declaration of the ruling party to have Digital Bangladesh by the year 2021 has given huge boost to the ongoing telecentre movement. As a result, in all the stakeholders meetings and events of the BTN, policymakers, especially member of the parliaments and ministers get involved. BTN believes that with active participation of all the stakeholders, Bangladesh will achieve the goal of building ICT based information and knowledge system for all citizens. q

Challenges and risks As a network , the most significant challenge before BTN is to satisfy diverse needs of its members. Starting with 16 members initially, BTN now boasts of 44 members representing more than 2,000 telecentres. All these members have diverse needs of know-how, content, policy, funding, etc. As a national network, all their expectations are usually communicated to BTN. In the year 2008, BTN created six thematic task forces to carry out the planned activities. The secretariat was supposed to support the members to carry out the

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Mahmud Hasan

Mahmud Hasan is working as Chief Operating Officer of Bangladesh Telecentre Network email: web:


telecentre academy


Curriculum Development for the Academy in Sri Lanka

Map Credit: Google Maps

Photo Credit: Seuwandi Yapa

Seuwandi Yapa

Participants at the workshop engaged in deliberations

Introduction Academy is a global initiative to provide telecentre managers and operators with ongoing training, capacity building, and professional development opportunities. Structured as a consortium of national academies in partnership with a small global support group, the Academy supports and coordinates training programmes, promotes collaborative development and sharing of resources, and maintains accreditation and certification standards. The Academy has already initiated the process of establishing national academies in various countries, in partnership with academic institutions, government, NGOs, and the private sector, and providing support for its business and sustainability planning. Under the same initiative, the National Academy of Sri Lanka was officially launched as a collaborative effort of Information Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC). The first academic workshop of Academy, Sri Lanka was held in Colombo on 27th of April 2007. It was organised by ICTA in partnership with UCSC. There was an active participation of officials from universities, government organisations, private sector and


NGOs. The workshop was inaugurated by P.W. Epasinghe, Chairman, ICTA. Welcoming all the participants to the workshop, Epasinghe emphasised President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s dedicated intention to promote ICT among rural communities in Sri Lanka. The main objective of the workshop was to address the issue of content, curriculum development and developing training modules for telecentre managers and operators. The expected outcomes of the workshop were identified as follows: decide upon certification structure for telecentre managers and operators (facilitator); based upon needs, identification of basic areas to be tested and certified according to the structure; break into teams and come up with basic curricular outline.

The proceedings The workshop was divided into three sessions, which were based on three thematic tracks. The first session of the workshop gave a broad introduction to the Academy of Sri Lanka and its objectives in addition to highlighting the roles and responsibilities of the ongoing workshop. It further highlighted the constraints associated with telecentres in Sri Lanka through presentations made by various speakers. In this context, the introductory

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The National Academy of Sri Lanka was officially launched as a collaborative effort of Information Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) presentation made by Gavashkar Subramanium, Project Manager, ICTA, portrayed the Sri Lankan telecentre movement. Gavashkar shared the fact that currently, there are 587 telecentres already operational across the country and it is expected that the number of telecentres may go up to one thousand within the next year. Another highlight of the introductory presentation was sharing the findings of the telecentre ranking undertaken by ICTA. Based on a survey and a brainstorming session conducted by ICTA, together with their Regional Impact Teams (RITs), the survey

Illustration 1: Telecentre Ranking (based on a survey done by ICTA and RITs)

Illustration 2: Telecentre Ranking (based on a survey done by ICTA and RITs)

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evaluated the progress of telecentre operations within the Sri Lankan network. Illustrations numbers 1 and 2 depict the overall classification of telecentres functioning under the telecentre network in Sri Lanka. The survey reveals that majority of the Nenasalas (74 per cent) have attained sustainability. Out of these, 93 centres were given excellent ranking. According to the survey, only five per cent of the established telecentres were shut down due to various reasons, while 21 per cent were ranked poor, as they are struggling with sustainability. The second session was dedicated to a knowledge sharing session with Udesh Mallikarathne of Balangoda Nenasala (Telecentre), a telecentre operator who has been able to develop his telecentre into a successful model. Academic Committee members raised various questions in relation to day-to-day operations in the telecentre and the impact of standard curriculum and certification. This particular interview provided valuable information and helped the Academic Committee members to develop a guideline related to the areas on which they should focus their attention. It was also learnt during this discussion that lack of proper curriculum results into various malfunctions within the telecentre network, such as: high attrition rate among staff; highly dependency on ICTA subsidies; low involvement with community, government organisations and private sector; limited creative/Innovative thinking; poor business sense; lack of entrepreneurial skills; and poor financial management and record keeping skills. Throughout the discussion, it was reiterated that telecentre operators and managers should be properly trained through a standardised curriculum and certification programme. The committee members agreed that a proper certification is essential mainly for the following reasons:creating professionalism among telecentre managers and operators (facilitators) alike; capacity building; transforming the telecentre workforce from volunteer based to professional; retaining telecentre workforce; creating more economic opportunities using telecentres; and improving sustainability and productivity of Telecentres. So, the second session of the workshop mainly focused on establishing certification standards and developing a curriculum for telecentre managers and operators. The presentation made by Harsha Wijewardana, Head of


Photo Credit: Seuwandi Yapa


Participants during discussions in the workshop

Software Development Unit, UCSC and his team provided a clear picture of existing curriculums and certification standards available at recognised ICT institutions in Sri Lanka. In deciding the certification standard, the Academic Committee members also looked at the existing certification structures of Cisco and Microsoft. Harsha Wijewardana, along with his team, further explained how UCSC has contributed to promoting e-learning by developing certain course modules in local languages. Other discussions were moderated on the following topics: courses to be offered and course structure; Learning Management System (LMS); and three main discussion areas- ICT, Social Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship. These discussions centred mainly around issues, such as: whether the curriculum needs to be developed separately for telecentre managers and operators, and the levels of certification standards. While defining the course structure and course modules, Academic Committee members unanimously agreed that the minimum qualification for joining the foundation level-1 should be an ordinary level examination - VIth standard pass with knowledge of language and mathematics. They suggested both on-line and face-to-face or classroom based delivery of courses. The total duration of the course was decided to be 60 hours of both theoretical and practical training. They suggested online evaluation of the trainees’ performance. The Academic Committee decided to develop a LMS for planning, delivering, and managing learning and training within the telecentre network that included online, virtual classroom, and instructor-led courses. For example, a LMS can be used to enable individuals to align learning initiatives with strategic goals, and provide a means of


enterprise-level skills management. The focus of the proposed LMS would be on managing students, and keeping track of their progress and performance across all types of training activities. Later on, the Academic Committee members were divided into three groups and were expected to design basic curriculum to facilitate the training of telecentre managers and operators under three topics: ICT, Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. Adding another topic to the three discussions, the committee members carried out a brainstorming session on the curriculum that they were expecting to develop. The first group with the topic of ICT, concentrated on developing course module for training on fundamental ICT, networking, communication technology, web development, graphic design, video editing, etc. The second group with the topic of social enterprise focused its attention on sub topics of gender issues, SMEs, farming, agriculture, fisheries, livelihood development, self employment, peace building, etc. The third group with the topic of entrepreneurship carried out further discussions on developing a curriculum, to improve skills, such as management, marketing, business development along with innovative content and services.

Outcomes The first workshop held by Academy of Sri Lanka saw intense deliberations on issues of standardised curriculum and certification for telecentre workforce. The workshop also brought forth discussions on finalising the curriculum and including it into the main project proposal. Specific attention was drawn to capacity building as well. In the end of the workshop, there was consensus for developing standard curriculum and certification to empower telecentre workforce to carry out telecentre operations efficiently and effectively for the rural community. q


Seuwandi Yapa

Seuwandi Yapa is working as a Community Facilitator for Asia Pacific Telecentre Network and English Team email:

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Telecentre debates

The PC is the best vehicle for providing e-Services to the rural areas

Ken Keniston

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Telecentre Debates! We have so far had two essays – one on the definition of a telecentre and another summarizing the academic literature on telecentres – and three debates: workable business models for telecentres, for-profit versus non-profit telecentres, and the hope for delivery of financial services via telecentres.

In this edition, we host a debate on one of the hottest topics in ICT4D. The assertion, for which we present both an argument for and against is, “The PC is the best vehicle for providing IT-delivered services to rural areas.” Vigorously arguing against this statement is Rohan Samarajiva, CEO of LIRNEasia. The obvious alternative to the PC, of course, is the mobile phone, and Samarajiva makes a strong case for it as the channel through which IT-delivered services reach rural areas. He combines three points in his argument: First, he marshals statistics that show the mobile phone’s dramatic growth and penetration, even among the poor and rural. Second, he cites the increasing complexity of the mobile phone and its capacity to enable more complex Internet tasks. Third, he cites two successful ICT-for-development projects which use the mobile phone as their client of choice. Interestingly, we had difficulty identifying someone to argue in favor of the statement, In fact, a number of prominent proponents of PC-centric telecentres explicitly declined our request to write in favor of the statement. This represents a significant change in the dominant rhetoric of ICT4D. There are plenty of active telecentre projects, however, run by very dedicated people, and so we knew someone had to be willing to defend the PC as rural provider. We found

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a brave voice in Sarah Nalwoga Mpagi, of UgaBYTES, To counter Samarajiva’s three points, Mpagi brings out three points of her own in favor of PCs: First, PCs can often form significant portions of certain businesses, thus being able to learn about them in a telecentre can be the cause for entrepreneurship. Second, mastery of even simple PC skills brings about gains in pride and self-confidence. Finally, in those areas where the mobile network still hasn’t reached, the connected PC can offer multiple channels for communication with the outside world. Notably, both Samarajiva and Mpagi acknowledge the value of the other device. PCs have a form factor that makes them suitable for office work that involves reading and writing; these are difficult feats on the small displays of mobile phones. Mobile phones are easier to use, and because of their prevalence often don’t evoke the technophobia that many rural residents feel with PCs. Both authors make good points, but the final story is yet to be resolved. PC-based telecentres have a longer history in rural development, yet they have so far failed to establish an iron-clad case for their own sustainability and value. Mobile phones, on the other hand, have overtaken the telecentre in rural penetration by orders of magnitude, but use of IT-delivered services beyond the voice call remains nascent.



“PCs are not the best vehicles for providing IT-delivered services to rural areas.” Rohan Samarjiva, Ph.D., is Chair and CEO of LIRNEasia. Previously he served as Team Leader at the Ministry for Economic Reform, Science and Technology (2002-04) responsible for infrastructure reforms, including participation in the design of the e Sri Lanka Initiative. e-mail:, web:

Evidence shows that mobiles, not PCs, have the potential to be best vehicles for delivering services to rural areas in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the world’s largest concentration of poor people. This is the hardest case. So, what works here will work everywhere.

fixed phones too. In the Philippines, hundred per cent had texted within the previous three months, even if they had not called. It was found that use leads to familiarity and converts very quickly to ownership.

Figure 2: Household access to ICTs (% of BOP households) Source: LIRNEasia Teleuse@BOP3, 2009 Figure 1: Household access to ICTs (% of BOP households) Source: LIRNEasia Teleuse@BOP3, 2009

Figure 1 shows that the phone has overtaken radio in Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) households in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, and is about to catch up with TVs. Computers have a distant, and insignificant fourth presence, not only in these countries, but in all the countries surveyed by LIRNEasia as part of a ~10,000 representative sample study of teleuse among socioeconomic classification (SEC) groups D and E, closely correlated to households with an income of USD 2 per day and described as those at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP). In the Philippines, the survey was limited to SEC E. The survey revealed that forty one percent of BOP households in Bangladesh had at least one mobile, with 37 percent in Pakistan and 34 percent in India. One does not have to own a phone or a computer to use it. Ninety five percent of BOP Bangladeshis, ninety per percent of BOP Pakistanis and fifty nine percent of BOP Indians had made or received a call in the three months prior to the survey (Figure2). More Indians and Sri Lankans used phones as shown in Figure2, but they used public or

In contrast to phone use, those at the BOP, who had used the Internet comprised one percent of the population in Bangladesh and India, and two percent in Pakistan. More than fifty percent had not even heard of the Internet in these countries. Not only are PCs scarce in BOP households, even the use of PCs in common-use locations is low. Thus, not only is the use low, awareness is also weak. One may argue that the mobile is a voice-only device that does not allow its users to enjoy the benefits of the Internet. It is indeed true that the Internet and the many services developed for it are optimized for PCs. The following functions are currently provided over the Internet: • Communication in multiple forms, synchronous/asynchronous, one-to-one/one-to-many, etc. • Information retrieval • Publication • Transactions (including payments) • Remote computing The hierarchy above may be described as moving from simple to complex. It is clear that the mobile is today providing multiple forms of communication, includ-

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“PCs are the best vehicle for providing IT-deliverables to rural areas.� Sarah Nalwoga Mpagi is working as the Programme Officer, in the research department at UgaBYTES Initiative, a non-profit telecentre support network based in Kampala, Uganda Sarah is a social worker with a Post Graduate Diploma in Project Planning and Management from Uganda Management Institute and a Bachelors of Arts (Sociology and Religious Studies) from Makerere e-mail:, web:

Telecentres by definition are places that promote rural access to Information and Communication Technologies for achieving social and economic development. Those technologies may include all or a few of the following: personal computers (PCs), telephones, televisions, video decks, and cameras. Other devices include: radio recorders for those telecentres with community radios. Apart from being public IT access points, telecentres provide other services like: acting as meeting places for rural communities and providing library services, etc. What makes telecentres outstanding from other institutions that provide almost similar services are the social bearing that it has and the introduction of information and communication technologies to the target population. The presence of such technologies supersedes everything, because it is about promoting rural access to information and communication technologies, thereby creating empowered communities with the ultimate goal being social and economic development. However, the social bearing of telecentres should not be taken for granted because in most rural communities, people seek alternative sources, which also provide free services for community access and utility, for instance, schools, libraries, churches, mosques, as also playgrounds. Such places are also used for meetings and social gatherings, which partly explains the reason why most telecentres have not been used to their full potential for community development. The significant ingredient/ flavour added in telecentres are computers. Computers are expensive to buy and maintain in rural communities, which explains their absence in rural households. Moreover, understanding the applicability and potential of computers is complex for most rural communities where technophobia is still rampant. This

is the main reason why computers should be stationed in telecentres along with good trainers who could turn things around, because they are a major driver in accessing and disseminating information productive for the rural population. With other ICT tools like radios and televisions, one can easily learn how to switch on and off and navigate through different channels and enjoy the programmes being broadcast. But this is not the case with computers. The more one learns about computers, the more benefits one gains with them. Among all others tools, PCs are the major ICT tools that draws people to telecentres. However, these should not merely be seen as personal computers, but as those that can motivate more women and men to access and use them whenever they visit telecentres. Since many computers have very slow processing speed, it is seen that people have to wait for a long time to access and use the computers. This drives people away from telecentres. For example, most of the telecentres in Uganda, which were visited by the UgaBYTES team undertaking a research on telecentres, were using old computers with slow processing speed, and thus people especially women failed to wait for longer hours to get spaces in telecentres where connectivity was available. On the other hand, some people who paid for long access hours for web browsing made it more difficult because it is not possible to tell such people to vacate spaces since they were not timed out and have paid for the services already. Without computers, telecentres may end up as places for social gathering rather than information technology access centres. Computers are used in different ways: learning the use and application of software programmes, web browsing, typing, scanning, printing, etc. Other applications of computers include: chats and other

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Continued from page30 ing text-based (SMS) and context-based (missed calls). Qualitative research showed that many of the secondhand phones were quite sophisticated. They were being used to transfer music from one phone to another using blue tooth, to watch video, to play games, to obtain news and employment information (in many cases as the sole source), and to keep records of transactions. The emerging m-payments capabilities are also well known. The Teleuse@BOP survey specifically probed awareness, trial, and use of “more-than-voice� services over the mobile. These were low, unsurprisingly, because these services are just being developed and marketed and the business models of marketing information and transaction services to the poor are yet to be worked out. What makes the ground for optimism stronger, however, is the clear evidence of high awareness, trial and use of more-than-voice among the younger cohorts (Figure 3). It is increasingly becoming clear that agricultural information is better provided on the almost-ubiquitous mobile, where information is available when and where the user wants it. The findings from the Warana Wired and Warana Unwired projects in Maharashtra, now being

Figure 3: Awareness and use of Mobile2.0 (more than voice) services (% of BOP teleusers, all countries) Source: LIRNEasia Teleuse@BOP3, 2009

applied on a larger scale in Vietnam by Microsoft Research, serve as a good example. Innovative companies, such as CellBazaar in Bangladesh are introducing rudimentary eCommerce to BOP users, who would otherwise never get access to such services. BuzzCity and Gupshup are creating social networking in the mobile space. Once the technical and regulatory issues of m-payments are resolved, it is likely that they, not credit cards, will become the main mode of e-payment in the developing world. The old paradigm had the PC as the central interface with the end user. It is gradually being replaced by a new paradigm centered on the mobile handset (or the emerging 3G enabled netbook type devices). These changes will occur first in places like South Asia and Africa and then spread to the developed world.

Continued from page31 communication applications, sharing and disseminating information and knowledge, and games. Computers could also be used as television and radio. Training communities on the use of computers enables them to navigate through different softwares, applications, and also web browsing, enabling them, without the help of the operator, to find information, that may otherwise be unavailable in the telecentres. Hence, knowledge is turned into power as women and men are themselves able to find the information they need. For example, in a gender evaluation study that UgaBYTES conducted in two telecentres; Buwama CMC and Kawolo telecentre, it was found that rural people needed specific information which were not available in the two telecentres. That would not have been a problem had they had the knowledge to use computers to browse the Internet and find the information they need. Another example, all the women who appeared in the focus group discussions were proud of using computers and were happy to market their


businesses and produce. Those who are trained in operating computers can also start their own computer based businesses, such as typing, type-setting, etc. They can also train other people in computers leading to their empowerment. Hence through computers, development spreads faster to other places where telecentres fail to reach considering that not all telecentres are centrally located. Computers are suitable tools for communication also, having applications for chat, e-mailing, etc., with social media like facebook, yahoo, skype, etc. Without the availability of computers in telecentres, it would not have been possible for most rural communities to connect with people living in far off places and in places with inadequate telephone connectivity. Internet serves as a major repository of knowledge and information. It would be very hard for the communities to have access to the wealth of knowledge and derive all the other benefits from the Internet without the aid of PCs.

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telecentre blog contest’s First Edition of English Blog Contest Encouraged by the enthusiasm exhibited by the members of the English community,, has continuously been facilitating knowledge sharing among telecentre practitioners and researchers by providing a platform for extensive blogging in four major languages - English, Spanish, French and Arabic. The English community decided to hold its first ever Blog Contest which ran from 20th April to 31st May, 2009. The announcement received very positive responses from all the bloggers. The English team received about 29 blogs, out of which ten blogs were shortlisted for final evaluation by a distinguished panel of judges, appointed by All these blogs were evaluated on the basis of their content, organisation and relevance. On the basis of these criterion, the judges identified five outstanding bloggers for the honours. They are: Niranjan Meegammana from Sri Lanka, Claire Peque Fernandez from Philippines, Alan Foo from Malaysia, Fatema Begum Labony and Md. Saiful Islam from Bangladesh. Following are excerpts from their winning Blogs.

How Shilpa Sayura became a telecentre sustainability tool in Sri Lanka (Niranjan Meegammana) We just finished implementing Shilpa Sayura in 150th Nenasala in Sri Lanka. Thanks to the hard work by many people during the last four years; Shilpa Sayura, the Local Language e Learning System, now has become a sustainability tool in Nenasalas (telecentres) of Sri Lanka. I think it’s an e-Sri Lanka, Nenasala, ICTA e-SDI, efusion as well as a global telecenter and ICT4D success to be told again and again. First I must reveal the secret of how the Shilpa Sayura idea emerged? My children missed my assistance in their school work as I had to work away from my rural home... In 2004, My wife Yamuna and I were not happy when our daughter was ranked 33rd in the class. I felt responsible and decided to do something... I started collecting educational information for my children. It simply started working; my children liked the content and began to improve. Soon my collection amounted to over 1 GB; and I learned that eContent and self learning could be the way forward for

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children having educational problems. Then came the ICTA e-Society Development funding opportunity for innovative ICT4D ideas and solutions. We decided to focus on the burning problem of education in rural Sri Lanka. In our preliminary research, we learned that in rural Sri Lanka more than 51.8% of the children fail in Ordinary Level examination due to lack of teachers and educational resources. Furthermore, communication, transport, energy and poverty were their key challenges. This resulted in large number of early school drop-outs. Moreover, our research on Nenasala found that they were facing critical sustainability risks due to lack of local content to attract the community. Our team brainstormed for days to design Shilpa Sayura. e-Learning, National Curriculum, Local Language, Self learning, Telecentres and Sustainability were our prime keywords to make a winning proposal to ICTA. A grant of USD 50,000 was a lot of money to develop Shilpa Sayura. We developed a local language eLearning software and content. We were committed... and continuously improved Shilpa Sayura based on our learnings. Shilpa Sayura became ICTA e-Society flagship



project. It helped Nenasala reach rural children, thereby providing a practical solution to their educational problems and helped telecentre operators to become local, regional and national champions. Finally, it brought Sri Lanka fame by wining several global ICT4D awards. Most importantly, Shilpa Sayura has changed the lives of thousands of rural children... and also helped in sustaining Nenasalas. Personally, I also benefited as my daughter Poornima, taking the O/L exam this year, has emerged as one of the best students in the class by improving her average

marks to 92.4 per cent. It is a measurable Shilpa Sayura impact. So I am well paid off. Now, Shilpa Sayura has become a tool to make telecentres sustainable by offering National Curriculum in local language for self and group eLearning services. This project, assisted by ICTA, has just begun its new journey to change the telecentre movement in Sri Lanka. We feel that today Shilpa Sayura has become a tool for telecentre sustainability. The Shilpa Sayura success is blended with its meaning “The Sea of Knowledge”; open, deep, local and shared across the world.

Realistic path to sustainability for the Telecentre Champions Group (Claire Peque Fernandez) I observed that the is gloriously accomplishing its plans for the global communities as a whole from the time the final version was released a year ago. It has laid a very strong foundation in terms of building networks, creating content and services, sharing knowledge and connecting networks. To illustrate, has been like a mother to the telecentres. Its business plans were successfully delivered to its children or members. As’s rainbow of strong investments continue to improve the capabilities and sustainability of telecentres around the world, the realistic path to sustainability remains a big challenge. Like a mother who prepared for the birth of her baby, the focus is now on how to fully equip him, and nurture him and raise him up to be a sustainable global community. For telecentre champions, sustaining them would mean sustaining their clients, too. They have to persuade the community members to appropriate the benefits of the telecentre. Among others, it is essential not only to reach out to them, but to actually make a big impact on their lives. With this accomplishment, the members of the community, through their personal testimony, would continue to influence other members. Based on my experiences in handling community outreaches, I realised


that meeting their primary needs would enable them to appreciate the services offered by a programme or centre. Replicating the services offered by private cafes or Internet centres would also be another good resource for sustainability. If people pay for such services, I assume that it would be the same in telecentres. As the telecentre champions respond to the needs of its community, can continue to strengthen the needs of these champions. Relevant trainings, competency standards through assessment and certification programs, knowledge exchange conferences, ‘lakbay aral’ or tour to other telecentres, scholarships, grants and other programs beneficial to this group would give them a sense of responsibility and belongingness. These competent leaders would be great assets to their telecentres. As the saying goes: “two heads good, three better”, the telecentre champions can later encourage young adult or ‘out of school youths’ (OSY) to volunteer and be trained in the telecentre. These youth... would be grateful if they would be trained. By the time they would like to pursue a more challenging career, training other OSYs, in the meanwhile, would answer the need for additional skilled telecentre champions... Training them ‘on-the-job’ by equipping them with basic computer skills, would reap a great harvest... As continually contributes to improve, sustain and strengthen the telecentres, identifying levels

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or stages of existing telecentres would aid in coming up with customized solutions for common problems of its members at a certain level. Like a baby who goes through many stages of development, identifying these stages for the telecentre would tailor solutions accordingly. From

emerging telecentres to fully established ones, these centres have different concerns and capabilities. With this in mind, I believe that we will know where we are now, where we need to be going, and how we are to get there.

Can current telecentres reach out to more users by many folds and really close the digital divides? (Alan Foo) Telecentres generally have been effective in bringing ICT to many rural areas. It is accepted that millions have benefited tremendously from telecentres around the world. However, if we look very closely into the effectiveness in actually reaching out to the rural areas, one wonders if the numbers reached can be multiplied many folds without costly expansion in the number of such telecentres?... Having telecenters are good, but the problem is, most telecentre systems require students to be continuously present at the telecentres to access information or use the contents. This is because a lot of contents are online and one needs to be online to use. This prevents the users from bringing back the content to their homes or villages for sharing since broadband Internet access is out of reach for most of them. If the access speed at the telecentre is slow, this problem is compounded. (Moreover), not all users can come to telecentres nor can they come everyday. The way to overcome this problem lies in the use of contents and modules that can run offline and are small enough to be saved in diskettes, pendrives, CDs or any other media. For telecentres without broadband, these contents can be had in seconds through slow dial up connections, which means that such educational telecentres can be set up wherever there are mobile telco connections or a slow dial up land line. Can one imagine, every laptop with an Internet connection through mobile

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phone, land line, or wireless can potentially become a mini mobile telecentre. Imagine a simple pen drive can contain hundreds of subjects and years of contents. All without the need for expensive online connection - dial up or broadband. Then, reaching out to the most remote areas through telecentres would not be a problem and telecentres can become the centre of content distribution for schools around. They can provide technical assistance to schools too. It means that throughout the country, students of all economic status can have access to digtial content without the need for broadband through telecentres. Telecentres now, instead of needing students to come there to access contents, can actually distribute such contents to many more users than before. Such small sized modules using older tech is now available. We call it AGE – All Genius Educator. A single pendrive can store hundreds of subjects from Additional Maths to English, etc. It thus lightens the school bags! It is even flood proof; best for Bangladesh where floods never seem to end. Imagine the amount of savings in text and exercise books being washed away every year. Schoolbags in a pen drive... the child can even swim in the flood with it. This project is currently being piloted in telecenters in Malaysia. It is open to all telecenters and schools around the world. Have a look at this power point to understand the underlying reasons of AGE http://www.



Do not rush! Talk to the community people to find their information requirement (Fatema Begum Labony) For the last five days, I was at Kurigram, a remote district of Bangladesh for a monitoring and evaluation visit. PASS, a local NGO, established a telecentre in this area with the technical assistance of D.Net. During M&E visit, usually I meet community people to know the quality of service delivery and to evaluate the information needs of the community. I also move door to door with infomediaries and mobile ladies. One of my responsibilities is to respond to infomediaries’ inquiries related to telecentre services. During this visit, I got two queries from infomediaries. Those were: why the community people don’t understand the importance of information and why they are not interested in taking services from telecentre? I told them that I will give my feed back at the end of my visit. While doing the regular task, I was searching for answers of their queries and suddenly I got them. During the third day of my visit, I was talking to a village woman about telecentre’s services. After hearing everything, she told me that if she faces any problem, she will visit our telecentre. Her mother-in-law was also... listening to me. Suddenly the old lady said, “We have no problem then why should we visit your telecentre?” Her statement again reminded me of those two queries. I was also interested to know why people were not willingly visiting our telecentres. I spent the whole day with the community people and asked them about their problems. While talking with them, I had a very interesting

experience. When I asked them about their daily information need, they replied that they do not have any. But… when I became intimate with them, they shared their problems with me. I found three reasons behind not sharing their problems with the infomediaries. They are: 1. Community people are not aware about their livelihood problems. For example, a coconut tree is not giving any coconut. It can be a disease and might have solution. People are not ready to believe that. To them, only human beings and animals have diseases, not trees. 2. Telecentre initiative is very new to the community people. They are use to with NGOs and their services, but not telecenters... They do not understand the power of information. Further, rural IT illiterate and print disabled people are not ready to absorb this idea. In fact, in many cases, we are struggling to convince highly educated and technology users about the effectiveness of telecentres... 3. Community people are shy to share their livelihood problems with a stranger. At first, infomediaries should earn their credibility through general discussion and providing service specific to their real needs. If they can convince community people, only then, they will share their problems with the infomediaries. It also depends on telecentre’s services. These were my feedback to the infomediary’s query and also a great lesson for me.

eAgriculture in Bangladesh: A spatial skeleton demanding (Md. Saiful Islam) Bangladesh has stepped into the new era of Digital World... saddled with eAgriculture involving multidisciplinary initiatives of Agricultural Informatics, Agricultural Development and


Entrepreneurship towards building a Hunger-free, Efficient and Resourceful Bangladesh. The history of ICT use in Bangladesh agriculture is not so rich. In 2003, the Ministry of Agriculture lent its support to ICT taskforce program, the first initiative to set up an Agricultural Information System. D.Net, an

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NGO, developed the idea of ‘Pallitathaya Help Centre’ in 2005... Recently, Agricultural Information Service has piloted 10 farmers’ community based Call Centres in rural areas. To harness ICT in agriculture and rural livelihood, a conceptual model of e-Agriculture has been formulated... 1. Information User: i) The intellectual group- mainly use primary data on most of the skeleton components including technological development and policy issues. They are mainly academicians, researchers, extension experts, consultants, etc. They are equipped with high-speed Internet service and telephony... ii) The Middle class group- lack high-speed Internet access... Digital media or Offline interface backed by limited data support could satisfy their information needs. They may be professional or community group leaders, traders, commodity importers and exporters, trainers, extension personnel, small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs), etc... iii) The community group- comprises grassroots people, the key role players in agriculture and comprise illiterate, less educated farmers, agricultural commodity traders, fariahs (middleman handlers), arotdars (wholesale marketers), etc. They lack computer literacy. 2. Structural Architecture for information flow: i) Data and Database- Data like cropped area, yield, fertilizer use, inputs supply... land use, etc. could be collected from a variety of departments/ organizations. Any user-friendly interface developed on Visual basic or or similar software powered by Oracle or SQL server would be enough to serve the purpose... ii) Collecting data and updating- As the data used in agriculture come from various sources, it needs good coordination among the data providers... Government must bring development partner

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organizations under a common umbrella to ensure regular update. iii) Strategy and Connectivity- It is desired that agricultural data should be collected and updated from the smallest administrative unit level across the country like upazilla. Web based software allow user to update and view data and make relevant queries from any corner of the country if connected to Internet... Broadband connection (not everywhere), Internet Service through mobile phone or GPRS/Edge modem would be a good choice... 3. Service Delivery: i) Service delivery on Web or from Database- Web interface or website will provide periodically updated information and data in static pages. More specific and customized information or data could be obtained by entering query in the front end or dynamic pages, which will connect user to the database server. Initially, only Internet users will be able to reach that service. Gradually it will be made available to mobile phone users via SMS using Location Based Service (LBS) of the Mobile Switching Centre (MSC). ii) Telecentre or Call Centre- It could be maintained by smart operators and/or agricultural experts responsible for providing answers to farmers/ stakeholders’ queries... In case, the information is not available on the database, the operator can redirect the phone to an expert... for answering a variety of questions in real time... iii) Infotain Centre or local telecentre- It could be established in a village or at a local market place where people get together... People would visit it for entertainment as well as for getting free information by browsing the web, from their database or by making phone calls. Implementing the skeleton of ICT driven Digital Agriculture would be able to take our developing Bangladesh towards a prosperous Digital Bangladesh.


telecentre research

The Global Impact Study: Preliminary Findings Raymond Hyma and Frank Tulus


s you read the title of this article, you probably wonder why there is yet another study on the impact of telecentres. Telecentres have been around for over a decade now, hence the common perennial questions: Don’t we already know the positive impact of telecentres in places where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) access is limited? Why else would governments, NGOs, and donors continue to support the running of telecentres around the world? There is no question that telecentres have been playing an important role in providing access to information and knowledge, particularly in developing countries and in places where such access would be costly and/or unattainable. Nonetheless, having access to knowledge resource does not necessarily mean that there will be a corresponding change in social and economic conditions of the people who have been blessed with such access. Such change doesn’t usually happen in a simple and linear cause and effect scenario (e.g., if because telecentres allow some farmers to know the fair market value of their crops, it doesn’t mean that the same farmers will be better off economically in the long run). This is the reason why the Global Impact Study on Public Access to ICT has been initiated – to properly study the downstream impact of public access to ICT on development, and to better understand how and under what condition such impact can be manifested. Note that we use the term “public access” to imply a broader choice of public access venues that typically permit affordable and shared access to ICT to the general public. These venues also include libraries, cyber-cafes, and some schools, in addition to the telecentres. The initiative is a five-year project supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is currently executed in partnership with the Centre for Information & Society at the University of Washington’s Information School (USA).


Photo Credit: Raymond Hyma and Frank Tulus


One of the surveyed telecentres in Bangladesh

Are telecentres effective in promoting development? Whether you are considering the benefits of implementing a national ICT strategy, brokering a regional network, or running your own telecentre, it is a critical question to ask yourself. The evidence that provides a conclusive answer to this question, however, is often elusive. In fact, this is what we found after the preliminary literature review conducted as part of the Global Impact Study of Public Access to Information and Communication Technologies (often simply referred to as the Global Impact Study). Up until now, research on public access to ICT venues has focused on performance, sustainability, users and usage, according to Araba Sey who conducted the literature review for the Global Impact Study . The review discovered that there was only limited conclusive evidence on the downstream impact of public access to ICTs. While the Global Impact Study will eventually examine evidence

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Photo Credit: Raymond Hyma and Frank Tulus

A wifi enabled telecentre

on impact, its preliminary findings may prove useful in helping to shape our understanding of the conditions, which may or may not lead to downstream impact. In other words, before we can determine the outcome and impact of public access to ICT, we must first understand who uses public access venues, in what manner, and for what purpose. The remainder of this article will highlight these early findings, as part of the exploratory phase of the Global Impact Study. The exploratory phase of the research was focused on three countries: Lithuania, Bangladesh and Chile. Far apart geographically and at different stages of economic development, the initial findings from these countries contribute to the growing body of evidence on public access venues in that it both confirms, and in some cases, contradicts the research found in existing literature. They have also provided a stronger methodological framework by cementing the research questions that will carry the project through its next phase.

Public Access Venues: What do they look like? …community-driven initiatives show better results… Bangladesh As explained earlier, the term public access venue, instead of telecentre, access point or information kiosk, was used deliberately in the Global Impact Study. The term was considered inclusive enough to allow country

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researchers to decide where to focus their attention, thereby reflecting their unique research priorities as well as the public access realities of each country. Common to the researchers’ understanding of the concept was the general notion of a public space that provides access to computing, the Internet or other components of ICT. Such a term contributes to the initial debate on how researchers view these public spaces and how they are divided for analysis. For example, Lithuania has concentrated its efforts in public libraries, but also includes one Internet café and a community centre. Bangladesh has looked at libraries, Internet cafés and telecentres, finding that cafés tend to be located in urban settings, telecentres in villages, and libraries in semi-urban settings. Chile examines the same venues as Bangladesh, but draws a further distinction between telecentres owned by municipalities and those run by non-governmental organisations. Chile, in addition, includes a school that provides part-time public access to ICT, reflecting a wide range of what public access venues encompass to different local researchers. In essence, this process demonstrates that telecentres are an important feature in our understanding of public access venues. It also allows for a comparison of telecentres with similar entities and the diversity of public access venue is an important condition before going further into the study. It allows the researchers to understand the possible variations that exist among the public access venues, thus ensuring that the study will take into account the way impact can or cannot happen through these different public access venues.

Building a User Profile: Who uses telecentres, Internet cafés and libraries? …community oriented [public access to ICT] venues are used by all types of users… -Chile According to Sey’s literature review, past research indicates that the person sitting behind the computer at a public access venue is the most likely to be young, welloff, and male. However, the country studies reveal that this might not always be the case – especially depending



on what type of venue you are basing your analysis. For example, while youth in Lithuania are definitely taking advantage of public access to the Internet (particularly in Internet cafés where they represent half the user population), the number of seniors coming to practise computer skills in some venues is actually on the rise – something that has not been fully captured in earlier research. This trend may be due, in part, to the fact that a growing number of young Lithuanians now have computers at home.

The Global Impact Study on Public Access to ICT has been initiated to properly study the downstream impact of public access to ICT on development, and to better understand how and under what condition such impact can be manifested In Bangladesh, the profile of the user tapping away at the keyboard in a given public access venue will very much depend on what type of venue it is. For instance, research in the country shows that telecentres attract the most diverse range of users – young and old, male and female, rich and poor. Libraries have the next most diverse clientele, whereas Internet cafés are frequented most often by the young, well-off males that Sey identified in past literature. Chile doesn’t stray significantly from the Bangladeshi findings in that commercial venues are primarily visited by youth, while community-oriented centres attract a more diverse range of users. However, these results are strongly dependent upon the time of day in question, which was noted as an important variable. In sum, a range of variables seems to factor into the making of a “typical user” of a public access venue. There is a need to further explore which environment entices what type of users to enter and access ICT. Such information would provide strong evidence for developing models that are more effective in reaching target communities in a wide array of distinct settings. For the purpose of this study, the potential correlations between users and venues also point to the need for further understanding the way these two variables interact with one another, which can lead to different study outcomes.


Activities Performed at Venues: What are users doing on the computer? The increased positive attitude towards the ICT use in everyday life may be one of the strongest outcomes of the public access to ICT – Lithuania A common perception of critics of the telecentre movement is that there is little benefit to glean from people chatting on messenger software, accessing their profiles in social networks or downloading their favourite music from some file-sharing site. The literature review did, in fact, point toward a strong tendency of personal activities performed in public access venues, such as communicating, accessing entertainment, doing homework and developing computer skills. The Global Impact Study’s country cases do touch on this issue and, interestingly enough, show that the level of privacy is also a major determinant in not only who the user is, but also what activity is being carried out. Specifically, people at private Internet cafés do more different things than a group on a shared computer in an open space within a small telecentre and with someone assisting to surf on the web. Furthermore, the studies from the three countries show that the personal aspect of computer usage is only one component, albeit a large one – of what goes on. They demonstrate that economic and political activities also occur in many forms. Lithuanian children are more likely to enjoy the social aspect of ICT and let their parents use the Internet for tax declarations, business transactions, obtaining news and e-banking. In Bangladesh, you are likely to find Internet café users chatting and social networking, but they’ll also be using their ICT savvy skills to achieve some economic and financial objectives. The Chilean study divided activities by economic, communicative, informational and recreational uses. It also went further to differentiate non-ICT components of access, such as the social activities carried out at telecentres. This community concept among users and also with staff is not simply a Chilean phenomenon. Termed as “personal relations” in that study, it was also notable to find “trust” in Bangladesh and “social bonds” in Lithuania as very important factors in how venues worked, particularly in the rural setting. However, a venue may affect the activities of a user, the results highlight the relevance of understanding noninstrumental use of ICT (i.e. the activities that may not

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As mobile telephony technologies advance and become absorbed by large portions of people in the developing world, this type of study will certainly shed light on the relevance of telecentres in a growing global environment of mobile users have a direct link to developmental objectives) before throwing in the towel and undervaluing the non-business/ social aspect of what users are doing online.

What’s next? – The Research Moves Forward As the Global Impact Study moves into the next phase, new country studies will supplement and expand the findings that have been observed in Lithuania, Bangladesh and Chile. Now that the preliminary findings have given some clues on the conditions prevailing around public access venues, more focussed research can be carried out on specific research issues that have been found to be important for understanding public access to ICT impact. In-depth thematic studies will dominate the research agenda to provide a more precise analysis of impact in various issues that public access venues encounter. The in-depth study approach will grapple with these issues using a variety of research methods based on particular questions. One such question is on the role of staff in the venue, which are commonly referred to as the “infomediaries.” This will be examined, for example, to understand their influence and how their level of training affect the impact of services they provide to the users. As both Lithuania and Bangladesh underlined the challenge of a lack of trained staff in venues, the importance of this relationship is evident in measuring impact through the users. Especially relevant for telecentres, the importance of privacy as a mutual determinant will be expanded through a study on shared computer usage and the consequences of users accessing ICT simultaneously with others. With an undeniably significant recognition of personal communication and entertainment usage in the three country studies, it is no surprise that non-instrumental uses of ICT will compose an in-depth study in order to

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demonstrate the impact of this category of activities within a development context. In understanding the deeper aspect of the user, an interesting study will take a look at the crossing of mobile users in venues. As mobile telephony technologies advance and become absorbed by large portions of people in the developing world, this type of study will certainly shed light on the relevance of telecentres in a growing global environment of mobile users. Another study will examine the lifecycle of a venue and break into new territory of questioning the possible transitional nature that telecentres may demonstrate. Obviously, this question of sustainability, which was also strongly highlighted in the literature review, is essential for understanding impact and how the overall dynamic of the venue plays out in its lifespan. The Global Impact Study is beginning to provide some preliminary findings through its three-country focus during Phase I. The next phase will inevitably provide a stronger thematic framework for making important progress in the evaluation of what people in the telecentre movement have been contributing to. This is obviously vital in confronting the component of downstream impacts, which was highlighted in its elusive state by the literature review. As trends appearing amongst the three countries help to show that core assumptions are possible and indeed desirable at this stage of measuring impact, the differences are also revealing of how public access is utilised by those from distinct contexts. q


Raymond Hyma

Frank Tulus

Raymond Hyma is working with IDRC as a Research Officer and is currently working on the Global Impact Study on Public Access to ICT email:

Frank Tulus is working as Senior Programme Officer of and currently oversees’s research portfolio. email: web:

41 academy


The East African Academy Meeting: Expediating Knowledge Exchange Sandra Nassali

Map Credit: Google Maps

updated. The regional meeting was intended to understand the process of curriculum development, to identify challenges of telecentre managers and also to discuss the outline for the management training module and the way forward for the Academy. The Academy will be hosted by Faculty of Science, Kyambogo University, Kampala, Uganda where it will be given space to accommodate a programme officer. Administratively, the Academy will collaborate with telecentre networks in East African countries, namely Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and will also work closely with the key stakeholders like the Ministry of ICT, Uganda, Uganda Communications Commission and its Rural Communications Development Programme, Schoolnet, ICT training centres and other ICT development partners and projects.

Introduction Network leaders and partners of telecentre movement in East Africa met at Odel Centre, Kyambogo University, Kampala in Uganda on 18th and 19th May 2009, to discuss the establishment of the Telecentre Academy in the region., along with its partners and stakeholders, is working towards establishing an academy in the East African region, as it is doing for other regions of the world. The primary objective of the Academy is to provide an effective learning environment to the telecentre staff/ managers/operators and to equip them with the skills which are essential to make telecentres relevant to the communities they are located in. The Academy will empower telecentre managers by building their organisational capacities equipping them to provide services to the community for their socioeconomic development and will also provide peer support mechanism that will help telecentre practitioners and stakeholders to learn new skills and keep themselves


Challenges identified During the workshop, which saw participation of telecentre managers and network leaders from across the region, many issues were raised with regard to the telecentre Academy. The following were the main challenges identified by the participants of the workshop: • Content development and packaging to meet the local needs: Peter Balaba from Nakaseke Telecentre in Uganda argued that most of the content (on-line and off-line) is packaged in English, which is not familiar to the most local communities • Ownership issues: Since ownership of the some telecentres is not specified under law, it may affect the flow of business and create confusion in management which may invite issues such as breach of contract • Shortage of skilled labour: There is shortage of skilled labour for repair and maintenance of IT equipment, financial accounting, record keeping and marketing, networking and trouble shooting, radio web browsing and script development, radio presentation, general management skills, and

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also business entrepreneurship which needs to be addressed. Illiteracy of telecentre users: High level of illiteracy among telecentre users affects the work of the managers and in turn affect the success of the telecentres. Competition from Internet Cafes: There is Growing competition in ICT business for instance from Internet Cafes which may affect the success of telecentres. Lack of team spirit and volunteerism: Lack of team spirit and also the unwillingness of skilled community members to volunteer can pose threat to the success of telecentres. Conflict of interest between the government and private investors: Conflict of interest between the government and private investors in the ICT industry affects the works of telecentres in the region since there is no goodwill and support from them Marketing of telecentre product and services: Marketing the products and services is a big problem since people don’t understand the importance of ICT

skills and services in their communities. Adaptation of the Internet/ICT culture is a big challenge in the local communities. Gap between requirement and provision of services: Youth are more interested in using and learning entertainment applications such as facebook, webcams, chat rooms, etc. while on the other hand, teachers at the telecentres are more interested in teaching foreign courses rather than those that appeal to the interests of their communities Lack of support from donor, government and community: Sustainability has been hard to achieve due to lack of support from donors, government and community Lack of knowledge about social and economic needs of the communities: Most telecentres lack clear knowledge of what the community needs to develop socially and economically. They do not have a clear vision, objective and strategic business plan which are paramount in running any business/ organisation smoothly Poverty of the target population: Most people

Solutions discussed Based on the above mentioned challenges, the following points were noted as solutions: • Communities should be mobilised and taught about the importance of telecentres and ICT4D • Interests of different communities should be addressed clearly, so people feel attached to the community based information access points • A curriculum of telecentre management should be given priority since many telecentre operators lack managerial skills • Expatriates from different regions should be encouraged to share various successful experiences and also to volunteer to act as consultants to telecentre managers in order to pass on knowledge for the success of telecentres • Knowledge from different academies abroad should be allowed to flow to facilitate the expansion of the knowledge base. Telecentres should also share successful experiences among themselves to help each other

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• • •

When the academy is set up, it should be ensured that the curriculum is not very intellectual so as to make it possible for the illiterate people to quickly pick up and understand what is being passed down. This is because most telecentre users and managers are either entirely illiterate or school drop-outs and thus may not be comfortable with advanced curriculum at the beginning Qualifications should match and be equivalent to those of recognised institutions Certification should also be given consideration The curriculum should be in position to cater to the needs of all people regardless of their demographic and psycho-graphic characteristics There should also be a minimum requirement for students for every course applied for which may vary from one course to another Students should get recommendations from telecentre managers to attend the courses at the academy


Photo Credit: Sandra Nassali


Participants pose during the meeting

cannot even afford the small fees charged by telecentres, since they are poor,and thus do not turn up in the telecentres to learn the uses of ICT for development and skills.

The Academy will empower telecentre managers by building their organisational capacities equipping them to provide services to the community for their socio-economic development and will also provide peer support mechanism that will help telecentre practitioners and stakeholders to learn new skills and keep themselves updated John Maani, a curriculum expert from Kyambogo University pointed out that the main components of a curriculum should constitute its objectives; content; methods of how to develop skills, knowledge and values; and a mechanism for evaluation of its impact. Important facts and figures must be verified before developing the curriculum. This has to be done through baseline surveys or needs assessment. Maani further argued that the situational analysis for the development of the management module should involve: Identifying tasks and problems and seeking possible solutions, identifying difficulties and possible areas of resistance, and planning for the resources and the organisational changes that will be required. He argued that due to the ever-changing societal


dynamics, both local and international, there is also need to select from the abundance of generated knowledge and skills. The need to keep on updating the content is paramount. Maani noted that the curriculum should ensure that quality knowledge is passed on. He advised that the modes of delivery should be mainly participatory as that gives a chance to students to be involved in the learning process. The process of implementation of the Academy was also discussed during the meeting and it was noted that a Board/Management Committee of nine members should be set up. Its key responsibilities would be to guide on the process of policy making, approve programmes/courses to be taught, devise plans and receive reports, appoint staff and be responsible for fund raising which may include lobbying for funds. The Secretariat that would operate under the board would be responsible for developing proposals, networking for the project, implementing and coordinating of programmes approved by the board, approval of participant lists, developing work plans and report development along with record keeping. The East African National Networks would be responsible for recruiting candidates, mobilisation and publicity for the Academy, coordinate trainings at national levels and for monitoring and evaluation of the project.

Conclusion The meeting was considered a success for all those who took part in it met all its objectives. Not only did it have participation from numerous stakeholders, it was also successful in laying out a path for the East African Academy with identification of challenges as well as commensurate solutions for those. That apart, fruitful discussions on the structural framework of the Academy and the respective functions of the structures was also a notable feature of the meeting. q


Sandra Nassali

Sandra Nassali is working as Community Facilitator for, Africa based at UgaBYTES Initiative, Uganda web:

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telecentre event


The First TLF-LAC: For a Stronger and Connected Telecentre Movement

Photo Credit: Luiza Caldas

Luiza Caldas

The participants of the Telecentre Leaders Forum, Latin American and Carribean

T Map Credit: Google Maps

he first Telecentre Leader’s Forum, Latin America and Caribbean was held in Brasília on 11th to 13th May. The meeting was attended by around fifty people involved in telecentre movement in the region. This initiative was the result of a common effort from over 32 organisations, which wanted to see a stronger and connected telecentre movement in the continent. It took almost three months to initiate the process of organising this event and to make it productive. This event was supported by, Telecenter of Information and Business Association (ATN), and the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (CEPAL). The facilitation team comprised Sulá Batsú and Centro Peruano de Estudios Sociales (CEPES). It is being observed that in the Latin America and Caribbean region, the investments made by international organisations, local and national governments aimed to bring the benefits of connectivity and access to ICTs to underserved communities, are proving to be inadequate.

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Photo Credit: Luiza Caldas

> Programme Manager Florencio Ceballos addressing the participants

In the last few years, over fifty million people have got access to ICTs. However, the benefits of these investments are not fully realised due to a range of challenges, such as lack of coordination among investors; technically biased programmes that ignore the social dynamics; complete absence of mechanisms to sustain the investments in the future, to name a few. A number of organisations in the LAC region have realised these lessons and are currently working towards understanding elements of social dynamics, and focus on issues around training, sustainability, and succession planning in order to increase the rate of success in terms of benefit to final users. The leaders of these organisations are part of the community and have been able to benefit from collective expertise of their peers, training, and faceto-face meetings which have strengthened their national networks and helped them to establish new networks with others across the world. In order to achieve these objectives, the TLF–LAC comprised a number of meetings, workshops and seminars covering a broad perspective with respect to the present scenario of LAC telecentre movement. The methodology was participatory and included presentations by telecentre leaders in an organised way. The event attracted participants from Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, and Ecuador. They all contributed to the subjects discussed during the meeting, such as sustainability, LAC Academy, social entrepreneurship, immigration and role of telecentre movement, and ICTs for development. The Forum had a fine blend of seminar and workshop, complemented by group discussions.


The opening day of the Forum was the most intense one. It started with participants’ presentations and a group exercise that encouraged the participants to mark their organisation initiatives on a big LAC map. Looking at the map, it was observed that several activities are happening in the region and a few of them are being undertaken in collaboration with other local partners. After the first coffee break, there was a presentation on the website and its resources and tools, which generated interesting discussions about information systematisation, contents and resources that are shared through the website, along with discussions on other networks’ integration, and the need for capacity building. The most important episode in first day was presentations made by Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil shared their experiences, challenges and structure in this area. This session brought up a lot of questions, doubts and concerns ranging from certification, charges, partnerships to improve academies, to devising different types of methodologies for curriculum development. The first day concluded with an exercise whose objective was to identify the different services that enable telecentres to achieve sustainability. Six categories were identified as the way to promote sustainability: training, research and diagnosis, evaluation, financial management and advisory services, technical support, and establishing link with the community. The second day started with an exposition by the Programme Manager Florencio Ceballos. Floro, as he is called, explained the next steps of project and discussed about the Latin America and Caribbean telecentre movement. He highlighted that the LAC telecentre movement had an interesting trajectory: He said “I remember, four years ago, in a meeting in Peru at el Valle del Colca, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, who were working with telecentres there; then I met Arturo Bregaglio during an event in Asunción; had a coffee with Angelica Abdallah in a café in Argentina. That’s how we started to build a network.” He remembered that the initiatives were isolated at that time. Now four years later, in the TLF, it is possible to see a network growing. has made an extensive contribution to this. Now, there is a knowledge sharing platform that is being highly used by the LAC community. He said that discussing telecentres is

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Six categories were identified as the way to promote sustainability: training, research and diagnosis, evaluation, financial management and advisory services, technical support, and establishing link with the community. no longer an outdated issue, and today many important projects, such as the academy are being developed. On top of it, there is a sense of belongingness to a movement among people. In this context, it was very important to discuss LAC participation in’s next phase. Florencio emphasised that initiatives in the region can obtain maximum results and resources if they combine their capacity by working with different organisations. He said “Nobody automatically gains a leading role for the next process, everyone has to earn it. We hope that this movement is empowered to hold this new space legitimately, and arrives with a good proposal. I am not saying that this must be a network, but it is necessary to find a way to coordinate it; and decide which initiatives are fundamental to keep working with” Florencio finished his presentation with the comments that “we need new batteries to rethink this new way of working with” On the last day, another important event occurred – the official launch of Voces de Telecentros (Telecentro Voices). Voces de Telecentros is the new Spanish and Portuguese language publication, which aims to give voice to the telecentre movement in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the Spanish and Portuguese language addition to the Telecentre Times family, publications which serve the English, French, and Arabic-speaking audiences. Voces de Telecentros is designed to reach the people and organisations that constitute the local telecentre movement in LAC and to ask for grassroots participation in the publication. Voces is produced by Ecuador’s Infodesarrollo, Peru’s CEPES, Brazil’s Telecentre of Information and Business Association (ATN), and Colnodo of Colombia - established telecentre organisations in the region. With the support of, members from these organisations would also make up the editorial board of the new publication.

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“Voces de Telecentros will be a meeting place for all the people involved in the telecentre movement in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Paula Carrión of Infodesarrollo. “Voces de Telecentros will give telecentre managers and practitioners the opportunity to ask questions, provide advice, and express themselves. I see Voces as a space for people to listen and to be heard,” she added. For Regional Programme Officer, Silvia Caicedo, “Voces de Telecentros will give people the chance to tell each other great stories about telecentres and the benefits that come from using them, including learning to send emails, using ICT for small businesses and contacting families outside the country. By making these stories available in the two most important languages in the region,” adds Caicedo, “Voces aims to reach people in every country across LAC.” Voces de Telecentros is published quarterly and is available both in print and online versions. It is distributed by local telecentre organisations. The publishers encourage all telecentre networks and organisations in the LAC region to request copies for local distribution. In this event, the participants also got the opportunity to renew the Community Charter of signed in Malaysia, and fit it into LAC’s reality. This document contains the work basis and values that determine the directions that all the organisations involved should follow in the next years. This is the first step towards furthering cohesive developments inside and outside platform. Thus, the Latin America and Caribbean Telecentre Leaders Forum – was over. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. By the end of the forum, the relationship among leaders became stronger, and the possibility of new partnerships also emerged. This forum was just the beginning of a long journey for all the actors involved in the telecentre movement in the Latin America and Caribbean region. q


Luiza Caldas

Luiza Caldas works with the Telecenter of Information and Business Association in Brazil. She is also a Community Facilitator for the Spanish community. email: web:


csc scan

CSCs: Empowering Rural India Through ICTs

Alok Bhargava

Background The Common Services Centres Scheme is an ambitious project aimed at bringing about socio-economic development in rural areas of India through setting up 100,000 ICT centres under one network. Such social transformation at this scale calls for astute planning, confluence of a series of socio economic factors and successful implementation of using technology as a tool. The CSC scheme is a conscious effort to provide such a framework built on wide stakeholder participation. The Scheme has been envisaged as a bottom-up model for delivering content, services and information that can allow like-minded public/private enterprises to come together under a collaborative framework. Unlike many other existing ICT enabled kiosk initiatives in India, the CSC Scheme was designed keeping in mind the actual ground realities to ensure long standing sustainability. Broadly, the CSC implementation framework is as follows: (a) At the first (CSC) level is the local Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE- loosely analogous to a franchisee), who is the last link in the chain that provides services to the rural consumers in a cluster of 5-6 villages. (b) At the second/middle level is an entity termed the Service Centre Agency (SCA – loosely analogous to a franchiser) to operate, manage and build the VLE network and business. (c) At the third level is the agency designated by the State – the State Designated Agency (SDA) - to facilitate implementation of the Scheme within the State and to provide requisite policy, content and other support to the SCAs. Since the CSC Scheme is based on centralised planning and decentralised implementation, it was expected that implementation of mission mode projects of this scale would pose significant challenges in terms coordination with the state governments, building capacities of various stakeholders, creating awareness, addressing challenges


Photo Credit: IL&FS


A CSC in West Bengal

related to difficult terrain, connectivity, and hardware deployment, among others. However, the real challenge does not lie entirely in setting up the physical infrastructure. Instead, the key challenge lies in sustaining these centres and ensuring financial viability. To address such complexities, Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, felt the need for a neutral agency to assist the government in monitoring the programme and managing the Scheme. Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) was appointed as a National Level Service Agency (NLSA) to assist DIT, State Governments and SCAs in effective implementation of the Scheme.

Progress The initial steps on the Scheme were taken after the Central approval in September 2006. Extensive State level sensitisation programmes were organised across the country. The aim was to highlight the key challenges and opportunities in utilising the CSCs to optimise public service delivery. Since then, a lot of ground has been covered. Service Centre Agencies have been selected in 22 states to roll out more than 106,000 CSCs. Currently,

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there are more than 40,000 CSCs* operational across various States. * As reported by the Service Centre Agencies

Service Centre Agencies Selected to Rollout CSCs

Service Delivery Government-to-Citizen (G2C) services Across the country, various steps have been taken to build the G2C service basket. Schemes like the e-district, State Service Delivery Gateway (SSDG), e-Form, etc. have been initiated to enable delivery of the G2C services. Various Government to Citizen (G2C) services like land records, ration cards, pension schemes, utility bills, etc. are under deliberation, to be extended through the CSCs. A few progressive states like West Bengal and Haryana have already gone ahead in delivering a few of these services through the CSCs.

April - June 2009


In West Bengal, 89,462 electricity bills were collected through the CSCs in the month of April, 2009, with a total revenue collection of INR. 2.2 crore. Similarly, 3,640 telephone bills were collected with revenue of INR 12.15 Lakhs. • A tripartite agreement between the SDA, SCA, and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has been initiated in Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra to deliver railway ticket booking services through the CSCs. A committee has been formed with representatives from the state governments of Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, and the NLSA under the guidance of DIT to develop guidelines on delivery mechanisms, payment gateways, policy guidelines, regulations, etc., to enable CSCs to provide telemedicine, mircrofinance, weather reports, and skill upgradation services and so on. However, significant inter-state variations regarding availability of G2C services persist, and this is clearly a key challenge area as the Scheme moves ahead. Business-to-Citizen (B2C) services Linking government service delivery through the CSCs is of critical importance for the success of the project. However, this may not be enough to sustain the financial viability of the project. Consequently, focus has also been given to those B2C verticals that would ensure steady revenue stream for the CSCs. Whilst at times it looked as if some CSCs are only about private services, and therefore should not be perceived as a success story, it is important for all of us to recognise that in the first place, it is important for a centre to be viable, and a VLE to earn a livelihood. The wider basket of services can flow only thereafter. In order to achieve this, a number of leading private and public sector organisations have been engaged to utilise CSCs as the platform for their businesses. Some key areas where content and service partnerships have been undertaken are: microfinance, insurance, education, agriculture, health, telecom, and retail.

CSCs : Linking developmental goals The CSCs are also involved in organising various health camps through governmentt and private hospitals to improve the quality of healthcare in rural India, thus



developing a framework to achieve larger development goals.

Senior Citizens Id cards through CSCs The District social welfare office in Kurukshetra and Ambala in Haryana has engaged the CSCs to capture photographs of over 36500 senior citizens.

Delivering Government Certificates through CSCs Government of Haryana has developed an online module where citizens can apply for caste, income, and domicile certificates online through the CSCs.

Building capacities Arguably the most important component of the Scheme is the Village Level Entrepreneur (VLE), the front-end delivery point of the services. Therefore, it is of critical importance that the right person is selected to operate the CSC business. While knowledge on IT is important, it is also important that the VLE is trained in entrepreneurial skill sets. This would be the key determining factor for the success of the CSC business at the village level. Hence, the challenge lies in not only identifying an operator to run the centre, but also to transform him into an entrepreneur.

Banking through CSCs CSCs are being used as a Business Correspondent / Business Facilitator for various Public/Private Sector Banks to deliver banking services. More than 500 bank accounts have been opened through the CSC network in Jharkhand under a pilot initiated by HDFC Bank.

• •

Delivering Insurance through CSCs Birla Sunlife Micro Insurance (BSLI) through SARK Systems in Haryana had insured 2135 lives through the CSC network by March 2009. Similarly various other insurance companies are also engaged with the CSCs to deliver life/ non-life insurance products through the CSCs.

Education through CSCs Basic computer education and IT education drives huge demand in rural areas. The form of delivery may not necessarily be through multimedia or Internet. It can be as simple as providing content offline in order to impart education as long as it caters to the local needs. These basic Education courses are being offered through the CSCs for rural youth, school children, Self Help Groups (SHG), women, etc.

Agriculture services through CSCs Agriculture is still the primary source of livelihood for nearly 72 percent of India’s population. The CSCs can play a crucial role in not only delivering information, but also acting as a platform connecting them to large organised agricultural organisations.


• • •

A few B2C / B2B service providers currently engaged with the CSC Scheme. Banking - State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, Union Bank of India Insurance - Birla Sunlife Insurance, HDFC Ergo General Insurance, Max New York Life Insurance Co. Ltd. Telecom – Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL), Idea Telecom Education – Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Microsoft, IL&FS Education & Technology Services Ltd. (IETS). Agriculture – Birsa Agriculture University, Reuters Market Light, PHI Seeds Matrimony - Bharat Matrimony Service Aggregators –Oxigen, Suvidhaa Infoserve, Pay world, ITZ Cash

To build more awareness about the Scheme, IL&FS introduced a CSC website, om addition to publishing a Newsletter. The CSC website ( is being maintained and updated by the NLSA. Some of the key features of the website are: secure online updating of pages by the webmaster, adding photographs in a systematic manner, new announcements, updating images, adding web links and selectively posting classified information with access rights. The CSC Newsletter, on the other hand, is in its third year of publication. Initially meant only for internal circulation, it is now circulated among all the stakeholders and is also available on the CSC website.

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Challenges Some challenges such as floods, local law and order issues, elections, etc are largely outside the stakeholders’ control. However, issues such as power and connectivity can and are being addressed. For example, several rounds of discussions have been held with the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India on possible power solutions. The department has several schemes, which can be used effectively for and through the CSCs. The Secretary, MNRE, GoI visited CSCs in Jharkhand and held meetings with the State Government Officials, SCAs, VLEs, Bankers, Corporates and the NLSA





have good understanding on the CSC Scheme and have wide rural penetration. This would help the VLEs to have several options and arrive at an optimum solution. With the non-availability of power in most of the villages and the irregularity in constant voltage supply, it becomes difficult to charge the UPS/inverter to utilise the same to its capacity when there is no power supply. In some locations, a cost-effective solar solution has proved to be more reliable as it reduces the operational costs., However, more needs to be done to adress this issue. A more detailed capacity building plan needs to be drawn by widening the ambit of the stakeholders within the Government, beginning with the SDA. Capacity building within and outside the Government is essential to make CSC Scheme a success. A structured way for capacity building needs to be developed with specific targeted interventions Training on IT alone is not sufficient for a VLE to run the CSC. It is important that the VLE is also trained on entrepreneurship to ensure the success of the CSC. Increased awareness campaigns and media coverage would help spread the concept of the CSCs faster.


State Governments are trying to extend full cooperation for obtaining an optimum solution for connectivity, e.g., Gujarat has initiated the eGRAM Connectivity Infrastructure Project to connect the Gram Panchayats at the State level.

Moving forward : Critical success factors for CSCs 1. Issues in last mile connectivity still remain some of the key challenges in the implementation of the CSC Scheme. Support of BSNL, National Informatics Centre (NIC), Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) would be required for timely completion of the CSC rollout. DIT, GOI may also initiate dialogues with other private telecom service providers, who

April - June 2009

Today, the Common Services Centre (CSC) scheme is one of the most talked about government initiatives in the country. The Scheme has been deliberately positioned and structured in a manner that promotes rural entrepreneurship. With 100,000 CSCs to be set up in an equitable spread across the country, it is expected to generate more than 400,000 direct and indirect jobs across the country. Taking forward the vision of the National e Governance Plan (NeGP) in bridging the gap between the government and the citizen, the CSC scheme now needs focused commitment from all stakeholders. q


Alok Bhargava

Alok Bhargava is working with Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited as Executive Director, CSC Programme. email: web:


telecentre network

Telecentre Workshops at Upper Egypt Kareem Kasim and Rasha El Baz

Photo Credit: Kareem Kasim


A Workshop in progress


n the framework of telecentre project to support community technology centers through networking and exchange of knowledge. In cooperation with Microsoft Egypt and United Nations Development Programme Egypt, a working team of telecentre and Microsoft organized two workshops in Upper Egypt in 2 governorate. First workshop was held at Young Men’s Christian Association, Aswan on 20th May 2009 and it was attended by 35 participants. The second workshop was held at Qena Scouts Association, Qena on 21st May 2009 and the number of attendees was 49. The main objectives of the conference to explore the partnership among private sector, public sector, international organizations, civil society organisations and social responsibility of Microsoft towards communities. Secondly, to discuss the MENA project’s objectives, its mechanisms and tools and to discuss issues related to telecentre such as sustainability and efficiency. There was was a discussion of the proposals for the development of such centers and to eradicate the problems that hinder their work and their continuity.


The workshops addressed various issues concerned with above mentioned objectives of the organisers. During the 1st session which was related the Microsoft, Mr. Mohamed Gamal talked about office 2007 and explained that its application and use would be easier than previous version, Office 2003 and any one can use it. He also elaborated the components of Microsoft Office 2007 namely MS project professional 2007, MS excel 2007, MS visio 2007, MS expression web 2007, MS publisher 2007, MS word 2007, MS power point 2007. He added the links that Non Governmental Organisations can visit online to benefit from Microsoft opportunities without details. Microsoft’s responsibility to communities as it provides fund to associations for programs and training They are emphasizing on associations rather than individuals. Microsoft also provides resources to non-governmental organizations, UNDP Microsoft, MCIT projects and ICT4NGO kit are the some examples of the initiatives. The oragnisers also distributed the CD kit for NGOs on the attendants after making a presentation about it and show how to use. Mr. Mahmoud Rabee spoke about the training of trainers Program. During the 2nd session of the workshop which was focused on the support community technology centers (telecentre) and capacity building. The session was basically concerned with sustainability of the telecentres and the telecentre projects. Sustainability of telecentre for very critical for development of the telecentre movement and bridge the digital divide. Financial viability is is quite crucial for sustainability of the telecentre projects. Therefore, the participants were quite interested in discussing the aspect of telecentre projects. They also discussed main of problems and challenges of the sustainability of telecentres and they were of the opinion that the Business Planning and Fund Raising were the main components of sustainability of the telecentres. The second theme of the session was the project. The participants discussed about the telecentre

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Photo Credit: Kareem Kasim

at MENA – region clarifying goals, such as knowledge sharing, networking, etc. Tools: 1. telecentre times (we distribute copies of) 2. Arabic portal, 3. Dgroups (,) 4. Workshops weather local, national and international workshops. The workshop was concluded with the a presentation on Information Technologies Enabling in Safe Environment and Introduction to Internet Safety and Security. Participants of the workshops considered that the workshops were an important step forward for both introducing the new Microsoft programs such as office 2007 and discuss the support that has been provided by Microsoft to the social associations as part of social responsibility in the frame of the partnership among the public, private sector and NGOs. They also commented that “the workshops introduce to them telecentre project - and identify telecentre including

of poverty in the many parts of the world still a challenge which begets other social and political problems. Poverty prevents people from reaching their full potential and from participating fully in society. Elimination of poverty remains a top priority, and that social and economic policies are directed towards improving the lives of the most societies, reducing poverty and empowering the poor are crucial ingredients for equitable and sustainable economic growth. World future in the global economy will depend on its ability to make significant and sustainable gains in its fight against poverty. ICTs are avenues that have great potential to empower the poor and all stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, civil society, academia and international organizations must work together and leverage to ensure that the benefits of ICT are fully utilized in order to improve the lives of the poor. In order to help grassroots telecentre leader to better help their communities to use technologies in useful ways. A group of people also quite interested in applying the ICTs for development of marginalised sections and rural area and bridge the digital divide in the region. That group encourages the telecentre leaders to share ideas, knowledge and experiences, and to facilitate an emerging network of telecentre leaders to share and support each other across the region. The main objectives of the Telecentre movement in MENA region are to create a stronger Telecentre networks in MENA region; to publish Telecentre times in Arabic; to develop the local content development in Arabic; to provide specialised training and service development and innovation. q


Participants at the workshop

all of its machines and its objectives�. They also expressed their happiness because of the presence of Upper Egypt in the list of interest by Microsoft and by Egypt ICT Trust Fund. They were also asking for more workshops, with extra time to familiarizing them with the new Microsoft programs and telecentre activities. It has been argued that there is a need to enhance the telecentre networks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. ICTs have potential to eradicate poverty and enhance inclusive development in the developing and least developed regions of the world. The persistence

April - June 2009

Kareem Kasim

Kareem Kasim works as a community facilitator, and is based at Egypt ICT Trust Fund Egypt. email:

Rasha works as a community facilitator, and is based at MCIT-ICT Egypt. email: Rasha El Baz


Grassroots story

Umma Salma: ICT4D Soldier on the Move Babrijhar is one of the poorest villages in Nilphamari district of Bangladesh, where a Pallitathya Kendra (local name for telecentre) was established experimentally in 2005 as a common access point for the rural people to get livelihood information and relevant services. The telecentre is equipped with computer, printer, mobile phone, internet connectivity, hardware, digital camera, nebulizar, soil test kit, etc. and also has soft resources like information and knowledge base, helpline, infomediary, local partner, community people, mobilisation, etc. Umma Salma is one of the infomediaries of the Babrijhaar Pallitathya Kendra and since the time of her joining the telecentre, she has become an integral part of the telecentre as well as of the the population she serves through the telecentre. Besides providing information to the people inside the telecentre, she also visits the houses

of the rural people on her bicycle and provides them consultancy and information through mobile phones. The services offered in the Babrijhar telecentre are: i) digital offline livelihood content (Jeeon-IKB) in Bangla; ii) mobile phone based Helpline - a live consultation channel for the rural people with domain expert (agriculturist, doctors, lawyers etc.) through mobile phone; iii) video documentary related to new income opportunities, awareness, education etc.; and iv) Internet browsing for the information, which time to time updates information on areas like job, admission. Some relevant ancillary services like soil test, computer composing, commercial mobile phone service, email, body weight measurement, diversity visa application, etc. are also provided from the Pallitathya Kendra for income generation.

Salma with D Net Executive Director Ananya Raihan

Salma connecting a village lady to agricultural experts

Salma in front of her telecentre with her colleagues


On her way to work, Salma in conversation with one of the villagers

Salma taking photograph of a village lady

Photo and Text Credit: Munira Morshed Munni


Shinyalu Community Telecentre: Servicing the Communities

Photo and Text Credit: Robinson Wiakana Mukangayi

Shinyalu Community Telecentre is situated in Shinyalu Division, around 8 km east of Kakamega town of Western Province in Kenya. It is a hive of activities attracting users ranging from tourists, researchers, the clergy, students and teachers, among many others. Having distanced its affairs uniquely from tribalism and politics, the centre provides free services to the ‘community’. The services include Internet access; where mainly the farming community can appropriate information about new ways of farming, testimonies, weather forecast, etc. It also serves as a television/video centre, which offers them an opportunity to exploit video materials and get to know about the programmes on the broadcaster’s menu. There is a Community Library as well that houses materials ranging from print to non-printed materials, eg., e-journals, audio tapes, video tapes, etc. It also has a demonstration farm where the farmers

meet agricultural experts from the government sector and private companies to understand the farming intrigues and share testimonies. The launch of FM Radio twined up with Internet will open another chapter in the knowledge development, acquisition and dissemination to the farmers. In addition, chat sessions help them link up with experts from different corners of the country for their betterment. Because of online collaborations with like minded individuals and organisations like Farm Radio International,, etc. access to information is becoming easy. Currently, groups are being formed, e.g., farmer groups, youth groups among others to help create more awareness and understand the challenges lying ahead. The centre has a typical printing press, which prints publicity materials, books, newsletters and many other things for a levy that adds to the sustainability of the centre.

Community Library

Hands on training on computer aided operations in the Telecentre

Farmers gathered in the Telecentres demonstration farm exchanging ideas

April - June 2008

Users watching TV in the Telecentre

Jon Van Mossel (Col Consultant) in the Fm Radio studio towards completion


1000 ideas to make telecentres work


Telecentres as “ICT Access Commons” Shipra Sharma

Photo Credit: MSSRF

Why to replicate?

Embalam Telecentre in Puducherry is located within a temple’s boundary

The “Commons” movement is steadily and consistently sweeping across the World Wide Web. The Commons or Common Property Resources (CPRs) as they are known in academic circle, are defined as a “community’s natural resources where every member has access and usage facility with specified obligations, without anybody having exclusive property rights over them”. The concept of Commons follows the famous socialist principle: “From each according to his capacity; and to each according to his needs.” With the development of the Internet and the World Wide Web, the term “Commons” transcended from the physical to the virtual realm. Currently, there is a strong commons movement that includes initiatives like Free & Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) or Free & Open Source Software (FOSS), Open Educational Resources (OERs), Knowledge Commons, and so on. All these initiatives follow the commons principle of free access rights to knowledge. Since these commons exist in the virtual world, one needs access to ICTs in order to retrieve knowledge from the commons domain. It implies that only people with access to computers and, more importantly, the Internet, can benefit from the “Commons”, while those with no access are excluded. In other words, in order to ensure equity in access to and usage of the Commons, we require ICT Access Commons. Otherwise, when considered in the Knowledge Economy context, the ‘Commons’ movement


With approximately 25% of the population below poverty line in India, majority of whom live and work in the rural areas; and only 7.1 per cent Internet penetration, that too predominantly in the urban areas (as per the data provided by asia.htm), there is a need to scale up telecentres as ICT Access Commons. Otherwise this majority will be excluded from the knowledge economy. The same is true of other developing and under developed countries.

Who can do this? The government and other Civil Society Organisations, who have the capacity and will to empower the village community to establish and manage the ICT Access Commons.

How to proceed The Indian government is already planning to extend the ePanchayat initiative across Rural India. Simultaneously, it can promote the ePanchayats as ICT Access Commons, similar to the traditional Chaupals, which still serve as public/ common meeting places in the villages. Similar initiatives in other developing and under developed countries can also be tapped for setting up the ICT Access Commons.

will contribute towards making the rich even richer. Since the telecentres are emerging as Public ICT Access Centres in the rural areas, they, especially the community model of the telecentres as exemplified by organisations like MSSRF, have the potential to serve as ICT Access Commons to address this aspect of the digital knowledge divide. The Embalam telecentre, in Puducherry, is community owned and managed, providing free access to ICTs to all the villagers irrespective of caste or class.

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Nenasala (Telecentre) at Railway Platform: Innovative Location! Innovative Services! Patrick Harrigan

Photo Credit: Patrick Harrigan

Why to replicate?

Users accessing the services at the Colombo Fort Telecentre

Strategically situated in Colombo Fort Railway Station, the hub of Sri Lanka’s railway system, Colombo Fort Nenasala is a short stroll away from government ministries and the country’s largest wholesale business district. The only one of Sri Lanka’s 599 Nenasalas licensed and custom designed to operate within a railway station, it is a beehive of social and commercial activity. “Operating the smallest Nenasala at the most strategic point in Sri Lanka, I realised that this should be a virtual commercial gateway operating within the physical gateway of Colombo Fort Railway Station. After careful research I decided to go into real estate trade in the cyber sphere, a business activity untouched by other Nenasalas.” says N Vijayratnam, the visionary Nenasala entrepreneur. At first Vijay had to depend on email and online advertising. Later, friends helped him to develop a professional website ( serving the Colombo Fort business community, and a separate website ( displaying local real estate property listings globally. He encouraged people to list their properties and was thus able to connect buyers with sellers online. With real estate as its main revenue stream, Colombo Fort Nenasala is now an increasingly popular and commercially viable enterprise. But real estate is not its only business service. Entry-level business people, and those who just need a convenient ‘virtual office’ in the

April - June 2009

Railway is still the most popular means of transportation in India and other developing countries, and railway platforms are always bustling with people and activities. Sometimes, people have to wait for hours at the platform to catch the next train. Therefore, locating a telecentre at the platform would attract a number of visitors interested in browsing the web, checking their emails, chatting with their friends and informing their relatives about their travel plans and schedules, and so. The addition of innovative services would further add to its value.

Who can do this? Entrepreneurs with know how of the Information Technology and its applications can take it up as a challenging and innovative business. It provides them continuous opportunities to experiment with their clientèle and services.

How to proceed They can contact relevant railway authorities for permission to set up the telecentre at the railway platform. The procedure is usually lengthy and can take some time! Sometimes ‘differently able’ people with the required skills and qualifications get special consideration in such matters. They can take advantage of such opportunities and run the telecentre individually or in partnership with friends/ relatives. heart of Colombo’s commercial district, frequent the Nenasala to learn how to use ICT in their business, whether with search engines like Google, or scanning and sending documents abroad by e-mail, or using Voice Over Internet applications like Skype to make affordable international calls.



25 - 27 August 2009 Hyderabad International Convention Centre, India

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Empowering Telecentre Managers for Inclusion and Equity : June 2009 Issue  

Built on CSDMS and Foundation's deep commitment to collaboration, telecentre magazine acts as an interface between telecentre...

Empowering Telecentre Managers for Inclusion and Equity : June 2009 Issue  

Built on CSDMS and Foundation's deep commitment to collaboration, telecentre magazine acts as an interface between telecentre...