[Telecentres] Identifying goals of the working group (was Telecenter Statistics)

Andy Carvin acarvin at edc.org
Wed Sep 22 10:35:07 BST 2004

Back in 2001, the Digital Divide Network partnered with CTCNet, Power 
Up, the American Library Association and about half a dozen other 
domestic US organizations to aggregate our telecentre data and put it in 
the Digital Divide Network website database. We managed to identify 
nearly 20,000 public Internet access points providing free Internet 
access and ICT training, the majority of which were hosted at libraries. 
We then partnered with Mapquest so Internet users (including prospective 
donors) could map the locations on a geographic map. We also partnered 
with AOL and the Kaiser Family Foundation to produce two television 
advertisements (in English and Spanish) to encourage young people to 
utilize telecentres. AOL then let us use one of the toll-free numbers so 
people could call in, supply their zip code or street address, and get 
directions to the local telecentres.

The system worked great -- for about a month. Then the data started 
getting old. Libraries changing their operating hours, PowerUp centers 
closing their doors, others coming and going. Soon enough, about 20% of 
the data was totally wrong, and there was no mechanism for all of the 
groups we partnered with to resurvey the telecentres on a regular basis 
and update the database. We tried offering telecentres the ability to 
update their own data, but only a very small percentage ever did it. 
Eventually, we took the data offline because it was become so old, and 
Mapquest was no longer interested in supporting it.

I think for countries with large numbers of telecentres, like the US or 
India, it would be difficult to host another database and keep it 
up-to-date in a rigorous way. So bringing it to scale and hosting an 
international database with telecentre data from everywhere would be a 
gargantuan, if not impossible task.

What I think would be more useful would be for us to start thinking 
about creating an online resource where national or regional 
associations of telecentres could share new research, best practices, 
calls for partnerships, curricula, etc. I'd also envision having a 
country-by-country directory with general information about the state of 
telecentres in a country, the associations, govt agencies involved, 
civil society and private sector involvement, and perhaps development 
stats mined from the UNDP and other resources. Some countries would have 
detailed stats on the number of telecentres but others might not.

In the next month or so, we will relaunch the digital divide network 
website, including the ability to host thematic virtual communities, 
each with their own bulletin boards, blogs, document sharing, news 
listings, etc. I plan to set up a WSIS telecentre community as soon as I 
can, so we can use it as a workspace for gathering these various 
resources. This may hopefully lead to us having the critical mass of 
organizing all of it in a meaningful, sustainable form, perhaps through 
the creation of a World Telecentre Alliance or something to that effect.

But before I jump too far ahead, I think we as a group need to discuss 
what our goals are. How can telecentres, as a movement, play a 
coordinated role in meeting the WSIS plan of action and the MDGs? What 
role do we, as a working group, want to play in WSIS discussions on 
funding mechanisms to bridge the digital divide? What role do we want to 
play in Prepcom meetings, as well as WSIS itself? As a working group, 
there are lots of activities we could try to undertake; I think we 
should start by brainstorming a list of some of these possibilities then 
  prioritize them.

So Matyas has suggested we aggregate telecentre statistics. Are the 
other suggestions/ideas?


Barbara Fillip wrote:
> Hello everyone,
> I am not opposed to the idea of collecting information about
> telecenters worldwide to get an idea of how many there are, but I would
> recommend having a clearly articulated rationale for doing so as well as
> a clear idea of the costs involved in trying to keep track of that
> number over time. 
> Why do we need to know the number of telecenters?  What is the
> information that we really need most?  The total number, the number and
> location in each country?   As with any data collection effort, it can
> become quite overwhelming, so I would strongly recommend a strategy that
> focuses on real needs.  How is that data going to be useful?
> Do telecenters need to know where other telecenters are so that they
> can more easily work together?  That assumes that they are not
> competing. 
> Would some of this data be useful to help donors identify geographic
> areas that are not covered by telecenters or similar public access
> points and where they could develop a coordinated strategy?  Am I just
> dreaming of donor coordination based on good global data about
> telecenters or is it realistic?
> Just questions!
> Barbara Fillip, Ph.D.
> Information and Dissemination Coordinator
> DOT-COM Alliance
> http://www.dot-com-alliance.org
> (202) 884-8003
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Andy Carvin
Program Director
EDC Center for Media & Community
acarvin @ edc . org

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