[Telecentres] Content areas - application to telecentres-clarification

Elizabeth Carll, PhD ecarll at optonline.net
Thu Sep 30 11:30:09 BST 2004

BTW, I realize the WSIS Governmental Declaration and Plan of Action also
ties to the MDGs.  However, as the WSIS CS Declaration is much more
comprehensive and states what should be done as opposed to what could be
done is the reason I make reference to it.


-----Original Message-----
From: telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org
[mailto:telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org]On Behalf Of Elizabeth Carll,
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 10:14 AM
To: Florence Etta; telecentres at wsis-cs.org
Cc: beresford at microaid.net
Subject: [Telecentres] Content areas - application to
Importance: High

Dear Florence, Don, Cyrille, and all,

The information you have been posting is very useful for those of us on the
list that may not be as knowledgeable about the technical aspects and
nuances of telecentres.

What I have requested was a brief synopsis for each of the telecentres with
which you are affiliated, and how it supports the various content areas and
goals of the WSIS CS Declaration.  Collecting this  information will help me
draft a paragraph and also link it to real life examples highlighting the
diverse applications.   It will also help gather support for collaborative
lobbying to have the importance of telecentres included in the outcome
documents of WSIS Tunis.

Tying it to the CS Declaration also ties it in with the MDGs and therefore
bolsters lobbying efforts with governments, not only NGOs.  It also may pave
the way for additional funding opportunities, as the MDGs are a long term
initiative of the UN.

I am pasting below the email sent to me by Toby, which is an excellent
example of the information I am requesting.  MicroAid is tied to Poverty
Eradication and Development of Sustainable and Community-based ICT Solutions
which are key goals listed in the WSIS CS Declaration.

Please send me a synopsis of your telecentre using Toby's as a template
which is pasted below my signature.  ( It also mentions location and the
number of telecentres, which is very helpful).

Thank you for your help with this.


Dr. Elizabeth Carll
Focal Point
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies;
Chair Media/ICT Working Group,
NGO Committee on Mental Health, New York
Tel: 1-631-754-2424
Fax: 1-631-754-5032
ecarll at optonline.net

-----Original Message-----
From: Toby Beresford [mailto:toby.beresford at microaid.net]
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 5:00 AM
To: Elizabeth Carll, PhD
Subject: Re: [Telecentres] Content areas - application to telecentres

Hi Elizabeth

For MicroAid the following two categories are most applicable to our 40
current online centres in UK, Indonesia and elsewhere.

2.1.1 Poverty Eradication	X
MicroAid online centres help community based organisations to plan and
execute micro-projects targeted at (and usually suggested by!)  specific
low-income individuals within the community.

2.1.8 Development of Sustainable and Community-based ICT Solutions X
MicroAid online centres are designed to provide tools for community based
organisations to raise funds to pay for the online centre and to fund
micro-projects themselves - empowering them to be sustainable and

Good luck!


-----Original Message-----
From: telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org
[mailto:telecentres-bounces at wsis-cs.org]On Behalf Of Florence Etta
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 7:20 AM
To: telecentres at wsis-cs.org
Subject: [Telecentres] Basic definitions

Hi all,
Just to add to this small? contribution to the discussion. I am not exactly
sure what we are supposed to be doing right this moment on the list I have
been busy but I wanted to post some useful?  information especially the
instruments  we used to collect information on our Telecentre research in 5
African countries (on Tuesday but that slipped past me).
But the whole document/Book "ICT4D: Lessons form Community Telecentres in
Africa" can be seen on the IDRCsite: www.idrc.ca/acacia.

What is a Telecentre?
A telecentre is an integrated information and communication facility that
houses a combination of both new and not-so new ICTs (e.g., television,
video, facsimile, telephone, computers with Internet connectivity, and
sometimes books). This type of facility in which a number of different
information and communication technologies are housed and used in an
integrated manner is seen as the modern telecentre and is called a
multipurpose telecentre. There is, however, a certain variety in the form,
facilities, and functions available at telecentres, from the simple
telecentre with only one or two telephones and no link to the worldwide
web, to a centre with numerous telephones, facsimile machines, printers,
and computers connected to the Internet. Ownership and management patterns
in addition to primary motives also confer other layers of differentiation
on telecentres and on the taxonomy.

The nomenclature of telecentres is consequently (diverse) coloured by these
and other differences e.g. geography. In some places they are called
tele-cottages, tele-boutiques, and tele-kiosks in others, cyber cafes.
Simple telecentres are popular in Senegal whereas, multipurpose (community)
telecentres are a recent creation of development agencies and although
their financial sustainability is an ongoing concern their validity and
utility have become firmly rooted.

Definition and Development of Telecentres

The Telecentre movement is not at all old having been born only in 1985
(less than twenty years ago) in Velmdalen a small farming village in
Sweden. The concept is recognised and called by a large number of very
different names: Telecentre, telecottage, telekiosk, teleboutique, phone
shop, infocentre, telehaus, telestugen, digital clubhouse, cabinas
puiblicas, multi-purpose access centre, community technology centre,
multi-purpose community telecentre (MCT), community access centre,
multi-purpose community centre (MPCC), community media centre (CMC) or
community learning centre (CLC), community multi-media centre, electronic
village hall, tele-village or cyber café. There is little doubt that the
names by which the telecentre is known will change (grow or shrink who can
tell?) as the movement matures and globalizes. To date the idea has been
generally adopted in the United States, Canada and Australia, whereas in
Africa and Asia the notion is still only taking root.

As indicated in chapter 1, the form and functions of these various
facilities subsumed under the umbrella notion of telecentre vary. This is
understandable and in some way to be expected because the telecentre is a
phenomenon still in discovery and in the various places where it is
recreated, the context colours its final form. It is an adaptable
instrument of development, whose adaptation and mutation is far from
complete and perhaps never will be.  As a result, attempts to classify the
currently existing types are still pretty unsophisticated.

Gomez et al (1999b) identify five types of telecentres:
·       Basic telecentre, usually located in rural marginalised areas where
there is limited access to basic services in general where training of
potential users is a popular service in addition to internet access.

·       Telecentre franchise, a series of independently owned and managed
interconnected telecentres usually supervised by a local organisation which
that technical and on occasion, financial support.

·       Civil telecentre, usually the most common, where a public
organisation such as a university opens up its facilities like computers
for use by the public and the telecentre services tend to be an addition to
the other day to day activities of the organisation.

·       Cybercafé, commercial in nature and found in affluent
neighbourhoods or hotels and in major towns and cities; and

·       The multi purpose community centre, one of the newer models
recently introduced in a number of countries offering more specialised
services such as tele-medicine.

The difficulty with the classification by Gomez et al is that the
distinguishing criteria are mixed and the logic hard to comprehend- in one
instance it is based on location (cybercafe), in the next, on the nature of
ownership (civil telecentre) and in another, on the type of services
offered (Basic telecentre). The classification attempt by Collee and Roman
(1999) shows the complexity and identify the dimensions that any taxonomy
would do well to consider.

On this basis it is possible to distinguish the following types;

¨       Public/private,
¨       Publicly or privately funded,
¨       Commercial (fee-based)/free
¨       Urban/rural
¨       Narrow-focus/ multi-purpose
¨       Independent/networked, grouped
¨       Community / establishment-based
¨       Stand alone/attached
¨       Profit/service
¨       Thematic/universal
  It is easy to see that there is still work to be done in order to arrive
at a satisfactory classification of telecentres.  Like the naming and
grouping of telecentres, the nature of the development and evolution of
these facilities is still being created.

Evolution of Telecentres
While there appears to be a general consensus about the basic function of
telecentres, there is a debate around  the nature of optimal ownership,
management and operations. Fuchs, (1997) suggests the function of
telecentres to be the provision of “public access to communication and
information for economic, social and cultural development..” and Zongo,
(1999) concurring states that the telecentre “  provides telecommunication
and information services for a range of developmental aims”.
It is suggested that the ownership, management and operations evolve in
time and three stages have been described. Fuchs (1997) has identified the
investment, contract and user fee stages.
·       The investment stage is seen as characterising the early state
where a non-profit making organisation forms a partnership with a local
community, attempting to capacity build the community by encouraging them
to participate in the information society. At this stage the organisation
finances the information technology initiatives, provides equipment and
training for local partners, key persons and staff, as a way of
demonstrating the practical utility of information.

·       In the contract stage the telecentre has gained autonomy from the
“parent” organisations and starts to make contractual agreements with other
agencies such as government departments or other organisations e.g.
hospitals or schools building up a clientele to which it provides services
as well as technical support in the setting up of their facilities.

·       By the time the telecentre gets to the user fee stage donor
dependency is a thing of the past since by this time the communities are
well aware of the products and benefits of the telecentre and are therefore
willing to pay for services.

The implication of an evolutionary view is that it is only a matter of time
and maturity before telecentres become independent and self-sustaining or
in more popular language sustainable. However there is some difficulty with
this position. The evolutionary thesis, gives slight attention to the
motivational basis and the wide variety of telecentres appearing to pertain
more to one type of telecentre; the public development-oriented telecentre.
To be fair, these were the types that Fuchs investigated. The preoccupation
with sustainability and economic independence of this particular type of
telecentre has continued to dominate discussions partly on account of the
current predominance of market logic and the business model. That few
examples of telecentres at the user fee stage have been described in the
literature is perhaps proof that not enough time has elapsed or that other
models need to be constructed to explain and account for the full spectrum
of experiences. On the other hand the reality of many more failed
telecentres underscores the importance of economic viability. How to
achieve this remains a big question.

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