As I listened to telecentres and network leaders here at the East African Telecentre Leaders Forum (EATLF), I kept thinking – so, can these interesting activities be taken to scale?
The first day of the event featured concrete stories about creating innovative content and services, partnerships, building telecentre networks from Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Brazil and India. I was particularly impressed by Uganda Development Services (UDS) telecentre efforts to innovate services that link to community development needs. Take this activity where UDS broker agricultural produce sales between a private company and farmers in the community. The sweet side of the story is that besides increasing accessibility to markets the telecentre gets a commission for each transaction. UDS also talked about the “Book Box” services, which was learnt from Nakaseke Telecentre; the telecentre packs a numbers of books in a box and lends it to schools in the area at a free. It’s a very popular service that has stimulated learning outcomes in elementary schools. In Kenya, VACID Africa telecentres links rural farmers to a host of agricultural support services.
We also heard about telecentre networking efforts and how UgaBYTES has been mentoring networks in the region. One would be excused to think that UgaBYTES was a sort of clearing house for network planning activities as all presentations made constant reference to the Uganda based institution from time to time.
The 5th EATLF taking place here in Sudan was opened by Dr. Eisa Bashari the State Minister of Science and Technology on 9 June. While welcoming participants, Dr. Bashari promised to support the telecentre academy and deepen Sudan’s investment in telecentres. Indeed Sudan has been an excellent host in many ways.
The man of the event was Ahmed Eisa of Gedaref Digital City Organisation and leader of telecentre movement in Sudan. I was very encouraged by his passion and interest… of course he is the very reason why the EATLF took place in Sudan. I recalled the first time we met in Cairo in 2007 at MENA telecentre stakeholder event organised by telecentre.org when he was just an enthusiast who sensed an opportunity to serve his community through telecentres. He has since become your typical ambassador for telecentre community home and abroad. In the process, his confidence and presentation of issues has gone up several notched and complimented well his immense resources mobilisation and advocacy skills. Sudan telecentre community has a true champion who has clearly made its success, his personal dream.
The day ended with a presentation of telecentre.org Academy by my colleague Shaddy. This has been an idea for the last 5 years across Africa. As you know, one of the key challenges facing telecentre efficiency and sustainability is low management skills. Clearly, telecentre.org Academy should have started yesterday. This also showed during the discussions – there were no questions on why train telecentre practitioner but how to do it effectively and quickly. Jose Avando talked about Brazil’s telecentre training efforts and opportunities for linkages with Portuguese speaking Mozambique.
Later in the evening, participants worked in groups to define the mission, vision objectives and structure of telecentre.org Academy.