Telecentre community comes of age| what time can do…

A participant asked me “…after three years of telecentre.org’s work, how has the telecentre landscape changed, what can you say about the future?” I looked at him and smiled in admiration. He had just posed a great question – one that needed a cute response. The thing is, I had only two minutes to respond.

This was at the end of the international workshop on sustainability of telecentres in Lusaka (June 2008). I have not stopped thinking about that question ever since. Actually, I could use help here to add more texture. How would you respond to that question, if it were asked on you? First, the following was my response (with a little detail to sweeten it for you).

1. There is now a far greater appreciation of the value of collaboration among telecentre practitioners, development partners, researchers and innovators around the world. You sense, everyone knows nothing much will happen in solo. Today, telecentre.org is working with the same local partners with; IICD (in Bolivia), UNDP (in Egypt), European Union (in Europe), Intel and HIVOS (in Uganda) and USAID, UNESCO, IICD (in Mali) just to mention, but a few. Recently, when UNESCAP designed its project that would essentially “transform a couple of telecentres into knowledge hubs” they chose to work through networks and existing players – quiet telling indeed.

2. Networks have emerged or been strengthened to sustain this spirit of collaboration in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Europe and Mozambique as well as other places.

3. The telecentre community is now recognised as a critical channel to emerging markets and bridging the digital divide in many countries. Networks are playing a critical role in this process. Intel is testing touch screens and handheld health support devices with UgaBYTES in Uganda and testing Classmate PCs in telecentres with Bangladesh Telecentre Network in Bangladesh - just two examples.

4. There is more and more interest in knowledge sharing among telecentre practitioners in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe – creating a telecentre.org community.

5. We have moved from deliberating on just how much telecentre practitioners need new skills to be effective to delivering concrete skills training through staff exchanges and telecentre academy.

6. The telecentre community has a charter that bonds them together, available at: www.telecentre.org. Actually, if you haven’t added your name there, go on and do that now. For the first time, you have Arabic, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese speaking telecentre community all together in this global community.

As for the future, it is pretty bright to me. We shall see stronger networks that broker services community development services. They will have a lot of respect within their communities to negotiate favourable deals. For the moment, I think networks have not unleashed their full potential, we are pretty much in setting systems and branding etc. I feel, this will happen in the next year - telecentres will get more concrete.

Social enterprise has emerged as one way telecentres can balance social and financial objectives. We shall see more telecentre networks and telecentres using social enterprise as preferred management approach.

It is your turn to add a comment… what do you say?

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