Same issues…different context: the tale of telecentres in Europe

When Trif Romina and Adrian Popa concluded the story of Jimbolia telecentre, I looked up to them and said – “most of those issues, I have heard in other parts of the world”. Yes - I have. Trif is the telecentre manager while Adrian is the Director Blythswood – NGO that runs the telecentre. They were talking to Gabi Barna and I about the telecentre and reflecting on how telecentre-europe network might be helpful to the telecentre.

Jimbolia telecentre started in 2006 – it is located at the heart of Jimbolia (43 km from Timisoara). Main services are skills training and free internet access – research and communication. Jambolia is one of the twenty two telecentres in Romania in EOS network. I learned that like most parts of Romania, Jimbolia has been hit by the recent wave of immigration of young people to other parts of Europe in search of better opportunities. It has resulted in a sizeable population in Diaspora who often maintain contact with families and friends through the telecentre. Trif told me that many people come to the telecentre to skype and chat. While the context is different, this situation is not dissimilar to telecentres in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I therefore challenged Trif to build more services on the Diaspora – home town connection.

The telecentre is working hard to diversify its services beyond IT skills training and Internet. And this telecentre is not alone in this struggle. Finding useful services that telecentres can use to spur community prosperity remains one of the biggest challenges around the world. I met similar issues in Mali, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Chile and honestly Jambolia telecentre showed how global this concern is.

We spent time discussing options available when recent research indicated that Jambolia community has a hoofing 50% penetration of computers in homes 40% of whom have internet as well. It turns out that the community has a huge teenage population (under 19 years) and that a community newsletter on young people issues might be helpful. With initial work done on the newsletter, it made sense to discuss how others have managed a similar process. We wanted to give young people an opportunity to share their stories and find useful information about growing up. I asked my hosts to check out – Straight Talk (Uganda), one of the most exemplary initiatives on the subject.

Trif liked the idea of telecentre-europe network as a channel for connecting with other telecentre managers in Europe. Actually the strength of the European network will depend on people like Trif.

For the first time, crafting a global telecentre community where telecentre practitioners share experiences across Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America through the networks. The future looks bright!

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Comment by Adrian Popa on December 3, 2008 at 9:49
Meddie, your visit to the e-centre in Jimbolia made one other important contribution. You helped me see (and place in a wider context) the act of local or civic journalism. As a result, the teenage magazine the e-centre publishes is re-orientating towards the local community. Rather than expand to regional audience/markets, New Folder will be capitalising on the rich and diverse experience of teenagers in Jimbolia.

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