Taking the ICT Quest to the Heart of the Community, with TeleCentres & Co-ops: From dotCom Bust to dotCoop Boom

The Digital Access Europe (DAE) initiative is now in full swing in
Europe with EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes targeting Telecentres in her
goal of getting another 18 million Europeans across the digital divide
over next 5 years ie. c.70,000 people per week. Seven Big Ideas were
selected in October 2010 from the 150 ideas shortlisted at DAE, one by
Irishman David Newman called "Putting People at the Centre of the
Digital Agenda", http://cirn.wikispaces.com/Putting+users+at+the+heart+of+the+Digita... and which is as timely as it is essential.

The Commissioner's goal and David's Big Idea can both be achieved today,
we think, by taking the quest to the Heart of the Communities, and
specifically to their emerging Community Hubs, as driven by Community
Co-operatives; taking it to those people who are themselves being driven
by their own vision of a new future, one that will benefit their wider
Community. This we have sought to achieve at VoxWorld.Coop
http://www.voxworld.coop/page23.php. This particular approach can help
achieve that goal through a collaboration between Community Telecentres
and Community Co-operatives, operating in conjunction with their
Diaspora, and for which the VoxLabs Model is dedicated - with the
evident potential to make a real and tangible difference today, perhaps
one with some considerable impact, in many people's lives in the short
to medium term. In doing so VoxLabs seeks to primarily harness
technology, marketing & logistics resources for a definite and
clearly stated purpose - to serve as a poverty reduction economic model
for the alievation of poverty (perhaps the greatest barrier of all to
Community progress) , achievable through trade more than by aid. This
will also fuel expectation in many people lives with an opportunity born
of an ICT education that is open to all; an opportunity to fill the
vast pool of global shortages for skilled workers - stretching across
borders, languages and cultures - while extending a helping hand to the
billions surviving at Bottom of Pyramid.

Few things can make a greater impact today than the acquisition of ICT
skills en masse by Communities, in eSkills, serving as the very
foundation stones for most jobs in the Digital Society now here; as well
as becoming a virtual lifesaver perhaps during our later years, given
the advent of longer living and health services shortfalls worldwide.
That process can best be started within Communities themselves, for
Communities benefit, and can go on to become the very heartbeat of their
ongoing and envigorating global E-Community Development, once given
access to extensive ICT Education. And for many in the vast Under-served
Communities, the only practical and affordable education is one that
can be delivered to their Homeshores - at home, by day, at night,
online, offline, mobile (whatever is convenient, for them) and above all
in ways that are affordable to them. Ideally ICT Education should be
provided free, with specific purposes ie. smart jobs, traded-services,
healthcare & wellness services.

Already many ICT Courses are available free today on-line and on-disc of
course, but there is a great global shortage of Tutors due to non
affordability, on all sides, as we have seen in many Professions such as
the missing millions in Nurses due to shortage of Nursing Educators
(today being addressed by such as ADPCN's PNEA in Philippines) &
even in Teaching Profession itself. However, generally speaking, global
demands for the in-demand tacit interactive job skills - those requiring
qualifications, experience and judgement - lie in numbers far beyond
the capabilities of the traditional Classroom to achieve now, and can
realistically only be met by student-centric Virtual Tutors; such is the
level of both unsatisfied and also realisable (given encouragement)
demand today. ABAC University in Bangkok, who represented the VoxLabs
model to UN ESCAP Green Growth Conference in 2007 http://www.greengrowth.org/download/green-business-pub/Greening_of_...
/Chaiyong_Brahmawong_VoxWorld.pdf, were among the early pioneers of
College of Internet and Distance Education; that however being just one
solution, in targeting those with reliable Internet Access within their
Community;while solar energy powered stations are at experimental stages
in Africa too; and smartphones are playing increasingly important roles
in communications in India, also in USA Education and in Asian
remittances today. Where there is a will today there is a way forward
tomorrow, harnessing existing resources in a trade-off between developed
countries surplus technology capability and developing countries
ability to supply large numbers of eSkilled people in varying ways other
than Migrancy.

FDIC's Money Smart financial curriculum http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart/,
for which we are an Alliance member through VoxWorld.Coop since 2007 in
USA, targets the disenfranchised of society and is a great example of
what is possible for Under-served Communities - reaching 2.5 million
users in USA since its inception in 2001 with its 11-Part/ 20 hour
programme through a mix of its Adult Online & Computer-based
Instruction; through its Money Smart for Young Adults (on-disc), and
which was expanded last year to include an MP3 Mobile based Money Smart
Podcast network. Money Smart is available in multiple languages -
English, Spanish, Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese and a
version is also available for the visually impaired. With our VoxLabs
model at VoxWorld.Coop we are authorised to help expand their reach to
the Co-operatives in USA (and their family members at home, across
borders), Co-ops of which over 100 million Americans are members. So
VoxLabs can I believe contribute substantially to helping achieving one
of the DAE goals, and David Newman's plan for Putting people at the
heart of the Digital Agenda - through a joint, intensive effort via the
Telecentres and ICT driven Co-operatives, the latter specifically
beginning with dotCoop and lead members of its c.4,000 Co-op TLD
members. DotCoop (.Coop) Directory lists about 5% of Co-op Movement,
which has c.750,000 outlets and c.800 million million membership. As
such, it could be seen as perhaps the most trusted mass trading
organisation of the Under-served Communities.

Now some intending Community ICT or eSkills students will want to be
able to access Tutors face-to-face still through their local Community
Colleges outreach; but for others, on-line virtual Computer-based
Instruction tutors at home will be what they require, together perhaps
with the aid of rapid learning techniques like NLP; for more, they will
need self-paced learning through College Internet Distance Education;
but for most the only option available may well be through dedicated
Telecentres, both existing and new. Indeed M.S. Swaminathan, author of
article in Telecentre Magazine 2009: Revolutionising the World of
Knowledge, http://www.telecentremagazine.net/interview/interview-details.asp?i...
at one point, as father of the Green Revolution in India, had a vision
of one Telecentre in every Village, a total of 640,000 in India alone.
On the other hand, Kentaro Toyama (ex Microsoft India), argued otherwise
in his well researched Forum article in recent Boston Review: Can
Technology End Poverty? http://bostonreview.net/BR35.6/toyama.php.
VoxLabs believes that Smart Jobs, especially those immersed in Culture,
will be the lure that will attract millions into Telecentres worldwide
in the first instance; and that it will take dotCoop enterprises to
harness the collective innovation that will be required to enable that
to happen and above all to sustain those jobs.

Fundamentally, VoxLabs believes that it will take connectivity with a
Community's own Diaspora to provide the engine room fuel for intensive
local Community Development at home, and this is most achievable through
leverage of their Remittances; acting as a springboard for prerequisite
ICT Education with the goal of linkage to ICT-based Jobs & Trade
that must surely follow. EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes made a clearcut
case to European Telecentres at their Oct 2010 Summit as to how they
might assist in bringing some of her targeted c.70,000 people a week for
5 years into the ICT Skills development through EU Telecentres. While
being a task of great order, thats just half the scale of what is
involved in her overall challenge, and that goal is within Europe alone.
Witness the scale of the challenge then when we think of the vast
Under-served populations among the 4 billion at the so-called Bottom of
the Pyramid (reference C.K. Prahalad's book -"The Fortune at the Bottom
of the Pyramid") worldwide. That is the overall focus too of our VoxLabs
virtual E-Community Co-op Model, operating in a co-promotion with
dotCoop, which has begun at www.voxworld.coop,
focusing as it does on the Diaspora Communities in a reachout to their
Home Communities along their Remittance Corridors, set to become
tomorrow's Digital Culture Corridors, for creation of what we call Smart
Jobs at and through such Telecentres/ ICT Co-ops - in a combination of
ICT Skills, remote Education, ICT Innovation and TeleServices - all as
enabled by Remittance MicroFinance. Such Jobs can be generated through
utilising their own local Culture content, ranging from Sustainable
Tourism to Community Culture E-Libraries, and in underpinning them all
with the ICT Skills (Careers, High-Skilled, Co-op Services,
Traded-Services, Creative, Innovative etc), all as embraced by the
VoxLabs Model.

This is in a world that has already become a global Service Economy, and
is now being driven by the advent of the multi-skilled Services
Sciences - fuelled by potential of what is a New World with remote
education, ICT innovation, online microfinance and mobile
traded-services across borders, cultures and languages. The VoxLabs
solution that emerged is in the form of a new type of Community Co-op, a
Community Development enabler - arising from a fourfold collaboration
of Co-operatives, Credit Unions, Cultural Orgs and TeleCentres in
collaboration with VoxWorld.Coop. The Co-operative Movement with its 800
million membership can, we believe, provide the required access levels
to the Underserved to make a real and sustainable difference, and to act
as a target within the social marketplace to provide both mass Access
and mass Outlets spurred by ICT based remote Education, in Continuing
Education Programmes for all; and where Credit Unions potentially can
provide much of the necessary MicroFinance and where VoxWorld.Coop can
bring its Innovative poverty reduction economic model.

For those reasons, we believe that the time is ripe, that both the
capability and capacity is available around us now, for Putting people
at the Centre of the Digital Agenda of Europe, to Take the ICT Quest to
the Heart of the Community, through Telecentres and Co-ops with
VoxWorld.Coop; and in so doing, to extend that reach to at least some of
the billions in the World surviving at the Bottom of the Pyramid in a
new and compelling opportunity. We are I believe leaving behind the era
of 'dotCom Bust' of ten years ago now, and have started to embrace a
'dotCoop Boom' period instead, an era that will increasingly be led by
Communities and their Social Brands - born of and differentiated by
their Culture and Community values alike, all of which can be made
possible by Telecentres and Co-operatives linked to their Diaspora
Communities.
Richard O'Farrell,
Social Innovator at VoxLabs
Social Entrepreneur at VoxWorld.Coop
www.voxworld.coop

[Originally published on CIRN Commons, the Community Informatics
Research Network on Wikipages, in Discussion on David Newman's Big Idea
for DAE, where it was voted one of the Top 7, in Oct 2010, and called:
Putting Users at the Heart of the Digital Agenda for Europe]

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