Universities and Telecenters: perfect partners

Royal D. Colle wrote in 2005 an article that I now recovered: Building ICT4D capacity in and by African universities and that reminds me of my last experience with telecenters.

Colle’s thesis is quite simple, which does not mean that it is hence less true: reflection and practice, practice and reflection, must go hand in hand. Colle states that telecenters can function in at least three ways for universities:

  • A means for reaching beyond their “ivory tower” to extend their knowledge and learning resources
  • A laboratory for faculty and researchers
  • A learning environment for students

The first point is interestingly ambiguous: on one hand, it means that universities should open their output, content, knowledge outside of their academic environments and revert or bring back the investment that society makes in universities. On the other hand, it also means that faculty should open their minds and realize there’s a real world outside and not just statistics and survey reports.

Reversely, telecenters could benefit from universities in many ways:

  • Research about ICTs and information needs
  • Local and relevant content, especially tailored for telecenters’ users
  • Training and Learning resources — obvious
  • ICT skilled human resources

Again, the corollary for the University is that it should (once more) get out of the ivory tower, disclose its practices and, over all, open its outputs, in the line of what open access, open science, open content initiatives promote.

My own conclusion is twofold: engage in the conversation, in the projects and in reality and, to do so, open and disclose your procedures, your findings, your networks to the limit.

Straightforward? Not really. In a world of web 2.0 philosophy and applications, it took 13 pages to David Beer and Roger Burrows to state (demostrate?) that you have to run your own blog, or have 100 friends in Facebook, to be able to write — with grounded arguments and evidence — about blogging or social networks. And I wonder if they succeeded in convincing anyone but the already convinced.


If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Universities and Telecenters: perfect partners” In ICTlogy, #52, January 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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