eAsia2009 (XI): Closing Session of the Telecentre Forum

Notes from Asian Telecentre Forum 2009 / eAsia 2009 held in the BMICH, Colombo, Sri Lanka, on December 2-4th, 2009. More notes on this event: easia2009.

Closing Session of the Telecentre Forum
Chairs: Sriyan de Silva Wijeratne, Microsoft Sri Lanka

Florencio Ceballos, telecentre.org, International Development Research Centre

One of the convictions behind telecentre.org was that telecentre operators should be trained as social entrepreneurs, instead of hiring people to perform especific tasks.

Providing services – like Drishtee does – was another of the main things that became clear from the very beginning. Knowing, thus, that many countries were approaching last mile issues with public access to the Internet, based on entrepreneurs and services addressed to the comunity, fostered the creation of a global network where all these initiatives could be shared and learn one from another one.

Sheriff el-Tokali

The UNDP began a telecentre network with 3 telecentres in Egypt. A thing that has been learnt since is that telecentres cannot survive outside of a network. A network makes possible sharing services amongts member telecentres of the network or even amongst networks; share strategies and policies, etc. On the other hand, the addition of new telecentres is easy, as they benefit from the experience of the already established telecentres.

But telecentre sustainability does not only rely on sharing services, but in creating new ones. Amongst these services, e-Government services are, arguably, the best option nowadays.

Lessons & good practices learnt from the Philippines Telecentre Experience
Tess Camba, National Computing Centre, Philippines

  1. Institutionalizing a national policy: it is worth expliciting and embedding a telecentre policy in the general policy of the government.
  2. Organizing one network: the network, a multistakeholder one, is useful to raise awareness, to represent the different interests of the stakeholders.
  3. Pursuing a shared vision: to have a community e-Center in everty municipality
  4. Employing a multi-stakeholder partnership: engaging the government, the private sector, NGOs, academia, etc.
  5. Training compentent Community e-Center managers
  6. Promoting knowledge sharing: through the online platform, knowledge exchange conference, Community e-Centre managers exchange programme
  7. Putting premium on content & services
  8. Harnessing leaders & champions

Ravi Gupta, CSDMS

CSDMS publishes Telecentre Magazine.

There is a major challenge that telecentres face. Their portfolio of services is growing in width and complexity. But they will not survive if the do not have a social part. Telecentres have to connect the dots.

But the added problem to this is: if the governments are not e-ready, telecentres cannot supply e-government services; if the educational system is not e-ready, telecentres cannot supply digital learning services; if the health system is not e-ready, telecentres cannot supply e-health services; and so on with resellers, banks, etc.

The need for knowledge sharing will increase, not decresase, and more as connectivity raises (especially in developing countries).

Final conclusions

  • The importance to document everything you do, with a writing, with a photograph, with a video… Testimonials have a strong power and, besides, they help you in keeping track of what you’ve done
  • The importance to recognise your failures… and learn from them, of course

Telecentre Forum 2009 - eAsia 2009 (2009)

eAsia2009 (I): Plenary Session, Track 2, pt.1

Notes from Asian Telecentre Forum 2009 / eAsia 2009 held in the BMICH, Colombo, Sri Lanka, on December 2-4th, 2009. More notes on this event: easia2009.

Plenary Session, Track 2 (pt.1)

Telecentre for a digital divergence era
Florencio Ceballos, telecentre.org

More and more mobiles in people’s hands, many of them in developing countries. 4.6 billion estimated by end of 2009. Thus, we might be facing not a digital divide, but a digital divergence: it’s not that people do not have access to ICTs, but that they have access to different qualities of ICTs. Difference between full access to the Knowledge Economy to restricted access to the Knowledge Economy.

Telecentres are a way to share enhanced access to the Knowledge Economy. But not only they provide access, but also skills, etc.

Why shared access? Well, not that new:

  • Public transportation
  • Shared bycicles in many cities in the world
  • Access to water through fountains at streets
  • Public libraires

Ownership, thus, is not the issue, but access to knowledge. And telecentres are the “sherpas” that facilitate this access to people.

Though sustainability is quite often raised as an issue, in fact, many times is lack of investment what strangles the viability of certain telecentres. With the appropriate investment, more (business) opportinities come at hand.

And public access is not at all a “solution for very poor countries”. Germany, Sweden, Spain, UK, etc. are amongst the countries that have a more developed (in quantity and quality) network of telecentes.

But of course, telecentres have to evolve. Some are using telecentres to access higher education courses, others to bring microcredit to rural areas…

The impact of the Cloud on Public Sector
Bash Badawi, Microsoft Public Sector APAC

The cloud:

  • software as a service,
  • data as a service,
  • platform as a service,
  • infrastructure as a service,
  • everything as a service.

It lowers the entrance costs to ITs, forces integration.

On the other hand, it’s fully scalable and you don’t even have to care about predicting how much usage, computing power, storage, etc. you will be needing. It’s just a pay-as-you-go.

Building a Smarter Planet: Government
Kevin North, IBM Asia Pacific Public Sector Business

We now have the aility to measure the condition of almost anything: e.g. with RFID cards we can constantl monitor the temperature of each and every cow in our herd.

The imperative for government today:

  • Deliver value
  • Exploit opportunities
  • Act with speed

The road to outsourcing:

  • Staff augmentation
  • Out-tasking
  • Co-sourcing
  • Portfolio outsourcing
  • Outsourcing

Q&A

Comment by attendant: India is increasing the number of mobile phones by 18,000,000 monthly, thrice the population of Finland.

Telecentre Forum 2009 - eAsia 2009 (2009)

Centres for Research and Innovation Development and for ICT

Notes from the II Encuentro Internacional TIC para la Cooperación al Desarrollo (Development Cooperation 2.0: II International Meeting on ICT for Development Cooperation) held in Gijón, Spain, on February 10-12th, 2009. More notes on this event: cooperacion2.0_2009. More notes on this series of events: cooperacion2.0.

How do we go forward in the field of ICT4D R+D+i?

Florencio Ceballos, telecentre.org

  • ICT4D are a clear niche that can grow outside the circuit of development issues
  • Capacity building happens locally, and this means building confidence, trust.
  • Institutional independence has to be promoted to enable real capacity building.
  • Focus on networking: promoting open networks for capacity exchange

It’s not as much as how you design agendas, but how you make them evolve, how to shift the paradigm. And this shift of paradigm is towards openness.

Caroline Figueres, International Institute for Communication and Development

There is a need for a research to ground some “evidences”, and showcase successes in the field of ICT4D under the rigour of scientific analysis.

People in the South should be put in the agenda of ICT4D research, as most of the output is targetted to developing countries.

Co-creation (e.g. in the sense of Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics) is a very powerful concept. Capacity building can be enabled this way by means of knowledge workers co-creating together.

Kentaro Toyama, Microsoft Research India (MSR India)

How to do formal research in ICT4D? Several steps:

  1. Immersion. Ethnography
  2. Design, involving people, where technology is just one component and a cost-effective one
  3. Evaluation, including finding statistical significance on the impact of a specific project or action

It’s a good idea to break the link between funding and the research agenda. The researcher should be able to pursue their own interests and not be tied (or upset) to the need for funding.

Experience in research might be as important as (or even more) than experience in development. Accuracy of the scientific process is crucial.

Andrés Martínez, EHAS Foundation.

Evidence has to be demonstrated to convince policy-makers and funding institutions that some actions are to be taken and deserve being supported (politically or economically).

  • Research is needed in the impact of ICTs in welfare, health, education
  • But also, research is needed on how to provide appropriate and cost-effective infrastructures, as most communities just do not have access to either hardware or connectivity
  • Sometimes the context is unknown. Thus, research should focus not only on the impact of a specific project, but on what the context (sociocultural, health, education, economic) is.
  • Research on services.
  • How to measure empowerment and mainstreaming of technologies in specific communities and sectors (e.g. the Health sector)

The only way to promote research in the field of Development and ICT4D is to foster publication of research results in indexed publications. Despite the interest of the topic, if the work is “well done”, then it can be published. It is highly relevant to find the problem you want to deal with your research, more important than finding “the” solution.

And diffussion is absolutely worth doing it. On the one hand, results of the projects and the research undertaken. On the other hand, not only information about the results, but knowledge transfer through assistance, direct training, formal education, especially to achieve multiplier effects.

Merryl Ford, Emerging Innovations Group of the Meraka Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

There’s sometimes resilience to empowerment. Capacity building is not only about specific (digital) skills, but also about changing mindsets.

  • Slogan on disabilities in SouthAfrica: Nothing about us, without us. We need to make sure that we don’t do things “for” people but “with” people. Africa should take ownership of its development agenda.
  • Interventions should be simple
  • The cellphone is the PC of Africa
  • Sustainability, replication, massification. A pilot needs to be scaled at any stage.

Q & A

Q: research on impact… is a real need or an imposed “need” of the inner structure of development cooperation, projects, agencies and so? Ceballos: The need to measure impact is real. Many policies are put into practice based on intuition, on vision. So we do need to evaluate these policies to support or reject such intuitions. Martínez: short-run projects are difficult to analyze accurately, as there’s no time to do it properly. A solution would be that everyone involved in the projects collected data and helped to analyze it.

Q: How do we cope about the cost of maintenance of cellphones in rural areas? A: There are alternatives (e.g. via radio) that do not charge per call… but the maintenance of the whole network does have a cost. Certainly, it’s not a matter of absolute costs, but a matter of cost-benefit analysis, seeing whether the project is worth running it and find out how to support the overall costs.

Q: How do we put social research together with tecnology research in development related research? A: The problems that research has to face have to be far ahead enough. And they require plenty of time. In this sense, everyone involved in ICT4D should be in a same conversation, to gather all sensibilities and be able to look far in the horizon.

Development Cooperation 2.0 (2009)