eAsia2009 (VII): New Trends and Innovations in Technology for Telecentres

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.

New Trends and Innovations in Technology for Telecentres
Chairs: Ram Tiwaree, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Greener and affordable telecentres
Danny Nagdev

The NComputing’s X550 kit connects several periferics (keyboard, mouse, screens) to a single computer.

Advantages of NComputing’s X550 kit: much cheaper than a server-client typical structure, almost all software’s worked, consumes low power, full Screen videos run smoothly, etc.

Limitations: No local USB support

Community empowerment through ICTs: evidences from grassroots in Bangladesh
Ananya Raihan, d.Net

Goal: to understand the linkage between community empowerment and ICTs, but comparing ICT penetration with the level of community empowerment in Bangladesh.

A first problem is that of the evolution and modification of metrics, as ICTs have changed in range and cost, thus changing what we before understood as low level of penetration (e.g. cheap TV sets have drastically replaced radios, which were considered the lowest level of technology adoption of all). On the other hand, is difficult to separate private from collective (a household, a household and their friends/neighbours) from public usage.

Indicator of empowerment:

  • Participatory democracy
  • Mobilization of community members towards social violence and the role of ICT over it
  • Community involvement in the roles and responsibilityes of the local government and the role of ICT over it
  • Level of knowledge of the community people about the local, national and international issues and the role of ICTs over it
  • Community involvement towards the local governmet annual activity plan and resource mobilization plan
  • Transparency and accountability of local government towards the community and the role of ICTs over it
  • Presence of collaboration between local government institution and local community organization regarding access to information through ICTs

Findings show that there does not seem to be any linkage amongst ICT penetration and empowerment, though there might be some weak correlation.

Empowering women through ICT education: An application of Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM)
Fatema Begum Labony, d.Net

A computer literacy project (CLP) with 18,525 students that took a computer course. The school authority would provide infrastructure while d.Net would teach the course.

The study shows the steps to adapt Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM) by APC. The objective was to understand the extent of equality in acccess to ICTs by girls in the CLP.

Boys have five times more opportunity than girls to learn computer from public places and neighbour as gilrs have less facilities to go and avail it outsiders. Girls are afraid too to used computers.

Parents are also afraid that more “computer time” is less “school time” or, if it’s not, that the daughter has to stay longer time at school (thus, less time to study home, more time out of home, etc.).

Note: on gender evaluation methodology, please see also Gender Evaluation for Social Change.


Telecentre Forum 2009 - eAsia 2009 (2009)

Gender Evaluation for Social Change

Live notes at the research seminar Gender Evaluation for Social Change by Chat Garcia Ramilo, Coordinator of the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme, Manila (Philippines). Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Castelldefels (Barcelona), Spain, May 12th, 2009.

Gender Evaluation for Social Change
Chat Garcia Ramilo

Why gender evaluation? Evidence showed that ICT4D did not integrate gender considerations, though evidence also shows that effectiveness and impact of development projects increases if gender is integrated in design, planning and evaluation.

Gender Evaluation Methodology

Based on participatory action research.

  • Testing and development of a gender evaluation tool for ICT4D projects: teleworking, ICT training projects, telecenters, etc.
  • Capacity building in gender evaluation: telecenters, rural ICT projects, ICT policy processes and localization (of content)

Findings and challenges

  • a gap in capacity for analysis and evaluation of gender-based inequalities
  • weak focus on gender in project design, implementatoin and policy formulation
  • how to develop evaluative thinking about gender and ICT4D, and use it to shape new gender practices within the ICT4D sector? how to make it in a participatory action research framework?

How gender makes a difference in ICT4D and access to the Information Society:

  • Comparative access to infrastructures by women and men are determined by income levels
  • Capacity affected by literacy and education levels
  • Services affected by relevance of service, mobility, safety issues
  • Governance affected by opportunities for participation in policy processes

These aspects have to be taken into consideration if one is to design an ICT4D project in a specific place. The design of this project will sensibly be different depending on how gender is affecting the former issues.

But gender is not only about “women issues”, but also about social and cultural variables, how do the interplay of these variables impact on women and men.

The Pallitathya model

The Pallitathya help line Blangladesh center is a help desk service which consists in five basic components:

  • local content
  • multiple channels of information and knowledge sharing
  • intermediation or infomediation, human interface between information and knowledge-base
  • ownership
  • mobilisation and marketing

This project’s desing helped women with specific queries (related to gender) or with lower literacy rates to reach a knowledge that, had the ICt4D project been designed in a different way, they would most probably have missed.

Philippine Community e-Centers

Telecenters in peri-urban areas. Though in absolute terms there were not much difference in usage rates amongst women and men, difference could be seen in how the telecenters were used and what values they assigned to them. For instance, women used the telecenters as ways to meet people, as ways to socialize. There were also differences in patterns of access and utilization in relation to age, education and income.

Fantsuam’s Zittnet Service — Nigeria’s first Community Wireless Network

To increase female uptake of the Internet, especially in rural areas.

Coverage of signal was not the issue, but hardware and high costs of bandwidth. Still, even if coverage was good, women had to travel to the centers, and this was a barrier for uptake, as also was low literacy levels.

Maybe it’s not about a wireless network, but embedding this project into a wider one aimed to reduce poverty by supporting rural female farmers. Besides, there is a clear preference towards voice communication over written, and SMS over the Internet.


In distressful situations, women can send an SMS that is received by 5 institutions. Besides reporting of harassment and direct action by the authorities, these messages can be aggregated and thus infer patterns and profiles where harassment and distress are more likely to happen.

Why ICT4D (for women)?

  • ICTs can provide access to resources and contribution to income, knowledge, etc.
  • Indirect impact of ICT4D and access to income, knowledge, education, etc. on self-confidence and self-esteem. ICT4Ds have an impact on empowerment, in changing relationships, in agency.
  • Emergence of new roles (of women).
  • Changes in relationships

Why gender evaluation in ICT4D?

  • Evidence of change in gender roles and relations can be used for more gender sensitive policies and programmes.
  • Evaluations contribute to developing benchmarks and indicators for gender equality in ICT
  • Developing capacity in gender evaluation (and gender planning) is a key contributing factor in mainstreaming gender in ICT for development

Q & A

Q: What’s the general procedure for such projects? A: There are mentors that capacitate evaluation facilitators through workshops, and then an evaluation plan is developed together with all the members of the partnership working on the project. Online spaces are created (e.g. with Ning) to support interaction and network creation.

Assumpció Guasch: It’s easier to work about gender evaluation if the promoters — especially governments — of ICT4D projects already have some gender awareness. Another issue is knowing the ICT Sector and the Industry, what’s the legal framework they’re facing. And it is also important knowing what are the technological issues that are crucial in these projects.

Q: How important is the role of capacity building? How is sustainability dealt with in gender projects? A: To be able to have some impact, capacity has to be built. As part of the capacity building strategy, handbooks and toolkits are built so that a certain levels of capacity and impact can be achieved quickly. Empowerment is, arguably, a measure of sustainability, as the more empowered the people the more self-replicable the model. But projects are not that easy to translate from one place to another.

Cecilia Castaño: Besides direct, action and empowerment, a gender focus has also some other derivatives: a sense of listening to “unheard” people, creating community and raising awareness about gender.

Comment: mobiles vs. Internet? People like Barry Wellman state that mobile phones help strengthening the strong ties (e.g. family), while the Internet helps broadening your network of weak ties.

Ismael Peña-López: can the Gender Evaluation Methodology be transposed to other collectives (e.g. immigrants, lower income collectives, etc.) so that to better design ICT4D projects? I guess that in gender-based projects there is a part that is strictly related to gender, but another part that deals with identifying and managing inequality and difference. Inasmuch there is a “managing the difference” issue, I wonder whether some gender-based projects could be just slightly adapted to identify and improve other projects aimed to bride other “differences”: educational, income, etc. Methodology, handbooks and toolkits, etc. could be then split in two parts: identifying, managing and evaluating the differential factor; and then focusing in the specific differential factor: gender, education, age, income, disabilities…

A: Gender is not only man vs. men but is much more complex: education, income, etc. So, it really makes sense to address the gender issue in itself. A gender approach does not mean that the project is focused towards the e-development of women, but just trying to include a new variable in the project. And there’s gender everywhere, so it maybe does not make a lot of sense thinking about “taking gender out” of the equation.

Assumpció Guasch: some projects in Extremadura (Spain) have tried to apply gender methodologies into e.g. age issues. The difference between gender and other issues is the pervasiveness of the former.

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