Friday, 24 December 2010

Telecentres are dead?

This question was echoed in the corridors at University of London, during ICTD2010 (Dec. 2010).


  • None of the 55 research papers affiliated with telecentres. (though one captured Kiosk Operator)
  • None of the 20+ workshops affiliated with telecentres 
  • Progressive domain themes did include PC, mobile, video, radio, network etc. but not telecentres. 
  • There were several telecentre activists representing Africa, Middle East & South Asia, but none had a dedicated telecentre platform to share their voice and telecentre sector experience . 
  • Donors (IDRC, SDC, Microsoft etc.) who used to amplify the telecentre voices were not keen to take up telecentre topic, instead they were busy with emerging new topics.
Does this mean telecentres are dead? Probably sector is moving forward, and looking beyond (as one and only telecentre affiliated paper titled): Looking Beyond 'Information Provision': The Importance of Being a Kiosk Operator in the Sustainable Access in Rural India by Janaki Srinivasan (see my next blog for Sri Lanka experience).

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Do you need to be an expert to assess impact?

What should be the role of rural farmers in assessing impact in rural development interventions? Stephen Rudgard of FAO asked the question of Harsha Liyanage, who was an invited panellist at the e-Agriculture session during ICTD2010, London (17th Dec.).

Harsha’s answer in summary:
• Typical rural farmer operates inside the context of poverty
• Impact for him is better price, low cost (from the value chain perspective)
• Assessing impact in rural development interventions needs to: quantify the impact but also illustrate the 'complexity and diversity' of that impact – impact will be made up of more components than just quantitative parts of the value chain
• This approach needs on one hand ‘participation’ of the farmer; on the other hand ‘rigour’ and ‘accountability’ in the assessment
• This therefore should take a participatory  approach – it involves the farmer, but also researchers and intermediaries. All knowledge and perspectives are important in producing an assessment that accounts for the many aspects of impact in a real situation
• Rural farmer can be a participant during planning process, and during data gathering and analysis.

Very important to understand, through his contribution, the micro-environment of the farmer. Then impact can be understood as a journey travelled through a period of time and through changes that have been identified in advance as part of the journey. You can uncover the journey in this way and measure impact through it. So change seen from the farmer’s perspective must be a part of the whole picture of impact.

Read more>> at e-Agriculture perspectives by FAO

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Impact of ICT for Development? What is it?

What are the social, economic, and political impacts of public access to ICT?
What is the magnitude of these impacts and how can we measure them?
What is the relationship between costs and benefits of providing and using public access to ICT?
    These are the major questions being investigated by the Global Impact Study, implemented by the University of Washington. 
    In this broader context, we (eNovation) investigate the development journey at individual and community level, through the research carried out at Fusion, Sri Lanka.  While many researchers try to understand why customers visit telecentres, we tried to understand what they gain by visiting on a regular basis.

    'e-empowerment is a journey that the beneficiary (individual or a community) may travel through – commencing with first time exposure to ICTs, and consequently becoming a qualified user able to apply ICTs with confidence. The journey happens through progressive stages. Those stages (indicators) are not essentially sequential;
    • Exposure - first time exposure to computers, and familiarization with ICTs (seeing & touching)
    • Motivation - generate interest to learn, interact and develop ICT skills
    • Skill development - with the assistance of trained staff, develop computer skills
    • Self learning - further self learning  without assistance (or with limited assistance)
    • Exploration - exploring beyond basic computer skills to internet, email, web development, data base development, social networking, teaching others and so on.
    • Application - systematic application of computers/ internet for self or others benefit (teaching, data base development for village work, volunteering).
    • Qualifications - sit for standard exams, acquiring certificates.

    Read more>> Theory of Change, Social impact assessment by Sarvodaya-Fusion

    Tuesday, 28 September 2010

    Innovation @ ICT for development sector? What does that really mean?

    The ICT sector is moving fast, from ‘incremental innovation’ that involves gradual step by step innovation to ‘radical innovation’ that change the whole ecosystem radically and rapidly.
    Unlike other development sectors (human rights, poverty alleviation etc.) ICT4D demands continuous innovation.
    The technologies adapted in the sector are originally designed (mostly) for  Western markets. Thus innovation  is required to tweak and package them to match the developing country context where illiteracy, poverty and poor infrastructure dictate the terms.

    Tweaking? Packaging? Well, the following example will show how.

    Project Name: Agri-clinics (implemented in Sri Lanka, 2005-2006)
    Problem answered: Transferring Pest & Disease knowledge to rural farmers, using ICTs.
    Where did innovation apply?
    1.Define the information access models between state run research institutions and NGOs
    2. Design Information Processing Unit to translate the jargon-heavy research knowledge into jargon free simple language
    3. Develop information delivery mechanisms via telecentres.

    Read the complete article @ i4D online version  or  i4D special issue on eAgriculture by FAO.

    Saturday, 25 September 2010

    How can we scale up Pilot projects to Sustainable projects?

    Never ending pilots? Are you trapped in the common syndrome?

    The following 5 steps have worked! This may be a worthwhile insight for you, too.

    1. Start - as a donor funded pilot project
         Donor funded projects are valuable seed investments. Use them effectively, with passion and dedication. But seek sustainability (beyond the project cycle) from day one. eg. A telecentre project funded by Microsoft-Unlimited Potential, to set up 12 telecentres in rural Sri Lanka, and train 257 students providing scholarships (2004 - 2007)
    2. Extract - the scalable project elements
         Towards the mid-project cycle, observe the successful elements of the project. What element of the project attracts the best attention of the target community? eg. A feasibility study reveals high response from the community for ICT education. That has been extracted for the redesign (2006 - 2007).
    3. Redesign them as marketable products and services
        Extract the successful elements out of the project context and redesign them as a seperate product or service. Make them less dependant on the overall project. Repackage them to stand alone. eg. ICT training modules have been redesigned, content improved, national ICT education standards have been adopted  (2007 - 2008)
    4. Prototype marketing
        Introduce the product into a pilot market (eg a small segment of the same community) as a fee based service (not free). Educate them as to why charging a fee is required. (They listen). Inform them about your philosophy of social enterprising. (They appreciate it). eg. Pilot marketing of the prototype product as ICT Education services (2008 - 2009).
    5. Re-brand and  launch the product on a national scale
        Brand the product as an attractive, value-added product, that may convince the target community (the very same community) to recognise it as a unique product that serves their needs, and worth paying a small fee to buy. eg. The product has been re-branded and launched as Fusion-Education (2010).

    Read about the initial project here, and the latest social enterprise here.

    Friday, 24 September 2010

    Sarvodaya-Fusion; the inspiration for eNovation4D

    Our inspiration derives from Sarvodaya-Fusion, the leading ICT for Development charity in Sri Lanka. Dr. Harsha Liyanage (principal consultant of eNovation) has founded Fusion, as a specialised arm of Sarvodaya, the 50 year old world renowned leading charity of Sri Lanka.

    Key lessons learned from Fusion includes:

    • how to setup an economically sustainable social-enterprise operation, in a donor dependant larger development context,
    • how to introduce ICTs as socially responsible, economically sound, scalable operations,
    • how to integrate Information Technology and Mobile phone technology to traditional, main stream development (agriculture, micro-finance, poverty alleviation etc),
    • how to nurture multi-stakeholder (corporate, state and NGO) partnerships towards project scalability and sustainability.
    • how to ensure healthy social impact.
    eNovation4D continues to work in partnership with Sarvodaya-Fusion in this mutually nurturing journey.


    My photo
    We are consultants for European organisations working in international development. Specialized in Innovation - Economic Sustainability - Social Impact Assessment in ICT4D and Mobile for Development (M4D) sectors. We have 20 + years of experiences and our clients include UN Agencies, EU, IDRC.

    What we can offer you?

    Are you involved in International development, introducing Information Communication Technologies and Mobile Phone applications to support disadvantage communities? Are you concerned about effective products and services in this sector, we can help to innovate them. Do you want to see their sustainability beyond funding cycle? We can help converting the project into a social enterprise. Do you want to understand the social impact? We can design a tailor made model to surface the social impact.