Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Changing role of telecentres (2000 - 2012 and beyond)

Interacting with University students is always an opportunity to reflect and refresh. Yesterday, I had that opportunity again at ICT4D Collective of Royal Holloway, University of London. Once again it was a visiting lecture to the postgraduate programme.
Do telecentres have a role to play in 2013, as they did have a decade ago?

A deeper look into the long journey that Sarvodaya-Fusion has traveled in Sri Lanka provides some interesting insights. These insights are enhanced by comparison with similar insights derived from my recent observations of telecentres in Rwanda.

Rwanda and Sri  Lanka, both have parallels in ICT4D

Governments in both countries recognize IT as a major component in their socio-economic development vision. (e.g. Mahinda Chintana in Sri Lanka and NICI III in Rwanda). Both countries enjoyed the support of World Bank funding (eSri Lanka and eRwanda). There are over 600 telecentres in Sri Lanka, and about 140 in Rwanda (with RTN). Telecentre leaders in both countries had the support of specialized donor support programmes, such as telecentre.org of IDRC, during 2005 - 2008. 

Recent observations of the Rwanda telecentre network and subsequent discussions with telecentre leaders (e.g. Paul Barera of Rwanda) have highlighted some parallels in the journey - the telecentre evolution. The challenges these networks face and the solutions they formulate are sometimes quite close, yet are significantly influenced by the socio-economic progress made by each country.

Telecentre evolution in the backdrop of national economic development 

Over the last decade Sri Lanka has moved from a Low Income Country into a Low Middle Income Country: GDP per capita increased from US$855 to US$2835. Poverty has declined from 23% to 9%, mobile phone subscription has increased from 2 (per 100 people) to 87. On the other hand Rwanda as a country has made greater socio-economic progress over the last decade, though at a different level of overall economic status.

Evolution of the telecentre networks in this socio-economic backdrop is quite interesting and insightful. Though this comparison cannot be carried out between the two countries, this emerging insight helped me to track the evolution that has taken place in Sri Lanka. How have they moved from issues of economic sustainability to innovative adaptation to the mobile phone (especially SmartPhone) revolution taking place at a very rapid pace in Sri Lanka. And what are the innovative models emerging in the telecentre landscape, especially as social enterprises (i.e. not as donor funded projects any more) and the unique initiatives of ground level telecentre leaders. 

The following presentation captures these insights. Please share your views, critique and comments to improve this thought process. It is a journey we all travel together!

I wish to thank Dorothea Kleine and ICT4D collective for giving me this opportunity to share these insights with the students.

1 comment:

  1. How to profit from telecentres: A new model into the future by Sulah Nduala, at eAgriculture forum, discuss about the same topi. Read:



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