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					Towards a global structure of Telecentre Helpnets
Outcomes from the Consultative Workshop on the Creation of a Telecentre Helpdesk and Knowledge Clearing House, Paris, April 22-24, 2002

1. Background The establishment of a global Telecentre Helpdesk in support of the telecentre movement in developing countries has been for some time on the agenda of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD). As part of this process, a consultative workshop was convened in Paris April 22-24, 2002. At the workshop, sixteen telecentre practitioners and coordinators from Africa, Asia and Latin America met in Paris to work together to turn the Telecentre Helpdesk proposal into a truly demand-driven initiative that meets the needs of southern practitioners. The overall objective of the workshop was to facilitate a discussion on the needs for and functions of a cooperative international Telecentre support system, and explore how such an activity could be implemented. The workshop was hosted at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris and organized jointly by the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs and UNESCO. (See appendix 1. for a list of participants). During the 2 ½ days of deliberations, constructive, coherent and focused discussions were carried out in a friendly atmosphere. Common needs and problems were highlighted and opportunities for collaboration discussed in plenum as well as in break-out sessions along thematic and geographical lines, providing good opportunities for sharing of experiences and for networking.

2. Major outcomes The workshop uncovered considerable differences in the type of problems facing telecentres in different parts of the world, but also a genuine interest in sharing experience and advice across the regions. More specifically, the participants: a. agreed on the need for support to form and strengthen existing telecentre networks from the bottom-up (on national, regional and global levels) b. agreed on the need for services and functions that can be realised by globally supported helpnets c. identified services and functions for the helpnets d. identified needs and priorities at the national, regional and global levels


e. identified mechanisms to support the realisation of these needs and priorities f. endorsed the guiding principles for the work on the telecentre helpnets g. made commitments to participate in the continued work

The consensus was that there is a genuine need for starting a process whereby existing but fragmented telecentre resources and experiences can be better shared and utilized. Thus, the pressing need is not so much for creating new information or resources, as for putting in place national, regional and global support structures that allow telecentre practitioners to efficiently access, exchange and use these resources. “The solutions lie somewhere in the network”. It was the contention of the group that globally supported Helpnets offer an efficient means of sharing diverse experiences and support services. The objective of the Telecentre Helpnets is to facilitate and catalyze the sharing and exchange of knowledge by Southern telecentre practitioners as well as by Northern practitioners, from the public, private and non-profit sectors. The primary target group for the Helpnets is the non-profit telecentre practitioners in the South with a social agenda for community development. This includes rural areas as well as initiatives for establishing telecentres in deprived urban areas. 3. Needs identification In the discussions, five priority areas were identified by the group: 1) Information services, 2) Capacity building, 3) Sustainability, 4) Technologies, and 5) Policy. The table below summarizes how the group perceived the major needs within these priority areas, seen from a regional perspective.



Latin America

Information services

Local web-based services Local languages/ language translation tools How to find relevant information Toolbox kits Software kits Business tools Management & training material How-to manuals FAQ’s

Appropriate info for appropriate audiences – local people Local databases

Customized infoservices Portal not replaced by e-government schemes

Capacity building

Best-practice sharing Training players and stakeholders Sensitizing communities Inter-regional exchange of resource persons

Help newcomers What has worked/ what has not Strengthen current networks Organize communities of networks



Databases on: - exchange of experiences - partnership and grants

Local entrepreneurship Technological sustainability Service subsidies

Study effect of government subsidy schemes Encourage communication and practice sharing Webservice tools which will allow newcomers to build a business plan Developing a lobbying strategy for media, politicians and regulatory bodies If lobbying works, collaborate with them


List typical investment and operating costs Free software portal Technology profiles Reduction of telecoms costs Bandwidth problems Development of national policies Legal framework for ICT providers and operators User-friendly policies Policies for small business and rural areas

Profile worst/best practices and experiences of technological choice Frequency and bandwidth problems Resource allocation (lack of political will)


As the table indicates, the major needs and, thus, priorities for the helpnets were found to vary considerably over regions. In response to the differing needs and available resources, a model was proposed for creating helpnets capable of supporting national, regional as well as global endeavours in an integrated and dynamic fashion as described below. The guiding principles for this continued work on the telecentre helpnets were formulated to be       South-South process Responds to local community demands Builds on local, national and regional process Global in scope Open access and open source content Process-driven

Many of the ideas proposed in the original draft proposal for the Helpdesk remain intact. These include a recognition for a need for a global helpdesk – though the name has been revised by participants to become “global Helpnets”. Beyond confirming this need, the content as originally put forth has been revised by the participants to reflect a much more needs-based approach. In the end, a number of priorities have been selected, which all stem from the agreed approach to create thematic helpnets. Moreover, the Helpnets should display core characteristics such as being based on exchanging knowledge and experience among southern practitioners and being multi-lingual. This approach will allow the helpnets to develop according to regional priorities and needs. It will also ensure that the governance and


provision of services in the helpnets lie with the collaborating individual telecentres and practitioners, in accordance with the guiding principles.

4. Delivery mechanisms In the discussion of delivery mechanisms, the need for the Helpnets to avoid duplicating already existing resources and the importance not to create a top-down, global portal was restated. The helpnets should focus initially on the priority areas identified by the participants. A number of delivery mechanisms for the helpnets were suggested under the four broad headings: 1) Knowledge and expertise, 2) Learning, training and skill development, 3) Tools and technologies, and 4) Policy advocacy.. Knowledge and expertise • Online FAQ pages, national, regional and global • Annual CD-ROMs • Study units, virtual as well face-to-face • Telecentre directory • Newsletter • Guide to the web • List serve for coordinators • Online hotline Learning, training and skill development Principles for mechanisms: virtual and physical, multiflow, filling diverse needs • Inter-regional exchange of experiences • Best-practice as well as worst-practice sharing • Training modules • Study units Tools and technologies • Experts’ databases • Decision support – checklists, surveys (automated), profiles, fact-sheets • Build/strengthen networks – regional and national • Training modules – hardware. Software for administration, management, troubleshooting etc. • Software download sites – free, shareware, low-cost • Jump teams • Technology and management workshops – regional and national • Global deals and sponsorships Policy advocacy • Establish platforms for policy advocacy (policy advocacy is a matter for national groups, but networks add strength to the members) • Create national IT inclusion networks • Inter-regional consultations


5. Proposed strategy The deliberations pointed to another key issue. That is, the need to proceed in terms of process, along different lines than those suggested in the draft proposal. Specifically, it was agreed to embark on a parallel process of network building. This implies working simultaneously on national, regional and global levels, adhering and adjusting to differing regional needs. Each regional grouping came forth with independent and self-determined plans of action. These include: 1) Africa. The participants will start a process of building national networks by initiating discussions with telecentre managers in each participant’s country as well as neighbouring countries. After this consultation, aimed at identifying national champions and coordinating with existing initiatives, regional meetings will be held to discuss the result (e.g. Bamako and Timbuktu 2002). In addition, the participants would like direct access to services of global helpnets in the meantime. The general feeling among African participants was that it would be useful to have this access while working towards national and sub-regional networks. The work started May 1, 2002 with national and cross-national discussions and consultations. A questionnaire has been designed with the purpose of cataloguing all telecentres the respective countries. Monday June 17 was the deadline for the group to make inputs to the draft list after which the questionnaire will be administered. With this, groundwork for a study for establishing a state-of-the-art of telecentres in Africa has been done. 2) Asia. The Asian participants all come from South Asian countries (Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka). This group formed a clear plan to build a regional South Asian network in a specified time frame. The starting point will be to develop a proposal for a study of the state of telecentres in the region, including demand assessment, identification of existing knowledge and expertise and potential hosts. Good connections already exist with other Asian initiatives not represented at the workshop, and invitations will be extended to them to participate in the regional efforts. The plan calls for a regional meeting to be hosted in Madras within three months of the Paris meeting. The database and analysis of the state of telecentres should be ready within one year from the start. The South Asian group made commitment to put existing regionally-based resources into this effort. 3) Latin America. For the Latin American participants, the main efforts will be devoted to consolidating already existing national and regional networking activities and to support the dynamics of collaboration that must exist in all areas of the network. Suggestions were put forth to be part of an effort to support the regional and national network development of the other regions. Offers include the creation of voluntary jump-teams or advisory group on how to realise regional and national network development as well as to support the creation of and take part in thematic support teams. Specifically, the prospects for setting up a Portugueselanguage online resource service will be explored immediately.


An opportunity to start the work on the Portuguese online resource as well as to present the Helpnet initiative in to the telecentre movement at large in LAC, will be the regional Somos@telecentros, Telelac 2 meeting hosted by the Brazilian Ministry for Development and Commerce in December 2002. All the regional plans are in the process of being developed and followed-up on. Again, it is recognised that the effective building of national and regional networks is core to the strength of the global helpnets. The figure below is a schematic representation of the vision of the workshop participants for a telecentre support system: a structure of helpnets that are national, regional and global in scope and that dynamically interacts through person-based or web-based means. In the implementation of this vision, the main thrust differs between the regions – a reflection of the differing needs and resources. In Africa, the first priority will be development of national networks (the upper right circle), in Asia development of regional networks (the upper left circle) and in Latin America development of global support functions (the lower circle).

Figure 1. A Global System of Telecentre Helpnets

Regional Helpnets
   Regional networks Regional champions Advisory teams

National Helpnets
   National networks National champions Advisory teams

Global Helpnets
   Multi-lingual Desks Thematic Helpnets Support mechanisms


The four sponsoring institutions and organizations are working together to support this initiative, and are in doing so pooling resources to finance start-up initiatives. The initiative will now seek cooperation with a wider range of telecentres and national networks in order to build a global support group of telecentre networks, as well as with other concerned international partners and donors. IDRC supports research and implementation of communitybased telecentres initiatives through its ICT programs Acacia and PAN and will continue to contribute resources for regional as well as global networking activities; IICD is willing to commit resources to the national network development in the African countries it works in, as well as to the global picture; the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports national and regional network-building with a focus on, but not limited to, Francophone countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. UNESCO is prepared to commit resources mainly for global and regional initiatives, but will promote the network through its national contacts including extrabudgetary development projects supporting community access.

2002-08-12 BG


Appendix 1. List of Participants at the Consultative Workshop on the Creation of a Telecentre Helpdesk and Knowledge Clearing House, Paris, April 22-24, 2002
Mr. Carlos Afonso, Rits, Brazil. Mr. Jonnie Akakpo, CITRED, Ghana. Mr. V. Balaji, ICRISAT, India. Mr. Peter Ballantyne, IICD, the Netherlands. Mr. Azael Barrera, University Santa Maria la Antigua, Panama. Mr. Margree Chilwesa, Zambia. Mr. Michael J.R. David, Sri Lanka, Mr. Birama Diallo, Projet TCP, Mali. Mr. Laurent Elder, IDRC, Senegal. Mr. Benoît Fourestié, Columbbus, France. Mr. Rodrigo Garrido, Redes Comunitarias, Chile. Ms. Polly Gaster, ISCD, Mozambique. Ms. Ingrid Gomez, Red de Centros Comunitarios de l'Ateneo/Columbbus, Venezuela. Mr. Bo Goransson, Consultant, Sweden. Ms. Ingrid Hagen, IICD, the Netherlands. Ms. Stella Hughes, UNESCO, France. S.Hughes@UNESCO.ORG Mr. Loyola Joseph, FOOD, India. Mr. Ken Lohento, ORIDEV Bénin. Mr. Meddie Mayanja, Uganda. Mr. Sylvestre Ouedraogo, Association Yam Pukri, Burkina Faso. Ms. Béatrice Pluchon, Ministère des Affaires étrangères, France. Mr. John Rose, UNESCO, France. J.Rose@UNESCO.ORG Mr. Klaus Stoll, Chasquinet, Ecuador. Ms. Nazneen Sultana, Grameen Communications, Bangladesh.