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Researching Internet: Where to Start & New Ideas

Siena Anstis's picture

I have spent the past few days doing research on traditional telecenter sustainability. By traditional, I mean telecenters that charge a small fee for offline (photocopying, mobile charging etc.) and online services (Internet access) to meet their costs. While the news is rather bleak, I have stumbled across some interesting sources that might be of use to others:

- International Development Research Centre (IDRC): Regional leader in information and communication for development (ICT4D), their website boasts a wealth of information. I found their 2005 report on Telecenters, Access and Development very interesting (a bit outdated, but still useful). This link provides insight into a variety of information and communication technology (ICT) projects they are supporting (mind you, the articles are for communication so a little too positive for objectivity).

- The Centre for Internet and Society – India: I stumbled across them while looking for successful models of telecenters/Internet centers increasing community income. I found this article “Information and Livelihoods (2009)” very interesting. It shows how Internet access in a fishing village was used to offer information on weather patterns to fishermen. Mortality rates were significantly reduced, income increased and users learned more about the Internet.

- Telecenter.org: The Facebook of telecenter/ICT4D professionals. Their forums are great, primarily because they have active moderators who keep the discussion going. They also send you updates on popular forums and topics, so you don't have to browse the site regularly. Check this one on local content development, i.e. how to make the Internet relevant to its users.

- Seacom Broadband Competition: The competition seems to be generating some interesting links and abstract thoughts on the role of broadband Internet in Sub-Saharan Africa. From the obscure - developing Africa's chess market - to the obvious – improving health care.

- A Guidebook For Managing Telecenter Networks: Great content on building virtual telecenter networks and developing the right content while making the whole thing financially sustainable.

A key lesson to be taken from this research is that content is priority. This is best summarized by Prof. Subbiah Arunachalam:

"The success lies in embedding ICTs in a holistic approach encompassing a diverse range of development initiatives. The trick is not to emphasise technology but to put people and their needs before technology. Sustainable livelihood approaches need to be people-centred, recognising the capital assets of the poor and the influence of policies and institutions on their livelihood strategies."

You will not have users paying to access Internet unless you put the information they need at their fingertips and in a variety of formats. With low literacy levels and inexperienced computer users, people need to be facilitated in their exploration of the Internet and motivated by regular online interaction, strong support networks, reliable Internet connections and content they can use to better their lives.

Comments

Submitted by Karekhaa Nair on
What do you think of the formation of IBSA (India, Brazil & South Africa) south to south cooperation. Is it benefiting to the development of each of their countries by a much tighter relationship?What are other countries saying about this? & how does the role of the civil society play in this matter? We want to hear your opinion! Join IPC-IG in the debate on ID4Ds website! http://www.ideas4development.org/topics.html.

Submitted by Ritchie Felix on
I do not see anything wrong with that partnership except for the fact that some other people are consciously factored out of this synergistic equation. The 21 century economic climate with thrive better by profitable synergy of this Nature, though there may be room for speculation on issues affecting the politics of each participating Nation. Technically speaking, the alliance is cool and good. It is a pointer for mutaul inter-relationship and benefits respectively. Furthermore, the civil society can play a very good and sensitive role in sustainability of this marriage. This synergy has somehow created the neeed platorm for level playing and as well as learning to foster continuity in the meamtime.

Submitted by Tawanda Abraham Makunike on
"You will not have users paying to access Internet unless you put the information they need at their fingertips and in a variety of formats. With low literacy levels and inexperienced computer users, people need to be facilitated in their exploration of the Internet and motivated by regular online interaction, strong support networks, reliable Internet connections and content they can use to better their lives." I think this conclusion you gave just about says it all and actually sheds a lot of light especial to those people who want to start Telecenters. I would say I once had the honor of helping a friend set up a telecenter in Botswana. I was staying in a village called Serowe. Serowe is quite a big village, the biggest in Botswana. I lived most of my life in Harare, Zimbabwe and in the big city internet became part of life but when I moved to Botswana it was different thing all together. I started staying in Serowe august 2002 and there was just one telecenter. Over the years they started to mushroom everywhere and they were not just a source of information but a lively hood. I made friends with a very ambitious young men and he decided to start his own telecenter. I realized how much people want to access the internet and also realized the disadvantages they had. Most of the people, though they so much wanted to use the internet were widely illiterate. Those that had an idea also faced problems with finding the information they needeed. this is not only a village problem but even in the city you find people having problems finding information on the internet. I think its important that the telecenters maybe at least design homepages with links to different sites that have content that is beneficial to the local people. Links to news sites, links to educational sites, government departments and things like that. If possible built social sites that provide people with a platform to ask specific questions that technically sound people can answer. During my time helping this friend of mine we taught people how to user the internet for a very ridiculous price and those people became our loyal customers. I think its important to always start any venture with people in mind and then the profits will follow. So yes your conclusion is point on and full of substance.

Submitted by Siena on
Dear Tawanda, Thank you for your thoughtful comment and suggestions. The following paragraph I find particularly pertinent: "I think its important that the telecenters maybe at least design homepages with links to different sites that have content that is beneficial to the local people. Links to news sites, links to educational sites, government departments and things like that. If possible built social sites that provide people with a platform to ask specific questions that technically sound people can answer." First of all, these are great ideas. I am hoping BOSCO will find the capacity to implement some of these. Second of all, I was visiting a BOSCO Internet site yesterday and one of the Web 2.0 trainers suggested BOSCO facilitates debates on the Wikispace and Intranet (internal) forums. Some of the topics he suggested included: the effect of war in Uganda, girl-child education before and after war, and the benefit of computers in your community. He was really eager to engage with this material - material that does not have any direct economic value, but does offer a virtual connection to other war-affected areas of the country. I thought this was quite neat: so there's a concrete demand for information both for economic AND social development, even in significant poverty. On another level, I am curious to know - are you working in ICT right now? Best, Siena

Submitted by Ritchie Felix on
It is one thing to have the internet with us, and another is for everyone access strategy machine with ease. It is also through that millions of people across the globe are already connected to the internet, yet, two-third of this population are yet to eke out a living from it. I want to believe that the presence of the internet technology meant efficiency, efficacy and effectiveness of all and sundry. A close observation at how many people are actually utilizing this great tool kit to enhance productivity or performance at both individual and corporate levels respectively. Most African Nations are virtually lagging behind or are completely cut off from the rendezvous of the present net euphoria cutting across the globe. The need to actually go to these remote areas to carry fellow earth citizens along is one that the international community should not neglect. Great population of the universe is living outside this global village. I tried to persuade about one hundred and seven men in a remote community in the far eastern part of Nigeria during my organization campaign program on free ICTs training workshop for the rural dwellers. One them asked:

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