Workshop on Sustainable Rural Telecentres in Africa
Cresta Hotel, Lusaka, Zambia
Workshop: 17 - 19 June 2008
In the last decade, international and regional policies have addressed the opportunities and importance of ICT interventions in rural areas in developing countries in general and in Africa specifically in order to sustain economic development. In this context, telecentres or community information centre initiatives set up in a cost-effective way, are recognized as “key instruments” improving shared access to and use of information by the poorest in rural areas in development countries.
These centres were set up as pilots with different methodologies and services: often seen as information kiosks with a mix of ICT tools such as radio, photocopier, telephone, fax and Internet connection, they sometimes focus on a specific service such as telemedicine or money transfer. They are thus not only a medium of communication but also a development enabler.
The workshop was a joint venture by CTA, InfoBridge Foundation, Zambia Association for Advanced ICT, IDRC and IICD. It took place at the Cresta Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia from 17-19 June 2008.
The organizers conceived and designed the event as a breeding ground for new partnerships and collaborations. The workshop served as a platform for sharing experiences among participants and took stock of the results and impacts of the telecentre experiences to provide a framework for upscaling in a learning mode.
Some 50 participants were invited including Telecentre managers from selected African countries, Telecentre and ICT4D specialists and key strategic partners from organizations supporting Telecentre initiatives in Africa and elsewhere in the developing countries.
The presentations and case studies during the workshop focused on the following areas:
- Appropriate technologies for rural Telecentres in Africa: Low-cost, easy-to-implement technology platforms, affordable and stable Internet connectivity, suitable energy solutions.
- Appropriate demand–led content development & information services: need assessment, monitoring user satisfaction, improvement of services, well-packaged, easy-to-replicate community services, local knowledge and repackaging of information
- Ensuring sustainability: development of a conducive (socio-economic, technical and policy) environment for Telecentres: need assessment and local setting, capacity building for Telecentre managers, affordability/accessibility by end users, appropriate business models, innovative social appropriation mechanisms, innovative ICT policy environment etc.
A number of cases of the ‘Practitioners Group’ thus served as the basis for the Workshop programme. These cases briught a range of different guidelines, technologies, and practices that were discussed in workshop sessions and from which the most appropriate solutions were selected and further elaborated.
The programme consisted on three main sessions:
- Problem analysis, based on main challenges and key issues identified by the participants.
- Brainstorming & Problem solving, providing the most appropriate and feasible solutions for the identified list of challenges and key issues. Elaboration of a selected number of cases in predefined format to facilitate comparison and evaluation by participants.
- Synthesis, in which key success (& failure) factors, appropriate models, technologies and services for sustainable Telecentres in Africa were presented using the above elaborated cases.
After the workshop, the participants gained insight into the reasons for success and failure of rural telecentres and acquired knowledge on how to design and set up sustainable telecentre activities in Africa.
The information brought together at the workshop will be used as a basis for the TelecentresAfrica initiative and web portal (http://www.share4dev.info/telecentres/).
The TelecentresAfrica Initiative will share the results of the workshop and where possible introduce appropriate technology, services or business models. In this context, CTA is prepared to collaborate with institutions interested to support Telecentre activities in African countries.