On Thursday, November 6, 2003, at 03:33 AM, Sandra Roberts wrote:

>> 3. Can information distribution centers (e.g., public access
>> telecenters) offer a viable economic solution to a community's
>> information needs, by, in effect, sharing a single high-bandwidth
>> connection among many users, and thus spreading the cost?
> Telecentres and community multimedia centres have not fared very well in
> Africa, this is due, in part to exorbitant connection costs, but also
> because they need dynamic leadership. Management and technological
> skills, yes, but leadership which is adaptive to the various conditions
> which a telecentre/ CMC will face during its lifespan.  Unfortunately
> practical barriers include high staff turn over - people with the skills
> to run telecentres could get relatively high paying jobs elsewhere, and
> have more security than telecentres can offer.
> The practical reality is that many telecentres are donor dependent and
> have no plans to become self sustaining, or possibly have plans and
> haven't implemented them.
> So, yes, they can, but practically they often don't.

Hi Sandra can I zoom in on what you say here because it's important to
me too. I have a fairly strong dislike for donor dependent projects. To
my mind there is far greater value as the stewardship of a community ICT
centre is passed over to the community. I also see the problem of people
cutting their teeth at the centre and then leaving for better jobs.

Is that a problem though? One could argue that these are people who are
"turned loose" in the economy (well, provided they remain in the
country, on the continent...) and so presumably that's a success in some
way. On the other hand, as you say, if the key people keep leaving, the
centre is going to have trouble.

It would be nice if there were sufficient reasons for people to stay in
the local area where the centre is. In some way perhaps this could be
achieved by binding the stewardship of the centre into the local
community structure itself. Another way would be to encourage people who
are more likely to stay, to get involved. In other words, make it easier
for people who want to stay local to become key players.

Another thought to me is that the centre need not be an uber-facility.
Decentralized systems form the basis of the internet. Likewise, a centre
could (I think *should*) be working with local businesses that already
have roots in the community, such as local cybercafes (if there are any
..even in a nearby city). Then the goal would be to create an
arms-length relationship with as many different small businesses and
groups as possible, in order to create a virtuous cycle. Instead of
leaving the community, people could move sideways (or even "up") within
the local area.


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