Initial remarks: the Moderator's question does not contain a definition of "profit"; it might be a monetary return on invested capital, it might be an excess over pure operation-costs, it might be equal to the operation costs but those who use the offered ICT-services do better by using those services.
Second remark: we made a large comparative study on Telecenters in Nicaragua and do continous monitoring and -except in very special settings like schools- we didn't observe any significant difference in services offered, prices charged and people attending, between supposedly "for profit" and supposedly "non-profit" Telecenters. Third remarks: (1) Unfortunately ICT-services are not free -like air- someone has to provide them and someone has to pay those who provide them. (2) Costs to be covered are the use of communication-infrastructure, the personel involved in bringing the service, the replacement of equipment and consumables, the place (or the rent for it), the energy used. (3) It turns out that 1 years full operation-costs (including depreciation for equipment replacement) in many cases comes already close to the initial investment-costs or even exceeds them. (4) The current trend -look at Cellular phones and their business model or Ink-jet printers- for communication-technology makes that initial investment become more and more irrelevant compared to operation-costs. (5) Hence the whole question boils down to "who pays" and "how" (and to a certain degree "why") and specifically the operation-costs. Fourth remark: if -as in some cases- philanthropic initial donors also cover the operation-costs -mostly they don't- still the question is whether donors should be encouraged to spend on ICT or is the money better spent on other more important issues. If it is claimed that Governments -either donors or local- should cover these costs, the question becomes even more important. The only reason might be that ICT is more effective than other means to fight poverty (or it's a basic requirement to achieve those other means). Generalized hard evidence is missing. Fifth remark: if there is no substantial gain for "beneficiaries" -i.e. they are truly better off with ICT than without or ICT provides essential services at lower costs -then there is no reason to spend on ICT- neither for them nor for anyone else. This depends on a case by case analysis -and unfortunately this analysis in many, many instances is not done, neither before nor after. Sixth remark: A telecenter -or whatever other type of ICT-service- without a sound business-model with respect to the above ... shouldn't even be started. Seventh remark: We found -and there are other examples in the literature- that non-benefactor Telecenters (i.e. those either started "for profit" or by the beneficiaries themselves) had in general more sound business-models than those mounted "for benefit" (i.e. by any type of Benefactors, public, private, NGOs). Corollary: "self interest" -some times expressed in terms of profit-expectations- is a necessary requirement for sustainability. Cornelio ------------ This DOT-COM Discussion is funded by USAID's dot-ORG Cooperative Agreement with AED, in partnership with World Resources Institute's Digital Dividend Project, and hosted by GKD. http://www.dot-com-alliance.org and http://www.digitaldividend.org provide more information. To post a message, send it to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> To subscribe or unsubscribe, send a message to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>. In the 1st line of the message type: subscribe gkd OR type: unsubscribe gkd Archives of previous GKD messages can be found at: <http://www.dot-com-alliance.org/archive.html>