Telecentres exist in almost every country, although they sometimes go by a different name: public internet access center (PIAP), village knowledge center, infocenter, community technology center (CTC), community multimedia center (CMC), multipurpose community telecentre (MCT), Common/Citizen Service Centre (CSC), school-based telecentre, etc.
The telecentre movement’s origins can be traced to telecottages of Europe and Community Technology Centers (CTCs) in the United States, both of which emerged in the 1980s as a result of advances in computing. At a time when computers were available but not yet a common household good, public access to computers emerged as a solution. Today, in spite of the fact that home ownership of computers is widespread in the United States and other industrialized countries, there remains a need for public (free) access to computing, whether it is in CTCs, telecottages or public libraries to ensure that everyone has access to technologies that have become essential. In the 1990s, the telecentres spread to Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Beyond the differences in names, public ICT access centers are diverse, varying in the clientele they serve, the services they provide, as well as their business or organizational model. Around the world, some telecentres include NGO-sponsored, local government, commercial, school-based, and university-related In the United States and other countries, public access to the Internet in libraries may also be considered within the “telecentre concept”, especially when the range of services offered is not limited to pure access but also includes training end-users. Each type has advantages and disadvantages when considering attempts to link communities with ICTs and to bridge the digital divide.
In the 1990s, international development institutions such as Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and UNESCO, sponsored the deployment of many telecentres in developing countries. Both IDRC and UNESCO are still very involved in the telecentre movement. IDRC’s telecentre.org is supporting networks of telecentres around the world and UNESCO continues to support the growth of community multimedia centers (CMCs), which, unlike most other telecentres, have a local community radio component.
In light of the rapidly evolving technologies that support telecentres and in light of the increased penetration of mobile technologies (i.e., cell phones), the telecentre model needs to continuously evolve in order to remain relevant and to continue to address the changing needs of the communities they serve. As mobile communication technologies become more pervasive around the world, including in rural areas, the telecentres may no longer need to provide phone services, yet they may still be very relevant in terms of access to web-enabled e-government services, e-Learning, and basic Internet communication needs (email and web browsing).
Evolving models — since the local demand for information and communication services is evolving, the telecentre models need to evolve as well. Franchises and other approaches to linking and networking telecentres are proving to be popular.
Evolving technologies — wireless connectivity technologies, beyond VSAT (known to be expensive) are being explored in many communities around the world. These technologies provide new opportunities for connecting communities through telecentres and eventually at the individual household level.
Evolving services — the types of services that telecentres can and should provide is also rapidly evolving. As the fields of eGovernment, eHealth, e-Learning, eCommerce are evolving and maturing in many countries, telecentres need to take advantage of opportunities to extend the benefits to the community at large, through their public access. Some governments are pursuing the deployment of telecentres precisely as a means of ensuring that larger segments of the population are able to access government services and information through electronic channels.
Community stakeholders - identifying leaders among the community who champion the concept of shared services through telecentre mode, play a crucial role as a bridge between the telecentre operator and hesitant villagers.
The telecentres of today and of the future are networked telecentres, or telecentres of the 2.0 generation. Increasingly, telecentres are not operating as independent, isolated entities but as members of a network. At times, the network takes the form of a franchise. In other circumstances, the network is much more informal.
For more information on telecentre networks, visit telecentre.org An overview of telecentre networks can also be found in Chapter 7 of Making the Connection: Scaling Telecentres for Development
Additional information about concept of community telecentres can also be found in the online book From the Ground Up: the evolution of the telecentre movement
Additional information about the practice of building and sustaining telecentres can be found on the Telecentre Knowledge Network Wiki
There is a growing research and analytical literature on telecentres and other community based technology initiatives and approaches particularly within the context of Community informatics as an academic discipline and through the Journal of Community Informatics
NTCA launches $1.7 million telecentre project in Ukraine. (International Update).(National Telephone Cooperative Association)(Brief Article)
Dec 01, 2001; Ukraine recently celebrated its 10th anniversary of independence from the former Soviet Union, yet its citizens have very little...