|Chapter 2: Learning from Experience
The success of a pilot initiative in a specific location does not in any way guarantee success by replication in other locations. Equally true—yet often neglected—is the fact that the failure of a project in a specific location does not necessarily mean that the model or approach was inherently faulty and should be rejected. The mechanisms behind each success or failure need to be identified and understood before decisions about replication and scaling up are made.
This chapter provided a condensed overview of lessons based on the collective experience of the field. The lessons are not intended to be rules to follow, but to provide a common perspective for the subsequent chapters; if your circumstances call for something different, you will at least have had the opportunity to arrive at that conclusion with a good familiarity with the conclusions that others have reached concerning their circumstances. The guidance of this chapter can be summarized as:
- Understanding local ICT ecosystems is a critical first step in designing successful ICT initiatives in rural and underserved areas.
- A mix of services optimized for the local market and context are needed to provide value to different local stakeholders and sufficient revenues for the telecenter to be financially sustainable.
- No single organizational model can provide the ideal outcome for all circumstances. Different organizational models have different strengths and weaknesses. The challenge is to make them work together and ensure complementarities among them to maximize beneficial impacts for all.
- Robust and affordable technology solutions—encompassing power, hardware, software, and connectivity options—are essential to the success and sustainability of telecenter initiatives.
- Networks, associations, and partnerships play a key role in building capacity, sharing experiences and providing support to telecenter operators, developing robust and appropriate technology solutions, and developing locally relevant services and content.
- External factors, outside the direct area of influence of telecenter initiatives, can have a significant positive or negative impact on the success or failure of telecenter initiatives. These include, in particular, the policy and regulatory environment.