|Chapter 4: Identifying Appropriate Organizational Models
4.1. Queries to the Telecenter Help Desk
I am a policy advisor on ICT for development, helping to shape my country’s path toward universal access. It seems that in my country, the early wave of telecenters was funded by donors and implemented by a local NGO. These telecenters had a strong social orientation, differentiating themselves clearly from purely profit-making enterprises such as cybercafés, and most of them were operating in more rural and disadvantaged areas. Most of these telecenters are now expected to be (or to become) financially sustainable and to operate more as private enterprises. I have seen that in other countries the private sector is becoming much more involved, with plans for large-scale deployments through a for-profit franchise model. Is it possible to speculate about which model or hybrid approach has the greater potential to help us achieve global access?
(ICT for development policy advisor, Country F)
We are a small nonprofit organization working in health, agriculture, and literacy. We’re not ICT experts, but we do know that our efforts would benefit from information technology. Also, we’re a small player, and while we have plans for scaling up our activities, at this time we work in only 10 districts. We were planning on establishing three small telecenters to support our work. The plan was to work with the communities to identify the types of services and information they need, identify local champions and volunteers, and bring in equipment that we’ve collected through corporate donations. We consulted with a rural connectivity expert who told us that the state is going to be working with the private sector to deploy kiosks in all districts, and that these kiosks will provide all kinds of ICT services to the population. Are we going to be competing with these private sector kiosks in the communities where we were planning our telecenters?
Managing director, community-based organization, Country G)
What is the sustainability record of telecenters funded through universal access funds? Overall, do private sector-operated telecenters function better than those operated by the public sector or nonprofit organizations? Where have donor agencies been able to make a difference in supporting specific telecenter models? If private sector models work best, should donors support such models, or should they stay out of the way and support civil society efforts to ensure equity in access?
(Donor agency staff)