|Chapter 6: Identifying Appropriate Technologies
Selecting the optimum solution is a balancing act among options that may not be clear-cut or ideal situations. It’s best to start with an assessment of what’s immediately available or knowable: What is the power situation like? What connectivity can I buy right now, and how well does it work? What services will be the main business of the center? Then you can go through an analysis of the more limited range of options that are realistic in the actual context. For example, you might conclude in that analysis that even short power failures compel you to install a charger and a battery bank to keep your machines running for at least an hour, so your clients don’t leave before the power returns. Or you might conclude that, even though the ISP promises a nominally high bandwidth, it doesn’t actually deliver that, so you’ll have to abandon your hope of using VoIP as a revenue producer. Once you have a fairly sound idea of what is feasible in the near term, you can start to project options that anticipate improvements in infrastructure or that let you take into account what changes will come as your client base grows and becomes more computer literate. This analysis will also have to consider what is feasible from a financial perspective. Your initial funding and projected revenues matter, of course, but finances also depend on the size and expected rate of maturation of the latent demand, since you will need a cash reserve to last you until you reach sufficient cash flow to maintain and grow operations. This kind of planning is full of uncertainties, of course, but the more systematic you can be about it in the beginning, the more likely you will be able to avoid unpleasant surprises.
In the remainder of this chapter, we address each of the four elements of a telecenter’s technology package in more detail to provide the basic information needed for your deliberations.
6.3. Power Issues and SolutionsWhen developing ICT-based projects in off-grid or poorly electrified areas, the cost of providing electricity can consume as much as 80 percent of initial project funds to establish the telecenter if energy demand is not managed carefully from the outset.