|Chapter 7: Using Networks to Strengthen Telecenters
7.1. Queries to the Telecenter Help Desk
I have been operating a telecenter for over six months now, and I am starting to get frustrated. I can’t get people to come to the center, and, when I do, I rarely have the content or services they ask for. Hasn’t anyone else figured this stuff out before? Aren’t there other telecenters that have solved this? Help!
Our NGO runs telecenters in five communities. The good news is that these centers are thriving, with interesting community services and a lot of people coming in to use them. The problem is, we just can’t find or keep good staff. Most of the people we hire don’t have the basic skills we need, so we have to spend a year training them (which is a lot of work!). Once we train them, they usually take their new skills and go to other jobs. Isn’t there somewhere I can turn for people who are already trained and committed to the idea of working in a telecenter?
I have developed a remote health care system that I think would be perfect for telecenters. It lets people talk to a doctor by video, and the doctor can see their heart rate, temperature, and so on. The problem is, I only know a few people who run telecenters. I really want this thing to scale up. How can I get my new product out to thousands of telecenters at once?
A telecenter network is any group of people working in telecenters whose members come together to learn from each other and cooperatively access services. Some networks are informal groups, simply using an e-mail list and occasional meetings to connect people working in telecenters. Others are more formal associations, offering concrete services that help their members with day-to-day telecenter tasks such as business management, technical troubleshooting, and service delivery. The common thread is that networks are about telecenter people working together to make their centers more effective, sustainable, and valuable to the communities they serve.