|Chapter 8: From Organic to Programmatic Approach—
Paths to Scaling Up
8.1. Queries to the Telecenter Help Desk
The government of Country O has come to us with a request for start-up funding for its initial telecenter scale-up phase to cover 150 telecenters. A second scale-up phase eventually will bring the total number of telecenters to approximately 1,200, or one per district. This is a government-sponsored program that fits within a broad strategy for integrating ICT into all aspects of society. Once established, the telecenters will be run by local entrepreneurs on a for-profit basis. What would be the best use of donor resources to support the government’s efforts to provide access in rural areas? We are concerned that covering start-up costs may not be the most appropriate use of donor funds. What catalytic role could donor funding play within the context of a large-scale, government-led telecenter initiative?
We have implemented a successful kiosk network for the past seven years. During these years, we have been able to learn a lot, and we have adjusted our model. Initially, all the kiosks provided a very specific and limited set of services. Based on monitoring and feedback from the kiosk operators, we realized that we needed to allow kiosks more flexibility and more options. We are now at the point where we think we are ready to scale up the network with a flexible model that will be adaptable to different contexts. Should we be looking for partners to work with, or should we expand our own capacity? We are looking for partners in several areas: 1) venture capital; 2) service providers in health, education, agriculture, banking, and finance; and 3) training providers.
8.2. Readiness for Scale-Up
There are no blueprints or how-to guides for scaling up, yet there are existing experiences and frameworks that can be leveraged and ongoing initiatives that can be studied. Different countries are at different points in the evolution of their national telecenter movements. Each country has its own telecenter history, which will influence when and how a scale-up may be considered. To succeed, we must build on what exists and on a realistic assessment of the country’s readiness. The scale-up pioneers’ experience will offer solutions from which countries that scale up later will benefit.