TELECENTER SUSTAINABILITY


Now Defunct Kadurupitiya Telecenter

Now Defunct Kadurupitiya Telecenter

(More than) enough had been said and written about telecenter sustainability. The word sustainability has become a mantra for many in the field of ICT4D and I cannot disagree with that as we all want telecenters to be self sustainable within the funding period and continue to exist once the funding is over. But what we have to understand is that we cannot make sustainability the only parameter to measure the success of a telecenter though it plays the biggest role. A telecenter may not be sustainable financially still it could offer a bigger services to the community. For instance, think of a telecenter that offers a substantial educational opportunities to a marginalized community in a very rural area where paying for education or services offered by a telecenter is not the high priority of the parents in the area. The best example I saw was Kadurupitiya http://ashokamala.wordpress.com/ in Mahavilachchiya DS Division. This village has a very small population that mainly survive by slash and burn (chena cultivation) and hunting. The Head Master of the only primary school in the village started a small telecenter (first inside the school and then moved outside the school for a better location due to high demand) with the support of the donors and the project went on well as long as he was there. The project never became sustainable but it served to the children in the area so much so that the students who were very reluctant to attend the schools in the area started attending the school regularly simply because of the computer education it offered. (I heard from my friends in India, the number of primary students attending schools regularly increased tremendously after the government introduced free lunches at schools.) Nobody can expect the telecenter operators in a village like Kadurupitiya to make the center sustainable due to the economic and social conditions of the village but there should be a mechanism to subsidize such telecenters by a good chain of telecenters that make profits. Maybe they can form a central fund and provide some sort of financial assistance to those telecenters that run with financial difficulties yet offer a substantial services to a community. But such a fund should not support the telecenters that artificially set up by e-Sri Lanka project just to reach the numbers (500-1000 telecenters) than doing something worthwhile to enable village communities to use ICTs for development. If e-Sri Lanka could identify existing telecenters and extended some true support in terms of finances, equipment, connectivity and sensible training than what they offer now, those telecenters could have achieved both sustainability and professionalism. But this is the last thing one can expect from e-Sri Lanka folks and the best thing is to form an organization to share the experiences and develop the centers further. This proposed organization should be a totally independent organization and any telecenter (including those struggling once e-Sri Lanka set up) can get the membership. If those telecenters are willing to work with such an organization, making telecenters sustainable and productive is not that difficult. e-Sri Lanka folks should give freedom to those failed centers to get the membership of such an organization and get help to perform better. There are very few good telecenters funded by e-Sri Lanka as well and their experiences may come in handy for a converged approach.

2 thoughts on “TELECENTER SUSTAINABILITY

  1. Why is it defunct? If the PCs are there why cannot the children learn on their own? Why the need for spoon feeding? I self-learnt all computer stuff I know.

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  2. Good question. But here we are talking about a telecenter that was initiated by amateurs. See http://ashokamala.wordpress.com/ They need help and training at the beginning. Here in Sri Lanka there is a huge fund sponsored by World Bank for such initiatives. But things don’t go very well.

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