Wednesday, March 24, 2004

How should Community Telecenters be Organized in Developing Nations

The World Bank Discussion on Telecenters has been interesting, and made me think about the topic of this blog entry.

How should Community Telecenters be Organized

There are lots of ways that community telecenters can be administratively organized. It seems to make sense to me to make the computers and Internet connections in schools and health facilities available to the public when they are not in use in their host institutions. You can call these arrangements telecenters, and can put the responsibility with the educational and health organizations.

I like the Indian approach of using the post offices as Internet contact points. They can accept email, and deliver it via the local postal delivery system. They can also provide access to government online services. And the organization administering the postal service should then run the postal telecenters.

Where libraries exist, they would seem to be obvious candidates to run telecenters.

I like the idea of community radio stations having Internet connectivity. I wonder if the radio stations might do better making their facilities available as telecenters? This would suggest independent ownership of the telecenter-radio station combos.

I rather like the idea of the telephone companies running community access points, especially when the operation could be incorporated into an auction process such as is used to provide universal telephone service in Chile. The private firms bid on the minimum subsidy needed to provide both commercial and community access points for a geographic region.

There seems to be a thought that networks of telecenters should be operated by NGOs (or firms). Alternatively, telecenters could be operated as cybercafes or business centers, with small enterprises operating one or a few telecenters.

I wonder if there have been any studies of the efficiencies of these alternative arrangements? Is there any efficiency advantage in a single organization owning and operating a large number of telecenters?

Would franchising work?

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