A Guidebook for Managing Telecentre Networks/Content and services
Content and servicesEdit
If communications are the ‘nervous system’ of a telecentre network, as expressed in Chapter 4, we could say that content and services are at the heart of a telecentre. It is through content and services that a telecentre serves the development challenges of its community and therefore provide opportunities for improved livelihoods.
Telecentre networks have a unique advantage in developing content and services. Networks may use their collective power to attract content and services originally developed by other organization – and then modify them for their own purposes. Networks may also engage directly in content and services development. This chapter discusses attributes and types of adequate content and services for telecentres, and how a telecentre network can play a central role in their provision. Examples are provided along the way about TCNs engaging in this process, drawing on a case study that looks at the Bangladesh Telecentre Network and its content and services development plan.
Since 2006, telecentre.org has supported a number of networks around the world to develop content and services that telecentres can use. This support has been linked to overall sustainability of telecentre networks. This is because telecentre.org believes that good content and services best advance the value of telecentre networking and are therefore key to sustainability for the telecentres.
The role of telecentre networks in the provision of content and services for local communitiesEdit
Creating or even adapting the proper content or service packages for a particular community is an expensive and time-consuming job; and it is even more difficult for individual telecentres to create content and services.
Moreover, providers of content and services activities may not want to work with just one telecentre and its relatively limited constituency. But the aggregate level of demand of a group of telecentre practitioners can make the relationship more attractive.
There is an increasing recognition that networks can leverage content and services development, including the creation, packaging, training and provision of support services. Those content and services activities can then be replicated and distributed at the local and international level (such as through other TCNs). Herein lies the power of a telecentre network.
A telecentre network can also provide a channel for validation and feedback for content and service providers. This is an invaluable opportunity for any provider.
Individual telecentres can contribute to content development from telecentre networks by gathering information and knowledge from their communities. This may cover farming processes, trading opportunities, traditional herbal medicine, or local cultural practices for example. Telecentres have become a key source of data about local communities by development agencies and research organizations.
One interesting experience comes from telecentre.org’s support of a number of networks and organizations to develop services through the competitive Rural Innovation Fund in India. These services included:
- A delivery model for Tara Akshar, a computer-based literacy program that teaches adult illiteracy in Hindi in 30 days. The service also developed a training system that integrates NGO and community based organizations as partners;
- Primary eye care through rural vision centres. The service was meant to increase access eye to care in rural India in order to reduce blindness;
- School management software to improve administration and teaching;
- An e-Commerce village web portal that provided communities with access to information, goods and services;
- A village disaster management system that records critical threats and available resources (such as personnel, equipment, support services) at village and national levels;
- An integrated rural milk procurement system that records milk collection to facilitate payments to farmers.
There are a growing number of telecentre network experiences with direct content and services development, although there is much potential that remains unexplored. Within the telecentre.org community, we can highlight the UgaBYTES initiative that a service called ‘MySchool’, which helps high school students in Uganda meet online to share educational resources and to ask teachers questions. The national network in Mozambique receives the collaboration of the Brazilian Telecentre Information and Business Association (ATN) to deliver online telecentre manager training. D.Net in Bangladesh provides another good references (see Box 3).
Attributes of Content and ServicesEdit
The design and nature of content and services needs to be guided by the needs of telecentres, which in turn are determined by the needs – and perceived opportunities – of their communities. The particular mix of content and services useful for a telecentre depends on the community ecosystem, where the telecentre itself needs to become an important component of that ecosystem. The figure below describes the constituent parts of such a community ecosystem. Each of the bubbles represents people and organizations that have a concrete, staked interest. Telecentre managers and telecentre network staff need to ensure that everything provided by telecentres is focused on community needs and opportunities. This translates into a process where benefits reach a sufficient amount of ecosystem actors. This leads to the questions, what attributes should characterize those content and services activities demanded by local communities and channelled through individual telecentres? We can point out at least four necessary attributes: content and services that are appropriate, relevant, dynamic and authentic. Content and services may be determined as appropriate for a specific community or network based on any of the following potential benefits:
- Reducing costs by accessing different types of information and knowledge through easy and cheap communications;
- Creating new income opportunities for the community, by helping community members to gain new ICT or information skills, or to learn about new productive or business possibilities;
- Reducing the risk of possible loss or damage in a community, such as in disaster preparedness;
- Empowering marginalized communities and giving a ‘voice to the voiceless’.
Benefits may not always be quantifiable but they need to be visible. For instance, a cheap communications service (like IP telephony via companies like Skype) can let a mother know that her daughter and grandchildren are doing well far away from home. We have identified a few brief stories of social changes to illustrate, which are presented in Appendix 6.1.
Because appropriate content and services are determined by user needs, they need to be dynamic. Telecentre networks have to be prepared to adapt or even abandon services as needs change over time. In the case of a service that provides content (information) to farmers about pest control and management, if new pesticides emerge on the market or if specific pests arrive in the scene, the service will have to update its content, since erroneous information may prove to be very costly to the farmers.
The relevance of content and services determines their level of demand by the community. Proper packaging and delivery contribute to their relevance. Selecting the right delivery channels is critical in developing content and services; it may be necessary to use a combination of offline, online, print, SMS-based, or face-to-face channels. A network should also consider the characteristics of its telecentre users, such as their literacy levels. For instance, telecentre networks that work with high illiteracy rates will deliver more voice and video enabled content than printed materials. Content translation is also essential. The role of a good infomediary is not only to provide physical access to information but also to facilitate ‘real’ accessibility: that is, to make their meaning accessible.
Another important attribute of content and services is authenticity. Because of the potential impact of particular content and services to people’s livelihoods, it imperative that networks seek validation to ensure that the information provided is accurate, complete and can lead to effective results, and that entities who are providing informational services are legal and honest. It is also useful if respected thematic experts and organizations validate content and service activities. In fact, this validation or quality control function may be one of the added value tasks performed by telecentre networks.
Types of Content and servicesEdit
Community demands for information and services may vary widely from one community to the next. For example, local demand for livelihood information and services depends on types of professions in the community. Demand may prove higher in rural and remote areas, given their isolation and more restrained access to information. A telecentre network can get involved by providing a potentially wide range of content and services, which can relate to any of the following areas:
- Agriculture: Agriculture is the main occupation of people living in rural areas. Many people engaged with agriculture are illiterate or semi-literate. But they have inherited indigenous knowledge. Typical demands for content and services from farmers can include: where to buy quality seeds, insecticides, pesticides or fertilizer availability (particularly from government sources). They also want to know about power cuts, fuel prices and the visits of agriculture extension officers. Farmers are certainly interested about information on daily market prices for agricultural commodities, but also on tools to test the soil quality, storage facilities (particularly for perishable products) or information about crop rotation and selection.
- Health: Health and healthcare related issues are basic to a community’s well being, especially for rural women. The information demands on health issues are mainly on basic remedial issues related to diseases and health problems. Telemedicine services, including remote diagnostics and treatment follow-up are particularly valuable for rural people who can save precious time and money by not having to travel far away for some of those medical services.
- Law and human rights: Violation of human rights may be more prevalent in rural locations because people lack basic education on their rights, or information about their obligations. Local elites often take advantage of the functional illiteracy of the individuals within the community. For these purposes, databases of legal and human rights organizations, listings for the nearest administrative offices and information about citizen rights are valuable.
- Education: Students and teachers in rural communities often have little access to quality educational material. Youth in those areas may find it difficult to obtain higher education, so information about higher education opportunities, as well as procedures of getting admitted, is important for the rural community. Aging adult literacy is another major demand on the educational sector. Using audiovisual materials to promote adult literacy creates new opportunities for adult literacy as people can learn by watching and listening.
- Employment: People use several sources for job information. Personal, face-to-face contact is the most common source for employment information. In addition, telecentres facilitate access to job information via online services.
- Commerce, business including self-employment/non-farm economic activities: Telecentres can become popular places for business and commerce. Using a telecentre, people can find out information about their products (including market prices and additional information), input pricing and connections to global and national trading opportunities. Self-employment, especially rural micro and small enterprises capture the majority of rural occupations. Information about new business opportunities, business-related government information, business management, and online market places are major demands for this sector.
- Disaster preparedness and management: Disasters and natural calamities are an increasing occurrence across the globe. Access to disaster-related information can reduce the severity of its effects, such as by allowing people a timely evacuation before a probable disaster strikes.
- Government service: Telecentres can be a popular mechanism and a primary access point for all e-government services. This can make it easier to download official forms, submissions, certifications and so on, cutting out ‘middle men’ who sometimes demand unwarranted fees to perform services for citizens.
- Entertainment: Telecentres are good source of entertainment for rural communities. Satellite private televisions and radio broadcasted programs are usually not available in rural areas. Telecentres may therefore provide good venues for entertainment: cartoons for children, drama shows, movies, sports for adults or online radio stations, are good examples.
- News: In many remote villages, access to the newspaper is absent. Currently, most newspapers have an online version and there are hundreds of news blogs. A telecentre is a common access point for all to access to this media online.
A key service provide by telecentres is access to the internet, used by relatively more highly educated and ICT-knowledgeable user groups for purposes as wide-ranging as (i) job searching, (ii) applying for foreign visas, (iii) learning materials, (iv) reading the newspaper (and writing to the editor), (v) writing and conferencing with relatives, (vi) exchanging business information, or (vii) simply playing games. Some users, mostly in urban areas, are more advanced; they may use ICT facilities for banking or e-commerce activities. Many telecentres also provide ICT training.
It is important for a telecentre network to invest in finding different sources of content and services and developing partnerships with various organizations to link them with telecentres. Recently, the Bangladesh Telecentre Network (BTN) has undertaken an initiative to map content and services for telecentres. The BTN found that individual telecentres do not know who has what. Instead, they struggle to find relevant sources of content and services.
The Bangladesh Telecentre Network put together a small team comprised of a number of members with experience in content and services development for telecentres. At the beginning, BTN called for a members meeting and shared the idea of content mapping. The members attending the meeting identified dynamic sectors where they had demand for content by the community. The sectors are:
|Employment and Skills Development||Environment||Law and Human Rights|
|Small and Medium Entrepreneur||Financial Services||Travel and Tourism|
After finalizing the list of sectors, the team discussed how the various ways in which to present these types of content. Before starting the content mapping process, the team identified the following types of format:
|Text based||Text and Picture||Software-based learning material|
|Multi-media (Audio)||Multi-media (Video)||Multi-media (Animation)|
|Text based||Text and Picture||Software-based learning material|
|Multi-media (Audio)||Multi-media (Video)||Multi-media (Animation)|
|E-Book||Interactive material||Global Materials|
|Stand-alone player with TV|
|Audio through audio-player [e.g. cassette player, MP3/4 player]||Video through video player [CD-player, DVD, player]||Animation through video player [CD-player, DVD, player]|
|Live broadcasting||(Digital) Video Recording, for delayed showing|
|Slide projector||Overhead projector||Bioscope|
|SMS||Voice||Mobile software applications|
|Online content||Online applications (education, government, health).|
After developing a comprehensive matrix (See Appendix 6.3 for a detailed matrix template), the team developed a list of institutions with the potential to develop content in each of the sectors mentioned above.
The team later organized small sectoral meetings with organizations to brief them about the importance of content mapping and its benefit to the community. After the discussion, many organizations showed their willingness to support the initiative.
In the very first phase the Bangladesh Telecentre Network technical team helped the organizations to develop their content description and post it on the BTN website. Later, a small number of organizations started posting their information on their own.
As a result, BTN was able to develop a repository of 1,130 knowledge sources that are grouped under 13 categories. The outcomes were aggregated numerically as follows:
|Online Contents||Audio and Visual Contents||Printed Contents|
|Employment and Skills Development||19||-||45|
|Law and Human Rights||26||1||10|
|Small and Medium Entrepreneur||_||-||34|
|Travel and Tourism||8||-||43|
A generic list of content and services that were requested by communities, and which could be provided by telecentres, included:
|Services to be delivered to the people||Information service from the community|
|Access to government forms||Data collection for Bureau of Statistics|
|Birth and death registration||Voter and national ID card upgrade for National Election Commission|
|Citizen Certificates||Disaster damage report and list of affected people and household|
|Public examination results||List of poor people eligible to access government subsidies or special economic programs such as relief|
|Teachers enlistment status for government subsidy||Government surveys|
|Immigration information||Private and development partners’ survey|
|Passport and visa information|
|List of government divisions and departments working in a given region or administrative unit, along with the services they provide|
|Newspaper reading||Disaster management information|
|Agriculture information||Social awareness information|
|Education information||Market price information|
|Health information||Consultations with experts using mobile phones and MSN messenger|
|Job information||Information dissemination through video and multimedia|
|Legal and human right information||Appropriate and Intermediate technology information|
|Small business development information|
|Internet browsing||Commercial mobile phone service|
|Internet telephony (e.g. Skype)||Ring tone download|
|Video conference||Faxing (sending/receiving)|
|Capacity building services|
|ICT Training||Online market place for rural SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises)|
|Livelihood other trainings (handicrafts, rural business through video documentary)||Online courses (offered by universities, academies, etc.)|
This example of content mapping can be replicated in other telecentre networks, yet it is also important to recognize the associated challenges. Among them are limitations drawing from copyrights of the institutions and authors, the capacity of organizations to post online and, most importantly, the level of willingness to support a network.
Quick tips about Content and servicesEdit
- Telecentre networks should regularly and systematically examine the needs of individual telecentres for content and services, in order to provide a collective expression of demand – known as a pull strategy.
- A telecentre network should deliberately promote content and services from different providers when it believes that they will be useful to some telecentres – a push strategy.
- Telecentre networks can help individual telecentres to assess the needs for content and services for their community – through methodology, advice, tools, etc.
- Community trust of content is important. Sometimes the organizations that are providing content are more important that the content itself. For example, medical content from an untrustworthy source may not be accepted by the community.
- Telecentres are now a key source of research data about local communities, and TCNs can help to channel that data in ways that benefit telecentres (for example, through data on connectivity in order to increase coverage).
- Government sources of information tend to be trusted. TCNs should try to bring more government institutions on board, for example, to provide e-government services.
- Telecentres by themselves often do not know where to access relevant content and services, so telecentre networks can be of great help to locate them. Rigorous content mapping is an important function of the network from an early stage.
- Various communication channels should be used to provide content and services: including offline, online, face-to-face, and print media.
- Some users may be illiterate, which should be taken into account (therefore more audio and video content is helpful).
- Some of the content and services may not be strictly developmental in nature, like in entertainment and news, but there will nevertheless be an audience for it.
- The increased versatility of mobile phones may add ‘mobility’ and higher personal access to the information.
- Telecentre networks will have an increasingly relevant function in providing exchange platforms for direct access or provision of content and services among users; that is, a kind of peer-to-peer marketplace for content and services.
References and ResourcesEdit
Billah, M., Das, N. C., Hasan, M., Raihan, R., Sarer, T., and Uddin, M. F. (2007). Pallitathya: An Information and Knowledge System for the Poor and Marginalized: Experience from Grassroots in Bangladesh, D.Net
The Jeeon- IKB (Information and Knowledge Base) is a content database that has been developed in Bangla and is aimed at improving livelihood through ICTs. This CD version has been made for use in locations that do not have internet connectivity. The Jeeon-IKB responds to everyday queries such as what, where, who, and how in the areas of agriculture, education, healthcare, non-farming economic activities, appropriate technologies, human rights, awareness and disaster management in simple non-technical language. The Jeeon-IKB is particularly suitable for rural users – even for those who are unable to read and write, with the assistance of 'infomediaries' (people who can use Jeeon-IKB to respond to queries). This also creates access to crucial information and thus reduces livelihood costs and improves income opportunities. The Jeeon-IKB is more effective when used with Teletathya: the people's telecentre (a mobile phone based information service), since whatever information is not available in the CD can be obtained by calling the specialists at the Teletathya Helpline. For more information, visit: www.jeeon.com.bd
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) is the central repository for all IRRI’s research-based rice science and rice farming knowledge that is relevant to the extension-farmer community. The IRRI RKB is also the model for similar RKBs in each partner country where the individual countries select, validate and modify rice-farming knowledge for their extension/farmer communities. The strength of the RKB community depends on developing a shared vision for the RKBs, a sharing of knowledge and exchanging information about technical issues. Now, different countries have their local language version of the knowledge base. For example, in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute has developed a comprehensive agriculture knowledge bank in Bangla, which is available at www.knowledgebank-brri.org.
CellBazaar is a service from Grameen Phone that allows the people to buy or sell via mobile phones in Bangladesh. If anybody wants to sell something, they can post the information on CellBazaar through Grameen Phone, and buyers can contact them. If someone is looking for something to buy, or if they need a particular service (such as a tutor), they can look for it on CellBazaar and contact the seller directly. When a buyer sees an item that they like, they can call the seller, get additional information, and meet the seller to complete the transaction. CellBazaar is a platform for buyers and sellers to find each other. People can access CellBazaar by calling to a special short code number, sending SMS, using WAP or even online.
Netbetar.com, the first Bangladeshi internet broadcast radio channel hopes to reach all corners of the country via the thousands of telecentres sprinkled across rural areas. Development-focused entertainment through radio can help to bring issues closer to poor individuals, says the team behind the initiative.
One Village One Portal (OVOP) is an initiative of GCC (Global Communication Center) aims to build a model of social information infrastructure where villagers can also be producers and owners of village information. Rather than using high-tech infrastructure and training, this model shows how villagers with their current skill set and their own devices can generate and broadcast information. In order to bridge the gap between their capability and the capability of their devices, a "bottom of the pyramid” (BoP) adaptation layer is introduced in the model. Villagers need ICTs to spread their voices. Indeed it can be argued that we need their voices as much as they do. Our step towards finding a way for villagers to develop, own and commoditize information is the One Village One Portal platform. The platform is capable of handling 85,000 portals for 85,000 villages in Bangladesh. However, we envision the OVOP as a prototype for other BoP villages around the world.
One promising field for telecentre services via the support of telecentre networks is in formal and vocational education. One successful example of a program of excellence in education instrumented largely through telecentres is the National Program of Informatics in Education, an initiative of the Ministry of Education in Brazil. The approach has been to incorporate telecentres within Brazilian schools with the objective of improving education, and with the added value of benefiting their communities beyond students and education professionals.
Telecentre Pesca Maré
This telecentre ensures the right to access to new technologies, expansion of relations, internet access and democratization of communication to ensure the digital inclusion of Brazilian fishermen.
These telecentres promote the competitiveness of small mines (especially for those already organized into associations), cooperatives and micro and small enterprises in small regions or municipalities that have small mineral production as part of an important socio-economic base.
Appendix 6.1: Stories of Change in the CommunityEdit
|Impact on the community||A story to support the impact|
|Telecentres can reduce the cost of livelihood through accessing different livelihood information and knowledge and ‘get-easy’ communication access.||A Farmer Saved his Crop using Information Services of Telecentre
Mr. Nurul Islam Khan produces rice along with beans, bitters and bottle gourds on his land. He is doing his best to make an honest living for his six-member family with an average monthly family income of USD $120. One day, he found that his cultivated beans, bitters and bottle gourds were attacked by harmful insects. He became worried and started consulting with his neighbours. His neighbours advised him to consult with a local agricultural field officer regarded as ‘block supervisor’, a post of Agricultural Extension Department under the Ministry of Agriculture. They also informed him that if he fails to get hold of the desired officer, then he can pay a visit to local telecentre to receive effective agricultural information services through various ICT channels. The urgency to receive effective agricultural advice made him look for the local block supervisor first, but he failed to get hold of him. Then he sought informational help from telecentre. He paid a visit to the telecentre and he chose to use the verbal information service from the CD content. Mr. Nurul Islam Khan applied the prescribed insecticides and dramatically got rid of his problems. Thus he saved his beans, bitters and bottle gourds and above all, his livelihood. According to his calculation, Mr. Nurul Islam Khan was able to prevent a total loss of USD $120 just by applying the received advice without paying any charge for the service offered by the Pallitathya Kendra. He thinks that information services provided by the Pallitathya Kendra can greatly save other farmers from potential losses.
|Telecentres can create new income opportunities for the community. New income opportunities are created through gaining new skills on ICTs and information about new income opportunities.||Alam gets job at a Bank
Alam, a 26-year old rural educated youth never even dreamt of getting a job at a local bank. The place where he stays is far from the main town, so it is hard for him to search for new employment opportunities. Fortunately, a local telecentre came forward to rescue him from this situation. Alam knew about internet browsing from the infomediary at the local telecentre. Browsing the internet at a local telecentre, he found a job advertisement in a local bank. He applied for the position through email. He was shortlisted and later interviewed. The bank authority publishes results online. Alam, thanks to the local telecentre, could get the dreamed result online. Now Mr. Alam is working as a Customer Relations Officer at BRAC Bank Ltd., Khatungonj, at the Chittagong Branch.
|Telecentres can reduce the risk of possible loss or damage in a community.||Phone call saved scores of Indian villagers from tsunami
The tsunami that struck the coastal communities of several Asian countries on 26 December 2004, was made even more tragic as news began to break of how a handful of technicians, monitoring the progress of the waves across the seas using the latest ICT systems, found themselves unable to warn communities standing in harm's way. This was not the case with Vijayakumar Gunasekaran, a 27-year old son of a fisherman from Nallavadu village, Pondicherry, on the eastern coast of India, who works in Singapore. He had access to radio and television broadcasters on the morning of 26 December. Vijayakumar followed the news of the earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia as it unfolded over the radio and television in Singapore. As the seriousness of the disaster in Aceh sank in, he began to worry about the safety of his family living along the Indian coastline facing Aceh. He decided to phone home. Muphazhaqi, his sister answered the phone. She told him that seawater was seeping into their home when he asked what was happening in Nallavadu. Vijayakumar realized at once that his worst fears were rapidly materializing. He asked his sister to quickly leave their home and to also warn other villagers to evacuate the village. "Run out and shout the warning to others" he urged his sister. Her warning reached a couple of quick-thinking villagers who suddenly went to the telecentre where a public address system used routinely to announce sea conditions to the fishermen was housed. The warning from Vijayakumar, corroborated by a second overseas telephone call from Gopu, another villager working abroad, was broadcasted across the village using the telecentre’s loudspeaker. The village siren, which was available at the telecentre, was sounded immediately afterwards for the people to evacuate. No one from the village was killed as a result of the timely warnings. Nallavadu is home to 500 families and about 3,630 people. While all lives were saved, the tsunami destroyed 150 houses and 200 fishing boats in the village.
|Telecentres can empower marginalized community members and can give a voice to the voiceless.||Khadija is back to her normal life with dignity
Khadija Begam was married to Alamin Akon (a 28 year-old man), both from Mongla. Her husband got married for a second time without informing her. Khadija could not tolerate it and protested. That caused her to be physically and mentally abused by her husband. She had no choice but to move to her parents’ house with her three-year-old daughter. She was helpless. Mr. Akon refused to pay any alimony to his wife. She knew about a mobile infomediary, who was working in a community telecentre, and called her one day. The mobile infomediary Nayan helped her to talk to a lawyer from a local human rights organization whose address and details was available at the telecentre where Nayan was working. After investigating the problem and consulting with Khadija, the lawyer sent a legal notice to her husband. After receiving the legal notice from the court, her husband got scared and rushed to the Union Parishad Chairman for a petition to compromise. But the UP chairman didn’t respond to it, since the local telecentre routinely informs community citizens about their rights and obligations. The chairman told Ms. Khadija that if she withdraws the legal notice, he would take her back to his family. But Ms. Khadija was adamant and she wanted either a compensation of BDT 25,000 or a divorce between her husband and his second wife. She managed to find a job at a restaurant in Mongla to make an honest living with dignity. She found the telecentre to be as a good resort while in distress and relied on it later for other livelihood issues.
|Types of Content||Agriculture||Education||Health||Employment and job||Environment||Law and human rights||Citizen and government services||Business information related services||Financial information related services||Travel and tourism information related services||Disaster preparedness and management information||Local level information||History and culture related information|
|Text and Picture|
|Software-based learning material|
|Text and Image|
|Software-based learning material|
|Stand-alone player with TV||Audio through audio-player [e.g., cassette player, MP3/4 player]|
|Video through video player [CD-player, DVD, player]|
|Animation through video player [CD-player, DVD, player]|
- Which is similar in function to the National Science Foundation in the United States, or other similar national science and research bodies.
- There were nearly 100 sponsoring and supporting organizations mentioned, most of them private companies, and a lesser number of universities and public (Brazilian) companies.
- For more information, see the following web page:www.mission2011.net.bd/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=76&Itemid=101&lang=en
- Source: Bangladesh Telecentre Network (BTN)