Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Working to Bring Peace to Troubled Waters

”Militia and armed groups' activities in the Niger “Delta have assumed a worrisome dimension since mid 2003, due to a variety of factors which include patronage of these groups by the political class who are desperate to intimidate political opponents and electorates. The situation has been compounded by the lack of alternative incentives and initiatives designed to positively re-integrate and mainstream these youths into normal society. The Demobilisation component of the Niger Delta Peace and Security Strategy, (PaS) is a unique intervention model designed to drive the process for the disarmament, resettlement and mainstreaming of ex-combatant armed youth group members in the region into gainful economic opportunities rather than engaging in violence. The component is one of the twelve (12) thematic areas of intervention of PaS which broadly aims at working on the issues of the region in order to promote peace, security and sustainable development in the region.

The Demobilisation component which is being coordinated by the Academic Associates Peace Works, (AAPW) commenced its activities during one of the most intensified period of violence in the chequered history of the region. Indeed within the last thirteen months, insecurity, manifested in hostage-takings, agitation and criminal gangs, has become a daily phenomenon due primarily to the perceived neglect of the region by successive”

The above paragraphs were taken from an article in the May 2007 Newsletter of the Academic Associates Peace Works, (AAPW) entitled “Constructive Engagement of Niger Delta Youths.”

AAPW whose Head Office is in Abuja, Nigeria also has offices located in Port Harcourt and several other locations in Rivers State, Delta State, Nassarawa State and Bayelsa State in Nigeria.

The Objectives of AAPW are:

1. To build awareness of the need and possibilities of peace in society.

2. To empower individuals and groups in building peace, through training and networking.

3. To develop the framework for the peace process through action-oriented research and intervention in current or potential conflicts.

Founded in 1988, this NGO has had to persevere in the face of its share of difficulties.

On November 20th 2006, as eighteen members of the Joint Niger Delta Youth Leaders Forum, were making final preparations for a voter education/nonviolence rally which was scheduled to take place in Port Harcourt two days later, a group of five gunmen entered the AAPW office compound in Port Harcourt and killed two individuals. Two AAPW staff members and one volunteer were also wounded in the attack.

AAPW had embarked upon a Niger Delta-wide campaign for nonviolent and fair elections in 2007, which includes rallies; voter and civic education; promotion of issue-based campaigns; election conflict monitoring and response; establishment of Nonviolent Election Committees in 20 of the most conflict-prone local governments in Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States to monitor both elections and performance of elected officials.

On September 26, 2007, AAPW’s Executive Director, Dr. Judith Asuni was arrested and charged with espionage because the prosecution claimed that she had helped two German film makers film sensitive oil industry facilities in the Niger Delta region and advising them to lie to obtain visas. Dr. Asuni remained in detention on these charges until November 5th when the charges were withdrawn and she was released. Reuters News Agency reported that “A senior judicial source said there had been a high-level political decision to drop the entire case.” And it also reported that “She (Dr. Asuni) had said that the issue of her assistance to the Germans was just a pretext for powerful opponents to harass her now that Obasanjo was no longer there to protect her.”

Despite these difficulties, Dr. Asuni and the AAPW continue to work for peace in the Delta region of Nigeria. The story of AAPW and Dr. Asuni might be an inspiration to other NGOs and NGO workers who sail upon troubled waters.

More about AAPW can be found at this link.

The copy of the May 2007 Peaceworks News may be found at this link.

The November Reuters story, found in the “Times of Nigeria” can be found at the following link.
Nigeria Drops Espionage Charge Against Judith Asuni

NOTE: It is unknown how long the Reuters article will be available on the web.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Some years ago when Michael 'Femi Sodipo fell victim to violence in northern Nigeria that was sparked by mistrust and misunderstanding between people of different backgrounds, he did not then fall victim to a hatred towards those who had wronged him. Instead, trough an act of love, he decided to do something to help bring peace to the world. As a result, he founded the Peace Initiative Network. Below, in the organization's own words is a brief overview of what was created out of one man's desire to bring harmony and understanding between neighbors.

Peace building is one of the greatest challenges face today in the global system. No region of the world is immune from violent, conflict. Which has inflicted immense damage, caused untold grief and impoverished millions of people mostly children across the globe -especially in Africa. Ending the violence that inflicts Africa and Middle East (rebuilding Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq) and the terrific aftermath effect of September 11 and the threat posed by the transnational terrorism are alarming.

The lofty idea behind the formation of Peace Initiative Network (PIN) is tailored into three thematic areas: Peace Building, Democracy /Good Governance, and development. PIN is set to advance the promotion of peace, democracy and socio-economic development in Nigeria, Africa and among the nations and regions of the world. The organization also functions as a catalyst, and think-tank for policy inputs.

Peace Initiative Network, since its inception in 2004 has committed itself irrevocably to conflict mitigation and development in Nigeria and beyond through participatory research, capacity development i.e. experiential workshop and seminars, and advocacy, sanitization/awareness campaigns, networking and coalition building among stakeholders such as relevant research institutes, civil society organizations and media outreach.


The organization's web site also states:

The travails of every nation form a significant part of its history, from which lessons are learnt, and corrections taken. The political history of our Country, Nigeria, is replete with man-made circumstances and events, which on hindsight seem avoidable.

The Nigerian nation is heterogeneous in composition, especially given the historical peculiarities of the different nationalities that make up the nation. There are also the diversity of cultures, ethnic groups and religions. In spite of this diversity, there has been a strong resolve among the people to live together and to build a united, virile and indivisible nation.

The resolve, however, has received some challenges over the years, as was manifested in the civil war of 1967-1970 and other internecine feuds and ethno-religious violence. It was a response to these myriads of violence that prompted the emergence of this laudable project - Peace Initiative Network.

Peace Initiative Network is a voluntary non governmental, non-profit making, non-partisan in politics and religion, charitable organization dedicated to the promotion of peace, unity and harmony in Nigeria, Africa and among the nations and regions of the world. The organization functions as a catalyst, and think-tank for public policy input


Our mission is to prevent, manage violent conflict through public enlightenment and sensitization in Nigeria and globally.


Peace Initiative Network is committed to the realization of these set objectives:

1. To promote the cause of Nigerian unity and nation building

2. To encourage International Cooperation and collaboration toward achieving peaceful co-existence globally.

3. To apply global information communication technology in propagating against all sorts of political violence and terrorism globally.

4. To promote peace, conflict resolution and harmony through research, charitable disbursements and the support of voluntary humanitarian services.

5. To organize periodically intellectual forum - public lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences etc on conflict resolution and peace.

6. To publish newsletter, monograph, journal and book on peace

7. To establish an Institute for peace studies.

8. To advocate for the inclusion of peace study in school curriculum at all level of education in Nigeria.

9. To engage in public diplomatic campaign with the use of pamphlets, posters, handbills, fliers, stickers, transit signs, door signs etc.

The organization is working to realize the value, principles and goals contained in the united nation millennium summit declaration: peace, security, development, poverty eradication, human right, democracy, governance, protecting the vulnerable and meeting the special needs of developing countries especially Africa.

One of Peace Initiative Network's projects is the Debate to Action Program


Peace Initiative Network (PIN) is a Debate to Action - DTA participant for 2006/2007. Debate to Action is a program of the World Bank Institute and British Council strategic partnership project for training of trainers (TOT) program aimed at youth leaders in youth organization and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Nigeria with knowledge of poverty reduction through Millennium Development Goals and the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) in Nigeria.

The youth organization arm of the program was launched in Nigeria in September 2004. Peace Initiative Network is a participant in the current year 2006/2007 - coordinated by Patience Asekomeh - Program Officer, Peace Initiative Network.

The objectives of the program are to:

Strengthen the development knowledge base and information networks of youth leaders and youth organizations

Enhance the capacity of young people to become active and effective in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) through their work at the local and state level

Increase youth awareness of what is already being done within their communities to help achieve the MDGs and NEEDS objectives, and how they can contribute to the process.

Improve participants' own livelihood skills through enhancing their project management, critical thinking, communication, and training skills.

To read more about the Peace Initiative Network visit their website.

Peace Initiative Network

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Remittance Flows to Developing Countries

The following Report was received from an AfricaFiles email and AfricaFiles found it in "Africa Focus" the Africa Focus article is reproduced in part here.


Sending Money Home: Worldwide Remittance Flows to Developing Countries

International Fund for Agricultural Development

This report has been elaborated based on a study commissioned by IFAD to the Inter-American Dialogue in collaboration with the Multilateral Investment Fund of the IDB and contributions from the European Union, Government of Spain, Government of Luxembourg, CGAP and UNCDF.

For full report, including summary data for 51 African countries, see: http://www.ifad.org/events/remittances/maps .

For more information, please contact:
Pedro de Vasconcelos,
Remittances Programme Coordinator, IFAD at:

Remittances, the portion of migrant workers' earnings sent back home to their families, have been a critical means of financial support for generations. But, for the most part, these flows have historically been "hidden in plain view", often uncounted and even ignored. All that is now changing - as the scale of migration increases, the corresponding growth in remittances is gaining widespread attention. Today, the impact of remittances is recognized in all developing regions of the world, constituting an important flow of foreign currency to most countries and directly reaching millions of households, totaling approximately 10 per cent of the world's population. The importance of remittances to poverty alleviation is obvious, but the potential multiplier effect on economic growth and investment is also significant.

The driving force behind this phenomenon is an estimated 150 million migrants worldwide who sent more than US$300 billion to their families in developing countries during 2006, typically US$100, US$200 or US$300 at a time, through more than 1.5 billion separate financial transactions. These funds are used primarily to meet immediate family needs (consumption) but a significant portion is also available for savings, credit mobilization and other forms of investment. In other words, the world's largest poverty alleviation programme could also become an effective grass roots economic development programme, particularly in the rural areas that present some of the greatest challenges to financial inclusion.

Three aspects could further enhance this development:
* Improvements in data collection,
* Reduction in transaction costs, and
* Increased efforts to leverage remittance flows for greater development impact.


1. Migration
Sub-Saharan Africa has over 30 million people in the diaspora. Of all the world's regions, however, Africa's predominant migration is intraregional. The fluid migration within West Africa, for instance, is partly due to the region's status as a geopolitical and economic unit, but also by a common history, culture and ethnicity among many groupings. There is also significant international migration to former European colonial powers, such as France, England, the Netherlands and Italy, among other countries.

2. Remittances
Remittance flows to and within Africa approach US$40 billion. North African countries such as Morocco and Egypt are the continent's major recipients. East African countries heavily depend on these flows, with Somalia standing out as particularly remittance dependent. For the entire region, these transfers are 13 per cent of per capita income and on a country-by-country average represent 4 per cent of GDP and 4 per cent of exports.

3. Rural remittances
Remittances to rural areas are significant and predominantly related to intraregional migration, particularly in Western and Southern Africa. The mobility of Africans within theses region has been followed by the sending of regular amounts of money. Two thirds of West African migrants in Ghana remit to rural areas in their countries of origin.

4. Market and financial access
When compared to other regions, money transfers to Africa are among the most problematic mainly due to the fact that the continent faces two major challenges: high rates of informality, particularly within the continent, and a regulatory environment that foments monopolies. In turn, transfer costs are higher and remittance senders obtain less value for their money. Most African countries restrict money transfers to banking depository institutions, and restrict outbound flows of money unless used for trading.

As a result, informality emerges as a solution to the need to remit. Another effect, however, is the persistence of monopolies by banks and the few money transfer operators handling transfers. In all of West Africa, for example, 70 per cent of payments are handled by one money transfer operator. Moreover, 50 per cent of payments are handled directly by banks and the rest by MFIs either as sub-agents of banks, with some exceptions (in Senegal, for example, MFIs operate as independent agents). Nigeria is a case in point: nearly 80 per cent of transfers are handled by one money transfer agency, and banks are the sole remittance payers in the country. Africans in South Africa are also faced with significant regulatory restrictions in sending money, and thus rely on informal networks.

Because regulatory environments often prevent other non-banking financial institutions from making transfers or restrict outbound transfers, financial access is also a casualty. As few institutions participate in the transfers, and banks do not cater to lowerincome individuals, financial access among African senders and recipients is relatively low. In some countries like South Africa barriers to entry relate to their legal status, thus disenfranchising migrants. Other countries such as Kenya are seeking to deepen financial access by leveraging remittance transfers through the use of mobile telephony.

Facts and figures for Africa
* Total number of migrants: 29,199,544
* Total remittances (US$ million): $38,895

* North Africa: $17,129
* West Africa: $10,803
* East Africa: $5,153
* Central Africa: $1,317
* Southern Africa: $4,493

* Annual average remittances per capita: $83
* Annual average remittances per migrant: $1,358
* Remittances as percentage of GDP: 4%
* Remittances as percentage of exports: 4%
* Ratio of remittances per capita and GDP per capita: 13%
* Average share of migrants in total population: 7%
* Average share of migrants in countries with a population under 1 million: 20%
* Average share of migrants in countries with a population over 1 million: 5%

Top 5 recipients by volume received (US$ million)
* Morocco: $6,122
* Nigeria: $5,397
* Algeria: $5,164
* Egypt: $3,479
* Tunisia: $1,491

6 out of 52 countries receive more than US$1 billion

Main destination and migrant percentage to that destination
* North Africa (France): 33%
* West and Central Africa (Cote d'Ivoire): 14%
* Southeast Africa (Tanzania): 11%

Cost of sending $200: 8%-11%

The full report can be found at:

Africa Focus can be found at:

AfricaFiles can be found at:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Telecenter Sustainability - Myths and Opportunities

This article by Francisco J. Proenza is reprinted in part here, due to the interest of so many NGOs in telecenters. This posting carries the first part of the article: "Myths" and the second part "Opportunities" will be posted at a later time. If you do not wish to wait for the second posting of this series, you will find the link to the entire article [including footnotes, which are omitted here] at the end of this posting.


A Cybercafé is not a telecenter
It is an unfortunate but common mistake to disregard cybercafés, because they are "not development oriented". These small businesses have been expanding very rapidly worldwide, are sustainable as a system, and there is much to learn from their experience.

When we discard cybercafés we are ignoring the most replicable and sustainable governance structure known - i.e. the privately owned business, and narrowing the range of possibilities.3 Telecenters operated by institutions using perhaps the second most commonly used governance structure, i.e. not for profit non-governmental organizations (NGOs), by tradition rely on donor funding, at least to cover investment costs. No wonder we have a hard time finding telecenter models that are sustainable!

Cybercafés often provide as many services as other types of telecenters. They train their clients (for example, in basic computer skills and office applications) - either in response to local demand or to stimulate demand for their services. On the other hand, many NGO run telecenters are in practice "cybercafés " in disguise; they do not offer any more valued services than a typical cybercafé, and any excess revenues (from donor funding or fees) are distributed to operators as staff salaries.

By ignoring cybercafés we also miss an opportunity to learn important lessons about policy and managerial approaches that contribute to sustainability. Why, for example, have cybercafés spread rapidly and extensively throughout Lima, Peru, where they are known as cabinas públicas, whereas the same does not happen in other countries - e.g. Brasil and Jamaica? Mainly because Lima offers a combination of important features that facilitated telecenter development; that are not always present elsewhere, and that can help guide policy design in other countries. The features include:

. enormous and densely concentrated demand, in the form of young low-income people
with limited access to affordable telecommunications facilities;

. large number of well trained engineers with limited employment opportunities enabled the development of low-cost repair and supply of parts industry based on PC clones and pirated or low-cost software;

. imminent threat and eventually real competition, resulting from a privatized
telecommunications sector with limited exclusivity period that ended in 2000, resulting in a rapid fall in the cost of connectivity;

. a major awareness campaign launched by an NGO, the Red Cientifica Peruana, during the early days of Internet development, helping many young entrepreneurs learn of the potential benefits of ICTs. At the operator-level, the behavior of cybercafés is also instructive. Donor-driven telecenters have a weak motivation to be economical. They may invest and spend more than they can afford on superfluous services; e.g. fancy buildings, more than one attendant per shift, highly educated costly operators, and products that are not affordable or desired by customers. In contrast, a well-run cybercafe exhibits the following features:

. The local market demand determines the number and quality of services provided. The service provided is usually the basic minimum, mainly computer-Internet connect time. Refreshments, magazines, diskettes and related supplies, and Voice over IP are other common services. Although there are some departures from the norm4, supplementary services seldom account for more than 20% of total revenue.

. The training given to telecenter attendants is very basic. Whomever sets up the business needs to know about computers and how to set up a LAN, or needs at some point to hire someone who does. But everyday attendants are few in number (e.g. one person per shift for up to 30 computers) and are generally low-salary staff with a suitable but limited level of education.

. Software provided is minimal, depending on client demand for applications. Either pirated or free software is used, or software licenses are purchased at low-cost, for example through online auction sites.

. Where competition among telecenter operators is high, as in Lima, prices fall to very low levels - as little as US$.50 per hour of service. Interesting things start to happen: the operators who survive are those who find a way (through location, quality or variety of services) to fill in their cybercafés all of the time (65% or higher occupancy rate), and are in constant search for ways to keep expenses low by relying on special situations like, for example, running their businesses from their own home, or sharing overheads between different business activities (e.g. by combining their cybercafés with other enterprises such as, for instance, selling computer parts and supplies).

Cybercafés sometimes have a bad name because they are associated with upscale businesses serving tourists. While these types of telecenter meet a market need, their development impact is limited. In practice, however, where cybercafes are ubiquitous and competition is intense, small entrepreneurs set up shop in areas serving low-income communities. At US$ 0.50/hour in Lima, 20 hours of Internet service every month can be purchased for US$10 or US$120/ year. This is hardly an insurmountable obstacle in a country with an average per capita income of about US$2,100. (Per capita income figures are from World Bank 2001.)

Success is assured through community ownership

The notion of "community ownership" is vague, yet it is frequently the alleged driving force behind telecenter experiments. Well-meaning donors that provide initial funding but let their projects start running on loose terms regarding ownership and control over resources are courting disappointment and failure.

Like any organization, a telecenter must have working rules to ensure sustained satisfactory operation. Its governance structure needs to be clear, must stimulate the commitment of the operator working at the local level, and must be compatible with the objectives of the center and its sustainability. Someone needs to be responsible and accountable for repairs in the event of a breakdown, hiring and firing staff and paying their salaries or for recruiting and supervising volunteers, opening the center on a regular schedule, helping customers and making sure that their needs and aspirations are met by the center, and protecting the equipment and premises.

The reason commercial telecenters are so resilient, as a system, is that if a telecenter owner is not committed he will surely fail while others take over to serve his market. In contrast, telecenters "owned" by municipalities or otherwise heavily influenced by politicians tend to give headaches because a mayor's foremost concern is to keep in good standing with the electorate. Financial sustainability is of secondary consideration. This, of course, less of a consideration in high income countries where the political significance of telecenters is not so large.

Grass roots organizations and NGOs are excellent vehicles for reaching the target group. Because they rely on external fund raising, some are able to offer the kinds of specialized services - e.g., geared to the disabled or to women - that disadvantaged people need most from a telecenter, but which would hardly be provided by firms on a for profit basis.

Furthermore, the social interaction that occurs through joint action for a common purpose, offers the potential for contributing significant to social and economic development, over and above the direct benefits associated with using the new technologies. These spillover or external benefits will become increasingly important as communities of disenfranchised groups facing common problems expand and develop; i.e. as they learn to trust each other and work together through a combination of face to face encounters and online interaction.

Not-for-profit organizations, however, tend to be most effective in short-lived single-cause action; less so when concerted prolonged effort is required. Because the managerial and financial requirements of telecenters are not complex, these shortcomings may be overcome through training and institutional upgrading primarily geared at improving governance, enhancing staff capacity to keep records and manage resources, and making sustainability a central objective of telecenter operations from the outset.

Set up the right policy framework and the market will provide

A stable macroeconomic environment, competition in the telecommunications sector, and a suitable regulatory environment, is necessary to make ICTs more accessible to the public at large, but other factors may inhibit commercial telecenter development.

A key issue is whether there is a sufficiently large market to stimulate entrepreneurship in the cybercafé business. Telecenter markets, however, are highly localized and sensitive to distance. In Peru, customers use 2.3 cabinas on average, and 44% of the time they use cabinas located within 1 km from their home, 70% within 5 km (Proenza, Bastidas-Buch and Montero 2001:23). If a city has no areas with a large concentration of young low-income people having no alternative low-cost means of connecting to the Net, self-sustaining commercial telecenters will not arise.

Establishing telecenters in rural areas can be a particularly daunting challenge, particularly where the landscape is irregular and the population is scattered. Both of these features make the cost of expanding the telecommunications infrastructure expensive. The low density of population that is typical of rural Africa and Latin America defies the basic premise of sharing equipment within a single facility. It is much easier to keep a 10 - 30 computer telecenter fully occupied in a large city than in a sparsely populated small town where clients are poor and have limited means of transportation. Even where commercial telecenters are located in urban marginal neighborhoods they are frequented primarily by well-educated young people. To reach the large mass of low-income people, most of whom have limited education, specific measures - promotion campaigns, start-up investment capital, training programs, and demand support during the initial stages while users become familiar with the technology - will need to be instituted. These measures are costly. They yield high social but low private returns. Private enterprise will not bear these costs on its own volition.

Telecenters that help build up social capital in a community create more wealth and value than the market will recognize. Communities of people facing common problems and pursuing action through joint efforts generate externalities that cannot be reproduced or captured by the individual or the firm (Collier 1998; Knack and Keefer 1997). Pure for profit ventures will not engage in these activities. Yet, in order to be effective, the needs of indigenous people, of women and other minorities need to be addressed directly through explicit concerted action. The risk, especially in highly fragmented societies, is that community empowerment through ICTs will at times involve struggles over use and control of resources. A major challenge facing developing country governments is to recognize and provide the leadership and funding necessary to sponsor community networks that help minorities and disenfranchised groups use ICTs to improve their condition and, in the process, build up overall trust in society and forge new democratic all-inclusive institutions.

Franchising is a proven and effective strategy

Commercial telecenter franchises are conceptually appealing, as a way to profit from scale, and to serve large numbers of people through a replicable model. In practice, implementing telecenter franchises has been fraught with difficulties.

Franchises have been common in the telephone industry, set up by traditional monopoly operators in many countries, but also by innovative cellular operators like Grameen Telecom (http://www.citechco.net/grameen/telecom/). More recently, some countries have established minimum subsidy schemes to encourage the development of telecommunications and telecenter infrastructure in small towns [Colombia]. These subsidized schemes stimulate telecenter franchising: the infrastructure development is undertaken by a large firm, but the local entrepreneurs.

As yet, however, there are no known successful commercial franchising (Internet service) telecenter experiences in a competitive (e.g. urban) unsubsidized setting serving a low-income population. For several years the Red Cientifica Peruana advertised a telecenter franchise project in its web pages. In practice, it never managed to put together a marketable plan of services or assistance of value to prospective franchisees beyond what an independent operator could purchase in the open market.

Beginning in 1999, S. Kumars Ltd. started promoting in India what a promising service package. It seeks to connect small towns and villages through a network of 1-computer Internet kiosks using VSAT technology. What sets the S. Kumars model apart from other franchising schemes, are its provision of infrastructure and network economies associated with a large network of franchisees and a comprehensive service package (connectivity, equipment, credit, cash based e-commerce). Plans provide for the establishment of a total of 50,000 kiosks spread throughout the country. In practice, however, the company has experienced serious difficulties while implementing its model. Out of a total 53,000 franchise applicants in the first quarter of 2000, only 1,400 franchisees paid the required investment and, as of 14 July, these were still waiting for their kiosks to be set up [Chatterjee 2001].
Some franchising efforts have tended to focus on the high end of the market. The investment cost of a TeltecGlobal telecenter, for instance, ranges from US$ 350,000 to 750,000. These are intended to be a combination of "Super Kinkos, Internet café, virtual classroom, internet service provider and small (electrical appliance and equipment) showroom under one roof".

A number of Internet connected kiosks are also being launched, for example, in Mexico, in the U.K., in Jamaica. These are still experimental risky ventures, geared primarily for businessperson on the run. Companies, however, are beginning to focus on a broad expansion of the service.The most extensive urban franchising telecenter scheme appears to be emerging in Argentina, where computer terminals providing Internet service have been added in an estimated 300 (Telefónica) and 450 (Telecom)
Locutorios that previously only offered telephone service [Davidziuk 2001]. The provision of Internet service through the McDonald's chain is being tested in Israel (Heller) and Brazil (DiarioTI) and could significantly increase access to the technology.

Developing profitable franchising schemes has proven difficult and their impact on low-income people is an open question. Yet time and again, public or quasi-public institutions take up franchising as a suitable way to provide easy access to the masses expeditiously. In fact, these initiatives end up trying to control from their "headquarters" office very critical aspects of the telecenter operations (e.g.
prices) that can only sensibly be provided by a local operator responsive to a community's needs. The "central office", hires overqualified expensive staff that presume they know better than the people on the locality when in fact just the opposite is true. There are tremendous economies of "decentralization" in telecenter operations, that far outweigh any advantage from say "bulk purchase" of equipment and software. Hence, the importance of letting the local entrepreneur run the show; to give him the power and flexibility to operate the telecenter according to the needs of his clientele, and to address the problems he faces with the resources he has within reach.

The entire article may be found here: Telecenter Sustainability - Myths and Opportunities

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ten steps for establishing a sustainable multipurpose community telecentre

This Article is reproduced from text found in the UNESCO set of booklets: “Ten steps for establishing a sustainable multipurpose community telecentre.” Establishing multipurpose community telecenters is one way in which communities can advance their own development. Here, present an outline of what is required and provide a link to the full set of booklets online designed to help persons involved in community development establish such a center.

Ten Steps for establishing a sustainable Multipurpose Community Telecentre (MCT) is intended to assist communities to walk through the basic requirements which need to be addressed when setting out to open and operate a successful MCT.

Step One: Getting Started

This first booklet gives a short explanation of an MCT, its ownership and its possible services and programmes. It deals with the initial process of identifying and mobilising key persons in the community to form a Steering Committee as well as the actions to be taken prior to calling an Open Community Meeting. Factors contributing to sustainability of MCT such as availability of physical facilities, funding, volunteers and, more importantly, the interest of the community to avail themselves of the programmes and services to be offered are introduced in this booklet.

Step Two: Holding an Open Community Meeting

Focusing on the first Open Community Meeting (OCM) on MCT, this booklet gives some tips on when and how to plan and convene the meeting. Topics to be covered during the meeting are listed along with a short suggestion of content under each. By following the booklet, the Steering Committee will be able to ascertain community interest in and support for an MCT, to estimate the number of prospective users, and to prepare by the end of the meeting a list of foundation programmes and services as endorsed by the community members.

To cope with those who cannot participate in the OCM when it is held, a questionnaire is provided in Annex Two of this booklet along with an explanation as to why and how to conduct a survey and/or interview.

Step Three: Management

Step Three underlines the importance of appointing key people to the Steering Committee and the right MCT manager while defending the benefits of incorporation and registration of MCT. The booklet gives succinct explanation of what constitutes a good management. Legal framework for MCT is introduced in this booklet for consideration of the Steering Committee. The role and tenure of the Steering Committee, the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the composition of a Management Committee, its responsibilities and its election are described in this booklet. Included are examples of job checklist for use by the Committee, meeting agenda, format of minutes, mission statement, and organizational chart.

The case studies highlight the importance of record keeping.

Step Four: Staff Appointments

Job description, job advertisement, and recruitment are discussed in this booklet. Users will learn about the role of a selection committee and how an interview of candidates is carried out. Duties of the Steering Committee vis-à-vis the manager are briefly described and example code of conduct for the manager is provided.

Step Five: Services and Programmes

The booklet touches upon the points to be taken into consideration when designing services and programmes or planning on acquisition of additional equipment. Users will find useful lists of services and programmes that could be offered at different stages of MCT development, some of which can be organised in collaboration/co-operation with other MCTs. Collocation among MCTs, which was first mentioned in Step One, is further elaborated in this booklet.

Step Six: Building and Equipment

Step Six raises pertinent questions regarding building and equipment requirements such as location, availability of shared space, internal spaces, furniture, equipment as well as other considerations.

Step Seven: Reach for Your Goals

Explaining planning as a process, the booklet begins with an example of SWOT analysis, a brief explanation on the relationship between vision/goals and activities, defining strategies and actions along with a timeline. The booklet ends with an advice on implementation and review which leads back to situation analysis.

Step Eight: Financial Management

Efficient MCTs have sound financial procedures and practices which include proper budgeting and financial systems, reporting and annual audit. This booklet explains the roles of treasurer and bookkeeper. Simple example helps users to learn various aspects of financial management from preparing a grant proposal and a budget to handling petty cash.

Step Nine: Operating Procedures

Having an operating manual facilitates day-to-day operation from unlocking doors to welcoming visitors and maintaining record for reporting purpose. Ultimately, this step suggests ways to enable a substitute or volunteer to operate the MCT unaided as well as to ensure that MCT can efficiently provide satisfactory services to customers.

Step Ten: Customer Service and Promotional Issues

The content of this last booklet deals with keeping customers satisfied in order to increase MCT membership and consequently candidates for the Management Committee.

Where promotion is concerned, Step Ten advises when to begin promoting MCT, what promotional activities are possible and what is needed for carrying them out.

The full set of booklets for Ten Steps can be found at this link.