Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Role of a Telecentre in Poverty Alleviation

Poverty indeed has many faces. Many of these faces remain unrecognized or out of focus as they are linked to other aspects of deprivation, such as isolation. The Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) initiatives such as Telecentres can start attacking this vicious cycle from Isolation. The physical and social isolation may, in turn, negatively impact on economic, health and educational status and make it increasingly difficult for poor people to take advantage of poverty alleviation strategies.

Poverty can be described as the inability of enjoying the minimal standards of living. It has many dimensions to it and one way it can be explained is by using the following diagram, the ‘deprivation trap’ (Chambers, 1983).

All the aspects (pentagons) are tightly interconnected/ interdependent and any development initiative has to be multidimensional. But depending on the development programme and the core competencies of the institution which is implementing the programme they will focus more on one or more selected areas. A Telecentre which can connect particular community with the rest of the world through the communication facilities can mainly focus on the “isolation” section and drive through it to alleviate poverty by finding solutions to the other areas such as powerlessness, vulnerability, etc.

Due to Isolation;

Little participation (not part of the mainstream)
Telecentre can give a voice to the community and let that to be heard to the local and regional decision makers

Less informed (not aware)
Telecentre can provide the up-to-date/real time information to the community

Few contacts with important people/institutions (such as markets, other services and extension workers)
Telecentres can link the community with markets, government offices, extension offices and let the community to get the information/services from those.
Telecentres can provide educational facilities through e-Learning/ distance learning, etc. Can provide market prices to the farmers and help others finding the employments in urban areas

Though the proposed approach for Telecentres is with more focus on “isolation”, there will be positive impact on other dimensions too. People will be empowered with information such as on micro credit facilities, markets and public services, allowing them to make decisions that are better informed. Once they have access to market prices, the middle man can not easily exploit the farmers. So the poor farmers are less vulnerable. They will be able to earn more and save more.

Physical weakness will be countered with more awareness on diseases and health problems, preventive actions, etc. Delivering health related educational programmes through Telecentres will lead to good health conditions among family members, and handle other issues such as frequent pregnancies, births and deaths.

Most of the poor communities are living in disaster prone areas, and more vulnerable to natural disasters. Telecentre will make them more resistant through early warning, etc. and minimize the negative impact of those. Powerlessness always leads to exploitation, but a more connected community is harder to exploit and will have the power to negotiate on terms such as labour and production.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can Telecenters become Disaster Early Warning Centers?

Yes, it can be. Telecentre is a place rich with ICT

No, it is too much to expect from a Telecentre.

Most of the telecentres are located in rural areas; most of those areas are prone to disasters, natural or man-made. Telecentres located in those areas but still with ICT facilities telephone, internet, fax, etc. can receive a message from a central disaster early warning centre.

So if we have a simple mechanism to disseminate that information, may be using megaphones we can convert a Telecentre to Early Warning Centre in the village. Even after the disaster occurred, that Telecentre can continue a play a role of coordinating the relief work, impact assessment, finding missing people (, etc.

How many of you have tried this? What went well? What went wrong?