A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills. While each telecentre is different, their common focus is on the use of digital technologies to support community, economic, educational, and social development—reducing isolation, bridging the digital divide, promoting health issues, creating economic opportunities, and reaching out to youth for example.

Telecentres exist in almost every country, although they sometimes go by a different name: public internet access center (PIAP), village knowledge center, infocenter, community technology center (CTC), community multimedia center (CMC), multipurpose community telecentre (MCT), Common/Citizen Service Centre (CSC), school-based telecentre, etc.

Evolution of the telecentre movement

The telecentre movement’s origins can be traced to telecottages of Europe and Community Technology Centers (CTCs) in the United States, both of which emerged in the 1980s as a result of advances in computing. At a time when computers were available but not yet a common household good, public access to computers emerged as a solution. Today, in spite of the fact that home ownership of computers is widespread in the United States and other industrialized countries, there remains a need for public (free) access to computing, whether it is in CTCs, telecottages or public libraries to ensure that everyone has access to technologies that have become essential. In the 1990s, the telecentres spread to Africa, Asia and Latin America. [Fuchs, 1998.]

Types of telecentres

Beyond the differences in names, public ICT access centers are diverse, varying in the clientele they serve, the services they provide, as well as their business or organizational model. Around the world, some telecentres include NGO-sponsored, local government, commercial, school-based, and university-related [Proenza, Bastidas-Buch & Mondero,"Telecentres for Socio-Economic and Rural Development in Latin America and the Caribbean," 2001.] In the United States and other countries, public access to the Internet in libraries may also be considered within the “telecentre concept”, especially when the range of services offered is not limited to pure access but also includes training end-users. Each type has advantages and disadvantages when considering attempts to link communities with ICTs and to bridge the digital divide.

* NGO-sponsored telecentres are hosted by an NGO, which manages the center and integrates it, to one degree or another, into the organization's core business;
* Local government telecentres seek to further local development; they often aim to disseminate information, decentralize services, and encourage civic participation, in addition to providing public ICT access.
* Commercial telecentres, launched by entrepreneurs for profit, range from the purely commercial cybercafé to the social enterprise, where profit and social good objectives are combined.
* School-based telecentres can be structured to involve community members during off-school hours, but costs need to be shared by the school system and the community.
* University-related telecentres can offer social outreach to disadvantaged and community groups, provide training, develop locally relevant content, and establish and facilitate virtual networks.
* Internet access in public libraries. [Bertot, McClure, Thomas, Barton, & McGilvray, 2007.]

Telecentres and international development institutions

In the 1990s, international development institutions such as Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and UNESCO, sponsored the deployment of many telecentres in developing countries. Both IDRC and UNESCO are still very involved in the telecentre movement. IDRC’s is supporting networks of telecentres around the world and UNESCO continues to support the growth of community multimedia centers (CMCs), which, unlike most other telecentres, have a local community radio component.

Telecentres - issues around sustainability

In light of the rapidly evolving technologies that support telecentres and in light of the increased penetration of mobile technologies (i.e., cell phones), the telecentre model needs to continuously evolve in order to remain relevant and to continue to address the changing needs of the communities they serve. As mobile communication technologies become more pervasive around the world, including in rural areas, the telecentres may no longer need to provide phone services, yet they may still be very relevant in terms of access to web-enabled e-government services, e-Learning, and basic Internet communication needs (email and web browsing).

"Evolving models" — since the local demand for information and communication services is evolving, the telecentre models need to evolve as well. Franchises and other approaches to linking and networking telecentres are proving to be popular.

"Evolving technologies" — wireless connectivity technologies, beyond VSAT (known to be expensive) are being explored in many communities around the world. These technologies provide new opportunities for connecting communities through telecentres and eventually at the individual household level.

"Evolving services" — the types of services that telecentres can and should provide is also rapidly evolving. As the fields of eGovernment, eHealth, e-Learning, eCommerce are evolving and maturing in many countries, telecentres need to take advantage of opportunities to extend the benefits to the community at large, through their public access. Some governments are pursuing the deployment of telecentres precisely as a means of ensuring that larger segments of the population are able to access government services and information through electronic channels. [Fillip & Foote, 2007.]

"Community stakeholders" - identifying leaders among the community who champion the concept of shared services through telecentre mode, play a crucial role as a bridge between the telecentre operator and hesitant villagers.

Telecentre networks

The telecentres of today and of the future are networked telecentres, or telecentres of the 2.0 generation. [Harris, 2007.] Increasingly, telecentres are not operating as independent, isolated entities but as members of a network. At times, the network takes the form of a franchise. In other circumstances, the network is much more informal.

Further information

For more information on telecentre networks, visit [] . An overview of telecentre networks can also be found in Chapter 7 of [ Making the Connection: Scaling Telecentres for Development] .

Additional information about concept of community telecentres can also be found in the online book [ From the Ground Up: the evolution of the telecentre movement] .

Additional information about the practice of building and sustaining telecentres can be found on the [ Telecentre Knowledge Network Wiki] .

There is a growing research and analytical literature on telecentres and other community based technology initiatives and approaches particularly within the context of Community informatics as an academic discipline and through the [ Journal of Community Informatics] .



* Bertot, J.C., McClure, C.R., Thomas, S., Barton, K.M., & McGilvray, J. "Public Libraries and the Internet 2007 - Study Results and Findings." For the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The American Library Association. []
* Fillip, B. & Foote, D. "Making the Connection: Scaling Telecentres for Development." Academy for Educational Development, with and Microsoft. Washington, D.C. 2007. []
* Fuchs, R. "Little Engines that Did: Case Histories from the Global Telecentre Movement." IDRC, 1998. []
* Harris, R. "Telecentre 2.0: Beyond Piloting Telecentres." APDIP eNote 14, 2007. []
* Proenza, F., Bastidas-Buch, R. & Montero, G. "Telecentres for Socio-Economic and rural Development in Latin America and the Caribbean." Washington, D.C. 2001. []

ee also

*Community informatics
*Hot desking
*Nomad worker
*Small office/home office
*Serviced office
*Public computer

External links

* [] is a community working to create resources for telecentres around the world.
* [ telecentre magazine] is a quarterly journal dedicated to examine the role of public access to technology. The magazine is published by CSDMS in collaboration with
* [ Mission 2011] is a telecentre programme led by Bangladesh Telecentre Network. It aims to set up 40,000 telecentre across Bangladesh, which is about building a sustainable information and knowledge system for the poor and the marginalized by 2011, the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh.
* [ Mission 2007] is a telecentre program led by Professor M. S. Swaminathan. It aims to set up 100,000 telecentres across India.
* [ Nemmadi] is an 800 telecentre initiative by the Government of Karnataka, India.
* [ Making the Connection: Scaling Telecentres for Development] is a book published in 2007. It identifies and discusses the most pressing issues facing the global telecentre movement.
* [ The Journal of Community Informatics: Special Issue on Telecentres]
* [ Quick Guide to Resources and Work on Telecentres in international Institutions and Donor Agencies (infoDev)] .
* [ UNESCO's Community Multimedia Centers]
* [ From the Ground Up] ,
* [ The Community Telecentre Cookbook] , by Mike Jensen and Anriette Esterhuysen, for UNESCO, 2001.
* [ e-Sri Lanka Telecentre Development Program: Strategic Choices and Challenges of a High Risk High Impact Investment] , by Francisco J. Proenza, 2004.
* [ Telecenter Sustainability: Myths and Opportunities] , by Francisco J. Proenza, 2001.
* [ Telecenters for Socioeconomic and Rural Development] , by Francisco J. Proenza (FAO), Roberto Bastidas-Buch (ITU) and Guillermo Montero (IADB), 2001.
* [ NGO Connection] Information and resources for non-governmental organizations interested in using information technology for greater impact.


* [ Information and Communication Technologies for Poverty Alleviation]
* [ Telecentre Knowledge Network Wiki]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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