"A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other
digital technologies that help them gather information and communicate with others
.....at the same time as they develop digital skills......"
"A location which facilitates and encourages
the provision of a wide of public and private information-based goods
and services, and which supports local economic or social development" (IDRC)
The telecentre movement is based on a
The right information at the right time can
contribute to development
ICT provides a vital tool for people to
access information at a lower cost
Telecentres are a viable way to link
communities with the information and communication technologies
Telecentres and other community technology
efforts are helping people worldwide to join the knowledge society.
They provide the essential foundational infrastructure upon which
concrete ICT applications in healthcare, local economic development,
rural e-Commerce, education, and e-Governance can reach the people
who need them most.
There is much evidence to show that unequal
ICT access because of economic, social and cultural reasons actually
perpetuates poverty and consequently reduces the potential growth
and development of countries. The inclusion of such marginalised
groups into mainstream development is one of the main development
challenges facing nations. As a result there are a number of digital
inclusion initiatives in less developed and developing countries
where there is a heavy dependence on public access to technology.
Basis of Telecentres
Telecentres are based on the premise that access
to information will lead to empowerment which will eventually lead to
Today, telecentres exist in almost every country, although they sometimes go by different names — village knowledge centres, infocentres, community technology centres, community multimedia centres, information kiosks, or school-based telecentres.
There is no one single model for creating a telecentre — they are as diverse as the communities they serve. Some are stand-alone, nonprofit institutions. Others have integrated community access to computers and the Internet into public facilities, such as schools, libraries, municipal buildings, and social service agencies. Still others have encouraged and supported small-scale entrepreneurs to set up independent computer kiosks in rural areas.
MCTs tend to be in the public sector
Operated by government bodies or NGOs
Services my include
Internet access, desktop publishing, community newspapers, sales or
rental of audio and video recordings, book lending, training,
photocopying, faxing, telephone services.
Mainly focus on Internet access and use of
Clients tend to be more urban, more educated
than clients of telecentres
Information Access Points
These fall between the cybercafe and telecentre
approaches and may be reinforced by sectoral organizations such as those
in tourism, health and agriculture that build special information
The role of telecentres in bridging the Digital
Telecentres play a crucial role in increasing
access to ICTs and thereby help to bridge the digital divide, especially in
developing countries. They provide access to ICTs at a lower cost to
those communities where personal ICT ownership is limited.
The July 2000 Okinawa Charter on Global
Information Society stated that access to the information society should
be provided to everyone. As a result, it agreed to assist developing
countries bridge the digital divide through the creation of public
access centres such as telecentres. Thus telecentres are based on the
premise that connectivity (technical construct) as well as direct access
(economic, social and psychological) to information will lead to
empowerment, capacity building and thereby development.
In many parts of the developing world, access to
information is greatly restricted by two main factors: lack of
connectivity and the cost of access. These two critical factors are
The role of ITU in the telecentre movement
ITU has helped countries set up and manage telecentres, and assisted countries in providing guidance on policies and strategies for promoting access and use of ICTs in rural and urban areas as a vehicle for improving the social and economic conditions of the population in these areas.
Although ITU has been involved in a number of
collaborative telecentre projects over the years, it has now assumed the
role of an enabler in the telecentre domain by developing a Global
Telecentres Portal (http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/cyb/telecentre/portal-index.html)
which aims to capture information on telecentres worldwide and visually
display search information on an interactive map, available to all
The Global Telecentres Portal can be used in many
ways including displaying telecentre density in specific regions thereby
identifying which regions are well served. It will also be useful in
locating individual telecentres in a given country along with the
contact address and all relevant information about that telecentre. It
is hoped that individuals will eventually be able to to easily locate
the nearest telecentre in order to use its services. Consequently this
information will also be useful to ITU in advising governments and other
stakeholders in strengthening the telecentre movement.
Promoting the development of multipurpose community telecentres (MCTs) and multipurpose platforms (MPPs) around the world continues to be one of the priority activities of ITU-D Programme 3 and the ICT Applications and Cybersecurity Division. More information on ITU telecentre projects here. Links to community telecentre-related activities and
worldwide resources are shown below.