The participant recommendations from the Oct. 26 & 27, 1998 conference on
"Partnerships and Participation in Telecommunications for Rural Development"
are now on-line at http://www.snowden.org/conference/index.cfm
During the two-day conference hosted by the Don Snowden Program for
Development Communication at the University of Guelph in Canada, the 200
participants had a chance to work in small groups to share their
experiences, reflect on conference presentations and develop specific
recommendations that would be of value to policy-makers, decision-makers,
funding organizations, program planners and, of course, rural community
members who wish to enhance their use of telecommunications for rural
1) specific recommendations from each of the 17 working groups formed during
2) a summary of these recommendations that was presented back to
It should be noted that many of the participants commented that the summary
did not accurately reflect the level of detail in their recommendations, and
asked us to present their recommendations in complete detail, together with
the summary - hence both the specific recommendations and the summary are
The full proceedings for the conference, including conference papers will be
posted to our website within the next two weeks. For further information on
the Don Snowden Program and related conference information, including a list
of participants see http://www.snowden.org
Don Richardson, Director, Don Snowden Program for Development Communication
University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
1) SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ADVANCING TELECOMMUNICATIONS FOR RURAL
--Taken directly from recommendations made in small groups by participants
in "Partnerships and Participation in Telecommunications for Rural
Development" Conference, University of Guelph, Canada, October 27-28, 1998
--Each group had a visual icon (e.g. baseball, banana) to maintain
continuity between sessions and help participants find their tables and
flipcharts for each working group session - hence the "odd" group names!
Group 1: BASEBALL
1) There is a need to analyze the power dynamics of introducing
telecommunications in rural communities, taking into consideration the
effects of neocolonialism, the potential for violence, and control and
subversion of the message.
2) Transfer of technology and knowledge has to be bi-directional and valued
in both directions.
3) Listen to, respect and learn from local resistance to the introduction of
new technologies in rural communities.
4) Evaluation needs to be a continuous and participatory process recognizing
that telecommunications and rural development are "moving targets".
Sustainability is not easy to access in a dynamic process and we need to
focus on social and cultural impacts, not just economic viability.
5) To ensure rural development, central governments and urban centres *must*
contribute to and maintain the telecommunications infrastructure and not
leave the private sector to determine equity. As practitioners, we need to
promote community interests at the national level by inputting into
legislative and regulatory frameworks.
Group 2: PAINT CANS
1) Introduction of technologies need to be articulated to local community
development needs and wants.
2) There is a strong need to market / educate people about public access so
it gets utilized and new innovations can occur from the bottom up.
3) Access to the knowledge economy can help address poverty issues but is
not a development end in itself.
4) Public access areas (eg; libraries, community access centres,
telecentres, etc.) need to get reduced rates to provide equitable access.
5) Support community-based organizations to introduce ICTs; at the same
time, create a "space" for all stakeholders (political, corporate,
community) to voice their position and have a place in the development
Group 3: TELEPHONE
1) Partnerships must provide groups with equal power –a longterm strategy
and vision are essential.
2) Need LOCAL CHAMPIONS who understand the needs of community PLUS "pump
priming" money for projects (eg; loans at reasonable rates).
3) Expectations and requirements of partnerships should be set in writing.
4) Innovators must be willing to take a "step back" if the project is not
5) Identify "systemic barriers" and find ways to overcome them.
Group 4: ELECTRICAL OUTLET
1) Technology is the easiest part. To understand what is needed from a
sociological, regulatory, political and technological perspective before
initiating new projects.
2) NEEDS ASSESSMENT that is flexible, is made at a local level; Decisions
need to be made based on the community needs.
3) A business plan that is "evolvable", multi-sourced and easily available
(eg; influenced by the state of the market à repairability; What you can buy
and repair locally; multi-sourced and easily available as well as
appropriate; Ensure the investment is able to move forward.).
4) Finding people in the system who have connections to both local and "high
end" of the system; "Outsiders" / agencies need to find a person with
influence who is respected; People with needs and local connections.
5) Training: orientation for decision-makers of various development
investment re: the use of telecommunications media. Educate people while
they are still learning.
Group 5: [Group name unknown]
1) Variety of models based on the positive and negative lessons learned
(local and professional knowledge).
2) Identify necessary steps…
Group 6: BANANA
1) Partnerships –Be clear who is partnering; who should be partnering; why
they are in the partnership; benefits and costs to partners; partners behind
the partners; ongoing dialogue throughout the process.
2) Be flexible in terms of the partnership –create a dynamic relationship
where the roles of the partners change as the needs of the partners change.
3) Be led by the needs, not by the technology. Be aware of the things the
technology can do and match to needs where appropriate.
4) Consideration of the positive contribution to local economic development
should be taken in the assessment of needs and the design of process and
5) Re: this conference: A website devoted to the conference and follow-up
work; links to sites of participants and sites created where they don’t yet
exist; noting successes, cautions and resources / tools that we develop.
Group 7: WRENCH, PhD!
1) The Goal is to meet "real" and accurately-identified needs, as identified
by community members. These must be constantly reviewed and adjusted.
2) Identify the *true* "influencers", those who are truly respected; it is
important to note they may or may not be obvious (eg; don’t choose only
based on position title).
3) Do "community building" among stakeholders, based on the values that
everyone is equally important and should be respected and "heard" –This
process is important even before a "project leader" is chosen.
4) Any project should be part of "community development", at the request of
the community. This requires a "consultant" who gives options and true
choice, whose work fits within the cultural context, with the project
created on a "case-by-case basis" (no "template" for a project).
5) A need to know *why* we are doing what we are doing! Need to identify
current skill sets and interests for training, and the motivation level. The
project needs a "foundation" in the community so it is not a "temporary"
project but is sustainable.
Group 8: CHERRIES
1) The question of how telecommunications will complement and contribute to
the community’s view of rural development.
2) Identify local champions that have credibility for all
stakeholders (eg; understand the "big picture" and how interactions affect
3) Assuming that technology is available (eg; not a constraint), allow the
individual to pursue his/her objectives without (government) regulation.
4) There must be an appropriate opportunity for a neutral body within a
framework to respond to political, socio-economic and regulatory constraints
in a timely manner.
LE GROUPE 9: "CANNETTE"
1) Les demarches participatif.
2) Disponabilite de technologie simple a mettre en oeuvre et facile a
2) La formation et la communication.
3) Facilite access aux sources de financement.
4) Developper un bon mechanism de suivi, d’evaluation dans un cadre
Group 10: HAPPY FACE
1) Start with the national development plan and the existing
regulations(--this has hopefully developed already through consultation, top
down and bottom up). Process feeds directly into policy.
2) Identify the target communities, identify pilot projects; this way, you
can identify stakeholders.
3) Concentrate on pilot activities.
4) Concentrate on consultation process: identify major stakeholders in order
to determine their specific roles.
5) General information provided to communities (create awareness); provide
training for those involved in implementation.
6) Have a feedback mechanism to government institutions to identify
deficiencies in structures, policies, etc. (eg; forum could be a mechanism);
this way, the regulations can be modified.
7) Exchange of experience and learn from each other (eg; through
8) For international organizations and member states involved in rural
telecommunications, should establish a worldwide forum for exchange of this
Group 11: [name of group unknown]
1) A successful telecommunications development initiative is only *one*
of a community development process.
2) A successful telecommunications development initiative is catalysed by an
awareness of other initiatives, successes and failures (availability of
3) To ensure that community development benefits are integrated into the
process of telecommunications development (contractual obligations).
4) International benchmarks can be useful in establishing standards of
accountability and "socially responsible" practice in telecommunications
5) Important: transparency of stakeholder interests.
Group 12: APPLE CORE –The co-operative organization for revitalizing
1) Ensure that government plays an appropriate role: providing leadership
2) ICTs should be driven by real needs of people (eg; communities that are
3) Build on existing resources, including organizations infrastructure,
skills and indigenous knowledge.
4) Management and technologies should be adapted to meet evolving needs of
communities. People skills should compliment technical skills.
5) Partnerships should be inclusive –ensure participation of all
Group 13: Combined : CLOCK / LEMON
1) Community empowerment is key. Includes (1) full audit of stakeholders in
community; (2) capacity building process, if necessary; (3) profit sharing.
2) Must be focused on longterm returns / results including: (1) financial;
(2) social; (3) environmental bottom lines.
3) Proper and full planning process must be done first, including education
about positive and negative impacts of new media.
4) Build on existing infrastructure (eg; community groups / community radio;
physical infrastructure –towers, etc.).
Group 14: LIGHTBULB
1) Awareness / motivation of the people.
2) Establishing co-operatives in rural areas.
3) Establishing community meeting places.
4) Providing basic training to the village-dwellers.
5) Creation of multimedia network.
Group 15: DUCK
1) Need for integration of perspectives, community needs.
2) Right to access should be a human right; universal access.
3) Community ownership, buy-in and management imperative.
4) Importance of both centralization and decentralization of policy issues.
5) Role of government in an information society.
Group 16: PINK BALLOON
1) That partnerships be defined as being founded on the principles of
transparency, compromise, accountability, equity, inclusiveness and the
provision of mutual benefit.
2) That technical and macro-commercial concerns should not overwhelm the
social, cultural and micro-economic needs of a community.
3) That effective leadership be fostered at the community level and that
policy-makers become sensitized to the importance of this leadership’s input
to the overall sustainability of any rural development project.
4) The need for "clear" policy guidance which addresses grassroots community
needs cannot be under-estimated, and that policies demonstrate consistency.
5) The need to educate the community and decentralize power is achieved
through broad community involvement and consensus.
Group 17: 8-BALL
1) Define expectations, understandings and interest with respect to rural
telecommunications and information needs.
2) Define who are the required partners.
3) Converge differing needs towards a common need and a shared
4) Define roles and responsibilities of partners.
5) Maintain the view of economic viability throughout the project’s life.
2) SUMMARY OF PARTICIPANT RECOMMENDATIONS
Partnerships and Participation in Telecommunications for Rural Development:
Exploring What Works and Why, Oct. 26 & 27, 1998, University of Guelph,
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
- A long-term vision and strategy is essential
- Stakeholder consultation
- Identify local leadership
- Focus on people, not technology
- Rural telecommunications is not an end in itself, but one aspect of
- Build on existing skills and infrastructure
- Technology must be easy to use and available
- Need for a local capacity to repair technology
- Clarify roles and responsibilities
- Need for flexibility in choice of alliances
- Respect stakeholder values
- Identify expectations and “agendas”
- Mutual accountability in partnerships
- Decentralization of power through building community consensus
- Respect local resistance and culture
- Rural communities
- Rural communities need to learn how to operate new technologies and to use
them for their own benefit
- Raise awareness of negative and positive impacts
- Clear understanding of purpose
- Recognize that both needs and technologies are evolving
- Evaluation is a continuous process that leads to change
- Measure both social and economic impacts
- Use pilot projects to develop models
- Share experiences with others
- Need for mechanisms to deal with regulatory issues at a global level
- Need for a world-wide forum to exchange information
- Need to develop international benchmarks and standards
- Policies need to be developed at the community level through stakeholder
- Policies need to be clear and consistent
- Need for loans at reasonable rates for pilot projects
- Finances are important for sustainability
- Community telecentres should have access to subsidized telephone rates
- Governments need to be committed to maintaining rural telecom
- Governments should deal with issues of equity
- Web-site to serve as a clearing- house for conference proceedings and
ongoing information exchange
RESEARCH TOPICS that can yield info of relevance to policy making &
- Organizational policy
- Local policy
- Gov’t policy
- Corporate policy, etc, etc,
Components of each research topic or issue:
- A *substantive* dimension - what?
- A *relationship* dimension - who?
- A *procedural* dimension - how?